Schools needs air-conditioning, says expert.
Schools needs air-conditioning, says expert. Nev Madsen

Hot classrooms dumb down our kids: Expert

HOT classrooms with no air-conditioning may be contributing to poor education levels in  schools and sparking aggressive behaviour.

A leading education and brain development academic, Associate Professor Michael Nagel, from the University of the Sunshine Coast, says there is solid science to prove the brain does not function well in hot weather.

Prof Nagel said studies show that reading comprehension starts to diminish at 28 degrees.

"At 30 degrees, the brain goes into survival mode - a fight or flight kind of response.

"Children are expending a lot of energy (in the classroom) on surviving, rather than trying to think with any clarity."

Most Sunshine Coast state and Catholic schools do not have air-conditioning in classrooms.

The State Government has no plans to change the status quo.

An Education Department spokeswomen said individual schools were responsible for using funding from their budgets or fundraising initiatives to install air-conditioning.

There is also "no upper prescribed temperature" at which Queensland state schools would send their children home.

The department has guidelines for principals during high temperature or heatwave conditions.

With temperatures expected to reach 35 degrees on the Coast tomorrow, it is relief for most students that they do not return to the classroom until next week.

But Prof Nagel said possibly eight weeks in the school calendar year - over November, January and February - posed conditions in which children may not be able to concentrate effectively.

The Bureau of Meteorology says it is only going to get hotter this summer.

Meteorologist Steven Hadley said higher than average temperatures were predicted. The average for Maroochydore in the past has been 29 degrees.

Prof Nagel said all kinds of studies proved "the brain is extremely temperature sensitive".

"Heat significantly impacts cognition and causes lower skills in intellectual talks," he said.

Further studies showed higher temperatures influenced neuro-transmitters in the brain. "This affects the serotonin level which leads to aggressive behaviour," Prof Nagel said.

"An increase in body temperature of children with ADHD also leads to increased aggressiveness."

He challenged politicians to spend a day in a classroom during a heatwave.



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