Spring Term... Snow closure...

Welcome to the ‘Spring’ term! I've always thought this to be something of a misnomer,  never more so than at c.8.00am last FridayI I do fully appreciate the inconvenience caused by any decision to close the school and the consequences that this has for families - particularly when there are late changes to arrangements. I therefore wanted to reiterate the apologies in my letter of 18 January.  As the weather rapidly deteriorated from about 7.30am it really turned in to one of those 'no win' situations.
In my reflections on last Friday, I revisited a previous letter I wrote to parents and students back in January 2010 - the last time that we experienced major disruption due to snow - to provide a fuller explanation of all the factors which are taken into account when arriving at the decision to close the school than can appear in a text or as a website or radio summary.  I listed them as  at the time as follows:

  • The immediate local weather conditions
  • Local transport issues and the associated risks for students, parents and staff travelling to and from school
  • Wider weather and transport issues and how this will potentially impact on staffing levels for the day.  As significant numbers of staff travel in from as far as Oxford, Swindon, Reading, Basingstoke, Winchester and Southampton, the key issue is whether you can guarantee that lessons will be able to run and students be effectively supervised during breaks and lunchtimes
  • The immediate state of the site and whether it is likely to deteriorate or improve, with a related assessment of health and safety issues
  • The forecast for the remainder of the day
They still hold, and some of you may have heard me referring to them when talking to Andrew Peach on BBC Radio Berkshire this morning.  The first formal checks start at 5.00am with a call to a member of the site team already at the school to ascertain conditions in Newbury. I'm then on site by about 6.15 having emailed or phoned members of the Senior Team to check on wider transport issues, assess the state of the site and begin the process of calls to the radios, and confirming the text messages, emails and website updates that need to be actioned. In hindsight, I should have trusted the weather forecasters last Friday as the timing of the arrival of the snow was everything and gone for a preemptive closure but I didn't. I could have done the same based on forecasts the previous Monday, but the snow never materialised! Our aim at all times is to keep the school open for learning, but the health and safety of our students and the wider community overrides everything.
I'm very grateful to the site team for their work this morning which meant that the school was cleared and safe, although felt it prudent to allow the additional travel time given the icy conditions on untreated side roads and the distances that many students have to travel.
So, thank you once again for your understanding and support during what I hope will be the first and last of our 'Spring Term Snow Days'.