Havoc as heavy snowfall prompts school closures

3rd December 2010 at 00:00

The earliest and most prolonged winter snow in many years played havoc in schools this week.

As The TESS went to press, several local authorities had kept all of their schools closed for the first three days of the week, while Midlothian announced it was shutting them for the entire week.

Questions have been raised about how local authorities handled the situation.

Glasgow City Council closed all schools on Wednesday, even though they had been open on Monday and Tuesday and the weather did not seem to have worsened. The lateness of the announcement, at about 8am, angered many parents.

Hugh Donnelly, local secretary for the Educational Institute of Scotland, said it was the first time he recalled all Glasgow schools being closed since he entered teaching in 1979.

Education bosses had made the right move in the light of traffic chaos, he said, having witnessed hundreds of people, including teachers, queuing outside an underground station in an attempt to get to work.

But Mr Donnelly added that many were questioning whether more could have been done to ensure that traffic infrastructure coped better with the weather.

On Wednesday in Edinburgh, which was hit by the heaviest snowfall, all S4- 6 pupils, except those at Queensferry High, were told to go to school.

Teachers who could not make it into their own school were ordered to work in one closer to them, but there were reports that many living in neighbouring areas such as Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian - whose schools were all closed - could barely make it out of their driveways.

In Aberdeenshire, more than half of teachers this week logged onto Glow, the Scottish schools' intranet. It has been one of the most innovative authorities in producing online lessons when schools have to close. These have included virtual science lessons - involving measuring snowfall, for example - uploading weather reports and a competition to find the longest icicle.

Aberdeenshire and West Lothian councils have been praised by Education Secretary Michael Russell for using Glow to reduce the impact of school closures, with the latter's Carrondean Primary and St Margaret's Academy receiving particular praise.

Fife Council's head of education, Craig Munro, said school closures were no excuse for underperforming in preliminary examinations.

With S4 pupils in the midst of their prelims in many schools, and S5-6 pupils preparing for Higher and Advanced Higher prelims in January, he highlighted the usefulness of online tutorials and "very strong statistical evidence" that support from parents was "thought to be the single biggest contributor to improved success at exams".

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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