Majority of schools stay open as snow hits

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After escaping the worst of the wintry weather at the start of last week, Berwickshire has now felt the impact of the cold snap which has made its presence felt right across the UK, but unlike the winters of a few years ago disruption has been kept to a relative minimum.

The heavy snow falls of 2009, 2010 and 2011 had a big impact on education in the local area, with schools shut for days on end, but to avoid a repeat of this Scottish Borders Council formulated its Resilient Schools plan, focussing on getting teachers to their nearest school.

Duns town centre

Duns town centre

This was triggered for the first time after the weekend’s snow which virtually wiped out all sporting fixtures, and proved successful as there was only a fraction of the disruption to lessons experienced in winters gone by.

SBC’s Director of Education and Lifelong Learning, Glenn Rodger commented: “The procedures we put in place were as a result of an extensive mapping exercise where we matched teachers and support staff to schools within walking distance of their homes.

“This means, where we would normally have to close schools because staff were not able to get into their normal place of work, we had a much clearer picture of what we could keep open, or at least partially open as a result of staff who were able to walk to their nearest school.”

On Monday, Chirnside, Swinton and Eccles/Leitholm primaries all fell victim to the weather but on Tuesday only the latter remained closed.

Coldstream opened its doors to children in P5-7, with a similar situation at Reston when only pupils in P6 and 7 were told to attend.

With Scottish Borders Council cancelling all school transport services on Monday and Tuesday, both Berwickshire and Eyemouth High schools only taught pupils in S1-3, with S4-6 being told to study from home.

Weather improved by Wednesday which meant all schools were open and transport services operating as normal.

Roads in more central areas of Berwickshire proved tricky for drivers on both Monday and Tuesday and a number of roads were closed including the A697 from Greenlaw-Cafraemill.

However some drivers decided to take the risk and drive past the police signs put in place, leading to a number of cars having to be freed by tractors and forklifts.

Those choosing to disregard the signage left themselves open to a penalty notice and a spokeperson for Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that a driver of a silver Honda was charged after ignoring a sign and getting stuck close to Inkbottle Lodge on Monday evening.

He told ‘The Berwickshire’: “Where it has been deemed appropriate to close a road for whatever reason then drivers who ignore these closures can be issued with a conditional offer ticket.

“Where the road closure is due to snow as it was on the A697, then drivers are not only risking their own safety but also that of others who may have to assist when vehicles become stuck.”

Like education, disruption to health and social care services in the region was minimal. All social work offices in the Borders remained open and NHS Borders made assurances to patients that all appointments would go ahead wherever possible but warned those using the Patient Transport Service to expect delays with the service prioritising emergency and urgent patients.