Well, it’s snowing and lots of schools have closed…and, with snow closures, come the usual blizzard of opinions.
1. If it snows: schools should close because it don’t snow that often and it’s nice for the kids to have a day sledging.
2. It if snows: stay open! Why does this county grind to a halt when there is more than 2 mm of snow on the ground? It’s a disgrace!
Chances are, where you stand on this opinion depends on how easy it is for you to not go to work. If you don’t work, work from home, or can easily work from home (or hate work so much the notion of ringing up saying you can’t make it in because your kid’s school is closed fills you with joy) then you probably support school snow closures. If it is very difficult for you and your family to take unplanned time off work then you will probably be irritated by a school closure. (This is also true if you are the sort of person who feels the need to leave your comment on local news websites or the Daily Mail – these two types (hard workers and idiots) are not mutually exclusive but, well I’m just saying, there are all types of folks out there)
What about the Head Teachers who make these decisions? Despite what people may think, it is a difficult decision to make and is not one that is made lightly-unlike the snowfall (ha ha). I love school and I love hard work, and, I hate not being able to work and my school not being able to provide its service. So, the thought of closing the school is not something that fills me with cheer. I’ve got children to educate, targets to meet, mouths to feed, meetings to have, assemblies to do, achievements to praise, reports to write, emails to delete: I haven’t got time for a snow day!
But, sometimes tough decisions need to be made. The irritating fact that others may not perceive them to be tough decisions must not cloud your judgement.
In case you’re wondering, here is how a snow day starts:
You wake up way earlier than your alarm because you know snow be coming, and, before you check the weather outside you check your phone to see if any member of staff has already contacted you to say they can’t come in. You look outside and everything is white and it’s still snowing and then your phone goes. It will be your Deputy, site manager, or other member of your SLT to ask what is going to happen. You start calculating how many staff are local, desperately trying to remember how many staff you could do without and still open. You try to find out of the school kitchen team are going to make it or if your breakfast club leader is already stranded somewhere. All the time it’s getting closer to the deadline for contacting the LA and, even though the view from outside your window is whiter than a ghost holidaying in the Arctic, you keep thinking: I need a clear sign!
The last thing you want to do is make a bad decision. If you make the decision to close at 7:15am, but by 9:00am the snow has stopped, the sun is out and snow is melting you will feel a bit of a chump. The Director of Education will then arrive at your front door, throw a snowball at your crotch, slap you in the face and tell you that you’re fired for being an IDIOT Head teacher! All of your parents were ambulance drivers and none of them could go to work because you closed the school and now every driver in the city is dead because of your decision to have a snow day!
If you don’t close and it gets worse what have you done? You’ve made your staff come in and now the conditions are worse than ever so it’s even more dangerous for them to get home. Half of the pupils have decided not to come in anyway (attendance figures go down the toilet), real lessons can’t continue so the driving force behind your reason to stay open is redundant. Worse than all of this is the thought that if conditions do get worse you may have to close early and that won’t be a popular decision with anybody. (The only thing worse than a school closure is a partial school closure.)
So, when I’m stood in my pyjamas, at 7:10am with my phone in my hand, I hope that all major roads are closed, that public transport services have stopped. I hope that the weather forecasts are predicting worse to come and that all my staff live in isolated country villages. I wish for this not because I want to close but because it will make my decision easier. But even more than all this, I hope the school down the road makes the decision before I do.