Thursday, December 02, 2010

Schools Closed Everywhere

Let's be honest, the number of schools that have been closed recently is a National disgrace.

Everybody points the finger at somebody else.

Parents who are forced to take annual leave to look after their children, blame the teachers for not making enough effort to turn up to work. They ask why they won't go to their nearest school to see if they are needed, like police or midwives do. Teachers reply that they can't get in to work and it's the Head in conjunction with the Local Authority who decide whether to close a school. They also claim that there are identification and CRB check issues with going to another school.

Heads say they close the schools because they need a minimum number of teachers there to legally open (and deny that it's because lots of pupils wouldn't turn up and make the absence figures look really bad). They also make the point that if they had to close midway through the day then the effects would be far worse than closing right from the start.

Local authorities say that if the emergency services can't get to a school then they are not legally allowed to open, or if a teacher skids on the car park and has an accident, or if a child slips in the playground and breaks their arm, then they will be sued, so it's all the fault of the ambulance chasing solicitors.

Solicitors in turn would say that they are simply going their job meeting a demand from parents and teachers. They would blame mad judges for awarding huge sums in compensation for trivial accidents. The judges would say that they weren't mad but simply follow the Government guidelines and anyway who makes the law in the first place?

The bottom line is that after last year's chaos, everyone said that procedures must be put in place to ensure minimal disruption next time we have bad weather. Roll on 12 months and nothing has happened.

We will say exactly the same next year.


Anonymous said...

The large but semi-rural secondary school I work at is closed. The small country roads that lead into the town aren't gritted. Trains aren't running. The staff can't travel safely. The students can't travel safely. We have emailed every student we teach and provided them with resources and activities. Many students are already replying with completed work or queries. Both students and staff are working from home. It's not the end of the world and nor is it a "national disgrace." It's just common sense.

Your hyperbole is getting a little boring.

muso-tim said...

Well I work in a school near a train and bus station. We have had 20-30% of our students in, in spite of opening every day. However, when it was an exam, everyone made it in! When it was a final rehearsal for the concert, everyone made it in. They can get in if they want to, they just don't want to. To be fair, I would moan about struggling in only to get a day watching films. They can do that at home!

Dack said...

Mine's a semi-rural school, single steep access road. The bus service stops at a snowflake. Staff live up to 30 miles away.

I was off yesterday and am today. I've set work via the network. I spent all yesterday catching up with my marking backlog and doing reports (most staff I've spoken to are glad of the time off just to catch up with the 'second job' that starts when the kids leave).

When we did stay open against the odds hardly any kids turned up.

The one time I went to a nearby school to help out I was told thanks but no thanks - 'we have enough to deal with.'

When they start coordinating better maybe we'll get somewhere. Meanwhile, guilty? No.

Don said...

It amuses me how many commentators are referring to the current levels of snowfall as "unprecedented", including some who are obviously old enough to have lived through the winter of 1962-63 and who presumably therefore don't know what that word actually means.

But to be fair - yes, those of us who could make it into school did so, but a lot of the time we just had makeshift lessons from an emergency timetable, or watched filmstrips in the Hall. There's an argument for saying that in these days of Internet and email, it's educationally more beneficial for pupils to do work set for them at home instead.

Anonymous said...

Our 7 yr old is at a village primary school. Head is from 20+ miles away and if she thinks she can get in then everyone is to get in. Result 0650hrs on the school website this morning 'school open' Years ago I met an elderly lady who had been a teacher in the 1930s and had pupils who walked 5 miles to school every day and back again (I don't think they needed PE lessons!) Just as some teachers seemed to think that allowing/assisting their pupils to 'protest' about the school fees was a learning experience - how about another learning experience connected with a bit of bad weather? (I am a member of the emergency services about to leave home 2 hours earlier than normal to get to work at least on time and probably early)

Cabbage said...

Regarding the legal aspect: if emergency services can't reach the school, presumably nobody else can either so it makes perfect sense for it not to open. If the kids and teachers are able to get there, emergency services will be able to so that rule, if it exists, is as a matter of common sense a total non-issue.

As for people suing, it's not an area I have any personal expertise in but I think that's much more complicated than you make out here. Much of the fear of being sued is unjustified paranoia. Also, I'm not sure whether government and guidelines actually do have much of a say over this kind of thing; I'm pretty sure civil law is mostly common law, not statute law, meaning that the blame for its perversions most likely lies with the judiciary, not with parliament.

Maybe someone who knows more than I do can offer some input on this point.

Anonymous said...

I have finally had it with the same arguments. You obviously had some bad (and funny) experiences in the past but have no idea how SOME schools are now enabling learning to take place whether or not school is open. Using our VLE is now so routine (as similar systems have been to business for years) that most staff and at least half the pupils of our school have been working electronically for at least some of each day this week. Yes, I have been out in the snow for some of the day, yes I have been sledging and snowballing, but actually I think we might just have equipped many of our kids with some of the skills for independent learning that they will need to be able to get on in this world of TODAY!! Signing off now. There are now much funnier blogs that are not just one man's rant about how "everything used to be better in my day".

Anonymous said...

Our school was open today.

21 pupils turned up. 11 staff made it in.

Best pupil-staff ratio ever!

Lilyofthefield said...

Nearly all our staff made it. We had 38 kids.

Anonymous 16:59, I'm thrilled that your pupils have the kind of internet access that allows them to work at home, but in quite a lot of schools, although an internet connection may be available to the house, getting your parents and siblings off SlashRapeHorror whilst you complete your Chemistry assignment is likely to be difficult.

Anonymous said...

Our local school opens half day. The Buses run the roads are not gritted. The trains run (sort off). They close early because the 30 minute bus journey takes over an hour and drops some children off a mile from there home and the school states it does not want the children walking home on the ice in the dark. so 10am-2pm it is and 2 hours of home study. Which is often done on the computer. The local infant school is open, the first day 4 teachers.. 3 students.. day 2 .. 4 teachers and 91 3 ..5 teachers and 21 students. (Day 2 was prize giving). So agree with many comments here, it is not the teachers.

Tychy said...

i think that in 20 years time, the pupils will remember playing in the snow, whereas they won't recall a word of the scheduled GCSE chemistry lesson. snow = holiday. period.

Andy Silverhead said...

My children's junior school was closed four days last week even though local businesses and shops were open. I know of at least two teachers in the area who could easily have gone to that school and kept it open.

It's the public sector mentality of 'I cant be sacked, so I don't need to go in' that is the problem.

How many teachers were told to take their time off as annual leave last week eh?

sell house quickly said...

Hi Frank,

Yes I agree with your comments. We as a country could have done more to save the hassle of closing schools. If only people did not come out and say this was the worst ever weather when samething happened last year?


Anonymous said...

The Sunday Times this weekend says that Paul Scriven, Lib Dem leader of Sheffield City Council set up a scheme so that teachers could report to their nearest school.

Guess what happened?- He says that most of them refused to co operate. Well thanks teachers, you've managed to lose even more respect from those of us who have to work in the real world.

Lilyofthefield said...

"I know of at least two teachers in the area who could easily have gone to that school and kept it open."

It's Elfin Safety, innit. When I was a kid they used to stick us all in the hall with a pile of comics. Now there are so many pupil:teacher ratios to be observed, minders for SEN kids, First Aiders on site, canteen staff - because the children will surely die if they don't get a hot meal at midday and cleared drives and yards that it just isn't worth the hassle. Far better to shut in time for people to make alternative arrangements than to let them drop their kids and then have to come back through the snow to get them when some idiot regulation is found to have been breached.

English Pensioner said...

When I joined the Civil Service some 50 years ago, we were told that in the event of us being unable to get to our normal place of work because of the weather, or even transport strikes, we were to report to the nearest government office, whether it was in our Ministry or not and we must be prepared to undertake any reasonable work within our ability. As an engineer, I remember spending a very interesting day at our local telephone exchange (Telephones were then part of the GPO & government run) and think I was actually able to be of some help. I got a chitty signed, and everybody was happy! Schools should do the same.

Anonymous said...

Sheffield did attempt to set up a scheme where teachers could report to their nearest school but it doesn't look like many turned up.

nursery equipment Mary said...

Live in Kent and it is still a nightmare :(

Conor said...

Eastbourne town centre was to have staged a "Winter Wonderland" last weekend.
It was cancelled because of the snow.