It is obviously a big decision to close a school or to keep it open, and I would never judge a fellow headteacher for their decision. I read a piece by Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of ASCL (the Heads’ union) about the decision being the loneliest decision you have to take, and I can testify to that after this week. The issue, of course, is that I simply can’t keep everyone happy. I think it is a self-evident truth that many students like a snow day, but it creates issues for parents with childcare/supervision (especially for younger years). Ultimately when making the decision, we have to weigh up the health and safety on site versus the moral duty of keeping a public service open. It is important to recognise that every school is unique: at Marshalls we benefit hugely from the close proximity to the main roads and a relatively tight catchment area for the vast majority of the students. There will always be a few that live further away, e.g. one student lives on the Dengie Peninsular and is pretty cut off, and we fully understand those students can’t get to school. I can honestly say it has nothing to do with government agendas or Ofsted.
Overall, I have several factors to take in to account (the list here is not exhaustive): the roads, the location of my staff, how many staff might have childcare issues caused by other schools closing, what planned cover there already is for courses, the paths in school, predicted snow fall during the day, potential travel arrangements home for students/staff, the proximity of the bulk of our students, etc.
The gallows humour aspect of the rumours does make me turn a wry smile. I saw a rumour that I hadn’t turned up until break on Wednesday; the reality was that I live in East Essex, and had dug my car out, and then battled the traffic and got in at about 9.10 am. I don’t tend to take these things personally, but the risk of social media is that inaccurate comments become perceived truths very quickly. To be honest, the list of rumours was pretty endless, and the truths far less interesting: there was no health and safety inspection, the classrooms were warm (possibly except a couple in science), there were only 3 members of staff on Wednesday (2 on Thursday) that couldn’t get in because of the weather.
What I would like to say is a huge thank you to all the staff (especially the site team) that kept business as usual as much as possible; it’s never going to be perfect in these circumstances, but I think we coped well, considering.
A late addition: I received an email from a member of the public on Thursday evening praising the efforts of 2 of our students (Charlie and Harrison) as they have been out in the evenings distributing food and blankets to the homeless. The member of the public simply ended the email with the following sentence, “seeing small acts of kindness like this really does restore my faith in human nature”. I couldn’t agree more.
Hoping that next week is slightly warmer! Have a good weekend.