NB – this article was originally published as an April Fools story.
Plans to spend £100m installing satellite-linked thermostats in every college classroom in England to improve learning conditions have been labelled a “waste of money” and symptomatic of a “nanny state”.
Skills minister Matthew Hancock announced yesterday that the Department for Education would be able to monitor the temperature in every college classroom by 2017. He said classrooms were often too hot or too cold, and that the varying temperatures were disrupting learners.
It comes after Stockport College was told by Ofsted that classroom temperatures “vary too much across the college” and that some rooms were “too hot to be conducive to learning”. It also comes after research by the American Healthy Schools initiative showed test scores rose in classrooms which were not too cold or too warm.
But the investment – half of which will cover the cost of the equipment itself and the other half will be spent on the infrastructure – has been criticised by some sector leaders.
Lynne Sedgmore, chief executive of the 157 Group, said: “This new initiative runs contrary to consistent claims by the government that FE colleges have full autonomy and are being encouraged to be more mature and independent.
“Not only is this a waste of money when other significant financial cuts are being made, it also reflects a growing lack of trust. It is symptomatic of an ever expanding nanny state interfering more and more on the frontline.
“The satellite link smacks of the advent of Big Brother in our classrooms. The 157 Group is totally opposed to this initiative and can see nothing to welcome.”
Under the plans, the £800 wireless ambiance sensory testing equipment units, developed by Prafilloso Ltd, will be installed in every college classroom, and will link via the government’s non-essential services satellite directly to the Department for Education’s maintaining educational excellence action team, based at the Department for Education’s new headquarters at at the Old Admiralty Building
Mr Hancock said: “As someone who studied at an FE college, I know how important it is to get working conditions in classrooms just right, and the right temperature is an essential part of that. Recent research shows us that learners perform better if their classroom is the ideal temperature.
“During visits to several colleges over the winter, I found myself having to put on a v-neck jumper because classrooms, especially those in older college buildings, were not heated to an acceptable level.
“That is why I am delighted to announce today a £100m investment in technology to ensure that we know when colleges aren’t doing their bit to make sure their learners are as comfortable as possible.
“Information collected through this state-of-the-art equipment, installed in every college classroom in England, will be used by the government to monitor colleges to ensure our students are learning in a suitably healthy environment.”
According to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, rooms where a normal level of physical activity is expected, such as classrooms or libraries, should be heated to 18C, while areas like gyms and drama workshops should be around 15C. Other rooms where there is a lower-than-normal level of activity like sick rooms are required to be heated to 21C.