Education bosses have been accused of putting money before pupils’ lives amid concerns a school is to be stripped of its crossing patrol service.
The lollipop man who worked on the four-lane dual carriageway outside Carrickfergus Model Primary School died unexpectedly two weeks ago.
Now parents have been informed by the school’s principal, Jenni Miller, that the Education Authority (EA) has indicated it is “very unlikely” that he will be replaced.
It is understood that is due to an EA policy not to replace school patrol personnel when positions become vacant.
An email from Mrs Miller to parents said: “I am appalled at the possibility of this and have already contacted several MLAs to appeal directly to the Minister of Education to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.
“I find it deplorable that as a school we are trying everything we can to keep everyone safe in the middle of a pandemic, yet the safety of the children on a very busy road is not a top priority. It just isn’t good enough and I won’t accept it.”
The threatened removal of the service comes despite the fact officials have asked that pupils only use public transport to get to and from school when absolutely necessary.
Parents have also been asked to park away from school entrances and walk a distance to school. Both measures are being put in place across Northern Ireland in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The mum of a nine-year-old Carrickfergus Model Primary School pupil said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous and I have very serious concerns about the wellbeing of the pupils. A friend of mine was killed outright in an accident on this road, so I know exactly how dangerous it is.
“The budget was in place for the service, so to say two weeks later that the service is being withdrawn to save a couple of thousands of pounds, it’s an absolute disgrace.
“It is even more insulting because they have just received a lot of money to protect kids from Covid-19 and as far as I’m concerned, our children are more likely to be killed on the road than they are by the virus.”
A petition has been set up to urge the EA to ensure funding is secured to allow a replacement patrol crossing service to be put in place.
UUP MLA John Stewart, whose child also attends the school, said he has also written to Education Minister Peter Weir asking him to intervene. He said: “This is the busiest road in Carrickfergus, it is the main road between Carrickfergus and Belfast. Axing the service seems like such an obtuse decision, particularly as they haven’t even carried out a risk assessment, so parents are currently volunteering to fill in.”
An EA spokesperson said it reviews crossing patrol provision on an ongoing basis or when a post becomes vacant. It added: “An assessment of Carrickfergus Model Primary School will be carried out accordingly to ascertain if it meets the required criteria for provision of a school crossing patrol. Should an assessment deem a continued need for the school crossing patrol, the appropriate recruitment process will begin as soon as possible.”