Dungannon District pupils lives at risk after ten crossing patrols axed

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A total of ten school crossing patrols in the Southern Education and Library Board have been axed over the past two years, the highest for any board area in Northern Ireland.

Savage cuts to the education budget has forced local education boards to make savings.

Further figures released at the Northern Ireland Assembly show that just over £2m has been slashed from the SELB’s central staff bill over the past two years.

According to the Department of Education, the cuts were made to the wages bill for headquarter staff, out-centre and youth club staff, and did not include reductions to school based staff costs.

A spokesperson for the SELB said the boards had no statutory obligation to provide School Crossing Patrols.

“As patrol vacancies occur each location is subject to review and where the location no longer meets the minimum criteria for the establishment of an SCP the patrol officer is not replaced. Likewise where Lights Controlled Crossings have been established it is considered best practice that these replace SCPs.

“Consequently there has been a reduction in the number of SCPs across the Board.

“It is important to note that even where a SCP is provided, the primary responsibility for the child’s journey to and from school rests with parents, and it is a misconception that the Board assumes responsibility for the safety of children for their whole journey to and from school.”

Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan said she will be contacting the SELB in order to get assurances that the safety of children has not been compromised by the decisions.

“The austerity measures, reflected in the British Governments savage cuts to the block grant are now impacting on local areas and services including a £2m cut to the SELB central office”, she said.

“Sinn Féin have successfully argued through the Stormont House Agreement that more could be got from the British treasury while other parties had given up on getting a better deal.

“The latest budget is the best way forward in order to protect the most vulnerable and most needed services in our society.”

Kevin Clinton, road safety chief at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “It is crucial that authorities do a very careful assessment of the risk to children if a patrol is removed.

“They should only remove a patrol if they’re confident there are other ­measures to protect children such as a light-controlled crossing or a reduction in the speed limit to 20mph.”

School crossing patrols were introduced in 1954 and there are currently about 8,000 in the UK. Latest figures reveal 6,106 children were in road ­accidents before or after classes on school days in 2012. Of those, 827 died or were seriously hurt.