Teachers suffering ‘heat exhaustion’ forced to ‘lie on floor’ in horror heatwave

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Teachers say they have been suffering from "heat exhaustion" – with staff being forced to "lie on the floor" in a bid to cope with the "unbearable" heat in school classrooms.

As temperatures continue to mount in the UK, some schools continue to operate despite the Met Office issuing its first red alert for extreme heat on Monday and Tuesday.

But ministers have advised education facilities to remain open as forecasters warn that the UK could exceed 40C.

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School staff and teachers have described the crippling conditions as being like "packed sardines", while others said they have suffered "thumping headaches and dehydration."

Forecasters' highest warnings have been issued to areas including Manchester and York, with London predicted to be hotter than the Caribbean.

One secondary school teacher, who works in North London, said she spends her lunch breaks lying on the floor with her co-workers.

She told the Daily Star: "I feel exhausted. The children are exhausted.

"Exercise books are being used as fans and school jumpers are being moulded into pillows to rest their heads from all the fatigue.

"We all feel sick in the classroom entrapped like sardines, expected to encourage students to stay focused and on-task.

"We are all wondering why fans haven't been placed in the classrooms.

"But of course, 'stay hydrated' as the email from the headteacher states."

Jo, who is a primary school teaching assistant, commented: "We are not allowed to sit down in the heat while working in the sun. It's tiring especially when you have to stand in it."

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Speaking about how the temperatures led to fatigue before the heat further spiked this week, a nursery nurse from South West London added: "The last two days I have found really hard, especially as we had sports day.

"I have been really tired, no energy and at lunch break, I lay down on the floor and put relaxing music on with the light off just so I can try and lower my body temperature."

Teacher Jenny, from Croydon, south London, said staff in her school office have "two powerful fans while our classrooms have none."

While Sam said her school also had fans but they are not allowed to turn them on as they are "too expensive to run."

Other school staff highlighted that "buildings aren't built for the weather" and said they had to "bring in water from home" so kids could stay hydrated on sports day.

An acting teacher based in South West London said: "Parents have a responsibility and hardly come to school with a hat or suncream, so the responsibility lies with staff to keep them protected.

"No air conditioning makes it difficult for all to concentrate including the adults. The classroom is very hot.

"Last week, we did sports day and it was unbearable."

Another nursery nurse commented: "The responsibility on school staff to keep children safe from sunstroke is too much.

"Afternoon sessions are pointless as children are too hot and bothered to learn after lunch. I leave work feeling sick as classroom temperatures are too high with all the body heat."

UNISON head of education Mike Short told the Daily Star: “As the UK melts, poor government guidance is making things worse for sweltering schools and offices.

“Older classrooms don’t even have air conditioning. Schools should be able to let children and young people go home if they can’t keep them cool.”

The National Education Union ( NEU ) said the government need to ensure buildings are "fit for the future" and addressed ventilation issues in schools.

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of NEU, commented: "Most schools are not designed to cope with either extreme heat or extreme cold, and ventilation is still a huge issue in many, despite repeated calls during the pandemic for this to be addressed.

"Teaching and learning becomes hugely challenging when children and staff are working in classrooms where the temperature cannot be easily controlled, and the focus is on trying to make sure that everyone keeps hydrated and is as comfortable as possible.

"While schools can take measures in the short term to make the working environment more tolerable in heatwaves.

"For example; curtailing of heat-generating activities, such as the use of computers, bunsen burners, ovens, turning lights off, avoiding strenuous physical activity in PE lessons.

"Ensuring easy access to drinking water for staff and pupils, relaxing of dress codes for staff and pupils, changes to the school lunch menu, providing fans, and making any necessary adjustments for anyone particularly vulnerable such as pregnant women. "

The Department for Education said there is no indication of widespread closures but are aware that some schools have decided to close.

They confirmed the departments regional teams are in regular contact with local authorities and trusts to monitor the situation.

A spokesperson said: "There is clear Government guidance available online to help school staff look after children in the hot weather, including the use of ventilation, keeping children hydrated, and avoiding vigorous physical activity for pupils.

“Individual school leaders are responsible for managing their own local circumstances, but we are not advising schools to close.”

The government has issued advice on how schools and education settings can approach a heatwave here.

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