School closures - resilient schools
What is resilient schools?
After the severe winter in 2010 we prepared a system which aims to keep as many schools as possible open in bad winter weather, this is called resilient schools. Some people also refer to it as 'snow schools'.
When will resilient schools be invoked?
In severe weather our Resilience Team liaise with Police Scotland, the Met Office and Head Teachers. The weather is monitored continually and if the situation merits, the Service Director for Children and Young People will invoke resilient schools.
What happens on a resilient school day?
In severe weather our Resilience Team may decide to invoke resilient schools. When this happens:
- Parents and school staff will be informed - this is normally done by group call for parents and business continuity for staff, information will also be available on this website, our social media and on local radio.
- Some schools may close - see the full list of school closures which is kept up to date. Details of this will also be available on our social media and local radio.
- Teachers living in the Borders will teach at their nearest schools - we have a mapping of the home addresses of teachers against local schools. This means during severe weather we can put in place an emergency staffing arrangement. This means teaching staff report to their local school if they are within walking distance. This allows the maximum number of classes across the council to open.
- School transport will not run - a large number of our staff live outwith the Borders - so under the system there will still be fewer teachers in relation to pupils. Therefore the system can only operate in circumstances where transport is not running.
- Only children who can safely walk to school should attend - pupils' safety is our main priority. It is ultimately your decision whether or not you think it is safe for your children to walk to school. Pupils who live in more rural areas and travel via bus, taxi or are brought by car from outwith the town - would not attend school under the resilient schools system.
This is an emergency arrangement and even though pupils may have a different teacher to normal - we are confident that this allows continuity in learning and as little disruption as possible to children's education.
Why are some schools open, partially open and some schools closed?
Each 'resilient school' has an allocated group of staff who live locally. Some of the reasons why some schools might still not open are:
- Staff absence - if staff are off-sick this has an impact on the pupil-teacher ratio. Health and safety dictates the number of staff required for the number of pupils - including staff trained in first-aid.
- Not enough staff live locally - The number of staff living locally is not sufficient to meet health and safety requirements. In this case, the school will make a decision which year groups will be asked to attend.
- Buildings/access issues - such as heating problems, catering issues, inability to create one safe access into the school building.
Why are parents being put in the position of having one or two of their children off school and others attending?
Decisions have to be made where there is insufficient staff to meet the needs of the pupils. It is understood that this is challenging for parents and we aim to communicate as early as possible to enable them to make arrangements. It is important that parents realise they ultimately have the responsibility to decide whether or not they wish to send their children to school under these circumstances.
What happens if prelims/exams are scheduled during Resilient School days?
Schools will reschedule prelims or exams and will communicate arrangements directly with parents and pupils. Although many pupils are in school, the staff group may be very different to 'normal' and it is important that our young people have the best chance of success in exam situations. This is an ideal opportunity for revision.
Are pupils given work to do when their school is closed or partially open?
All schools have systems in place to ensure that work is allocated. Pupil materials have been developed and schools will share this with pupils either electronically through the school website, GLOW or in pre-prepared packs for pupils that cannot get into school.
The roads are ok where I live why are schools closed?
There are various factors that need to be taken into consideration when deciding on whether a school remains open. Even though roads might look ok in some areas of the Borders, staff may be travelling from elsewhere and as above - there may not be sufficient local staff to allow the school to open or partially open.
How does this affect school meals?
The situation varies across schools. Where there are difficulties providing a hot meal, parents will be advised to send their child with a packed lunch. Often sandwich lunches can be provided for all pupils.
How can you help?
Schools are always keen for volunteers to make themselves known to help clear accesses to schools if necessary. If you would like to become a school snow volunteer, contact your local resilient communities team.
If you would like further information on the Resilient Schools system please contact the team on 01835 825108.