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To be very annoyed with school snow policy

(97 Posts)
pouffepants Fri 18-Jan-13 17:47:12

To my astonishment this morning both primary (local) and secondary (8 miles away, closest one) said they were open, despite it chucking it down with snow.

I was pleased, since I figure things should go ahead if possible, so I sent ds (16) out to catch his bus as usual, and got dds ready to take to their school on the way to work. I knew there was a chance that the bus wouldn't turn up, but there's not much you can do about that, I just figured he'd come home again. I knew he had an exam today, but there's no way I could drive him to school at that time. If he came home, I could try to drive him to school late.

So did my school run, and tried to drive to work. My usual route is back roads, and it became obvious that was a bad idea, so I had to go via the town ds was going to. Saw 3 accidents, and after sitting in traffic for 30 mins, and the radio implying from all the delays reported that it would take 2.5 hours to get to work, I gave up and came home.

Found messages from ds when I got home. No bus, but instead of coming home, had gone to his friend's house, by the bus stop. He phoned the school to say he couldn't get in, and they said he must make every effort. He explained no buses, but they said he MUST get in, or he would fail, and they wouldn't reschedule, since the exam was running. Ds' friend's mum said she'd try to get him there since she's a nurse and had to try to get to work anyway. She has a 4x4.

I rang the school, they insisted, he must get in. They then rang back, and said they were shutting at 12, so he must be there before 10. I rang ds, and he was a matter of mins away, at 9.50, would just make it. The school then texted to say they were shutting, and cancelling the exam!

So now ds is in town, with a nurse, who has to get to work. So she left him at the bus station, where he attempts to find a bus, of course there are none, and we're now up to about 6 inches of snow. There are several hundred teenagers at the bus station stranded. So I get a phone call to try to collect him. I said I'd give it a go, but he'd have to start to walk.

So I head back up that road again. Pleasantly surprised that it's improved somewhat due to the volume of traffic over it, more slush, less ice and compacted snow on the main bits. Glad that I manage about 6 miles, and meet ds after he's walked 2 miles, and he doesn't have to walk down the busy bit with sharp bends where he would have to walk on the road way along with the sliding cars.

Now I'm all for carrying on, but isn't it just irresponsible to INSIST that everyone gets in regardless of their personal circumstances, and people's personal decisions about safety?

Charmingbaker Fri 18-Jan-13 20:58:20

The real problem is that LEAs tend to tell heads to open if at all possible. Close and weather is milder than expected you get criticised, open and weather is worse that expected you get criticised ( and pupils and staff can face treacherous home journeys). Heads are not meteorologists and don't know what gritters are up to. I do feel that LEAs should make these decisions ( not necessarily closing a whole LEA) as they have far more expertise. When you add exams in to the mix it is even more complicated as external exams cannot just be taken again as soon as weather improves.

IAmLouisWalsh Fri 18-Jan-13 21:01:14

It really is down to the head - and as so many schools are academies now, LAs have very little say.

We are always damned if we do, damned if we don't. Our policy now is assume we are open, and of we can't get enough staff in we prioritise year groups.

pouffepants Fri 18-Jan-13 21:26:06

The snow wasn't forecast to hit here until lunchtime, so understandably no forward planning was sorted.

I couldn't take him early, when I discovered the problems because I drive a van with only 2 spare seats, so would have both dds with me. So had to wait until they'd gone to school. His only option was to get a bus as usual.

We would have had to leave earlier than the school declared that they were open, and even if i had enough seats I would have had to take extra children on hazardous roads.

None of this was the school's fault and they were only responding to what was happening. But what I do expect is an acknowledgement that sometimes things just aren't possible, and some kind of plan for what to do otherwise.

I don't think it's acceptable to expect people to be on hazardous roads and 'children' stranded for an exam. You shouldn't have to take ill-advised risks because there's no back-up plan at all.

IloveJudgeJudy Fri 18-Jan-13 21:29:36

At DC's school, like another poster upthread, the school had already had the talk with the pupils about getting in to school and that, even if the school were shut for everyone else, the exams would still go ahead. We live within walking distance so I said to DS1 that we could have anyone at all to stay if they lived far away and were worried that they might not be able to get in.

I think your school had not planned for the bad weather very well. It was signposted in enough time. I'm not saying that the whole school should have been open, but the exams should have been able to be taken. The head at DC's school was staying on/near site to ensure that the school opened for exams.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 21:33:08

The only back up plan can be that the students take the exam in the June series.

Given that students will be prepared now, that is a huge decision to take. I'm very surprised they cancelled the exam TBH.

snowybrrr Fri 18-Jan-13 22:00:11

How can LEAs know whether the staff for a particular school can get in or not? Also some schools within an LEA will be in towns whilst others are deep in the countryside.

Are inviligilators school staff or employed by the exam board

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 18-Jan-13 22:02:53

IAmLouisWalsh

"Invigilators can't cancel an exam!"

The exam can be cancelled if the invigilators are not there to run it.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:02:59

Teachers could invigilate if necessary..

snowybrrr Fri 18-Jan-13 22:04:02

are they allowed to? If you were an exam board would you trust them?

Ambrosiacreamedrice Fri 18-Jan-13 22:08:45

Of course teachers can invigilate. They shouldn't need to because of the workload agreement, but in an emergency they can. The whole system ran on teacher invigilation until a few years ago. Many a happy memory of playing invigilation tag. You can't do it alone for your own subject, but apart from that no restrictions.

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 18-Jan-13 22:15:03

Lara. With regards to the text. For the first time today I used a mass text service similar to one that schools use. Due to the high volume of texts on mobile networks they were taking time to go through

A text I sent to a colleague in the normal way took 2 hours to reach her.

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 18-Jan-13 22:15:35

Teachers cannot be forced to invigilate exams as they are no longer contractually required to do so.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:16:19

We always used to. So, so dull.

We still invigilate the high control part of controlled assessments.

And yes, we can be trusted hmm

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:17:31

No, but would teachers really let an external exam be cancelled if it could be avoided? I wouldn't.

Ambrosiacreamedrice Fri 18-Jan-13 22:18:25

Dull, TheFallenMadonna? I used to love a little invigilation game playing. Beats writing schemes of work in your gained time.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:20:53

But we had to do that too...

I think your memory is playing tricks on you. Two hours in your feet, praying for someone to ask to go to the loo. The odd game of battleships was merely temporary relief from the tedium.

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 18-Jan-13 22:22:01

Thefallen

Would I let an exam be cancelled?
No, I wouldn't but I know many teachers that would worry about invigilating.

Besides nothing beats a good game of exam pacman.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:23:44

Why would they worry (apart from being bored into a stupor?)? Don't they do controlled assessments? How is it different?

Ambrosiacreamedrice Fri 18-Jan-13 22:26:25

You didn't play the 'first to be...' game then?

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:27:41

But we were in there for hours. Really. Even the games get tedious after a while. Rose tinted rear view mirror I reckon.

LineRunner Fri 18-Jan-13 22:28:27

OP, I do feel for you. A lot of schools played buggery bollocks today with announcing 'Open As Usual' at 7.30am - surprising, really, during a blizzard you could see if you stuck your head out of a window - and then after pupils struggled to get there, or try to get there, they sent them all back home within about an hour because not enough staff had come in.

Given that most of the school closures in 2010 were due to not enough staff turning up, and involved the same schools, you'd think those same schools might have learned a bit about prediction - and thrown all the skeleton staff at the exams and told all the other pupils to stay home. The whole 'We are open for business as usual' messages on school websites this morning in the midst of heavy snow were naive.

Thanks Kitten, I guess most people near me (rural highlands) have snow tires and chains, plus we are kinda used to having heaps of snow. I don't drive and end up taking dcs to school on a sled as the snow is too deep for them grin It's never occurred to me that alot of people won't be able to drive even in small amounts of snow since it's never been an issue here, and we have windy dirt tracks and back roads so there isn't a huge amount of traffic.

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 18-Jan-13 22:30:38

A few years ago there was a whole host of worry about malpractice in exams, Too much help being given etc. All very silly but brought up by unions and newspapers.

Ambrosiacreamedrice Fri 18-Jan-13 22:30:52

To be fair I only had to do it for a couple of years as I've only been teaching for 10, so I'll bow to your memories of boredom. I do remember how soul-destroying it was to see one of your students slump onto the little exam desk after 10 minutes never to pick up the pen again! Certainly wouldn't stop me being able to do it now in a snow emergency though. I'm pretty sure I could get through it without hissing the answers out, so the exam board (that I mark for!) can trust me. grin

TheFallenMadonna Fri 18-Jan-13 22:31:29

But we do it now, with controlled assessments.

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