EDINBURGH is facing its greatest ever shortfall of lollipop staff, sparking fears schoolchildren are being put at risk while crossing the road.
The number of crossing guards employed in Edinburgh has plummeted in recent years, with the city struggling to attract new candidates to the vital roles.
There are at least 24 vacancies for lollipop men and women across the Capital, with some schools – such as Dean Park Primary in Balerno – left without a single crossing patrol officer. It is understood demanding hours and a poor salary are among the aspects of the job that is deterring applications
Five years ago, Edinburgh schools shared 194 lollipop staff between them but today that figure has plunged to just 170.
Mother Amanda Stewart, who serves on the Pentland Primary parent council, insisted the scarcity could put children at risk.
She said: “You can tell there’s a shortage. At our school we’ve only got one – and although we’re in quite a residential area, the road can turn into a real rat run in the mornings.
“It’s just not safe. We would love to have more than one crossing guard at the school.”
Recruiting suitable candidates as lollipop staff has been an ongoing problem in recent years, with council leaders forced to launch a major advertising campaign in 2006 to redress dwindling numbers.
More than 200 crossing guards were recruited in the drive that saw applications sent to every primary school parent in Edinburgh. And just five years later, the city was forced to ditch proposals seeking to axe more than a third of lollipop men and women in a bid to save £300,000 per year.
Councillor Gavin Corbett said city leaders should act to attract more applicants by raising the pay above minimum wage and emphasising the “merits of the job for people who want to get out during the day”.
Councillor Jason Rust said the hours worked by lollipop staff limited their availability to undertake other part-time work and benefit entitlement,
“But delays with disclosure checks, antisocial motorists and heavy traffic and even the weather can deter applicants,” he said. “The possibility of dual jobs for council employees could be considered, as well as more targeted local recruitment and tackling feelings of isolation.”
A council spokeswoman said the authority was confident vacancies would be filled and insisted all roads currently covered by lollipop staff would continue to be manned when schools go back after the winter break.
She added: “Lollipop guides play a crucial role in maintaining road safety and helping schoolchildren learn about safe crossing. We are recruiting for a number of extra staff to fill this important role, and we currently have a number of positions open for applications.”