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Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Parents have been left fuming at headteachers who told their children to play in the snow instead of taking online lessons on Zoom.

As large parts of the UK were hit with snow from Storm Darcy, some headteachers took it upon themselves to call a ‘snow day’ for home school students, scrapping online lessons and telling children to go out sledding instead.

One school leader boastfully said she ‘didn’t care’ about the reaction from already under pressure working parents, many of whom are struggling to deal with home-schooling as it is. Another even suggested working parents who had complained about the move were ‘ungrateful’.  

The row comes amid a huge clash between the Government and teaching unions ahead of the full reopening of schools in England after lockdown – with the Government currently pinpointing March 8 as a return date.

The Government also plans to extend the school year in England, with Boris Johnson vowing to go ‘flat out’ to help children catch up on lost learning during lockdown.

But unions last night pushed back at the proposals, insisting parents are ‘craving getting back to normal’, as they also faced accusations of using to Covid pandemic to ‘push for pay rises’.

Meanwhile council bosses today begged for more students to be home-schooled because classes for key worker children – who are still going in for face-to-face lessons – are currently ‘over-capacity’.  

As large parts of the UK were hit with snow from Storm Darcy, some headteachers took it upon themselves to call a ‘snow day’ for home school students, scrapping online lessons and telling children to go out sledding instead (pictured: A child enjoys the snow at Farthing Common today)

Sue Blyth (pictured), headteacher at Fourfields School Community School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at parents who had complained about the decision to have a 'snow day' at the school

Sue Blyth (pictured), headteacher at Fourfields School Community School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at parents who had complained about the decision to have a ‘snow day’ at the school

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

The blazing row over schools raged as one headteacher said she wanted to call a ‘snow day’ for her online students.

Principal Clare Greene from Eastcote Primary Academy, in Bexley, London, said on Twitter: ‘Looking forward to a snow day. Online learning tasks include making a snowman and having a snowball fight.’

Storm Darcy causes chaos on Britain’s ice rink roads: Police warn people not to travel as vaccine centres and schools close again with SIX inches of snow set to fall today 

Storm Darcy has been causing chaos on Britain’s roads this morning as weather experts warn six more inches of snow could be on its way later today along with a -7C chill.

Police have warned people not to travel due to the dangerous conditions on the roads, while some schools and Covid vaccination centres will shut.

It comes as the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for up to 15cm (6in) of snow to fall in eastern parts of the country later.

In Suffolk, police helped after a white van driver crashed into a tree near Stowmarket after coming off the road in the snowy conditions

In Suffolk, police helped after a white van driver crashed into a tree near Stowmarket after coming off the road in the snowy conditions

There have already been depths of 30cm in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, 23cm in Andrewsfield, Essex and 14cm in Manston, Kent.

Stirling and Perth in Scotland remain under an an amber warning today, putting the area at a higher risk of power cuts, while rural communities could be cut off with delays on roads likely.

Icy conditions in Glasgow overnight were captured by passers-by, as they filmed cars losing control at the top of the hill before skidding down toward other crashed vehicles.

Temperatures dropped to -8C on Monday as a ‘bitterly cold’ weather system swept in from Ukraine and the Black Sea.

They are expected to reach -7C today, before dropping as low as -12C overnight in the early hours of Wednesday morning. There were temperatures as low as -15C in some parts of Scotland overnight.

Covid vaccine centres in parts of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk shut their doors.

Hundreds of schools, which had previously been open for the children of key workers, shut yesterday due to snow and will remain shut today.

Disruption has also hit rail services, with Southeastern advising passengers not to travel and Greater Anglia expecting disruption until midday. 

A foot of snow has already been reported in Tendring, Essex, while drifts of up to three feet have been reported in parts of East Anglia.

Responding to a tweet about another online ‘snow day’, she said: ‘The remote learning tasks will be: make a snowman, go sledging, have a snowball fight and show me a pic of a snow angel. I’m sure one parent will complain, I just don’t care.’

The school is run by the Leigh Academy Trust, who were approached for comment. But the trust told MailOnline that the school was open yesterday.

In a statement, they said: ‘The school was open yesterday to the children of key workers and vulnerable children and those children not in attendance were undertaking remote learning from home as normal.  

‘Whilst we would never stop children playing in the snow at home we would not encourage it as an alternative to taking part in online learning.’

The trust added the tweet was on an account not linked to her work and was not designed to be seen by parents.

In a thread of Tweets, other headteachers also rushed to praise schools for stopping online learning due to snow.

Sue Blyth, a headteacher at Fourfields School Community School in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, took a swipe at parents who had complained about the decision at her school.

She said: ‘We also did this and then had some parents complain they hadn’t got time to let their children play in the snow because of their full time work! There was a proper Facebook moan about it!

‘Fortunately most families were grateful.’

Another, Ryan Forwood, a PE teacher, said: ‘Very proud that our school took that approach also and also had a lovely email saying please do not feel any pressure to be ‘on it’ today and they’d much rather we enjoyed this unique weather with your family where you can. I thought this was awesome!’

Others praised the decision to stop online learning as ‘brave’. One, an English teacher, said: ‘A school in our area (not ours) called an old fashioned ‘snow day’ and set the following tasks for the day: build a snow man; have a socially distanced good natured snow ball fight; send in snow pictures.

‘A brave head who has the well-being of her staff and students as a priority.’ 

But among anger from parents, a Department for Education spokesperson appeared to back teachers.

A spokesperson said: ‘Schools and teachers are working tremendously hard at delivering remote education while pupils learn from home, and we know that they have been doing an excellent job with students around the country benefiting.

‘Schools are expected to offer 3-5 hours per day of remote education for pupils, dependent on Key Stage, including time for independent study and also either recorded or live direct teaching.’

Asked directly if the department was backing the decision, a spokesperson added: ‘We expect schools to make sensible decisions on it based on their situation and we expect a certain amount of online learning to take place when it is possible.’ 

The ‘snow day’ row came as Storm Darcy blanketed large parts of the UK in snow, causing chaos on Britain’s roads, sparking physical school closures and forcing vaccination centres to shut.

And weather experts warn six more inches of snow could be on its way later today along with a -7C chill.

Police have warned people not to travel due to the dangerous conditions. 

Meanwhile, council bosses have today begged for more students to be home schooled because so many parents have asked to send their children to school during lockdown.

A number of schools across the county are said to be over-subscribed, due to the number of parents who qualify as critical workers during the third national lockdown.

A letter, sent to parents and carers of county pupils by Jane Moore – director of children and family services at Leicestershire County Council – has urged them to teach their children at home if they can.

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

In the letter, she wrote: ‘Across Leicestershire we are seeing an increasing number of children requiring an onsite school place and, in some places, this is greater than the school’s capacity.

Single mother says she is suffering from depression after being forced to take unpaid leave to home school her son 

A single mother says she is suffering from depression after being forced to take unpaid leave to home school her son because her bosses refused to furlough her.

The mother – who does not want to be named for fear of losing her job – is one of more than 2,000 parents who have had their requests to be furloughed refused amid lockdown this year.

The job retention scheme currently allows bosses to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare while schools remain closed to all but vulnerable children or those of key workers.

But it is at the employer’s discretion whether or not to grant them furlough – which would see parents receive 80 per cent of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.

Nearly 80 per cent of working mothers who asked to be furloughed for childcare reasons since schools shut have been refused, a survey by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) found.

Meanwhile, some 90 per cent had seen their anxiety and stress levels increase during the latest lockdown – while almost half were worried about being treated negatively by their employers because of their childcare responsibilities.

Employers are now being warned they face an imminent ‘mental health crisis’ and could be guilty of sex discrimination if they refuse to furlough parents.

Earlier this week, Analise La-Band – a chartered occupational psychologist and mother-of-two – revealed had to quit her job last summer in order to teach her children at home as schools closed during lockdown.

Issues sourcing childcare is a valid reason for employers to offer full-time or part-time furlough to staff unable to work their full contracted hours.

However, thousands of struggling mothers are getting turned down by bosses.

One single mother from Hull said: ‘Being a single mum I had no childcare and was worried and my anxiety was not good, so I asked my company for furlough.

‘They point-blank refused because they are still open and do not want to be taking on a cover person and furlough me as well.

‘But if they did it’s the Government that would be paying me so I am confused as to why its not an option. But I’m a “leave it alone” person rather than a fighter.

‘I am constantly worrying about work and depression is taking over my life.

‘I believe its not a difficult solution due to my circumstances but I have had to go to HR but they have told me similar.

‘So I am very close to be handing my notice in. That won’t help financially but my son comes [before] work.’

‘The key message from government is to keep your child at home if you possibly can, even if you are a critical worker.

‘To keep both pupils and staff safe, the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Local Resilience Forum (LLR) have set out a guide for school leaders to ensure that those most in need of a place can access one.’

Yesterday it was revealed Unions were pushing back at plans to extend the school year in England as Boris Johnson vowed to go ‘flat out’ to help children catch up.  

The PM said getting pupils’ learning on track was the government’s ‘single biggest priority’ amid fears the most vulnerable have fallen even further behind during the pandemic.

The comments came after it emerged ministers are looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter. 

Study during the warmer months could be easier as windows and doors can be kept open in school buildings to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.

A new study has found that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds found remote learning significantly more difficult than other students last year.

However, unions have signalled they will oppose the changes, insisting parents are ‘craving getting back to normal’.

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire yesterday, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon.

‘We have got to work flat out now as a country as a society to remedy the loss of learning that we have had,’ he said. 

The extension is being considered as No10 insisted that the worrying news about the AstraZeneca being less effective against the South African variant had not changed plans to get children back in classrooms from March 8. 

Many schools across England are due to break up for the summer holidays on Friday July 23. 

A two-week extension would therefore see pupils continuing to attend class during the first week of August. 

Asked on a round of interviews this morning whether ministers are considering making the summer term longer, health minister Edward Argar told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s quite right that Gavin (Williamson, the Education Secretary) is looking at a whole range of things to see how we can make sure the impact on them is minimised to the extent that’s possible.

‘But it would be premature for me to comment on what may or may not be what he does announce.’  

Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest. 

The Prime Minister has said he will publish a lockdown exit strategy later this month amid mounting pressure from Tory MPs to bring forward a return to classrooms. 

Changing the school year is one of a number of options reportedly being looked at by Number 10 as the Government develops its plans to help students catch up on lost time. 

Government sources made clear that no decisions have been taken at this stage. 

But there are reports the two weeks of lost summer holidays could be added to the autumn half-term and the Christmas holidays. 

The government is looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter (file picture)

The government is looking at continuing the summer term for another two weeks, with the holiday time redistributed to existing breaks in the autumn and winter (file picture)

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire yesterday, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Derbyshire yesterday, Mr Johnson said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be announcing a full catch-up blueprint soon

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Extending those holidays would also provide a longer so-called ‘fire break’ in the colder months, providing more time for infections to fall. 

Unions accused of ‘highjacking’ pandemic to push for pay rises  

Britain’s biggest teaching union has been accused of ‘hijacking’ the coronavirus crisis to push for pay rises and long-term perks while the educations of millions of children are shipwrecked.

The National Education Union (NEU) is including pay increases in ‘key demands’ and bosses have called for any reduction in class sizes to be ‘long-term’ – not just for social distancing during the pandemic.

Union leaders congratulated their members for getting schools closed down, claiming it was their threats to not turn up to class which led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson shutting schools in England in January.

The NEU came under fire from furious Tory backbenchers after a ‘gloating’ email from the union to its 500,000 members was leaked which told them ‘You did it!’ as the third national lockdown was announced.

The union, which has described the pandemic as a ‘turning point’ in relations between teachers and Downing Street, has thwarted every proposal by the government to get children back into classrooms.

Now it has set out ‘key demands for all workplaces’ in a five-point ‘Covid bulletin’ to reps which calls for a ‘permanent’ and ‘automatic’ pay rise, an end to work assessments during the coronavirus crisis, risk assessments, and extra time to plan, prepare and assess students’ work. 

As the policy work continues, research by non-profit body ImpactEd again highlighted the damage to the prospects of children.  

Its study monitored 62,000 pupils in England through eight months of 2020 to assess the effect of online schooling during the pandemic.

Their report, Lockdown Lessons, found that among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds – those at schools eligible for the Government’s Pupil Premium grant – only 45 per cent said they understood their schoolwork in lockdown, compared with 57% among other students.

The survey assessed pupils using a range of measures including their home learning environment, their metacognitive strategies and their learning habits, in order to determine a ‘Covid-19 Learning Index’.

It found pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds gave their home environment a 6% lower score than other students and reported lower scores on metacognition, leading to a sharply lower Covid-19 Learning Index score of 3.21 compared with 3.35 from non-disadvantaged pupils.

‘Across all of these learning measures, and those associated with wellbeing, students eligible for Pupil Premium reported worse than average outcomes,’ the report said, adding disadvantaged students had also scored 5 per cent lower on questions about their resilience.

The report’s authors recommended that ‘post-lockdown support should be carefully evaluated to ensure that pupils who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are benefiting’.

‘If interventions are not having the desired effect, they should be stopped,’ the report said.

The survey also found pupil wellbeing overall across the first period of lockdown was perhaps not as adversely affected as feared.

Using a 35-point scale, the average score for wellbeing was 23.8 in May, 24.1 in June, and 24.0 in July, compared with a pre-lockdown score of 23.6.

Pupils in years 10 and 11 reported the greatest challenges with motivation, the survey said, a condition which did not improve after lockdown.

The PM visited a vaccination hub in Derbyshire yesterday as the UK rollout continues, with more than 12 million people in Britain vaccinated already

The PM visited a vaccination hub in Derbyshire yesterday as the UK rollout continues, with more than 12 million people in Britain vaccinated already

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at ways of helping children catch up from the face-to-face learning they have lost during the pandemic

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at ways of helping children catch up from the face-to-face learning they have lost during the pandemic

Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest - making it one of the first lockdown measures to be relaxed

Boris Johnson has said schools across England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest – making it one of the first lockdown measures to be relaxed 

Parents fume as teachers cancel Zoom lessons for pupils because of SNOW

Children’s Commissioner demands clear plan on vaccinating teachers, testing pupils and reopening classes 

The Children’s Commissioner has insisted teachers should receive Covid-19 vaccinations after the first on the priority list as calls grow for schools to reopen.

Anne Longfield said about 500,000 teachers and 500,000 support staff could all be given the jab ‘in a couple of days’ given recent data on UK vaccination capacity.

She added that this would only mean the under-70s would have to wait an extra 48 hours while teachers got their vaccinations in order to get schools reopened.

 Writing in The Sun last week, 60-year-old Mrs Longfield said: ‘There are about a million school employees, half of whom are teachers and the others support staff.

‘Given that we vaccinated nearly 600,000 people in one day at the weekend, there is the capacity to do this at pace.’ 

She added: ‘We must get children back to school to prevent our kids becoming part of a lost generation.’ 

Schools are set to be shut until at least March 8 for all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

This date was last week pushed back by the Prime Minister from after February half-term – but there are fears schools could be closed until after Easter.

However Mrs Longfield said she wanted primaries to reopen by late February with unions and councils telling her it was ‘very doable to get younger pupils back’.

Given reasons for this, she claimed primary-age children are less able to work online and are less likely to be ill from the virus, and pointed to evidence that they are also less likely to transmit it.

Mrs Longfield wrote in the Sun: ‘Children who are aged three have spent a third of their life in lockdown and parents of very young children say they are very worried.

‘We have reports of little ones being tearful and clingy, and they are losing the ability to play with friends in the playground.’

A quarter of KS4 pupils complained they could not attain help from their families if they had questions about their schoolwork.

Furthermore, 40 per cent of these students said they did not have a routine which helped them learn, according to the study, which also found pupils who exercised regularly were more likely – 58 per cent to 33 per cent – to report they had developed a positive learning routine. 

Robert Halfon, the Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, told Sunday Times that the change to the school year is under consideration by ministers.

He said: ‘We have to reform the school year. There has to be change; things cannot carry on the way they did pre-Covid. From my discussions with No10, everything is up for debate.’  

The Welsh government has already suggested it could move to extend the summer term. 

The Sunday Telegraph reported that some private schools are preparing similar plans. 

Some private schools are looking at bringing forward the Easter holidays to make more time for the summer term.

Geoff Barton, from the ASCL head teachers’ union, said changes to the school year should not happen now. 

He said: ‘It’s nice to think about doing things differently, and this is the moment to rethink them. But anyone trying to force that through this summer will find people are just craving getting back to normal.’  

It emerged last week that ministers are also considering plans to extend the school day. 

The idea is being pushed by some Tory MPs and the Government is said to be receptive to it. 

However, teaching unions have urged ministers to reject the proposals, claiming there are ‘better methods’ to help pupils catch up on lost time in the classroom.   

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: ‘Research evidence shows that there are better methods to help pupils than lengthening the school day. 

‘The Government must filter out loud calls for superficially attractive schemes and listen to the experts instead.’   

Should teaching unions try to stand in the way of the move if the Government adopts the proposals, volunteers could cover the extended lessons, according to The Times. 

Downing Street said last Friday that the Government is working with teachers and parents on catch-up plans, adding: ‘The PM acknowledges that extended schools closures have had a huge impact on pupils’ learning which will clearly take time to make up.’ 

Mr Johnson last week refused to bow to demands to bring forward the reopening of schools. 

Boris Johnson insists schools WON’T open before March 8 despite Tory backlash

Boris Johnson last week refused to bow to growing Tory pressure to bring forward the reopening of schools in England as he said he intends to ‘stick’ to his date of March 8 at the earliest for a return to classrooms.

The Prime Minister warned that reopening schools too soon could force the country ‘into reverse’ and threaten the progress made during lockdown.

He said his March 8 date represents the ‘prudent and cautious approach’ and that he does not intend to deviate from it.

An increasing number of Conservative MPs are pushing for the PM to bring back schools earlier than planned as coronavirus cases continue to fall while a crucial study found the AstraZeneca vaccine cuts transmission of the disease.

Fresh analysis from Oxford University showed the jab offers 76 per cent protection up to three months after the first dose, and can dramatically reduce the potential for passing on infection.

Nicola Sturgeon piled the pressure on Mr Johnson last week after she said pupils in Scotland will start going back from February 22.

Senior Conservatives seized on the AstraZeneca news to demand the country gets back up and running faster, with huge damage being wreaked on children’s education and the economy.

Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, pointed to Ms Sturgeon’s date for reopening schools and questioned why England couldnot do something similar.

The Tory former chief whip said: ‘The PM said last week that reopening schools was a ”national priority”.

‘Now that Scotland has indicated that schools are likely to return from February 22, there needs to be a very good reason for keeping English schools shut for so much longer.’

However, Government sources played down the idea that the timetable could be speeded up, with case levels still high and fears over mutant strains.

‘It’s March 8, no change,’ one said. ‘It’s good reassuring news about the AstraZeneca vaccine, but steady as she goes.’

The Prime Minister warned that reopening schools too soon could force the country ‘into reverse’ and threaten the progress made during lockdown.

He said his March 8 date represents the ‘prudent and cautious approach’ and that he does not intend to deviate from it.

An increasing number of Conservative MPs are pushing for the PM to bring back schools earlier than planned as coronavirus cases continue to fall while a crucial study found the AstraZeneca vaccine cuts transmission of the disease.

Fresh analysis from Oxford University showed the jab offers 76 per cent protection up to three months after the first dose, and can dramatically reduce the potential for passing on infection.

Nicola Sturgeon piled the pressure on Mr Johnson last week after she said pupils in Scotland will start going back from February 22.

Senior Conservatives seized on the AstraZeneca news to demand the country gets back up and running faster, with huge damage being wreaked on children’s education and the economy.

Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, pointed to Ms Sturgeon’s date for reopening schools and questioned why England couldnot do something similar.

The Tory former chief whip said: ‘The PM said last week that reopening schools was a ”national priority”.

‘Now that Scotland has indicated that schools are likely to return from February 22, there needs to be a very good reason for keeping English schools shut for so much longer.’

However, Government sources played down the idea that the timetable could be speeded up, with case levels still high and fears over mutant strains.

‘It’s March 8, no change,’ one said. ‘It’s good reassuring news about the AstraZeneca vaccine, but steady as she goes.’

Last week, the Children’s Commissioner insisted teachers should receive Covid-19 vaccinations after the first on the priority list as calls grow for schools to reopen.

Anne Longfield said about 500,000 teachers and 500,000 support staff could all be given the jab ‘in a couple of days’ given recent data on UK vaccination capacity.

She added that this would only mean the under-70s would have to wait an extra 48 hours while teachers got their vaccinations in order to get schools reopened.

Mrs Longfield added that headteachers have told her it is vital to carry out rapid lateral flow tests on pupils to ‘help ensure schools stay open for good this time’. 

Writing in The Sun last week, 60-year-old Mrs Longfield said: ‘There are about a million school employees, half of whom are teachers and the others support staff.

‘Given that we vaccinated nearly 600,000 people in one day at the weekend, there is the capacity to do this at pace.’

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfieldwants teachers to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs as most pupils across Britain continue to carry out their schoolwork at home

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfieldwants teachers to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs as most pupils across Britain continue to carry out their schoolwork at home

She added: ‘We must get children back to school to prevent our kids becoming part of a lost generation.’ 

Schools are set to be shut until at least March 8 for all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

This date was last week pushed back by the Prime Minister from after February half-term – but there are fears schools could be closed until after Easter.

However Mrs Longfield said she wanted primaries to reopen by late February with unions and councils telling her it was ‘very doable to get younger pupils back’.

Given reasons for this, she claimed primary-age children are less able to work online and are less likely to be ill from the virus, and pointed to evidence that they are also less likely to transmit it.

Mrs Longfield wrote in the Sun: ‘Children who are aged three have spent a third of their life in lockdown and parents of very young children say they are very worried.

‘We have reports of little ones being tearful and clingy, and they are losing the ability to play with friends in the playground.’

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