Are Our Children Too Soft?

by Pauline McNeil

Borders schools have returned to normal today, but many parents were questioning the need for the school closures in the first place. It had been suggested that health and safety laws were at the root of the decision. But yesterday, Ed Balls, England’s School Secretary, denied this suggestion.

He told The World at One programme on BBC Radio 4 that schools across Britain were closed “…because teachers could not get into schools to open the schools and it was going to be really dangerous for some children trying to make the journeys.

The decision to close  Borders schools on Tuesday was made following severe weather warnings issued by the Met office on Monday afternoon. According to Borders Council Education Director Glenn Rodger, the heaviest snowfall was predicted for Monday night and Tuesday morning,  making the school run particularly difficult. Rodger commented that the welfare of children and staff travelling to school was a priority.

Many Borders children travel long distances to reach their schools, and teachers often have the longest journeys. John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers, said that many teachers were forced to live great distances from their schools because they could not afford to live in the areas where they taught.

Many parents have questioned if closing a school at the warning of heavy snow sends the wrong message to children.  Margaret Morrissey, of the Parents Outloud campaign group thinks so. Her concern is that children given the day off may become adults who think that “when things get difficult you should just stay at home and have fun.

Perhaps concerns are borne out by the estimated loss of £1b to the UK economy due to adults being unable – or unwilling to try – to get to work.