It’s been great to see Sheffield schools getting a bit of sun over the last month.
Sports days have been able to go ahead, PE lessons have taken place outdoors and there’s been a bit of a buzz in the air as the six-week holiday approaches.
Schools in Germany literally send children home because its too hot to work
In the city’s junior schools especially, children have been enjoying the weather. On warm days, they’ve been leaving their jumpers at home and heading out to school in shorts.
It’s important for schools to pass on messages about sun cream, but generally the good weather goes down well with our junior school kids.
High temperatures, when the thermometer edges into the high 20s, can lead a different story at some of the city’s secondary schools.
It all depends on the headteacher’s attitude towards school uniform, and it seems that some of our heads are a little too obsessed by it and reluctant to change.
Every school has a set of uniform rules, and so they should. There’s no point having a uniform policy if some students can flout it. Some schools pick their battles with subversive kids and the battle of the school uniform is played out very strictly in some quarters.
Have the boys and girls got the right trousers? Have they got black shoes? No, I mean black shoes that don’t look like trainers. And ones with no logo? Is the top button fastened? And the tie, does that look like it’s on properly?
For young folk bending the school uniform rulebook, it’s likely to result in a telephone call home, perhaps being isolated within school and maybe even exclusion.
But some secondary schools seem to be missing the point entirely when the hot weather comes, stubbornly insisting that the uniform rules in place over winter should be the same uniform rules in flaming June. So I have seen children heading to secondary school and coming home in shirts and ties, even blazers, when the temperature has simply been too hot.
Forward-thinking officesrelax their dress code when the weather is hot, and it’s for one simple reason: productivity goes down if people are uncomfortably hot.
The same applies to schools. The number one objective of any school is to deliver great teaching and learning, but this cannot happen if it is too hot.
If students are sat in class, sweating in their trousers, shirts and ties, there cannot be effective learning taking place. And so something needs to be done.
Ideally, the answer would be to have every classroom equipped with air conditioning. Funding, of course, will not stretch to this although some rooms are fitted with air con – usually it’s IT teachers who are the lucky ones.
So it has to be the uniform rules that are relaxed.
There are some schools in South Yorkshire that ditch the traditional shirt and tie at the beginning of June and adopt a more flexible approach involving polo shirts with one or two buttons undone. It’s a good thing to do, but doesn’t go far enough.
Although not every day in June and July is a scorcher, you can usually rely on a stretch when it will reach 27°C or 28°C, maybe occasionally higher.
Schools in Germany close in these conditions. They literally send children home and declare hitzefrei because it’s too hot for productive work to take place.
I’m not suggesting such a dramatic change in school culture – goodness knows it’s difficult dealing with negative opinion on a snow day – but it would be cool to see schools more relaxed on red hot days. What would be wrong if children went to secondary school in shorts if the mercury rose?
A recent high-profile case saw students challenging their headteacher’s decision that boys could not wear shorts. They wore skirts to school in a protest. After all, the girls get to.
The media loved it and the school eventually backed down. On hot days, common sense now prevails.
It would be great to see Sheffield secondary schools allowing children to wear shorts to school during hot weather and abandoning top button and tie policies as well. Not on all summer days, maybe, but certainly if the forecast is for extreme heat.
And if schools insist on stuffy hot-weather rules, the young people affected should challenge them.