Belfast Telegraph

Ophelia: Principals express anger over late-night school closure tweet

By Cate McCurry

Principals have hit out at the Civil Service after schools were given just hours notice to close because of Storm Ophelia.

Some described how they woke up to news of the closures and how they were forced to "scramble together" communication to staff and pupils yesterday morning.

The Department of Education advised schools and colleges to close in a tweet posted just before 10.30pm on Sunday.

School heads had to contact parents late at night about the closures while some principals didn't see the notice until yesterday morning.

The tweet from the account of the NI Executive came several hours after the Republic's education authority made its announcement.

Dr Darrin Barr, principal of Bloomfield Collegiate School in Belfast, said he only discovered the announcement after checking a media website.

"I happened to go on the internet at around 11pm and saw that the Department of Education put out the notice but it was the first I had heard of it," he said.

"There was no email or other communications made directly to the school.

"I then had to put it on the school's Twitter page about the school's closure and text parents and got the vice-principal to text the staff. I was up until 12.15am before I could get all the information out.

"Luckily no parents arrived at the school. But I could have been asleep and not seen the notice until Monday morning.

"All schools must have communications in place in case of snow and it's good for getting out messages but it only worked because I happened to be up.

"I know other principals who woke up on Monday morning and had to scramble together to put the word out."

Stephen Moore, principal of Academy Primary School in Saintfield said: "I was awoken from my sleep at 10.45pm by a few of my colleagues ringing to say they saw a BBC newsflash and wondered whether it was genuine. I realised it was and then had to start informing staff and parents at 11.15pm.

"The decision was very late and caused a flurry of activity checking with fellow principals and informing staff and parents by Facebook and the website.

"An earlier decision could have been made but in end it was the right one."

A number of parents also expressed their anger at having to organise childcare so late at night.

One parent tweeted: "It's a disgrace really that Northern Ireland announces, while most parents are in bed, that school are closed tomorrow. Bit of warning would have nice."

Belfast Telegraph

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