Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow day …



Le Pre Vert in the snow.

Eagle eyed and ‘in the know’ readers will quickly spot that this photograph was taken last winter, by our friend, Denise. Two reasons, sun and a much more alive palm tree! See this link from last spring here.


Today is a ‘snow day’. Based on the predicted, and it must be said, accurate forecast, Friday should definitely have been. No sooner had staff and the majority of pupils got to school than arrangements were being made to send everyone home. As the ages of our pupils range from 9-13 we can’t just close the school. Parents, or their representatives, are required to collect their children or give their permission for us to release them to walk home. A nightmare of organisation for school leaders who need to make this decision, and for staff who live a distance away from school especially if they have arrangements to make for their own children. This process takes time and can lead to restlessness amongst those pupils who fail to understand why others are going home and they aren’t!

Needless to say, this really is a rare occurance. The M6 runs alongside and routes are well gritted. Often it is the un-gritted roads through housing estates and along country lanes which provide our parents with the greatest problems. Today, the conditions along the lane outside our house are treacherous but I don’t know what the main roads are like. My journey home on Friday was five times longer than usual and Dan (you know who you are!) took nearly four hours to travel the fifteen miles from Tamworth to Rugeley, when his school was closed.

I shall be spending the day doing school work BUT from the comfort of my kitchen table.

I sympathise with those parents who are searching around trying to make childcare arrangements for their children. I’ve been there myself and it isn’t easy, especially at short notice and if you don’t have family living close. I’m sure there will be criticism from some quarters, but leaders have a responsibility to take into account the safety of everyone concerned and sometimes have to make these decisions with the aid of nothing more than a crystal ball! Today the weather forecasts certainly support the need for caution.


  1. Better to let the kids enjoy the snow... it is an education in its own right!! And yes, it is very difficult where both parents work... and are nowadays far from any grandparents... so employers should give a bit of forebearance and either allow a parent the day off... or let the child be brought into work... also an educational experience...

    Oh... your pictures are dipping under your sidebar... is it the cold?

    1. BUT... the text is now in Comic Sans from top to bottom!!

    2. Thanks, Tim.
      I did the post in WLW and whereas in the past I've set the pics at medium size, this was too big.
      I've now reset them but WLW takes about 15 minutes to upload and the same time for even the smallest of changes.

  2. Always, always support the authorities when they make a decision based on the precautionary principle -- it may cause personal temporary inconvenience, but it's better than what might happen.

  3. Thanks for this support, Susan. These decisions are always very difficult and we should, as you say, err on the side of caution.

    And, stand up to the criticism....

  4. My Grandson's school went through the same decision-making process! At noon on Friday I received a text that school would close at 12.35. Then as the husband was putting on his boots the phone rang and the lad was calling so we were able to tell him where to be for pick-up -- problematic in the conditions with lots of parents to come and go. This morning the school opted for closure -- much to my surprise as the snowfall here was very minimal. Best to be on the safe side!

    1. Hi Broad,

      It is always difficult. We were open on Friday when the snow was coming thick and fast and were advised by the police to close. At that point there was little choice. I think closure during the day caused more problems for parents. As you say, best to be safe.

  5. It's a complex one this.... as a former teacher, I too have concerns for safety of all who need to travel to get to school....staff, and students. Then as a former local education authority officer, I was often concerned that once the LEA had no say in what happened, some headteachers would announce school closures at the drop of a hat... genuinely worried about what might happen....but causing chaos for parents whose workplaces required workers to be at work. The bad feeling that could be caused between school and parents was huge...and caused real problems for some schools.
    Finally, my last career change.... as a former nurse, on a ward that never closed, and had to be staffed, no matter what the weather was doing.... I saw hospital staff, from cleaners to consultants always ensuring their patients came first, always struggling to get to work, to make sure things ran as smoothly as possible....and as you point out, often having to sort out their own child care arrangements if their local school was one of those that made the decision to close.
    Now, as a patient....not an in patient, but one requring very regular trips to my local hospital for blood tests, consultations and chemotherapy sessions, I have complete admiration for the staff there, who would never complain, or suggest that their service should be curtailed if it meant any of their patients could not get their treatment.
    Maybe, if schools did what many used to....and let teachers offer their services at their nearest school, and school leaders had snow day activities planned before hand, things would be easier......oh, but that would need an LEA to organise it wouldn't it ?
    This is a subject that causes real arguments every year... I wish we could come up with something sensible....and safe.

    1. Hi Janice,

      I understand your concerns. We are a school which very rarely closes for snow. In fact we are usually open when others aren't! I have a 4x4 so getting to school(about 15 miles away)is rarely a problem and as I usually arrive at work just after 7, I miss the traffic build up.

      We were open on Friday with most staff in until the police came and advised us to close due to the hazardous conditions that were building up.
      It would have left the head in an impossible situation to have acted against this advice.

      My children went to schools which did close at what sometimes seemed to be at the 'drop of a hat' which caused problems for me. Thankfully my Head was always understanding and I was able take them into work with me to 'make potions'!

      I'm glad your experience of the medical profession has been so positive. Mine too, generally. Unfortunately we live near Stafford and Stafford hospital has come in for a pounding in recent months about a lack of care shown to patients. They are now finding it almost impossible to recruit staff leading to a closure of A&E services overnight.

      Gove wants rid of LEA's. My experience of them is overwhelmingly positive. My husband worked for over 20 years as an adviser/inspector. I believe they provide the balance and their demise is a great loss.

    2. Hi Janice,

      I've just re-read my reply to you. I hope you didn't think my comment about the medical profession didn't value the dedication shown to their patients who are very vulnerable and need the best of care whatever the weather conditions.

      My mother was a nurse and I remember my father braving the hills on the Heads of the Valleys road to drive her to her night shift in Abergavenny when the buses weren't running and be there to pick her up in the morning.

      The jobs are different, both important and with that duty of care.

    3. I think we are both clear about how complex this issue is... and I think you have described it brilliantly. safety must always come first , there is no doubt about that, I just wish we could find a solution that was safe, and meant that teachers did not criticised every year, for somehting they have no control over. I hope you didn't think I was joining that band wagon....
      Hope things have improved for you now...and thanks for your email and good wishes... fonfest wishes from snowy Yorkshire Jx

    4. supposed to read "meant that teachers did not GET criticised every year"..... also "something" rather than Somehting and Fondest.....not fonfest......fingers aren't working properly today ! Jx

    5. I don't think you're on any bandwagon! I have some friends who like to remind me of a holiday entitlement which is so much better, to which I generally reply that they could have the same entitlement if they sign up!! :o)

  6. Do you still get paid? We don't get paid if we can't get in.

    1. A difficult one, Jean.

      Fortunately I have always been able to get to work so pay problems haven't arisen. One of the reasons we have a 4x4 is because the lanes from our house to the main roads can be treacherous. Most of my commute is along the M6 which is usually clear.

      If I made the decision not to travel to school, and school was open, I wouldn't expect to be paid. I would be paid if a decision was made to close the school and I was available for work.

      We have to take unpaid leave eg for the funeral of someone who isn't a close family member or an important meeting. There isn't the option of taking leave as all leave has to be taken in school holiday time.

      For me this kind of 'snow day' off has happened about 5 times in 34 years!

      What are the conditions like with you? I don't work on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning so won't have to battle to work, although I will have to battle to Stafford to use up £50 of HMV gift vouchers!

      Keep safe.

  7. I've read your post and all the comments with interest and concern, Gaynor, and then let out a sigh of relief as my children here can walk to school come rain, snow or shine. Thinking back to my own childhood, we always walked to school and I remember trudging through deep snow drifts many times. I'm not sure that all the teachers lived in the village but the school never closed for snow. I think people live more complicated lives now. Here in a small town in southern Spain, it seems simpler and I do like it that way! Good luck - I don't think the snowfall is over yet, is it?

    1. Hi Annie,

      I also remember walking to school through deep snow drifts. The difference, I think, came in child protection procedures. I remember being turned away at the school gates and walking back home. In those days most mothers were at home or you had a Grandma living near. In my case my Grandad lived with us. We would also be released early if conditions deteriorated, without telephone calls. Most didn't have a telephone in the early 60's.

      Most of our teachers were local and they would trudge in too. The frozen milk would be put on top of the stove (every classroom had one!) to melt. Remember Thatcher the milk snatcher?

      If we got into school we were treated like heroes and hot drinks were made for us.

      You're right, life is more complicated now...

  8. We had a repas in the local village on Sunday. The only day we could not get the car out so we had to walk! The continuous rain has now washed it all away ! Keep warm Diane

  9. I've been away from blog land for a while Gaynor. I'll look forward to catching up. Meanwhile stay safe and warm. Craig