August 12, 2022

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Why were children even in school those two hot days?

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As I am a retired teacher and a member of the Greenwich National Education Union...

As I am a retired teacher and a member of the Greenwich National Education Union Committee.

I am concerned that due to academisation and the fragmentation of the education service, the Local Education Authority no longer has a strategic oversight of Health and Safety in schools.

On July 18 and 19, temperatures reached 40C.

People were advised to stay at home if they could, and there were serious problems with public transport and emergency services, particularly when fires broke out.

And yet the Department for Education sent a directive that schools should remain open.

Greenwich Education Authority then responded with no clear advice to schools, apart from relying on them to be careful and sensible.

In other words, Greenwich schools were left to muddle through, with everyone fending for themselves! Greenwich Education Authority was not proactive in planning for the known heatwave during the prior week.

I invited school NEU reps to share their experience of the two days. Eighteen reps responded.

The story that emerged was that schools had absolutely no way to come to a borough-wide school consensus as to how the days would be organised.

Only two closed completely.

By the Tuesday, many parents had decided to keep their children at home, but only three schools reported that the parents had been informed that their child would receive an ‘authorised absence’.

We are told that these temperatures are the result of global warming and so not the last that we shall see of this extreme weather. Unfortunately, we have poor infrastructure in place to deal with such temperatures.

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Where children are concerned, we must insist on joined-up thinking and action in relation to health and safety in schools.

This was the last week of term, all exams were over, and schools were winding down for the summer break. Private schools were already closed.

Those two hot days could have been planned for in advance with the welfare of the children and their parents as the main focus.

How much profitable education went on in those two days?

Not much, so why were they there!?

Linda Baker
Member of the Greenwich National Education Union Committee

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