Are you a teacher or a parent keen to get children to walk, cycle or scoot to school, but concerned about road safety?
We know fear of traffic is one of the biggest barriers to parents letting their children travel in active ways to school. Here are some ideas on how to promote road safety in your school and help make parents and children street-smart and confident enough to leave the car at home.
If you’re a parent you can encourage your child’s school to try these out.
1. Ask the Professionals for Help
Get in touch with your local authority road safety team so you can find out what schemes or support they can give your school. This will vary from area to area and may be the same team responsible for promoting active travel or may be separate.
They will probably be grateful to have a keen school approach them as it can be difficult for them to successfully promote road safety initiatives to schools. Also it may be a case of ‘first come, first served’ if resources are very limited so make sure they realise you are keen.
2. Decide What You Can Commit to
Any resources/schemes that are available will usually require some time and effort on the school’s part too. So there needs to be some commitment from the school.
Ideally you need a keen member of staff to be a road safety champion to help organise events and initiatives. If you already have an active travel coordinator this role can be combined. They will need the support of the headteacher, other teachers and parents for initiatives to work.
3. Take Part in Road Safety Week
Get involved in Road Safety Week. In the UK this is organised annually in November by road safety charity Brake. Schools, families and businesses across the UK take part in activities to promote the year’s road safety theme for the campaign.
Anyone can take part. It’s up to you how involved you get and what you do: you may be a parent baking traffic light biscuits with your per-school child or a road safety teacher champion organising a full week of activities for your school in partnership with the local police or council.
Many of the messages such as 2017’s ‘Speed Down Save Lives’ theme are actually targeted at drivers, but children can play an important role in promoting these messages to their families, friends and the wider community.
Brake also has a lot of road safety education resources and a teachers’ guide on their website which can be used any time of year by anyone. They hold other events too such as their Beep Beep Days for per-schools.
4. Encourage Peer to Peer Learning with JRSOs
Junior Road Safety Officer (JRSO) schemes have been popular for years; they enable pupils to learn about road safety and share their knowledge with others. In both Scotland and Northern Ireland their JRSO schemes are promoted centrally with websites which provide activity ideas which anyone can see. Many local authorities in other parts of the UK have their own version of this scheme.
A selected group of older pupils (in England and Wales Year 5s and year 6s, in Scotland and Northern Ireland P6 and P7) are given support and information so they can teach their peers about road safety.
The themes can be flexible to suit the school environment. Usually there is a new suggested theme each term – for example in autumn they learn about ‘being bright and seen’ (check out our resources for activity ideas on this theme). The JRSOs plan and run assemblies, hold competitions and design road safety content for the noticeboard and/or school website.
Some areas will have their own local version of the JRSO scheme, for example in Northamptonshire the local authority runs the Road Safety Heroes scheme which is similar to JRSOs.
5. Think About Think!
‘Think!’ is the government’s road safety campaign here in the UK. It has a lot of road safety education resources available free to download. They have recently updated their younger age group resources which now includes this Stop, Look, Listen, Think video and are in the process of updating resources for older children. There are plenty of classroom activities on different road safety themes, some are short and some are longer.
They also link to a limited number of other peer-assessed teaching resources, eg if you are looking at their ‘be bright be seen’ lesson plan you will see a link through to Brightkidz ‘Make a high vis tag’ activity on our website.
6. Sign up for STARS
Modeshift STARS is the name of the national school travel awards scheme and it is free for schools in England to take part (outside London). STARS stands for Sustainable Travel Accredited and Recognised. For schools in London, Transport for London run a separate STARS scheme which the national one was based on.
Schools get a list of ‘active travel’ initiatives to choose from and run in their school. Although it is about active travel, the STARS team recognise that road safety plays an important part in promoting active travel and a section of initiatives are about road safety.
If your school is keenly promoting active travel already you are probably already taking part. If not, the school can get in touch with them to sign up. Many (but not all) local authorities in England provide support for schools to help them achieve STARS so get in touch with them too. A few local authorities may have their own local scheme instead, or no scheme, so it really depends where you are. However, schools can still apply directly for STARS even if their local authority does not support the scheme.
7. Use Your Outdoor Classroom
There will be some road safety messages most easily taught in the classroom or in an assembly. However, it’s important to give pupils real life experiences as road safety is a skill which needs practice to master – so get them outside.
Take them outside the school in small groups so they can practice crossing local roads. Make sure they all practice looking for themselves, and don’t just follow others blindly. If you don’t have enough staff, consider getting parent volunteers trained as helpers too.
Go further afield and organise an educational visit to a local truck company so pupils can learn about driver’s blind spots.
8. Try Different Times, Different Weather
Road safety education needs to be taught throughout the year so pupils get a chance to learn in a range of conditions. For example, a sunny winters afternoon may be great for taking them into the playground and learning how low sun can dazzle and make it hard to be seen, whatever you are wearing. An important part of learning how to ‘be safe be seen’ is learning when you can’t be seen.
Why not arrange a Twilight Trail evening event so pupils can learn first-hand how fluorescent materials show up best in poor daylight eg near twilight and how reflectors can help you to be seen in the dark.
9. Shout About It
Once you’ve carried out your road safety activities, encourage the pupils to help publicise your success. By publishing pupil’s write-ups on your website, social media, school noticeboard and newsletter they are not only reinforcing their own learning but helping cascade the messages to others.
If you are interested in getting media coverage see our guide on writing a press release.
Road safety is one area of learning where you really want to encourage the conversations to continue at home and reach further into your community including to those who drive to or near your school.
10. Feedback for the Future
Finally, when getting help from your local authority or any road safety organisation, please remember to complete any feedback forms they give you; it can be easily forgotten. Be honest about what worked and what didn’t; offer any suggestions for improvement.
Feedback is essential so they can offer you and others better resources in future.
You can also help any partners by mentioning them in your press coverage; really easy to do nowadays on social media. As a school you probably have more freedom to publish on social media than some of your partners may, eg sometimes local authorities are limited in what they can put out as press releases. It will also help increase your own spread of the message.