PARENTS have been urged to respect social distancing and park further from schools when collecting their children.

The call by Darlington Borough Council leader Councillor Heather Scott follows complaints about gatherings at school gates not respecting the two-metre rule, people ignoring one-way systems, parents not wearing face coverings and poor parking exacerbating chaotic situations.

One parent of two Darlington primary school pupils, whose name is withheld, said he had been staggered that officials had not intervened to stop a daily “free-for-all” in the school car park at collection time.

He said: “Hardly anybody is observing the rules and advice, which makes an absolute mockery of the bubbles schools are following.”

Councillor Matthew Snedker told a meeting of the authority that parents and residents alike had witnessed “mayhem and gridlock” outside schools since children returned to classes at the start of the month.

The meeting heard there were concerns over the potential spread of coronavirus outside many schools across the borough and Darlington would benefit from introducing School Street schemes, where roads outside schools see temporary restrictions on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times.

Councillor Cyndi Hughes said while Lets Go Tees Valley had launched a back to school behaviour change campaign, encouraging parents and pupils to “walk, cycle or scoot” to classes, it did not appear to be having much impact in the borough.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority-backed campaign stated: “If you do have to drive, consider parking five minutes or a few streets away to keep the school streets safe.” The campaign is also urging passengers to avoid peak school travel times to leave more seats open for students.

Cllr Scott, who is also the combined authority’s cabinet member for transport, said she had become involved in concerns around Carmel College and the authority had dispatched an officer to try and alleviate the situation, but a permanent solution was needed for schools across the borough.

She said: “It is something that is ongoing. The problem is parents who are really not observing safety measures. I had a meeting with the head of Polam School last week, they have had the same difficulties. I think we have to appeal to parents to be safer, maybe not park so close to the schools.”

She said it was “very early days” to judge the back to school initiative. Cllr Scott added councillors needed to highlight the problem in newsletters to their residents.

She said: “It’s just trying to encourage people to be safer and to change their behaviour. It’s something we can all do.”