Wales snow: Neighbouring Caerphilly schools open and shut

Hywel Griffith reports from a school in Caerphilly which is open while another just down the road is closed

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One south Wales valleys school has defied the snow by remaining open while its neighbour just down the road shut.

St Helen's RC Primary School in Lansbury Park, Caerphilly, defied the weather on Tuesday but St James', in nearby Pen-y-cae, was closed.

The Welsh government says head teachers should use common sense when deciding whether to open in extreme weather.

A new amber warning has been issued by the Met Office for Tuesday as Wales sees its fifth day of snow and ice.

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

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Neither schools have spoken to the media but St Helen's joins just one other school, The Twyn School, in Caerphilly county, that has remained open.

In total, 88 schools are closed in the county and almost 500 across Wales.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has issued guidelines on the approach head teachers should take when deciding on whether to open or close their school.

It includes carrying out a generic risk assessment adapted to their own school's circumstances.

"The approach is very much grounded in common sense and being proportionate, with emphasis on actions head teachers can take that can keep a school open," the guidelines say.

Head teachers are asked to consider the long-term weather forecast, road closures, whether conditions are dangerous and if the heating is working properly.

Temporary signs stand on the A4075 road near Martletwy, closed due to heavy snowfalls Head teachers are urged to consider road conditions among the factors influencing closure decisions

"Where schools must close, they are advised to consider what distance learning or self-study arrangements can be made for pupils in year 10-13, in order to minimise disruption to examination courses," a Welsh government spokesman said.

There had been fears in the past that school closures would affect absentee records.

But spokesman for the Welsh government said: "We changed the regulations in 2010 so that attendance figures would not be penalised if schools opened and there was low attendance."

Elsewhere, UK Education Secretary Michael Gove urged head teachers in England to do "everything" possible to ensure schools opened on Tuesday after snow forced the closure of 5,000.

Mr Gove told MPs that the UK government had also changed the rules to ensure that no school would be penalised if individual students could not make it to school.

"And I hope as a result that more and more schools will recognise that, while the decision to remain open or closed is a matter for the head teacher, everything can and should be done in order to ensure that all children get access to a good education," he said.

According to the Welsh government, in January 2012 there were 1,412 primary, 221 secondary schools and 43 special schools in Wales. There were 66 independent schools.

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