Our ‘Lollipops’ under threat

Author: Robert Molteno

 Wandsworth’s School Crossing Patrol Services  may fall victim to financial cuts

 8.30 Friday morning, 8 July. A bit of a drizzle. Scores of children at Fircroft Primary School standing on the street corner in the rain with Lucille, their ‘Lolliop’ lady. Each is carrying a homemade, yellow-and-black-striped pole with a ‘Stop the Cuts’ disc at the top. A photographer from the Wandsworth Guardian teeters precariously on a ladder getting pictures. What is going on?

Wandsworth Council has an excellent policy of encouraging children to walk and cycle to school rather than being ferried by car. Every school in the borough ought to have a Travel Plan, and most of them now do. Many also have active Walk to School programmes of one kind or another.  The school crossing patrols each morning and afternoon play a crucial part in making parents feel easier about letting their children get to school in this way.

But now the Council has written to the schools, saying that it needs to reduce expenditure, wants to rethink the future of School Crossing Patrol Services, and asking governing bodies whether they could bear the cost, or provide rotas of parents and teachers to act as ‘lollipops’ themselves.  Fircroft School has been asked for £14,000, a sum its governors feel a small school like theirs simply cannot afford to find.

‘Lollipops’ have been a familiar part of our street life for over half a century — ever since the School Crossing Patrols Act of 1953. They have shepherded generations of children across busy roads.  In Wandsworth we have 45 sites and 37 designated patrollers. Cost to the Council – a bit over £200,000 a year. They are essential to the safety of the 4 million children who walk or cycle to school each day. They are the friendly faces each morning and afternoon who help increase security on our streets generally. They actually help smooth vehicle traffic flow by gathering up bunches of children before they stop the traffic, instead of vehicles having to stop for each individual child as they arrive at a crossing.

Child Obesity (because of sedentary lifestyles) is an increasing problem in Britain, including in Wandsworth.  Seven children are killed or seriously injured every day while walking or cycling (latest 2009 figures).  Small schools, in particular, cannot find the full cost of crossing patrols from their own resources.  The cost of this service to Wandsworth council tax payers is less than one tenth of one percent of Council spending.  We in Wandsworth Living Streets call on the Council to think again: either it should continue to fund this admirable service that it provides or, at the very least, it should explore with each school a burden-sharing arrangement where the Council and the schools share the costs.