THIS may be a simple question to answer, but why do so many schools close when it snows?

We’re currently experiencing what could be described as a ‘cold snap’, which is fairly normal for December. Britain had its coldest night of the year this week, with swathes of the country below freezing. Yellow weather warnings for snow and ice have been in place - and dozens of schools in areas such as the South West and West Midlands closed for a couple of days.

It seems par for the course that whenever it snows, even if it’s a light dusting, schools close. This causes huge disruption for working parents who don’t have the option to stay at home. And doesn’t it send a rather irresponsible message to children that it’s okay for everything to grind to a halt when it snows?

“Snow day, woo hoo! Back to bed. What u doin’?” texted my sister-in-law when the school she works at closed following an overnight snowfall. “Er, going to work,” I replied. The snow was already turning to slush as I drove in. The sun was out by mid-morning.

Apart from the occasional time when the boiler packed up, I don’t remember any school I went to closing because of bad weather. My mother insisted that we went to school in snow, even when my secondary school was two bus rides away. We once got sent home early in heavy snow and when the buses gave up, I ended up walking from Manningham to Idle.

It’s fine for a school to close if a snowfall is particularly heavy, putting staff and pupils at risk. And of course it’s fun to have the occasional winter ‘snow day’. But schools seem to close at the first flutter of a snowflake.

Youngsters get used to staying at home, which doesn’t do them any favours. They'll continue to use snow as an excuse in later life. My friend works in a college where students who live a few streets away won’t set foot outside if the pavements are icy. “Black ice everywhere round my way. I can’t get out,” said one, on a message left on the the absentee ‘phoneline. She lives less than half a mile away.

How are they going to cope with working for a living if they refuse to leave the house on a cold morning? There aren’t many workplaces (apart from schools, maybe?) where a boss will accept snow or ice as an excuse not to get to work.

I have Scottish friends who sneer at our failure to cope with even mild snow in England. I try to defend this, claiming that because we don’t always get bad snow here, we’re not as prepared for it as places like Scotland and Scandinavia. We don’t need tyre chains because some winters are mild.

But when our schools close at the drop of a hat, and healthy young people won't set foot outside because it’s a bit frosty, I’m afraid I too start to think that we're a bit useless in the winter.

* A STUDY has found that fit men with strong, lean bodies win out over those who are skinny and weak. Scientists showed 160 women photos of shirtless men and asked for an attractiveness rating. Physical strength was by far the biggest factor, and none of the women showed a "significant preference for weaker men". The "survival benefits of being with a healthy man who can hunt and fight" account for the findings, say the boffins.

Survival benefits? Are they having a laugh? I can't remember the last time my bloke did anything practical, apart from once assembling some very basic shelves that, frankly, a child could have managed.

Never mind hunting and fighting. A "bad back" seems to hamper his ability to do anything, from booking cinema tickets to making coffee.

* I HAVE no idea what a fleckerl is, but I find myself nodding in agreement whenever Shirley Ballas comments on one.

The head judge on Strictly Come Dancing has apparently baffled some viewers with the technical terms in her critiques.

I can't tell a “syncopated Cuban break” from a "double reverse spin” but Shirley says it all with such authority, I convince myself I know what she's talking about.

I think Shirley's great for Strictly. She's the only one who can pull off that awkward judges' entrance; shimmying across the floor like a panther, while the others often appear painfully self-conscious. And she delivers her comments with authority and warmth. I'll be glued to Saturday's final - and those "fifth position breaks".

* VISITING Cartwright Hall's Decades of Delight exhibition, celebrating 250 years of the circus, I was reminded of when Billy Smart's Circus used to be on TV.

Televised circus performances, a school holiday staple in the 1970s and 80s, lacked the thrill of a live Big Top, but pulled in 20 million viewers.

My first trip to a circus was memorable for the wrong reasons. A camel spat all over the front row. And my sister, who was terrified of clowns, cried throughout. Think I preferred it on telly...