Published: 12:25, 11 November 2020
| Updated: 12:50, 11 November 2020
A child was hit by a car outside a primary school following months of warnings about dangerous parking.
Now local leaders have pleaded once again for parents to put student safety first after the incident outside the gates of Manor Community Primary in Keary Road, Swanscombe.
Following the collision on Friday morning the head teacher wrote to parents of the school – which caters for around 160 pupils between nursery and year six – to remind them of the need to drive and park safely during drop-offs.
It comes after months of "serious" concerns flagged by the school involving dangerous parking on prohibited yellow zigzag lines.
Drivers were reported as pulling up at the entrance opposite Munford Drive and swinging out their car doors without due care to let their kids out.
The latest incident has prompted head teacher Natalie Hill to urge parents to put the safety and wellbeing of staff and pupils first.
She said: “For the past few months a small minority of our parents and carers have been causing serious concerns due to the way they drive and park when dropping off and picking up their children from school.
"I have reminded all parents and carers, via our regular newsletters and text messages, of the importance of parking safely, appropriately and considerately, and driving with due care and attention; this is for the benefit of their own children, all our pupils and the wider community.
"However, the problems have persisted and unfortunately on Friday (November 6) one of our pupils was hit by a car outside the school.
"Fortunately, the child was not seriously injured but this should not have happened and I have written to parents and carers again to inform them of the incident and urge them to make sure their driving and parking does not put others as risk.
Concerns have been reported to both Kent County Council and Kent Police.
Parents are also being encouraged to report any alarming behaviour they witness on the roads around the school by calling 101.
Mrs Hill added: "The safety and well-being of all our pupils and staff is of paramount importance and while the majority of our parents and carers do drive and park considerately, it is imperative that we get the message across to those who don’t to ensure no other child is harmed.”
Dartford Cllr Emma Ben Moussa (Lab), whose son attends the primary school, met with school leaders yesterday to discuss the problems.
The 32-year-old said: "I was extremely disappointed to witness for myself that despite all parents/carers being told about a child being injured last week a few were still behaving shamefully."
"We are going to end up with quite a big confrontation with vigilante parents stood outside."
The councillor for Swanscombe has pressed for more enforcement officers to patrol the area in response to the incident.
"I understand the pressure the enforcement team are under – they work extremely hard but it is the numbers," she said.
"My argument is unless you have got the people to enforce it people are not going to change."
Following the incident the area outside Manor Community Primary has been identified as a "hotspot" for enforcement according to the council's cabinet member for community safety, Cllr Richard Wells.
He said: "Local members can come to us with hotspots and we are happy to look at them.
"A lot of schools do a lot of good work, it is just a case of us working with the schools."
The authority currently employs seven parking attendants who work a rota across approximately 30 infant, junior and secondary schools.
But Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite urged caution when it came to increasing the number of enforcement agents on their roster, believing the measure alone will not fix the problem.
He said: "If we need more enforcement it will be provided but we need something to enforce against."
The Tory leader explained the council's enforcement team were restricted in the absence of clearer regulations with attendants only allowed to fine parents parking on zigzag lines.
"Remember we are not the highways or education authority," he said. "We are a group of people who decided to put their heads above the parapet to say how can we assist."
"We have got to find a solution that works right across the borough."
Cllr Kite advocated a three pronged response balancing the need for enforcement, communication, and improved road layouts and signage, but added this would be contingent on the work of Kent County Council, which is responsible for schools and roads.
Ideally, the Tory leader said he would also like to see enforceable school "exclusion zones" restricting access to drivers at peak times.
And while the measures the council has adopted are designed to clamp down on offenders he urged people to come together to address the "root cause" of the problem: bad behaviour.
"We have got to crack down on people's behaviour around schools," he said, adding the best approach is to seek to "change the attitudes of those drivers willing to put children's lives at risk".
On this point he reissued his pledge to make parking dangerously around schools as "anti-social as drink driving or driving without a seatbelt".
Other schools across the borough have also ran safety campaigns following similar incidents.
Earlier this year Temple Hill primary called for a drop-off zone after a spate of incidents.
In September Wilmington parish council launched its lorry watch scheme in response to long standing issues in Common Lane, where there are a dense concentration of both primary and secondary schools.