Wednesday, 1 December 2010
CRITICISM OF SCHOOL CLOSURES
I was interviewed this afternoon by Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds Drive Time about the snow and school closures...
We are once again being criticised for shutting schools but as I woke up very early this morning I heard that phrase again... "if your journey is not essential the advice is to stay indoors". I suppose it simply reminds us that we are an essential service for so many children and young people and their parents and carers. I recognise that this morning the weather has challenged everyone of us as we struggled in through blizzard conditions along icy and treacherous roads to provide a vital service to the children and young people of Leeds. I was in by 7.30 having dug the car out and managed to escape from the village where I live.
Faced with conflicting information and advice from the Met Office, our headteachers have 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. I know headteachers will once again have made that difficult assessment this morning about whether to stay open and I am grateful to everyone for their efforts today to keep providing a service to children and families wherever possible. It has been a very difficult day for everyone but around 100 of our schools did manage to stay open and enjoy the snow. 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. I know that for some colleagues this simply hasn't been possible today and tomorrow looks cold and snowy so it isn't going to get any better for a while. I suppose we should be reassured that the weather people are saying that this only happens once in thirty years... but didn't we have something very similar last year and the year before?
Howver much criticism we get, these decisions must be taken by headteachers who have the best knowledge and information about their school and is vital we do all we can to support our headteachers in these very difficult circumstances. What we have learnt is that we need clear strategies, no matter how infrequently they may arise, and I hope that every school will set 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.