Engaging with parents the Warwickshire way

Road Safety Warwickshire’s strategy for children and young people is showing promising results and engaging parents is central to their approach.

Background

Reducing budgets in local authorities means making tough decisions about priorities and in Warwickshire this has resulted in an innovative approach that not only prioritises core initiatives, but builds on years of experience.  For children and young people, this covers the full age span from birth to the end of secondary education.

The Road Safety Team recognises the importance of engaging fellow professionals such as the police, fire and rescue and family support services to help increase their circle of influence and work in partnership wherever possible.  However, it also believes that the role of parents is vital to ensure continuity and long term commitment to road safety education.

The role of parents 

Warwickshire’s approach has been informed by DfT research on child-parent interaction in relation to road safety education (Cattan et al, 2008) which found that although protecting children on the roads is a major priority for most parents, they felt they lacked up-to-date knowledge and tended to focus on passing on information rather than building skills and positive attitudes.  The research also found that their own road safety behaviour was inconsistent and they were not always fully aware of how this impacted on their children in terms of role modelling.   

These findings are also supported by recent research carried out by Warwickshire’s Road Safety Team that showed that apart from what children learn at school about road safety, they also learn as much from their parents and look to them for advice, support and reassurance.

The DfT research concluded that there was a need for targeted support from the ante natal period through to the end of secondary school education. 

Warwickshire Road Safety Club

The Warwickshire Road Safety Club is just one element of the county’s package for delivering road safety education to children and young people.  It is aimed at pre-school and primary age children and has been devised in response to what parents asked for. The Club provides an identifiable brand that promotes effective and established initiatives that focus on life learning skills and disseminating new ideas.

The Club offers:

  • Car seat clinics (parents)
  • Starting School worksheet (parents/4 – 5 years)
  • Warwick the Bear Roadshow (4 – 5 years)
  • Ruby & Jack School Crossing Patrol workshop (4 – 5 years)
  • Kerb Wise pedestrian training (5 – 7 years)
  • Bikeability (7 – 11 years)
  • Junior Road Safety Officers (10 – 11 years)
  • Theatre in Education (10 – 11 years)
  • Road Safety Officer classroom sessions and assembly (whole school)

Funding

The Club is offered to all schools as a complete package and an annual charge is made to the majority of schools to deliver the elements of the scheme (however 30 `priority’ schools receive membership at no charge).  Around 60 schools have now signed up for membership since 2015. An increasing number of schools are being sponsored by local businesses that are finding benefits from supporting local road safety, for example:

  • Image – caring companies saving lives locally
  • Credibility – working in association with a worthwhile cause
  • Prestige – links with Warwickshire County Council
  • Visibility – positive publicity for a wider audience.

Further funding streams are always being explored, such as Warwickshire Police & Crime Commission grants and Road Safety Trust grants.

Why the club matters to parents

Through the school interventions, the Club provides current and consistent advice for parents, giving them confidence in the messages they are giving to their children.  It encourages them to get involved and promotes practical skills and a positive attitude towards road safety.

Outputs

The new approach has already made a big difference.  During 2014-15 the Club visited 428 settings and had direct contact with 264 adults and around 15,000 children (and their parents).  In the first three months Sept – Dec 2015 it delivered education to 11,000 children.

Methods

The Club uses a range of approaches to reach parents and teachers through schools and children. For example:

  • Curriculum – making road safety links with a variety of subjects such as reading, geography, English and maths – taking home worksheets, reading books etc
  • Promotional opportunities – broadening the reach through school noticeboards, newsletters, membership resources on display, posters, stickers, school railing banners, and social media
  • Direct engagement – car seat clinics, parents’ evenings, volunteering opportunities, parents’ assemblies, school events
  • Community involvement – engage local businesses to encourage staff to volunteer for activities such as Kerb Safe – Tesco are always keen to be involved with road safety work in schools as part of their corporate responsibility agenda.

Meet Warwich the Bear

Warwick the Bear is a cuddly local character that helps bring road safety alive for young children (3 – 5 years). Children (and parents) meet Warwick during a 20-minute action packed roadshow which features songs, stories and puppets giving simple road safety messages.  Following the activity, schools are encouraged to promote what children have learnt through newsletters, display posters, a song CD and stickers.  Teachers are given a `BIG reading book’ for use in the classroom and children receive a small version of the book which provides parents with the opportunity to reinforce what the children have learnt in school.

What parents say

…. “I’ve recapped with my children and they do remember it”

“I really enjoyed sharing Warwick the Bear books and feel the children have learnt the words and key messages with the songs and stories”

“Very positive, and I even learnt how to cross the road safely – to stop, look, listen and think!”

Engaging with parents the Warwickshire way, in a nutshell

Warwickshire Road Safety does not work with children and young people in isolation. Connecting with parents and families is an integral part of their approach.  The key elements are: 

  1. Recognise the importance of the role that parents play in road safety
  2. A holistic approach with community and partner involvement
  3. Make it meaningful and be willing to adapt
  4. Harness children’s enthusiasm and use it to engage with parents
  5. Listen to what parents say and take action
  6. Explore new ways to reach parents
  7. Grab opportunities to engage and share – anytime, anywhere!

More information

Contact

Katrina Pedlar

Road Safety Warwickshire

roadsafetyeducation@warwickshire.gov.uk

Updated June 2016