Proposal to cut Lollipop attendants 'unacceptable' says former Education Minister
A proposal considered by the Education Authority (EA) to remove all lollipop men and women in Northern Ireland from school crossing in a bid to save money was "unacceptable", a former Education Minister has said.
The BBC reports that the EA dismissed the proposal as "unpalatable" and decided any other cuts should be decided by the Department of Education.
The proposal emerged in a letter from the EA to the department, seen by the BBC, in which it states the EA faces a funding gap of £58m in 2018/19.
DUP MLA Peter Weir said: "The circulation of a proposal to remove all lollipop men and women from outside our schools is clearly without merit and unacceptable.
"While undoubtedly the Education Authority and the Department have to explore every option to live within budget, this idea cannot be regarded as a serious suggestion and it is clear that the members of the Education Authority would reject any attempt to propose it.
"The safety of our children must be paramount, and there is no need to remove the current process for assessing individual placements of lollipop people provision."
The UUP said the proposal showed how dire the system was in need of reform.
“It is ridiculous that the Education Authority even for one moment thought that removing staff which help keep children safe crossing busy roads was a viable option," said MLA Rosemary Barton.
"Of course it wasn’t and so it is paramount that the EA continue put the safety of our young people ahead of piecemeal budget cuts."
Corinne Latham, principal of north Belfast's Seaview Primary School, said the removal of crossing patrol personnel would have a big impact on school life.
Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, she said: "We are very fortunate that we have two gentlemen, Steven and Billy, who are the first point of contact in our school community. They are much more to us than just crossing patrol men.
"They are overseers of our children's safety, they ensure they get across main roads that are very busy in the middle of an urban area during rush hour and they obviously have a lot of pride and care in our children and how well they do.
"They are just the most affable people and they have great big hearts for our children, which I think is very important."
Ms Latham said the department made cuts to crossing patrol personnel in 2014/15.
She added: "This may be seen in a way as a bit of a soft cut because ultimately the responsibility is for parents to ensure their child gets to school safely but I just feel for a school community it would just be another hard blow to education because the power of human communication is really important.
"At times, children who are leaving homes maybe where mummy and daddy are expecting their child to get themselves up, get themselves to school, the crossing patrol person is the first person they may socially engage with and I think that power or oracy is actually really important, as well as our health and safety issues."
A spokesperson for the DE said: "While the financial pressures facing the education sector in Northern Ireland were widely acknowledged, the department does not comment on ongoing correspondence or engagement between the Education Authority and department or vice versa in relation to budget matters."
Belfast Telegraph Digital