Monday, 21 January 2013

In defence of schools

Schools are too quick to close these days.  When I was a kid we trudged through a foot of snow...

But what's changed?

When I was a kid, the buses and trains were run differently than they are today.  Buses worked in the snow. Trains had a limit, but when that limit was reached the Men In Orange would be out on the line with shovels. Transport did what it said on the tin back then.  Today the trains shut down with no prior notice whatsoever once the snow gets past an inch.

Insurance was different too.  Snow cover is hard to afford these days.  Slipping on ice is now a suing matter, while back then it was one of those things. 

Staff who work with students have less autonomy today.  This is partly understandable; endless paedophile scandals and the general underfunded crapness of social services has led to overtightening of rules.  Where it gets to the point where a teacher cannot help a child put on sun cream, or hug a child who is distressed, I for one think it has gone too far.

Yesterday, the buses would run, kids could be gotten home safely.  If the worst came to the worst and a freak blizzard of biblical proportions snowed the town in at the last minute, the kids could be bedded down in the school hall and the cafeteria set to the bulk output of hot chocolate.  It never happened, but if it did then the teachers would get on with the job and be praised for it.

Today, the buses won't run, parents will need to leave work early and drive their kids home (if they can).  If the kids are kept in and our hypothetical blizzard happens, the teachers will be slammed for failing to foresee the unforeseeable, parents will become hysterical, the Sun will screech "but what if there'd been a paedo in there?!?!?!", and somebody will get sued into next Tuesday.

Headteachers today must - with no warning whatsoever - pre-empt the point at which the trains will shut down, the buses will stop running, and get the kids out with time enough to get them home.  Heads must judge if it will snow enough to shut the transport the night before, and decide if the two hours teaching they'd get done are as good as a wasted day.

You'd need a masters in geology and the wisdom of Solomon to balance all this and, inevitably, the balance will be gotten wrong.  It is natural therefore to err on the side of caution.  I don't envy them the task.


  1. Masters in geology... check. Wisdom of Solomon... well, I don't think cutting babies in half is a good way to solve an argument, put it this way.

    We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. My Twitter feed has been split between the teachers who think it's lazy to close a school, and the teachers who are dreading trying to drive through the much thicker snow outside of the London bubble. I'm lucky to be able to walk to College - I always go in, unless the College is shut. But we manage cover for colleagues within the department, so if three members of staff are unable to come in, then the other seven staff members have to split it, meaning some students are unattended in labs, or classes get cancelled. The former leaves us open to a H&S nightmare, the latter ensures that the Management haul us over the coals for not doing our jobs.


    1. It's bollocks either way. Something needs to be done, and it begins with the public transport.