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Phew! It's a school scorcher

In the old days, when there were real winters and the usual dismal British summers, classroom temperatures had to be above an accepted national minimum. Pupils and teachers could not work in freezing cold.

Ah, how times have changed - and without even a mention of public private partnership (PPP) schools where teachers have complained bitterly of unbearable heat. A combination of global warming and new technology in non-PPP schools in Scottish Borders is driving up the heat in the classroom and forcing the authority to act.

The council's education executive on Tuesday agreed it was time to set maximum highs after three years of complaints from teachers. "During a number of days, temperatures in some rooms have been in the high 20 degrees and low 30 degrees centigrade," councillors were informed.

Better summers and the installation of large numbers of computers as part of the National Grid for Learning have caused the sweat, and "even more so if 'network servers' are located within a classroom". Relative humidity, air movement and the amount of airborne dust within the room also have an impact. Officials point out that there is no legal maximum set by health and safety legislation.

Councillors have now agreed to move towards a summer target of 24 degrees, plus or minus 1.5 degrees, which is said to be within the ideal comfort range of 80 per cent of people.

"When temperature is recorded, existing measures to reduce temperatures (opening windows, extractor fans etc) must be fully operational," officials state.

They add: "We will start by dealing with rooms and other accommodation which have reported temperatures of 30 degrees centigrade or more on three days or more in a two-week (10 working days) period."

Computerised temperature and humidity devices will be installed where complaints are upheld. But the authority says schools must make every effort to cut heat in hot weather, including turning off the central heating.

Solutions include portable fans, extractor fans in windows, walls and ceilings, reflective glazing and sun canopies.

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