This primary assembly celebrates schools’ all-weather heroes and heroines – school crossing patrol wardens

Introduction for teachers
As the school year comes towards its end, there will be many events celebrating staff who are retiring, moving on, or reaching long-service landmarks. Among these dedicated people will surely be some school crossing patrol wardens – or ‘lollipop’ men and women. But even if it’s just another year for your own crossing warden, might it not be a good idea to give him or her some attention as the summer break approaches? Something to remember as they look forward to meeting the children again in September? This assembly looks at the work of school crossing wardens, highlighting stories of service and commitment, and explaining some of their history.

Cameras for lollipops?
Staffordshire is one of a number of local authorities planning to put mini-cameras on the lollipop signs held by school crossing patrol wardens.
(1) The aim is to provide evidence against dangerous and inconsiderate drivers, and also to act as a deterrent.

If you have a crossing patrol warden, invite him or her into school for this assembly. And/or you could let one of the children model the clothing and equipment.

Alternatively there’s a good picture, and accompanying text, at—school-crossing-patrol-warden.en.

Do you have a school crossing patrol warden to help you on the way to school? Even if you don’t, I’m sure you know exactly who they are and what they do. Do you think it’s an easy job? No, I don’t either. Here’s what one person says about it:

‘Sometimes I walk my grand daughter to school. On the way we have to cross a very dangerous junction with five roads. I know I wouldn’t cross there if it wasn’t for the lollipop man. I’d just find another way, even if it was longer. I don’t think I could do his job at all; he carries a huge responsibility for those children and families, and he does it with confidence, making everyone feel safe and looked after. Not only that, but he makes it his business to know the names of the children – he asks them their names when he first sees them and he never forgets, and always greets them by name. That’s not only friendly; it also adds to the safety aspect, because the children take notice of him and give him respect in return.’

Getting children safely across the road to school has been a problem right from the time when towns first began to have lots of motor traffic. In the thirties in London, the education authorities started to employ senior school boys to help younger children across the road. This seemed a good idea and it was taken over by the police, who trained people to do the job. But it was in 1953 that the first crossing wardens like we have them today began to appear. (2)

Some motorists think that school crossing patrollers aren’t official and they don’t have to take notice of them. That’s certainly not true. Motorists who ignore them will be prosecuted and fined if they are found out. And some lollipop men and women are now having cameras fitted to their signs or in their hats to catch badly behaved drivers. (3)

For a long time wardens could only stop traffic for children. That changed in 2001, and they are now entitled to help anyone across the road who asks. (2) So it’s quite OK for your crossing warden to help your carers or parents across the road when they’ve left you at school and are on their way home if they’d like.

School crossing wardens don’t get paid much. But they do still have to be there, whatever the weather, doing a dangerous job. So the best thing we can do is recognise them, thank them and celebrate them. Here are some stories about school crossing patrol wardens.

Irene Reid has helped children across the road at Longridge Church of England Primary in Preston for forty years. In March this year she turned up at school to do her job to find a group of children and adults waiting to present her with flowers. The headteacher, Michael Collins, said:

‘Irene has been a fantastic help to our school. She is an example to all of us of someone who is totally dedicated to what she does and has done for an amazing 40 years – long may she carry on!’

And Irene said:

‘I have loved every minute of the job and I’ve never had a day off sick in all the 40 years.’ (4)

And here’s what a head teacher on the Isle of Man said about his school’s long-serving lollipop lady when she retired:

‘She’s not only our lollipop lady – she is a dinner lady, she goes away with the school trips off-Island and she brightens up the school with her flower arrangements. Sylvia is also very good at the hot dogs for our summer fair, makes things for our Christmas fair and generally helps out at all our annual events. I really don’t know how she has time to fit all these things into a day. Sylvia is great with the children and they all know her well, as do the staff – she keeps the teachers in order when they go on the school trips!’

In return for her hard work, she was given a very special treat by her school. Look at the website to see what it was. (5)

What would our schools do without people like this? They are very important. But unfortunately, sometimes things like this happen…

David Francis worked as a lollipop man in Gosport, Hampshire, until he was seriously injured on duty last year. Now a year later, he still can’t walk properly and can’t get back to doing the job he enjoyed. He says:

‘I found being a school crossing patrol an extremely rewarding job. The children learn that they must concentrate when crossing the road, and they rely on you to help them cross safely.’

And what do you think David said then? He said this, which is quite remarkable.

‘I’m thankful every day that the children weren’t hurt, but it deeply saddens me that children saw me lying injured in the road. A few seconds earlier and the outcome could have been far worse.’

That man, doing his job of keeping children safe, was knocked down by a car that didn’t want to stop to let children cross. And his first thought was to be upset that the children would see him lying in the road. (3)

Quite a few crossing wardens have been injured in recent years and lots have had narrow escapes. In 2003 Tracey Chapman-Woods was killed working as a crossing warden in Cleethorpes. In 2004 a 72 year old lollipop lady was seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident in Coventry. (6) And in Wolverhampton, in May this year, lollipop lady Val Davies pulled five year old Travis Willoughby to safety when a big lorry showed no sign of stopping for him. She was praised by Travis’s head teacher in a special assembly. (7)

Why do so many people, including some quite elderly people, turn out in all weathers to stand in front of cars, sometimes being abused, sometimes getting injured? If you ask them, it’s because they like to be out and about among people, and especially among children. All of them like children – and that’s quite something, because it’s sad to say there too many people who complain about children and do nothing to help them or encourage them. So let’s be really thankful for our school crossing patrol wardens – our own, and all of them across our country and in other countries. There are many children – too many to count – who are alive today who wouldn’t be if they weren’t there doing a job that many people wouldn’t dream of doing.

A prayer
We thank you, Lord, for all those people who give their time and energy to improve the lives and safety of children. We thank you especially for the work and example of those who give their time as crossing wardens. [Especially…..our own warden.] We ask you to keep them safe. May we always remember to treat them with friendliness and courtesy.

A motorist safe and dry in a car often becomes impatient. A crossing warden, out in the rain, trying to help children, usually remains patient. Who is setting the best example do you think?


(1) Staffordshire council

(2) History of crossing wardens

(3) Information on cameras, and also the story of David Francis

(4) Irene Reid

(5) Isle of Man Lollipop Lady – and the special reward she had from her school

(6) The decline of crossing patrols

(7) Child pulled to safety by crossing warden

All websites were accessed 5th June 2009

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh