Weather tests pupils’ resolve

John Of Gaunt School head Andy Packer with pupils Shannon Lagdon and Livvy Vidler

John Of Gaunt School head Andy Packer with pupils Shannon Lagdon and Livvy Vidler

First published in Latest News

Exams can be stressful at the best of times but on Friday hundreds of A-level and GCSE students across west Wiltshire had to battle to get to their schools to sit them because of the snowy conditions.

Secondary schools and sixth form colleges closed on Friday, but they still opened for exams, with students braving the elements to get in to sit them.

One student who managed to get to school was John of Gaunt pupil Frank Munutsi, 19, originally, from Harare, in Zimbabwe. It was his first ever experience of snow.

Frank, who joined the school two years ago, said: “I was really excited. I had no idea what it would be like, I was on my bike cycling in and the next thing I knew I was in a pile of snow.

“I managed to get in for my A-level maths exam. I think I smashed it, which means I think it went really well.”

All Frank’s fellow pupils sitting exams at the Wingfield Road school, in Trowbridge, managed to safely get in, as did pupils from Melksham Oak and The Corsham School, with a handful of pupils from St Augustine’s Catholic College, in Trowbridge, missing their exams.

Two schoolgirls trekked three miles in the snow to reach their school in Bath to sit their GCSE history exam.

Harriet McKenzie, 16, of Holt, was on the way to Ralph Allen School with her mother when their car was stopped by police who had closed Winsley Hill.

They parked the car in Winsley and walked down into Limpley Stoke where Miss McKenzie met her friend, Gabrielle Kear, 15, of Freshford.

They walked up Brassknocker Hill to sit their exam, while Miss McKenzie’s mother, Christine, continued her walk to work in Freshford.

Miss McKenzie said: “It took me about an hour-and-a-half. It was snowing the whole way and we saw people sitting in their cars on Brassknocker Hill because they were stuck.”

Wiltshire Council schools and learning director, Stephanie Denovan, said: “It’s amazing that so many of our students braved the weather to get to school and sit their exams. Those who couldn’t make it will have a chance to sit them this summer.”

Headteachers faced a difficult decision when judging whether or not to open. On Friday, John of Gaunt headteacher Andy Packer was up at 5.30am assessing the weather conditions and consulting fellow Trowbridge heads at St Augustine’s and Clarendon Academy before deciding to close the school to all but exam students.

Mr Packer, who needed to confirm the decision not to open with his chair of governors, said: “I was delighted that staff could come in to run the sixth form exams and that every student managed to get in.

“I also want to thank those who came on site on Sunday to clear pathways and make it safe for us to open on Monday.”

This week, the school has been running a competition for pupils to submit pictures of them enjoying the snow and poems about how it has made them feel, with the best winning an e-reader.

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