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Big freeze shuts schools for the day in Leicester and Leicestershire

More than 170 schools were shut yesterday due to the snow and freezing conditions.

In Leicester, more than half – 70 schools out of 107 – were either closed or only partially open, to those taking exams.

In the county, 108 out of 286 schools were shut.

Some of the closures were put down to unsafe conditions, while others were made as staff and pupils were unable to make it in.

Education spokesmen for both the city and county councils said they respected head teachers' decision to close.

Councillor Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor for children, young people and schools, said: "Closing schools is not a decision that head teachers take lightly.

"They are very aware that closing a school will create disruption for working families.

"It also means children are losing a day's education.

"However, this has to be balanced against issues of staffing and safety. The snowfall in Leicestershire this weekend was heavy.

"This will impact on all schools in similar ways, so I'm not surprised that so many head teachers across the city and county have made the same decision."

Councillor Ivan Ould, the county council's schools spokesman, said: "I expect heads to consult with the chairman of their governing body and make a decision that's based on what's best for students, staff and parents.

"Conditions are hazardous and I know commercial buses have had to change routes over the weekend to account for this.

"Head teachers have intimate knowledge of where their children and staff are coming from so it's only right they make the final decision."

Alderman Richard Hallam, in Beaumont Leys – one of the largest city primaries, with 671 pupils – was among schools open yesterday.

Head teacher Jim McGovan said: "I'm incredibly grateful to staff who came in early to help make sure the paths were kept clear.

"A lot of our parents are health professionals who work in the local hospital, so we know how important it is to stay open to keep vital services running."

Belgrave St Peter's School, in Leicester, St Peter's Church of England Primary, in Whetstone, and Marriott Primary, in Saffron Lane, Leicester, were also among the schools that opened.

Youngsters at Belgrave St Peter's made the most of the snow by taking part in a competition to build the best snowman.

A school spokeswoman said: "The decision to open was based on ensuring parents were not inconvenienced, although some pupils were still unable to make it."

Michael Bailey, head teacher of St Peter's, in Whetstone, travelled from his home in Market Harborough to make sure the school opened.

He said: "We've got about 75 per cent of our 234 children in today. I'm fortunate most of our pupils walk to school and we're near a main road.

"I know it can be much more difficult for other schools, however, and it's very much dependent on their location.

"I live the furthest away of any of my staff and I knew that if I could make it, then they should also be able, too."

Marriott Primary stayed open but planned to shut early to allow staff and children to get home in good time.

Chris Hassall, head of Taylor Road Primary, in St Matthew's, Leicester, made the decision to shut.

Mr Hassall, who was at the school at 5am yesterday to check conditions, said: "At least four teachers live 30 miles away and I have a duty of care to them. But we'll be open as normal today."

Rachel Dickinson, strategic director for children at the city council, said most schools were expected to reopen today.

Businesses across the city and county were also affected by the big freeze.

Kevin Harris, a senior partner at Cooper Parry business advisers in Leicester, was among many working from home yesterday.

He said: "People have the ability to work remotely now."

RELATED ARTICLE: See the full list of school closures today -Tuesday, January 22.

Big freeze shuts  schools for the day in Leicester and Leicestershire

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