Unions call for guidance on how to keep classrooms both warm and ventilated


School staff are being encouraged to layer up as schools battle to find a balance between keeping classrooms warm but ventilated this winter.

Teaching unions have pressed the government for more guidance on how schools should cope with falling temperatures, with headteachers raising concerns over rising heating costs.

Windows and doors should be kept open to aid ventilation and tackle the spread of coronavirus, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) adding that visits will see inspectors check that adequate measures are in place.

However, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, Dr Mary Bousted, has voiced concerns over how schools will be able to keep classrooms both warm and safe.

“With the colder months approaching, the Department for Education needs to provide schools with urgent practical advice on how to ensure that safe ventilation is maintained while at the same time ensuring a comfortable working temperature,” she said.

Under the current guidance, good ventilation is required and it should be maximised as much as possible, with “opening windows and propping open doors” among the examples listed.

Temperatures in a workplace should be at least 16 degrees Celsius according to the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice, while the NEU believes it should be 2 degrees Celsius higher than that.

A spokesperson for HSE told SchoolsWeek there is a need for a “pragmatic approach to balancing the different risks”, while the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers has said more room heating could be needed.

In a bid for more clarification, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union has approached both HSE and the Department for Education.

A spokesperson for the latter said: “We are asking schools to provide good ventilation wherever possible, but also expect schools to maintain a safe and comfortable environment.”