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This single lollipop man serves five schools, but now even he's to be...

A decision to pull the plug on a school crossing provision in West Belfast will put hundreds of children’s lives at risk, a local MLA has warned.

Sinn Féin’s Michael Ferguson has urged the South Eastern Education and Library Board to revise their decision to take the school crossing provision away from the busy Stewartstown Road.

Children from five local schools use the crossing to access the Lagmore, Mount Eagles and White Rise estates.

Pupils from St Mark’s and St Luke’s Primary Schools, Oakwood Integrated Primary School, Scoil na Fuiseoge and St Colm’s Secondary School use the crossing on a daily basis.

The SEELB say they have taken the decision to remove the provision of a lollipop man because the road is serviced by a pelican crossing they say the lollipop man is not needed.

Public service union UNISON intend to launch a petition in the coming days to oppose the decision taken by the SEELB and have called for local people’s backing for their campaign.

Principal at St Mark’s Primary School, Kevin Smith, said that children’s safety must not be put at risk.

“I received a letter from the Board telling me that they are unable to provide a crossing in the future. I feel very, very strongly that this crossing should be retained. The Board say that the lollipop man isn’t needed because of the pelican crossing, but very often the lights aren’t working and this adds to the safety concerns,” added Mr Smith.
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West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson said that he is disgusted at the decision taken by the SEELB.

“I understand that the Education Board has scant services but it can not risk the safety of the children to make savings,” said Councillor Ferguson.

“In Lagmore, for example, there is a 40 mile an hour speed limit which is higher than other areas and even the Roads Services see the need for traffic safety wardens at these schools.

“I will write to the Minister and contact the Board. It is clear that the Minister Barry Gardiner is prepared to run down our schools and services to make what he calls efficiency savings for the English Exchequer. The current investment in education over the next three years is no greater than the total spent in the last financial year. It is a disgrace,” he added.

A spokesperson for the SEELB confirmed that the service will be cut and said, “The School Crossing Patrol Service is a discretionary service provided by the Board. Agreed Board criteria for the provision of School Crossing Patrols, based on guidelines produced by the Local Authority Road Safety Officers Association (LARSOA), are used to assess the risk at given locations and to determine whether there is a requirement for School Crossing Patrol provision.

“It is current Board policy to carry out risk assessments at all locations when a School Crossing Patrol vacancy arises. Where the result of the survey indicates that a location no longer meets the criteria for a School Crossing Patrol, the post is withdrawn.

“During the period September 2004-January 2005, 29 risk assessments were undertaken across the Board’s area.

“The results of the surveys indicated that 10 posts no longer met the criteria for the position of a School Crossing Patrol. These posts have not been filled.”

Journalist:: Roisin McManus

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