Sunday, 10 January 2010

Are the schools right to stay closed?

A joke that is timeless goes:
The first Jewish president of the United States is elected. He invites his mother to the inauguration. As she lives on the other side of the continent he arranges luxurious transport: Limos, military choppers, Air Force One. The works. At the White-House she is treated like a queen. When she returns home she meets a friend who asks her “I didn’t see you at synagogue, how was your weekend?” to which she answers: “You remember my son the LAWYER? I visited his brother.”

Yes, I come from a culture where education is paramount and the typical coveted career is of the high academic type; such as a scientist, a medical doctor or a lawyer. However, American ambulance chasing has distorted law practice that used to be defending basic freedoms to stifling entrepreneurship and leadership. As has been the case with the closure of work places and schools over the last week. So I have stricken-out Law from my daughters ambition list and added Information Worker. The latter is the job of the future and will be increasingly done by telecommuting (working from home).

Presently, I am working on a project Wales. Some of the people working around me live in very rural settings and it was understandable they could not reach work. However, I observed a clear pattern: the lion’s share of the people who came in were contractors. In other words people who would not have been paid had they stayed home. QED: where there is a will there is a way. To be fair there were a handful of employees who came in. One even walked for about an hour. But they were the exception rather than the rule.

Not convinced most schools in Buckinghamshire could have been open? Well what I experienced today proves that. With great trepidation my wife checked the school closure announcements on the BCC website. She called me over much exited. Basically, the message was that if enough parents showed up today (Sunday) with shovels the school will open. Naturally I was not the only parent to get there well before the allotted hour eager to clear away any excuses. As we worked more arrived. So many parents appeared much more than the minimum required was cleared. See pictures. So, it was not the roads that were a problem, nor the teachers not being able to leave their homes, nor the commute for some of the students – it was the school grounds. I believe, this issue could have been addressed earlier: The parents would have come earlier, community service ‘convicts’ could have been employed, the brownies and scouts could have been brought in, RAF Halton could have been asked to provide volunteers, parents with 4X4 could have lent a hand to getting students and teachers to school and so forth.

However, the item in the Buck Herald “Are the schools right to stay closed?” quotes BCC Councillor Clayton saying that the decision is taken by head teachers. I expect they also take into account the message BBC communicates between the lines as well as what their colleagues do. Contrast these two possible memos from BCC: ”You decide, but if something goes wrong its your head. Here is a list of things that can go wrong;” vs. “It is our patriotic duty to present a positive example and to help the ailing economy by freeing those that can work to do so. Use our British ingenuity, here are some ideas.” Yes, it is a matter of leadership (lack of). Note, There were head teaches that opened their schools if at least five teachers arrived, including the northern most school in Scotland and other areas much more affected than Buckinghamshire.

BCC and AVDC have been too long in the hands of the conservatives. Their majority has induced a certain arrogance and complicacy in their approach to issues. We need new people that will bring enthusiasm, new ideas, originality and some Leadership rather than just doing the minimum legally required.


  1. My school in Norwich is not on a gritted road, neither are the paths. We put down no grit, the playground was covered in snow and ice. We opened every day last week, indeed we were the only school in Norwich to open. All our 50+ staff made it in, some from 35 miles away.

  2. Speaking of lawyers, after living in Europe for some years, where it is customary to deal with snow immediatley, we religiously clear our driveway as soon as it stops snowing, as well as trying to clear the pavement in front of our street as much as possible.
    While clearing the pavement last Saturday aneighbour approached us, suggesting we shouldn't clear the pavement as we might be sued if soemone slips on that very spot.
    Are we victims of ambulance chasing, making us all victims of dangerously slippery pavements for weeks.
    Or is it an excuse to retreat indoors, complain that no one is doing their job, the goverment is failing us, staying off work, closing schools, the list is too long to continue....

  3. You conveniently neglected to mention, as evidenced in your pictures, the huge number of teaching/non-teaching staff and governors that also came to help clear the snow.

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    I wish I could post as a response the face my wife makes when I greet her with "I washed the dishes" or "I cleaned the house" - "So you want a medal?"

    I wonder what your suggestion is on how to decrease the days the schools are closed? I have one - DO NOT STRIKE. Many are still struggling with the effects of the Banking Crisis and loosing a day's work is not a welcome prospect.