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.

Lots of teachers travel quite a way so I guess they shut to let them get home in all fairness.

HeathRobinson Fri 18-Jan-13 10:35:09

Well back then, most kids would have gone to their local school, within walking distance.

I was just musing yesterday, that if we'd continued to have winters like those in the 60s, you would not have the choice of schools as you do today. Everyone would see it as sensible that you went to the local school.

Madmog Fri 18-Jan-13 10:40:09

Good question. When my daughter was at primary school and it closed, she usually had to walk past the school to come to Tescos with me or to visit a friend. If the school is out in the country I can well understand why they close as some areas do get cut off.

Today the comprehensive school is closed here but primary schools open so it doesn't make sense. Hubby got to work ok (admittedly we've had more snow since then) so there's no way most teachers couldn't make their way in. Neighbours are elderly and like to shop at a store the other side of town (must be mad when Tescos in on the doorstep) and they have just got back safely

Lafaminute Fri 18-Jan-13 10:42:28

Our schools only close if there's a problem with heating or water (eg frozen pipes) but then we don't have any snow and rarely get any envy

discorabbit Fri 18-Jan-13 10:42:54

i went to school in the 70s and we stayed at home for snow days. (or went home early)

discorabbit Fri 18-Jan-13 10:43:24

was probably more related to boilers breaking thinking about it grin

DeepRedBetty Fri 18-Jan-13 10:44:50

As I said on another snow thread last night, catchment for our school is nearly thirty miles in diameter, and a lot of the teachers live even further. I've watched two Transits slide in a stately way down the hill past the house in the past hour, and am extremely glad none of us have to drive anywhere.

I think schools have always closed in the Snow, I remember Mum to listen to the local radio when I was a child as they use to list the closeurs.

Hulababy Fri 18-Jan-13 10:50:08

Schools in Yorkshire def had snow closures in 70s. I remember snow days.

These days more teachers live further away from the schools they teach at. Similarly more children go to school further away from home. There is more traffic in roads and more children driven to school, often as a result of more families having two working parents. Increased traffic often means roads are worse. Also there is less gritting that occurs due to decreasing budgets.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 10:51:31

I suspect two factors are at play

People seem to commute further to work , including teachers
Children do not necessarily attend their local school.

We are closed today because we rely on bus companies to get most of our students into school, the bus companies are not taking students in.

Our school was open today for exams , I have been into school - I walked as it was not wide to drive - and have been in school since 7:30 this morning. I havr just come home.

noblegiraffe Fri 18-Jan-13 10:51:58

Families are much more likely to live within walking distance of their primary school so the primary school being open but the secondary being shut makes perfect sense.
If school buses can't run, then kids can't get to school. If snow is forecast throughout the day then even if kids can get in, there's a chance they can't get home. What then?
My school used to open even when other schools were closed. The teachers would struggle in, most of the kids wouldn't and it was an utter shambles. The kids who were in were resentful because their mates were at home and were thus disinclined to do anything worthwhile and it was a waste of everybody's time and put people in the position of travelling in dangerous conditions. Not worth it. Besides, most secondary kids should be able to entertain themselves at home so it shouldn't affect parents too much.

Bramshott Fri 18-Jan-13 10:53:50

I think part of it is that they're not allowed to double up classes the way they would have in the past.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 10:54:21

I am frustrated that our primary school is shut because I know that a number of staff live locally as do the children. They could also use staff from the secondary who live local. I phoned the primary and LEA yesterday to say I lived up the road from the primary school.

Wolfiefan Fri 18-Jan-13 10:56:25

Risk of being sued if kids or teachers injured? (You'd be amazed!)

aimum Fri 18-Jan-13 10:57:45

Our school closes if too many teachers cannot get in, or more importantly, if the school has no food for school dinners.

AmberLeaf Fri 18-Jan-13 10:58:24

People say about school staff living further etc but lots of people have to travel far to get to work, but they still have to go in if it snows.

If boilers break down fair enough, but is that common?

AmberLeaf Fri 18-Jan-13 10:59:47

I can understand it more in rural areas though, I have family who live in the country and today lots of local B roads have been closed off totally so that would have an impact.

YokoUhOh Fri 18-Jan-13 11:00:11

Arisbottle is right, it's bus companies who make the decision for the schools. If a critical mass of students can't get in, the school closes.

lastsaloonNelson Fri 18-Jan-13 11:01:58

Because closing a school looks better for the attendance numbers demanded by Offsted. If you keep your school open and only half the pupils show up the rest of them are noted as absent. If you close your school this doesn't happen.
This has nothing to do with anyone being concerned about your child's safety but everything with number crunching and appearances.
Also teachers seem to be driving special cars that can not possibly move on the slightest snow flake.
My teacher friends were all over Facebook this morning bemoaning the fact their school hadn't closed yet.... O Dear,fancy having to go to work to do the job they are paid for..... Shame,no long weekend for you guys yet.With a bit of luck it will be there on Monday still.
If we all gave in as quick as a lot of schools/teachers (NOT ALL,I know) do, the whole world would come to a grinding halt at the first sign of snow/any adverse weather.
What an example to give to your pupils,at the first sign of potential trouble/difficulty you give up instead of trying to find a way around the problem. I much prefer to adopt a 'can-do' attitude.

soverylucky Fri 18-Jan-13 11:03:26

I do think that a system could be organised where teachers register with their local school. I work in a school over 20 miles away but there are primary schools and a few secondary schools near where I live. However - no meaningful teaching would be done if I went and offered my services at the local primary - I don't know the first thing about primary education. I would in effect be a childminder for the day.

DS goes to a SN school. Mostly learning difficulties but some physical as well.
They close for the children's safety and because some of the children and staff come from miles around to go to this school.

It's safer to close than risk them getting stranded in severe weather.

noblegiraffe Fri 18-Jan-13 11:04:21

I was under the impression that CRB checks and insurance were school-specific so secondary teachers couldn't simply waltz into a primary school anyway?

Mu51cal Fri 18-Jan-13 11:05:09

I've just spent an hour in my car trying to drive into work (normally a 25min commute) as our school had gcse exams today and we were all keen for school to remain open... However I physically couldn't get my car up a hill about 5 miles from school... I ended up in a ditch as my wheels just spun out from beneath my trying to get up this sodding hill... About 50% of our staff commute in from outside of the town and were just not able to get in safely... There HAS to be a certain ratio of staff to pupils so the school had to close. It makes me really cross when people complain about schools closing when I know first hand how much effort goes in behind the scenes to try to ensure we stay open... Sorry to rant, but I'm still rather shaken up after my ridiculously dangerous journey... sad

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:05:21

lastsaloon I work in a rural area in which it was probably not safe to drive so I walked in as did quite a few staff. Not fair to suggest all teachers lack a "can do" attitude.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:06:45

They are school specific which is daft, partiucarly when I the schools are linked. I am known in the primary as I do outreach work in there.

SoggySummer Fri 18-Jan-13 11:08:58

Because so many people live miles from where they work.

Gone are the days where people lived their whole lives in their local community.

Health and Safety is also a hindrence. If a school opened and only 3 staff could get in and a child was hurt in a freak accident - everyone would be up in arms. In the 1970's more than 3 staff would have got in because most will have lived a walkable distance to the school but if not, some SAHMs would have stood in to help and been allowed completely unchecked and if a kid had a freak accident there would be no blame - it would have been an accident and no one would be looking for someone to blame and sue.

Mu51cal Fri 18-Jan-13 11:09:48

Latsaloon - are you actually that ignorant that you feel qualified to comment on the rationale of every school and every teacher in the land??? How much snow do you have where you are? Have you even driven in 4 inches of snow on ungritted country roads??? Do you even work???

Trills Fri 18-Jan-13 11:10:21

They could also use staff from the secondary who live local.

You want people with no training in teaching small children, who work for a different school, to come in to your children's school? And do what with them?

lastsaloonNelson Fri 18-Jan-13 11:11:08

Arisbottle please re-read my post I did say NOT ALL,I know. Just find it odd that every shop/business etc seems to be able to get their staff in and operate as normal,be it on a skeleton staff occupancy sometimes,but schools are always the first to give up and close.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:14:11

Sorry am probably grumpy having just trudged home through the snow, am sat here in lots of layers shivering.

lastsaloon thats so not true. When I was teaching the HT closed for the following reasons, teachers not able to get to school or back home again safely, same with children, boiler breaking (frequently as old school, quite common I think) School Meals not able to get in, if the playground froze then it could be dangerous, but would have to be ice rink for her to shut. Often the LEA would inform her in the morning to shut (even if most staff in).

ProPerformer Fri 18-Jan-13 11:15:23

Mu51cal got it right. There needs to be a certain staff/pupils ratio to be allowed to open. (And by staff, I mean teachers as, believe it or not a lot of school staff are not insured to look after a class even if work was set!)
The school I work at is closed today because a lot of the teachers and pupils live quite far away and it wouldn't be safe for them to go in. Even if we were open we were going to open late and close early for safety. Plus, as everyone says no-work would be done Abd the kids wouldn't concentrate or do any worthwhile work. Our school was the only one open un the area one 'snow day' last year - it was BEDLAM! Half the parents didn't send their kids in, and the kids that were there were constantly complaining that it wasn't fair. Ended up in a mass staff vs Pupils snowball fight and then going home early. Fun yes, but would have been more productive being at home playing with DS and/or doing housework!

noblegiraffe Fri 18-Jan-13 11:15:25

Well the binmen haven't come and my dentist appointment has been cancelled so I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that everybody else has managed to get into work. Our local uni has also closed and buses and some trains aren't running.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 18-Jan-13 11:15:27

I live four miles from my kids school and one mile from my nearest school.
There is a bus crashed at the end of my road and a lorry jack knifed on the roundabout.
Kids' school catchment is 11 miles across - rural B and C roads : kids could not get to the bus stops even if the buses could.
The teachers have set them work on the VLE which they are both currently doing.

I'm most annoyed because my yoga class was cancelled!

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:15:53

Trill at my local primary school I think there are enough local members of staff to cover the younger years. I am sure I could do something meaningful with the juniors. Probably not their best lesson every but worth having a go.

Loads of people from other walks of life leave work early or do not make it in, not just teachers.

scissy Fri 18-Jan-13 11:17:44

Sometimes it can be about H&S, the council refused to grit the pavement/road outside a local primary as it wasn't "a main route". One of the mums walking her kid to school slipped and broke her leg (at the school entrance). The head rang the council asking if they were going to create clear access to the school, they said no, so she closed the school rather than risk another accident.

Trills Fri 18-Jan-13 11:18:07

every shop/business etc seems to be able to get their staff in and operate as normal,be it on a skeleton staff occupancy sometimes

Schools can't operate on a skeleton staff.

lougle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:18:59

DD1's school -special school to which most children are transported. Near a motorway bridge which is treacherous in snowy weather and contractors say unsafe.

DD2's school -many teachers work far away, many children far away, site on a hill so unsafe.

DD3's montessori - owner made it in, plus one other staff member, so open for the few children who live locally and can make it in.

True scissy, I cant remember the schools I taught at having grit, and the council wouldnt grit the playground.

lastsaloonNelson Fri 18-Jan-13 11:19:54

Mu51cal,no need to get personal. I know you had a nasty shock this morning and I appreciate that you tried to get in. Again I did say : NOT ALL,I know.
I DO work,not that that has anything to do with the subject. Full time,never missed a day for weather reasons. I try to be prepared,leave earlier if need be. I might be in later,try very hard not to be, but I'm there.
I fully emphasise with people in rural areas,and yes there is a point that you have to decide it is no longer safe to travel. It's just that that point seems to vary a lot between people.
I have quite a few teachers among my friends,delightful people,but it does grind a bit, when watching the weather forecast at the beginning of the week they are excitedly making plans for a possible bonus long weekend......

jojane Fri 18-Jan-13 11:21:51

It's about the health and safety aspect, and also if more snow is forecast they don't have the proper resources to keep little children overnight, I know I wouldn't want my child stuck t school overnight without me. We don't have a school in our village so they go 4 miles away up country roads.

We don't tend to get very bad snow where I live, and school is a few minutes walk away but 10-15 miles away where many of our schools teachers live, they get terrible snow every time. So I wouldn't be surprised if our school closed due to low staffing if it gets much worse.

Having said that, my preschool has just phoned to say they are closing at 12 grin

nipersvest Fri 18-Jan-13 11:22:50

my dc's school rarely closes as so many of the staff live locally and can walk. the kids hate it when all the other schools close, as their's is right on the edge of town near a hill. all the other kids will be up there sledging while they're still in lessons.

Panzee Fri 18-Jan-13 11:23:40

So some people don't want teaching, they want babysitters. That's what happens if schools open with skeleton staff, or teachers drafted in from other schools.
That's fine, its hard when you have to go to work and the kids are off, but don't then moan they're not learning anything. wink

EvilTwins Fri 18-Jan-13 11:24:49

I had way more snow days as a pupil than I have had as a teacher. My school is closed today- first time in 3 years. We're fairly rural and the bus companies won't be bringing kids in. I actually did go into school to get some stuff to do so I don't get behind with things. It took over half an hour (it's 5 miles) and I skidded and nearly lost control of the car twice. Our bursar and caretaker were in, as we're a couple of teaching staff and some exam invigilators as there was an AS exam on.

JumpHerWho Fri 18-Jan-13 11:25:13

Oh come on. It's one of the perks of being a teacher. Don't be such a grouch. Should they work from home if the school shuts? Or better still, provide free childcare from their home for you? Why does it bother you lastsaloon if they are hoping for a snow day? Methinks you're a bit jel.

<gets sledge out>


Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:26:13

I agree about secondary schools in rural areas closing, although they have to remain open for exams. But a village primary to which most children are local should try to remain open if staff are available.

Startail Fri 18-Jan-13 11:26:36

If school is open DCs who can't get in get marked absent. However, genuinely the children are stuck.

OFSTED take a dim view of poor attendance and refuse to listen to reason.

DDs school have pupils that live across the road and pupils who have 60+ minute bus trips. Lots, like us, start out on very narrow rural lanes that have not been gritted.

Fortunately, school is closed.
No way would I have risked my no claims on meeting someone coming to fast the other way.

starfishmummy Fri 18-Jan-13 11:26:49

My DS goes to a special school for children with physical disabilities.

The decision to close isn't taken lightly but nearly all the students get transport door to door and the assessment has to be made as to whether the fleet of minibuses and taxis can safely negotiate the non-gritted residential roads.

They are currently at school, but I am half expecting to get a call to say they are on their way home.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 11:26:55

Even if that primary school has to draw in local secondary staff.

Mu51cal Fri 18-Jan-13 11:27:02

Lastsaloon - apologies for any personal dig, but when you say schools only close for number crunching reasons and for appearances - you are wrong! AND THEN to say we, as teachers/schools, don't close because of any concern for the safety of our kids is quite frankly just offensive! Do you believe that teachers lack any form of intelligence and are just trying to run schools like a business??? confused

Dd's secondary school on a hill is shutting at 2 - it will be a nightmare for the buses to take children home.

Dh went to his school 20 miles away at 7 am before the snow and I do not expect him home - it will just be impossible. I am really pissed off at him - I went out to get coal at 9.30, in the 15 minutes I was gone the falling snow was starting to freeze and people are now sliding everywhere. I parked at the end of my road as it would have been dangerous to drive down.

He had no choice obviously to go in, the pupils all walk in. But he quite simply won't get home unless he walks (which he's rock hard enough to do hmm)

soverylucky Fri 18-Jan-13 11:29:01

In 13 years of teaching I have only had one snow event that closed the school I was working in. There was over 12 inches and it was really impossible to get in. I think everyone had it bad that year!
I was off school for far less snow back in the 80's.

You can't win. Some parents are annoyed if a school closes - others are annoyed if they are open. My dd's school are finishing an hour earlier - not really much good as it is snowing heavily now with a good covering, the forecast is for it to continue. The school is on an ungritted estate!

teaandbourbons Fri 18-Jan-13 11:31:45

I was under the impression that they had to close if it's likely that the emergency services would have trouble getting there in case of emergency.

lastsaloonNelson Fri 18-Jan-13 11:36:36

JumpHerWho the only thing that bothers me about it is that they are having their fun snow day on full pay. Can't see anyone else proposing that to their boss,can you? "Awww,how do you mean I can't stay at home/leave the office early to play in the snow while you still pay me,so unfair......".
I don't see teaching as free childcare, I see it as a responsible,grown-up job in which you should lead by example. Learn to risk-assess,positive attitude is what I want to see in the ones that teach my children,not a wishy washy any excuse to get out of work one Again this represents certain teachers/people not ALL *

Panzee Fri 18-Jan-13 11:40:13

It's not the teachers' decision though is it? So you can't blame them for any of it.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 18-Jan-13 11:45:11

Do not forget that from 1999 to 2008 we had a series of mild winters with little snow or frost, so people settled into habits of living and working and educating a fair distance from each other. That and car ownership rose.
So when the cold snap winters returned we were all caught out.

But lots of people end up having the day off last, not just teachers.

soverylucky Fri 18-Jan-13 11:46:24

I thought you had to make the days up too- if school is closed and it is therefore open less days in a year than it should be - you have to make the days up.

And teachers do NOT get to make the decision. FWIW lots of schools near me are open and it is snowing heavily. The teachers can't just call up and request a day off.

cricketballs Fri 18-Jan-13 12:00:15

I did make it in to my school this morning, but my ds's special school closed and I had no other option than to go and collect him. The main snow started falling from about 8.30 and it took me an hour to get home (normal time 20 mins in heavy traffic).

Where I live we often get bad weather and we normally try to cope with it, however this event is severe and the roads are very dangerous. The school I work in has remained open although there are less than 1/2 the normal amount of students in as they travel a distance to attend the school and I am concerned as to their safety in trying to get home

I am sat on my email marking work that the students are completing at school/home so not a 'day off', whereas my dh is an electrician who has also come home early and is sat doing the crossword whilst watching 007 film channel!

lastsaloonNelson Fri 18-Jan-13 12:02:19

If enough teachers decide they can't possibly make it in, it somewhat influences that decision though doesn't it...... Look I didn't say NO schools should close under any circumstances it just strikes me that schools seem to always be the FIRST ones to throw in the towel.
Decision making is in not to be underestimated terms also influenced by the fact that absence numbers are important in Offsted reports. I have this from the horses mouth (Headmaster who said it was a "regrettable fact"). Back to work now,keep warm,keep safe.

Missbopeep Fri 18-Jan-13 12:03:19

I just think that sometimes it appear to be a domino effect- School A closes, so School B a mile along the road does even if the weather is no worse etc etc.

I live in a village where the school has sometimes closed even though a) most children live in the village and b) there are a number of supply teachers in the village who would be more than happy to have a day's pay for working if teachers could not get in.

I agree that schools in rural areas where children are bused in is a different matter. But I also think that too many schools are too quick to declare a Snow Day when they could possibly manage. And I am a former teacher.

The first to throw in the towel as opposed to businesses? Well, yes I`m sure they are as they are dealing with children not adults. And, I`m sorry but your HT is wrong, schools do not shut for Ofstead, thats just not true.

Gah, Ofsted, not stead.

Hassled Fri 18-Jan-13 12:10:50

I think a lot depends on things like the school layout - can the children get from Room A to Room B without having to go outside, and can they ensure that the outside areas remain risk-free? The school still has a duty of care. The majority of schools can only afford a few caretaking hours a day, so it's not that they can have someone standing by ready to grit throughout the day.

And yes, teachers travelling - they have to maintain child:adult ratios.

Floralnomad Fri 18-Jan-13 12:13:27

We've just had an email to say the school is going to close at 1.20 , its a secondary , I live less than 1 mile away , we have no snow , no snow is falling and its not even forecast to come in until later . What's that about ?

Just had our email too. Staying open till 3 but can collect any time now if wanted. it must be bad, this school never closes but it's on top of a hill so it must be treacherous for the head to decide that.

LillianGish Fri 18-Jan-13 12:19:43

Is it really the end of the world if they close for the day? I dropped ds off this morning and am now looking out of the window wondering how I'm going to collect him. We used to live in Berlin where we would have this sort of weather all winter, but Berlin is geared up for heavy snow - I had a four-wheel drive, regulation winter tyres (fitted in October in anticipation) the roads and pavements are cleared and life goes on. We don't do that here because it is still quite an infrequent event. Much better imo to shut the schools for a day rather than shelling out for all those precautionary measures which might not even be needed.

EasyFromNowOn Fri 18-Jan-13 12:24:49

DS's school closed because by 8am we'd had a fair amount of snow falling onto already frozen roads and especially pavements. The pavements and streets around the school have been treacherous all week, I can only imagine what they were like this morning.

Floralnomad Fri 18-Jan-13 12:24:59

I've nothing against them closing when there is snow ,but there isn't any !

TalkinPeace2 Fri 18-Jan-13 12:26:43

While hanging up laundry just now (an extra day to dry the school uniform after washing) I realised that our views of what schools did in the 1970's are HEAVILY distorted.

Back then there was no rolling news, no internet, a fair proportion of the population did not have landline phones, let alone mobiles.
Far fewer mothers went out to work and certainly did not do their errands by car.
So if a school did close, other schools around did not know, and the kids walked home again.
Nowadays, anybody in Norfolk can see how many schools in Hampshire are shut.

Also, back then, there was not weather radar and there were not the three day warnings of snow coming, so preparation was not an option.

mumnosbest Fri 18-Jan-13 12:31:54

there used to be a system whereby if you couldnt get to your own school you went to teach at your local school. All well in theory but you'd be a glorified babysitter as you wouldnt know the kids or their needs. also it throws up no end of safeguarding issues.
The idea of doubling up or having them all in the hall is just hellish especially as I live 2 mins away and would be the sucker in charge!

Health and Safety can be affected - I don't mean things like kids slipping in the playground, but fire escape doors freezing shut (which happened at my kids' school).

MoreBeta Fri 18-Jan-13 12:35:48

lastsaloonNelson - I agree with you. The teachers at Dss school definitley drove the decision to close mid morning. I was told the vast majority of teachers turned up but once it started snowing extremely lightly many of them who live out of town started voicing concerns about getting home.

It was the teachers that drove the decision at DSs school and I do have that 'from the horses mouth' as well.

It is not snowing now and what we have 2 inches of melting snow on well gritted roads but all lessons cancelled. Don't suppose I will be getting a fee refund or an extra day tacked on at the end of term though.

What if it snows for 2 weeks - will they cancel school every day? I do think there is a 'long weekend' effect here as well.

mumnosbest Fri 18-Jan-13 12:39:30

maybe part of the reason schools seem to be first to close is financial. a school doesnt make a loss if it closes whereas businesses have profit margins to consider. At least schools can make responsible decisions regarding staff and child safety without money being an influence.

Was about to collect DS from preschool when DD's school announced they were closing. We only have about 4ins but it's still falling.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 15:26:10

lasrsaloonnelson even if I had not gone in this morning why should I not be paid. I have worked all day and I still have a few more hours to do today and then further hours this weekend.

Even if I did not work all day during the snow, I worked until midnight last night and would be working over the weekend. If I am expected to track my hours and clock in and out the taxpayer is going to lose out.

In addition to that as I was walking through the snow this morning a neighbor stopped me to say " enjoying your snow day?" I politely said yes and carried on walking to work. He may have thought that I was having a fun day in the snow and that I was looking for a wishy washy excuse to get out if work.

I suspect most people who did not have to go to work today had either a relaxing day on the sofa or enjoyed their day with their family having fun in the snow. It is human nature to get excited by and want to enjoy an unexpected day off. Why is it only teacher who can't find fun in such a day?

I am now going to out on my wellies and slide down a hill on a sledge with my children. That is a whole 10 minutes before my school day officially ends.

JWIM Fri 18-Jan-13 16:22:32

No closure of a school is taken lightly.

As a Chair of Governors I take the decision with our Head as to whether the Primary school will close. Our decision is based entirely on the safety of children and staff both on school premises and on their journey to and from school. We consider conditions on the school site and local roads - we are rural so speak to villagers to get current road conditions. We also consider how conditions might change - particularly relevant today - and what that might mean for parents, children and staff in getting home safely.

The Head and I spoke this morning at 6.40 am with snow on the ground and heavy snow forecast. We decided that the risk was too great and we would be closed. We are mindful that our parents appreciate a firm decision as early as possible. The decision was on websites, local radio and out by text by 7 am. Staff would have come in by walking but many of our parents would not drive in the snowy conditions and more than 70% of the children arrive by vehicle as we have a large rural catchment. The marking of absences can record an absence due to 'weather' reasons. I would not base any decision on 'open or close' because of Ofsted's view on absence rates.

I have a 4 wheel drive and have been out on local country lanes this morning - they are ungritted. I have seen several crashes, abandonned vehicles and a double decker complete an alarmingly out of control turn and all this on a gritted and snow ploughed A road. Some of the buses to the local town for secondary pupils did not make it and they will not be collecting those children that did get in this morning. I collected my DC and also took other stranded students from two local villages near us home once they had finished the GCSE they were sitting.

I am confident that we took the right decision for the conditions and in the 'here and now' and not some rose tinted view of 'in my day' - shades of a Monty Python sketch come to mind.

lljkk Fri 18-Jan-13 16:36:15

6-8yo normally children walked to and from school alone in the 1970s. Enough said about changes in risk perception and standards.

I think our primary school only closes if staff can't make it in or home safely.
The secondaries is more interesting, and i think has to to with safety of school bus routes as well as staff safety.

rosy71 Fri 18-Jan-13 18:36:42

I can certainly remember being sent home early because it was snowing when I was a child. In 1982 we had 2.5 weeks off school. Initially due to the weather, but then the school had burst pipes so had to remain closed.

I have been a teacher for 17 years. Today was the 2nd time I've been in school and had it close early. I think I've known only one day where school hasn't opened.

If buses are not running, preventing secondary school children from getting to school, then how can it be the case that all other employers/businesses except schools operate normally?

ShipwreckedAndComatose Fri 18-Jan-13 18:47:48

I made it in. Only to be sent home again at lunch.

The decision was driven by coaches not being able to leave the depot to collect the kids, so lifts needed to be arranged. Its the safety on the roads that matters.

It was NOT nor EVER HAS BEEN driven by any freeloading light weight teachers wanting a day off on full pay.

Do you understand how offensive you sound, even to teachers like me, who made it in today?

Missbopeep Fri 18-Jan-13 19:24:37

I think one thing that is obvious here is that many of the posters have a different experience due to being much younger than me! ie*rosy71*. I had been teaching for several years by 1982, so my memories of what happened in the "old days" go back much further than yours and other people's. There was the odd occasion when I couldn't get into school due to my living in a rural area ( as a teacher) but generally most teachers made it and most pupils did because they walked.

TheNebulousBoojum Fri 18-Jan-13 19:30:36

I remember one day I had around 70 children for the morning as the road over the moors was shut and staff couldn't get in.
But now the rules and regulations are much more precise and tighter about what is permissable, and parental responses to wet, snowy or slightly injured children are so much more robust and threatening. Wet socks, getting hit by a snowball, slipping over...all causes of PTSD in many parents' eyes.
Plus you can't just report to your local school, as has already been said, non-transferable CRB checks and paranoia have put paid to that.

Arisbottle Fri 18-Jan-13 19:43:54

I do not see why we can't have clusters of schools that hold CRBs. As I said I would not expect to walk into any school but the primary school at which I have worked because it feeds into the secondary at which I teach should be able to ,are use of me.

TheNebulousBoojum Fri 18-Jan-13 20:21:52

Talk to the policy-makers Aris, they are the ones who moved the goalposts in the first place.

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.

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.

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.

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 20:58:28

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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