“Drive and park as if the police are watching”
It is an issue faced by most schools; the congestion and parking, during drop-off and pick up times, that put children in danger and make life hard for local residents. Concerns were raised by residents and parents of children at Billinghurst Primary School, but with no power to enforce the law, the school felt something needed to be done to alleviate the problem.
Now the children have undertaken their own campaign to tackle the issue, by expressing concerns in their own voice, with the hope that this will persuade people to be considerate on the roads and walk to school whenever possible. Last week, local residents were invited to the school to help launch the initiative alongside the pupils.
A meeting of the School Council, run by the children, reported that many do not feel safe having to cross the road from behind badly parked cars. They were concerned about having to walk into the road when cars block the pavement – especially when parents are still driving around looking for parking spaces.
Carpenters, because it is a series of cul-de sacs, is not easy to see into from the one entrance on station Road, which encourages the parents to come in just to seek a space. This causes much of the fraught parking situation about which the children and residents are concerned.
In response, the children surveyed the views of local residents and classmates and produced a programme of actions, starting with a poster competition to design a banner for the school.
Ella Costelloe and Ryan Cooper, representatives of the School Council, commented: “We all thought this was one of the main problems we faced. We were worried about our lollypop man, as he nearly got run over, and many of us don’t feel safe around all the cars. We stood up in assembly and asked everyone to design a poster and a campaign slogan for the banner. School Councillors from Key Stage 1 and 2 selected each other’s winner. We hope it will help the parents to think about our safety. They should listen to us because we’re school children.”
Lesley Wilding, Chair of the Carpenter’s Residents’ Association, said: “The banners are brilliant and we hope the minority of those who cause the issues take notice. We’re very encouraged by the initiative and can see the School Council have worked very hard on the children’s behalf. We recognise the difficulties of getting children to school and finding parking, and as lots of schools in the region are up to capacity, this issue is ever more pressing, however it is a question of safety, kindness and general consideration, such as not blocking access. We would like to encourage more people to walk to school.”
Miss Williamson, Headteacher at Billingshurst Primary School, explained: “Our priority is the safety of our pupils and consideration of our local residents who struggle with this on a daily basis, and it is our hope that the message will have more impact and power to persuade, as it comes directly from the children.
“We were keen to involve local residents so that everyone can see we are working together to make our community better and affect change. The banners and posters are now on display outside the school, and a letter has been distributed to explain what the campaign is about, why it is needed and what we want to achieve.”
Ben Pody, Director at Auto Sussex, sponsors of the banners, commented: “We are delighted to be able to support this campaign and promote road safety at the school.”
Winners of the poster competition were Henry Wilmington from Key Stage 1 and Connor Jenkins and Josh Davies from Key Stage 2.