The heat is coming for students



By Amy Hodgetts

As we’re approaching the end of winter, many students across the UK will be approaching (if not already), their exam periods. With that, the pressures from exams will undoubtedly be on the cards for students. Trying to condense a year’s worth of learning and a few months’ worths of revising into two hours is very tough and when the warmer months approach, the heat will intensify adding unnecessary levels of stress onto students. The Independent published a report on the UK’s heatwave troubles, which occurred in 2018. It stated that students in buildings without air-conditioning perform around 13% worse in tests during heatwaves. If a similar occurrence was to happen this year, what should education providers be doing to safeguard their students?

The heatwave effects on exam results

The US National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a study, which revealed the impact heatwaves had on exam results. The study involved 10 million US secondary school students over the course of 13 years and was picked up by a number of news outlets as being the first major analysis of the correlation between higher temperatures and lower scores in tests. One such outlet was the BBC, who reported the study’s findings that, for every 0.55°C increase to the overall average temperature, learning achievement fell by 1%. Anything over 21°C was noted as having a considerable impact on learning, with anything over 32°C accelerating this degrading of learning further. At over 38°C, the effect of heat on learning was observed to be particularly high. 

It was also noted in the paper, how the hot weather only impacted scores during hot school days, the summer weekends, however, didn’t change achievement levels. But hot weather did impact educational time, both at school and during homework time. 

Heat impacting sleep

During the heatwave that struck the UK in 2018, the Guardian had reported an increase in sleeping troubles. The surge in the heat for a country rather unused to sunny climates caused many people to feel tired, short-tempered, groggy, and as a result, less productive. 

A sleep medicine consultant, Dr Michal Farquhar spoke to the Guardian regarding the issue: “Britain isn’t really designed to deal with higher than average temperatures. Unlike warmer climates, our homes are designed to keep us warm in the winter more than to keep us cool in the summer, and air conditioning is relatively rare in private homes.” 

The doctor also stated that optimum sleeping temperature is quite restrictive, being at 16°C-18°C, so if the temperatures were to rise over these, they could prove to be problematic for many, including students. 

What’s the solution?

So, if there were to be a repeated rise of temperatures this year, what can we do to ensure students gain the best sleep to avoid being tired and overly warm during their exam periods.

Both the US National Bureau of Economic Research and Harvard University recommend using a good air-conditioning unit in educational areas, particularly in exam halls. Both institutes noted that air conditioning had an observational impact on the damage heat did to students’ test results. 

The Guardian argued highlighted, however, that air conditioning in the UK is quite rare, especially in schools and universities. This makes historical sense, as the UK doesn’t have a history of extended periods of high temperatures, so air conditioning wasn’t a financially sound decision years ago. But with summers being regularly warmer each year, and heatwaves becoming all-too-common in our summer period, should the British mentality towards the value of air conditioning shift? 

The National Education Union indeed proposes that UK schools implement an action plan should temperatures rise over 26°C. Measures they recommend include moving pupils away from the windows, lowering computer use, encouraging drinking water in the classroom, and installing a well-maintained air conditioning system. Companies like Daikin, for example, can offer their expertise towards fitting the right air conditioning system for a wide range of buildings, including educational environments. If the warmer summers are here to stay, the UK needs to look into upgrading its buildings to keep people comfortable and safe. 

This article was produced in collaboration with Daikin.

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