Rural schools close in difficult driving conditions
Fourteen schools in Cornwall were closed yesterday as headteachers decided icy roads were too dangerous for staff, parents and pupils to attend.
South East Cornwall was hardest hit after heavy overnight hail settled and froze, despite main roads being gritted three times in the space of 24 hours.
Treacherous driving conditions on untreated roads leading to many rural schools meant many headteachers were left with little choice but to close for the day.
Among the schools to close were Quethiock, Upton Cross, Pensilva, Darite, Trewidland and St Cleer. Nine further schools, including St Neot, Dobwalls, Calstock and Callington, delayed opening to allow road conditions to ease.
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As temperatures rose, rain swept across Cornwall during the morning, clearing hail and ice from many roads.
Antony Church of England Primary School, near Torpoint, was among those which managed to open despite the roads leading to it not being gritted.
Headteacher Julie Simpson said: "The issue this morning was the drop of hail stones in the night which had frozen rock solid on the roads.
"We managed to get the car up the hill first thing but after a few other cars got through, it slushed up and their wheels just started spinning.
"One parent got stuck halfway up which caused a backlog of cars, and at that point we had to get out our spades and shovels and dig out a track up to the school to make it passable for parents and children.
"I've got a good team and all the teachers were here first thing although some of the staff have left their cars in different parts of the village.
"We cleared the road as best we could and the children arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the morning."
By lunchtime around 75% of pupils had made it to school, Mrs Simpson said. Bus services, which had to be cancelled in the morning because of the ice, ran as normal yesterday afternoon.
"As teachers we make every effort to get here and I would not close the school unless the conditions were dire," Mrs Simpson added. "I think you would expect every school to do its best to be open for its children."
Two primary schools in Devon were also closed because of poor road conditions – Milton Abbot, near Tavistock, and Parracombe, near Lynton in North Devon. There are 272 local authority funded schools in Cornwall and 319 in Devon.