Yesterday was a typical British Winter day with travel chaos, power cuts, abandoned cars and school closures. We all know it happens every year, and we all are pretty fed up with it. This year though there has been a clamour of complaint against the school closures, after all, they didn’t shut when I was a lad.
This nostalgia is quite tiresome and also, I feel, ignorant of the context. Schools close for safety reasons. The safety of the Learners, on the way to the school site and moving around the school site during the day. Snow fall puts a huge pressure on the one or two school facilities staff to maintain access and safety and snowfall during the day is often impossible to cope with. Schools also close for the safety of their employees, teachers, dinner staff, administration and support staff and so on. Everyone is entitled to work in an environment which doesn’t endanger their health.
In 1972 this was exactly the same, so why didn’t schools close then?
In 1972 schools were very local, learners and teachers were pretty much gathered from a catchment area of about a 5 mile radius. In bad weather people could either walk, share cars, or risk a dangerous bus ride or stay at home. There were some pretty horrible accidents, does no one else remember the fatal school bus crashes in bad weather back in the day? Schools had on site caretaking staff and were generally smaller, they probably didn’t need to formally close because there was always someone close and the least they could do was open a hall for 5-a-side or run the library. We might not know if a school was closed because there was no local communication, if you couldn’t get to the end of the street you stayed at home regardless of whether the school was formally shut or not. You couldn’t check on the internet, local radio or even phone anyone up.
Then, along came choice and parents were looking to get their children in to schools 10, 20 or 30 miles away. Teachers also were choosing to travel huge distances. Now a school is not a local resource but a regional one and with every few miles added to the journey the more dangerous it becomes in bad weather. Health and safety is a completely reasonable reason to close any establishment and gung-ho heads who are demanding teachers and children should come in regardless of hazard are guilty of bullying, in my opinion. Let’s get a prosecution and an imprisonment, that should sort the thinking out!
Getting huffy on TV because your child care has broken down is not helping. Back in 1972 the mother was probably at home and there was no child care problem.
The snow is clearing today and normality has returned, work will be caught up, extra homework set and the panic will prove to be unnecessary…. again.