As head teacher of Great Wood, John Ross faces a daily battle to stop cars parking right outside the school to drop off or pick up children.
Every day Mr Ross can be seen on Beaufort Road reminding parents not to park ‘selfishly’ – as he describes it – because it causes congestion and danger to pupils crossing the road.
His fears were compounded by a number of incidents over the years where children stepped out into the road and were hit by cars near the school.
“We recently had a parent driver and pupil passenger in shock after hitting a child who stepped out into the road without looking,” said Mr Ross.
“Thankfully the parent was driving so slowly no-one was hurt.”
Mr Ross says the car parking problems are caused by a “cycle of anxieties”.
“Busy lives lead to parents wanting to drop off right outside school instead of a distance away. The number of cars parked restricts vision of children and adults crossing the road, and on side roads.
“As children are ferried and chaperoned, children’s opportunities to develop their road safety sense are limited.
“So we have a cycle of anxieties – busy lives, children with limited road sense and adults who understandably focus on the need of their own children but don’t necessarily see the bigger picture. To break the cycle we have to help children develop road safety and manage the risks.”
In 1971, 86% of children walked to school but only 25% of children walk today.
So Mr Ross believes the key to safety outside schools is to encourage more pupils to walk, so there are fewer cars on the road.
“We encourage parents of young children to park some distance from school and walk with them. I believe if children are trained they can cross a road safely from a very young age.”
Great Wood has done much to educate children and parents on the issue over the years. One of the most successful measures was the placing of traffic cones on nearby roads where motorists should not be parking. Since the new school extension opened, Great Wood also agreed with the Highways Authority that a bus stop outside can be used as an early morning ‘one-way drop off zone’.
But still, a minority of drivers remain inconsiderate. So the Great Wood head’s daily traffic reminders to parents outside the school will go on.
Debbie Thompson, partnership officer for Lancashire County Council ,said: “We support schools to improve road safety in a number of ways, and have delivered pedestrian and safe cycle training to Great Wood Primary pupils for many years. We’re also supportive of Mr Ross’s work to create a safer environment outside the school gates by encouraging parents to park responsibly and have provided resources such as A-boards and banners to help get the message across.”
It is an offence to park or stop on zigzag lines outside school premises.
This offence carries a fine of £60 and three penalty points on your licence.
In a recent letter to parents at Great Wood, a police spokesman said: “The zigzag lines are there to avoid children and adults being hurt.
“If nobody parks on the zigzag lines then the frontage of the school is clear of obstructions and everyone can see.
“We would also ask motorists not to park across nearby residents’ driveways or on corners.
“A substantial amount of time is spent by the schools and the police to ensure that people are aware of road safety and we find it quite shocking to discover that again and again it is parents of children at the schools who undermine all our efforts by disregarding the law and also driving quite fast when passing the school.
“Most parents are quite responsible and have voiced their concerns regarding this matter via schools and ourselves at various meetings.”
The police have asked anyone who wants to help the crackdown against illegal parking outside schools to make a note of the registration number of the offending vehicle and contact your local Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
They have also left a file in the Great Wood school office where parents can write details of offending motorists in confidence.
Next week, we talk to Vicky Bould, head of Poulton-le-Sands Primary, about what they are doing to keep their kids safe outside school.