Headteachers should relax school uniform policy during heatwaves as children are at increased risk of ill health, MPs have said.
The Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee has also recommended that rules are introduced to stop public money being spent on school buildings that are poorly suited to very hot weather, in a report on dealing with heatwaves published today.
Mary Creagh, chair of the committee, said: “Heatwave warnings are welcomed as barbecue alerts, but they threaten health, wellbeing and productivity. The Met Office has projected that UK summer temperatures could regularly reach 38.5°C by the 2040s.
“The government’s new adaptation plan promises no effective action to prevent overheating in buildings. It must change building regulations and planning policies to ensure homes and transport networks are able to deal with extreme heat, and that local authorities and cities have green spaces and heat-resilient infrastructure.”
The report comes as the Met Office has predicted that temperatures will rise above 33C in southern England this week – and issued an amber warning on its heat-health watch service saying that people should stay out of the sun, shade windows during the day and drink fluids.
'Inflexible' uniform policies
The committee's report also reveals that many teachers have to buy fans for their classrooms out of their own money – 90 per cent of teachers in a survey with 135 respondents carried out for the inquiry had taken measures to make their classrooms “bearable” during hot weather.
And while all the teachers surveyed felt that students were not as productive during hot weather, only 7.4 per cent had been able to send children home.
“Many respondents called for more air conditioning in schools, and improved building design. We heard anecdotally that some schools were inflexible on their uniform policies and did not allow pupils to take their blazers off,” states the committee's report Heatwaves: adapting to climate change.
The report also points out that heat-health alerts are sent to school nurses – and 700 of these roles have been cut over the past eight years.
Heat-related deaths are set to treble by 2050, unless action is taken, the committee says in its report. It points out that children cannot control their body temperature as efficiently as adults during hot weather and are therefore at an increased risk of ill health.
The report also recommends changing building regulations to ensure that new buildings can withstand heat and are water-efficient, and says employers should be issued with formal guidance to relax dress codes and allow flexible working during heatwaves. It adds that the government should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures.