Parents say school closures setting wrong example to children

SCHOOLS are teaching their pupils bad lessons for the future when they close because of snow, a parents' group has claimed.

Annie Davidson

SCHOOLS are teaching their pupils bad lessons for the future when they close because of snow, a parents' group has claimed.

Margaret Morrissey, of campaign group Parents Outloud, said an emergency plan needed to be created which would allow more schools to stay open when bad weather hit.

Mrs Morrissey spoke out after a second day of school closures across the UK due to heavy snow, including 221 in Essex.

Although it was business as usual at many schools it was still estimated that some two million youngsters missed lessons across the country.

Mrs Morrissey said: “We are giving children the message that when things get difficult you should just stay at home and have fun.

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“Then, when they keep taking sick days from work when they grow up we wonder why.

“Perhaps after this we should be looking down and looking at (health and safety) regulations and perhaps asking the Government to make some provision so we don't have to apply them quite as rigorously.

“The next occasion could be some years ago but it would be better to be organised and prepared.

“In my day all the children sat in the hall and you had the headteacher and one or two others reading to the children, doing quizzes, all those kinds of things.

“It was great fun, you were at school, you did get to go in the playground, you did get to play in the snow, we were taught things like not to make snow balls out of ice, all the things you have to learn as you grow up.”

She also highlighted the difficulty for working parents having to find childcare at very short notice.

“It can be lots of fun (being off school) but it is not so much fun sitting at work worried sick what you are going to do with your children when the teachers are off,” she said.

“When the teachers are off school they are still getting paid but a lot of parents who have to have a day off work lose a day's pay.”

Mrs Morrissey added: “Lots of people will probably respond and say what is wrong with having some fun and I would say nothing is wrong with it and equally what is wrong with kids having a few days away with their parents?” referring to strict rules which govern children missing school in term time which can lead to parents being fined if they do not have permission from the headteacher.

In Essex, there were 450 schools closed on Monday which did not include private schools, nurseries, adult education centres and schools in the Southend and Thurrock areas. Yesterday that number had dropped to 221.

A spokesman for education authority Essex County Council said that every headteacher made an individual decision about whether their school should open but based this on guidelines issued by the council.

He said: “The decision rests with the headteacher of each school and closure is a last resort but they must have due regard for health and safety implications as well as the fact that some parents may need to arrange childcare.

“Pupil safety is the key factor and that includes getting home from as well as to school - for example on Monday when heavy snow was forecast in the afternoon it had to be considered about the effect on children going home.”

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