Pupils issue warning letters to stop parking problems.

PUPILS are waging a campaign against irresponsible parking near their school by issuing their own warning letters.

Youngsters from St Stephen’s Primary School in Little Harwood, Blackburn, have been working alongside road safety experts to drive home the message to parents that parking recklessly could endanger children’s lives.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council’s Connect Project has worked alongside the pupils  and the school council to address the problem.

Collectively, they felt the warning would have more impact if it came from young people themselves.

So the children, together with the Council set to work designing and writing courtesy letters including a very serious message to leave on car windscreens and give out to parents, asking drivers to take more care.

In recent months, problems have included motorists blocking pavements, school entrances, parking on ‘school keep clear’ zigzags, yellow lines and dropping children off in the middle of the roundabout.

This forces children and mums with pushchairs to walk in the road, with cars parked illegally causing people to cross the road with an obstruction – putting lives at risk.

Ten-year-old Sasha Dar, from St Stephen’s, is one of the young school councillors involved in the campaign.

The Year five pupil said: “We thought this was a good idea because we want people to park more safely around school. We also want to ask parents to park away from school and spend five minutes walking into school with their child.”

Children have been taking part in a Healthy Travel to School Initiative, led by the Council’s Connect project, aimed at promoting sustainable travel in the borough. This has included a Healthy Travel to School Week, when walking, cycling and ‘park and stride’ are encouraged and rewarded with certificates and prizes. The children have also been involved in assemblies about the traffic initiative with more activities to come.

School staff, children and pedestrians noticed a difference on the day the letters were handed out. They commented on how the road was clearer and safer when fewer parents left their cars parked outside school when they picked up their children.

Cheryl Sandford from the Council’s Connect project said: “The children worked hard on the ticket initiative and also agreed that a walking bus would be a great idea. We are continuing this campaign over the next few months to really try and change the way parents think about coming to school.”

Cllr Arshid Mahmood, Executive Member for Neighbourhood and Prevention Services, said: “Hopefully initiatives like these are helping people realise there are alternatives to parking outside school gates.

“Walking, even for just five minutes promotes a healthier lifestyle and a decrease in cars makes it a safer journey to school. It also helps when people see others leading by example as they will then follow their lead.”

Headteacher Jacqui Young said: “We want parents to think about what they are doing. We are hoping it will raise awareness by the children emphasising that this is for their safety.

“We understand that some parents need to drive to school, but we are asking parents to park sensibly.”

Further measures the Council are introducing outside problem schools include new signs, extending keep clear lines outside school and new double yellow lines.

The measures build on ones brought in last year, children took part in a Your Call road safety project and were made into You Tube stars.

Schools in the borough took part in the project which saw pupils come up with radio jingles to educate both drivers and children about the importance of road safety.

Currently over 2,000 pupils are participating in The Connect Project’s School Programme.

The Council has set up a road safety Facebook page for residents to talk about their issues and also report problems.

Residents can also use it to give them their ideas on how to improve road safety in their area. The Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Road-Safety-Blackburn-with-Darwen

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