Memories

The Secretary of State for Education has been sharing the idea of bucket lists for primary school children with a national newspaper. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6417919/Childrens-bucket-list-inspired-new-Education-Secretary.html

I found this a particularly poignant story to read today, as I have just returned from the annual presentation of the Safe Drive: Stay Alive campaign to local sixth formers and college students. I didn’t see understanding why road safety or indeed any type of safety is important and how to deal with an emergency in the bucket list, but it should be there, even for primary age children.

The presentation I witnessed this morning, even viewing it for the fourth year in a row as a county councillor, moves me to tears every time that I attend the event. Pupils are taken through a video sequence of a group of young people going to a party in two cars. There is a crash and what happens next is narrated through simple and compelling testimony by emergency staff from the ambulance; fire and the police services, plus an A&E doctor, a parent and a survivor. Finally, there is a video of a prisoner serving a prison sentence for causing death by careless driving.

The images in the video are nowhere near as powerful as the spoken words. Here, a thousand words really does convey more than a single picture, however horrific the image. Sadly, three young people have died on the roads of Oxfordshire so far in 2018, not always their fault. Speed, drink, drugs, a lack of road knowledge and poor weather can affect the driving of anyone and lead to a fatality.

Most young people understand the message about not drinking and driving, but distracting the driver can be just as dangerous. Bucket lists are a great idea for selecting the positive things we want to do in life, but they must not crowd out the time to reflect upon the fact that as human being we live in social groups and have responsibilities to ourselves and others.

This is not the post to discuss whether there is appropriate funding for road and other safety learning for children and young people, but thank the emergency and other services that pick up the pieces when these event happen. The line of helmets on the table at the front of the hall today was a reminder of the teamwork involved and that message is powerfully reinforced by a crutch from a survivor paralysed for life and the flowers for the young person that didn’t come home and never will again.

So let’s encourage young people to climb trees, bake gingerbread and do the many other things Damian Hinds writes about, some of which I have never thought of doing, but let us also remember the purpose of life is not just self-fulfilment, important as that may be, but also because, as John Donne wrote, ‘no man is an island’, we need to learn to understand the consequences of our actions.

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Road safety campaign to help cut child deaths

The Government has launched a new road safety campaign aimed at teachers and schools to help cut child fatalities. A recent survey revealed that 67% of children get fewer than 2 hours of road safety education in their whole time at school and the aim of the new THINK! Campaign is to help schools and teachers highlight the dangers of roads and encourage best practice for children.

I welcome this announcement as coincidentally I attended the Oxfordshire Sixth Form Road Safety event last week. This takes the form of a hard hitting video of a group of young people involved in a two car road incident that leads to the death of one passenger and the paralysis of another. The video is interspersed with testimony from emergency service personnel; medical staff; a parent that had a child killed in a car crash; someone paralysed as a teenager after a night out and finally, a teenage driver serving a long prison sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. All their testimony is moving and some sixth formers are so affected that they leave in tears. Watching it for the second year was no less moving that the first time around, even though I knew what was to come.

Even if the driver is sober, the combination of a full car of teenagers; rural roads with lots of bends and trees and often loud music is a very high risk situation. A careless shout at the wrong moment or some other distraction and the result is a tragedy that could have been prevented.

The new THINK! Campaign from the Department for transport will feature a wide range of new education resources, including easy to follow lesson plans, 2 new films co-created with school children and a song in a bid to make teaching road safety lessons easier and more accessible. The first documentary-style film follows a group of school children as they act out how to cross the road safely after learning to use the Stop, Look, Listen, Think code. The second film follows another 6 children on their different journeys to school, including walking, cycling and scooting. The children explain their top tips for getting to school safely in the form of a new road safety song. The first phase of resources, aimed at 3 to 6-year-olds, are already on the Think! Web site. The next 2 phases for ages 7 to 12 and 13 to 16 will follow in the New Year. I hope that they will be interactive and make use of modern technology to engage with this tech savvy generation.

The importance of this work means that Ministers at the DfE should be aware of the needs of the whole child and not just their academic requirements. Schooling is for life not for just passing examinations however welcome today’s news on reading levels may be.

Finally, road safety also means training in cycling and, as we encourage more young people to cycle to and from school, we need to ensure that they are especially aware of how to stay safe.