Heatwave causing chaos in state’s school classrooms
SCORCHING temperatures have thrown Queensland schools into chaos with teachers abandoning lessons and parents pulling their children out of classes.
Classroom temperatures have been recorded at more than 40C and The Courier-Mail understands some teachers threatened to walk off the job amid this week's heatwave.
While there are guidelines to postpone school sport once it gets above 36C, there is no maximum temperature at which classes are called off or moved to cooler locations.
Queensland Teachers' Union vice-president Sam Pidgeon said a review of climate control options in the state's classrooms was needed and said a change in term dates should also be considered.
"It's been shocking and there's absolutely no doubt that it's had an impact on teaching and learning," Ms Pidgeon said.
"A lot of teachers are telling us they're not even bothering to teach new work in this weather because no one can concentrate, so there's lots of revision and breaks and rest time."
Ms Pidgeon said many teachers were holding lessons outside, instead of sweltering classrooms where temperatures have this week been recorded as high as 37C by 9am and 40C by 2pm.
"A number of schools have cancelled their assemblies and sporting activities and inter-school sports because they've got to take care of people's health," she said.
Ms Pidgeon said about two thirds of southeast Queensland schools were without air conditioning and some teachers had resorted to buying fans and water bottles to help ease the stifling heat.
"Even in the schools with air conditioning, some schools will have some rooms done and not others, so it's a bit of a lottery as to which class you're in for the year," she said.
"Teaching is a tough gig at the best of times but when your classroom temperature at 2pm is up around 38C or 40C there's just no relief."
Rising temperatures are becoming a major issue in Queensland schools with the state sweltering through its hottest year in history in 2017 with average daytime maximum temperatures of more than 31C.
Independent Education Union Queensland branch secretary Terry Burke said in the non-state sector some schools might have guidelines but there was no consistent policy.
"Queensland schools remain open and students are not sent home during excessive heat or heatwave conditions, unless a directive from the Principal or Executive Director determines a school will temporarily close," he said.
Mr Burke said a code of practice stated that teachers working in extreme heat must be able to work without a risk to their health and safety, as reasonably practical.
"However, there is no provision for the cessation of work when the temperature reaches a certain point."
The Department of Education and Training said it did not "collate information centrally on which schools have enacted excessive heat management plans" this week.
A spokesman said there were no plans to review the existing Cool School Zones policy that funds airconditioning only for schools in the far north of the state.