I’m looking out at a pretty, white, sparkly garden while I’m writing this, with more flakes gently falling. All it needs is a robin looking at me appealingly (rather than the rather grouchy cat from next door) to make it a perfect Christmas card scene.

Like many schools, we finished early on Friday (11:30 am) due to the weather.  We couldn’t all go home, of course – some pupils had to stay in school until their parents could pick them up, and A-level modular exams were still running.  We sent the person who would have been invigilating the exams off home as she has a long journey – that was a good job, as she only got home three and a half hours later, and had had to walk 5 miles!   A kind colleague who lived locally volunteered to cover it – unfortunately I couldn’t myself, as I’d taught a lot of them, and regulations (understandably) forbid the teacher of the candidates for that subject being the sole invigilator.   I finally got off (along with aforesaid kind colleague) at around 4:15, leaving the Head still there with the remaining two or three pupils. I think people can forget about that sort of aspect of being the Head, sometimes.

Then we had our Open Morning this Saturday! No, we didn’t cancel it – and I’m glad we didn’t, as there were still parents and kids wanting to come round.  Some of the pupils and parents – even those who live some way away – still came in to help out, which was lovely of them.

We were discussing (we had time for that – it was a lot quieter than normal) how things seem to have changed in our attitude to snow.  I know we always feel that winters were colder and summers were hotter in our youth(!) but I do definitely remember going to school when there was really deep snow – I used to wait for a bus on the seafront, and the snow would be piled up high.  Often the buses became a bit unreliable (on one memorable occasion, the bus started to slide back down the hill on the road next to school and we had to push it!) – if that happened, then we started walking. I did end up walking the 5 miles home from school a couple of times – not pleasant, but there wasn’t really an alternative.  I think we also used to play in the snow more – snowball fights with the adjacent boys’ school definitely happened (don’t think health and safety was such a worry then). Being the first person to make footprints in a stretch of virgin snow was always great too (confession – still like doing that now!)   The only time I remember our school closing in bad weather was when the heating broke down during January. Everyone else went home, but I was in the fifth form and we were doing our O-level mocks – so we got to stay and do the exams wearing coats and gloves.

I’m not criticising schools for closing now. The amount of traffic chaos that ensues the minute there’s a bit of snow means that if kids are to get home at a reasonable hour, an early finish is needed. What does seem a huge shame is the number of kids who are driven to school, rather than getting the bus or train, or walking. That, of course, contributes to the traffic chaos – everyone picking up the kids from school in addition to those leaving work early by car.  It also seems to produce kids who are a bit less savvy  – if you are used to waiting for buses in winter, you will dress sensibly, in clothes that are suitable for walking if needs be! Whereas if you only ever walk 10 metres between car and school entrance, wearing light shoes and coats isn’t a problem.  I also think it encourages kids to be a bit more mature and independent if they are getting themselves from A to B, rather than relying on parents, and it can be a good social opportunity too (admittedly not always – I have a distinct memory of having a bad fall-out with the girl who lived near me and got the same bus to school – we spent at least a month conspicuously sitting on different seats!)

We’ll see what transpires this coming week – the forecast isn’t looking great, so things are likely to remain a bit chaotic. It’s always interesting to see who makes it into school and who doesn’t when we’re open, but the weather’s bad. Most of my colleagues always seem to get in, apart from the one or two who live in very outlying areas. Some of the kids make superhuman efforts too. Some don’t… I have a vivid memory a few years ago of a child who lives near me (and so around 40 mins walk from school) telling me she wasn’t able to be in my lesson the previous day due to the weather!

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