Parents face drop-off ban after community council hears of safety fears at Kelso High

TAXIS ferrying disabled kids are struggling to safely drop off their young charges at Kelso High because of the large number of parents driving into the school grounds to let their own children out.

Parents now face being banned from turning off Bowmont Street and driving onto school property to drop off their children, following safety fears from health and safety officials.

Members of Kelso Community Council this month heard from its vice-chairman John Bassett that the practice could soon be disallowed.

Mr Bassett attended a recent meeting that had also involved health and safety representatives and officials from Scottish Borders Council to discuss the traffic situation at the high school.

“What was made clear was that anything to do with the traffic outwith the school property – that is on the road – is not a council problem, but a police one,” he told fellow councillors.

“The police are quite happy about the cars parking along Bowmont Street as this forces other vehicles to slow down.

“What is needed is to educate parents that it would be safer to drop their children off elsewhere – after all, the kids all have feet, so they can easily walk to the school.

“At a time when everyone is encouraging children to take more exercise, what is wrong with kids having a 15-minute walk from say the old primary school car park along to the high school?”

Mr Bassett revealed that there was currently extensive survey work underway to look at the problem.

“This is the only school left in the Borders where private cars are allowed onto school property in this way. We need to educate parents so that they park their cars away from the school.”

It was community councillor and local taxi driver John King who raised the issue concerning the taxis used to transport disabled children to the school. These vehicles go into the playground to drop youngsters off as near as possible to the school buildings.

He pointed out that the taxis ferrying disabled children were often forced to stop on the road outside due to the large number of vehicles trying to enter the school.

“These taxis often can’t get in because of the number of private cars there, so taxis are being forced to wait outside,” he explained.

Community councillor Harry Tomcyzk highlighted what he called the “terrible congestion” around the school entrance, with large numbers of children going in or coming out as cars pulled up.

But he told Mr Bassett: “I hear what you’re saying about educating parents, but parents do like to drop their kids off near the school. I don’t think you would be able to persuade them to do anything else.

“The cars parked along the sides of the street outside the school does slow traffic down, but even without parents stopping their cars to drop off or pick up their kids this is still quite a lethal bit of road.”

Mr Tomcyzk added that, while there might be a slight health and safety risk from parents driving into the school grounds, he did not accept the argument that it would be a good move to ban the practice altogether.

But Mr Bassett said the problem for the local authority was if a child was to be knocked down on school property by a private car and injured or worse, then SBC could face legal action.

“They are going to be sending police officers and traffic wardens up to the school to try to disuade people from parking up there,” he said.

“At the moment, people are still allowed to drop off their kids inside the school property but I think within the next 12 months this will be a non-starter.”

Councillors heard that school staff are on hand to supervise the playground when children arrive and leave, as well as ensuring children get safely on and off buses outside the school gates.

Tom Weatherston, who represents Kelso on Scottish Borders Council, said an incident elsewhere in Scotland in recent years when a child had been knocked down and killed on school property had highlighted the dangers of such a situation.

Councillor Weatherston added: “Since it was built, the MUGA (multi-use games area) has meant local residents in Bowmont Street have nowhere to park their cars except on the street. So until we can get somewhere else for these residents to park this problem isn’t going to go away.”

A spokesperson for SBC told TheSouthern that no official decision had yet been made in relation to this matter.