Tuesday, 3 February 2009

I am deeply disappointed this morning that so many schools in Leeds are closed...

105 Leeds schools are closed this morning at the last count and as I look out from my office, here at Merrion House, the sun is shining, the roads are clear and free running and there is little real evidence that we are in the middle of another ice age! Clearly, the Met Office got it wrong and BBC Radio and TV's advice about only travelling if it is essential meant that many people simply panicked. Surely, we are an essential service; especially for those children and young people who need us most. We will never be able to say that every school day counts ever again... parents, carers and young people will simply laugh at us!

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We would hope headteachers can keep schools open while it is safe for them to do so, but decisions about closure have to be taken locally by those who know the local conditions." Is there a logic to the closures because if there is I can't work it out. It is strange that all the schools in Bradford, Birmingham, Dudley, Solihull and Surrey are closed. Why are the schools in Garforth closed and the schools in Kippax are open? Why are Wetherby and Boston Spa open and David Young and Parklands closed? Why are schools on main roads closed and schools in estates open? Why are so many secondary schools closed and so many primary schools open. Answers on a postcard!
Chris

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Those headteachers that have opted to close their schools for the day will not have done so lightly. I am sure they will have taken the reports from the media with a pinch of 'gritting-salt'.

I noticed from checking the radio websites many made the decision late yeasterday - some may say this is too early, but then this morning would have been too late for many parents (especially those whose children attend 'before school clubs').

The key issue is that with many schools in housing estates with low traffic volume (and some with steep inclines)the roads are still ungritted and icy. This puts the safety of staff/pupils in question can they travel to and from the school safely. Should we follow the advice of the police 'avoid travelling if possible' or the advice from yorself which seems to be attend at all cost?

I fully support my headteacher's decision - not because it gives me an extra day off as I am still working from home - but because they have considered the potential risk to their staff and pupils.

Every Day Matters - we can still claim this as long as we also remember 'People Matter' too.

Anonymous said...

hi chris , nice to know that some schools were open today and yesterday . however we must put the safety of staff and parents first , before keeping schools open just so we can boast that we were open . some roads and paths near our local school on our estate are dangerous , if they were gritted like all the major roads i bet they would have no trouble opening . so can we put safety first please . thankyou

Chris'Blog said...

Of course I recognise the difficult position headteachers find themselves in on days like today and that we can never get it right. I also know that 30000+ children in Leeds schools live in poverty and that their school meal is really important. That 20000+ of our children live in homes without central heating and that our schools are safe and warm places for them on days like today. That 25000+ of our children live in one parent/carer families who are under enormous pressure on days like today to get to work.

Looking at the weather today someone at the Met Office somewhere panicked, the media advised us all very badly and I think Birmingham, Bradford and our schools that closed made the wrong decision in terms of happy, healthy, safe and successful children and young people.
Chris

Anonymous said...

Chris,

I am disappointed that you have not supported the HTs in their decisions. Each school had to make a decision based on a WIDE range of factors. There were the ones you stated of keeping children safe,fed and warm. However, there was the factor of making sure that I had the staff to keep them safe in the school once they got here. Last December, I kept the school open. I wish I hadn't because I saw many staff get into some VERY dangerous situations. I didn't make the decision lightly. I got very little sleep over the last few days to make sure I was on top of the situation. By Tuesday afternoon, I had most parents wanting to know what would happen with the school so that they could make arrangements. I made the decision and stood by it. Every day matters, every child matters. However, every memeber of my staff matters as well and I don't want to risk their lives.

Ed Balls supported the HTs decision. I am just disappointed that you didn't do the same.

Chris'Blog said...

I think that we should constantly be looking at the implications of our actions. We should constantly challenge ourselves and learn from days like Monday and Tuesday so that we can do better next time. I don't believe that I am always right and headteachers have an impossible job to do on days like these. However, remember that 30000 of our children live in poverty, 25000 live in homes without central heating and for many many children their school meal is their only hot meal of the day. Our job is to ensure that we do everything we can to ensure that everyone of our 108000 children and young people in Leeds is happy, healthy, safe and increasingly successful at school... whatever it takes!
Chris

Chris I'Anson, Head of Languages/ Law, Rodillian School said...

Chris,
Much as I understand your regret and indignation I do feel that it rather lacks objectivity and sympathy for what must have been a difficult call for your headteachers. Employers have a clearly defined duty of care to employees and this naturally extends to the children. Put simply, employers must take reasonable measures to ensure that, neither by act nor omission, they harm the health or welfare for those to whom they owe a duty of care where the harm is reasonably foreseeable. A major point of reference for headteachers was surely the expert views of bodies such as the Met Office and motoring organisations who advised against travel that was not ‘absolutely essential’ in the context of ‘a major snow event’. In that position, having regard for liabilities and responsibilities, the decision to close was objectively correct. Your comments, Chris, rely upon hindsight to inform a judgment. That is a luxury that your headteachers did not have.

Anonymous said...

Chris

Having recently been introduced to your blog, I wholy concur with your thoughts. To introduce a school as the "heart of the community" as we would wish; then to close due to some inclement weather is poor. I work with staff who travel from the Hope Valley and they all managed to get into work (incidently we are not in Education)and would have deemed failure to get into work as LMF (Lack of Moral Fibre). I would never encourage anyone to travel if they were putting themselves or others at risk. However, all major bus routes were clear as were the motorways and while travel might have been difficult, certainly not impossible and probably drivers would have been at no greater risk than usual.

In the past where teachers informed that their own school was closed, it was their duty to report to their nearest school and support their staff (and students, community, families etc) in providing some form of education for its clients (pupils!!!). There has been much in the media about this topic and I feel that you, were dammed if you did (close the schools) or didn't!

Perhaps a coherant approach(from DCSF including absence reporting on school closures ) might be appropriate.

You have my best wishes.

JCE

Chris'Blog said...

We need to look at this very carefully and try to understand the challenges headteachers face on weeks like this. There are issues we need to resolve like the impact on attendance figures, the health and safety concerns and the curriculum we can offer if a full team is not able to get to school. I hope that the group we have established can look carefully at all this and we produce a snow plan for next time this happens so that colleague headteachers don't have to face this on their own.
Chris