Peer pressure threat to safety
Safety education is often neglected until tragedy triggers a reaction from parents and school. If tragedy is to be avoided, a more considered, sustained approach to citizenship and education for safety must be adopted. Peer pressure and a need to be "cool" can be powerful antidotes to good sense. Young people deserve our full support to enable them to develop the skills to resist pressure, develop responsibility and acquire safety strategies.
Achieving such aims demands imaginative classroom approaches and good resources are scarce. Videos alone do not solve the problem. However, when combined with more participatory activities, they can provide a powerful contribution.
Think Again, a video on joyriding, is one such resource. It follows the stories of three groups of teenagers to their disastrous conclusions, dealing with motives, attitudes and the pressures they are under. The characters and stories are credible enough to appeal to the target audience of 13 to 16-year-olds and the quality of production good enough to compete with television drama. The teachers' notes and student materials include projects for PSE, design and technology, English, economics and business education and mathematics.
Brainstorming, research, investigation, data handling, improvisation, character profiling, hot-seating and class review combine to make this anything but a passive learning experience.
Peer pressure and a need to impress also feature in Hoax Calls Kill. Suitable for use with 9 to 12-year-olds, it is produced on Merseyside, where in 1993 the fire brigade responded to 7,000 hoax calls. The video aims to demonstrate that dares and hoaxes can end in tragedy. Its football theme, with John Barnes as the voice of reason, will appeal to all young people, not just football fans. The memorable portrayal of the consequences of a hoax call leaves the viewer in no doubt about the message.
A lack of supporting resources leaves the teacher to develop the theme. Materials using the characters and situations in the story would enhance the resource.
In 1971 80 per cent of seven and eight-year-olds went to school without an adult. By 1990 this figure had dropped to 9 per cent. Home Safe has been produced by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to reconcile children's natural desire for independence with the fears of parents when they hear the question: "Can I go to school by myself?" The video features Darshan and Emma demonstrating how they keep safe when going home from school without an adult and during short periods when they may have to be home alone. The target audience is parents with children aged 8 to11. The video could also be used in classrooms to stimulate discussion about the safety strategies, especially when supported by programmes such as Tacade's Skills for the Primary School Child. It would also provide an excellent focus for a parent evening or for use with a parenting group.
The accompanying booklet reinforces the messages and lists a range of safety strategies. It stresses that "by starting early, personal safety skills can become almost instinctive by the time a child seeks greater freedom".