January 8, 2015
School Crossing Patrols are under threat across the UK. Despite lollipop men and women having made an invaluable and ongoing contribution to road safety in our country for over 60 years, financially hard-pressed local authorities are considering scaling back or axing the service entirely - with several having already done so.
The idea of School Crossing Patrols (SCPs) was first trialled in the late 1940s. The favourable reception given to the service was such that 1953 saw the School Crossing Patrol Act being passed, giving SCPs the legal authority to stop traffic, and the first permanent lollipop lady made her appearance in London that year.
The idea was swiftly taken up by other local councils, freeing up the police officers who previously performed this duty.
Threats to School Crossings
However, the first rumblings of a threat to SCPs came in 2000, when a change in the law shifted responsibility for the service to local authorities. At the same time the legal requirement to provide them was removed.
This means that when council tax revenues are down or government grants to local authorities are cut, the service provided by lollipop men and women can be scaled back or discontinued as a savings initiative.
For example, Derbyshire County Council (DCC) recently announced plans to axe SCPs as part of a proposed £157 million in cutbacks. They say that alternative means of funding SCP sites must be found if the service is to continue.
The strength of feeling against DCC’s proposals is clear to see. Numerous petitions have been prepared since the announcement and the number of signatures is increasing rapidly. The campaign to save the SCPs has also been taken up by Lee Rowley, a prospective MP for North East Derbyshire, who has himself commenced an on-line petition.
Saving Lives or Saving Money
Cost simply should not be the determining factor in this issue. Not when the lives and safety of children are at risk. Statistics provided by the Department of Transport indicate that around four million schoolchildren cycle or walk to school each day. In recent years, figures suggest an average of seven child pedestrians or cyclists are killed or seriously injured on our roads every day.
The risk is never greater than at this time of year, when the mornings are gloomy and dusk comes early. In the afternoons when our children are making their way home, and many vehicles have yet to switch on their headlamps despite the onset of darkness, the service provided by our lollipop men and women is invaluable. I daren't begin to think about the inevitable consequences of removing SCPs from our busy streets.
Early this year in St. Leonard's, Brighton, two children aged eight and ten were knocked down by a van close to Christ Church Primary School - where up until two years ago there had been two SCPs. Now there is just one, as the local authority decreed that this was not a danger spot. Fortunately, on this occasion the children were not seriously injured, but if a lollipop person had been present to ensure their safety they might have remained completely unhurt.
In an era of increased road traffic our children are clearly in danger. SCPs help to ensure child safety on the way to and from school and are instrumental in teaching children valuable road awareness skills. Both the government and local councils should rethink their position on this matter and work to enshrine the protection of SCPs, and by extension our children, in law.
Does your route to school involve a crossing patrol? If so, how do you feel about the possibility that they might not be there much longer?