Parents left bewildered as some Gwent schools stay shut despite thaw
12:20pm Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in News
PARENTS were left puzzled yesterday as to why more than 200 schools took the decision to close while others opened.
Almost 200 Gwent schools were closed or partly closed yesterday due to snow, but many others took the decision to open.
All 32 Blaenau Gwent schools were shut, along with 78 in the Caerphilly county borough and 38 in Torfaen.
Fifteen were closed in Monmouthshire and 34 were shut in Newport, including many secondary schools, which were only open to pupils sitting or studying for exams.
But by 10am yesterday morning many roads in Newport were drivable as the snow began to melt, while the Valleys remained snowbound.
Duffryn High School was one of only four secondary schools in the city open to all pupils. Neighbouring St Joseph’s High School was closed, except for exams.
Jon Wilson, head teacher at Duffryn, said he would always open the school when possible, and said it was important that parents sent their children in.
Despite a notice on the school’s website at 7am saying they would be open, only 60 per cent of pupils attended yesterday.
Although some youngsters travel by buses, he said, the majority of those still lived within reasonable walking distance so there was no excuse for them not to attend. As a result the school made truancy calls to all those absent.
Such absences affect attendance targets, he said, which could impact on the Welsh Government’s school banding system, which rates how good or bad a school is.
He said: “Whatever decision you make you feel like piggy in the middle.
“There are some people who will be on your side and others will be moaning.
“We’ve got 60 per cent in today, which is not good enough.”
A decision to open or close a school is not down to council but the head teacher, who will take into consideration a range of aspects.
Marilyn Biddle, who runs Gaer Infants, which had 110 of its 189 pupils in yesterday, said she bases her decision on the weather forecast, whether teachers could get there and if the site was safely accessible.
She praised her staff, who arrived with shovels to clear the pathways, and met children at the gates to ensure they got in safely.
She said: “They have been wonderful. Only one couldn’t get in from Merthyr.”
Many schools closed yesterday kept in touch with pupils via Twitter.
Risca Comprehensive School directed pupils to websites where they could download work, while others, like Cwmcarn High School, used it to kept youngsters up to date about exam cancellations.
Blaenau Gwent, where all schools were closed yesterday, said guidance was issued to schools on what to do in severe weather conditions, but the decision to close schools was made by the head teacher.
However, councils can close schools if a severe weather warning is issued, such as last week.
All exams and interviews scheduled to take place at Newport’s university today have been postponed. Visit newport.ac.uk for details of new dates.
COMMENT: Tell us why you close
WITH more snow yesterday and a repeat forecast for last night the disruption caused by the weather shows no sign of abating.
It was more northerly parts of Gwent that suffered the most yesterday, with significant snowfall in parts of Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Caerphilly council areas.
Most of Newport and parts of Monmouthshire fared better, with Newport’s main roads clear of snow and ice by the middle of the day as a quick thaw set in.
Almost 200 schools were closed or partially closed across Gwent yesterday.
Questions were being asked by Argus readers on our website about the large number of Newport schools closed given the relatively small amount of snow in the city.
The city council came under fire from some, though the decision to close schools in adverse weather conditions is made by individual head teachers.
Perhaps one of the reasons parents become aggrieved by school closures is lack of information.
In general, schools get information out about closures in a timely fashion using all the modern methods of communication.
But what do not get given to parents are the reasons for closures. The result is myths build up.
Perhaps the challenge for schools and councils is to provide a more detailed level of information to parents.