Children in snow

Cold weather and classroom temperature (England) 

Advice on the heating levels in schools and classrooms in England, and how to deal with heating problems commonly encountered during cold weather and snow 

Heating standards for schools 

Until October 2012, legal requirements which specified the minimum temperatures which had to be maintained in school classrooms were set out in the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999

These were replaced in 2012 by the School Premises (England) Regulations 2012 which do not specify minimum temperatures for any parts of a school. The NEU position remains that temperatures in school classrooms should be at least 18ºC (64.4ºF).

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which apply to all workplaces, including schools, set out minimum temperature requirements. They require that temperatures shall be “reasonable”, defined as "normally at least 16°C" (60°F). This applies to non-teaching areas as well as classrooms and applies outside school session times.

Maximum temperatures

There are no legally prescribed maximum temperatures for school premises or other workplaces. The Workplace Regulations require that all reasonable steps are taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature by, where necessary, special ventilation measures including provision of fans.


The Workplace Regulations also require that a sufficient number of thermometers should be available to enable temperatures to be measured in any part of the workplace. The NEU recommends taking several classroom readings with a digital thermometer, including the official school one, before initiating any action.

Hot water

Hot water at the point of use must not pose a scalding risk. Advice is to ensure hot water does not exceed 43°C.

Heating problems

The NEU does not expect its members to continue to work in situations in which the legal requirements concerning the health, safety and welfare of employees and others are not being met.

In dealing with heating problems, reference may be made the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which places a statutory duty upon employees to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others. This duty may require teachers to withdraw themselves and their pupils from situations in which the physical conditions may affect the health and safety of themselves and their pupils.

The type of heating problems occurring in school usually fall into one of three categories:

  • longstanding faults
  • temporary faults, which may or may not be capable of being remedied quickly
  • problems caused by policies on operation of heating systems.

In general, the employer remains responsible for providing funds for replacement of heating systems which have reached the end of their useful life and for emergency replacement of heating systems.

Employers retain legal responsibility for the health and safety of employees, pupils and others on the premises; to arrange for work to be carried out in schools which is necessary for health and safety reasons; and to charge schools’ delegated budgets accordingly.

Head teachers are responsible for the internal organisation and management of schools. They have the power to act in emergencies, including by deciding to close all or part of schools in the case of heating system failures. Where such decisions are taken, adequate notice of closures should be given to parents. Closing schools will not usually be possible on the first day of heating failures since adequate notice to parents cannot be given in time.

Longstanding faults

Many problems result from longstanding faults or inadequacies in school heating systems which local authorities/academy trusts or governing bodies are unable or unwilling to replace or repair. Where such faults exist, the following steps should be taken:

  • The matter should be raised with the head teacher and information sought on the action proposed by the employer to repair or upgrade the heating system.
  • Temperatures should be monitored in any classroom or other area with heating problems on a twice daily basis at the same time each day in order to provide evidence of the problem.
  • If the school employer is unwilling to accept that difficulties exist or argues that they are unable to act on financial or other grounds, contact the NEU for assistance.
  • Where temperatures are consistently below the levels required by law, the head teacher should take appropriate action to ensure that teachers, support staff and pupils are not required to work in inappropriately heated areas.

The NEU does not regard the use of temporary portable heaters as an appropriate solution other than as a temporary measure in an emergency while the heating system is repaired. Portable gas heaters should not be used if other temporary heating systems are available because of the health and safety risks from fumes, fire hazards etc. If portable gas heaters have to be used, follow Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on the safe use and storage of portable gas heaters.

Sudden temporary faults

Where sudden faults or failures arise with heating systems, the NEU safety rep should ensure that the head teacher has firstly taken action to ensure that the system is repaired as quickly as possible and, secondly, considered appropriate additional measures until the system is repaired (as above).

Where temporary faults occur which can be resolved within 24 hours, again school closure will in most cases be impossible but other appropriate action could include closing those parts of schools most severely affected, rearranging timetabling or bringing in temporary heating sources.

The NEU advises against the use of portable gas heaters unless no other temporary heating system is available.

Problems caused by the employer’s heating policies

Sometimes problems arise due to inadequate levels of heating caused by employer policies designed to save heating costs. Any policy that leads to inadequate levels of heating is unacceptable.

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