Safety concerns for schools with no lollipop man

A MORPETH headteacher has warned there is ‘an accident waiting to happen’ on a busy road outside his two schools after a lollipop man was redeployed.

A large number of students at Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Technology Colleges off Mitford Road walk across the B6343 to get to and from school.

Until recently, they had a school crossing patrol officer to stop traffic before they crossed, but he is no longer in place following Northumberland County Council’s cost-cutting drive on car-mileage allowances.

The clampdown meant he was moved to an area in Ashington nearer his home last month, but this left a vacancy for Mitford Road.

Executive Headteacher of Chantry and Newminster, Paul Lawrence, said he and other senior staff have been out to supervise the road, but they are unable to stop the traffic and they fully support parents’ concerns.

“We were extremely disappointed that the lollipop man was taken away from his post outside the schools,” he added.

“He did an excellent job for us and was reluctant to be relocated.

“I have a responsibility to safely send our pupils on their way home and the bus arrangement at the rugby club has worked very well since it was introduced.

“But I’m very worried at the moment about those who cross the road, because it’s a narrow area that becomes a real bottleneck for half-an-hour in the morning and afternoon.

“There’s an accident waiting to happen on this road with no school crossing patrol officer to stop the traffic. It’s an unacceptable situation to be without one for so long and surely the county council has a responsibility to ensure our children get home safely.

“Reminders have been sent to parents to ask their children to take extra care when crossing the road and although our pupils are sensible, not every single one will follow our advice to not be on their mobile phones or listen to music with earphones when they cross.

“All we can do is hope that there isn’t a serious incident before the end of term.”

He added that the schools, part of The Three Rivers Learning Trust academy along with King Edward VI School, have been looking within the Trust for a new crossing patrol officer, but they would very much welcome applications from members of the public.

Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee discussed the issue at a recent meeting and it has written to the county council to say the matter should be urgently addressed.

A spokeswoman for the Northumberland authority said: “The school crossing patrol officer post on Mitford Road is currently vacant. If you know of anyone who would be interested in undertaking such a valuable and rewarding role, please ask them to apply via the county council’s jobs site.

“We advise parents that the council does not have a statutory responsibility to provide school crossing patrol officers. However, until a replacement can be found, it is ultimately the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child gets to school safely.”