Staff arriving at 3am, snowball fights permitted and ignoring criticism on Facebook: The Vale schools staying open despite the snow

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Up to five centimetres of snow fell across parts of Bucks on Sunday night causing 166 schools to close on Monday, writes Andrew Kay.

Across the county the decision as to whether a school will close is left to the judgement of headteachers – leaving some parents bemused.

For example Begrove Infant School in Aylesbury’s Ingram Avenue stayed open while the junior school (which is run separately) was closed – despite sharing the same site.

On the county council’s school closure information service the infant school said: “We look forward to seeing you all. Please dress for playtime in the snow’.

On the same website, the junior school said: “More snow since Friday and sub-zero temperatures tonight mean that driving conditions tomorrow could be dangerous, many of our staff live some distance from the school. We hope to be open as normal on Tuesday.”

Caroline Wreglesworth, head of Bedgrove Infant School, said: “We have had around two-thirds of our pupils arrive. The only reason we opened today was that I knew my staff could get here and I was able to staff the school safely.

battling through the snow pic Phil Dennett

battling through the snow pic Phil Dennett

“Before making the decision I consulted with the senior leadership team at the school and the chair of governors.”

Mrs Wreglesworth says some parents praised her for staying open, although believes others reacted negatively on Facebook.

“It’s a really difficult decision for every headteacher to take,” she said.

“But I think about the mums and dads that work in places like hospitals that are needed. But we are lucky here because we have enough staff that live locally and that’s the crux of it.”

snowman george pic phil dennett

snowman george pic phil dennett

In Wendover, the John Colet School also remained open – with a note on its website stating: “Snowballs must only be thrown on the field between the MUGA and Sports Hall, away from the pre-school and only at break and lunchtime.”

Headteacher Christine McLintock said: “Each school does what they think is appropriate and its each school’s job to make the decision based on the situation they have.

“In my case I am very lucky to have a site team (caretakers) and one of them came in at 3am this morning to clear snow and another at around 5am. “They, along with teachers who arrived early, set about clearing a series of one-metre-wide walkways around the school and gritting them so pupils and staff can get around the site – which is still mostly covered in snow.

“I think as long as pupils have got appropriate footwear and are sensible it is fine.”

The Wharf Road school has pupils travelling to it each day from parts of Bedgrove, Broughton and Stoke Mandeville.

Mrs McLintock said: “It does help that the main roads to get here are clear. I think the biggest problem for many people is if they can get out of their estates, which can be the key.

“I think each school has individual circumstances and has to make its own decision. There is no one model that suits everybody in this weather. “For example we are open today, but on Friday we had to close because of the home-to-school transport difficulties, but obviously other schools were able to stay open.”

The nearby Wendover Church of England Junior School and John Hampden School both remained closed on Monday.

Mike Appleyard, the head of schools at Bucks County Council, said: “There are different circumstances and it depends on whether the majority of staff can get in and manage all those pupils safely.”

The council’s deputy leader is also a governor at a school in Wycombe and has ‘asked to understand where the staff come from’ to get a better insight into the school’s decision to close today.

He stresses that school’s must also be sure they will have enough teachers-per-pupil to legally open.

“We will want to have another review at some point in time to talk to headteachers about what the circumstances are,” he said.

“But currently it’s a school decision and the only guidance we can give to them is they need to be able to legally manage the number of school children who arrive.”

>Click here to see the full list of school closures

> What do you think? Should more schools remain open when it snows? Let us know by posting your thoughts below.