A HEADTEACHER has joined people living near an Oxford school in raising road safety fears over a bridge, warning it is just a matter of time before a child is hurt.

Sarah Awuye, headteacher at St Philip and St James’ CE Primary School in north Oxford, said there had been too many near misses at Aristotle Bridge over the Oxford Canal.

Ms Awuye has been the school’s headteacher for four years and says remotely controlled rising bollards at the bridge, designed to protect pupils, haven’t worked for three and-a-half of those years.

She said things had got worse when barriers on the other side of the bridge, which prevent people going into the road from the towpath, were vandalised and removed.

She said: “The main concern is that I have 400 children coming to school, and for me, it’s quite worrying and makes me anxious.

“It’s not that there’s dangerous driving but there have been lots of near misses.

“There are times when I worry that someone will tell me an accident has happened. We have our site manager out every morning and I’ve had emails from parents saying their child was almost hit.

“The children should be able to travel to school safely but that’s not possible at the moment.

“The frustrating part is that the council pushes ‘active travel’ and as a school, we’re passionate about making our roads safe but we can’t do that right now.”

Pupils are taking to the bridge every day this week to record the number of cars, cyclists and pedestrians using it.

Yesterday, they were joined by deputy headteacher Kirsty Pape, who said: “The children have volunteered to do this – it will be four children each day and they’re very enthusiastic about it, they’re passionate about road safety.”

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said officers had arranged a site meeting with residents and representatives of the school for Monday.

Charlotte Laing, chair of Hayfield Road Residents’ Association, said the bridge was built in the 1800s and was ‘no longer fit for purpose’.

She added: “The bollards haven’t worked for three years, yet children are being encouraged to walk and cycle to school, but if they do, then the cars can be right behind them and that’s really concerning.

“The fencing being removed has only exacerbated the issue.”

Householder Julie Dyson has started an online petition to reinstate the bollards. She said: “It’s really dangerous so I emailed the council about it but they haven’t got back to me even though I said this is of grave danger to the children.

“I then asked the parents what they thought, drafted a petition and stood on the bridge and got 40 or 50 signatures.”

Bill Manville, who lives nearby, said the situation was ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

The county council spokesperson said a ‘number of technical issues’ had delayed the completion of work to repair the remotely controlled raising bollards.

However, the council hopes to begin testing the system in the next few days, and if successful, the system should go live in the next few weeks.

The spokesperson added: “The traffic signals at the junction have not been amended to date as there is a segregated pedestrian walkway on the bridge which allows for safe passage.

“Council officers will be reviewing the timings to ascertain any potential for making the passage safer for pedestrians and cyclists at the busier periods of the day, such as school drop off and pick up times.”

The petition can be found at change.org