Local decision to close school due to snow

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Headteachers in the Borders are being given the authority to decide if their schools should shut when it snows.

Scottish Borders Council has scrapped its controversial resilient schools policy and is now delegating the say-so on closures to heads.

The resilient schools policy was introduced following weeks of heavy snowfall in 2010, and aimed to keep as many schools open as possible during bad weather. However, emergency staffing arrangements meant that some schools were shut even though little or no snow had fallen nearby.

Teachers were required to turn up for work at the school nearest to their home, up to a mile and a half away, if school transport was cancelled to any of the authority’s schools due to severe weather.

That protocol has now been scrapped, with decisions about school and nursery closures based on information from headteachers and staff based locally from now on.

Councillor Tom Weatherston explained: “Basically, too many teachers live too far away from schools to walk in. The other problem is that the Borders is a huge area – you can have two feet of snow in Kelso but none in Peebles, or vice versa. Under resilient schools, they all had to close, which is just silly.”

Stuart Easingwood, the council’s interim service director for children and young people, added: “Schools could only open under resilient schools if they had enough staff to open or partially open, Since its introduction in 2010, we have found that less schools could open under resilient schools because more staff are living greater distances from council schools.

“We have also received criticism from families over recent years because of differences in conditions across the large geographic area of the Borders. Therefore, a decision was taken to operate a localised approach to decision-making in severe weather.”