Revealed: The Stoke-on-Trent lollipop wardens about to face the axe
THEY are the friendly faces who greet our children each morning and help them safely cross the road to school.
But dozens of Stoke-on-Trent's lollipop wardens now face the axe as part of Stoke-on-Trent City Council's programme of financial cuts.
And worried parents at one school have told how they fear losing their lollipop lady could cost a child's life.
A manned crossing has been in place in Sandon Road, Meir, to help children on their way to Crescent Primary and Sandon High School for years. But the crossing, along with another 36 across the Potteries, is one those earmarked for the axe.
Mum Dawn Hughes, of Station View, Meir, is only too aware of the importance of a crossing warden after her 11-year-old son Marcus was almost hit by a knocked down in Sandon Road a week ago.
The 31-year-old, who has four children at Crescent Primary, close to where lollipop lady Josephine Shaw, pictured, works, said: "Marcus was on his way home from high school and although the light was on red someone still went through.You need a lollipop lady to make sure they stop."
And Dawn says parents and children would miss their lollipop lady on a personal, as well as professional level, if she was made redundant.
"She's lovely," Dawn said. "My children love her."
The council has compiled a list of schools where crossings do not meet the national criteria in terms of the need to provide a crossing at all, along with a second list where crossings are under threat as there is a pedestrian crossing in place.
The first list, featuring eight crossings, was put together following a traffic survey which looked in to the number of children who walk to school without their parents and the number of cars passing at busy times.
The Sandon Road crossing features on the second list, but mother-of-two Kim Woolley believes any decision to remove it would put lives at risk.
The 28-year-old, of Broadway, Meir, said: "I really hope the lollipop lady is able to stay as we use that particular crossing every day.
"The council seems to be after every penny it can get and it can't take the crossing patrols. Just because there's a pedestrian crossing doesn't mean it's safe as people ignore the lights."
Under the plans, the council would no longer fund crossing wardens and it would be a decision for the schools to decide whether to pay for one out of their own over-stretched budgets.
Another mum, Jennifer Spice, who has one child at Sandon High and two at Crescent Primary, believes it would be very difficult to cross Sandon Road without a manned crossing at peak times. The 46-year-old, of Meir, said: "Having a crossing patrol helps the children get used to crossing the road. Even when they go to high school they are still not that street-wise."
Dave Woolridge, who helps walk his nephews and nieces to Crescent Primary, says it is essential the crossing remains as Sandon Road attracts a large volume of traffic going to and from the A50.
The 38-year-old, of Normacot, said: "It is a very busy road, it needs a crossing."
And any decision to axe the Sandon Road crossing would devastate lollipop lady Josephine, who has manned the crossing for four years.
The 51-year-old, from Meir, who also works as a dinner lady at Sandon High School, said: "It's heartbreaking. I love to see the children and I feel I am doing the right job when I see them cross over safely.
"I even know when the birthdays are as they will always come up and tell me.
It is a very busy road and you get a lot of wagons." And Josephine's job is not simply confined to ensuring youngsters get across the road safely.
"When it is the first day of term some of the children are nervous about going to school for the first time and are a bit upset," she said.
"I will ask them if they want to press the button or let them hold the lollipop stick which makes them smile."
Mum Debbie McDonald, who has two children at Crescent Primary, is grateful for the 'excellent' job Josephine does in all weathers.
The 24-year-old, of South Walk, Meir, added: "I have used it when Josephine wasn't there – and we nearly got knocked over."
Another school which faces having its crossing cut is Weston Coyney Junior School.
Headteacher Julie Nevitt said: "We are all trying to maximise the safety of children and this seems like a backward step. I think schools will be united on this. I can understand the council is in a very difficult position, but they are asking us to put more on our budgets when we have had our funding reduced as well.
"Schools do not look after the highways, and I think it should be funded by the authority."