Problems with traffic at the French School

French School

Residents of Willes Road have been alarmed by the chaotic start to the school’s first term.  Don Hibbs has been involving the local police, and writes:

Firstly is the problem mainly caused by the afternoon collection of parents who come to pick up their children from the school’s entrances in Cathcart Street and Willes Road.The parents collect on the footpaths and then spill out into the roads. In the case of Cathcart Street, they tend to block completely the bend in the street opposite Azania Mews, making traffic movement hazardous to the children (and the adults). In Willes Road, the parents tend to congregate immediate outside the entrance, battling with between four and six mini-buses for space. Again, they take over the whole footpath area and some of the road, creating and impasse for normal pedestrians, prams, disabled scooter drivers and a major hazard for traffic.

The second problem is that of the mini-buses. …

These also tend to collect as closely as possible to the two entrance gates, regardless of road markings and the number of parents gathered. There seems to be no overall control of these vehicles.

The third problem is that of private cars who double park or park on double yellow lines whilst awaiting to collect their children.

The school has published its views and responded : see below –

but there are real concerns for the current safety of all concerned.


Transport update to the neighbours of CFBL

The school has now passed its first full week.
Whilst things happening inside the building are settling down, we are aware that the school pick-up and drop-off has been an issue.
The main problem seems to be the number of parents waiting around outside the school gates, exacerbated by the presence of minibuses collecting children.

There are various ways of tackling this:

1.  Staggered start and finish times.
2.  Use of after-school clubs and breakfast clubs to further stagger the times
3.  Use of different exits
4.  Controlling where the parents wait
5.  Organising the handover of children to parents to make it as quick and as safe as possible.

I will address each of these ideas below.  It is also important to understand that much of the site is still under construction so the options available to the school at present are not the same as will exist eventually. We are still in an interim phase.

1. Staggered start and finish times.

Start times:
Primary 9:00am
Secondary:  8:45.

The gates on Willes road are supposed to open at 8:20 to allow the secondary children the enter the playground.
At approx 8:45 the gates are closed and the secondary children taken up to their classes.
The gates are then reopened for the eldest 2 years of primary to enter the main playground.
Similarly, the Cathcart street gates are supposed to open at 8:45 to allow the younger primary children to enter.

School Finish
Primary 3:30pm  12 classes with approx 340 pupils
Lower secondary 4pm  6 classes, approx 180 children
Upper secondary 5 or 6pm, approx 80 children

Obviously this leaves the biggest group, nursery & primary all leaving at the same time.

The school is going to further stagger the times of the primary pupils leaving at each exit (using a 5 minute gap) and will follow a strict order so that the parents know when to expect their child to exit.  This should avoid some of the grouping in front of the entrances.

2. Use of after-school clubs and breakfast clubs to further stagger the times

The school is still undergoing building work and many areas are not finished.  One of these is the canteen.
This would be the main place for supervising a large number of children after teaching hours.
Therefore, the school management do not see it as viable to offer after-school care to a large number of children until the canteen is complete.  This will not be before the beginning of November.

The staggered finish time is, however, causing problem with the minibuses.  These are arriving in time to collect the children finishing at 3:30 but then are probably staying around to collect lower secondary children who finish at 4pm.
The school will discuss with the parents association, if they can help staff an after-school club for the children on the buses, so that the buses can collect all children at 4pm.

3.  Use of different exits

The original aim was to use different entrances for different ages of children.
However, the advantages of having different exits is then lost – all the parents for the 3:30 pick-up were waiting at Cathcart Street.
The school has been trying alternative measures by sending children to different exits.

Thus the 340 nursery & primary and now split across Holmes Road, Cathcart St & Willes Road.
They are then largely clear by the time to lower secondary exit at 4pm.

4.  Controlling where the parents wait

The school is reviewing whether it can allow the parents to wait in the playground and still achieve a safe handover of the children to the parents & guardians.

5.  Organising the handover of children to parents to make it as quick and as safe as possible

The school is reviewing how to manage the handover to see if it can be made quicker.

The plan is to keep monitoring the situation and keep trying things to see what works best for all involved.
I observe what I can and take the opportunity to talk to the parents, many of whom are equally keen that things improve.
However, I am not there every day (I am sharing with a neighbour – doing my personal bit to reduce the congestion) and I cannot
observe every entrance/ exit so your feedback is very useful to me and the school management.

Philippa Richard
School Trustee and Member of the School Travel Committee