A HEAD teacher says today’s quick-to-sue culture was a factor in him deciding to close his Basingstoke school for four days last week.

Up to five inches of snow fell in and around Basingstoke last Sunday night, causing widespread problems and prompting several head teachers to close their schools.

Among those who took the decision to shut was David Eyre, head teacher at Brighton Hill Community College, in Brighton Way.

Mr Eyre said the safety of pupils and staff was his primary concern – but he also admitted that changing times in terms of today’s litigious health and safety culture played a part in his decision.

He said: “Back in the ’80s, ’70s and ’60s, you got on with it and risks were taken, but we didn’t live in as litigious a society as we have now with the stringent restrictions of the Health and Safety Executive.

“I think it’s very sad that really we have to be so very, very careful, but I have to do my job properly and I would regard myself as reckless if I didn’t.” Mr Eyre said students and staff at Brighton Hill Community College, which was built in the 1970s and is Basingstoke’s largest secondary school, have to use uncovered paths between classrooms, which posed a hazard in the snow and ice. This meant he felt it necessary to close the school from Monday to Thursday.

He added: “I know that some parents are unhappy, and if I was in their shoes I would be unhappy, but you have to go back to the primary consideration – safety of pupils and staff.”

At least 25 schools in the Basingstoke area were shut last Monday. But Hampshire County Council was unable to tell The Gazette exactly how many schools, had closed or for how long.

In a statement, the council said: “It’s up to each individual head teacher because they’re there in the local conditions and they know whether it’s safe to open.”

Students at Basingstoke’s newest school, Everest Community College, in Oxford Way, Popley, can go between classes without going outside, but it still shut on Monday and Tuesday last week.

Head teacher Julie Rose said the welfare of students and staff on their way into school was a major concern.

She said: “It’s about using common-sense and thinking ‘can we realistically open this school and provide the learning opportunities we want to?’.”

Ms Rose said modern technology allowed the school to notify parents and pupils more easily of closures, through emails and its website.

She added that if large numbers of teachers were unable to turn up for work – and many live a long way from the school – she had to consider staff-pupil ratios.

Ms Rose explained: “I learned a long time ago that you are not going to please everyone.”

One school that managed to stay open throughout the week was Oakridge Infant School, in Oakridge Road, Basingstoke.

Head teacher Angela Genn said: “We have enough staff that live close by that cover could be provided until everyone was in.”

Not every pupil made it in, but numbers rose as the week progressed, she said.

Mrs Genn added that paths had been salted and parents were asked to send pupils in with extra clothes so they could change after going out.