Could lollipop ladies become a thing of the past?

Council cuts could signal beginning of the end for lollipop men and women

Alice Ross

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Come rain, shine or - more topically - snow, lollipop ladies and men help tens of thousands of children make it to school safely.

But the familiar sight of crossing patrols could become a thing of the past as dozens of cash-strapped councils scale back or abolish their patrols while others replace paid workers with volunteers.

Headteachers and road-safety campaigners say that the cost-cutting measures will put children's safety at risk. A quarter of the 60 local councils contacted by The TES said they were planning action to reduce their crossing patrol bills.

Northamptonshire County Council plans to save pound;201,000 by scrapping its service and making all 60 of its lollipop ladies and men redundant, while Suffolk County Council has announced it will lay off 62 staff to save pound;174,000.

Dorset County Council is axing 65 jobs in a bid to save pound;200,000 and is planning to make patrols voluntary or to ask local communities to foot the bill. Rob Camp, the authority's road-safety officer, admitted that might mean patrols are retained in more affluent areas, while poorer neighbourhoods lose out.

In Barnet, north London, 11 jobs will go in a bid to cut pound;117,000 from council expenditure. Essex County Council is debating whether to fill 11 vacant jobs and Oldham has announced it will not be filling 28 vacant positions.

Meanwhile, in South Tyneside, parents have complained after the council cut 67 of its 80 lunchtime patrols. The council argued that fewer children now go home for lunch, but that lollipop ladies still help pupils before and after school.

Other authorities, including Peterborough, Stockton-on-Tees, Stockport and Birmingham, said they would be reviewing their road-crossing services.

Colin Dowland, head of Dollis Junior School in Barnet, said: "Our lollipop lady is brilliant. She's dedicated to the safety of the children and firm with the motorists, noting number plates of offenders. Parents value her commitment and know their children are in safe hands."

He said the proposal to make her redundant was "madness", adding: "My parents are up in arms - we've started a petition and the children are writing to the council.

"I can't think of a single more important job than keeping the children safe as they cross the busy main road outside my school."

Caroline Perry of road-safety charity Brake said: "We are extremely worried. In 2009, 12 children were killed or seriously injured on UK roads every day. We should be working to reduce this number, not making the situation worse.

"Lollipop men and women play a vital role in keeping our children safe outside schools, and to remove them is putting lives at risk."

Redundancy notices

Hundreds of lollipop men and women have received redundancy letters in the run-up to Christmas.

One, who did not want to be named, told The TES : "I'm not worried about losing my job, I'm worried about the safety of the children.

"They do need someone on the crossing, especially in the evening. The kids are like a herd: they all follow each other in a bit of a rush.

"It's not worth the safety of children for the sake of saving a few pounds."

Original headline: A friendly face ensuring a safe journey to school. But not for much longer

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Alice Ross

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