Defiant head teachers ramp up the cold war with more school closures

Thousands of head teachers defied Michael Gove and closed their schools yesterday despite a warning from the Education Secretary that they should do “everything” to ensure children were being taught throughout the cold spell. This is from the Times…

Parents were left scrambling to find child care as the gates of at least 5,000 schools remained shut.

Britain is braced for a sixth day of weather disruption today as fresh snowfalls threaten to play havoc with transport and keep hundreds of thousands more children out of the classroom.

The Met Office warned of icy conditions across the UK and forecast as much as 10cm (4in) of snow overnight to add to the misery of commuters.

Head teachers insisted last night that they closed schools only for safety reasons, but companies complained that hundreds of millions of pounds were being lost because staff could not go to work. Internet discussion rooms buzzed with complaints from parents about the short notice that they received from heads about the closure of their schools.

One contributor to the popular Mumsnet site wrote: “Hospitals don’t close to the most vulnerable in case they slip over on the way in. Why then should perfectly healthy 8-year-olds be cosseted at home in case of a sprained ankle rather than risk an icy playground?”

The weather has already cost companies an estimated £2 billion, insurance groups estimate. Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said that absenteeism because of school closures was having a “horrendous” impact on local businesses.

Hundreds of schools were closed in Britain’s second city. “Flooding and snow are becoming an increasing part of our weather pattern and we need to become better adapted,” Mr Blackett said. “There will be lots of parents who will be unable to get into work because of the closure of all the schools, which is horrendous for our economic wellbeing.”

While many schools in Birmingham closed, pupils at Greenholm primary in the north of the city got a lesson in building an igloo. Gill Turner, the head teacher, said that it was important for pupils to “develop skills of resilience and perseverance”.

“Many of our parents work and are hourly paid, so if they don’t work it has a knock-on effect. What does it say to children if they are told that if the snow comes they get a day off?” she said. “Many of our staff walked two or three miles to school because they knew we would stay open. The children had a fabulous day, everybody was involved and they were taking pictures and writing and sketching about it. They were all taking their parents to see the igloo.”

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