Learn to cross before you run;Cross-phase;Reviews;Outdoor education;Books

9th July 1999 at 01:00
Since you read last week's TES, 70 people have died on Britain's roads, about a quarter of them under 20. In response, the road safety organisation Brake is asking people to wear a white ribbon during Road Safety Week (5-11 July), "to demonstrate they are trying to put road safety first".

One of the road safety issues currently exercising the experts is the lack of traffic skills among young children. The research tells us that they are protected from traffic at the time when earlier generations were learning how to cope with it. So when they start to use the roads - typically when they start secondary school - they are like tame animals turned out into the wild.

The figures back this up. In 1997 in Oxfordshire, 23 children aged five to nine were killed or injured on the road as pedestrians. In the next age group up, however - 10 to 15 - there were 67 pedestrian casualties. Then for the 16-19 age group, the figure fell again to 28. The pattern is consistent. "We can predict it with almost unnerving accuracy," says Oxfordshire Road SafetyOfficer Ian Harris.

Road safety materials and initiatives are looking at ways of getting young children out on to the streets to learn how to cope with traffic. Oxfordshire's Footsteps programme provides training material for teachers and carers of young primary and pre-school children. The idea, says Ian Harris, is to help the children to face up to risks and make judgments about them. "We want adults to take less of a protective role and encourage the child to make decisions," he says.

The emphasis is on adults walking with children out on the street, talking about the hazards and asking children to make judgments about crossing places and distances, encouraging them to say how (or whether) they would cross in a particular place. A new version of Footsteps is aimed solely at parents - they are given a video pack at their child's two year health check.

It's a pioneering approach, but, says Ian Harris, "the more you think about it, the more you cannot escape the conclusion that only parents can do this".

The same philosophy - get the children walking, and show them how to do it safely - is evident in Barnet. The authority has produced an ambitious education pack for older pupils, based on a map of accidents in a section the borough. The activity sheets covering a wide range of literacy, numeracy and other curricular skills are derived from a map and a detailed key of exactly what happened.

Road Safety Officer Theo Panayi is keen to point out that the materials are developed in conjunction with curriculum advisers. "We're working with them on a new resource on data handling based on speed. There will be activities with the teacher using a speed gun to collect data."

Responding to this increase in child pedestrian training schemes, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents will shortly publish a set of guidelines for local authorities on recommended minimum standards. Transport 2000 has published A Safer Journey to School, which looks at a number of "walk to school" projects. Teachers and governors concerned about school traffic, and the effects of children being driven to school ought to start by looking at this.

Transport 2000 is also concerned about the environmental benefits of reduced traffic, as well as the effects on the health and survival skills of the children. In the same way, Sustainable Transport (Sustrans) is looking at whole-environment benefits with its Safe Routes to Schools project.

Sustrans has produced a teacher's pack aimed at key stages 2 and 3. The activities are linked to national curriculum subjects. There are lots of useful teaching ideas and photocopiable pages, and a long list of further materials and contact addresses.

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