A Nidderdale primary school is spending hundreds of pounds paying private contractors to grit roads outside their site after North Yorkshire County Council repeatedly turned down requests to treat the roads for the sake of the school childrens’ safety.
Kettlesing Fettiscliffe Community Primary School lies on a steep narrow road yards from an existing gritting route, but the school said the council have refused to reroute their gritters to cover the road, leaving the school paying £40 per day to have the icy road treated in the hope of preventing accidents when the young pupils arrive at and leave school.
The contractor grits the road whenever overnight temperatures falls below freezing, but with funds coming out of the school’s teaching budget the headteacher can only afford to pay for the service every other day, PTA members said.
The school has paid £340 this term alone, and with winter far from over parents fear the school could be forced to spend more much-needed funds this way.
Sarah Fisher, secretary of the PTA, is mother to Year 1 pupil Emily, and three-year-old Grace who is due to start the school’s nursery soon. She said parents like her fear skidding vehicles could cause terrible accidents when children are arriving at school or walking along the road for PE lessons in the village hall.
Parents and nearby residents have been calling for the roads to be included on the gritting route for at least three years, Dr Fisher said, but their request has been turned down each time the council’s gritting procedures have been reviewed.
Dr Fisher said: “We have a very strong PTA, and we manage to raise thousands of pound for the school each year. If we have to spend that on keeping the children safe we will, but that means the children will have to forego things other schools have,”
As well as icy conditions, the school also has to cope with fast traffic as there is no speed limit – except the national 60mph speed limit – outside their gates.
A petition calling for a lower speed limit of 20mph or even 30mph has attracted 380 signatures, despite the school only serving 35 families.
Dr Fisher presented the petition to NYCC’s Harrogate Area Committee on January 17.
She said: “When we took the petition to the area committee meeting one of the non-agenda items discussed was the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire, which is brilliant, and the councillors were saying how important it was to fill in the potholes around the county.
“But we feel a little bit of that money could be spent helping keep our children safe.”
As well as crossing the road for PE lessons at the village hall, the school has recently acquired a land for use as a playing field, meaning all 49 pupils will be crossing the road up to six times a day for playtimes once the summer weather arrives.
Kettlesing’s County Councillor Heather Barnett is supporting pleas for a speed limit at the site, along with Harrogate Borough Councillor Helen Flynn.
Coun Flynn said: “It seems ridiculous there should be a speed limit of 60mph at a school. I don’t think it’s good enough, particularly with children crossing the road to the sports field.”
The parents and campaigners are pleading for a speed limit on the road to avoid a potential catastrophe, Dr Fisher said.
“A lot of children crossing a little country road is so obviously a dangerous situation that we can’t understand why they wouldn’t immediately agree to speed reductions,” she added.
A council spokesman confirmed the gritting request had been considered three times by their “gritting route review panel”, had been but declined each time because of budget and other considerations.
He added: “There is however a grit bin on the roadside immediately outside the school for use on the road on a self-help basis.”
However, the parents’ worries over the speed limit have been investigated through the council’s “95 Alive” Speed Management Protocol, he added, and a report is expected shortly.