Opinion Former Article

NASUWT: Health and safety cuts put lives at risk

The Coalition Government’s ‘reckless’ and ‘simplistic’ attitude to health and safety threatens to put the lives of children and adults in schools and colleges at risk, representatives at the Annual Conference of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union have argued. 

A motion condemning moves by the Coalition to remove vital health and safety protections in the workplace was debated at the Conference in Birmingham. 

To support the debate an NASUWT report into excessive classroom temperatures has also been published. 

This found that:

· over three quarters of teachers experienced classroom temperatures in excess of 24 degrees on more than a quarter of days during the survey period (four weeks in summer 2011);

· a third of teachers experienced classroom temperatures in excess of 30 degrees at some point during the survey period;

· nearly half (44%) of teachers reported that pupils’ ability to learn is compromised when classroom temperatures exceed 24 degrees. 82% said there is very considerable adverse impact on pupils’ ability to learn once temperatures exceed 30 degrees;

· half of teachers reported their ability to teach is compromised once classroom temperatures exceed 24 degrees and three quarters said their was a very considerable adverse impact on their ability to teach once classroom temperatures exceed 30 degrees.

The NASUWT has been campaigning for a legal maximum workplace temperature for many years, arguing that an absence of a legal limit puts the wellbeing of pupils and teachers at risk and compromises effective teaching and learning.

Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary, said:

“NASUWT research has shown time and time again that teachers are facing serious health and safety risks in schools as a result of high levels of stress, school buildings which are outdated and not fit for purpose, the presence of asbestos and excessive classroom temperatures.

“Despite the weight of this evidence, since coming to power the Government has slashed the budget of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and announced plans to axe or reform 84% of health and safety laws.

“Over 140 pages of health and safety guidance for schools, including robust and detailed advice on protecting pupils on school trips, have been scrapped. This guidance provided schools and teachers with an important safeguard if things went wrong. The Coalition Government’s decision to sweep away this advice could make teachers more vulnerable.

“Parents will continue to expect schools to act in children’s best interests. Parents should be extremely worried that the Coalition Government’s cost-cutting measures could endanger their children and damage their education.”



NASUWT Press Office contacts:
Lena Davies 07867 392 746
Ben Padley 07785 463 119

Notes to editors

The NASUWT’s Annual Conference is being held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham from April 6 - 9.

The full text of the motion to be debated is below.

A copy of the NASUWT survey into excessive classroom temperatures is attached.


Tim Cox to move, Hank Roberts to second:

Conference is appalled by political attempts to redefine schools and colleges as ‘low risk’ environments.

Conference notes that there is compelling national and international evidence that confirms the prevalence of serious health and safety risks in schools and colleges, including exposure to work-related stressors, excessive working hours, bullying and harassment, asbestos and excessive temperatures.

Conference condemns the abolition and dilution of critically important guidance for schools on a range of matters, including the management of educational visits and pupil behaviour.

Conference deplores the misleading claims made by some government ministers that teachers have nothing to fear if a pupil dies or is injured as a result of participating in educational activity sanctioned by the school and where the teacher has exercised common sense.

Conference believes that the lives of children and adults are being put at risk as a result of reckless and simplistic pronouncements by government on the need for a ‘common sense’ approach to health and safety in schools.

Conference endorses continuing action by the National Executive in campaigning with other trade union partners in the UK, in Europe and globally for:

(i) legislation which protects the health and wellbeing of all teachers, support staff and pupils;

(ii) the enforcement of statutory health and safety provisions;

(iii) the publication of guidance on the management of health and safety risks and

(iv) the reversal of public sector cuts and austerity programmes which are putting at risk the lives of pupils and teachers.

(Executive, Brent)


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