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With the industry and news rightly focusing on occupant comfort in buildings, we set our recent work experience visitor the task of exploring how his school tackles the comfort and well-being of its pupils in what has been a glorious (and hot) British Summer.

We’ve just been through that time of year again when schoolchildren all over the country are stuck in hot, sweaty exam rooms, yet it needn’t be this way. 

As 14-year-old Bertie Gaylor joins us for work experience, we thought we would get him to focus on his own school and look at what they do to keep pupils comfortable and whether they have any plans in place to reduce energy use.

Bertie, tell us about your school

My School in Welwyn Garden City has over 1,000 pupils and has been popular since it was built in 1964, but they haven’t really updated the air conditioning around the school since it was built.

As of today the only rooms that have air conditioning are the IT rooms and this is because humans and computers don’t always mix well together as computers produce heat making us hot and bothered, so some form of cooling in these rooms is needed.

Due to the recent heat wave it has been pretty uncomfortable for all students all around the school. Soon though, we are about to add another new set of 220 students, so the school really needs to change the way that they cool, heat and ventilate our school so that we can all have a more comfortable learning experience right from the get go.

What it’s like in the winter?

In the winter it is quite comfortable because it is not cold. The radiators (which I think are gas-fired) keep us warm even when outdoor temperatures dip below zero.

Also we have our blazers to keep us warm and jumpers in some cases which is quite convenient for that time of year as we are walking from class to class which may cause us to go outside.

Also when it is icy they put salt on the floor to avoid any slips and accidents as this will be seemed as a bad thing – which will come as a surprise to no-one.

What are the problems in the summer?

In the summer, it’s a different story and our school now has a problem.

During the blistering hot summer there is no air conditioning to keep us cool besides the IT rooms, which pupils only spend about an hour a week in usually.

When it’s this hot the boys might want to loosen their tie and undo the top button but most teachers don’t allow it as they say it doesn’t look professional. Pupils are only allowed to take off their blazers when they are in class and have the teacher’s permission but they have to keep them on during break and lunch and in between classes.

This is a major issue for both boys and girls because it can make them feel really uncomfortable. Because of this we all find it harder to learn because it’s very difficult to focus as the temperature is just too much.

This directly affects the learning of individual pupils but in the longer term it could also have an impact on the performance and results of the school, as it won’t be the right environment for them at all.

Why does this matter to the students?

As I am a student myself I feel this pain. I maybe a bit biased and I know there are two sides to a story but now you know mine.

However I can reassure you that most, if not all of my fellow students would agree with me that there needs to be better ways of air conditioning the school in summer and not just in a few rooms.

This really is an issue and I hope that this will be fixed shortly as it is hard to learn in these warm conditions.

As of now I do think my school needs to improve their air conditioning because it is starting to affect the students and how they learn.

This will lead to a knock on effect that will hurt the school’s reputation which has been built up over the years.

Can’t the boys just wear shorts?

This issue has been all over the news and it’s about secondary school children not being allowed to wear shorts.

I’ve seen reports of boys resorting to wearing skirts like the girls to get around this ban on shorts but I’m not sure I’d be prepared to go that far myself!

However, most boys that I know would love to wear shorts as they’d be able to get a breeze to their legs so they can actually escape from being trapped inside for at least 6 hours a week day.

This can bother boys as if they did come in with shorts they would get sanctioned straight away without any compromising.

Do they know they can save money?

Whilst most rooms don’t have air conditioning the school uses electric fans as a replacement but these use up a lot of electricity and that adds significantly to the school’s running costs because of that.

The schools budget could be far less if they stopped using these which aren’t really that effective anyway and invested in air conditioning instead.

This will then help them by helping keep the students comfortable and save the school money in the longer term.

The other thing about air conditioning that most people never realise is that it is not just about cooling as I’ve found out that modern systems can also heat as well.

This means that come the winter, my school could get rid of the expensive and old heating we currently use and benefit from the heat produced from the air conditioning instead.

Bertie Gaylor was on work experience at Mitsubishi Electric’s headquarters in Hatfield