- Feedback on the content and design of the books was largely positive, and the resource is fit-for-purpose as an early years road safety education tool.
- There is a strong brand and a recognisable character that children, educators and parents seem to engage with well.
- The main limitations of the resource are the length of the books and the sophistication of some of the stories, especially for ante-pre-school children.
- Some minor adjustments to the ordering and distribution process, including a possible shift to electronic mechanisms, may maximise uptake and reach.
- Parental understanding of the purpose and rationale for the books could be improved, as well as awareness of the full range of resources available.
- The big and small books are being used to complement outside active learning and are being used in a range of innovative ways.
- There seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for the resources to continue to evolve and expand into new mediums.
Launched in 2010, Go Safe with Ziggy is Scotland’s main road safety programme for children in their early years. Focussed around a series of six books, the approach targets three key age groups: 0-3, pre-school and the transition into Primary 1, in line with the Scottish Government’s policy on early intervention and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
Each of the books is available in large copy format (‘big books’) for use as a teaching resource by professionals in early years’ establishments and primary schools, as well as small books for the home to be used by children and their parents/carers. The books are also available in Gaelic and Scots, and audio copies of the books are accessible via the ‘Go Safe with Ziggy’ dedicated website. The online resource also provides road safety information and interactive activities. The Ziggy books are made available for free to all early years establishments across Scotland, however, take-up remains far from universal.
With the programme having been in operation for just over five years, an independent evaluation was commissioned to explore experiences of the resource to date. This report details the learning from the research, and considers how the evidence may be used to contribute to the onward development, promotion and use of the Go Safe with Ziggy resources.
Research Aims and Objectives
The main aim of the work was to evaluate the content, distribution and use of the Go Safe with Ziggy series of books in order to understand whether they are designed, distributed and utilised in an effective way, offering value for money and to identify where potential improvements might be made.
The research methodology had four key strands including: a desk based familiarisation and technical review exercise, an online survey and telephone interviews with a sample of early years practitioners and teaching professionals, focus groups with parents and carers across Scotland, and workshops with road safety professionals and early years practitioners.
The online survey provided the main data to inform the evaluation, and shaped significantly the overall evaluation findings that are presented here. A total of 279 valid responses were received from a mix of schools, nurseries and community based playgroups. The majority of respondents indicated that they worked with either ante-pre-school (78%) or pre-school aged children (76%), with most working with both age groups (73%). Only one in four respondents said that they worked with Primary 1 aged children (25%).
Twenty semi-structured telephone interviews with early years practitioners were completed, which sought to explore in more detail the use and perceptions of the Go Safe with Ziggy resources and build on the survey findings. This was complemented by four focus group sessions with parents and carers of children in their early years in different geographic locations around Scotland, and two separate half-day workshops (one in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen) to bring together road safety professionals and early years practitioners. The purpose of the workshops was to share learning from the available research findings, and to seek views on how to take forward the emerging learning.
Across the research strands, there was considerable variation in the numbers of respondents who took part between local authorities and this should be borne in mind when interpreting the data presented in this report. It should also be noted that participation in the research cannot be taken as a proxy for engagement with the Go Safe with Ziggy resources and some of the views of those who use the resources most may not be represented in the research.
Distribution and Uptake of the Resources
The average uptake of the small books among early years establishments is around 47%. While there do not appear to be any clear links between geography or deprivation and uptake, there are clearly some local authorities where ordering activity is consistently higher or lower than the national average. Pro-active, targeted promotion by local Road Safety Officers (RSOs) may be the way forward in achieving more equitable distribution and use across the country, although it is recognised that access to RSOs and other resources to promote road safety education for the early years also varies considerably across the country.
Although the existing distribution process seems to operate well, there is some confusion regarding how and when the books should be ordered and there may be some preference to making the ordering system more flexible throughout the year, including the capacity to order full sets of books at a single ordering point.
The findings from the online survey indicated that there was a preference for online or email ordering compared to the paper based ordering that currently exists. The distribution of order forms could also potentially be accompanied by more direct communication and information about both the online resources, support resources and the main aims of the books to ensure that the full range of resources are being used to maximum effect. Awareness of the online resources was found to be particularly poor and there is scope for better signposting of these resources, perhaps via the distribution and ordering process.
Local practices for distributing books to parents varies and there is some evidence that a more personal approach to distribution, including guidance or supporting information directed at parents/carers may ensure that books are used as intended.
There might be further scope for Road Safety Scotland, in collaboration with Education Scotland and the Scottish Government, to refine and update the existing database of early years establishments that is held to ensure that it is up-to-date, and that ordering data is more accessible and can be monitored more regularly to identify variation in uptake.
Use of the Resources
While most establishments still have and use their big book packs (which were distributed when the programme first launched), there seems to be some desire for the big books to be replenished since the original copies have been misplaced or become worn in several establishments.
The small books appear to be well received overall although some particular books appear to be ordered more by establishments than others and to be more recognisable to parents/carers and practitioners alike. It is not clear from the research why this is the case. Given that each of the books contains different road safety messages, there may be scope for ensuring the other books achieve equal distribution to ensure that the messages contained within them are not being missed.
The big and small books are being used to complement outside active learning and in a range of innovative ways. There is perhaps appetite from staff to reinforce the messages from the books with more interactive talks, and while there may be a preference for this to include visits from external partners, the proportionality and cost implications of this would need to be considered. Parents and carers report a child-led approach to using the books, where children act as the main instigators for use. The books are also being used as a reference resource in cases where children fail to act safely.
Content and Design of the Resources
Feedback on the content and design of the books was largely positive, and it seems that the current resource is fit-for-purpose as an early years road safety education tool. Most respondents who took part in this research reported that children liked the Ziggy character and generally appear to engage well with the style of the books. The Ziggy brand is clear and recognisable and the use of repetition across the series of books is welcomed.
Over 75% of survey respondents rated the appearance, length, age appropriateness, format and usefulness of the books as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. The limitations raised by some respondents were the length of the books and the sophistication of some of the stories for ante-pre-school children. This means that early years practitioners and parents are adapting the books to meet their own needs. This in itself is not necessarily a limitation, since the books were designed with Curriculum for Excellence in mind, which encourages non-prescriptive learning based on children’s individual interests/preferences. It may, however, be acting as a barrier to more frequent use, in some cases.
The online resources, soft toys and interactive resources all received positive feedback from those who had used them and there is potential for greater use of these by raising awareness of the full range of Ziggy resources, especially among parents and carers. Although a recent addition to the Go Safe with Ziggy resource, the new journey pack was something that is already being well received and, based on comments from professionals and parents alike, it seems like it has potential to further improve the home links agenda.
There seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for the resource to continue to evolve and expand into new mediums. While this is a positive finding from the work, it must be recognised that the time and other financial resources that would be required to deliver against some of the wishes expressed by parents and practitioners alike would be considerable, and may be difficult to implement both nationally and locally.
Overall, the Go Safe with Ziggy resource is well liked, has many strong and attractive features and addresses many of the weaknesses highlighted in the review of the road safety resource that preceded it. There is a strong brand and a recognisable character that children, educators and parents on the whole seem to engaging with well. The design of the books is generally seen as good, although the length and complexity of the books was highlighted by some as a potential barrier to use among the younger aged children. Parental understanding of the purpose and rationale for the books could also be improved, but neither of these issues seem to be creating significant barriers to use. The full range of resources is welcomed, but some support materials are being under-utilised due to a lack of awareness. Based on the feedback gathered, the resource itself requires little in terms of re-design or development except, perhaps, some simplification of story lines and main road safety messages for those at the younger age of intended user-group spectrum.
The biggest challenge, moving forward, is in ensuring that the right people are made aware of the full range of resources, and are encouraged to order them. Updating and refining the ordering and distribution process seems to be key to maximising the future success of the resource and helping it realise its full potential. This will ensure that children in their early years, and their parents and carers, continue to learn the importance of ‘going safe’.