Cancelling cricket and closing schools

When to announce closure of the nation’s schools is no harder than knowing when to cancel a cricket match

It’s not rocket science to decide when to announce that schools must be closed or exams cancelled. JOHN CLAUGHTON, former Chief Master of King Edward’s School, Birmingham, argues that it’s no more difficult than calling off a cricket match

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE I was in charge of cricket at a big boarding school which, on a sunny Saturday, could put out 15 teams. The problem was that it wasn’t always sunny and the hardest part of the job was deciding when to call matches off.

During one wet May in a previous century I called off 68 matches in a row. Wet days brought a terrible dilemma: if I called games off too soon the clouds disappeared and the blazing sun that inevitably followed made me look like a fool. Again.

On the other hand, if I called games off too late the opposition would be on the road only to arrive to a pitch full of puddles, particularly before the invention of that wondrous contraption the mobile phone.

You may be wondering where all this is leading? Well, during my decade of constant error, I learnt – perhaps too late – the following:

  1. The best  chance of getting a decision right is to leave taking it as late as possible – but not too late.
  2. It is important to communicate regularly with the other party or parties.

3. It’s vital to determine the latest possible time that a decision might be made: in the case of cricket, what time is the  opponent’s bus actually leaving? And closing the nation’s schools or cancelling exams is really little different.

To state the  bleedin’ obvious, the latest time any government could feasibly close schools at the start of a new term would be the Friday before.

Boris at bat: surely someone in his Cabinet ‘bubble’ might have known how to make the declaration?

Returning to the cricket analogy, it certainly wouldn’t be the best of plans to declare the weather fine and the pitch playable on Sunday morning and then, as the heavens weep and the waters rise, cancel the match on Monday evening when some of the teams had already started playing.

Similarly, it was not a good idea to give a clear undertaking that public exams would definitely take place in six months’ time in the middle of a pandemic, just as it’s not a good idea to promise that the weather will be fine on, say, June 4th 2021.

Maybe neither Boris nor Gavin – nor Gove nor Hancock – have ever been in charge of cricket anywhere but surely there must be someone in their Cabinet ‘bubble’ who could have applied these simple truths?



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