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What keeps a school open in icy conditions?

Napier's head teacher, Mrs Zerina Slade
Napier's head teacher, Mrs Zerina Slade

Kent schools have to keep a cool head in the sub-zero temperatures.

As the ice and snow continued into Tuesday, many across the county kept their doors locked.

But the Napier Community Primary & Nursery school in Gillingham was one of those open for business both Monday and Tuesday, even though 74 schools are still closed in the Medway area.

So what keeps a school's gates open?

Napier's head teacher, Mrs Zerina Slade, said there were several factors to take into consideration before opening up a school in recent weather conditions.

She said: "You have to think about whether there is enough adult supervision: are teachers in school, and have they managed to come in safely themselves?

"Heating also has to be up to standard and at a comfortable temperature for good working conditions. Also, the provision of school meals is very important, we have our meals prepared on site so we had to look at whether they would available to the children."

Safety of the pupils is one of the most important factors in the decision-making; teachers need to decide whether the journey to school and the school grounds are safe enough to prevent any accidents.

Mrs Slade said: “For instance, we can't have outdoor play today because the snow we had yesterday has turned to ice, making it very slippery.

"However, yesterday was actually a really good opportunity, particularly for our younger children, to go outside in the snow and do lots of investigation work, under the close observation of teachers, obviously."

The school has had to be flexible with its opening times over the past couple of days to ensure the safety of both its staff and pupils. Yesterday they closed after lunch, to enable people to get home before the last snowfall. Today they opened their doors at 10am to give teachers who live further away enough time to make sure their journeys safely.

Ian Craig, KCC’s interim managing director of children, families and education says the council has worked very hard to ensure that wherever possible the main roads close to schools are gritted, but the final decision is always up to the head teachers and chairs of governors at individual schools.

He said: "Conditions are very different in different parts of Kent. Each school must make a health and safety analysis, not just of their buildings, but also of whether or not they will have enough staff to supervise the children that come in. They also have to be careful because they don't want to get children in and then have them isolated as more snow comes down."

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