Head teachers, parents and councillors have criticised recent changes to school crossing patrols across Calderdale which they say are putting pupils’ lives at risk.
Earlier this year, the then Labour-controlled Calderdale Council made changes to the staffing structure of the school crossing patrol department which saw four of the six staff who were employed leave the council. This has meant that there is now an insufficient number of mobile school crossing patrols (lollipop men and women) to cover for regular staff when needed through sickness or holiday. Coun Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse) said: “We used to have a system whereby casual staff who provided a cover service for schools when the usual lollipop man/woman was absent were paid a small retainer of £20 a month.
“The previous Labour administration withdrew this retainer and reduced the amount of travel expenses that were allowed. These changes made it very difficult for many of the existing staff to continue and so they left their posts.
“Since then we have had reports of children having to cross busy roads on their own because a school crossing patrol has not been present and there are no casual staff to stand in.”
In Rastrick, Carr Green Primary School head teacher Paul Mashinter said it had lost at least one of the crossing patrol officers on Crowtrees Lane and concerned parents have raised the question of where they have gone.
Jack Williams, headmaster at Hipperholme Grammar School, said: “At our junior school we have got some issues with driving and parking - it’s a bit of a rat-run on Wakefield Road.
“We have a crossing patrol who was hit by a car not so long ago - there are broader issues than just crossing patrols.
“With the crossing patrol, most of the time it’s okay, but it would be lovely to have a zebra crossing and some road humps along the road, and we would like the council to look at the speed limits along that road.”
Coun David Kirton (Con, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) said other schools in the ward have raised concerns.
“I have been contacted by a number of parents recently who were concerned that the usual lollipop man was not present on Knowle Top Road outside Lightcliffe Primary School during the time when he was away on a school trip for three days,” he said.
“He does a fantastic job and there should have been somebody there to stand in to help pupils cross this very busy road whilst he was away.
“I was very concerned to hear that some of the younger pupils were left to cross the road by themselves.”
Coun Benton added: “The savings that these changes made are a drop in the ocean.
“Children should never have been put at risk in this way and I cannot believe that these changes were approved.
“The new Conservative administration are looking at ways to restore the allowances that were removed previously.”
However, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) responded, saying: “My understanding is that the search for cost savings amongst mobile and standby patrols staff was begun in 2009/10 when the Conservative group were in charge of the council.
“Any risk to a child walking to school must be a concern.
“If the current administration finds its patrols are indeed being missed, as at Lightcliffe Primary School, Labour councillors would certainly support them in remedying this situation.”