Wednesday 11th February 2009 by C. Freeman
Brooke Weston had to shut for two days during recent treacherous weather conditions. In such awful weather obviously the safety of students and staff is of primary importance and so, in line with hundreds of other schools throughout the area, Brooke Weston closed.
In adverse weather conditions the Principal, Miss Stringer, liaises with senior management and the Buildings Management team at 5.30am each day to assess the conditions here. She also consults the bus company, Rodgers for advice on the state of local roads, especially school bus routes. A decision needs to be made quickly before the bus drivers leave the depot at 7am to begin their rounds. The decision whether to run the transport is entirely that of the coach company.
If the site is accessible and safe and the surrounding bus routes are passable then Brooke Weston will remain open. If not, then a decision to close is made and notices are put both on the BW website and the Local Education Authority is informed so that parents have as much advance notice as possible.
Buildings Manager Shaun Houghton said: 'We always check the Met Office website to see whether conditions will improve or worsen. During the snowy weather we used 60 25kg bags of salt on the site in just three days. That amount would normally last all winter. We use it on the slope coming in and all the main car park areas if it's icy, but it takes two or three hours to start working and isn't effective below minus 4 degrees.'
Whether Brooke Weston closes or not, there are always parents who feel that the opposite outcome would have been preferable, especially if Brooke Weston remains open while other schools in the locality are closed. Obviously students come from a wide catchment area and staff can only monitor weather conditions locally; therefore if parents still feel it is unsafe to bring their students to school then they can keep them at home until the situation improves.
Miss Stringer said: 'We, as a staff, make every effort to ensure that our students have safe access to the school. If this is not possible, either because the site or the surrounding roads are dangerous then we will close. We try to remain open if at all possible so that students' studies are disrupted as little as possible. However, if despite all the checks that we carry out, parents still feel it is unsafe to travel to Brooke Weston then of course we will respect their opinion. It is a very difficult decision to close and one that is not made lightly. The management at Brooke Weston have to weigh up a variety of factors before coming to that decision and, in the past few years we have closed only on a few occasions, mainly due to the weather but once because of a power failure.'
'We take our place in the community very seriously and we fully appreciate the difficulties our closure causes parents. However I have learned over this period of prolonged weather disruption that any decision we take does not suit all parents. I would stress that regardless of whether we have chosen to open the College it has to be a parental decision as to whether they send their children to school during inclement weather. Our aim is to ensure that Brooke Weston remains open whenever it is feasible to do so.'