Child Protection and Headley Way
New School Year Update Sept 2015
21/09/2015 – Headington Heartbreak – An apparent staff member and 4 Sixth Forms, one Year 10ish and a very young, possibly Year 8 girl get off the 400 bus and run across the Headley Way.
Headington School is the only entity that can stop this in any short term timeframe, but yet it goes on, day after day until a child is seriously injured or dead with no change whatever in the last five years I have been trying to get any effective action.
14/09/2015 – Another dreadful, dangerous start to the school year as Headington Girls run across the road from the 400 bus stop, one girl on her own approx. Year 8, two other girls and a group approximately eight in what appears to be the adoption of human wave tactics.
It is absolutely incomprehensible that this situation is allowed to continue by Headington School that continues to be unable, unwilling or incapable of effectively placing staff, or effectively training pupils in basic road safety.
The recently published Access to Headington Plan made no reference at all to this despite repeated emails by this author of many years.
A response by local Cllrs Roz Smith, Altaf Khan and Ruth Wilkinson did:
The proposed effective widening of the road will increase risk to pedestrians.
The combined total of crossings must now number in the thousands in the last four years, the daily number of which as increased by approximately 150% since the poorly sited 400 bus stop was inaugurated.
It is deeply disappointing that the combined resources of Headington School, Oxfordshire County Council, Neighbourhood Police appear to be unable to effectively resolve a very simple road safety issue, and hard to avoid the conclusion that their priorities lie elsewhere.
This will end in one of two ways, the death or disablement of young person at the start of her life, or the immediate resolution of the issue – the actions to take are listed below.
Headington School – I appeal to you to take effective action to resolve this immediately and without further delay
19/01/15 – Since publication of this article on 08/11/14 there are some updates, the most recent below, followed by the original article – previous updates to 13/12/14 can be found here: (See: Updates)
Page down for the original article to the Introduction section below.
New Year Update 2015 – Merry Xmas and a Dreadful, Dangerous New Year
Since Jan 6th I continue to observe daily incidents (probably about 50% of when I am there) at Headley Way as the mostly Headington School pupils continue to be at risk.
06/01 – Apparent staff member and student from Headington School from 700 cross the road at Headley Way entrance (HWE), two vehicles stop and start again to try to let them across, well intentioned, but confusing and dangerous to all, raining, dark, eventually they run across.
07/01 One apparent Headington High staff member jay walks at Woodlands Road, one apparent Headington High staff member and two Headington High pupils from 700 bus at HWE, one pupil stuck in middle of road opposite HWE cars stop, visibility poor. Near accident with car emerging too far from HWE, no pedestrians involved, ambulance tears by on busy emergency route to JR.
14/01 Apparent Headington School staff member and two Headington High School girls cross at HWE, traffic stops, one pupil jaywalks at Woodlands Road.
15/01 Lost count today – Three Headington High girls cross at Woodlands Road directly in front of oncoming vehicle, one apparent Headington High staff member same, one apparent staff member at HWE, 4 children from other schools near HWE.
16/01 Two apparent staff members of Headington School (separate) cross at HWE, one Headington High pupil at Woodlands Road, 2 children from other schools at HWE.
19/01 Three Headington High pupils run across road from 700, 1 other. Two pupils from other schools. Ambulance tears past on the busy emergency route.
Another last Headington High girl makes me think – she is on her own, tearing across the busy road – she is so young I expect her to go to the junior school, but into HWE she goes. Why shouldn’t she when she sees apparent staff members and older pupils going into the school in front of her every day setting an example? Why should she even wait for someone older to help? It has not happened to this writer’s knowledge in four years, ever, except complete strangers – what do they teach children these days?
I imagine the conversation:
“Hello, oh thank goodness we have contacted you Mrs Villiers (made up) we have been trying for hours – am afraid Elizabeth (made up) has had a terrible accident (sic) she was late with all the roadwork delays and she ran across the road, and this crazy motorcyclist swerved past a kind man who had stopped to let her cross, she is in the John Radcliffe, but I am afraid she has severe head injuries, so you need to brace yourself, they are doing all they can…, just anything we can do to help..”
The grief of the parents turns to anger as they realise that each and every institution that could have helped had not, or at least not effectively, and she was simply left to carry on, day after day, same girl, same place, same time along with many, many others from this school and others, without one single adult or institution doing anything effective to stop it.
PLEASE HEADINGTON SCHOOL STOP THIS, NOW
Normally when I write a blog I am cheerful, enjoying the creative process, confident in the certain knowledge that almost no one will read any of it, hopeful that some future historian may find my work of some use.
This time is with great regret, this is the article I have procrastinated over, made excuses about and tried desperately to avoid having to write, but duty calls, the child protection issues (See: Child Protection Culture) brook no delay.
For the last four years or so I spend a total of 4-8 minutes per day outside Headington High School on Headley Way 2-3 times a week.
I see at least 5-10 children per day jay walking, the total daily jay walks could therefore be 40 – 60 per day. Most of the pupils are from Headington High School mainly due to the road layout and proximity of the school, and many from other schools.
Several issues have concentrated my mind, the onset of winter, the foul weather, the clock change, the London Road works which have altered traffic patterns on Headley Way, the complete and utter absence of any discernible improvement, and, this was the final straw, an incident of many I describe below.
Following repeated requests to the entities most involved over some years, particularly in the summer of this year where I set out the issues in a format very similar to below, and again recently, and after 4 years of witnessing several near traffic incidents it is clear this needs to be more widely addressed in a final attempt to prevent the wholly avoidable tragedy of child death or serious disablement and to warn parents of risks to their children on Headley Way.
This is not stating that actions have not been taken, simply they have had no effect up to now that I am aware of.
The Jay Walking Problem
Headley Way is a dangerous, a very busy arterial road forming part of the “inner ring road” of Oxford. Within seconds it can turn from a completely clear road to a snarling bumper to bumper mass of fast moving cars as lights change in both directions, buses stop outside Headington School, and parents drop children off on double yellow lines forming a barrier to crossing pedestrians and encouraging other cars to swerve into the opposite carriageway to squeeze past the waiting buses. Traffic speeds go from zero to very fast in a matter of seconds as drivers race to beat the lights .
Headington High School pupils use the Headley Way entrance above, as do cars.
In the last few months I have seen strangers helping young children across the road, children stranded in the middle of the road blocked by lines of school buses and cars, emergency stops by drivers, honking at children, potential accidents as residents come out of their driveways, or emerging from the White Horse pub car park, directly into jay walking children, young children blindly following older children when it was no longer safe to do so and rabbit runs across the road in front of oncoming traffic and of course pupils jay walking from the 700 service to the Headington High School Headley Way entrance on a daily basis.
The 700 bus stops (PURPLE) near the White Horse pub between the two Crossing Points above and pupils cross the road as shown on the RED line from the 700 to the Headington High School Headley Way entrance.
Children walking along Cuckoo Lane, and Woodlands Road line (marked BROWN) simply cross on the RED diagonal line rather than use the Poorly Sited Crossing Point above if going to Cheney and Headington High, or continue towards Rye St Antony directly towards the park bench opposite rather than using the crossing. This is particularly dangerous as many large school buses and cars turn in and out of Woodlands Road on the morning run, causing fast moving traffic behind to jink past at exactly this spot if the turning cars stop suddenly or fail to indicate.
Child Protection Culture
This section is general comment about our view of child protection, it expresses no view, and I have no knowledge of policies or practices of any entity named in this article.
I take the term Child Protection literally, it is our responsibility to protect those too young to look after themselves from physical or emotional harm.
Children in the UK spend many hours a week in PSCE (Personal, Social and Health Education) learning about the 10 forms of bullying, body image workshops, eating disorders and internet abuse ad infinitum.
Imagine for one moment a stranger approached two children on the street and started asking a series of seemingly innocent questions “what is your name?” “what is your favourite music?” “where do you live?” The response would be immediate – the police would be called, a description elicited, a search initiated, the incident recorded, the child questioned – why? Because we are worried the adult may mean harm to the child.
Imagine now, you see the same children jay walking across Headley Way – what do you do?
Recently, and this is the final straw, I saw two 11-12 year old girls crossing at Woodlands Road (not from Headington High, I am not sure which school). The first girl started to run, drew back, as the cars went by she got more and more agitated, literally jumping up and down with frustration, until finally they bolted across the road in mad panic in front of oncoming traffic.
The children are engaging in dangerous high risk behaviour which will almost certainly be repeated, risking death or disablement. Children are seen jay walking every single day by passing adults known personally and professionally to them – neighbours, relations and friends, yet few of these it seems, feel it necessary to do anything at all, other than, I understand, repeated emails from local residents.
Would you have done anything? I suspect nothing at all, it is not your problem, and none of us would dare shout at a child, there could be consequences and questions. If you had, would the police have been called, a watch set up? Descriptions issued to the school concerned? No.
Imagine now one of these children were YOUR child – same reaction? I think not. You would be weak at the knees, sick to the stomach and furious this could happen. Every child is somebody’s child, precious to their parents, are they therefore less valuable? Who are you?
If the same child had boarded a school bus that stops at Headington High that day, it would not have left until the last child had passed the first empty seat, why? Because by some yet unelucidated chain of events, she could be injured falling on the soft carpets. Swimming parties consist of 40 minutes of H&S training and trials, as if a child is going to drown in a pool crowded with their friends and parents and at least three lifeguards. I could go on, but I am sure you can cite your own examples.
Not so long ago, we had car “accidents”, it was a self-evident truth that nothing could be done about bullying, physical and mental abuse (which was frequently viewed as good toughening up), domestic violence, cases of rape, children in care becoming pregnant (“they are from broken homes you know, what do you want us to do lock ‘em up?” I was told at the age of 11) oh and of course, the nippers running across the road.
It seems to me a certain cognitive dissonance has crept in – we are stuck in the 1950s when it comes to road safety, but in 2014 for all other Child Protection issues.
Let me ask you a question – and it is brutal – would rather your child was bullied, abused – or dead or paralysed from the neck down? In the first, life can go on, blighted, time for many may not heal, but it can soothe. Death, paralysis is forever – you sit there unable to get up, your friends move on have families, go to Uni, fall in love, you can’t get up or even control your own pee. Of course it is not a choice we make, but the thought should define our priorities.
Adults jay walk, or run, across the Woodlands road junction over Headley Way every single day of the year – what message, pray, are imparting to children – it is OK? Does it occur to you that you are risking a child’s life as the child will mimic your behaviour but without your judgment? I vividly remember the looks of disgust on my German colleagues faces when I jay walked across an empty city street and the stern talking to after.
Road Injury Statistics
Fully 30% (2013) of all seriously injured pedestrians, mostly in built up areas were 17 years old and under, way in excess of their proportion of the population. That is 1506 lives very probably permanently marred, and 35 lost. The numbers are decreasing, but can only decrease at specific points when specific actions are taken at roads such as Headley Way.
|Children: 0-15 years||26||6.5%||1,332||26.7%|
|Young people: 0-17 years||35||8.8%||1,506||30.1%|
|Adults: 18-59 years||217||54.5%||2,327||46.6%|
|60 and over||146||36.7%||1,096||21.9%|
What realistically are the chances of a serious road incident on Headley Way? Say a fatal combination of jinking driver using a phone and child crossing with IPod firmly in her ears? 1:500, may be less? But when children jay walk day after day, year after year, the probabilities mount.
Solutions – What Can Be Done?
Extraordinarily, jay walking is actually legal in the UK – pedestrians, including children, and motorists are expected to exercise their judgment, as indicated by the children above, this is ridiculous, and the faith expressed in motorists by the British legal system is touching but I fear misplaced.
This makes the solutions proposed below all the more urgently necessary. There are a number of actions that can be done to greatly improve the safety of this road, many of which I have suggested to the parties most concerned over many months.
I understand, via third parties, positive actions have been taken – but I find myself in the odd logical position that if I state which actions I believe have been taken, it will imply the others have not been, which may be misrepresenting the entities concerned – so I ask simply a series of open questions, a proportion of which I believe can be positively answered, although I have received almost no direct communication.
In the case of the local schools, I suspect legally responsibilities end at the school gate, I ask them to help because they can, not because I imply (which I don’t) they have a specific legal responsibility to do so. I have no knowledge of such matters and do not imply that any action not taken means they are in breach of any legal duty I am aware of.
Oxfordshire County Council
Has Oxfordshire County Council conducted a risk assessment?
Has Oxfordshire County Council initiated an urgent move of the start 20 MPH limit to a point north (proposed 20MPH) of the pedestrian crossing near Woodlands Road on Headley Way shown on the diagram above with a school sign and traffic calming measures given it must “consult widely”?
Why did the recent change to 20MPH not include the immediate vicinity of Headington High School, does it need to update its information?
Has Oxfordshire County Council investigated school and no stopping signage and awareness markings on Headley Way to stop the numerous drop off/pick ups of children on double yellow lines this road?
Has Oxfordshire County Council conducted a feasibility study of a crossing sited where children are actually going to use it on the line of the natural, and heavily used, communication line of Cuckoo Lane – Woodlands Road – Cuckoo Lane (BROWN) and crossings across both sides across Woodlands Road? – This is probably the most important and urgent action that can be taken.
Has it instituted urgent measures to review what tactical measures such as fencing and signs to encourage use of the current poorly sited crossing near Woodlands Road?
Has Oxfordshire County Council urgently reviewed resiting or removal of the very poorly located 700 bus stop to London Road to remove the motivation to jay walk to Headington High School Headley Way entrance, can this be incorporated into the London Road scheme?
Has the Police conducted any speed and traffic enforcement operations at Headley Way?
Have the PCOs ever attended Headley Way at school start/end times to offer friendly discouragement to children?
Is there a date for the diary at the start of each public/private school term to stop children crossing and arrangements for contacting their schools and parents?
If the school has notified children and their parents that they must use official crossings, particularly those using the relatively recent 700 service, is the outcome of this monitored on a daily basis as any communication is clearly being ignored?
Can a school rule be introduced simply that the children are banned from using the Headley Way 700 stop and are only to alight at the London Road stop and cross safely there on the pedestrian crossings?
Have steps been reviewed to ban pupils from using the Headley Way entrance altogether and use the main entrance or a new side entrance from Cuckoo Lane?
Have or can staff, parents and pupils be asked, or obliged, to notify each and every incident of jay walking and is a log being kept?
Have any pupils been sanctioned for jay walking or reported to their parents?
How much road safety awareness training of staff and students been conducted and has their assistance in monitoring been required?
Is there a formal management plan for all of the above with a schedule and monitoring calendar so such measures are regularly reinforced?
Has there been a change? In previous years there has been an immediate drop in jay walking after emails, followed by a steady increase as there appears to be a lack of a management plan or monitoring, this year there is no observed change at all.
Are older children taught to look out for younger children, regarding road safety?
Has it made any representations to the other parties to implement the safety measures suggested above?
We, the community, are failing the children, allowing them to be placed at risk but as yet have taken no effective action that has as yet influenced either their behaviour, or reduced the probability of an accident occurring.
I understand there have been steps taken, but it is taking too long, and the bottom line is whatever has been done is to date wholly ineffective as far as I can observe. Many of the steps above could result in immediate risk reduction.
There are two outcomes to this, a death followed by flowers and tearful tributes, or serious disablement and a life ruined, or we take action now to prevent a wholly avoidable and predictable tragedy occurring – it is simply not possible to have this many children crossing this sort of a road this frequently without consequences.
Who is actually responsible for road safety is as difficult to answer as it is irrelevant, all who can help, should.
Update End of term 13/12/14 – In the week preceding this one I had hoped Headington School had finally taken effective action as the 700 bus did not stop at all on three occasions, indicating that may be that AT LAST Headington School had at least taken the simple step of introducing a school rule that pupils must only alight at the London Road stop and cross on the pedestrian crossing there. The bus does not always stop at Headley Way, but three times in a week not stopping was unusual, although my daughter’s school was down to 40% attendance due to a bug.
But regrettably, there as been no change at all this week – during my very brief visits to Headley Way, Headington School pupils and other children continuing to jay walk both from the 700 stop and Woodlands Road – understandable when an apparent staff member (adult walking into Headington School, Headley Way entrance) jay-walked in front of Headington School pupils who HAD used the crossing last week – it is hard to think of a clearer signal to children that this behaviour is acceptable. No other staff members have ever been observed monitoring children crossing on any occasion during my brief visits there in four years.
This is despite, in desperation to stop this, writing to every member of the Headington School Executive two weeks ago.
I have received a rather cryptic communication from a Road Safety Officer indicating the moving of the signage may be added to “other changes” – the caginess is understandable at this stage, but we can only hope this will result in at least 20 MPH signs north of the pedestrian crossing and more importantly school signs – this is one of the very few things some drivers do pay attention to, although many do not. There has been no approaches he is aware of from any other entity, although I understand these have taken place – there appears to be some communication breakdowns here.
It is unclear how the combined forces of Headington School, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and the Police all appear unable to stop children running across the road when exact time and place is known of what appears to be a daily occurrence.
It is frankly reprehensible of Headington School that it does not take only action, but ensure it is fully effective and do whatever it takes to stop this, legally responsible or not – not that it must, but that it can.
02/12/14 – Rye and Cheney Schools have both been contacted – I have received a helpful reply from the Head of Rye and an acknowledgement from Cheney.
Regrettably there is no change in the number of crossings, principally by Headington School pupils either from the 700 service or walking diagonally across from Woodlands Road, and adults who walk into the school’s Headley Way entrance.
One incident involved running in front of oncoming traffic between a unloading truck and a bus which caused drivers to react. The average number of jay walks by Headington School pupils and adults walking into the school’s Headley Way entrance remains at 4-5 in the 4-6 minute period I am normally present.
Regrettably, last Friday 14/11/14 at approx. 07:55 I saw three Headington School girls crossing in a torrential downpour in the semi darkness – as the cars bore down on them they started doing a girly lets all scream together run routine as they ran for the Headley Way entrance.
Just prior to that another Headington High girl crossed at Woodlands Road, she was 4 metres from me before I even saw her step on to the pavement, totally invisible as she weaved through the slow moving traffic.
Given the continued issues, in addition to publishing this article on 08/11 I will now tweet it as well, another step on a road I would rather not travel.
A Road Safety Officer from Oxfordshire County Council has replied – he will review the scope for improvements suggested, but warns some are more difficult than they appear. He points out the injury rate is low in this area, and there are others that are higher and must be prioritised with limited resources.
My view on this is that accidents at a particular spot are low to the point where they are statistically insignificant, therefore any comparison may be meaningless, that said I can understand that poor data is better than none at all. The introduction of the 700 service has increased the number of crossing substantially and is still fairly new. I feel a risk assessment would be a better metric to measure priorities. His email is appreciated.
It appears there have been no recent representations regarding improvements in this area.
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Saving Headington’s Heritage Version: 1.0 update: 10/11/2014
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A Note on the Author
Headington Heritage writes in a personal capacity – search engines give the ability, but not the right, for all to intrude into other’s affairs that simply don’t concern them.
I do not however, blog anonymously, if you wish to contact me please email, I will be happy to reply – any corrections or comments are most welcome.
This article potentially will avoid serious harm to the reputation of the entities mentioned.
I declare this article to be in the public interest as it concerns the safety of children. It is my honest opinion.
I am not party to any dispute with any entity mentioned.
Rye St Antony and Cheney School were not contacted. An another update was sought three weeks ago from other entities prior to publication but other than one acknowledgement, no response was received.
Thanks to Councillor Ruth Wilkinson for her help despite sickness and ever immense workload, she had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the publication of this article.