It’s a bit boring perhaps to write predictably about the winter weather, but it’s hard to avoid too, since everyone has been talking about it. The media revert to clichés, true (pictures of children sledging on front pages, interviews with stranded motorists: we know the stories). But it has been unusual, hasn’t it? We had an end-of-Lent Term about six years ago in the North West when suddenly a massive snowfall brought everything to a halt, but since then … not much, in my memory anyway. And here we are at the end of a week which has been bitterly cold, relentlessly snowy, and simply very unusual.
It has, at least, given us all something to talk about … and the meteorologists their moment. And unexpectedly fascinating it is too, looking at scientific modelling of weather. And reminding ourselves that extremes come from climate disturbance. We have, in short, probably got to get used to this kind of thing.
Several camps emerged in education, between the ‘risk-averse’ schools, choosing to close early, especially those with very young children (and including one high-profile ‘cancel school so you can enjoy the snow’ outlier), and the carriers-on. One point that doesn’t seem to have been made is what life lessons we are giving the young if we stop even trying to carry on with life at the sight of snow: are we breeding generations of panickers? If this kind of weather really will occur more often, do we really want to shut up shop so quickly?
We did what I think most independent schools did: we carried on, though stopping after teaching so as hopefully to show responsibility. Friday’s early end was prompted by what turned out to be more panic from Southern Rail, prompted perhaps by some high-profile problems, but perhaps a little overdone. There was in short (we thought) no need to stay late if travel might be tricky, but no need either to cancel school. I think that’s largely because our values are clear and simple: we are here to educate and get on with the job. As with the famous Hep A vaccinations, we can sort stuff out.
Things in these situations are, though, not going to be perfect: lunch has been slower (though relentlessly cheerful), corridors will be draughtier, some stuff can’t take place, we have to be understanding. And I think and hope we have been. We’ve found out some bits of maintenance work which need attention. But we’ve also discovered some things about ourselves.
We’ve discovered, for example, that we have a superbly dedicated staff: teachers setting off at 5 or 6am to get in from Kent or East London, because their job needs doing. That our boys are largely stoical and cheerful: they’ve understood. And I think that we’ve learned that, however lurid the media stories, as long as sensible planning and thought and communications (thank goodness for text and email!) are kept paramount, there isn’t usually any need for a lot of fuss.