Why do so many schools close?

(112 Posts)
Missbopeep Fri 18-Jan-13 10:23:10

Yes I know this comes up each time we have snow- but WHY?

I went to school in the 60s & 70s in the north and I don't remember 1 day when school was closed for snow. We had teachers who drove miles to get in, or classes were simply doubled up in the hall, library etc.

The only times school was closed was on the rare occasions the boiler broke down.

Are we more whimpish and just not up to travelling now or is it because too many families rely on cars to get their chldren to school - I used to walk a mile each way.

chicaguapa Sun 20-Jan-13 09:43:40

DC's primary school was closed, but DH's secondary wasn't. So he slid there in the car and they closed it 5 minutes after he got there. Students were arriving and were turned back as soon as they arrived.

I'm not sure people comprehend the logistical nightmare of arranging to get 1,400 students home if the buses aren't running and the parents are at work or stuck in the snow themselves. Or teaching a class if half of them aren't there and you have half of another teacher's class who couldn't make it in.

It's ridiculous to think that it's just schools that close and only teachers that don't try hard enough to go into work on snow days. I saw plenty of comments on Facebook about not going into work and they weren't teachers. My office closed and I don't work in a school. But no-one cared what I did as it didn't require anyone else to change their plans that day.

School doesn't provide childcare and look after people's children while you go to work. It educates.

Theas18 Sun 20-Jan-13 09:16:05

Looking at the grid lock in the city, I rather philosophically think also that at lest closing the primaries and keeping the school run traffic off the road (and the ones who don't normally drive but think they will because"the weather is bad") will help essential workers to get in a bit easier.

Theas18 Sun 20-Jan-13 09:11:59

I'm in a big city. My kids travel by bus as do many to their school. The schools are very keen to open and slow to close. This is actually frustrating, because, like on Friday (when they closed at 11.15) the kids go to school, then the school tertius to stay open, and chucks them out just add the buses give up!

Ds got the last bus ,dd got the one after and was chucked out after a few stops. Facing a 3 mile walk home . Fortuitously the daughter of our old childminder saw her and have her a lift!

If you chuck the population of 2 schools out at a odd time, even though they all get different buses etc it's takes more then one bus load per route to get them home-especially as the school further up the route has done the same and the buses are full ish anyway!

Dh teaches in a school that"never closes" but he is also restricted by public transport I'd the weather is bad (it would be utter madness to drive into the city-it grid locks so fast). They were sensible and said kids could be collected when the parents liked, and sent staff homes as soon as they could. The 2 or 3 living very locally staying till the end-I think the head did prep till 6...

KinkyDorito Sun 20-Jan-13 09:00:06

What has happened in the past with ours is that we remain open, and staff attempt to make the journey in. There is only a small number who might not be able to get off their road in their cars, and they will attempt to catch public transport. However, on any snow day the roads are slow and it takes ages for people to get in. There are often public transport delays. Some staff live up to an hour away in normal driving conditions.

I am close to school so I put on my boots and walk.

It inevitably ends up being a crowd control exercise in the hall as we wait for enough teachers to get in to be able to put students into groups. On most mornings of heavy snow, this ends up with not enough staff in by mid-morning and being sent home. It is just not feasible in a school of our size to try and contain students in the halls. We don't have enough space. As more students arrive, and we still wait on staff, it becomes impossible and, I am sure, a staff to student ratio issue in terms of health and safety.

The other thing is that parents do sue. I have known it happen. The school have to be 100% certain that the site is safe, because if a child slips and breaks a leg, there is a good chance they will have a lawsuit. If the snow continues to come down, this is hard to manage.

One thing I know for certain is that teachers do try to get in. I do not know anyone who lays in bed and says they can't do it. It really frustrates me that, because a Head chooses to close rather than go through the nuisance situation described above, many people assume it is once again lazy teachers fancying a long weekend!! Believe it or not, trying to catch up with any missed time in Secondary is really hard to do and we would all prefer to be in and getting on with it.

I'm dreading the morning as I have so much to cover this week and we are due a big snow overnight.

I'll be ready with my walking boots in the morning.

manicinsomniac Sat 19-Jan-13 07:35:58

I actually don't think closing a school should be necessary in the UK (bar the heating breaking).

I teach in a rural school with about 20% boarders and 20% local teachers so we never close. We had a lot of snow this week. However, because we are open, almost all of the rest of our staff and children make it in too. We only have about 4 children within walking distance and some live up to an hour away but they come in because it's just seen as normal (there's no judgement or expectation on the pupils who don't or can't but generally they or their parents want them in).

It works because it's been thought through properly. We have a one way delivery track for the children up the drive and back down, rolling registration over the first hour, hot chocolate when they arrive etc. Parents are free to collect at any point during the day if they want to. We double classes where necessary and make sure they children get a certain amount of the day to have snowball fights and go sledging like their peers who can't get to school do.

The only problem is the catering staff who don't have the same incentves that staff do to make the journey. But by 5pm last night it was becoming very funny. We had an assembly line of teachers and the oldest children throwing together sandwiches and the headteacher serving soup.

Oh and some teachers who live a long way away feel quite judged if they can't get in I think. Senior management aren't very supportive about it and want everybody in.

Cathycat Fri 18-Jan-13 23:04:50

Definitely agree with previous poster. I also teach and have my own children. many teachers do. I struggled and got to work, only just on time as I drop one of my children off. worked until midday, when the decision was made to close our already very empty school. heard that my own children's school had closed but stayed faithfully with the last few of the class for a couple of hours. struggled home for two hours. while at work arrangements made for relatives to look after my own children. I certainly didn't get back that early, it wasn't an easy ride and I got some good maths work in too.I passed lots of abandoned cars and husband was concerned about my journey. teachers had no say in closure. it was the bus company who triggered one closure and the car park and close streets condition that triggered the other. there were cars everywhere. head, chair and lea make the decisions not the teachers. apologies for bad punctuation ... haven't worked out how to use my new toy yet.

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 18-Jan-13 22:09:58

Also I think that a doctor or nurse is probably more prepared to make sacrifices eg maybe sleep over if stuck at work because they are dealing with emergencies.

No one will die if a school closes but as dh pointed out to he today sometimes people do die by driving in such conditions.

LizzieVereker Fri 18-Jan-13 22:03:14

I can't stand that old chestnut "But the hospitals don't close!". No, because they don't have to worry about whether 1,000 children and teenagers in their care will be able to get home. Whilst I am appreciative of medical staff who go in to work on difficult days, it's not the same thing. Head teachers are advised to close by transport companies to close early if buses are not running. It's not teachers' decision to close, there are a huge number of factors which inform that decision. And we don't get paid if the school is open but we are unable to get in, quite rightly.

I also dislike the the generalised assumption (in the media, not specifically on MN) that teachers and parents are mutually exclusive groups. When we had very bad snow last year, I arranged last minute childcare for my own 2 children because their schools were closed but still undertook a hazardous journey into my school as did all my colleagues. Because that is my job, and my responsibility. Several colleagues were worried about collecting their own children, but stayed at work. We're not allowed to take our own children in with us, they're not insured.

So attitudes that suggest we all throw in the towel at the first flake of snow irritate me.

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 18-Jan-13 21:49:37

Forgot to say the travel reports specifically were telling people to avoid the street the school is on due to the treacherous conditions.

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 18-Jan-13 21:48:30

My children's school was open today. It hasn't closed in 15 years apparently.

Dd said just after morning break today all the school bus children were told to get their stuff as the buses were leaving. I got a phone csll at 11am to say school was closing at 12.

My parents who run a heating & plumbing firm and who do school pick up for me on acfruday had already made the decision to send all their staff home (and even lent someone a 4x4 to go pick their child up early). It took them 3 hours to get to school and back (normally 10 mins each way).

I had to close my drama classes tonight - a decision which will cost be lots if money and dh a self employed peri teacher didn't go into school today. Not decisions we take lightly.

We did it for safety reasons of people getting back home safely.

LynetteScavo Fri 18-Jan-13 21:44:39

We had snow days in the 80's, and days when there wasn't enough coal to heat the school becuase of the minors strike. But in those days you walked a mile to school on your own from when you were 8yo, and just went and played out with your friends in the snow if school wasn't on. Until your hands and feet were really cold, not like my nambied kids in their ski gloves and snow boots.

youarewinning Fri 18-Jan-13 21:36:39

I had a snow day - actually I lie, I didn't! Our school heating broke yesterday and was a major repair job -whoops! School closed yesterday and today for 'major heating repairs'. I am wondering if they managed to get in and do the repairs today though as we did have lots of snow (ish! about 5") but the school is on a slope on unadopted road so not ever gritted!

Awaiting to find out about Monday now!

DS' school was closed as were most of the schools in Hampshire today.

exoticfruits Fri 18-Jan-13 21:32:12

They never closed when I was a child but teachers lived close by and there was more public transport that didn't stop. Teachers now live miles away and have to drive and just can't get there.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Fri 18-Jan-13 21:30:45

We were open this morning, but had non-stop phone calls asking if we were open, despite sending home a note telling parents we would text them, update web site & modify local radio stations if we closed. Many parents complained about us being open, but as all our staff had got in the was no reason to close.
Then at 10 the phone calls started asking if we were closing early, as some schools in our city were. In the end we stayed open but gave parents the option of picking up the their children after lunch. As the children left the head then let the staff who had furthest to travel leave.

It does seem that schools can't win - stay open & parents complain, close and they complain.

ravenAK Fri 18-Jan-13 21:28:46

Not teaching staff's decision; we really don't get to call it!

Yes, I would have been chuffed to bits if my school & my dc's had had a snow day today. Lovely break from routine.

We were open, so I went in & taught with a smile on my face. It turned out to be OK - the snow that had already fallen didn't stop too many of the kids from getting in & the forecast heavy falls from lunchtime held off until mid-afternoon, so the buses could run safely.

So correct call on this occasion by the boss - who would be fielding flack from parents if he'd closed OR if he'd stayed open, the weather had worsened & then kids were stuck en route/at school.

I've only ever known a handful of instances where teachers were unable to get in - & on at least one occasion where the staff member in question was taking the piss (ie. colleagues had driven past the end of his road on their way in!) there was certainly talk of pay being docked. Don't know whether it was in the end, not being privy to that colleague's bollocking, sorry, meeting with the HT.

We also have an expectation that we'll get in if at all possible even if the school is closed to the students. It's a silly idea because we'd all be far more effective working from home from 8 till 3 than we would be taking a couple of hours each way on the journey, just to work on a school pc rather than our own, but nonetheless it's what we're expected to do.

Hulababy Fri 18-Jan-13 21:27:23

Local hospitals are very much known to cancel non emergency operations and routine appointments due to adverse weather. It's not just schools who are affected by snow and ice.m

lastsaloonNelson Fri 18-Jan-13 21:08:29

CPtart,that's kind of the point I was trying to make earlier.

CPtart Fri 18-Jan-13 21:05:45

It's a good job hospitals and health centres aren't closing because "staff can't get in" ....and they are travelling to and from work at all hours of the day or night, yes, some from miles away!

she's year 1 by the way.I think the schools are damned if they do and damned if they don't.they just can't win.

dds school opened for about two hours. she did her spelling test and changed her reading books and had a play outside with her friends.hopefully all staff and students got home safely.it just seemed a sensible decision we had about 10 cm snore in the end.

Hulababy Fri 18-Jan-13 20:58:28

Oh and teachers can lose a days pay if they take the day off and their school remains open. And this does indeed happen. It's not teachers who make the rules, decisions often come from the lea.

mummytime Fri 18-Jan-13 20:57:42

We never had a snow day where I grew up in the 70s, but we did get sent home early because of fog (Esssex).
DCs schools both opened today, but both shut early when the snow became heavier. On the way to collect one (and more bread and milk) I passed a side road with a pile up of 4 or 5 cars, that's the reason the schools shut. For the primary school the road is treacherous, and only kept passable by the efforts of some teachers and the caretaker in gritting the exit from the car park and associated road.

Also apparently last time they had to shut "early" for snow, the last child was collected at 11pm. (But we do have both a lot of commuter parents and a semi-rural catchment.)

Hulababy Fri 18-Jan-13 20:56:16

My local school is a mile away. It is walk able. But not sure if enough teachers local to keep the school open. And it would ily be babysitting. Couldn't really teach as you wouldn't know the children, wouldn't have the planning and resources, would be teaching year groups you are not really qualified for and half the classes wouldn't be present.

Hulababy Fri 18-Jan-13 20:53:32

My school (state infants) and dd's school (independent primary) has closed twice for weather in the last few years. In Sheffield.

First was ice. Was so bad it was national news with people on hands and knees trying to cross roads, etc. police told all schools to close. It was not the heads decision, nor to do with staff. Police advised, lea set the rule.

Second was snow. But it really was very deep. I have photos of dd in the snow almost up to her waist.

Another couple of times we've opened an hour late, though staff have been available to take children from earlier if required.

Never had an early closure though sometimes parents have come to collect earlier if weather has taken a turn for the worst.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 20:28:47

I did phone my LEA, I suppose that is not high enough, Will try MP and my mate Gove. Seems common sense to me.

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