Advice for looking after children & staff during the heatwave

Advice below on how to look after children and staff during the heatwave. You can read the advice from Public Health England and the MET Office including tips for Early Years managers and how to spot heatstroke and heat exhaustion in children and staff.

Public Health England Plans & MET Office Heatwave Warnings

The Government has developed a national emergency heatwave plan. Published by Public Health England (PHE), the plan was updated in May 2022 and includes advice for:

  • the NHS, local authorities (LAs), social care, and other public agencies, including schools and early years services
  • professionals working with people at risk
  • local communities and voluntary groups.

The plan puts in place arrangements for the Met Office to issue heatwave alerts whenever average temperatures during the day or night rise above certain thresholds set for each region of the country.

The “heat-health watch” system comprises five main levels (Levels 0–4), from long-term planning for severe heat, through summer and heatwave preparedness, to a major national emergency. Each alert level should trigger a series of appropriate actions which are detailed in the plan.

The plan is supported by further guidance from PHE directed specifically at the education and early years sectors. Looking After Children and Those in Early Years Settings During Heatwaves: Guidance for Teachers and Professionals was published in May 2022 and is available on the GOV.UK website. It provides advice and information about the effects of heat on children and lists precautions to be taken.

The current heatwave level is 3. Which means there is a 90 % probability of heatwave conditions between 0900 on Monday and 0900 on Saturday in parts of England.

PHE advises early years managers in England should:

  • read both the heatwave plan and the early years guidance and satisfy themselves that the suggested actions and heat-health watch alerts are understood and that local plans are adapted as appropriate
  • monitor the current situation during hot weather by checking the warning level on the Met Office website, or by listening to local or national weather news
  • liaise with the Local Authority as necessary
  • always take heatwave alerts seriously and act on them
  • take appropriate action according to the level of alert
  • ensure that contingency plans and equipment are in place to cope with heatwave conditions
  • ensure that enough fans or air conditioning units are available

Advice for looking after children during a heatwave

PHE advice is that, during periods of high temperature:

  • children should not take part in vigorous physical activity on very hot days, such as when temperatures are in excess of 30°C
  • encourage children playing outdoors to stay in the shade as much as possible
  • children should wear loose, light-coloured clothing to help keep cool and sun hats with wide brims to avoid sunburn
  • use sunscreen (at least factor 15 with ultraviolet A (UVA) protection) to protect the skin if children are playing or taking lessons outdoors for more than 20 minutes
  • provide children with plenty of water (such as water from a cold tap) and encourage them to drink more than usual when conditions are hot.

Staying Sun safe

During a heatwave, staff should be alert to the specific symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Vulnerable children with disabilities or complex health needs may be more susceptible to extreme temperatures. They should be monitored and appropriate plans of care put in place, with input on their particular needs from their specialist health professional.

Employers should also be aware of the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion in team members.

As well as the effects of heat, overexposure to UV light from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. PHE advises early years services to have a sun protection policy in place which is made known to all parents. They refer early years managers to the Cancer Research UK website for advice on developing a policy.