Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: School closures must be absolute last resort

Yesterday some 280 schools - a quarter of the province's educational estate - were closed because of the weather. But was that action really justified?

It has to be accepted that the safety of pupils, staff and parents leaving their children off to school must be the paramount consideration as school principals and their boards of governors debate whether to shut the classroom doors or not.

And there were areas of the province where the snowfall was sufficient to throw doubts into principals' minds over remaining open.

But there were many places where people were driving to work past schools that had shut for the day, leaving the passers-by to wonder why.

As one person who complained to this newspaper pointed out, most places of employment functioned as normal and most people made the effort to turn up for work.

But there were some who couldn't no matter how much they wished to do so for they had to stay at home to look after their children. In today's society it is common for both parents to work and when they have to take an unexpected day off it can cause great disruption to their lives.

They have to convince their employers that they are not swinging the lead and that they cannot get anyone else to look after the children. In some cases, they may even have had to leave work to pick up their children when schools which had opened in the morning closed early.

Parents having to take the day off may even lose money in some instances or cause disruption to their workplace depending on their job.

After all, the snowfall this week was not exceptional for the most part. It was the sort of weather that could be expected in the middle of winter and which in most other countries would cause minimal disruption.

Of course there was one group of people who were delighted with the closure decisions - the pupils, especially those in primary schools who had the day off to play in the snow.

Yet in some instances where schools were closed, some pupils - those doing examinations which could not be rearranged - still had to turn up. This made some parents wonder why the school had closed in the first instance.

While always accepting the caveat that safety concerns must be paramount, it is clear that most people feel schools should only close when there is no other realistic option.

Belfast Telegraph

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