Haverstock School shuts early due to heatwave
21 June, 2017 — By Tom Foot
ONE of Camden’s most modern schools closed early today (Wednesday) because its classrooms were “not designed to deal with extreme temperatures”.
Staff and pupils at Haverstock School in Chalk Farm were sent home at lunchtime for their own safety after headteacher John Dowd decided there was “excessive solar gain in some classrooms”.
The move followed five consecutive days of hot weather in London, the longest heatwave of 30C-beating temperatures in the capital since 1995.
In relation to other secondaries in Camden, the Haverstock Hill school has some of the newest facilities after a £21million site overhaul funded through a private finance initiative.
Tim Ottridge, chief operating officer at the school, told the New Journal: “The building is designed to cope with normal temperature fluctuations and uses natural ventilation, not air conditioning, to keep temperatures in classrooms and offices at an acceptable level.”
But he added: “The natural ventilation system is not designed to deal effectively with the extreme temperatures being experienced this week. Consequently, the headteacher made the decision to move to a continental day, today and tomorrow, where temperatures are expected to be exceptionally high. This decision was made in the interests of pupil and staff welfare.”
The PFI deal aimed to replace old Victorian “unfit buildings with facilities fit for the 21st century”.
The New Journal understands that Maria Fidelis secondary school also shut early today (Wednesday). Phone calls to the main office in Euston went unanswered.
Gerald Clark, of Camden National Union of Teachers, welcomed school closures, adding: “Fans and access to plenty of water are a must, but schools need to question how much valuable learning is possible in classrooms above 30C and whether that’s worth the potential health and safety risk, and discuss this openly with parents. We think that schools that have made the decision to close early this week are acting in the best interests of pupils and staff.”