Croydon Advertiser launches campaign to save lollipop men and women
TODAY the Croydon Advertiser launches a campaign to save some of the borough's beloved lollipop men and women from the axe. Reporter Gareth Davies discovers why parents, teachers and the staff themselves say cuts to crossing patrols must STOP.
"THIS one is special," says lollipop man Robert Boyce as he kneels down and holds his hand out a few feet off the ground.
Heading towards him is a mum and her young daughter in a pushchair. As they pass by, the little girl giggles and gives the man in the luminous jacket a slap on the hand.
"She's been giving me five ever since I've known her," smiles Mr Boyce as they head into Broadmead Primary School.
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"That's what I love about this job – helping the children."
It is 3.15pm, the height of the school run, and Sydenham Road – Mr Boyce's road – is full of traffic.
"Thank you, Bob," says Priscilla Ugoh, after he helps her and four-year-old Oseome across the road.
For 12 years he has kept pupils safe as they walk to and from school. Now 70 years old, Mr Boyce thought he would be doing the job he loves for some time yet. Until, he explains, a few weeks ago.
"I'm on the list to be made redundant," he said, "The council have sent me a letter to say my job is at risk.
"I got this job when I was last made redundant. I took it because a job's a job. But it's more than that now. I'm part of school life and I would be sad to say goodbye."
Mr Boyce is one of 9 lollipop men and women who face losing their jobs as the council looks to save £60,000 by cutting school crossing patrols.
Broadmead has been chosen because there is a zebra crossing nearby. Mr Boyce uses the crossing, near the junction with Arundel Road, as part of his job.
"The council needs to come down and see what's going on," he said. "Cars come down this road very fast and they're not going to take any notice of this crossing unless there's a patrol here.
"Even when I'm standing in the middle of the road with a bright jacket on they don't want to see me. Someone swerves round me at least three times a week. Imagine what it will be like when I'm gone. They're putting lives at risk."
Jo Wittam's five-year-old son Oscar attends nearby The Crescent Primary School, in Selhurst, which is set to lose its lollipop lady.
Ms Wittams, a parent governor at the school, has started a petition to save her.
"This is a nonsensical and short-sighted cut which will have untended consequences, such as people walking less, meaning more people will drive and the roads will get busier and more dangerous," she said.
"This doesn't feel like a place to make savings. This isn't a quiet residential street, it's used by the emergency services. It's not a safe road."
As the Wednesday afternoon rush hour winds down, Linda Conn walks up Sydenham Road to say hello to Mr Boyce. The pair joke about how their hats have fallen victim to the bitterly cold winds. Ms Conn, who has been a lollipop lady on busy Northcote Road for nearly six years, believes the cuts will endangers lives.
"This is a very dangerous road. People just don't look when they are driving. Quite often I have to wave my stick out just so the cars and buses can see me coming. How are they going to see a child?"
Asked what she would do if the crossing patrol is axed, Ms Conn replied: "Get another job, I guess. It wouldn't be the same as this though.
"I love seeing the kids faces light up when they come round the corner and see me. I go home feeling like I've kept them safe."
Head teachers whose lollipop men and women are under threat have backed the Advertiser's campaign.
They have also branded the council's suggestion that school crossing patrols could be saved if schools pay for them 'unrealistic'.
Alex Lundie, head teacher of Broadmead Primary School, said she would have to make cuts of her own to afford the £6,000 a year per crossing.
"In the time of cuts to school budgets it would be really difficult to find the money to pay for it," she said.
"We would have to make choices of other things to cut, which would probably be staffing hours which focus on learning.
"Besides, the patrols work outside the school – surely that’s down to road safety and traffic control?
"We have to maintain the security and safety of the school site, but it doesn’t seem fair that we should have to manage safety on the roads as well."
She added: "Even though there is a crossing and there are speed bumps, motorists still drive too fast down Sydenham Road. A lollipop man brings high visibility."
Parents at Woodside Primary School have launched a petition to save the two crossings on Morland and Blackhorse roads.
Head teacher Claire Howarth said: "Our crossings are on two very dangerous roads. We’re a big school so there are lot of people trying to cross and drivers can get impatient.
"I believe there are going to be accidents if the patrols are taken away because there is a build-up of traffic at the start and end of the school day."
Ms Howarth admitted the school may be forced to deploy its own staff to see children across the road safely.
"We’re considering having members of the school’s leadership team man the potential crossings," she said.
"However, our lollipop ladies are members of our community and we would be very sorry to lose them."
Croydon has more than 100 schools but currently only 22 have a crossing patrol service.
The under-threat lollipop men and women work on roads with automated or zebra crossings.
Cutting ten patrols would save the council £60,000 as part of larger plans to make £36 million in savings over the next two years.
A consultation process with affected staff is due to last until April 11.
The council will then look at accident and risk assessment data to inform the final decision.
The earliest possible date for a decision is towards the end of April.
Schools where crossing patrols will go under the council's cuts are:
- Elmwood Junior School, Lodge Road, Croydon - automated crossing*
- Oasis Academy Shirley Park, Long Lane, Addiscombe - automated crossing
- St John's/Shirley High, Shirley Church Road, Shirley - automated crossing
- Park Hill Junior School, Stanhope Road, Croydon - zebra crossing
- Broadmead Junior School, Sydenham Road, Croydon - zebra crossing
- Broadmead Junior School/The Crescent, Northcote Road - zebra crossing
- Woodside Junior School, Morland Road, Woodside - zebra crossing **(x 2)
- All Saints CofE Primary School, Upper Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood - zebra crossing
- Aerodrome Primary School, Goodwin Road, Croydon - zebra crossing
* Position currently vacant
**Two staff under threat