Should road safety be part of the National Curriculum?

10.42 | 2 June 2011 | | 13 comments

A blog in the Telegraph suggests that improved road safety education could be the answer to reducing the number of young people killed in road crashes.

In the Telegraph blog, Ian Cowie, the paper’s personal finance director, says that insurers and motoring organisations are calling for road safety education to be part of the National Curriculum. He says: “Nobody wants to burden teenagers with more exams but, given the scale of the carnage among the young, improved education about road safety seems a sensible step.”

This, he continues, might not only save lives among the minority who crash, “but it should also cut insurance premiums for the majority who drive without mishap.”

The blog describes the Pass Plus scheme as ‘a bit of a flop’. Ian Crowder, of the AA, is quoted: “Pass Plus has become discredited because it is an informal series of six sessions but there is no test at the end of it.

“So, unfortunately, few insurers offer Pass Plus discounts and if they do, their premiums are often higher than others. Claims experience among young drivers is so poor that many no longer offer cover to young drivers and even fewer to young men.”

The call for a more structured approach to learning to drive is backed by Julie Townsend of Brake, who is quoted as saying: “We need decisive action by the Government to tackle young driver crashes, and we don’t believe the measures they recently announced go nearly far enough.

“We need a far more structured, staged approach to learning to drive, through a system of graduated driver licensing, so new drivers develop their skills and experience gradually over time.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph blog.


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    Everyone should learn about road safety. This is a vital topic to learn.

    Nairobi, Kenya
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Thank you for your support and encouragement.
    Ultimately you are quite correct that each school Head Teacher has discretion about what they offer and how they teach the curriculum within their school. What we have done to try to minimise this effect and maximise take-up is to get the whole hearted support and involvement of our colleagues within the Children & Young Peoples Service (the Education Department as it was once known)to develop, support and promote this approach. The key to this was to gain the commitment of our Director of CYPS who then made it happen. And that was achieved through our own Director so you need to get buy0in up your own senior management chain, through your Exec members and then across to CYPS at that top level. I think this is the best we can achieve unless/until these outcomes are incorporated in more specific detail within the national curriculum.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Honor I’d like to add my congratulations, both on a systematic, professional approach and an open-minded attitude to RS education. Couldn’t agree more. However good as your resources are, schools still have the freedom to refuse them. Over the years I’ve developed and purchased what I thought were good and useful tools for teachers to use but sadly only a few interested people have taken me up on each offer. It still leaves young people at the mercy of whether or not their teachers/school place a value on RS education and find time for it. I believe they (our young people) have a right to good quality risk education, of which Road Safety is just one aspect. However in our current set up not only is the offer unequal within LA areas it’s unequal nationally, with no prospect of change in sight. When you are ready to share what you’ve done, I’d be happy to offer it to Oxfordshire schools but probably less than 10% will consider it important enough to adopt – sad, isn’t it?

    Mandy Rigault. Oxfordshire.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    We will be putting a summary of what we are doing onto the Knowledge Centre very shortly. In the meantime, an outline is:
    • We have analysed the crash and casualty data to identify the types of collisions in which each age groups are involved and where they happen.
    • We then identified those collision circumstances in which young people have the potential autonomy to do something that would have made a difference e.g. choose to wear a seatbelt, different group behaviour.
    • We then drew up a list of expected outcomes that are age related – in line with educational practice – for each Key Stage i.e. by the end of Key Stage 3 (11 -14 year olds) we expect that a child will be able to: understand their responsibilities as pedestrians or passengers, travel independently to and from school as a pedestrian, cyclist or on public transport;understand what is acceptable behaviour on public transport; develop strategies to cope with potentially dangerous situations caused by the behaviour of a driver they travel with. To name but some.
    • Then we worked back from those three sets of information to work out how educational inputs could influence young peoples behaviour by enabling them to recognise and change situations and to develop the skills they need to do so.
    • This includes information for teachers and for parents, who also need to know what to expect of their children as they grow up.

    Briefly: we have provided links to various curriculum subjects and attainments and shown how these relate to road safety situations and skills and have also included lesson plans for specific items – mainly lesson plans for Primary and links etc for secondary as this suits each best. This puts RS into PSHE and other subjects sometimes under its own heading and sometimes integrated into a science, maths or whatever outcome.
    I understand the argument that these lessons are best delivered by a professional road safety officer but I do not agree that this is so. In fact I would disagree. Most RSOs are not professional teachers so teachers could say the same – that only professionally trained teachers should deliver any lesson. I think this is the wrong way to look at it. We should be looking at this as a partnership project on which we work together not an “either/or”. Our profession is there to provide a service to the whole community. Our role with schools and colleges is important because this is the opportunity to influence life long learning. However, I don’t think tbhere is an RS Team in the country that has the resources, especially the staff, to be able to provide a road safety education service to every Key Stage in every school. For this reason we have developed a model that provides detailed resources to teachers to enable them to deliver the fundamental education children need to be a safer road user, with the support of a specialist curriculum adviser – an RSO who is also a qualified teacher. We also offer further support to schools where needed i.e. in areas with higher risk through social deprivation and other identified factors and to high risk groups e.g. pre- and young drivers. We deliver Bikeability as part of this offer, which means that we are also going into every primary school. Thus teachers deliver the foundation at every Key Stage and we, the specialists, advise and support plus we deliver the specific interventions that we are best placed to do and where they are most needed – to those at highest risk. This uses our expertise to best effect and gets the basic RS knowledge out to all children.

    This is new and has only just started this term so we will be monitoring and evaluating as things progress and will share that knowledge with you as we go.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I have read the article above and the comments below with interest. Road Safety as part of the National Curriculum is an argument that surfaces with reasonable regularity. The trouble with it is that the conceptual framework for the debate is not clear, everyone’s idea as to what Road Safety as part of the National Curriculum actually means is different. Hence the variety of comments below.
    Are we talking about Road Safety as a stand alone subject like English, History or ICT to be delivered through its own programme of study across all key stages? This is the meaning I take from the phrase. Or are we talking about a locally developed stepped programme of lessons which may or may not cover little more than 2 hours contact time per year? Or is it about a comprehensive range of road safety resources, something specifically designed for each school year group to be delivered by non specialist teachers in Maths, Geography or more likely PSHE?

    The trouble is Road Safety as part of the curriculum is each of these, all of these and none of these depending on our own understanding. I have my own views, which are:

    1. Road Safety is already ‘part’ of the National curriculum.
    Below is content from Key Stage 2 PSHE Non-Statutory Guidelines where road safety is explicitly noted, followed by extracts from Key Stage 3 PSHE Non-statutory guidelines, where road safety knowledge and skills are implied.

    PSHE KS2
    f. to recognise the different risks in different situations and then decide how to behave responsibly, including sensible road use, and judging what kind of physical contact is acceptable or unacceptable
    PSHE KS3
    1.3 Risk
    a. Understanding risk in both positive and negative terms and understanding that individuals need to manage risk to themselves and others in a range of situations
    2.2 Decision-making and managing risk
    Pupils should be able to:
    a. use knowledge and understanding to make informed choices about safety, health and wellbeing
    b. find information and support from a variety of sources
    c. assess and manage the element of risk in personal choices and situations
    d. use strategies for resisting unhelpful peer influence and pressure
    e. know when and how to get help
    f. identify how managing feelings and emotions effectively supports decision-making and risk management
    a. ways of recognising and reducing risk, minimising harm and getting help in emergency and risky situations

    These examples and there are plenty of others, ensure that every single road safety lesson in school can be linked to the curriculum giving legitimacy to road safety education however it is delivered.

    2. I agree with Stuart. If our experiences tell us anything it is that society’s ‘attitudes’ to road safety don’t always reflect our own as road safety officers. Teachers are a part of that society and if we want a consistency of message and delivery through a curriculum (whatever our concept of that is) then it needs specialist teachers with specialist knowledge and a ‘road safety attitude’.
    3. Adding additional content to a nationally set curriculum is not the way the political wind is blowing at the moment. I see little point in lobbying for something that is a) at odds with current political ideology, b) we don’t know what impact road safety in the curriculum might have, what it would cost, how it would change the current road safety education landscape or even evidence that it would work any better at changing values, attitudes and ultimately reducing casualties and c) we aren’t entirely sure what we are lobbying for.

    Until we have a handle on the parameters of the debate I really think this is an issue that will continue to go round in circles with little chance of resolution.

    Graham, Blackburn
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    In Humberside we (Fire Service) target the 15 – 25 year, new or learner drivers. The package we put together is called the Road-S-Kills Experience. The package consists of an interactive car, presentation and a desk top driving simulator. The package this year was recommended to the Cabinet Office for Transformational Practice. Most of the schools we have presented to have asked if we can be added to next terms curriculum. We have being around the country and the comments we get are that this is the best Road Safety Package they have seen. If anyone would like further information please email me.

    Steve Harrison
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Stuart, read your response with interest, may I suggest you may like to look at our Young Driver Monitoring Schemes at

    Many thanks

    Charles RoadDriver
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    We in Rochdale have and have had for many years a full road safety education programme in all our schools. Primary Y3, 5 and 6, every High School Year and for the last 3-4 years all our College sites. For the younger children we work with the parents.

    I agree with most that has been said and find it very sad that most LAa are suffering some form of cut backs in our field. The experience that is being lost is going to be hard to replace.

    We have resources that we leave in High School for teaching staff to use but they are so inundated with “Stuff” on all subjects they struggle to get any extra RS work included in the timetable for the year.

    I do believe that for an effective impact, our subject needs that professional touch, knowledge does go a long way. All our lessons are enjoyable and from what we get back when we see pupils and students year on year, memorable. Our casualty stats reflect this also. Hopefully this is partly down to what the children receive as they travel through their educational life.

    It would be fantastic for RS to be in-built into the curriculum, but if you have staff who are unsure on this topic or have biased views (only blame the driver) on some content, the message may be lost. Teaching staff, on the whole seem relived to have someone else provide this service.

    On the subject of new young drivers we did some work with both drivers and their parents over the last two years and one of the issues that came to light, was the fact that almost all the parents we meet had contributed financially to virtually all the driving lessons, licence, and test, sometimes even the car. Yet felt they had no control over how their child drove once they passed. Surely if you have invested so much money into something so valuable, there must be a way of having some control? As of yet I have not figured that part out.

    Stuart Rochdale
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Yes, there are lots of us who agree Road Safety Education should be in the National Curriculum, but it isn’t – which is why a group of us like-minded road safety professionals have got together and set up srsCULTURE in
    our ‘spare’ time, evenings and weekends.

    srsCULTURE, launched at the RoSPA seminar in February, is based on the philosophy that the more you know and understand about your environment, the safer you will be in it. It is a contemporary, web-based programme, delivered in ‘life-stages’ from cradle to grave, and providing information and knowledge to all road-user groups.

    A major sector is srsCULTUREforSchools which follows the education stages from pre-school through to Year 11, then onto 6th form, FE, HE and young drivers either in education or in work.

    It is robust, comprehensive, holistic and sustainable.

    Robust in that we first help member schools to set up a strategic framework for road safety in their school and then deliver road safety education within that framework. This means that it can be monitored at several levels (school management team, governing body, Ofsted/Estyn, stakeholders, local RSO) and therefore evaluated.

    Comprehensive in that our structured Curriculum Bundles contain not only lesson plans for every year group, but also road safety best practice guidance, links to other areas of the curriculum and plenty of teacher support. They follow sound educational practice – spiral curriculum etc., underpin Every Child Matters, meet the Ten Principles of Effective Safety Education and link closely to other initiatives such as Healthy Schools.

    Holistic in that we encourage involvement of the whole school community including parents – it’s about the ethos of the school, its every day practices, and includes the staff ‘at work’.

    Sustainable – because it is set within a strategic framework and because members will be kept up-to-date with road safety news, views, resources, campaigns, legislation, practices and always be able to access the latest version of the resources via the website.

    I agree it would be beneficial to entwine road safety modules into core subjects, but this has been tried before and failed – mainly because of its complexity, in both delivery and monitoring. It’s often started well, then fizzled out!

    Road Safety sits best in the PSHE Curriculum – it needs to be ‘visible’ so that we know every child has received the basic level for each stage, but extensions, enhancement and a level of subliminal learning can be achieved by linking across to other areas of the curriculum.

    Currently, we at srsCULTURE are working with the PSHE Association to ensure that all our lessons meet PSHE Curriculum delivery best practice.

    We are also developing a ‘built-in’ evaluation process – we will be working with the E-valu-it Team and with a student who is researching RSE evaluation methods for his Masters Degree. Evaluating programme delivery and skills and knowledge attainment is one thing – evaluating attitude and behaviour improvement as a result of it is a much bigger issue, but not one that we are afraid to confront!

    Finally, if you are an RSO reading this – please don’t panic. RS Professionals are suffering a major loss of capacity – both financial and people resources – this programme can help ‘plug the gaps’, enhance your work rather than impinge on it, enabling you to target your ever diminishing resources at the high priority areas without having to ‘let go’ of lower priority ones. We already have LA RSOs keen to encourage their schools to join srsCULTURE – enabling them to ‘do more with less’, provide support to members and monitor progress without taking up too much valuable time and resources.

    I know how hard North Yorkshire will have had to work, and how many barriers they will have had to break down to achieve what they have – well done Honor – truly inspirational! But, if you are not in that position, then please take a look at our website – we might be able to help.

    Lyn Morris
    Stilwell Road Safety (A not-for-profit social enterprise)

    Lyn Morris
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Firstly, congratulations to Honor Byford and her team for what appears to be a really worthwhile and innovative approach to educating young people.

    Road Safety officers and other Road Safety organisations can only do so much to influence the way young drivers behave behind the wheel. If government is serious about tackling the death rate and the terrible injuries suffered by young drivers and their passengers, then a complete overhaul of the driver licencing system needs to be introduced.

    It is ludicrous that a young person can visit the Direct Gov website and apply for a provisional drivers licence at the age of fifteen and three quarters without parental approval or participation, yet the same child would have to seek parental approval to be given an aspirin for a headache whilst at school. The Government website doesn’t mention anywhere in the application process that they are about to engage in one of the most, if not, the most dangerous activity of their young adult lives, albeit, they will be seventeen when they are actually on the road.

    We need to start by making it a big deal for a young person to be given the privilege of learning to drive and not just accept that it is their right of passage. I agree totally with Julie Townsend from Brake, if we are to protect young people, the government needs to bring in a far more structured, staged approach to learning to drive, through a system of graduated driver licensing. While the Pass Plus course has some merit, it does need to be beefed up with a proper test at its conclusion. This would give insurance companies confidence to offer discounts to those young drivers who have completed the course. As in other countries, we should consider the introduction of a compulsory “P” plate although I accept this would damage our business.

    We also need to educate parents to the dangers for young drivers with clear statistics to re-enforce the warnings. I can only say that some fifteen years ago, had I known the risks involved with young drivers, I would have taken more interest in my seventeen year sons driving experience, had I done so, he may be alive today.

    Insurance companies could also play their part by producing leaflets on safe driving to accompany insurance documentation for young people, also parents and guardians should not abdicate or delegate their responsibility to ensure that their teenagers drive safely and in an appropriate manner.

    The system must be wrong when government prohibits young people from legally purchasing cigarettes or alcohol which carry health warnings, but allow seventeen year olds to drive, what will be for some, a killing machine without restriction.

    Maybe provisional driving licences should also come with a government health warning?
    Charles Dunn

    Charles Dunn
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I don’t pretend that I understand the formation and rules (central government versus localism) on setting what our young people learn at “Key Stages”.

    What I do know is that too many young people (including those young drivers just leaving sixth form) get injured. I also know that introducing a dedicated topic called “road safety” is unlikely to lead to a high level of agreement that time can be found.

    The solution to this is to entwine road safety modules into core subjects in such a way that it appeals to head teachers, teachers and students in a relevant way. I am sure there are lots of local good practice examples and perhaps there are benefits (and efficiency) in sharing these widely. Perhaps Road Safety GB should pave the way by teaming up with teacher’s unions or other education bodies to provide a pool of “endorsed” resources aimed at core educational subjects (geography, statistics, health etc).

    Peter Whitfield, Manchester
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Honor, this sounds like an excellent scheme and I’m sure we’ll all be interested in the results.

    I think it’s high time we connected all the fragmented road safety education work done and had a more holistic and structured road user education program from an early age nationally. If we can encourage people to think of themselves, and everyone else, as road users rather than insular drivers or cyclists or pedestrians etc then we might begin to overcome a lot of the ignorant and antisocial road use we see and rebuild the sense of community on our roads.

    Dave, Leeds
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Here in North Yorkshire we believe this has to be the way forward if we are to achieve the necessary level of road user education for every child and young person – to the extent that we have developed a full road safety curriculum that is now incorporated throughout every stage of education in all North Yorkshire Schools. This is a collaboration between the Education and Highways (Road Safety) departments in North Yorkshire. Launched in April this year, it has been enthusistically received by our primary schools. It includes a pedestrian training programme as part of the curriculum and with the government grant funding, we can also provide Bikeability training, including Highway Code lessons, within the curriculum for every primary school in the county. Our secondary school launch takes place next week with a full programme to help young people to learn how to reduce the risks of road travel whether as a passenger or a driver/rider. We will be evaluating and reporting on our progress in due course.

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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