Is education 'blinded’ by snow?
Picture the scene; on Friday I walked past a cluster of three schools, all within a few hundred yards of each other. The roads were open and traffic flowing, every shop, pub and restaurant in the area was open. The buses were running and the trains operating. Hundreds their students were throwing snowballs and sledging in the snow on their extensive fields. Something odd, however; the schools were all shut, and as most parents now know, there wasn’t a snowball chance in hell of them being open. Why?
At the first drop of snow Education is the first to bring down the shutters on their students and their parents. Fair enough in those cases where it is physically impossible for teachers and students to get in, but in the majority of cases, this is is simply not true. What is maddening is the excuses trotted out by headteachers and teachers alike.
Blame the parents!
Hard to believe, but almost every teacher I’ve met will recite the myth and mantra of the ‘litigious parent’. Parents will sue at the drop of a glove, they claim, if their children slip in the snow and hurt themselves. No they won’t. There have been no cases of parents suing a school because of snow and ice. This anti-parent attitude is deeply embedded in the educational establishment. My school grounds are full of students playing about in the so-called ‘treacherous’ conditions. Keeping them out of school surely increase the general risk to children of accidents due to snow and ice. The word ‘treacherous’ is a dead giveaway. It’s not snowing in the classrooms.
Blame the Local Authorities
They have a point here, as the ‘risk analysis’ documents push schools into odd action. However, in the end, it’s the Headteacher and senior staff that make the decision. This leads to subjective judgements fuelled by Headteachers who instinctively side with their staff. They don’t take into account the consequences of their actions for the rest of us. You have the fascinating phenomena in my town of the private schools staying open and the state schools closing down. Can I suggest that this is because the private schools are run for the benefit of their students and parents, not the teaching staff?
If parents can, teachers can
In my town almost every business is open and working parents have made it to work. The roads past my local schools are open – I’ve walked and driven along them – and transport to and from the town is adequate. I’ve made it across town with ease and been to London on back on time. Sure, a few teachers and pupils may not have been able to get to school, but most students live in the catchment area and would have had no problem at all. If staff in other businesses can get to work, so can teachers.
1 teacher 60 parents
Parents, especially single parents, but also other working couples, have a tough time here, having to arrange childcare, often at the last minute, so that they can get to work, while the teachers stay at home. This is costly. For every teacher who’s at home, there may be up to 60 parents at work, many who have find alternative arrangements for their children.
No pay for the poor
Another unintended consequence is the loss of pay, not for the teachers, but for auxiliary staff, who often don’t get paid if they don’t get to work. As usual it’s the poor who suffer here, cleaners and canteen staff. Couldn’t we just pay for them to clear some paths in the snow and get everyone back on track.
70,000 students have GCSE and A-level exams this week and most have been deprived of adequate support by schools that have been quick of the mark in closing down. The exam boards have been guilty of putting their business interests before that of their pupils. The disruption caused by the snow has put this crop of students at a disadvantage. It is not a fair test because the lead-up conditions are different, depending on where you live or whether you’re in a private of state school.
Many pay for few
Businesses accept that a few people may not be able to get in but don’t close down the whole establishment on the basis of the few. In schools, if just a few can’t make the whole thing closes down.
As parents we’re constantly reminded that absence from school has a deleterious effect on the educational attainment of our children, except when it’s caused by snow, apparently. This fact is conveniently ignored when it comes to making the effort to get schools open in bad weather. Why don’t we do the right thing here and allow teachers holidays when it snows and get them to work extra days when the weather improves?