All schools should stay open despite the strike disruption

Morning View
Morning View

It is important that schools stay open tomorrow.

The easy decision would be to call off classes, amid the cancelled public transport services and the absence of support staff who are joining the strike in some schools.

The disruption caused by the cancellation of bus and train services is all the more reason why schools must stay open.

Many parents will be having a stressful enough day getting to work, without the added trauma of looking after their children because their school has been closed.

During the cold weather earlier this year, an unacceptably high number of schools in Northern Ireland took the decision to close. Schools must make every effort to open in severe winter weather, unless for an extreme reason such as a complete breakdown in their heating system.

During the closures in January, dubious concerns were raised about safety assessments and so on, to justify closure. But rarely will the risk facing a child from being at, or travelling to, a school in cold weather outweigh the risks from what children get up to when they have a sudden day off, such as playing outside or walking to public places.

Even if a school has significantly reduced staffing, due to weather or travel disruption, it should be able to operate by improvising, such as with temporarily increased class sizes.

In the same way that there is a culture in some workplaces of employees taking sick leave more readily than they should, there are always some people who are quicker than others to seize a reason to miss work altogether.

High levels of sick leave and low levels of staff performance management in the civil service are reasons to doubt Friday’s strike rationale – so-called pressures on the public sector.

It is to be hoped that on Friday all schools in Northern Ireland reflect the spirit of principals such as Neill Morton, the head of Portora Royal in Enniskillen, who can see no reason to close the school doors, and who does not normally close the school due to snow either.