Plea for safety measures near Worthing school to protect children before accident happens

Michelle Mayes from Thomas a Becket Junior School handing in a petition calling for safety measures to county councillor Paul High
Michelle Mayes from Thomas a Becket Junior School handing in a petition calling for safety measures to county councillor Paul High

Road safety measures are urgently required to protect Worthing children travelling to and from school, according to parents and staff.

A petition signed by more than 600 people has urged West Sussex County Council to implement a number of measures in the roads close to Thomas a Becket Junior School.

Signs near Thomas a Becket Junior School in need of replacement

Signs near Thomas a Becket Junior School in need of replacement

In particular it is calling for measures to protect children as they cross St Lawrence Avenue and Wiston Avenue on their way to and from school.

Jo Gilham, a parent governor at the school, explained how both were ‘extremely busy roads’ used as cut-throughs for rush-hour traffic moving from one side of the town to the other.

She said: “Often drivers are in a hurry, sometimes inattentive and occasionally aggressive – not wishing to stop for children standing precariously on the edge of the kerb. Even as an adult, these are difficult roads to cross when the school crossing patrol is absent.

“These are very dangerous points with vehicles travelling from four directions at each intersection. So far we have not had an accident that has caused an injury or fatality. However, to believe this indicates a low risk area is to play Russian roulette with our children’s lives.”

Signs near Thomas a Becket Junior School in need of replacement

Signs near Thomas a Becket Junior School in need of replacement

She argued drivers need to be warned of the potential hazard of children crossing and are encouraged to slow down.

Wiston Avenue has a school crossing patrol officer, but only in the mornings, although a group of volunteers are hoping to provide cover in the afternoons.

The petition was handed into the council’s Worthing County Local Committee on Monday (November 5), as the issue had been discussed previously at its February and June meetings.

John Gadd, the school’s headteacher, said: “We do truly fear if we continue with inactivity and lack of urgency this will lead to a serious injury or to the death of one of my children.”

Meanwhile Michelle Mayes, a learning support assistant at the school and one of its travel plan co-ordinators, detailed what safety measures were needed.

Flashing amber warning lights would highlight to drivers that children are crossing the road, while better signage in both St Lawrence Avenue and Wiston Avenue would make people more aware there is a school in the area and Glebeside Avenue is a no-through road.

An afternoon school crossing patrol for Wiston Avenue and improved road markings are the two other major priorities for the school.

County councillors voiced their support for the requested road safety improvements.

Bob Smytherman (LDem, Tarring) said: “We need to make sure we get those signs and the mechanisms in place for the schools safety scheme so the travel plan can link in.”

He added: “This is the third time this has come to the CLC meeting and as yet all we have got done is we have had a sign cleaned. Frankly it’s not good enough.”

Committee chair Paul High (Con, Worthing West) described being ‘equally frustrated’.

Mr Smytherman expressed his frustration that new school crossing patrol officers could not be taken on due to a county council-wide recruitment freeze.

However he did welcome the fact that a group of volunteers could be trained to cover where needed.

Roger Oakley (Con, Worthing East) described how the issues affecting Thomas a Becket were problems ‘common to nearly all the schools in Worthing’.

Officers were asked to prepare an action plan and to bring an update to the next CLC meeting.

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