Sigh of relief as snow eases

Rebecca GoughPupils and parents breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as all secondary schools across Norfolk and Suffolk re-opened in time for A-level and GCSE exams.Rebecca Gough

Pupils and parents breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as all secondary schools across Norfolk and Suffolk re-opened in time for A-level and GCSE exams.

Fears were raised and headteachers criticised last week when on Friday a total of 368 schools across the county as arctic weather made for treacherous travelling conditions.

But thousands of A-level and GCSE students arrived yesterday morning ready to sit their modular exams with the relief they wouldn't have to take them in June alongside others already scheduled.

Only Bishops CE Primary School in Thetford remained closed due to broken heating.

Exams watchdog Ofqual had come under fire for not postponing the exams but according to forecasters a slow thaw now appears to be on the cards with snow disappearing by the end of the week. Although night time temperatures will still dip below freezing, by the end of the week there will be patchy rain and it should creep up to 4C.

The aftermath of Britain's record breaking winter still remains however, with bins waiting to be collected, a lack of grit on roads and pavements and businesses recovering from a shortage of both customers and staff.

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Norwich City Council moved to reassure people the backlog of bin collections that were missed during the worst of the conditions would be made up and throughout the county people are urged to leave their bins out with the expectation they all will be collected by the weekend.

Norfolk County Council said that, in line with government guidelines to reduce salt use by 25pc, it would be gritting once a night with lower spreads of salt. Further supplies were expected during the week.

Reports were also made last week of shops running out of essentials including bread, milk, and, of course, salt and some businesses noted a severe drop in footfall.

Jason Wilson, 42, who runs CJ Fruit and Veg on Norwich's market, said: 'Our trade is down. Lots of our elderly customers are struggling in the snow.

'I have still been going to the wholesalers at 4am each morning and I have been putting grit down to make it safe for the customers.

'People are buying what they need. They haven't been panic buying.'

Both Chapelfield and Norwich's Castle Mall also noted a dip in customers during the worst of the weather towards the end of last week, with people heeding advice to make only essential journeys.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk's chamber of commerce, said some businesses may feel the pinch a while longer as they struggle to replenish supplies after running stocks down before Christmas.

'From a retail point of view I think obviously it was very depressing after a good Christmas that the footfall fell off completely as people weren't travelling,' she said.

'Though the larger businesses can take that, it will hit the independent businesses quite a lot. The good thing though is that people may have discovered their local shops and bought locally when they maybe hadn't for a long time.'