There’s often something of an outcry when primary and high schools announce closure due to bad winter weather. Parents look out of their windows pre school run and some question whether closure is necessary. It’s never an easy call for a headteacher to make.
On the one hand, as we’ve seen during 2020 with Covid 19, schools feel a moral duty of care to remain open.
Conversely, children (lots of them as well) are not adults and are certainly more vulnerable to slips and falls in ice and snow.
They certainly feel a legal obligation to remain open, but that is a balancing act
In recent years, bad weather seems to have diminished or are our memories defective?
There have been major weather incidents in the past few years – The Beast from the East, Storm Clara and Dennis though headlines were dominated last year by flooding.
Places like Fishlake, near Doncaster, suffered hugely from floods and cities like York get flooded annually it seems.
Some people blame this on building new homes on flood plains; global warming and the fact that many households (especially in urban areas) convert front gardens of lawns and borders to drives with brickweave paving that isn’t a natural soakaway.
But has ice and snow increased, along with flooding?
Winters have got milder. There’s no doubt about that. We’re not talking instances where you could walk round in shorts and T shirt in January in Leicester obviously (though many do!) Average temperatures over the autumn to spring seasons have been raised, but snow and ice still occurs, as it has done this year in elevated parts of England, Scotland and Wales.
There’s been snow in the Yorkshire Dales already, as well as Snowdonia.
Schools and colleges have also called on Weatherwise Services Ltd to grit and de-ice drives, pavements and entrances.
Which brings us neatly back to the question posed in the title: can schools be sued?
The answer is: yes.
Many councils make a school closure decision based on four elements:
- On-site hazardous conditions, including icy footpaths within the school itself and roads outside.
- Whether enough staff can get in to supervise the children who turn up.
- Whether a reasonable working temperature can be maintained in school buildings.
- Whether water is available and the toilets are working satisfactorily.
Clearly, our remit as a leading snow gritting and ice clearance company is the first bullet point.
If you’re a headteacher, a Principal or a school leader, you would be well advised to contact us today to minimise on-site hazards, leaving your staff to focus on teaching and learning in this troubled year.