Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Parents' concern at school closures during bad weather

A closed school
The big freeze has affected schools across Wales

Concerns have been raised over the impact of school closures on working parents during the big freeze.

Assembly member Leanne Wood said numerous "deeply unhappy" parents had contacted her about the number of schools closed in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

She has written to the education minister to ask whether he intends asking councils to plan "alternative provision" for pupils in bad weather.

RCT council said decisions on school closures lies with head teachers.

She wrote in her letter to Education Minister Leighton Andrews: "I have received numerous representations from parents in RCT who have been deeply unhappy at the decision made by a very large number of schools in the county borough to close over recent days due to the bad weather.

Head teachers...are being urged to keep schools open as far as possible, but they will make prudent decisions based on local circumstances
First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

"Whilst many parents understand that health and safety cannot be compromised, they fail to understand why it was necessary to close the schools on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th January.

"For many workers, taking time off can result in either the loss of pay or the loss of much-cherished holidays.

"I accept that perhaps not all teachers have been able to get to work because many roads have not been cleared, but surely, if some staff can get in, the school could be opened?"

She said people found it difficult to understand why there had been "little or no planning for such a situation".

"I'd be grateful to hear whether you have any plans to issue guidance to local authorities, requesting them to plan alternative provision for school pupils in inclement weather," wrote the South Wales Central AM.

"I'm sure that you'll accept that many families cannot afford to lose any pay, particularly through no fault of their own, and that public bodies should do all they can to ensure minimum disruption in such circumstances."

A Rhondda Cynon Taf Council spokesperson, said the responsibility for closing schools during inclement weather dos not rest with any local authorities in Wales, including Rhondda Cynon Taf.

"The council is therefore unable to comment as to why individual head teachers took the decisions to close their schools last Thursday and Friday (7 and 8 January)."

The spokesperson added: "It would not be possible for the council to make 'blanket' alternative education provision for all pupils of all age ranges attending the 145 schools, as the council does not have the specific curriculum and timetable provision relating to each school, or indeed information relating to each individual pupil. "

The AM said she would raise the issue with First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Mr Jones issued a statement to the assembly on the cold weather on Tuesday.

He said: "Headteachers and governors of schools are being urged to keep schools open as far as possible, but they will make prudent decisions based on local circumstances.

"Local authorities are putting in place arrangements to ensure that examinations scheduled for this week take place as timetabled.

"Some authorities are centralising their examinations in one location and making arrangements to transport candidates to the centre if required. All examination centres in Wales were open yesterday."

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