Why do we need to change?
Dudley Council must save £24m and yet at the same time continue to deliver core services that it has a statutory duty to provide to residents and businesses in the borough.
Government cuts have brought about the need to think differently about how non statutory and discretionary services are provided. As part of a response to this challenge, a number of services are under review including school crossing patrols, to ensure that in future years the service becomes self-financing.
This is one of many difficult decisions that the council needs to consider over the next few months in order to meet future budget pressures.
As part of this review an option is being considered that enables schools to become part custodian of the service providing greater flexibility in how they wish the service to be deployed.
One of the reasons we want to enter into a partnership with schools in the provision of the service is that it provides greater recruitment opportunities. By embedding school crossing patrols within the school staffing structure it is hoped that recruitment amongst staff and parent/carers will be a more common occurrence. This would enable greater access and engagement with school colleagues.
What does the change mean?
Historically the council has determined the extent of the provision of the school crossing patrol service subject to the application of national criteria and budget availability. As part of this review the council would be looking to realign the service in such a way as to enable the schools to take greater control and responsibility for providing school crossing patrols. It would be up to the primary schools to deploy them as the school crossing patrols could be trained individuals embedded within the school or other individuals who have close links with the local community.
Does the council have a statutory duty to provide this service?
No, it is a discretionary service that the council provides to schools. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the parent/carer to safely deliver their child to school.
What is the advantage of the review for the schools?
The schools are being empowered to make their own decisions about how they want their school crossing patrol service to operate.
This also means that the schools play a significant role in determining where (as long as it is a safe and assessed location in accordance with the guidelines) the patrols should be located.
Walking and cycling to school helps children to engage with their local community, develop wider social networks, create greater spatial awareness and improves road sense, as well as gaining independence. In addition to this the health benefits are substantial for parents/carers and children as current research shows that a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese. Obese adults are seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than adults of a healthy weight.
By embedding the school crossing patrols within the school it will be easier for them to oversee the participation of pupils in daily walks to school and other physical activities aimed at improving their spatial awareness and road sense when achieving Primary PE and Sports Premium walking and daily exercise targets. These activities have strong links with wellbeing and educational attainment.
Evidence of this transition from other local authorities who have already realigned the service has shown that school crossing patrol absenteeism has declined. This is considered to be because of a sense of belonging that motivates and strengthens loyalty amongst trained staff to ensure continuous cover and engagement with pupils and parents walking or cycling to school.
How will the new system work? What will schools need to do?
The schools would need to decide whether to keep the existing school crossing patrols as well as whether to introduce new school crossing patrols that more reflect their local need. The school would then sign up to a service level agreement with the council. The duty of the council would be to ensure that all training and conduct on the highway is carried out safely by mentoring the schools crossing patrols to discharge their duties in accordance with current guidelines.
The school crossing patrol embedded within schools would permit those schools to enhance their duties e.g. greater engagement with parents and pupils encouraging them to walk or cycle to school and other duties within the school environment.
The schools have a unique relationship with parent/carers and the community and the council recognises that they should take an active role in the recruitment and selection process. In most cases the school crossing patrol would still be an employee of Dudley Council.
How much does the school crossing patrol service cost?
There are over 100 schools across the borough with only 60 schools taking up the service.
Based on 60 patrol sites the cost for this service is on average £6,500 per school crossing patrol site (each year). Based on 2011 survey data, the cost of the service is approximately £30 per pupil. In addition, there are sites where patrols are situated on a traffic signal controlled crossings. The council needs to ensure that its limited resources are used in the most effective way possible, i.e. a school crossing patrol on a push button pedestrian crossing is considered to be duplication in provision. Vacancies arising at such sites have not been filled since 2010.
Should the review be able to secure closer collaboration with schools it is anticipated that a greater number of school crossing patrol sites could be funded which would reduce the cost of the service as any overheads could be spread across a broader base.
Does the realignment of the school crossing patrol budget mean that schools get a rebate?
No, school crossing patrols are funded via the council’s General Fund and not the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).
General Fund provides the resources necessary to sustain the day-to-day statutory activities of the council and thus pays for all administrative and operating expenses.
Whilst the schools get a number of funding allocations from various government departments in addition to DSG, the school crossing patrol has never been funded by the Dedicated Schools Grant.
This means that over the previous years the council has made available a discretionary allocation from its general fund to support schools and pupils walking to and from school.
If the school wants to provide the service what will the council do?
Under the legislation governing school crossing patrols the council is responsible for providing the school crossing patrol with the necessary training and authority to undertake their duties. The council would need to approve the individuals as suitable to undertake the duties, provide training and technical advice. There would be an annual charge (estimated £1,500 per site) for this service which would enable the school to become part custodian of the school crossing patrol service.
Should there be a demand for new sites, minor engineering and signing works would require further investigation.
Can schools fund their own school crossing patrols?
Yes. If the governing body of a school consider that it is "for the purposes of the school and health and vitality of the pupils’’ then they may use their devolved delegated budget to fund or part/fund the salary costs of the patrol service. For example, the government recently announced a twofold increase for the dedicated funding for sport in primary schools, paid for by a levy on soft drinks. As recently as two weeks ago the link between walking and more active lifestyle was debated at Primary School PE & Sport Premium Black Country Strategic Advisory Group and the group endorsed all innovative means to increase physical activities and to tie all strategies to combat obesity at all levels.
In addition to this funding, schools may wish to bid for funding pots both from the private sector and other governmental organisations. Schools may alternatively find other ways to provide funding towards the employment of a school crossing patrol, however, the management and performance monitoring of the service would be administered by the council in accordance with operational guidance.
Can local communities fund a school crossing patrol?
Local community and businesses can work together with schools to find the appropriate funds for their school crossing patrol. Dudley Council through a service level agreement would support the school in the future delivery of the service using the funds provided.
Can private schools and academies train and recruit school crossing patrols?
No. However, they can follow the same process adopted by other local education authority (LEA) schools and sign up to the service through the service level agreement described above.
When would the changes occur?
The council will be consulting with schools over the next few months and is aiming to be able to make the changes in the next financial year
Can anyone be a school crossing patrol?
No, like all matters involving adults working with children their suitability would need to be determined and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and health checks undertaken. They would also need to receive training and assessment to ensure that they are capable of undertaking the duties.
Can parents/carers legally stop traffic and cross groups of children?
No, only accredited staff who have received the appropriate training, wearing the approved uniform and displaying the approved sign can legally stop traffic at sites authorised by the local highway authority.
Subject to a new service level agreement with the schools individual parents/carers could through the recruitment process become an accredited school crossing patrol.
Due to the nature of the role, only successful applicants can become accredited school crossing patrols and be subject to all the legal processes associated with the post.
The council would be obliged through the service level agreement to ensure that all school crossing patrol candidates have the relevant Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance and health checks.
Can parents/carers escort groups of children across the road instead?
Yes. Parents/carers could work together to escort groups of children across a road in accordance with the Highway Code, however, parent/carers do not have the legal authority to stop traffic.
Will the council provide a standby/mobile patrol service?
Dependent upon the delivery model identified by the school, the council would provide a standby/mobile patrol, where available to cover for absences as and when required if agreed as part of the service level agreement.
Could the schools provide the standby/mobile patrol service?
Yes, in these cases the school could seek school crossing patrol accreditation for a member of staff to cover any absenteeism. It is important that the standby carries out the school crossing patrol duties periodically to safeguard their training.
How many people will receive school crossing patrol training each year?
The council has a pool of trained school crossing patrols. We would wish to prioritise the redeployment of these qualified and highly competent school crossing patrols through the service level agreement with the schools prior to the recruitment of new school crossing patrols.
By engaging an existing school crossing patrol the schools have an opportunity not to incur additional staff training costs.
What happens where the school is not prepared to provide a school crossing patrol?
The council would not be able to step in to resolve the problem and regrettably the school crossing patrol would cease at that site.
What happens when more than one school uses a school crossing patrol?
Clearly there would be some sites where other schools share the use of a school crossing patrol. This is a matter that would need discussion between individual schools and a consensus reached between them about sharing the costs. The council can in some cases mediate between schools to achieve a joined up solution.
If a school has never had a patrol but is willing to pay for one would they get one?
Subject to availability of resources, the council, in partnership with the school would happily investigate the request. There are occasions where this would require specialised consultancy support which would be rechargeable to the school.
If the school crossing patrol goes should it not be replaced by a Zebra or Puffin Crossing?
In the majority of instances the answer would be no. The criteria for a school crossing patrol is based on the number of children under 11 years of age and the traffic passing over the busiest 30 minute period of the day. A Zebra or Puffin is based on the number of people crossing and vehicles passing in the busiest four hour period. Few school crossing patrol sites meet this test and those that do generally have a Zebra or Puffin crossing already.
When assessing a request for a pedestrian crossing or its upgrade to a signalised crossing, several factors are taken into account:
· Pedestrian flow
· Volume of traffic
· Speed of traffic
· Speed limit
· Site characteristics, e.g. footway width, road width, proximity to junctions, visibility
· Personal injury collision record
This information is used to establish what type of crossing would be appropriate at a location.
A permanent Zebra or signalised pedestrian crossing is most effective when there is regular demand from pedestrians during all peak and off peak periods (this means 8am to 7pm). They are typically installed as part of an overall safety study to reduce personal injury collisions involving pedestrians or reduce severance caused by volume of traffic. To be most effective they should be used sparingly as their presence without frequent use would bring them into disrepute and detract from their effectiveness and more significantly could lead to personal injury collision involving pedestrians.
How will you deal with inconsiderate parking and improve pedestrian safety during morning and evening school peak?
The council is aware that some residents and parents/carers have concerns over inconsiderate parking near the school entrances. This is a major challenge in terms of convincing some parents/carers of the wider benefits of walking or cycling to school. We work closely with cycling groups, the police and a range of other organisations to deliver extensive publicity, training and awareness through education, engineering and enforcement programmes.
We would support and strongly encourage schools to take an active role in liaising with parents and carers to ensure that any parking in and around schools is undertaken in such a way that it considers the impact on pupils walking to and from the school and on local residents.
Should you have any queries regarding the review, please email your comments to SCP-Review@dudley.gov.uk