Headlines: September 4th, 2006



With many schools returning this week for the start of the new term, local authority leaders have hailed their success in cutting vacancy levels for school crossing patrol staff to less than five per cent. The achievement follows a number of recruitment drives around the country.

The Local Government Association says following the success of a number of authorities, lollipop men and women will be out in force in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Sandwell, Thurrock, where parents, it says, can be happy in the knowledge that their children will be returning to school safely. Councils in Stockport, Essex, Luton and Peterborough are also reporting staffing levels of more than 84 per cent.

Les Lawrence, who chairs the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said it was fantastic that so many crossing patrol places had now been filled. “Parents expect their child’s school to have one and councils are doing all they can to encourage local people to this worthwhile profession,” he added.

Encouraging more people to take up the job he asked, “What could be more rewarding than the knowledge that you have ensured the safety of hundreds of children every day on their journeys to and from school? I urge anyone who has an hour or two to spare each morning or afternoon and who wants to give a helping hand to the younger generation to contact their local council and find out how to apply.”

The shortage of crossing patrols has, in the past, been put down to retirement, shift times, the weather and staff being abused by drivers. A number of councils have signed up for the `Stop Means Stop’ campaign designed to inform drivers of the law relating to taking notice of the ‘lollipop’ sign. Methods used by councils to attract more staff include a leaflet campaign in Thurrock and the raising of the retirement age for crossing staff from 65 to 75 in Sandwell, which now has just four vacancies. Stockport Council succeeded in cutting e 29 vacancies out of 102 posts to just ten in three months after producing ‘a wall of shame’ with pictures of the number of lollipops not being used. In Cumbria the county council is running a competition with a local school to design recruitment posters.