Page last updated at 19:19 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Council defends school closures

Closed sign outside a school
The schools have been shut as a "precaution", the council said

Birmingham City Council has defended its decision to close all its schools following heavy snow and freezing conditions in the city.

Every school in Birmingham, Dudley and Solihull has been closed while another 200 across the West Midlands were shut.

Business leaders said it had resulted in workers taking the day off to look after their children and some parents called the closures "ridiculous".

The city council said it had responded to weather forecasts for more snow.

Dudley Council said it had taken an early decision to shut its schools to allow parents to make alternative child-care arrangements while Solihull said its closures were precautionary.

'Very disappointed'

All three have said schools in the boroughs will open unless individual head teachers decide otherwise.

John Lamb, of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said weather conditions in Birmingham on Tuesday were "perfect".

He added: "We were very disappointed and surprised that the decision in this area was taken last night to close most of the schools.


The decision was taken to close schools yesterday based on the weather forecast and in order to minimise confusion and chaos today

Tony Howell, Birmingham City Council

"With modern communications today we feel that they could leave it a lot later.

"They should be very mindful of the disruption it does cause to business and industry right across the country when schools are closed because people obviously need to change their childcare arrangements."

Lisa Gilbert, of Sutton Coldfield, said Birmingham City Council's decision "set a bad example to children".

She said she had been forced to take holiday to look after her eight-year-old son.

'Bit of snow'

Ms Gilbert said: "If parents decided to keep their children off school for no reason they are reprimanded.

"Why is it okay just because the council decide they can't cope with a bit of snow?"

Vanessa McManus, also of Sutton Coldfield, said she had to stay at home to look after her six-year-old daughter.

Snow on Barr Beacon, Birmingham
Forecasters said there could be more light snow over the coming days

She said: "It is ridiculous. It has really thrown me today.

"I have just started back at work after maternity leave and I feel like people at work might think I am using my children as an excuse not to go in."

Tony Howell, strategic director for Children, Young People & Families at Birmingham City Council, said schools were likely to reopen on Wednesday.

He said: "The decision was taken to close schools yesterday based on the weather forecast and in order to minimise confusion and chaos today.

"Snow was forecasted to continue until 11pm last night and there were weather warnings of extremely cold and icy conditions today.

"The Highways Department advised that the public should not travel unless essential and it was against this background that we decided to close schools.

"We felt it was important to make an early decision in order to give parents a chance to plan alternative arrangements and avoid children turning up at school to find it closed. "

West Midlands Ambulance Service had about 1,000 extra calls on Monday.

'Knock-on delays'

The incidents ranged from car accidents to people getting hurt while snowballing, with about a quarter of calls about falls, a spokesman said.

Weather forecasters said parts of the West Midlands could experience light snow showers later and over the next few days.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham International Airport said there were a number of "knock-on delays" on Tuesday caused by the effects of the heavy snow on Monday.

The runway was closed for almost three hours on Monday night because of heavy snowfall.

Nine flights were cancelled and another five aircraft due to land at Birmingham were diverted to other airports.

A spokesperson for National Express West Midlands said bus services in the area were operating with minimal disruption.

The spokesperson added that the company would be monitoring the weather and that if the situation got worse, services on side streets would be suspended to keep the main routes running.

Bin collections in Walsall and Solihull were suspended for the second day.

In Dudley, trucks were unable to get to some icy side roads. However, the council said efforts would be made to collect the rubbish there later.



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