Schools closed as forecasters predict more snow and ice

Hundreds of schools were closed yesterday as freezing weather swept the country, with forecasters warning that the end was not yet in sight.

Some areas endured a 13th consecutive day of icy conditions. A Meteorological Office spokesman said most of the country, bar the far west, could expect a chilly day today with rain, sleet and some snow. Conditions would become drier and slightly warmer tomorrow with a gradual improvement expected over the week ahead.

In Norfolk, more than 130 of 453 local authority schools were closed. In Suffolk 150 were shut, as well as several in Cambridgeshire. Many of Kent's schools reopened but 103 stayed closed.

Meanwhile, the deputy headteacher of St Mary's Comprehensive in Longbenton, Newcastle, defended the exclusion of 40 pupils for throwing snowballs in the playground. Kenneth Dyer said children were punished for breaking a rulethat such play should be restricted to school fields.

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