DÜSSELDORF Most schools in NRW will give leave due to hot weather in the next few days, but this is not the case for all pupils. According to the German Education Union, buildings must be urgently renovated in terms of energy efficiency.
At the start of what will likely be the hottest week in NRW since temperature records began, preparations are also in full swing in schools. In many places, school directors have already ordered closures because of the heat in the coming days. According to a decree issued by the Ministry of Education, each school director can decide for him or herself when to close because of the heat. The decree includes as a guide a room temperature of 27 degrees Celsius. However: “If the room temperature is less than 25 degrees, no closure for heat can be granted,” the decree states.
NRW is one of the federal states that set a concrete temperature. In Lower Saxony or Rhineland-Palatinate, on the other hand, school directors are free to decide whether the climatic conditions still permit teaching.
In NRW, primary pupils and secondary pupils in the fifth and sixth grades can only be dismissed before the end of regular lessons after consultation with their parents because the school has to fulfil its duty of supervision. The school director has to take school bus timetables into account. There can generally be no closure due to heat during all day school because of the duty of care. Instead of teaching, teachers should offer an alternative programme.
Pupils in grades ten to twelve also do not benefit from closures due to heat. A teacher can only make an exception when a pupil risks health problems. This week in NRW there is the added problem that many school leavers are doing their oral retakes.
German Education Union state chairperson Maike Finnern believes that teaching in temporary container buildings is particularly unacceptable. “The heat there is almost unbearable.” The trade unionist believes there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of the energy efficiency of schools in the state: “Many school buildings are not ideal; they have large glass fronts or are poorly insulated old buildings.” Finnern estimates the nationwide backlog of school renovations at 34 billion Euros, at least 20 per cent of which is accounted for by NRW. Finnern believes the current regulations make sense, including that teachers do not get time off because of hot weather, but must use the time without pupils for conferences or other activities.
(Original text: Kirsten Bialdiga. Translation: kc)