How hot does it have to be for Leeds schools to close? What you need to know as red weather warning issued

A red weather warning for ‘Extreme Heat’ has been issued but what does this mean for schools in Leeds?

Friday, 15th July 2022, 11:45 am

Britain is set to sizzle next week as the heatwave continues, with the Met Office forcasting temperatures of up to 37C for Leeds on Tuesday.

A red weather warning for ‘Extreme Heat’ has been issued from Monday July 18 to Tuesday July 19 and comes during term time for millions of school children and their teachers.

With hot weather being a factor that can impact concentration and health in classrooms negatively, many will be wondering if schools can close or if their kids could be sent home early should it get too hot.

Just like in workplaces, schools are covered by the same health and safety laws, which specify minimum temperatures for people to work in, but no maximum. That being said, guidance by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings must be “reasonable” for workers.

Schools and employers, have to provide “clean, fresh air” as well as keep temperatures at a comfortable level, and schools are also expected to provide adequate shade and deploy special measures when necessary - such as fans or portable air conditioning.”

“Other steps may also need to considered such as closing classrooms which are unacceptably hot and teaching classes elsewhere, or even sending pupils home, provided reasonable notice has been given to parents,” adds the HSE.

The NUT safety briefing states: “Other steps may also need to considered such as closing classrooms which are unacceptably hot and teaching classes elsewhere, or even sending pupils home, provided reasonable notice has been given to parents.

“If in doubt, 26°C should be used as the trigger for these measures.”

The NUT also suggests dress codes are relaxed, for example, the removal of blazers and allowing students to wear shorts/skirts rather than trousers.

Leeds City Council advised that the decision to close schools “is for individual school leaders and governing bodies” and that “the council has provided schools with advice on ways to mitigate the effects of anticipated high temperatures”.

The Council has shared “a range of advice and guidance for managing the hot temperatures in their settings” which covers “clothing, fluids, ways to keeping cool, windows, air movement and fans, hotter areas in school, transport, sunscreen, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, outdoor activities, sports days / fixtures and educational visits.”

What is a Met Office red warning?

A red warning means the weather is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure, according to the Met Office.

The heat is expected to lead to people experiencing “adverse health effects, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life.“ Government advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only; seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice.

The Met Office also advices that substantial changes in working practices and daily routines will be required.

There is a “high risk of failure of heat-sensitive systems and equipment, potentially leading to localised loss of power and other essential services, such as water or mobile phone services.”

More people are expected to visit coastal areas, lakes and rivers which leads to a higher risk of water safety incidents.

Delays on the road, rail and air as well as travel cancellations are also expected “with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays”.

What the NHS recommends to cope in the hot weather

The hot weather can be particularly dangerous for young children or older people who may feel the heat more than others.

The NHS recommends planning ahead, protecting yourself from too much sun and carrying water when outside.

Here’s how you can cope in the hot weather, according to the NHS.

  • Stay cool indoors - close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors
  • If going outdoors, use cool spaces considerately and keep your distance in line with social distancing guidelines
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals
  • Try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm
  • Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a wide brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the heat
  • Avoid exercising in the hottest parts of the day
  • Make sure you take water with you, if you are travelling