Reckless drivers speeding past Sheffield schools are creating an unnecessary risk to our children – and action is needed sooner rather than later at the danger hotspots.
Protesting children outside Woodseats Primary and Nursery School last week highlighted the problem. They demanded action following an incident which led to an 11-year-old boy being injured on his way to school.
Near misses involving cars and children on their way to or from school are a regular occurrence in our city. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time before one of these results in another tragedy and leaves a family grieving.
On far too many occasions, action is only taken once there has been a serious accident. But those responsible for planning the road layout and speed limits around schools should make these places an absolute priority for improvement using the limited budgets they have.
I know schools that have raised concerns about road safety outside their building and called for action to be taken – only to see no improvements, year after year.
The reason given usually involves money, but putting a price on the safety of our children is very dangerous. Many things that could make a difference don’t cost much in the grand scheme of things.
One city school sits within 200 metres of a 60mph zone, and cars speed in from the countryside. Yet there are no speed cameras as a deterrent to save local children. There are no electronic signs asking motorists to lower speed.
Not far away, another primary school finds itself in the middle of a newly designated 20mph zone. Yet because the school sits on a main road, the speed limit outside remains at 30mph - a planning decision that seems devoid of common sense.
Several secondary schools also have serious issues. With children largely making their own way home at the end of the day, many have to negotiate busy roads. These are very dangerous and there are plenty of examples where a pelican or zebra crossing would bring relief to young people and parents.
Some schools don’t have a zebra crossing anywhere near them. It’s an appalling situation when children have to “risk it” on some dodgy stretches of road just because there’s no money to invest in road safety.
On the council job pages this week there are 14 vacancies for School Crossing Patrol Wardens – the role that used to be known as a lollipop man or woman. Nether Edge School needs one, as does Hucklow Primary, Malin Bridge Primary, Southey Green Primary and Firth Park Academy.
Some schools on the list have needed a crossing warden for years. There is nobody willing to apply. And why are we surprised? The job involves standing in a busy road, trying to manage drivers who frequently do not stop and can be offensive.
The pay being offered for these positions is ludicrously low. Pro rata, it works out at about £8 an hour – and given that you’re only paid for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, it’s a job that involves awkward hours.
That’s why nobody is willing to fill these important positions.
Isn’t it time we made these jobs worth applying for? Treble the money on offer and you might get more interest. We desperately need people to help young children across the road before and after school – it’s no shock that people don’t want to turn out for peanuts. The job is more important than £8 a day.
Road safety is the responsibility of many. Parents should teach essentials about crossing a road safely and schools should reinforce this message.
But drivers have a responsibility to be especially careful when they see school signs. Police should monitor danger spots and the council should act to improve conditions when necessary.
We treat the safety of children inside schools with utmost importance. But just metres from school gates there are parts of the city where we turn a blind eye to dangers we know exist. We need to do more to make the journey to and from our city’s schools a safe one.