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Cooperation on road safety education shows promise


Road safety education in schools is supported by several national organisations. They are talking about how to work together better.

A SADD student attends a police checkpoint.

Strengthening road safety education through a focus on promising practice is driving increased cooperation between leading organisations and agencies.

A Road Safety Education working group met during two hui in late 2021 to discuss their current practice and how organisations can work together more effectively. Representatives came from SADD, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, NZ Police, Road Safety Education Ltd (RSE, which delivers the RYDA programme) Fire and Emergency NZ and St John.

All the organisations have staff who visit schools for educational purposes, with road safety a common topic.

SADD National Manager Donna Govorko says the concept of promising practice supports ongoing improvement towards better outcomes for young people.

Hui participants agreed that promising practice is driven by these principles:

  • Youth-led: Putting young people at the centre and empowering young people to be the decision makers.
  • Interactive and inquiry-based learning: encouraging people to problem solve and make their own decisions.
  • Authentic learning: ensuring that there is a local lens which engages young people in contexts relevant to their lifestyles, social settings and places.
  • Evidence-based: practice is based on up-to-date international and local research and includes an evaluation process.

Further work is planned. The hui may lead to formation of an ongoing road safety education advisory group. This group would provide leadership on RSE across the organisations, share quality resources, include the views of young people, and work to ensure more practitioners have the capability to deliver promising practice.

Meanwhile, the principles of promising practice are based on research findings into road safety education, understandings of effective learning and the experiences of those at the coal face.

Authentic learning with students

Speaking at the hui were a couple of young people who know quality learning first-hand: SADD board member and youth representative Sterling Maxwell, and national leader Carlin Lee.

Students use design thinking to plan a road safety education activity.Sterling says when students participate in road safety education design, they contribute insights about the nuances of local communities – it brings authentic issues to the surface.

“In my roles with SADD, activities are a huge part of engaging with students, but it’s also important to look deeper into those areas we are covering with students and what makes them different.”

For example, licence breaches occur in both Gisborne and Wellington, she says, but such road use decisions may occur in a different social environment.

“It’s about tailoring activities and resources to those different areas so we can reach everybody and not just a generalised audience of young people. SADD has a focus on youth, and how to empower them to help others make the correct decisions. But it’s also about how we get parents onto the same kaupapa and seeing how what they allow their children to do affects other people.”

Carlin says road safety messages have impact when young people are engaged directly rather than treated as a passive audience.

“We’ve got to think about what they want to hear,” he says. “We know what we want to say but they’re not going to listen to everything we say. Get them involved in an activity, where you’re still trying to get across road safety, but making it memorable, not just an activity to fill in time. Engagement is the thing. It’s fun, while they’re also learning.”

Building capacity in a complex space

Waka Kotahi Senior Education Advisor Pamela McConchie says road safety education is a complex space centred on behaviour change.

“We need to put young people at the very centre of how we change that behaviour. It’s not about giving knowledge and advice like we used to do; it’s about empowering young people to be the decision makers in this space.”

For agencies to get involved in that concept of youth empowerment requires a capacity to build relationships over time; to talk with and listen to students. Front-line staff know this well, with senior FENZ firefighter Greg Bell an example.   

Secondary students with firefighters.“What I find works well is working in small groups,” says Greg. “You talk and discuss things with young people and they’re more receptive than if you’re up on a podium talking to them. Sometimes, I learn more from them than they learn from me.”

Having an entry point into schools gives this opportunity. For Greg, that’s often through SADD groups. He sees such relationships as part of a “top of the cliff” approach to harm prevention.

Police Sergeant Wayne Paxton makes the same case, with both SADD and the Police’s own Pathways programme, with its focus on careers, being avenues to open up the conversation about life skills and challenges. 

“We all know if you try to lecture teenagers they just turn off, unless you engage them in a conversation that they want to be involved in. So being able to go into schools with multiple resource packs, through the vehicle of SADD or the Police Pathways programme to talk with young people is invaluable.”

Donna Govorko says SADD is a forum for young people’s voices to be heard, and she’s working with the other agencies to get more student input into educational design.

“SADD is about providing a platform for young people to lead a kaupapa of peer-to-peer learning in their community, to be that agent for change.”

She says the SADD’s national staff see themselves as the scaffolding, pointing young people in the direction of promising practice based on a problem-solving approach.

RSE General Manager Maria Lovelock says the RYDA programme has evolved based on teacher and student feedback. Recent changes were enhanced through a review by the NZ Council for Educational Research and Waka Kotahi.

“We’ve moved into more group work for students,” says Maria. “There is more think-pair-share, role plays and interactivity, instead of the chalk and talk which is where we were more, 5 or 10 years ago. Students are learning about their own personal risk areas and creating their own strategies to address challenges.”   

The outcomes for road safety education

Pamela McConchie agrees that having multiple agencies involved in road safety education at different points in schooling allows for young people to learn throughout their lives.

Students use a Drive road safety education activity.

“Making ideas stick is about joining with young people in their learning, and ensuring learning is interactive. Promising practice includes encouraging people to problem solve and make their own decisions. They can learn things like refusal skills and coping skills integrated into a road safety context.”

“We want 5-year-olds to learn what they can and then the learning continues and deepens, so by the time they’re 18-year-olds, they’re really awesome resilient citizens who influence others with road safety messaging and behaviour.”

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