Tuesday, 10 February 2009

We have had a week of snow, ice and freezing temperatures, chaos on the roads, untreated side roads and school closures and apparently there is more on the way...

On Monday, as the snow came, I attended the EOTAS service day at Elland Road with over 100 colleagues who work at the hardest end of what we do. I visited Elizabeth Hastings Church of England Primary School, Ledston, where Amanda Leathey and her team are doing great work. I was interviewed by two young university students, Jessica and Kim, on aspects of our work. I attended Headteacher Forum at West Park to talk and listen to a group of very special colleagues discussing some of the wicked issues facing us. I visited Carr Manor High School to talk to Simon Flowers about some of the issues he is dealing with. I attended another staff induction session at the Derek Fatchett CLC and talked to a great group of new colleagues whose enthusiasm, energy and ideas will add something really special to Education Leeds. I visited Harehills Primary School where Margaret Broughton and her colleagues are doing some great work with some wonderful young people. And finally, I visited Low Road Primary School with Hilary Benn MP, to celebrate the school's 25th birthday assembly.

As you will be only too aware this week the severe weather has brought difficulties and frustrations to us all, but it has also presented a huge challenge to our headteachers. Faced with conflicting information and advice from the Met Office, our headteachers had to balance health and safety concerns with the needs of all our children and young people, and their families, and make difficult decisions when considering whether to keep their schools open.

We know that access to school is important to all our children and young people but especially to our vulnerable groups, including more than 30,000 who rely on our schools for a hot meal, over 20,000 who come from homes with inadequate heating, and upwards of 25,000 from one parent/carer families where there is enormous pressure on the parent/carer to get to work. Such severe weather comes as a surprise to us as it happens so infrequently, but it is vital we do all we can to support our headteachers in these circumstances, and make sure our children and young people continue to get what they need from us and our schools.

What we have learnt is that we need clear strategies for these circumstances, no matter how infrequently they may arise, and I feel confident that through setting up a "snow plan" we can ensure we are fully prepared for the future, and that all our children and young people continue to be happy, healthy, successful and above all else, safe, at school.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris
Where did you get the figure from for inadequate heating? Can you provide a link?
Are you aware that a number of school and children's centre staff are now trained in Health Through Warmth which aims to combat exactly this problem. Peter Simpson, Energy Advice Co-ordinator, for Leeds City Council is doing some great training.