Children’s safety is being ‘compromised’

The school crossing outside Sidmouth primary school. Ref shs 5142-37-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife

The school crossing outside Sidmouth primary school. Ref shs 5142-37-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

There are fears that children could be put at risk if plans to slash the cash paid to Exmouth’s lollipop patrols gets the green light.

Parents and school governors warn that county proposals to cut the crossing patrol budget by 28 per cent over two years could ‘compromise’ child safety and cause traffic chaos during the school run.

A survey by county hall last summer estimates that money to half of Exmouth’s primaries for patrollers’ wages could be axed.

This could leave schools to pick up the tab, and if they can’t, they could lose the service.

County Hall debated the proposals on Wednesday (after the Journal went to press) in a bid to plug a £50million financial black-hole.

All eight of Exmouth’s primaries have at least one patrol, with wages accounting for 85 per cent of the budget.

Highways chiefs suggest that the only patrols to continue to be funded should be those with high numbers of pupils who walk to school, busy roads and those without crossings.

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Kelly Wilks on Facebook said: “This would create absolute chaos; parking near my children’s school is already a nightmare.

“I dread to think what crossing the road would be like if we didn’t have our lovely lollipop lady.”

Mel Hough branded the plans ‘disgusting’ and added: “Money is not the priority. Safety of children is the priority.”

Maggie Lee said the roads near Littleham School were often busy because of visitors to Sandy Bay, while Nicola Brown said: “Brixington School is a nightmare. The number of accidents this would cause would be incredible.”

Sandy MacQueen, Littleham School’s chairman of governors, said: “Every child matters and no one wants to hear that a child has been injured if a service has been withdrawn.

“The safety of children walking to school must be kept a priority.”

Exeter Road school governor Eileen Wragg added: “I feel this compromises the safety of our children.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, who is responsible for the county’s highways, said: “This isn’t a statutory service but we are keen for crossing patrols to continue

“Devon County Council no longer has the funds to support all of the existing patrols.

“These proposals are seeking approval for the criteria which would determine whether an existing school crossing patrol justifies funding.

“We can then consult (each school) with the aim of schools meeting some of the costs where patrols do not meet the criteria.

“We would still cover the costs of essential support… but if the remaining costs cannot be found locally then it may result in the loss of patrols that don’t meet the criteria.”