THE heavy snowfalls which blanketed the Pennines overnight inspired the usual mix of delight and despair in Yorkshire households this morning when many families were forced into making hasty childcare arrangements because of school closures.
While youngsters struggled to contain their excitement at an unscheduled day off in a county that resembled scenes from Disney’s Frozen, parents were left cursing the temporary winter wonderland.
Calderdale and Bradford were the two worst-hit regions with 38 school closures in Halifax and 63 in Bradford, where 10cms of snow made road conditions hazardous.
The responsibility for deciding on whether to close a school rests with the individual head-teachers rather than the local education authority, with decisions based on a range of factors including transport issues, safety within the school and staff availability.
One of the reasons given for Bowling Green Primary in Calderdale closing this morning was expected problems in delivering pupils meals to the school, while the difficulties faced by staff in getting to the school prompted the closure of Cragg Vale Junior and Infants, where the school trip had to be cancelled.
Ferney Lee Primary in Todmorden was closed because of the “treacherous” state of untreated roads around the school, and a lack of school buses caused the head of Highbury School, Brighouse, to take the decision to close.
The threat of further snowfalls during the day were a factor behind North Halifax Grammar School closing, and low temperatures in classrooms led to the closure of Riverside Junior School in Hebden Bridge.
Allerton Primary School in Bradford cited “health and safety concerns” when announcing the closure of the school at 8.20 this morning. “This is not a decision we have made lightly,” said a school statement.
Beckfoot School at Upper Heaton in Bradford was closed for all pupils except those taking exams, who were urged to take extra care when making their way into school.
So many schools in Bradford closed this morning that the council’s website crashed as head teachers and school secretaries posted updates. Many schools also supplemented their news updates with a text message service and emails via Parentmail.
Whilst the phrase ‘health and safety gone mad’ will have been in common usage by some parents earlier today, the high number of school closures owes more to modern technology than it does the nanny state.
The ability to communicate with parents using the internet and social media has made it easier for heads to decide to close a school in adverse conditions compared to 20 years ago, when schools were more likely to remain open because of the difficulty of relaying news.
And whereas most teachers lived within close proximity to their place of work 50 years ago, a more mobile population - together with the ensuing traffic problems associated with a crowded road network - the inability of staff to make it into work also contributes to school closures.