Closing schools in heatwave would be ‘IRRESPONSIBLE’

Closing schools during Britain’s Saharan-like heatwave would be ‘irresponsible’, a leading education provider has claimed.

Sites in Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire have decided to shut, while others will close early today and tomorrow amid warnings that temperatures may reach 43C.

But Oasis, one of England’s largest academy chains, has said its 50-plus schools in England will stay open. 

Its founder Steve Chalke told The Times: ‘The decision to shut a school at any time has huge ramifications, economically and socially.’

‘Many of our children’s homes are very small and hot’ so shutting schools would be ‘unbelievably irresponsible’, he argued. It would effect the poorest families the most because they are less able to work remotely and care for children at home. 

‘It’s like lockdown — it was a class construct — you can’t work remotely if you are a cleaner or working in a supermarket,’ Mr Chalke said.

Britain has already been brought to a near standstill by the national emergency, with trains and GP surgeries cancelled.

As schools shut their doors or tell parents to pick their children up early as the country grapples with the heatwave one education provider has urged their fellows to stay open (stock image)

The extreme heat alert that UK health officials have said poses a risk to even fit and healthy people

The extreme heat alert that UK health officials have said poses a risk to even fit and healthy people

Train firms urge people not to travel amid heat 

More than a dozen train companies are urging Britons not to travel today and tomorrow as the UK’s first red extreme heat warning comes into force.

A total of 21 operators – ranging from Transport for Wales and Gatwick Express to the Transpennine Express and Southern – said they will be running a slower service on Monday and Tuesday after National Rail implemented speed restrictions across its network.

Speed restrictions are used by train companies during periods of hot weather to avoid any damage being made to the tracks and to prevent rails from buckling.

Cancellations are also in place as temperatures are predicted to soar to highs of 38C and 40C in some parts of England. Amber and red extreme heat warnings have been implemented across the nation for the duration.

Those who have to travel are being encouraged to check their journeys on the National Rail website before setting off and taking water with them to stay hydrated.

Refunds are being offered to those who do not travel but have already purchased tickets.

LNER has said no trains are running from south of York and south of Leeds to London Kings Cross on Tuesday.

Chief operating officer of Transport for London, Andy Lord, said London’s rail network would also be running a reduced service on Monday and Tuesday.

He told LBC: ‘We’re advising all our customers to only travel if their journey is essential, to make sure that they stay hydrated and carry water with them if they do have to travel. Check before they travel because journey times will be extended. We will have reduced services across the TFL network because of the safety restrictions we need to put in place due to the heat.’

Meteorologists gave an 80 per cent chance of the current heatwave topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C (101.7F), set in Cambridge in 2019. 

The scorching heat means the UK will be warmer than Nassau in the Bahamas (32C), Kingston in Jamaica (33C), Malaga in Spain (28C), Athens in Greece (35C), Albufeira in Portugal (28C) and Dakhla in the Western Sahara (24C).

Despite the temperatures expected to continue to rise, health chiefs have insisted there is no public health reason to justify closing schools.

UK Government advisers believe school environments, which can have air conditioning, could actually be cooler.

There is no temperature threshold for closing schools or workplaces.

Comments from Mr Chalke, whose schools are mostly in the North of England, came after Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, said it was important children’s education should be maintained in the heatwave. 

‘We’re coming to the end of the school term,’ he told Sky News on Sunday.

‘But I think making sure young children get the education they need is really important, particularly after the pandemic, and schools are well placed to do that.’

The Hereford Academy in Herefordshire is one school that has announced an earlier start and finish to their school day.

And in East London, Anna Feltham, the headteacher of Clapton Girls’ Academy, said on Friday of an early finish as school facilities will be unable to cope with the heat. 

‘Already, many classrooms are very hot, even with fans, and students are struggling to keep cool, drink enough water and maintain concentration in lessons,’ she said. 

‘Next week’s heatwave will make many teaching rooms unbearably hot by lesson two and five. 

‘We have reviewed a number of options but do not have sufficient “cool” rooms to re-room lessons into.’

Other schools across the country, while not closing their doors, are banning outdoor events and play, with PE lessons also scrapped to help children avoid overheating. 

Government advice states children are more susceptible to high temperatures than adults because they do not sweat as much and so can be at greater risk of ill-health from heat.

While No10 has not gone as far as recommending schools shut their doors, they have advised that uniform restrictions should be relaxed to help children keep cool.

Other steps like leaving windows open overnight if possible and heat generating equipment like computers should be turned off when not in use.

Today parts of the country, like London, are predicted to hit 39C (102.2) but meteorologists said tomorrow has the highest chance of temperatures breaching the 40C (104F) mark. 

Education is just one setting where the heatwave is wreaking havoc on Britain. 

Trains already cancelled as the tracks start to buckle and GP surgeries have closed amid a serious warning that fit and healthy people could die for the heat.

With the UK set to be hotter than the Sahara Desert health chiefs told patients to stay away unless it is an emergency amid fears hospitals will be overwhelmed.

Emergency services urged swimmers wanting to cool off to stay away from lakes and rivers in case they face difficulties.