Row over cotton wool snowballs

16th February 2007 at 00:00
WELSH HEADS accused of shutting schools last week because of a "mere dusting of snow" have frostily defended their decision.

It comes in a week when claims over the cotton-wool culture have been reinforced as some schools banned snowball fights and one English school confined children's chasing game "tag" to history.

More than 400 schools closed as heavy snow fell in Wales last Thursday and Friday. Some areas were more affected than others, with parts of mid and north Wales impassable under several inches of snow. But the decisions in other areas left parents fuming as they were forced to stay home and look after their children.

Many emails to a special BBC Wales website claimed "snow was just another excuse for teachers to have a day off".

But schools cited children's safety as their main priority, while many of the Welsh workforce also fled offices on Friday to escape the worsening conditions. David Williams, head of Swansea's Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe, said: "If there is no transport and adults are being sent home from work, what are we supposed to do?"

Geraint Davies, secretary of education union the NASUWT Cymru, said: "When playgrounds are reduced to mini ice rinks it is only right that schools should have health and safety concerns."

But Helen Roberts, head of Ysgol Esgob Morgan, in St Asaph, Denbighshire, said most of her pupils walked to school, making her decision to stay open easier.

During the snowfall she encouraged pupils to wrap up warm and play outside during lunchtime.

"We inform parents that it is their choice," she said.

Recently Clive Williams, Wales spokesperson for the Forestry Commission, attacked the zero-risk culture (TES Cymru, February 2) that he says has emerged among Britain's schools and parents.

More snow reports from across the UK, page 8

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