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School closures – opening schools in extreme bad weather

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The following guidance document gives schools in Wales advice on whether to remain open or close in extreme bad weather. The guidance is an electronic joint publication from the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA). This guidance includes a generic risk assessment, which can be adopted to suit every school’s circumstances and provides examples of the issues that schools may face, with suggestions on how to tackle them.

Where schools must close, they are advised to consider what distance learning or self-study arrangements can be made for learners in Years 10–13, in order to minimise disruption to examination courses.

Headteachers are also advised to make a dynamic risk assessment for the school, which is regularly updated.

Frequently asked questions

The following are answers to frequently asked questions regarding school closures during severe weather.

  1. The decision on whether a school is to close rests with the headteacher because he/she has day-to-day responsibility for the management of the school day. 
  2. The decision will depend on an assessment of the relevant factors including weather forecasts, the prevailing situation in the area where the school is located, the availability of members of staff, in particular those who have to travel, and the health and safety of both learners and staff. 
  3. The local authority does provide guidelines but the final decision rests with the headteacher. 
  4. Governing bodies have responsibility to have in place a procedure for school closure and to ensure that every member of staff is clear as to their role and responsibility during severe weather. 
  5. All decisions regarding school closures or sending learners home early should be considered in light of the fact that every learner is entitled to receive a minimum of 190 days of school a year.
  6. Should a school close the lost day counts towards the 190 days a school is required by law to open. Lost school sessions only have to be made up if it is reasonably practicable to do so. If it is not, the lost sessions are counted as if they happened. 
  7. The fact that a headteacher cannot reach the school in itself is not an adequate reason for not opening.