Parents have been left fuming at headteachers who told their children to play in the snow instead of taking online lessons on Zoom.
As large parts of the UK were hit with snow from Storm Darcy, some headteachers took it upon themselves to call a ‘snow day’ for home school students, scrapping online lessons and telling children to go out sledding instead.
One headteacher boastfully said she ‘didn’t care’ about the reaction from already under pressure working parents, who are struggling to deal with home-schooling as it is.
Another even suggested working parents who had complained about the move were ‘ungrateful’.
Meanwhile the Department of Education today refused to criticise teachers over the move, saying it was down to headteachers to make ‘sensible’ decisions over online learning.
But parents were left fuming, with one asking ‘can teachers stoop any lower?’.
The row comes as today council bosses begged for more students to be home-schooled because classes for key worker children – who are still going in for face-to-face lessons – are currently ‘over-capacity’.
As large parts of the UK were hit with snow from Storm Darcy, some headteachers took it upon themselves to call a ‘snow day’ for home school students, scrapping online lessons and telling children to go out sledding instead (pictured: A child enjoys the snow at Thorpe Bay, Essex today)
One headteacher to call a ‘snow day’ for her online students was Principal Clare Greene from Eastcote Primary Academy, in Bexley, London.
Writing on Twitter, she said: ‘Looking forward to a snow day. Online learning tasks include making a snowman and having a snowball fight.’
Responding to a tweet about another ‘snow day’ school closure, she said: ‘The remote learning tasks will be: make a snowman, go sledging, have a snowball fight and show me a pic of a snow angel. I’m sure one parent will complain, I just don’t care.’
The school is run by the Leigh Academy Trust, who were approached for comment. But the trust told MailOnline that the school was open yesterday.
In a statement, they said: ‘The school was open yesterday to the children of key workers and vulnerable children and those children not in attendance were undertaking remote learning from home as normal.
‘Whilst we would never stop children playing in the snow at home we would not encourage it as an alternative to taking part in online learning.’
The trust added the tweet was on an account not linked to her work and was not designed to be seen by parents.
In a thread of Tweets, other headteachers also rushed to praise schools for stopping online learning due to snow.
Sue Blyth, a headteacher at Fourfields School Community School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at parents who had complained about the decision at her school.
She said: ‘We also did this and then had some parents complain they hadn’t got time to let their children play in the snow because of their full time work! There was a proper Facebook moan about it!
‘Fortunately most families were grateful.’
Another, Ryan Forwood, a PE teacher, said: ‘Very proud that our school took that approach also and also had a lovely email saying please do not feel any pressure to be ‘on it’ today and they’d much rather we enjoyed this unique weather with your family where you can. I thought this was awesome!’
Others praised the decision to stop online learning as ‘brave’. One, an English teacher, said: ‘A school in our area (not ours) called an old fashioned ‘snow day’ and set the following tasks for the day: build a snow man; have a socially distanced good natured snow ball fight; send in snow pictures.
‘A brave head who has the well-being of her staff and students as a priority.’
But among anger from parents, a Department for Education spokesperson appeared to back teachers.
Storm Darcy causes chaos on Britain’s ice rink roads: Police warn people not to travel as vaccine centres and schools close again with SIX inches of snow set to fall today
Storm Darcy has been causing chaos on Britain’s roads this morning as weather experts warn six more inches of snow could be on its way later today along with a -7C chill.
Police have warned people not to travel due to the dangerous conditions on the roads, while some schools and Covid vaccination centres will shut.
It comes as the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for up to 15cm (6in) of snow to fall in eastern parts of the country later.
In Suffolk, police helped after a white van driver crashed into a tree near Stowmarket after coming off the road in the snowy conditions
There have already been depths of 30cm in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, 23cm in Andrewsfield, Essex and 14cm in Manston, Kent.
Stirling and Perth in Scotland remain under an an amber warning today, putting the area at a higher risk of power cuts, while rural communities could be cut off with delays on roads likely.
Icy conditions in Glasgow overnight were captured by passers-by, as they filmed cars losing control at the top of the hill before skidding down toward other crashed vehicles.
Temperatures dropped to -8C on Monday as a ‘bitterly cold’ weather system swept in from Ukraine and the Black Sea.
They are expected to reach -7C today, before dropping as low as -12C overnight in the early hours of Wednesday morning. There were temperatures as low as -15C in some parts of Scotland overnight.
Covid vaccine centres in parts of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk shut their doors.
Hundreds of schools, which had previously been open for the children of key workers, shut yesterday due to snow and will remain shut today.
Disruption has also hit rail services, with Southeastern advising passengers not to travel and Greater Anglia expecting disruption until midday.
A foot of snow has already been reported in Tendring, Essex, while drifts of up to three feet have been reported in parts of East Anglia.
A spokesperson said: ‘Schools and teachers are working tremendously hard at delivering remote education while pupils learn from home, and we know that they have been doing an excellent job with students around the country benefiting.
‘Schools are expected to offer 3-5 hours per day of remote education for pupils, dependent on Key Stage, including time for independent study and also either recorded or live direct teaching.’
Asked directly if the department was backing the decision, a spokesperson added: ‘We expect schools to make sensible decisions on it based on their situation and we expect a certain amount of online learning to take place when it is possible.’
The ‘snow day’ row came as Storm Darcy blanketed large parts of the UK in snow, causing chaos on Britain’s roads, sparking physical school closures and forcing vaccination centres to shut.
And weather experts warn six more inches of snow could be on its way later today along with a -7C chill.
Police have warned people not to travel due to the dangerous conditions.
Meanwhile, council bosses have today begged for more students to be home schooled because so many parents have asked to send their children to school during lockdown.
A number of schools across the county are said to be over-subscribed, due to the number of parents who qualify as critical workers during the third national lockdown.
A letter, sent to parents and carers of county pupils by Jane Moore – director of children and family services at Leicestershire County Council – has urged them to teach their children at home if they can.
In the letter, she wrote: ‘Across Leicestershire we are seeing an increasing number of children requiring an onsite school place and, in some places, this is greater than the school’s capacity.
‘The key message from government is to keep your child at home if you possibly can, even if you are a critical worker.
‘To keep both pupils and staff safe, the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Local Resilience Forum (LLR) have set out a guide for school leaders to ensure that those most in need of a place can access one.’
Yesterday it was revealed Unions were pushing back at plans to extend the school year in England as Boris Johnson vowed to go ‘flat out’ to help children catch up.
The PM said getting pupils’ learning on track was the government’s ‘single biggest priority’ amid fears the most vulnerable have fallen even further behind during the pandemic.
The comments came after it emerged ministers are looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter.
Study during the warmer months could be easier as windows and doors can be kept open in school buildings to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
A new study has found that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds found remote learning significantly more difficult than other students last year.
However, unions have signalled they will oppose the changes, insisting parents are ‘craving getting back to normal’.
On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire this afternoon, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon.
‘We have got to work flat out now as a country as a society to remedy the loss of learning that we have had,’ he said.
The extension is being considered as No10 insisted that the worrying news about the AstraZeneca being less effective against the South African variant had not changed plans to get children back in classrooms from March 8.
Many schools across England are due to break up for the summer holidays on Friday July 23.
A two-week extension would therefore see pupils continuing to attend class during the first week of August.
The government is looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter (file picture)
On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire this afternoon, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon
Asked on a round of interviews this morning whether ministers are considering making the summer term longer, health minister Edward Argar told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s quite right that Gavin (Williamson, the Education Secretary) is looking at a whole range of things to see how we can make sure the impact on them is minimised to the extent that’s possible.
‘But it would be premature for me to comment on what may or may not be what he does announce.’
Unions accused of ‘highjacking’ pandemic to push for pay rises
Britain’s biggest teaching union has been accused of ‘hijacking’ the coronavirus crisis to push for pay rises and long-term perks while the educations of millions of children are shipwrecked.
The National Education Union (NEU) is including pay increases in ‘key demands’ and bosses have called for any reduction in class sizes to be ‘long-term’ – not just for social distancing during the pandemic.
Union leaders congratulated their members for getting schools closed down, claiming it was their threats to not turn up to class which led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson shutting schools in England in January.
The NEU came under fire from furious Tory backbenchers after a ‘gloating’ email from the union to its 500,000 members was leaked which told them ‘You did it!’ as the third national lockdown was announced.
The union, which has described the pandemic as a ‘turning point’ in relations between teachers and Downing Street, has thwarted every proposal by the government to get children back into classrooms.
Now it has set out ‘key demands for all workplaces’ in a five-point ‘Covid bulletin’ to reps which calls for a ‘permanent’ and ‘automatic’ pay rise, an end to work assessments during the coronavirus crisis, risk assessments, and extra time to plan, prepare and assess students’ work.
Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest.
The Prime Minister has said he will publish a lockdown exit strategy later this month amid mounting pressure from Tory MPs to bring forward a return to classrooms.
Changing the school year is one of a number of options reportedly being looked at by Number 10 as the Government develops its plans to help students catch up on lost time.
Government sources made clear that no decisions have been taken at this stage.
But there are reports the two weeks of lost summer holidays could be added to the autumn half-term and the Christmas holidays.
Extending those holidays would also provide a longer so-called ‘fire break’ in the colder months, providing more time for infections to fall.
As the policy work continues, resarch by non-profit body ImpactEd again highlighted the damage to the prospects of children.
Its study monitored 62,000 pupils in England through eight months of 2020 to assess the effect of online schooling during the pandemic.
Their report, Lockdown Lessons, found that among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – those at schools eligible for the Government’s Pupil Premium grant – only 45 per cent said they understood their schoolwork in lockdown, compared with 57% among other students.
The survey assessed pupils using a range of measures including their home learning environment, their metacognitive strategies and their learning habits, in order to determine a ‘Covid-19 Learning Index’.
It found pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds gave their home environment a 6% lower score than other students and reported lower scores on metacognition, leading to a sharply lower Covid-19 Learning Index score of 3.21 compared with 3.35 from non-disadvantaged pupils.
‘Across all of these learning measures, and those associated with wellbeing, students eligible for Pupil Premium reported worse than average outcomes,’ the report said, adding disadvantaged students had also scored 5 per cent lower on questions about their resilience.
The report’s authors recommended that ‘post-lockdown support should be carefully evaluated to ensure that pupils who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are benefiting’.
‘If interventions are not having the desired effect, they should be stopped,’ the report said.
The survey also found pupil wellbeing overall across the first period of lockdown was perhaps not as adversely affected as feared.
Using a 35-point scale, the average score for wellbeing was 23.8 in May, 24.1 in June, and 24.0 in July, compared with a pre-lockdown score of 23.6.
Pupils in years 10 and 11 reported the greatest challenges with motivation, the survey said, a condition which did not improve after lockdown.
The PM visited a vaccination hub in Derbyshire today as the UK rollout continues
Education secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at ways of helping children catch up
Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest
A quarter of KS4 pupils complained they could not attain help from their families if they had questions about their schoolwork.
Furthermore, 40 per cent of these students said they did not have a routine which helped them learn, according to the study, which also found pupils who exercised regularly were more likely – 58 per cent to 33 per cent – to report they had developed a positive learning routine.
Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, told Sunday Times that the change to the school year is under consideration by ministers.
He said: ‘We have to reform the school year. There has to be change; things cannot carry on the way they did pre-Covid. From my discussions with No10, everything is up for debate.’
The Welsh government has already suggested it could move to extend the summer term.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that some private schools are preparing similar plans.
Some private schools are looking at bringing forward the Easter holidays to make more time for the summer term.
Geoff Barton, from the ASCL head teachers’ union, said changes to the school year should not happen now.
He said: ‘It’s nice to think about doing things differently, and this is the moment to rethink them. But anyone trying to force that through this summer will find people are just craving getting back to normal.’
It emerged last week that ministers are also considering plans to extend the school day.
The idea is being pushed by some Tory MPs and the Government is said to be receptive to it.
However, teaching unions have urged ministers to reject the proposals, claiming there are ‘better methods’ to help pupils catch up on lost time in the classroom.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: ‘Research evidence shows that there are better methods to help pupils than lengthening the school day.
‘The Government must filter out loud calls for superficially attractive schemes and listen to the experts instead.’
Should teaching unions try to stand in the way of the move if the Government adopts the proposals, volunteers could cover the extended lessons, according to The Times.
Downing Street said last Friday that the Government is working with teachers and parents on catch-up plans, adding: ‘The PM acknowledges that extended schools closures have had a huge impact on pupils’ learning which will clearly take time to make up.’
Mr Johnson last week refused to bow to demands to bring forward the reopening of schools.