Council leader attacks closure of schools due to snow, saying they have 'no excuses'

Camilla Turner
A closed sign hangs on the gate of a school following snow fall - REUTERS

A council leader has attacked the closure of dozens of schools on account of snow, saying they have “no excuses” as roads are "perfectly passable". 

More than 30 schools around Swindon, Wilts were closed this week amid staff shortages during the cold snap.

David Renard, the Conservative leader of Swindon Council said: “There are no excuses that so many Swindon schools are closed when the roads are perfectly passable causing huge inconvenience to parents”.   He added that gritting crews “have done a great job over the weekend keeping our main routes clear. Getting around Town has been easy.”

 Cllr Renard was challenged by people who accused him of "publicly judging" the schools for putting safety first and acting in the best interests of staff and pupils.

Jim Robbins, a fellow Swindon councillor, also criticised the leader’s remarks, saying they “beggar belief”.

“I know how much headteachers and senior staff struggle over these tough decisions, weighing up the chances of staff coming in from long distances, how the weather will be, how icy the schools and paths may be, and will there be sufficient numbers of staff available to offer safe staff/student ratios?” he said.

“For the council leader to write such an ill-informed tweet, especially when he used to be the cabinet member in charge of children’s’ services and schools, beggars belief.” 

 Cllr Renard was challenged by people who accused him of "publicly judging" schools  Credit: Barry Batchelor

Cllr Renard maintained that his top priority was the “interests of the children and parents”, adding: “You can’t get an education if you’re not at school, and plenty of other schools have opened.” 

On Tuesday  hundreds of schools around the country remained closed after the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) told staff not to come into work if they felt it would be unsafe to travel.    

The NAHT's general secretary advised its members that they should only travel to work if they could do so safely, but urged school leaders to not to leave parents “in the lurch” with poor communication.  

On Monday more than 2,700 schools were closed, with Birmingham town hall chiefs ordering all council-run schools to stay shut.   

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT said: "Schools should stay open if you possibly can but safety concerns are the most important. If it’s not safe for the school to be open then it is fine to close. It is a safety issue for us first and foremost. 

“It is always about putting children safety first, and for schools to communicate with parents early, so that parents are not left in the lurch."