Controlled risk can be a good thing...
X couldn't walk with my class to the library because he might be kidnapped on the way; Y's mum was worried that if she came with us to the pick-your-own farm in Kent, she would be attacked by wild animals. Those were real fears about imaginary dangers. B broke into a garage, set seven buses alight and was lucky to escape with his life; C sniffed the fuel he'd stolen and was dead by morning. Those were real accidents arising from all-too imaginable hazards.
Teachers and parents know that children need controlled risks in their lives if they're to be able to function as confident adults. They know, too, that the best supervision is often the least obviously onerous. And yet true tragedies like those above do occur. Five hundred children under 14 die in accidents in the UK each year, and 2.5 million end up at the hospital with some kind of injury.
The pack is aimed mainly at adults, though the activities it proposes are strongly intended to involve children in being directly responsible for themselves. A planning handbook gives broadly sensible advice on how to run your own safety week. It aims to dispel myths (few children are abducted by strangers or drowned at sea), to provide authoritative statistics, to suggest many ways to deal with the media and, above all, to promote events that will raise awareness of safety topics. These have a positive and practical bent. The notion of a walk-to-school week is a particularly welcome idea, and makes the explicit assertion that road-crossing should be an issue for drivers as much as for children.
Some of the tips on dealing with press releases, organising displays and setting up photo-calls will be most easily followed by a confident and literate readership with access to phones and computers. But the booklet is clear and useable by parents and school helpers as well as teachers.
A set of brightly-coloured leaflets deals with a broad sweep of safety subjects, from car seats and gardens, to holidays and part-time jobs. They incorporate both legal concerns and sensible advice. With clear headings and highlightings, they cover risks found in barbeques and broken glass, poisonous plants and paddling pools. The tone is neither puritanical nor hectoring. It's recognised that children naturally want to explore and flirt with occasional hazards.
One leaflet for grandparents (the most anguished of all adults if accidents happen) thoroughly explores the perils that lurk in cots, duvets, bottles, electric sockets and sheds. Two others are written specifically for older children.
The pack also contains photocopiable sheets for teachers which include puzzles, games and a newsletter with stories about successful publicity organised by schools and toddler groups. There's also a set of stickers, lists of free resources and useful addresses, and a sheet of ideas for classwork. This last brings the national curriculum to bear on safety themes. Simple notions like word-searches and pie-charts are supplemented by imaginative suggestions for designing armbands while experimenting with colour or measuring the effectiveness of school rules. Even that old standby, describing how to make a cup of tea, is given a renewed purpose by focusing on how to avoid scalds.
Uncertainty, adventure and fun, even the odd broken wrist or stitched forehead are part of childhood, but not maiming and death.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust is a registered charity to promote child safety. It is based at 18-20 Farringdon Lane, London EC1R 3AU. Tel: 0171 608 3828.