Road safety scheme pilot hailed as success

Road safety lessons help teach safety to younger pupils.

A road safety initiative aimed at reducing child accidents and making road safety part of the national curriculum has been piloted successfully in Birmingham.

Teachers at all 27 schools involved in the pilot praised the safety messages from lessons using a new early learning book featuring a family of traffic-cone characters for producing a 100% improvement in road safety awareness.

The schools in the districts of Garrett’s Green, Hall Green, Hodge Hill and Yardley – locations identified in the 2016 Birmingham Road Safety Strategy as child accident ‘hot spots’ – all gave road safety lessons in which each pupil worked from their own copy of The Conies: Walking to School Safely Journal.

The 40-page book was produced and delivered with a teacher guide, Hi-Vis snap bands and Conies pencils by Birmingham ‘not for profit’ organisation DriveSafe & StaySafe with the support of the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership. The landmark scheme was piloted between February and March this year to more than 3,300 children in 121 classes, the majority of which were Year 1 but also included a number in Year 2, reception and nursery.

No less than 87% of all pupils totally or mostly understood the safety messages and concepts within the book, while 99% engaged positively with the characters, according to completed teacher questionnaires returned by all the schools. All the teachers in the pilot praised the initiative for making a 100% difference in improving road safety awareness and stated they would recommend it to others.

The results have been announced in the 2017 United Nations Global Road Safety Week, which is timed to raise awareness of the 500 children who die on the world’s roads every day on bikes, in vehicles, as pedestrians and in walking to school.

Chris Clements, Deputy Principal at Oasis Academy Blakenhale Infants, said: “With our school being so close to a road, I have often had parents come to me anxious about their children’s safety. This booklet has enabled me to teach a very serious subject in a fun way to keep children focused and interested, while the characters have armed children with thinking time about the dangers on the roads.”

Dawn Kenny, Learning Mentor at St Catherine of Siena Catholic Primary School, commented: “The lesson guidelines in the journal were easy to adopt and offered short activities to suit our Key Stage 1 year groups. The children found the journal colourful and fun, and they liked and engaged with The Conies straightaway.”

Fay Goodman, Founder and Creator of The Conies, and Managing Director of DriveSafe & StaySafe, said: “We created The Conies family as the new Safety Heroes for Kids – just as the Green Cross Code man and Tufty the Squirrel were in their day – so we were delighted that they won the attention of pupils and motivated them to focus on the road safety messages and lessons in the book.

“Our Walking to School Safely Journal was designed to cover road safety topics within six lessons and we made the first three lessons mandatory for evaluation in the pilot exercise, but such was the enthusiasm for the content that many schools said they completed all six lessons. We will now respond to teacher feedback by enhancing the presentation and content of the book to integrate those with learning difficulties that needed support to complete the programme.”

Fay added: “We would like to see local authorities monitor and quantify the levels of road safety knowledge gained from our initiative, and we would like to offer pupils other Conies learning aids as well as programmes to support them travelling in safety to and from school by car, bus or bicycle.”

The Conies: Walking to School Safely Journal was designed to meet the early Years Foundation Stage and Personal Social Health Education learning and development requirements. It was launched at the start of 2017 by the West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Ashley Bertie at the West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters in front of Birmingham councillors, teachers and members of the police and fire services. It was also exhibited at the Education Show at the NEC in front of thousands of education professionals. Other major supporters include Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley, who has said: “This is a brilliant initiative to help children keep safe.”