Sunday, 10 January 2010
Another week of closed schools?
With more snow falling as I write, it looks likely that many schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf will be closed again tomorrow. Heavy snow is forecast for Tuesday, which could mean the schools will be closed for the week. In many areas last week, the children returned to school from their Christmas holidays on Tuesday to be sent home at lunchtime, with no school on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
Too many people are losing pay or holidays when they have to take a day off to look after the kids. Even in the public sector, I am aware of health workers who have been told that they can only claim one day off for the snow, and any more days have to be taken as unpaid leave. Many workers in the private sector don't even get one day. When most people's outgoings match their income, losing money like this can create huge problems.
This situation follows on from schools closing for a week last February. Which begs the question - where are the contingency plans? Why can't schools open, with teachers being asked to turn up to their nearest school and children asked to bring in packed-lunches? Normal lessons may not be possible, but the day could be filled with music, art, drama and phyiscal activities for those kids whose parents have to get to work. Community centres could be used for the same purpose if for some reason schools are out of bounds.
I've written to the Education Minister at the Assembly to ask what contingency plans were in place to avoid the disruption that has been caused by school closures, and I've suggested that guidance is issued to councils and schools to ensure they think about providing alternative child-care for children, to prevent people having to lose pay and much-cherished holdidays.
If we get the same weather next year, there really will be no excuse for school closures on the scale we have seen of late.