Whole School Approach to Road Safety Education

Based on an article published in Safety Education Autumn 2008

In 2008 Jenny McWhirter, risk education adviser and Kathy Shortt of the road safety team at RoSPA developed a guide for healthy schools about road safety.

At the heart of all healthy or health promoting school programmes is a need to work with the whole school community – pupils, parents and carers, and staff, to develop healthier choices and to make those choices the easy choices. The guide demonstrates how road safety can be integrated into a whole school approach to safety in a wide variety of ways – in the curriculum, through activities involving parents and pupils and in school policy. It also demonstrates the links between road safety and other aspects of a whole school approach such as the school travel plan, the environment and sustainability issues. Although national funding for healthy schools has come to an end, this guide continues to be of relevance to schools seeking to help pupils be healthy and stay safe. Many local authorities continue to employ healthy school advisers and resources to support healthy schools can be found on the DfE website.

One aspect of the whole school approach is planning the curriculum to meet the needs of the children and young people in a school. To help with this P4 of the guide shows how children's understanding of risk develops - set against a set of learning outcomes for becoming a safe road user, from being a safe passenger and pedestrian to becoming a safe driver. The stages of development of risk understanding are based on research carried out using the draw and write technique and represent minimum expectations for each age group. So while most young people aged 7-11 (Key Stage 2) will be able to recognise hazards in familiar situations and take action to manage the risk to themselves, some will also be able to recognise hazards in unfamiliar situations. However, we would not expect most to be able to do this until they are about 14 years old (Key Stage 3).

While we have applied this spiral of developing understanding to road safety, there is no reason why it could not be used to help plan teaching and learning in a variety of other safety related areas, where there is a progression of learning outcomes, such as keeping safe near or in open water or staying safe at home. Why not give it a try for yourselves? You may find that some safety skills expect more of young people than they appear capable of – but this need not be a barrier. It merely indicates that they need appropriate teaching to enable them to accelerate their understanding of risk in this context. A word of caution, however: accelerating their learning in one area will not mean that they transfer the learning to another situation! A more general understanding of risk still seems to develop slowly.

In addition to the advice on curriculum, travel planning and policy development, the guide includes suggested lesson plans for pupils in each key stage, including Key Stage 5, which is based on the syllabus for A level drama. The lesson plans can be adapted to be used in a single session if your school delivers PSHE through dedicated lesson time, or over several shorter sessions if your PSHE education is tutor led.

A whole school approach to road safety should not stop with the pupils. RoSPA offers advice and training for teachers who may be required to drive a minibus as part of their responsibilities.

See also: Case Studies for more examples of good practice which could be included in a whole school approach to safety education.

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