The Star is today calling on drivers parking illegally or inconsiderately outside schools to stop putting children’s safety at risk.
Sheffield headteachers have plenty to worry about with exams and watchdog inspections already on their plate, So it’s a source of frustration when they have to spend much of their time dealing with illegal parking and dangerous traffic outside their schools.
Each school is different, and much depends on the road layout and restrictions in each area. But often the problem is caused by thoughtless or lazy parking.
With little money in the public purse for road improvements to prevent problems outside schools, the solution has to come partly from drivers.
Ecclesfield School headteacher Joel Wirth got so fed up with the potential dangers outside his building that he started a petition calling for road safety improvements. After 240 people signed it, he presented the petition to Sheffield Council last month.
“For a number of years there’s been a problem,” said Mr Wirth.
The school faces onto the main Chapeltown Road, which until recently had a speed limit of 40mph. Most pupils leave through the front gate, with many crossing the busy road.
“There are cars parked all the way down on either side. We’ve got kids walking out between parked cars, constantly on high alert,” said Mr Wirth.
There is a pedestrian crossing further down the road, but Mr Wirth believes it is in the wrong place. And more problems are caused when pupils queue for buses opposite the school.
The headteacher said: “The pavement is far too narrow. It’s probably about 6ft wide but when you have got 150 kids waiting to get on a bus it’s not enough.
“We’ve had five accidents in the last six years. Not all in Chapeltown Road but all on the way to and from school. We’ve had the usual bumps and bruises but most recently the road had to be closed and an air ambulance came. The pupil had multiple leg fractures.
“She’s back at school on a part-time basis. She’s coming on a lot but she’s having to leave lessons early to avoid the crush.”
When Ecclesfield School’s petition was presented, the council’s cabinet member for infrastructure and transport Mazher Iqbal agreed to discuss the issues with council officers, but acknowledged the lack of funding available.
Mr Wirth said: “The concern is that unless something is done at those critical times, we could have a fatality. The commitment I received at the council meeting was reassuring.”
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Hillsborough Nursery and Primary School, in Parkside Road, also has problems at drop-off and pick-up time. The school is surrounded by roads on three sides, with buses and trams adding to traffic at peak times. There is off-street parking nearby but some parents still try to park as close as they can.
Headteacher Rob Jackson said his main problem was illegal parking.
“I’m sure a lot of heads will say the same thing,” he added. Double parking, parking on zig-zags – it’s been an ongoing issue for the last two years I’ve been in post.
“We put pleas out in newsletters for parents to think about the safety of the children, because at the end of the day that’s why we’re all here. But it seems to fall on deaf ears.”
Mr Jackson said the solution would be to put bollards on the pavements alongside the school, but his budget wouldn’t allow it.
“That would eradicate the problem,” he said.
The school has tried a walking bus with some success, but Mr Jackson said goodwill from parents was key to the issue.
One parent Phillipa Crossley, pictured, said she felt safe walking her children to school.
“We don’t cross a road without traffic lights and there are enough of those. I’ve not had any problems.”
But Aimee Robinson said she was worried about her 10-year-old son.
“It’s all right until you get to the nearest set of lights. Cars still come through on the green man,” she said.
The junction does not have a yellow hatched box to prevent vehicles from driving on to it when their exit is blocked.
“It needs to be there but there’s no funding,” she said. “We just have to walk around the cars.”
And another mum, who asked not to be named, said she had been hit by a car before.
“It’s not safe. The car parks were full one day and I had to cross the road, and I got knocked down, so I’ve not crossed there since.
“It’s quite scary.”
Last week South Yorkshire Police carried out patrols on the streets around Stradbroke Primary School, in Richmond Road, and issued parking notices to six motorists for ‘obstructive and inconsiderate parking’.
Acting headteacher John Sitch said he didn’t know about the police warnings but was aware of problems around the school. A few weeks ago teachers, governors and pupils on the school council spent a morning in hi-vis jackets observing the school’s two main entrances. A letter from the school council to parents afterwards said: “We saw cars nearly crashing when they were trying to stop on the zigzags outside the bottom gate on Stradbroke Drive.
“We also saw other cars parking on the yellow zig-zag lines outside both gates and someone trying to park up outside the bottom gates, stopping other cars from passing them.
“Lots of people were parking on the cul-de-sac Richmond Hall Way and we could see damage to the grass verges, even though there was plenty of room on Richmond Hall Road.”
Pupils asked parents to think about walking their children to school or consider parking further away and walking the rest of the way.
“Both of these suggestions will help keep children safe and provide you and your children with some good exercise,” they said.
Sheffield Council has limited powers when it comes to tackling illegal parking – but does take a proactive approach to safety around schools.
Cabinet member for transport Mazher Iqbal said: “Keeping school -children safe is a key priority for us and we share parents’ concerns about road safety around schools.
“Through our School Keep Clear programme we are reviewing all zig-zag road markings outside Sheffield schools to ensure they are in the correct location, according to regulations set by the Department of Transport.
“We are also introducing ‘no stopping’ restrictions at school start and finish times and can take enforcement action if drivers fail to recognise these.
“The review has given the council the opportunity to remove any markings at entrances that are no longer routinely used and propose other waiting restrictions in order to improve safety for all road users near local schools.
“We have completed reviews of 66 schools and have 71 more which we aim to do over the next three years.
“In addition, our road safety team will continue to work with schools on a wide range of safer roads training and educational programmes.”