Pupils at three primary schools in Tameside will become “Junior PCSOs” during a road safety week of action to tackle inconsiderate parking.
Parents parking across entrances, on footways, on ‘keep clear’ markings and obstructing crossing points is an increasing problem nationwide.
A survey of headteachers, conducted by Tameside Council, has established local concerns.
In response, the council has co-ordinated the week of action, between January 21 to 28, in partnership with Greater Manchester Police and local schools.
A range of initiatives have been created to raise awareness and change behaviour. These include a pilot study of a “Junior PCSO” scheme where twelve pupils at three schools – Dowson Primary School, Marlborough Road, Hyde; St Anne’s Primary School, Clarendon Road, Audenshaw; and St Peter’s Primary School, Oxford Street, Ashton – will don hi-viz vests and hand out information leaflets, to warn motorists about the dangers of inconsiderate parking. They will be supported by Tameside Council parking enforcement officers, Greater Manchester Police officers and school staff.
Russell Scott Primary School in Denton initiated and funded “Junior PCSOs” last April and has since seen a significant decrease in parking problems.
They have helped create the pilot scheme, which is expected to be just as successful and, once evidenced, the model will be rolled out to other schools across the borough.
The aim is to make drivers think and act responsibly with enforcement only being used as a last resort. It’s hoped that children handing out warnings, in the style of parking tickets, will shame persistent offenders into changing their behaviour.
Inconsiderate parking not only endangers pupils and pedestrians by reducing visibility, but parking with engines running also increases pollution.
Vehicle exhausts can produce harmful gases – and tiny particles of soot and other matter – that are linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer. A recent study revealed that switching off the engine when at a standstill could help reduce air pollution during peak travel hours by as much as 30%.
The council will also conduct air quality monitoring outside schools and environmental officers will give school talks on the issues. An Arts Award logbook has also been produced to educate Key Stage 1 pupils on road safety.
All of those responding to the survey of local headteachers had experienced issues with parking and road safety outside their school with 60% experiencing problems every day. Every responder had experienced illegal parking outside their school with 77% reporting disputes between drivers and 40% reporting speeding. There were reports of illegal parking and congestion making it dangerous for children to cross the road, “near miss” accidents and vehicles blocking roads and driveways.
One headteacher even commented that a parent had driven at them whilst a PCSO was standing at the school gate.
Most of the headteachers had sent letter to parents, distributed newsletters and introduced a staff presence on the streets at peak times but problems persist.
One headteacher said: “Road safety is a serious concern for staff and pupils at the school. A proportion of parents who disregard the school’s letters and phone calls present a serious risk to the safety of children, staff and parents alike. Any support in resolving this and ensuring a safe environment for the children would be greatly appreciated.”
Another said: “I live in fear each day of a child potentially being seriously injured or killed as the road outside school is a dead end and some parents have a total disregard for this. We are desperately in need of help before something serious happens.”
Another added: “It really is a big issue and the more support we can get the better.”
Russell Scott headteacher Steve Marsland said: “The Junior PCSO scheme we initiated gives the children a strong voice and allows them to take responsibility within their community, using their work on pollution and road safety to challenge the mums and dads to be more considerate and encourage them to walk to school.
“It’s had a real impact at Russell Scott, reducing problems dramatically. I’m glad to see that it is now being rolled out to other schools across Tameside where I hope it will have a similar effect.”
Tameside Council Executive Leader Councillor Brenda Warrington said: “We welcomed the initiative undertaken by Russell Scott that we know proved successful in that area. Children's safety is every school's priority and road safety and inconsiderate parking is, unfortunately, a problem for most. We’ve organised this road safety week of action to support schools in tackling the issue and I urge motorists to think about where they park and act responsibly. This is a problem that we cannot allow to continue and we’re urging motorists to co-operate without us having to seek enforcement action.”
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