SCOTS teachers have signed a deal to walk to school if the country is hit by another big freeze this winter.
Staff in the Scottish Borders area have agreed to leave the car at home and trudge up to one-and-a-half miles to their nearest school if snow causes chaos on the roads.
By beating the elements the move could keep at least 66 of the region’s 74 schools open.
The news will come as a huge relief to thousands of Scots parents who were hit by widespread school closures last December and January.
The local council is currently reviewing staff and matching them to their nearest school under the Snow Schools plan.
Each group of teachers will have a leader who has been familiarised with the building and pupils.
Jackie Swanston, the council’s head of schools (east), said they would “maximise the opportunities to keep our schools and nurseries open”.
She added: “We will know the details in a fortnight, but we believe that, if Snow Schools is invoked, only six to eight of our schools will close because of snow and related transport issues.”
She said that the Snow Schools plan was based on improved snow clearing on transport routes to and from schools.
She said: “Over the last two year we have learned a lot and have been focusing on certain areas, including a supply of basic equipment – from salt to shovels – and all our schools are now fully stocked, with extra mechanical [snow clearing] support in our largest schools.
“Last year our biggest challenge was clearing pathways around the schools and removing icicles from buildings and we know that parent councils were keen to help. Where appropriate, that assistance from the wider school community will be harnessed and the practical benefits of resilient communities will become part of the education of our young people, allowing them to practise being good citizens and becoming better decision makers.”
The contingency plan is expected to be in operation by mid-December and would come into effect when drivers are advised to leave their cars at home.
The last two winters saw theUKcovered in a thick blanket of snow. Last year’s snowfall, which began in November, meant the winter was the coldest recorded in 31 years in theUK.
As much as two and a half feet of snow fell across the country and the temperature plunged to as low as -21 degrees.
Across the country 7,000 schools were forced to close their doors.
With thousands of children forced to stay at home, parents needed to take time off work to look after them and that hit businesses.
Among the many affected was Edinburgh University lecturer David Howarth who had to take days off work to look after his children.
He said last December: “I was brought up in Canada, where it gets very snowy and cold in winter, but we never missed a day at school.”
The problem was so widespread that earlier this year an insurance company launched cover for parents worried about the financial impact of school closures in bad weather.
Towergate Insurance’s plan compensates parents against loss of earnings and additional childcare costs for £30 a year per child.
However, this November has been the 11th warmest on record and the Met Office say there will be no repeat of last year’s big pre-Christmas freeze.
Spokesman Dan Williams said: “There’s no signal for a repeat of last year’s December cold spell.
“Last December saw a very prolonged period with wave after wave of cold spells and snow, ice and sub–zero temperatures. Rather than that, it looks like we’re in for a mixed, unsettled December this year, with some cold spells but also milder spells.”
Despite the assurances the Government is determined not to be caught out again.
Last month it was reported that the Army would be put on standby to clear roads in case of another Big Freeze.
TransportScotlandwas reported to have invested in 23 new gritters to patrol the country’s roads and have also brought in snowblowers, ploughs and salt.
While train company ScotRail has invested in heated tunnels and “power showers”.
The four poly-tunnels at depots inGlasgowandPerthwill be used to deice trains, while the power showers will remove show and ice from underneath.
The train operator said a £2million investment on the equipment will help to keep more trains running.