Children’s Safety – School Crossing Patrols

Re: The Decision to remove School Crossing Patrols in Newcastle upon Tyne

Dear Councillor Nick Forbes and Ms Pat Ritchie,

We are writing to urge you to reconsider the decision made on 1 March 2017 to remove all but two of Newcastle’s School Crossing Patrols.  Whilst we understand that difficult decisions must be made as a consequence of a reduced budget, we feel that children’s safety in particular should be considered a priority.

The SPACE for Gosforth vision is for the streets of Gosforth and Newcastle to be safe for residents of all ages, and for walking and cycling to be safe, practical, and attractive travel options. We feel that this is the standard that needs to be achieved before considering whether School Crossing Patrols can be removed rather than only retaining Patrols where there is deemed to be a ‘high level of risk’.

With eleven (11) separate petitions totalling over twelve thousand (12,000) signatures [1-4] you will already be well aware of parents’ concerns. We also know children themselves feel unsafe when travelling to school. In a letter written by school children to parents at Archibald First school the children said “We have had many near collisions of prams almost being knocked over and cars driving very close to children on bikes and scooters. Also when cars have been parked on the double yellow line and pavement we have not been able to see over them and have had to weave in and out which we feel unsafe doing.” [5]

We need to aim higher. The UK as a whole has a poor record for protecting its children compared to other Western European Countries [6]. Children are also disproportionately affected by poor air quality, and the perception of traffic danger means children are now less active, less able to play out, and are less likely enjoy the independence that many of us had at their age.

At the same time, the UK has high levels of childhood inactivity and obesity. Public Health England Figures now show that 38.8% of Year 6 children in Newcastle upon Tyne are overweight or obese [7]. Creating environments where children can travel actively (and where parents feel comfortable to let them) is now more important than ever, not only for children’s health but also for the future viability of Newcastle upon Tyne as a place that is attractive for families to settle and bring up children.

This is not just a local issue though. Between 2010 and 2014 in response to Freedom of Information requests 69% of local authorities said they had cut School Crossing Patrols with a total reduction of almost 1000 crossing patrol officers. [8]

We also urge Councillor Forbes, as Senior Vice-Chair of the Local Government Association, to take action to address this issue nationally, to seek out best practice and apply it in our city so Newcastle upon Tyne becomes a national leader in creating safe neighbourhoods for children and families. For the same reason, we will also be writing to Newcastle’s MPs to ask them to raise the question of how we can best provide for children to allow them to walk or cycle to school safely and without fear of the traffic.

Yours faithfully,

SPACE for Gosforth.

REFERENCES

[1] ‘We want to keep our lollipop patrols’: Newcastle parents call for U-turn in wake of safety fears.
http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/we-want-keep-lollipop-patrols-12010997

[2] MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE,  WEDNESDAY 2 November 2016. Item 53. Councillor Ashby presented a petition on behalf of residents regarding proposals for school crossing patrols.
http://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s104687/Minutes%2002112016%20City%20Council.pdf

[3] MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, WEDNESDAY 11 January 2017. Item 72. Councillor Higgins presented two petitions from residents regarding the St Bede’s School crossing patrol on Whickham View.
http://democracy.newcastle.gov.uk/documents/s105420/Minutes%2011012017%20City%20Council.pdf

[4] ‘Reconsider Your Decision On Gosforth School Crossing Patrols.’ Due to be presented to Council by Gosforth Traffic on Wednesday 5 April 2017.
https://www.change.org/p/scp

[5] We Feel Unsafe
http://spaceforgosforth.com/we-feel-unsafe/

[6] Child Pedestrian Death Rates compared for Western European Countries
http://www.pedestriansafety.org.uk/euro_child_pedestrian_safety.html

[7] Percentage of children overweight or obese in Year 6 in Newcastle upon Tyne.
http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/national-child-measurement-programme/data#page/0/gid/8000011/pat/6/par/E12000001/ati/102/are/E08000021

[8] Corby MP hits out at loss of school crossing patrol staff
http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/corby-mp-hits-out-at-loss-of-school-crossing-patrol-staff-1-5897282

UPDATE 19 MAY 2017

Responses from Newcastle City Council and from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport.

This is the response from Newcastle City Council that sets out the reasons for the change and the process they went through to look for alternative funding sources. The Council have separately indicated they could consider physical road changes such as bollards or zebra crossings.

As well as raising this with the Council, we also asked Chi Onwurah MP to raise this with the Department for Transport who are responsible for national policy on road safety. Below is the response from Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport.

These are the links provided in the letter:

2 thoughts on “Children’s Safety – School Crossing Patrols

  1. Robin Ashby

    On behalf of Gosforth councillors, thank you for this contribution to the debate at Newcastle City Council tomorrow night. As well as John Dockerty of Gosforth Traffic, I and the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Anita Lower, will be speaking, and hope to mention your input.
    Cllr Robin Ashby – Parklands Ward

    Reply
  2. SPACE for Gosforth Post author

    Update: 3 September 2017.

    School starts again this week so I thought it worth a quick update/reminder on school safety.

    Probably most people will know that for the most part there are now no school crossing patrols in Newcastle, with the one local exception being by Broadway East school supported by the Parklands Community Crossing group following successful fundraising by the Gosforth Traffic page.

    Providing safe walking and cycling access to schools for children and parents is part of the SPACE for Gosforth objectives. As we said in our letter to Newcastle City Council: “The UK as a whole has a poor record for protecting its children compared to other Western European Countries. Children are also disproportionately affected by poor air quality, and the perception of traffic danger means children are now less active, less able to play out, and are less likely enjoy the independence that many of us had at their age.”
    http://spaceforgosforth.com/school-crossing-patrols/

    In April the Council said they would consider “physical road changes such as bollards or zebra crossings” as mitigation for the loss of school crossing patrols. We have been chasing this point for a number of months now with the Council but have yet to receive a reply. I have to say I am quite disappointed with this. There was a short window in which these mitigations could have been made in advance of the new term but that window has now been missed.

    We also got a reply from Andrew Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport who referred us to the THINK! campaign which is focused on teaching children how to negotiate dangerous crossings. Useful perhaps, but unlikely by itself to do anything to make roads safer or to convince any parent that it is safe to allow their child to walk to school independently. He did not mention school crossing patrols.
    THINK! Campaign http://think.direct.gov.uk/resource-centre/

    We will continue to pursue this of course. We have plenty of ideas and examples for what could be done so if any parents are interested then we’re more than happy to have a chat about what might be possible.

    Reply

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