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Sinead Ryan: What a great lesson to our children -- at the slightest challenge, just pull the covers over your head and stay in bed

There's a JC in the house. Admittedly, not quite as serious as an LC, but stressful nonetheless. And the very last thing that any Junior or Leaving Cert student needs right now is less study time.

The mocks are barely three weeks away and the Valium sandwiches are already on order.

So you can imagine the unconfined joy with which Minister Batt O'Keeffe's announcement of a country-wide school closure was met.

It doesn't matter that you live in an area which, actually, isn't doing so badly. You've not just got elusive green shoots, but whole green fields.

So what if you're in a city or large town, in which traffic and footfall has ensured it is barely slushy rather than icy dangerous.

No, your school is closed until Thursday, either way. You have no say, your principal or board of management hasn't been consulted. It's shut up shop, irrespective of local circumstances.



excuse

Isn't it a grand lesson to be giving our kids altogether: when faced with the slightest challenge, stay in bed.

Wouldn't it be just great if all the mums and dads now frantically searching for emergency childcare arrangements could use the same excuse with their bosses?

Teachers are the first to tell us (ad nauseum) that theirs is not a childminding service.

But there is an assumption that schools will be open on the, increasingly shortened, dates that the calendar issued in September tells us it will. So, hard-working parents naturally plan their own schedule around this.

Look, it's not Armageddon out there. In some places, of course, the snow is knee deep and nobody, not a single parent, is going to send their child to school, never mind even venture out themselves.

But we empower boards of management to know exactly what the situation is with their school without an edict required from Leinster House.

I know of one region where relatives tell me the kids are bemoaning the lack of snow completely and others where their city location would mean an easy, if colder, walk today.

One principal friend opened up last week when all about were closing -- because her teachers live locally and all made it in. No matter, they're unilaterally shut now, like it or not.

It's somewhat ironic that the only decisive plan to have emanated from central Government is this ruling. The grit and salt we needed three weeks ago is to arrive after the snow melts.

The extra transport we needed is sitting in bus depots, and the Army, bereft of a call, are sitting in barracks, shovels and muscles to the ready, but unused.

Yet, the teachers' lobbies, easily among the most strident, had their call met. Not content with an extra five days holidays on top of the excessive Christmas break, they were quick to issue statements suggesting that lost days would not necessarily be made up at either mid or end of term.

Presumably, having to cancel pre-booked flights to Spain would be real hardship.

But despite the unprecedented downfall of snow, the Central Executive Committee of the INTO managed to meet "to consider a range of actions and directives in response to the unilateral imposition of pay cuts in the public service by the Government" on Saturday.

Hmmm. Hope they all got home safely.

Capitulating was the easy option for Minister O'Keeffe. It got him valuable kudos from teachers at a vulnerable time.

Yet, there is a distinct lack of logic to the decision.

It would be far more impressive if ministers managed to equip villages and towns with the wherewithal not to come to a standstill by properly making available tools, manpower and grit to allow us all to get on with our lives.

Leinster House is pristine, you'll be glad to hear. The steps have been cleared of snow; the walkways a pleasure to patrol. Indeed, it is a great pity there isn't a school on the grounds, for it surely would be the exception to the rule.

It's just a shame that there are no ministers inside. They have until January 19 to return. At this rate, they'll be starting back with the teachers.

Ordinary people, however, still have to navigate their way today, and tomorrow. Their private sector bosses won't be so accommodating. Any advice, Minister?


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