AHEAD of future snowfall, here’s a memo to folk in senior positions who are tempted to deride schools for supposedly closing unnecessarily: You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, of course, and you may well have a very strong point.

There seems to be a tendency lately for head teachers to consider shutting their schools down as soon as the first flakes look like sticking.

This may be because they are over-cautious about the safety of the young people in their care.

Alternatively, it may be because they know that if any pupil is hurt on school premises in circumstances even remotely attributable to the weather, staff risk being hung out to dry by lawyers and losing their jobs, their careers and their homes.

Before issuing blanket condemnations of schools it might be worth finding out whether the providers of school transport plan on operating throughout the cold snap.

If they are not, that may be an indication that the schools are not being so alarmist as they at first seemed.

It might also be worth finding out how many, if any, of the streets to and from schools are to be gritted. After all, many children have to be driven to school these days because there are no places for them at schools within safe walking distance.

Incidentally, like many older people, my first impulse on hearing about the closures was to say: “In my day children suffered far more hardship than the current crop, and we didn’t complain.”

This is perfectly true. During my schooling in the 1970s, schools remained open unless something catastrophic happened, such as the boiler failing completely instead of just partially.

We slithered to lessons along largely ungritted pavements and streets, at risk of being mown down by a car at any moment.

Once at school, we were expected to sit miserably in chilly classrooms in wet clothing. There we would swap illnesses such as measles, mumps and scarlet fever, and blow on our chilblained hands with breath we could see in front of our faces.

On the way home from school, no matter the time of year, we might be killed by traffic. The car which hit us might do so because it had ineffective cross-ply tyres, or because the driver was over the age of about 60 and had never been legally obliged to take a driving test or have their eyes tested, or because they were one of the millions who still believed it was fine to drive while comprehensively drunk.

If we were lucky enough to have a parent with a car to drive us to and from school, we’d better hope they didn’t have an accident because even a minor impact would leave the whole vehicle looking like a crushed tin can.

Oh, and only wimps used seatbelts, no matter how many celebrities campaigned for people to wear them.

The most famous of those celebrities, of course, was the zany but saintly TV presenter, DJ and general good bloke Jimmy Savile.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that just because something happened in the past, that doesn’t automatically mean it was good or right.

That’ll stop them putting the boot into Christmas

I WAS sad to learn that there was to be no Christmas tree in the Wharf Green area this year.

The lights put up by business group inSwindon BID Company are more than nice enough, but the place is still 100 per cent lacking in the tree department.

The company made its decision because previous trees have proved a magnet for vandals.

Sadly, it has a point. Presumably there’s only so much dosh in the festive kitty, and it must be very frustrating to spend a load of it on a nice tree, decorations and whatnot, only to have it booted and battered by feral halfwits or once-a-year drinkers.

There is a possible solution to the problem, though.

It is one which means Wharf Green can have a tree next Christmas and every Christmas afterwards, while the non-vandals among us can enjoy a little extra Christmas cheer and the proud engineering heritage of this fine town can be celebrated.

Instead of opting for an ordinary Christmas tree, the town centre business folk should have a word with the engineering department of one of our colleges, or perhaps one of the many local engineering companies running an apprentice scheme.

The chosen young people should then be tasked with building a tree.

A magnificent tree. A tall tree. A tree which, once sprayed with glue, coated with synthetic pine needles and decked out with cheery lights and baubles, will be indistinguishable from any Christmas tree in the centre of any town or city in the country.

Apart from being made of stout sections of heavy grade steel and mounted on a concrete pile driven a yard or two into the ground, that is.

It might even be easily dismantlable for storage during the rest of the year.

While a few would-be vandals might end up in A&E after attempting to kick it, punch it or shoulder-barge it, think of the comedy value.

In any case, the word would soon get around among them.

I’ve already mentioned my idea to a few people I know, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Some have suggested improvements, but I’m not sure how practicable or legal they’d be.

Quite apart from that, adding hidden spikes to the tree might harm blameless pigeons.

The potential hazards of wiring the whole thing up to the nearest substation, having community-minded volunteers watch the thing on CCTV and apply the juice as needed, would also have to be ironed out.