Snow Joke: Severe Weather Planning

Earlier this week (w/b 9/1/17) an off-the-cuff comment about snow became my most ‘liked’ tweet ever:

Today I made sure our severe weather closure procedures were in place. Absolute guarantee that not a single snowflake will fall on school.

I’m glad that so many people liked it but, joking apart, here’s what some of that planning actually was.

Verifying our priorities for partial closure if necessary. We’re an all-through school so we would prioritise nursery and primary pupils where parents would find it difficult to organise childcare or time off work at short notice. The next priority is students in exam years. We would redeploy staff as necessary. We also check which colleagues are most likely to have transport difficulties in the event of severe weather.

Checking the communication cascade for staff. We use a text/phone cascade to communicate quickly to all colleagues if we have to partially or fully close. This uses our line management structure so we checked that everyone had the up to date details they needed. Better to check before the weather turns!

Checking contractors. We have a contract in place for snow clearance on campus. Worth checking they were ready for a possible snowfall. Similarly checking our own provision – salt, grit, etc.

Parental communication. Checking and where necessary updating draft messages ready to be sent out by text, email and website. Just as well we did, version we had was dated 2013 and from previous Head! We also checked that procedures for contacting the LA and local media were up to date, including current code words for local radio stations.

Snow Rules. Check what advice and rules need to be in place for snowfall, in addition to our code of conduct, so we can enjoy snow safely.

Update work for students in the event of snow closure. This is our current advice which would be posted on our website and emailed out in the event of a closure. We like to think it is both productive and fun:

Work in the event of a Snow Closure

You should aim to gain at least 16 points from a mix of the following activities.

 Individual work:Please check Show My Homework and Doddle to see if your teachers have set you individual or class tasks. 1 point per 15 minutes

Art:​​ 3D Sculpture. Keeping warm and working safely, build a snow sculpture to a design of your choosing. You can work on your own or with others. Take a photo of your completed sculpture or draw it. If there isn’t enough snow, sketch a design for a sculpture. 4 points

English: Persuasive Writing. The decision to close schools because of heavy snowfall is sometimes controversial. Write an argument for or against closing schools for this reason. You must consider both sides of the debate. 6 points

Points to consider:

• Health & safety of pupils

• Ability of pupils and school staff to travel to school safely

• Impact on parents of having to miss work to look after children

Faith in Action:Snow can be a lot of fun, but for some people such as the elderly, it can create real difficulties. Design a poster, leaflet or radio/TV ad about helping elderly relatives or neighbours during winter. If you can help out someone in need, please do, but only if you know them and with permission of your parent/carer. 4 points.

French / German:​ Linguascope. Please log at least 30 minutes of Linguascope activity. 1 point for every 15 minutes.

Maths:​ Mymaths. Please log at least 30 minutes of activity on MyMaths. Your teacher will receive an update of your progress. 1 point for every 15 minutes.

PE:​ Aerobic exercise. Keeping warm and staying safe, do at least 30 minutes aerobic exercise including any of the following activities:

• Snowballing

• Sledging

• Building snow sculptures

• Making snow angels

If there isn’t enough snow for this, design a 30 minute winter aerobic exercise workout. 4 points

Science​: Use your knowledge of states of matter to predict the volume of liquid produced from a volume of liquid snow. Use a measuring jug, old drinks bottle, etc. to test your hypothesis. Record your results. 4 points.

ICT​: Tweet a message about your work using the hashtag #stgregorysnow or email a message to Dr Caseby: r.caseby@dbmac.org.uk with ‘stgregorysnow’ as the subject header.1 point each, max 3 points.


Postscript

14/1/17. After all that planning, as I predicted in my tweet, we didn’t have any significant snowfall last week; what there was quickly turned to slush. I am now being blamed by several colleagues for ‘jinxing the snow day’!

10/12/17. However, at the other end of 2017, it all turned out to be worthwhile, because on Monday we’re having to close because of… snow!

Comments are always welcome. I’d be interested to know what work or activities other schools set in the event of a snow day.

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Chalking the doors: the importance of a welcome

This Friday we started the school day by marking Epiphany with the Christian tradition of chalking the doors. Each lintel or door was chalked with:

20+C+M+B+17

This isn’t a mathematical formula, but a blessing on all those who enter, ‘CMB’ standing for Christus Mansionem Benedictat – may Christ bless the house – and also the traditional names of the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.

I work in a Catholic school and this is a tradition particular to some branches of Chritianity, but it felt very special to offer a blessing to students as they entered a classroom, or to colleagues in an admin area or office. Relationships are at the heart of any school community and the first step in forming positive relationships is making people feel welcome.

We encourage all teachers to welcome students into classrooms each lesson, trying as much as possible to timetable each colleague into one room. As well as a verbal greeting, welcome message on the board can also be a nice touch. Displays featuring children’s work shows them they are valued, as well as providing exemplars. Several colleagues rotate work on a continually updated ‘wall of fame’.

This welcome becomes all the more important for new pupils arriving mid-year, especially those who don’t have English as a first language. We have an orientation day for new students and our EAL department will work with them and their family or carers on an initial programme to support their language needs. This enables all staff to receive a single-page profile of the pupil before they commence classes.

One of the many advantages of being a very diverse school community is that whatever first language a new pupil has we can usually ‘buddy’ them up with someone who speaks it. The new pupil is placed in a tutor group and, where possible, classes with their buddy. Staff are informed who the buddy is on the new student profile.

We need to be particularly aware when pupils have experienced trauma before arriving, such as being refugees.  I have written about supporting children who are refugees, and the problems they can face once in Britain here. One thing we always do is warn staff to be careful when using media such as news articles and films that depict conflict.

These are some of the ways we extend our welcome, from the planned induction of a new pupil to the daily interactions across the whole community. We hope this makes coming into class feel like a blessing, not just at the start of the year but every day.

Constructive comments are always welcome. I’d particularly like to hear about other ways of extending a welcome in school.