Will Our Lollipop People Be Greeting Children In September?

08/08/2012 11:16 | Updated 22 May 2015
Lollipop ladies at schoolIan Nolan

They've been a much-loved feature outside schools since the 1930s. Now the threat of losing our lollipop people is uniting parents across the country.

Prowling the streets of South London in a fluorescent tabard isn't the norm for me. I'm more at home in heels and a dress. But something so scary is in danger of happening at my son's school that my cage has been truly rattled; I've been pounding the pavements before breakfast, wearing Day-Glo and waving a giant lollipop in protest.

On June 28th there was a note in my son's book bag. It informed parents that from September 2011 local Council funding for school crossing patrols, on two hideously busy junctions, was in review.

Unless the school was willing to fork-out for the service (an estimated £14,000 a year) or find volunteers to man the crossings (Big Society, anyone?), it could be in danger of disappearing altogether.

The word 'outrage' is overused. There's one every other day (or on the hour, if you frequent Twitter). But in this situation, there's no better way to describe my reaction, or that of the other mums and dads.

Within hours, a flurry of furious emails did the rounds.

"These crossings are too dangerous to be left unmanned in the mornings," parent Landy Slattery proclaimed. "The Council needs to listen and not wait for a dreadful accident before reconsidering. What sort of a society do we live in if the safety of our children can be put at risk to save a small amount of money?"

"It's not the responsibility of individual schools, already burdened with responsibility," fellow parent Dorothy Thomas chipped in. "It's the Local Authority's civic duty. And that includes our children's safety on some of the most congested roads in London."

I cross the road outside school with my seven-year-old son, and our beloved lollipop lady, every single day.

Not only does she risk life and limb (I'll never forget her 'skating' on the treacherous black ice covering the hellish junction she patrols last winter), she also provides smiles and kind words. She embodies community spirit', as well as keeping countless kids from making a mad, potentially fatal, dash into the road.


According to Brake, the UK's road safety charity, 47 child pedestrians are killed or seriously injured every week.


It's a statistic to strike terror into the heart of any parent, and this fear is heightened on a busy crossing, populated by impatient motorists, where the kids are distracted by friends, the promise of a playground, the school bell...

Within hours of getting the school's letter we started a petition, contacted the Council and lobbied our local MP, Sadiq Khan, who is also a parent at the school.

'Lollipop people only exist because the local Council undertook a study of the road and identified a need,' Khan told me after we'd staged our own 'lolliprotest' outside the school, complete with fluorescent jackets, home-made lolly sticks and children dressed as 'mini-pops'.

'It's not easy to recruit lollipop people,' Khan warns. 'We should hold onto the ones we have. Once they're gone, they may not come back.'

Our campaign is not isolated. There are similar protests in Brent and Lambeth, and in Dulwich, seven schools joined forces to protest against the loss of eight lollipop people. Their 'lollipeeps' are now staying - but their jobs are only safe for another year.

"Parents fighting for their lollipop people are only trying to keep their children safe," says Helen Toft, founder of the Save Our Lollipop People campaign.

Helen, who runs a 'walking bus' in Dorset, launched a campaign locally when her school crossing patrol faced the axe. Now she's going national, with the aim of forcing a change in the law to protect the service in future.

"We have to ask questions and fight this now – we shouldn't have to wait until a child dies on an unmanned crossing to prove the point," she stresses.

"And don't assume that if your own lollipop people seem safe now that their jobs won't come under threat in the next round of cuts."

When I spoke to Wandsworth Council, they told me that "nothing will be decided until we have concluded our ongoing discussions with teachers and governing bodies".

But the Council did confirm that "30VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%

Suggest a correction