Several papers are carrying reports that parents are facing mounting childcare bills after snowfalls closed more than 5,000 schools and threatened to cause chaos for the rest of the week. This is from the Telegraph…
One-in-six primary and secondary schools across the UK is believed to have shut on Monday because of concerns over unsafe playgrounds and icy roads in the surrounding area.
Many head teachers closed schools – or sent entire year groups home – because large numbers of teachers had been unable to make it into the classroom.
Around 900 schools and nurseries were closed across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, while 800 were shut in East Anglia, 500 in the West Midlands, 150 in Greater Manchester, 120 in Northamptonshire, 100 in Surrey more than 100 in Lancashire.
A large number of secondary schools remained opened with a skeleton staff to enable teenagers to take A-level and GCSE exams in subjects such as psychology, biology, geography and IT.
But the closures prompted anger among parents who complained that schools were shut despite being largely unaffected by snowfall.Other mothers and fathers took to social networking websites to hit out over the late closure of schools. Some were not warned about the decision until 9am – making it almost impossible to arrange emergency childcare.
Justine Roberts, co-founder of the MumsNet website, said schools should close if children are at risk, but added: “The one thing schools could do better in some cases is to communicate more. The most stressful thing is having to make desperate last-minute childcare plans.”
Many other parents complained over the “random” nature of closures, with many state schools closing while those in the private sector remained open.
Martin Stott, the headmaster of fee-paying Old Hall preparatory school, near Telford, criticised schools that closed because of snow or ice.
“In the middle of a recession, parents have to work even harder to make ends meet and it’s vital that they don’t take time off unnecessarily when the school holidays already stretch them in terms of childcare arrangements,” he said.
“If all schools were self-employed, then every one of them would stay open, regardless of the weather, because they couldn’t afford not to.
“The knock on effects of school closures ripple far and wide for families, businesses and the entire economy.”
Snow and freezing temperatures were expected to continue to the end of the week – causing many schools to close for a full five days. It is feared that some working parents may be hit with a childcare bill running into hundreds of pounds.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, confirmed that more than 5,000 schools had closed on Monday but insisted reforms had been introduced by the Government to enable heads to keep schools open.
Previously, pupils unable to get into school because of snow had been listed as unauthorised absences – hitting a school’s truancy figures. This often made it easier for a school to close completely.
But the rule has since been scrapped, meaning any absence because of snowfall is no longer counted.
“No school which ensures that it is open will be penalised if individual students cannot make it to school on that day,” Mr Gove said.