On the sunny morning of Monday 27 February, a little green alien named 3PR landed at Tyrrells Primary School, Springfield, Chelmsford. His mission? To eliminate dangerous parking around schools - and pupils, parents, teachers and local residents are all helping him to do it.
Fronted by a colourful cartoon character that appeals to kids, the School Parking Initiative is a pioneering new scheme created by the South Essex Parking Partnership (SEPP). First, a '3PR zone' is created around the school. Parents and carers are encouraged to avoid entering this area by car. Instead, they are asked to walk or cycle in or park a short distance away.
In Tyrrells' case, this zone is around Tavistock Road, a narrow road directly outside the school which can easily become congested and dangerous.
A fun competition gets children involved too. The school has arranged a special team of staff and pupils to patrol the 3PR zone. Any pupil who enters the zone by foot, cycle or scooter - even if their driver parked elsewhere - gets a 3PR token to put in the class token box. Each month, the class with the most tokens is awarded a cup and at the end of each school year, one class will become the 3PR Parking Champions.
3PR stands for the 3 Parking Rules: Care, Caution and Consideration. Advice and guidance on these rules are made available to children, parents and residents through booklets, quizzes and the School Parking Initiative's interactive website: www.schoolparking.org.uk.
Streets like Tavistock Road are not designed for large numbers of parked cars. This can cause congestion issues which are dangerous to children, can block residents in, make the road impassable and even prevent emergency access. Vehicles parked with wheels on the pavement can create problems for pedestrians, particularly those with wheelchairs or buggies.
Councillor Ian Grundy, Vice-Chairman of SEPP and Cabinet Member for Safer Communities at Chelmsford City Council, explained, "Our challenge is one faced by many across the UK. Any parent who makes the school run on a daily basis knows the pressure that a lot of vehicles and children, all arriving at the same place at the same time, can bring to our road network.
"Of course, children need to be taken to school. We fully encourage and support the use of sustainable transport, but we also understand that some parents have no choice but to depend on the car. A few small changes in parking habits and how we view school parking can make a big difference."
Amanda Daines, Headteacher of Tyrrells Primary School, said, "Our young school Councillors have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the planning of this project over the last year. It was fantastic to see the project finally in action in Tavistock Road on Monday. Many parents have already commented on the impact that it had in reducing the number of cars outside the school and the children have been eager to earn their 3PR tokens.
“This project will now become a regular part of the school run, with a trophy awarded each month to the class with the most tokens."
Councillor Grundy added, "I am so pleased that Tyrrells Primary School are the first school in Essex to trial this new project. The pupils have fully embraced 3PR's mission and have contributed with some really good ideas. They are very excited about putting them into practice, and I look forward to seeing the results."