CHILDREN are being left to risk 'dangerous' crossings alone as lollipop ladies and men disappear from Oxfordshire's roads.

For decades they have donned fluorescent yellow uniforms to offer pupils safe passage, but the number of 'school crossing patrol officers' employed by Oxfordshire County Council has plummeted to just 24.

The full list of which schools still have a lollipop patrol

New figures obtained by the Oxford Mail reveal that this has rapidly fallen from 65 in 2009, and 43 in 2014.

One headteacher said she is now 'deeply concerned' about safety, citing a 'number of near misses' outside her school since the post was axed.

The council stressed that the decline is not due to budget cuts, but a mixture of recruitment struggles and stricter criteria for justifying patrols.

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A spokesman said: "The fall in school crossing patrol officers is a combination of difficulty in recruiting officers and following the National School Crossing Patrol Guidelines, which provides a minimum criteria for triggering a new site or continuing with an existing site when it becomes vacant.

"The fall is not in any way connected to any revisions in the county council's budget."

Of the 24 patrol officers still in post, none of them are in Oxford city.

Though some will serve more than one school, this likely still means most of the 300 state schools in the county do not have a patrol.

The figures do not account for any school communities that have funded their own lollipop person.

Among schools that do still benefit is Dr South's CE Primary School in Islip, near Oxford, which recently welcomed a new crossing officer.

Oxford Mail:

Martin Fathers at Dr South's School

Headteacher Huw Morgan described the school as being like an 'island' due to the roads encircling it.

He said speeds were previously of great concern, as Islip is used as a 'rat run' to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Dr South's lollipop man Martin Fathers started last month, after the council carried out traffic surveys and agreed the location was eligible.

Mr Morgan said: "We have noticed cars outside going slower, even if he's not standing in the road.

"It's our belief that the average speed of traffic has fallen just because he's there.

"Undoubtedly very few schools have crossing officers, it's very rare. We feel very fortunate."

The council is currently recruiting for two crossing patrol officers - one outside Kings Meadow Primary School in Bicester, and another at Faringdon Infant School.

The latter's sister site, Faringdon Junior School, lost its crossing officer last year.

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At the end of January headteacher Sharon Farrell wrote in a newsletter: "We have had a couple of instances of near misses on the roads outside of school.

"We have not had a crossing patrol officer for some time and we are deeply concerned about the safety of our pupils."

She said a parent has been working 'tirelessly' to support road safety on site, and the school is campaigning for a pedestrian crossing outside.

In 2015, 2,973 child pedestrians in England were injured in road accidents between 7.30-8:59am or 3-4:59pm – the peak school run times.

This figure, collated by the Department for Transport, has declined from 3,404 in 2011.

In 2017 in Oxfordshire, government figures show there were 103 child casualties reported in road collisions.

Oxford Mail:

Martin Fathers at Dr South's School

This figure has also declined – the average annual number of child casualties in Oxfordshire between 2010 and 2014 was 146.

Statistics do not specify if these were in the vicinity of schools or if the casualties were pedestrians, however.

Chris Harris, the headteacher of Larkmead School in Abingdon, said traffic calming measures could be a better long-term solution to road safety.

He said Larkmead has had a crossing officer throughout his 14 years there, employed on a split contract between being a member of the site team and also doing the patrols.

That staff member left in January and the council has advertised for a replacement.

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Mr Harris said: "It is a concern [not to have one] but we have staff on duty out the front, at the end and beginning of school.

"The very least we need is a patrol crossing officer. The trouble with that is that [the role] is only during those two peak periods.

"I still feel the road we have here, because of the hill above us coming from Shippon, is a very dangerous road.

"We have long campaigned for proper traffic calming measures - if we had speed humps and a 20mph speed limit, we could probably have a crossing that isn't human-controlled, giving coverage the whole time."