Road to safety

Churchfields-School-090523Councillor Gomez with deputy head James Easter

Councillor Rosa Gomez (Churchfields ward, Labour) reflects on the road safety improvements that have been made at Churchfields Junior School over the past few years

It has been my privilege to work with teachers and parents of children at Churchfields Junior School, where I have been a governor for several years. In 2018, soon after I was first elected as a councillor, I visited the school on a number of occasions and found the children particularly articulate. They had a keen interest in the environment and were clearly annoyed at the number of vehicles driving past the school.

Consequently, one of my top concerns has been the safety of the children. My fears have been highlighted by a series of near misses and at least one incident when a child was struck by a car. It takes only a second’s loss of concentration for tragedy to strike.

Over the past few years, the combined efforts of Churchfields parents, teaching staff – especially headteacher Rebecca Emeny – and officers of Redbridge Council’s Highways Department have made a real difference. Temporary signage, which is put in place when children are going to school and leaving, extended zigzag lines on the road, a park-and-stride scheme and now CCTV to deter dangerous driving have all helped. 

I recently had the pleasure to revisit the school at home time. I was joined by deputy head James Easter, and we had an opportunity to monitor how the safety measures are working. Between 3pm and 3.45pm, as children were flooding out of the gates, we didn’t notice a single instance of car drivers idling, parking on zigzags, performing U-turns or doing anything else that could endanger young lives. James told me that 89% of children now travel to and from school on foot, bike or scooter. Ten years ago, 26% travelled by car, and now that figure is only about 10%. This marked decrease was helped by the introduction in 2021 of the park-and-stride scheme, with free parking in the nearby Derby Road car park during drop-off and pick-up times. The school’s leadership team are determined to encourage a further reduction in car usage outside the premises.

Churchfields staff’s commitment to safety has been demonstrated by a willingness to engage with parents and spend money – the signs aren’t cheap and come out of the school budget. The council’s commitment has been shown by officers such as Adam Warnes and Simon Casson, who found ways to implement safety measures. And parents have responded positively. This has been a wonderful example of people coming together to find solutions and I’m proud to have been part of it.

This is all good news, but I must make an appeal. I know how hard it is for the driver of a reversing car to notice a small child walking behind the vehicle. Cars are potentially lethal machines, so please, if you are doing the school run or simply in transit past a school – any school – obey the signs and pay attention to what’s going on around you.

To contact Councillor Rosa Gomez, email rosa.gomez@redbridge.gov.uk