If local councils get their way the lollipop lady (or man) will soon become a thing of past, relegated to a bygone era along with the milkman and weekly bin collections.
My own sons' school is on a busy cut through which many of the over 900 pupils have to cross twice a day to get to their classes. There is a zebra crossing, but unless our valiant lollipop man is there in his high visibility jacket, STOP placard held high, motorists treat it as little more than pretty markings on the road to relieve the tedium of getting from A to B as fast as possible.
Yet the council, in its wisdom, has decided the two hours a day of minimum pay for this vital service, is too costly in this age of austerity. Never mind that shepherding the children safely across the road is but a tiny part of what a lollipop man adds to the school community.
Our lollipop man is a much loved part of the staff, all the pupils say hello as they cross the road and often he will dig into his yellow jacket to hand out a lollipop to a birthday boy or girl. Once, when my son Max was in nursery, he wandered up and out of the school gate while I wasn't looking. Our lollipop man caught him before he made it into the road and walked him back into school for me. Surely that alone is worth £5.93 an hour?
If the council plans go ahead the last remaining lollipop men and women of Barnet, the London borough where I live, will be out of a job. But it's not just a problem in my backyard. Councils across the country have targeted this low paid, but essential role, as ripe for cutting and schools in Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Oldham, Tyneside and Stockton on Tees are all set to lose their lollipop ladies and gentlemen, while Essex County Council is also considering following their lead.
In Barnet all the schools who are threatened with losing their lollipop men and women are fighting the cuts. The headmaster of Dollis Infant School, Colin Dowland, is heading up the battle and has already got hundreds of signatures added to an online petition to urge the council to save Barnet's lollipop service.
"We have a busy road with heavy traffic outside our school and some 300 children spilling out...at the end of the day. I've done the job myself and I know how difficult it is to keep that number of children safe", he told the Barnet Press.
Councils suggest that schools fund the lollipop service out of their own budgets, but at a time when most are strapped for cash already, this may not be an option. While we all know that savings have to be made, they are not worth it if the cost is our children's safety.
What do you think?
Is your council considering cutting back on local lollipop men and ladies?
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