Most local safeguarding children boards are now looking at road safety. Jenni Whitehead describes how schools can contribute to a new government campaign to reduce injuries to children caused by car accidents

Local authorities have now set up local safeguarding children boards. The remit of these boards is wider than that of the child protection committees and it is recognised by most boards that children are over-represented in casualty figures for road accidents. Some parents put their children at significant risk by not ensuring that seat belts are used by every passenger or by not having sufficient control of children when they are near the road. In 2006 around 11,500 children aged four to 11 years were killed or injured on Britain’s roads.

The new campaign

The government has launched a new campaign to drive the road safety message home to parents. The campaign, called ‘CopyCat’ speaks directly to parents and reminds parents that children will copy their behaviour and offers safety advice about crossing the road and travelling in cars. The CopyCat campaign is part of the wider THINK! Road safety campaign. The CopyCat campaign was launched in Sunday newspapers in October, followed by ads in national dailies, popular magazines, online ads on sites frequented by parents and radio stations in England, Scotland and Wales. Advertising will run until the middle of December. The campaign is based on research conducted with both children and their parents, which tested the effectiveness of existing THINK! campaigns aimed at children and looked at their respective attitudes to road safety and behaviour on the roads. As part of the research parents admitted to taking ‘calculated risks’ in front of their children. The campaign aims to raise awareness among parents that they have a responsibility to teach their children road safety and can do so by setting a good example.

How can schools support the campaign?

Schools can play a significant part in the campaign by promoting the road safety message with children and their parents. The THINK! road safety website is a good place for schools to start. It offers posters aimed at parents that can be displayed in school’s reception areas and includes a children’s section with the famous hedgehog characters used in the road safety television adverts.

The Hedgehog site is designed for the younger end of primary school, with games and stories all backed by the catchy little tune from the advert. (I have to say I visited this site and the games are quite addictive! Especially one where you have to click on the hedgehogs who are out at night, to give them fluorescent stripes to protect them!)

The children visiting this site can collect tokens to show they have visited each section and completed tasks. At the end under 10-year-olds can enter a competition to win a bike.

For older primary school children the ‘Arrive Alive’ webpages provide a comprehensive road safety code including advice on walking, bike riding, skateboarding, horse riding and dog walking, and visitors are invited to test their knowledge in each section.

The site also provides for teenagers with lesson plans and worksheets for Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4 and AS/A2 level. These have been written by educational professionals and cover MFL, citizenship, PSHE and media. They are designed to meet curriculum targets in each subject and provide teachers with a forum to discuss aspects of road safety.

For example, the first PSHE lesson is linked to point 2f of the KS3 curriculum: ‘Pupils should be taught to recognise and manage risk and make safer choices about healthy lifestyles, different environments and travel.’ The aims of the lesson are to ‘consider distractions as a risk to safe road use and how to reduce the risk.’ The lesson begins with a discussion on the way pupils come to school and whether they ever take unnecessary risks on the road. This is followed by work with a fact sheet entitled ‘Risks on the Road’ and with news reports of road accidents. In the concluding discussion pupils are invited to think about whether they are ever distracted as pedestrians.

The main THINK! website offers a number of videos and for those schools that have video presentations running in their reception and waiting areas these are an ideal way to get the message across to parents.

Schools could also invite parents into a special assembly on road safety celebrating the children’s work and introducing them to the websites mentioned above. Safeguarding board representatives can ask their board manager to include links to the THINK! website from their own website.

As the days begin to get darker it is an ideal time to focus on road safety so have a look at these valuable sites and plan how your school can contribute to the reduction of child deaths and injuries from road accidents.