Snow closures – avoidable?
Those beautiful, uniquely designed flakes of crystal water are with us again. Yes, it is snow! If you are a Christmas card designer it is manna from heaven. If you are in any other profession I suspect it is a bit of a nuisance.
Up until recent years, apart from our colleagues in Scotland, heavy falls of snow were not regular occurrences. They were often a bit of a surprise & for the most part were occasions to ‘Ooo’ and ‘Ah’ at. However, our seasons are changing and the weather patterns that accompany them appear to be becoming more severe. The weather forecasters talents are much needed for the predictions because unfortunately, snow fall still equates with chaos in our country. Traffic comes to a standstill and schools are closed.
When snow has been heavy in the past it seemed that a handful of schools were not able to open. Most of those would be in the rural areas where neither staff, supplies nor children could get in. Over the last few years, the number needing to close has exploded.
This initially is met with delight as children spend the day skating and sliding on trays for sledges. Parents can usually get the time off because invariably, they cannot get into work. As these days increase however, this joy is replaced by frustration and in some cases anger. Parents struggle to find child care, children become bored and what started as a celebration of one of natures wonders turns into a damn inconvenience.
So…should schools close? Do they close too soon? The reasons for a school to close are likely to either be lack of staff or health and safety. Some Local Authorities ask staff who are unable to get to their own school to report to the school nearest them. How practical this is (if it happens!) I don’t know.
The health and safety aspect is very real. Children just cannot resist searching out that bit of ice and sliding. They just have to pick up that snow and form it into a ball and throw it. School caretakers only have so much salt and grit available for paths if they have been able to clear them before the start of school. Which paths are under the safety jurisdiction of the school? Can any injuries caused outside the school gate be brought into the head teacher with demands of ‘You should have done something about that!’
We live in a litigious society now. It seems that many folk are on the look out to make a quick buck often by blaming someone for their misfortune. Schools are used to parent’s complaints but can you imagine how those shoot through the roof when there is snow around?
Head teachers will also have to weigh up those safety factors with the pressure from Governors and Local Authorities demanding that the time is made up. It is, after all, precious learning time that is being missed. However, attendance is a big enough issue with parents taking children out of school when the holiday companies reduce the prices to go ‘out of season’. Can you imagine the battle with parents and staff if ‘holiday’ days have to become ‘school days’? Perhaps a leaf should be taken out of the private school culture of working on Saturday mornings.
Maybe the answer lies in VLPs. Virtual Learning Platforms which allow children to do school work from the comfort of their own homes. Most homes have internet access so why not use it for learning purposes. Unfortunately, with the budget cuts, many IT schemes are likely to be scrapped in favour of ‘more traditional’ methods of class based teaching.
Perhaps we need to take advantage of school closures to do some creative thinking outside the box on how we can square the circle of the safety needs against the learning needs of our children. Either that or pray to the snow fairy not to visit often!
What is the policy about closing your school? Do you agree with it?