Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Furious parents told by teachers’ union ‘we’re not a child-minding service’ as schools closed for second snow day

A teachers’ union chief said today that schools are “not a child-minding service” as parents reacted with fury to another swathe of closures in the snowy weather .

Graham White, Suffolk representative at the National Education Union, risked the ire of mums and dads when he said: “Schools are for education, not child-minding.”

Parents with jobs to go to faced a second day of having children off school, giving them the nightmare of juggling work commitments with looking after the kids.

Mr White said: “Headteachers are in an impossible situation… open and risk injury to staff or pupils, or close and risk the wrath of parents who now have their children at home.

The teachers’ union said they are not there to ‘child-mind’
(Image: SWNS)

Parents are struggling for time off
(Image: SWNS.com)

Schools have struggled to stay open in the severe weather (file image)
(Image: Getty)

“It is very unfortunate that parents are inconvenienced by snow and school closures, but safety is paramount.”

As scores of schools stayed shut today, many people voiced outrage on social media, labelling the teachers part of the ‘snowflake generation’.

They said it was ridiculous that snowfall which would be shrugged off as ‘next to nothing’ in countries like Norway and Germany should panic and paralyse the UK.

Heads who decided to close their school due to snow feared they could look ‘foolish’ later in the day if bad weather forecasts were inaccurate, said Mr White.

But Mr White said they had to act in the best interests of their pupils and staff.

Pupil safety is the schools’ priority, the union said
(Image: SWNS.com)

Hundreds of schools have closed across the country
(Image: SWNS.com)

A boy slides on an inflatable tube in Bradgate Park after snow fall in Newtown Linford, Leicestershire
(Image: REUTERS)

Headteachers make the decision, usually before 7am, and their main consideration is health and safety, particularly for pupils.

Schools are advised to make a decision to close as early as possible, in order to inform parents and carers in good time.

A risk assessment is conducted taking into account factors including the state of pathways, steps and slopes around the school.

Condition of roads and pathways in the local area must also be considered and schools have to check that the heating, lighting and water is working correctly.

The availability of public transport and school coaches must also be taken into account, as well as catering.

Schools may also need to close due to other unforeseen circumstances, such as heating failures and structural issues.

Mr White said schools should close in certain circumstances due to snow, such as when the adverse weather poses a danger to pupils, if the school has insufficient staff numbers, and if a substantial number of pupils cannot travel to school due to bus service cancellations.

People have been laughing and taking pictures of this snow structure
(Image: Cambridge News WS)

A broken sledge sits sticks out of a bin in Bradgate Park
(Image: REUTERS)

Visitors sledge in Bradgate Park
(Image: REUTERS)

He said a light dusting of snow is unlikely to close schools but if weather conditions make driving hazardous, or the buses are cancelled, then school closure should be given “serious consideration”.

He added: “Most staff do not live close to school and some do not live on gritted road routes, so driving may be considered potentially dangerous.

“We should not be advising anyone to drive in conditions that put their and others’ safety in question.

“The headteacher knows their staff and pupils best and so is in the best position to make the judgement call.”

The dilemma faced by headteachers was illustrated in a recent letter to parents of pupils at Northgate High School in Ipswich.

Joint headteachers David Hutton and Rowena Mackie wrote: “We would like to stress in response to previous media coverage that closing the school is not a decision that is taken lightly by headteachers.

A snow plough working to clear roads in Ironbridge in Shropshire
(Image: PA)

“As a group we dislike having to make a decision before 7am that has the potential to make us appear foolish later that same day!

“Parental opinion is typically split, with roughly equal numbers complaining on snowy days if we close the school or keep it open.

“In making our decision prior to the start of a school day, we will consider the safety of the school site (which will be fully inspected) and the likely danger to pupils, students and staff in making their journey to school.

“We have to keep in mind that while many of our Year 7 to 11 pupils can travel in by foot, the vast majority of our staff cannot.

“The likelihood of having inadequate supervision clearly adds to safety concerns when conditions underfoot are dangerous and pupil behaviour is influenced by the possibility of ice and snow related activities.

“If the school is open at the start of the day and it begins to snow heavily during the day, our considerations will be slightly different.

Will more snow fall in Britain
(Image: SWNS.com)

“In this situation we will weigh up the relative safety of pupils who are already on the site, compared to their likely safety if sent home.

“We will also try to judge if their journey home is likely to be more dangerous if delayed until the end of the school day.

“In this respect the decision may be different for Sixth Form students, many of whom travel long distances through rural areas.”

Lee Abbott, headteacher at Hillside Primary School in Ipswich, said: “I think schools should do all they can to open in all weathers, other than when it is impossible to open the site safely, for example, boiler failure, when it is impossible to clear paths, and when there are insufficient staff to teach classes.

“However, it is a very challenging decision for heads and a decision to close is never taken lightly.

“At Hillside we risk assess the site, and the staff’s journeys to school, to try and put appropriate plans in place to ensure the school opens because that is best for our learners and their families.”

Department for Education advice for schools states: “During severe weather conditions, such as flooding or snow, you should keep your school or early years setting open for as many children as possible.

“However, it might be necessary to close temporarily due to inaccessibility or risk of injury. You should do all you can to re-open as soon as possible.”

Article source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/furious-parents-told-teachers-union-11681689