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Details of operations when a school patrol operates. Part of the School Traffic Safety Teams Manual.


Patrol members need to arrive at school with enough time to put on their uniforms, take the STOP signs from the storage area and make their way to the patrol location by the time the patrol is due to start.

3.4.1 Carrying the signs

Students carry signs.

STOP signs are safest when carried ‘stretcher fashion’.

Take extra care on windy days, when it might be a good idea to have the discs horizontal (facing the ground) to reduce wind resistance.

If you’re operating a kea crossing, the supervisor carries the two kea flags and must put them in place before the patrol starts.

3.4.2 Setting up the patrol

Students arrive at crossing.

When the patrol reaches the crossing:

  1. The patrol member who’s going to cross the road stands behind the person who won’t be crossing.
  2. The person staying behind attaches their sign to the post and both patrol members hold their signs parallel to the road.
  3. The leader checks the approaching traffic. When they can see that there’s no approaching traffic between the crossing and an established ‘mark’ or reference point, they call ‘Signs out’. Both patrol members swing their signs into the roadway so the signs are parallel to each other.
  4. The leader calls ‘Check’. Both patrol members check that any approaching traffic is going to stop. On multi-lane highways, this includes checking that no-one (including cyclists) is trying to overtake a stationary vehicle. If in doubt, the patrol members wait until all vehicles have stopped.
  5. The second patrol member calls ‘Clear’ – when both patrol members are sure that traffic will stop.
  6. The leader calls ‘On patrol’ and holds out one arm as a barrier (called the barrier arm) to stop any students crossing.
  7. The other patrol member walks across the road, holding their sign (disc first) at right angles to the traffic so it can be seen easily.
  8. When the other patrol member reaches the footpath (or kerb extension) on the other side, they swing their sign so it’s parallel to the road, out of the way of traffic. The leader calls ‘Signs in’ and swings their sign in. The other patrol member attaches their sign to the post.

The patrol leader and supervisor should ensure that pedestrians are not allowed to cross the road while the patrol is being set up.


What is a barrier arm?

Barrier arm

A barrier arm is an arm raised sideways at right angles to the body to prevent children on the footpath trying to cross the road.


3.4.3 Operating the patrol

Once the patrol has been set up, it needs to operate quickly, smoothly and efficiently to minimise traffic disruption and delays.

It’s important to make sure that children waiting to cross stand well back from the STOP sign or behind the pedestrian limit line, so that patrol members have a clear view of the road.

Patrols operate in five steps:

  1. step 1The patrol members check approaching traffic. When there’s a suitable gap, the leader calls ‘Signs out’. In unison, the patrol members raise their barrier arms and swing their STOP signs into the roadway.
  2. step 2The leader calls ‘Check’. Both patrol members look to make sure any approaching vehicles are going to stop.
  3. step 3The second patrol member confirms that traffic is slowing or has stopped by calling ‘Clear’. The leader calls ‘Cross now’ and both patrol members lower their barrier arms.
  4. step 4As the last pedestrian enters the crossing, the patrol member raises their barrier arm to prevent latecomers trying to cross.
  5. When the last pedestrian reaches the footpath or kerb extension, the leader calls ‘Signs in’ and both patrol members lower their barrier arms and swing in their signs.


What’s a ‘mark’ or ‘reference’ point?

Reference point

A mark or reference point is a feature such as a power pole, tree, signpost or letterbox that has been identified by the school community officer to help patrol leaders make safe decisions before calling ‘Signs out’. A vehicle travelling between a mark and a crossing will be too close to put the signs out safely.

The choice and position of a mark will reflect the speed and density of approaching traffic and the road topography. It must also be easy for the leader to see.

What’s a ‘diamond’?

road diamond.

White diamonds are often (but not always) painted on the road to warn drivers that they are approaching a pedestrian crossing. They are not intended as marks to indicate to pedestrians when it is safe to cross, so may not be suitable to be used as marks for school patrols. They should only be used as marks if they reflect the speed and density of approaching traffic, the road topography, and are easy for the leader to see.

3.4.4 Ending the patrol

Patrol members must not go off patrol while students are still waiting to cross.

Going off patrol

Patrols follow six steps before going off duty:

  1. When it’s time to finish the school patrol (and as long as there are no pedestrians waiting to cross), the leader or adult supervisor lets the team know they’re going off patrol.
  2. The patrol member who’s going to cross the road unhooks their STOP sign and rests the hook at the foot of the post *. When there’s a suitable break in the traffic, the leader calls ‘Signs out’ and both patrol members swing their signs into the road and raise their barrier arms.
  3. The leader calls ‘Check’ and both patrol members check that any approaching vehicles are about to stop.
  4. The second member calls ‘Clear’ – when both patrol members are sure that traffic will stop.
  5. When it’s all clear, the leader calls ‘Off patrol’. The returning patrol member crosses the road, holding their STOP sign at right angles to the traffic.
  6. When they’re safely clear of the crossing, the remaining patrol member removes their sign and both signs are carried stretcher fashion to the equipment storage area. Note they should be carried parallel to the roadway, with particular care around other people and vehicles.

If you’re operating a kea crossing, the supervisor removes both flags after the patrol members have come off the crossing.

*Another option is for the sign to remain hooked onto the post until step 5. Your school community officer will help you decide on the safest unhooking method for your school.

3.5 Coping with heavy traffic, visibility and windy conditions

If you’re concerned about student safety on the road due to hazards such as heavy traffic or obstacles that are reducing patrol visibility, talk to your school community officer or road controlling authority. With safety their top priority, they’ll work with you to develop a practical solution.

3.5.1 Heavy traffic

Your school community officer will determine whether the following option is the safest operating procedure for your crossing.

Patrol members must be specifically trained in this method.

If traffic is too heavy to put both STOP signs out at the same time, one option is to stagger the patrol operation. In this approach:

  • one patrol member identifies a gap in the traffic flowing in their direction, and extends the STOP sign on their side of the crossing
  • the traffic travelling in the opposite direction is then legally required to stop. Once it has slowed or stopped, the other patrol member extends their STOP sign
  • children start crossing when traffic on both sides of the road has stopped.

3.5.2 Visibility issues

If your patrol team could have problems seeing approaching traffic – perhaps because the crossing is near a corner – one option is to add a third person to the team. Your school community officer will determine whether this is necessary as part of your school’s training programme.

Located where they have a good view of oncoming traffic, the third person becomes the leader and gives the commands to the other team members. However, there are potential dangers for the third person, so this option will only be used in special circumstances.

Ensure that vegetation doesn’t obscure the patrols’ sightlines. Trim vegetation belonging to the school, or notify your road controlling authority if it is on the footpath.

If these solutions are impractical or no longer working for your school, contact your road controlling authority or school community officer about alternative solutions. These could include relocating the crossing or installing systems such as traffic lights.

3.5.3 Windy conditions

If it’s too windy to use the signs safely, school patrols should operate as school wardens instead. This means no signs or any other objects to stop traffic.

Without the signs they no longer have power to stop traffic. They can still raise their arms to stop pedestrians (but not to stop traffic) and tell them when it is safe to cross.


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