Monday, January 21, 2013

Why do so many schools close when it snows?

A couple of inches of snow and schools across the country close. My memory, which I admit may be faulty, is that my schools never closed because of snow. We just pulled on our wellies and trudged to school.

Why this change?

opobs (from whom I have borrowed my illustration, which comes originally from Friends Reunited), discussing his own youth in the 1950s, offers one explanation:
Back in my school days we knew where all the teachers lived, they were all local and part of our community, they all walked to school, indeed, only the headmaster had a car and there was a special place in the playground for him to park; one or two of the teachers lived out of town and they came in by bus or train, but they were an exception, so in the snow nearly all the teachers could get into work.
I suspect, too, that more children travel long distances to school nowadays because of our emphasis on choice. Add to that the expansion of car ownership and parents' unwillingness to allow children to walk to school and you see why there is more pressure to close schools.

Maybe this is sensible and it is silly to complain about the modern mania for elf 'n safety. But one thing worries me.

In the Tony Blair years the airwaves were full of politicians and headteachers telling us how dreadful truancy is and how parents must be prosecuted because children never recover from missing even a single day of school.

I suspect that much the same people are telling us this week that it is perfectly reasonable for schools to close for the day at the first sign of appreciable snowfall. They have a duty of care to the teachers who work in them, after all.

Why, it's almost as if public services are run for the benefit of those working in them rather than for that of the wider public!


Martin Brookes said...

Times have changed when I was at school I can remember helping the caretaker as they were called back then shovel snow from the drive so the buses could get in and out. It was good fun

Ann-Marie said...

I'm a governor at an infant school. It opened today and on Friday. Key issue is whether enough staff can get to school. Many live a drive away and in an area that tends to get more snow than the area the area where the school is located.

Nick said...

I went to school in the 70s and 80s and can remember school closing then in the snow - though I do recall that one of those closures was because the school had oil-powered heating, and the weather meant the tanker couldn't get in to bring the fuel in!

I also recall times when my high school - which was the area Catholic school, and so had a massive catchment area, with some pupil travelling in from 15+ miles away - wasn't closed because of snow, but there were very few of us there, which fits in with your theory.

My other thought is that it's now much easier for schools to be closed. I remember listening to local radio in the 80s for the lists of schools closed because of the snow, which obviously couldn't have been done when there weren't local stations to broadcast it on. It may have been back then that there were a lot more schools that were effectively closed, but remained open with a skeleton staff, because while some children would have stayed at home, others would have still been sent along. Now that schools have a whole array of methods to deliver timely information to parents, that problem is reduced.

callmemadam said...

I don't remember missing a day's school in 1963, even though I had a longish walk followed by a bus journey. It's rubbish to say, as I heard yesterday, that 'the country ground to a halt' in 1963.

Gena said...

I went to primary school in South Wales during the 1950s and I remember several occassions when the school was closed in cold (not just snowy0 weathe) because the outside toilets had frozen solid

Shropshire Liberal said...

We used to wait in anticipation of our village name being called out and us being sent home. Once we get stuck in snow drifts about 2 miles out and walked all the way back, throwing snowballs. We thought it was great.

I live in the town now, but my children go to the same school. I don't think any more schooldays are lost to bad weather now than then but I do notice a difference in attitude. There is more caution, less relying on common sense. Over-protection is a word that is coming into my mind.

David said...

My primary school, in the 80s and in the Pennines very rarely shut. Some children came to school via a lift from a tractor or two in the deep snow, I remember walking to or from school in weather when cars couldn't make it, and it was usually the heating that gave up before teachers, parents and pupils did. Somehow being at school when it was snowy was far more fun than being off school.

Yesterday, with a fraction of the snow around, it was shut. The difference? Well, perhaps a more cautious attitude but also the yellowbuses than we now have were cancelled across the whole district.

Having made a lot of effort to shift people from service buses and lifts in cars to the yellowbus scheme, if that decides its not going to run then actually getting children to school is much harder and less likely to happen.

Simon Titley said...

Frozen toilets? Luxury! We had to get up at 3 o'clock in t'morning, trudge forty-two miles across the frozen moors wearing only short trousers, shovel away a forty-foot high snowdrift to get into t'playground, then chip the ice of the school doors with our bare hands. You try telling the young people of that today. And they won't believe you.

asquith said...

How many people who are well into adult life were listening to local radio and caught themselves hoping "their" schools would be closed so they could have a day off, then realising they haven't been near a school in years? You can admit it to me :)

Deborah said...

"many live in an area that tends to get more snow" Funny that, & how convenient?!!

Anonymous said...

My son's secondary school was closed monday.The school stated on their website that the school was snowbound.On the same site as his school(boys school)there is also a secondary girls school,same school grounds .same approach roads, same campus this school managed to open.Considering this part of kent has very little snow and all major roads and most secondary roads are clear of snow why should the school feel the neeed to shut.I know why as i am friends with teachers and the student services manager who since friday have been rubbing their hands in the knowledge that their school would be closed monday.The school closed because some teachers make no effort to got to WORK as they know they will be paid regardless.NO SHOW NO PAY policy should be enforced and then we will see how many teachers make it to WORK.Some teachers are still absent today even though the school is open and the snow has nearly all gone.It really peeves me that this school always states the school is closed due to conditions at the school and not the truth that staff are unwilling to make the effort to get to WORK

caitlin said...

17:50. Note that the boys' school closed ad the girls' school opened. Bitches get things done.

Anonymous said...

It made me angry when teacher freinds on Facebook messaged, 'Great a snow day, I can lay in bed all day' and 'Thinking of you at work', only we are not at work as we have had to take a days leave to look after the children so the teachers can stay at home.

Anonymous said...

Its simple. No show no pay. Its how the private sector works.

Will Britain hit a triple dip recession because parents are forced to be at home because teachers can't get in.

And as for those schools that expect the parents to sign "contracts" for attendance. Roll on the penalty clause the other way.