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Schools hot on managing heatwave on UK's hottest ever day

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Schools scrapped events, relaxed uniform rules and even closed earlier during Tuesday's heatwave as the UK saw its hottest ever temperatures amid a Met Office red alert for extreme heat.

The previous UK record high temperature of 38.7C (101.6F) at Cambridge Botanic Garden in July 2019 was broken at 12.50pm when Heathrow Airport recorded 40.2C (104.3F). Coningsby in Lincolnshire went on to record 40.3C and St James's Park in London clocked 40.2C.

The temperature in Cambridge at 3pm was 39.9C as the previous high was beaten at more than 30 observation sites, according to the Met Office.

Hellishly hot: The temperature in the shade outside St Michael's Church on Tuesday lunchtime was 40C (104F). Picture: David James (58093990)
Hellishly hot: The temperature in the shade outside St Michael's Church on Tuesday lunchtime was 40C (104F). Picture: David James (58093990)

Essex recorded a new official county record of 39.1C (102.4F) at Writtle. Stansted Airport had its record high temperature, 39C.

Hertfordshire County Council implemented its Heat Health Plan, issuing advice to schools, early years providers, care homes and outdoor workplaces.

Schools in the Indie area eased uniform rules, with ties and blazers being replaced by PE kits and in some cases children's own clothes.

Herts and Essex High School in Warwick Road, whose summer term ended on Tuesday, cancelled its sports day for the third year in a row.

Birchwood High School in Parsonage Lane, where students have worn PE kits for the past week, also cancelled its sports day and sent home students at 12.45pm. The school's term ends on Wednesday.

The Bishop’s Stortford High School restricted time outside and a Year 7 trip to Warwick Castle planned for Tuesday was cancelled

At Helena Romanes School in Dunmow, where students were allowed to wear PE kit this week and some lessons were moved from classrooms on the top floors on Monday, parents were emailed on Tuesday morning to say school would be shutting at 11.25am.

Some schools, including Thorn Grove and Hillmead primaries, offered optional early pick-ups for parents and others took quirky measures to keep their pupils cool.

Manor Fields Primary in Thorley Park had a ‘water fun day’ where the children were soaked with water guns by teachers and were encouraged to lie down at intervals on the air-conditioned school hall floor.

Windhill21 Primary had a similar ‘super soaker’ fight on the field and the school was making good use of its air-conditioned immersion room.

Kath Sweet told the Indie: "Summercroft have modified uniform standards, taking frequent breaks, water bottles on desks, sticking to the shade and keeping the heatwave drama to a minimum."

At All Saints C of E Primary, pupils have been allowed to wear PE kits this week or, if they want to be in uniform, children in Years 3 to 6 do not have to wear ties.

In Sawbridgeworth, Fawbert & Barnard Infants mum Alice Hamley said: "F&B have been brilliant. Lots of extra fans, gazebos outside, relaxed uniform or PE kit. They’ve moved the leavers' play to the junior school, who have air con, and the kids got ice pops at lunchtime. Mr Wells, the new head there, is even handing out water to parents at home time."

At Birchanger C of E Primary the summer party and Year 6 leavers’ party were moved to Wednesday and some pupils were able to swap their sweltering classroom for a new air conditioned one.

Pupils at Little Hadham Primary were treated to ice lollies and a paddling pool was brought out for the little ones, while Maple Class made much-needed paper fans.

Busy Bees nursery at St Michael’s Mead sent children home as they could not maintain a safe temperature in the rooms and Sycamore House Day Nursery in Hadham Road had to close the pre-school at 1pm.

Blues Preschool closed Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Treasurer Louisa Piercy said: "The temperature in the setting, even in the shaded garden area, is just unbearable. The new building opening in September however will be air conditioned!"

Term ended on Friday for baby, toddler and pre-school organisation Hartbeeps, but on Monday owner Sharon Graves opened up her venue, The Happy Toadstool, in Little Hadham especially to run two “Baby Play and Chill” events.

"The idea was to provide some respite from the heatwave for local babies and their carers since we have great air conditioning," she said. "Families were very grateful of a space to go to keep cool and have fun together, and we had lots of new people come and visit our beautiful sensory room for the first time."

At Bishop’s Stortford Methodist Church minister the Rev Gill Hulme said: "We cancelled Knit and Natter and afternoon fellowship. Even though we have fans etc in the Oasis lounge, we were worried about people getting safely to and from the church in this heat. Hope it is cooler tomorrow morning for Isabel Hospice's Compassionate Café."

But the South Street place of worship still hosted a Citizens Advice drop-in session and the food bank was seeing clients. Administrator Lynn Graseman said: "The need is great."

Emma Riedo cancelled her mums and babies yoga class at Akasha Wellness at Wickham Hall. She said: "Although they have air-con at Akasha, where I teach it, we follow a hot yoga class and the room would never cool down enough for the babies to be comfortable."

Louise Burwood had to close her dog walking business for two days with the loss of income, but stressed the animals' welfare came first. "Usually we can work around heat a little with early walks by the river but not this one," she said. "I’ve sent my son to school though!"

She was joined by fellow dog walker Dawn Baker-Ingram in cancelling services so far this week. "Financially frustrating, however safety of the dogs is paramount," she said.

Adrienne Critchlow's DOGability training school in Thorley Street and Denise Armstrong's Red Dog Training at The Adventure Bark near Green Tye have both cancelled or rescheduled group classes since last week.

Adrienne Critchlow, of DOGability, said: "Wednesday’s classes are still under review. Most private lessons (unless they can be done indoors at client’s home) have been rescheduled to very early morning or late evening where possible, but most have had to be rescheduled. Our social walk tonight has been postponed too. It is a massive financial hit, on top of everything else, but it has to be done for the welfare of the dogs."

A police community safety event advising residents on anti-social behaviour, which was planned to take place on Monday afternoon at Parsonage Lane park, was moved to air-conditioned Jackson Square.

Bishop’s Stortford Handball Club cancelled sessions yesterday, but the friendly football match between Bishop’s Stortford and Dagenham and Redbridge at the Blues’ home ground last night was due to go ahead.

Police patrolled a reservoir near Hadham Hall and “gave strong words of advice” to 30 youths over swimming there and anti-social behaviour.

St Clare Hospice said: "We are operating as normal, so we’re out and about visiting patients at home and caring for them in our inpatient unit [at Hastingwood, near Harlow], where the patient rooms have air con. The staff have been treated to ice lollies, which have gone down a treat!"

At Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow there was free ice cream for staff.

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