Youngsters stranded

EDUCATION bosses have defended their decision to open local schools – in a move that led 45 pupils from a local secondary school having to bed down for the night at Broadwood Stadium.

The stricken pupils from Our Lady's High School had to be taken to safety after spending hours in their school bus while unparalleled traffic chaos made the town no-go.

Special needs pupils who were being transported to a specialist speech and language unit at St Margaret's Primary in Carbrain were also stranded in their bus - sparking panic from desperate parents who contactedour newsdesk in a bid to gain an update on the roads situation.

Thankfully the younger pupils were able to return to their homes after lunchtime.

However both incidents have raised questions as to why pupils were expected to travel to school in the Artic weather - thus exposing them to the unprecedented scenes of calamity on local roads.

The council has insisted that it had been overcome by unforseen circumstances - and had actually done its utmost to prevent further chaos.

A spokesperson said: "The roads were clear on Monday morning and the vast majority of pupils were able to make their way to school.

"However, from just before nine o'clock it started snowing heavily and did not stop until the afternoon. It was far, far heavier than forecast," he added.

"This led to considerable gridlock in towns throughout North Lanarkshire and we decided that children were safer in schools than closing them all at once.

"Parents were asked to collect their children at a time suitable to them later in the day, and our schools were kept open until all children had been collected," he added.

The spokesperson also stressed that the pupils who had an overnight stay in the stadium had been well-cared for - and that most had returned to their homes by time of going to press.

"The pupils had been on their way from Stepps to school when their bus encountered travel difficulties in the severe weather. The course of action taken was to stop at a suitable facility where they would be kept safe and warm," he confirmed.

"Staff were present with the pupils and contact was made with all parents. All pupils received food and shelter at the facility," said the spokesperson.

However a swift change of policy swung into play after the council decided that all schools would shut yesterday, in line with many other Scottish local authorities.

At time of going to press, it was unclear how long the shutdown would continue and parents were being advised to check the council's website for details of any changes.

This can be accessed on www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk.