A car is told to move on after stopping in the middle of Kambala Road during after-school pick-up at Scots College on Friday. Photo: Fiona Morris A four-wheel drive mounts the footpath across the road from Scots College on Friday. Photo: Fiona Morris
“What am I gonna do,” asks a harried Scots mother, laden with four school bags and two kids in tow. “Walk?”
It was a vexed question for those at the gate of one of Sydney’s most exclusive private schools on Friday, and one brought into sharp relief in Bellevue Hill by the NSW Land and Environment Court this week.
Scots College lost its legal bid to expand its preparatory school by converting a Kambala Road house into an early learning centre – and some of the school’s parents were the reason for its loss.
Although the Land and Environment Court found Woollahra Council’s planning controls were no grounds to reject the application, the “uncontrollable unsafe behaviour” of parents was another story.
“A significant number of parents dropping off and/or picking up children from the preparatory school pay no regard to the law, child safety or the instructions given by the preparatory school,” Senior Commissioner Tim Moore said.
He concluded that he was not satisfied that there would be no increased safety risk if the application was approved.
“I agree,” says one nanny, as an under-breath aside while on her way into the building on Friday. “Parents need to go back to driving school.”
But among those who spoke to Fairfax Media during the Friday afternoon school run – none of whom provided their names for publication – views were mixed.
“Parking is tough around here, but the people who do drive here, they’re all parents, they’re not going to hoon down that road,” says one mother, who conceded a “proper” drop-off area meant there were no such issues at her daughter’s school, Ascham.
“We’re all careful, we all have kids at the school, we don’t want any incidents or anything like that.”
Another, who also counts Scots as a neighbour, says while many parents obeyed the rules, others suffered from “that eastern suburbs mentality of it’s my kid or the highway”.
“We walk to and from school and as you can see it can be really dangerous,” she said of the well-manicured street that narrows just as it nears the entrance of the access pathway to the school.
“Some parents are only interested with the welfare of their own child, not the general community.
“If the parents parked in the next street, there is plenty of parking. They just want to not walk very far to the school.”
The school was doing its best, offered another. Witches hats marked a pick-up zone and a security officer and the preparatory school’s principal stood on the roadside to meet parents arriving to collect their children.
Some of the other parents, however, were “crazy”, the mother said.
“Trying to put kids in the car I’ve had the door open and a mother stop her car and swear at me,” she says.
“I was in her way. I had the car door open trying to do the kids’ seatbelts up.”
But go to any other school and you will find exactly the same issues, said another parent. And if you buy into an area with a school, “expect school traffic”.
“It’s a built-up area and everyone just has to tolerate each other,” she says.
“I think a majority of parents actually try to do the right things and in society there’s always some people who bend the rules and take advantage of some situations.”
On her way out, the nanny draws this reporter’s attention to a shiny black silver 4WD, its engine idling.
As the car in question pulls out, another moves in to take the spot before the school’s security officer moves it on.
“Prime example: Says ‘no stopping’, but they’re the entitled ones who can stop there,” she says.