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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Why some of our schools decided to shut in the snow

CONTROVERSIAL decisions to shut schools during the bitter cold snap have sparked hot debate in Copeland.

Some rural primaries and secondary schools – including Whitehaven and St Benedict’s – closed earlier this week because of safety concerns for pupils and staff.

Opinions were divided on The Whitehaven News website as members of the public, parents and teachers debated whether the closures were “health and safety gone mad” or “a sensible solution”.

Lynette Norris, headteacher at Whitehaven School, said: “You have to weigh up whether to close or not – you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Critics say schools over-reacted as the rest of the community managed to cope.

They added that schools complain about students’ attendance figures, but are quick to close if teachers are unable to get to school because of the weather.

Critics also claim schools are fearful of compensation claims if pupils fall. Many people opposed the safety concerns, claiming that in the past children were expected to go to school in all weathers – including snow.

Talks took place between Whitehaven School, St Benedict’s School and Egremont’s West Lakes Academy about whether to open or close.

The academy was only open for exams students on Monday and opened for everyone the next day.

Principal Vanessa Ray said the academy makes every effort to remain open in poor weather but on this occasion she decided it was not safe to do so.

St Benedict’s and Whitehaven School closed on Monday and partially opened for students in Year 10 up to Year 13 the following day.

Parents had to find alternative care for younger pupils who were told not to go in even though all teachers were in school.

Staff said there were safety concerns for the younger children. Gritting was done at both Whitehaven sites, although by Tuesday morning the paths and playgrounds were treacherous, they said.

Nearby primaries in the Hensingham area opened as normal. Schools closed on Monday were: Ennerdale and Kinniside, Frizington, Gosforth CE, Lamplugh and Thornhill and Mayfield.

St Bees pre-school, St Bees Primary, Waberthwaite and Mayfield closed on Tuesday.

Ian Williams, acting head at St Benedict’s, said: “Every effort was made to open the schools, but as the snow kept laying, we decided to close.

“The bus companies were contacted regarding the safety of the roads. We are sorry we couldn’t open for all on Tuesday. We aim to look after our safety of students.”

Mrs Norris said: “Because both schools are in an elevated position, the safety of children and staff is our prime concern. We can make the main areas of the school safe, but it was still slippery.

“We have asked the younger children to stay at home. There are exams going on for students in Key Stage 4 and 5 and it is important they don’t lose a day of studying.”

Have your say

IF MY 3 YEAR OLD COULD MANAGE TO GO TO SCHOOL ON ICEY SNOWEY ROADS WITHOUT FALLING/ BEING INJURED IM SURE 12 + YR OLDS COULD OF DONE SO! ITS AWFULL THE SCHOOLS CLOSED AN JUST SEEMS LIKE AND EXCUSE NO WONDER THEY HAVE BAD OFSTED RPORTS IF THEY CANT BE BOTHERD TO OPEN!!

Posted by LOOPY on 31 January 2013 at 10:48

When I wuz a lad, it was great walking to school in the snow.

Shcools never closed in my day, you're all just a bit scared of the Elf n Safety monster our country has landed itself with.

Get on with life.

Posted by D Ranged on 29 January 2013 at 11:15

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