I was a stand-in lollipop man so I know their worth

14th January 2011 at 00:00

I draw the line at "Big Yellow Penis", although drop the "Yellow" and I would be flattered. "Jaundice Boy" and "Fluorescent Features" I can handle. "Bananaman" is a bit of a cliche. I could take out a grievance on the names I've been called. And that's just from the staff.

It started over a year ago, when our crossing patrol (note the politically correct job description) went off sick. So it was down to me to don the waterproof yellow trousers, stylish yellow donkey jacket and regulation hat and gloves, also yellow.

Thirty minutes later, having gone through the rigorous borough training on stick positioning and road-to-body placement, I was a fully qualified member of an elite brigade - the Lollipop Men.

"Been demoted, have you?" parents would say as they crossed the road with their clutch of children.

"Actually," I would chirp back, "I've been promoted."

Because it's not as easy as it looks. Despite the obvious 30mph limit and the hordes of children flocking towards the school, cars race by at ludicrous speeds. Although a five-foot stick with a bright yellow disc at the top might be a respected symbol for some, it isn't much use against a four-by-four travelling at 50mph on the way to the gym.

And then there is the unpredictable amoebic mass of children tumbling out of school, often in rows five deep. Moses at the Red Sea had an easier gig.

It took nearly a year to find a permanent replacement for our lollipop man. The hours are awkward, the weather unforgiving and the huge amount of responsibility isn't reflected in the pay. I'm surprised that the National College hasn't developed a lollipop succession training programme.

Finally, an appointment was made and our new lollipop lady is brilliant. She's dedicated to the safety of the children and firm with the motorists, noting number plates of offenders. Parents know their children are in safe hands.

Last month she was sent a letter telling her that the council needed to cut costs and that her job was at risk of redundancy. It's madness. Parents are up in arms, we've started a petition and the children are writing letters to the council.

I can't think of a more important job than keeping children safe as they cross the busy main road outside my school. Just last month, three secondary pupils were knocked down by a car as they crossed the road. It was 9am, just 200m further down the same road as my school.

And it's not as if it would be a massive cost saving. Two hours a day at minimum wage isn't much. Losing half a paper-pushing council bureaucrat would probably save all the lollipop patrols in the borough.

If our letters and petition fail and our lollipop lady does lose her job, one thing is for sure - when the first child gets run over by a car, somebody in the council is the one who's going to look like a great big penis.

Colin Dowland is head of a junior school in north London.

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