23 April 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Campaign:
What price a child's life?

Sign up now to save our lollipop patrols

22 April 2005

The plan to cut more than 100 lollipop patrols in Belfast is quite literally a matter of life and death.

Anyone who has ever been on the school run knows just how vital a service these committed men and women provide.

They take their lives in their hands to see children safely across the city's busy roads - who knows how many lives they have saved down the years?

That is why the recommendation of a Belfast Education and Library Board committee to axe dozens of patrols across the city must be opposed.

We support the board's efforts to prioritise in terms of making education cutbacks but it must get its priorities right.

Although the current reduction plan is limited, there is no room for compromise on safety.

The Belfast Telegraph is today launching a snap petition to save the lollipop patrols and there is no time to lose.

The board is due to deliver its verdict on the recommendation next Thursday and we want to ensure the voice of the people is heard.

Cut out today's coupon and have it signed by as many people as possible. Feel free to photocopy the form if you need to and send the completed forms to our office as soon as possible.

There will also be a box at our front counter where the forms can be delivered by hand. We will ensure they are all delivered to the board meeting next week. The more people who sign up to the cause, the more chance there is of having this penny-pinching decision reversed.

Some board members have already pledged to do all they can to save the patrols. But they need your support.

Please get on board the Save our Lollipop Service campaign now. There is no time to lose.
Click here to get the campaign coupon

School leaders back campaign

By Claire Regan

The Belfast Telegraph today launches a campaign to save the vital lollipop service that protects the lives of our children.

We are calling on the public to throw their support behind our plea to the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) to abandon plans to axe dozens of school crossing patrols across the city.

Save Our Lollipop Service is calling on readers to sign our petition urgently by cutting out the coupon printed today and getting it signed by as many people as possible. We will then deliver these petitions to the Belfast board next week when members meet to decide on whether to rubber-stamp plans that will seriously jeopardise the lives and safety of school pupils.

Politicians and school leaders today urged people to support our campaign against the proposals which will see the lollipop service cut at 54 lunchtime patrols, 14 at post-primary schools and 38 on roads where there is also a pelican crossing or traffic lights.

BELB vice chairman Jim Rodgers, who is bitterly opposed to the cuts, said he feared the plans would lead to the death of pupil.

"I have been absolutely inundated by calls and emails from parents, teachers and principals with serious concerns about this decision," he said.

"People are really angry - there is a feeling of disbelief that these cuts could even be considered.

"This campaign is a wonderful initiative that will give people a voice to tell the board that these proposals are unacceptable. It's an issue that affects the lives of everyone in this city and I call on readers to have their say."

Principal of Belfast Royal Academy Billy Young said his pupils would be particularly affected, as the school operated from a split site on the Cliftonville Road.

"We need a crossing patrol all the time. These measures could put a child's life at risk," he said.

"At a time when there is so much emphasis on the protection of the child, it seems madness that pupils could be denied a basic service provided to protect their safety. I would ask people to support the Belfast Telegraph's campaign and get this vital service reinstated."

Alliance education spokeswoman Naomi Long said: "I understand the financial pressure that the boards are under but this is outrageous. What price can you put on a child's life?"

The board's general purposes and finance committee voted for the move this week, which will save almost £300,000 as part of a package of cuts of almost £7m reluctantly passed by BELB to cope with budget shortfalls from the Department of Education. The total stripped from services across the five education boards hit £30m.

Public service union Nipsa was today balloting more than 5,000 of its members employed in the education and library sector on strike action. If there is a positive vote for industrial action the union, along with other non-teaching unions, will be calling its members out on strike on May 13.

Union in call for strike at schools

Cash cutbacks lead to ballot

Non-teaching staff at Northern Ireland's financially crippled education boards were set to receive ballot papers in the post today to vote on whether they should strike over cash cutbacks.

Northern Ireland's largest public service union Nipsa is balloting over 5,000 of its members employed in the education and library sector on whether they should join an all-out strike on May 13.

The action is a backlash against cutbacks of £30m reluctantly agreed by the five education boards to stay within the controversial budget allocations handed out by the Department of Education for this financial year.

The boards were forced to remove funding from vital frontline services such as school meals, maintenance, transport and special needs education. The ensuing turmoil has led to fears of mass redundancies among teaching and non-teaching staff and concern over potential school closures.

Tommy Wright, Nipsa assistant secretary, said they were urging all members in the five education and library boards, in schools, board headquarters, libraries, youth services and other locations, to vote for strike action in order to give the Government "a clear and unambiguous message that cutbacks in education services and jobs are totally unacceptable".

"It is not acceptable that the Government can get away with not properly funding education and library services," he said.

"It is despicable that these cutbacks will directly impact in a very serious way on the most vulnerable children in our community, in particular children with special educational needs. Nipsa cannot sit on the sidelines and witness the destruction of our education services.

"We are calling on our members to show their determination to resist these cutbacks by voting emphatically for strike action."

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