Teachers Have Told Pupils To Wear Thermals And Coats To Lessons To Cope With “Freezing Classrooms” | #teacher | #children | #kids

Children walk to class in the snow, Reigate. Credit: Alamy

Kate Proctor

5 min read

Teachers are telling pupils to wear vests and thermals under their school shirts and keep their coats on in lessons as poorly ventilated classrooms are forced to open windows and doors to protect against Covid-19.

Government guidance that schools should be well ventilated to curb the spread of the virus means that unless classrooms naturally have good air quality, or have ventilators installed, staff are having to resort to opening windows and doors. 

With temperatures barely above freezing in many parts of the country this week, school staff have  advised pupils to wear more layers to school to cope with the cold. 

Unions represnting teachers and school staff are also questioning whether 7,000 air purifiers provided to classrooms for the spring term by the Department for Education will meet the needs of schools.

“In some rooms it really will feel freezing,” one secondary teacher working in the North West told PoliticsHome.”I’m going to start recommending they wear thermals under a school shirt.”

Staff at Bidston Avenue Primary School in Birkenhead has said that due to the “bitter temperatures”, they are advising children come to school with extra layers. 

“Classrooms will have some windows open for ventilation, so please ensure they have their school jumper on and consider a vest under their shirt/polo top,” a tweet on the school’s profile read. 

Several teachers have shared their experiences of chilly classrooms on social media. “I’ve got my windows open to protect us all but also let my students keep their coats on.  I’ve also talked to them about wearing extra layers under their uniforms,” one teacher tweeted

Labour’s shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan said the response from the government on classroom ventilation had been complacent and inadequate. 
“Government incompetence is leaving schools with no option but to open windows as temperatures plummet and heating bills rise, just to get adequate ventilation,” he said. 

“Labour urged ministers to use the Christmas break to get ventilation systems into schools and colleges but they have again failed to act until it’s too late. 
“Twenty months on from Sage first highlighting the importance of ventilation in schools, this is literally a problem the government should have fixed while the sun was shining.”

In light of efforts to keep children warm, there is a debate on the Mumsnet website about whether schools should be enforcing strict uniform rules. Some have said their children’s schools are sticking with no coats in the classroom rule, and asking that any base layers or thermals are not able to be seen under white shirts. 

One parent wrote: “We got a letter yesterday to say wear base layers, not visible through the uniform, as windows and doors will be open all day. They will not be allowed to wear coats. It’s -1 here right now and not going to get above 5 according to the forecast. These are primary kids.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, warned that it could be too cold for children to concentrate in some cases. 

“It is impossible to say with any certainty whether the provision of 7,000 air filters will be sufficient to meet need, but given that there are upwards of a quarter-of-a-million classrooms in England, it is reasonable to think that demand could easily outstrip supply.

“On the face of it, government advice to ‘open a window’ seemed a sensible policy, but not all classrooms have windows that open. Those that do, can become too cold in winter for children to concentrate,” he said. 

“Most schools have now got CO2 monitors to measure air quality in classrooms. Where a problem is identified, air filters should be provided – not rationed or limited to 7,000 nationally – to ensure that all classrooms that need one, get one. The government owes all children a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn, with minimal disruption to education.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was questioned repeatedly in the Commons on Wednesday by MPs about ventilation in schools and was told that children were having to wear coats in class.

He has said there are 24,000 schools in England, and the government has sent out 350,000 CO2 monitors to check ventilation standards, costing £25 million.

He said ventilation is being adequately managed by schools, and only in some cases is additional help needed. 

“The feedback from the majority has been that they do not need air purifiers,” he said. 

“When we did the modelling, we thought that they would need roughly 8,000, which is what we have. The first ones go out next week. That is the right, proportionate and cost-effective way to deal with it.” 

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