Lessons in railway safety

Written by: HTU | Published:

Trains are popular with children – making rail safety education all the more vital. Mark Shaoul introduces some new resources to help primary schools in this area

Children of primary school age can be fascinated by trains. The varied and interesting noises, people and environments – combined with the feeling of movement and speed – make the idea and experience of rail travel a great adventure.

This age group can, however, lack awareness of the dangers posed by the railway: trains travelling at high speed are not able to stop quickly and will hit any obstruction on the track. There are also dangers from the electrified rail and overhead lines, as well as the possibility of tripping and being injured.

An early understanding of how to stay safe around the railway at key stages 1 and 2 helps protect pupils as they grow into greater independence, preparing them for the more complex personal safety issues of their teenage years.

Britain has a better rail safety record than many other countries but, tragically, 44 people have died at level crossings in the last five years and 69 people have been electrocuted on the rails in the last decade. Sadly, many of these deaths were preventable.

We believe that education plays a pivotal role in our national and local activity to reduce tragic incidents on the railway. Recent regulatory guidance on PSHE teaching supports this view, stressing the need for schools to promote a pupil’s ability to assess and understand risk and keep themselves safe.

Network Rail has launched a new nationwide youth rail safety initiative, Rail Life, which was created with the help of teachers, youth workers and children. In a series of workshops pupils helped shape the campaign brand, approach and awareness activities.

The campaign kicked off with a focus on level crossing safety during Walk to School Week in May 2012 and saw the launch of assembly kits for primary and secondary schools.

The resource includes an interactive assembly presentation as well as a teacher’s guide. Contents include a speed quiz, top facts, the Cross Safe rules and a video of the national television advert, Level crossings – Life-savers not time wasters. New lesson plans including the Cross Safe Song on rail safety.

The programme has now widened to cover broader rail safety issues – such as the dangers of trespassing on the railway and the electrified third rail – with the launch of new primary school lesson plans. There is a range of activities catering for different year groups.

For key stage 1 pupils, there is a speed quiz on the railway, pictures of the main types of level crossings with the Cross Safe rules, colouring-in sheets and “spot the danger” pictures.

Once younger pupils have learned the basics about level crossing and rail safety, they will enjoy reinforcing their understanding with the catchy Cross Safe Song. The song could lead to a lively and fun session and will help children to retain messages about how to stay safe at a level crossing. The chorus exuberantly reminds pupils to “Stop, Look, Listen”.

For key stage 2 pupils, lesson plan activities cover a range of curriculum areas, including maths, PSHE, English and ICT.

It includes an energetic lesson that aims to increase understanding of the speed and distance of different people and objects – from Usain Bolt to a train – as well as a drama which uses rail safety scenarios to explore the factors that could lead someone to make an unsafe decision.

If you have any questions or want local advice on rail safety issues please get in touch with your local Network Rail community safety manager. They work with local communities to raise awareness of railway safety and will be happy to help you. You can contact them by emailing the community safety address below.

Elsewhere, “Rail Life Reps” is a rail ambassador initiative driven by Network Rail and the British Transport Police where pupils are nominated by teachers to develop and deliver a rail safety programme within their school.

If you sign up you will receive a CD-ROM explaining the scheme, as well as pin badges that the Rail Life Reps can wear with pride.

We want the Rail Life initiative to make a lasting impression and provide effective material for pupils and teachers. By working together we hope to prevent future harmful incidents at level crossings and make the railway safer for everyone.

• Mark Shaoul is head of marketing services at Network Rail.



Further information

All of the above resources are available online at www.networkrail.co.uk/safetyeducation and to contact your local community safety manager or to find out more about the Rail Life Reps, email communitysafety@networkrail.co.uk

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.


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