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Beginning of the end for lollipop men and women

A familiar face seen come rain, shine or snow will be missing from outside the gates of hundreds of schools in the new year.

One in four local authorities is planning to scale back – or even abolish – school crossing patrols – signalling an end to the era of "lollipop" men and women. But headteachers and road safety campaigners argue the cuts will put children's safety at risk.

One council, Northamptonshire, plans to save £201,000 by scrapping its service and making all 60 of its lollipop men and women redundant. Dorset is axing 65 jobs and planning to make the patrols voluntary, with local communities urged to raise the cash for the service themselves.

The survey, carried out for the Times Educational Supplement, also revealed that cuts were planned in Barnet, Essex, Oldham, South Tyneside and Suffolk.

In addition, Birmingham, Peterborough, Stockton-on-Tees and Stockport are carrying out reviews of their services.

One headteacher, Colin Dowland, of Dollis Junior School in Barnet, described the decision to cut the service as "madness", adding: "I can't think of a single more important job than keeping the children safe as they cross the busy main road outside my school."

Caroline Perry, of road safety charity Brake, added: "In 2009, 12 children were killed or seriously injured on UK roads every day. We should be working to reduce this number, not making the situation worse." One anonymous crossing guard said: "They do need someone on the crossing. The kids all follow each other in a bit of a rush."