Keep cool this back to school

HEATWAVES kill more Australians than any other extreme weather event, and young kids are most at risk.

With climate change turning up the heat, it's time to prepare kids to head back to school.

Recent record-breaking heatwaves saw Sydney reach its hottest day in 79 years, and Melbourne experience 15 days straight over 30˚C in spring.

Heatwaves are dangerous, killing more Australians than any other extreme weather events. Young school children fall into the 'most at risk' category. Following are some tips that parents, carers and teachers can use to keep children safe during heatwaves.

Young school children are vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves.

Throughout the day

  • Stay hydrated and encourage those around you to do so too
    • Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea
    • Provide children with chilled water
    • Keep drinking water regularly, even after it has cooled down
  • Familiarise yourself with and watch for signs of heat-related illness, including: headaches, heavy sweating, rapid breathing, vomiting, confusion or deterioration in existing medical conditions
    • If mild, remove child from heat and initiate cooling
    • If more severe, seek immediate medical assistance

Drop offs/pickups

  • NEVER leave children or animals alone in a hot car, not even for a moment
  • Be hypervigilant and remind children to take care, as hot nights can affect sleep and lead to poorer judgement and increased accidents

In the classroom

  • Train children in heat safety
  • Minimise activities that involve physical exertion in the heat
  • Keep the classroom cool and air-conditioned where possible
  • Avoid using a fan when indoor temperature is higher than 37°C
  • Make alternative arrangements for lesson locations to minimise heat exposure
  • Be patient with students as the heat disrupts their ability to concentrate

Be patient with students, as heat disrupts their ability to concentrate.

Recess & Lunch

  • Ensure children stay out of the sun as much as possible
  • Provide plenty of access to shade and air-conditioned indoor areas during breaks
  • Make sure anyone outside wears sun protection including a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses while out in the sun
  • Ensure drinking water is always freely available
  • Be careful around old trees, as they can drop limbs when it’s hot
  • Ensure lunches are stored in cool areas
  • Check and dispose of food if spoilt

Ensure children stay out of the sun as much as possible.


  • As the heat rises, increase rest periods to allow more time for drinks and time to cool
  • Postpone events outdoors or in facilities that lack climate control during extreme or prolonged heat conditions

Check with your school, council or state education department for information on their heatwave response plan.

Remember: In an emergency, call triple 000 (106 for people with a hearing or speech impairment).


ACT government: Extreme heat

Australian Government Heatwave Lesson Plan

NSW government: Supporting students during hot weather

NT Government: Guidelines to prevent heat stress

QLD Government: Managing excessive heat in schools

SA Government: Hot weather policy

VIC Government: Extreme heat and heatwaves (1)

VIC Government: Extreme heat and heatwaves (2)

WA Government: Heat and health


2017: Record Breaking Year for Heat and Extreme Weather

Global Heat: Hottest Five-Year Period on Record Confirmed

Scorching heatwave: how to stay cool this weekend

Image credit: Element5 Digital / pan xiaozhen / Aaron Burden via Unsplash