4 Exploring How the Resources are Used

4 Exploring How the Resources are Used

The research also sought to develop an understanding of how the resources are currently used. Findings from across the different research strands are included below, highlighting the most common themes to emerge.

4.1 Use of the ‘Big Book’ Packs

As part of the online survey, just over 60% of respondents indicated that their establishment still had a copy of the ‘big books’ available for use with their children. Just over a quarter said that they did not and 13% said that they were not sure. There were no clear differences in responses between those that worked with Primary 1 aged children and those that did not.

The majority of respondents (69%) said that they had used the big books with their children in the last five years (see Table 10). This included some who said that they no longer had the books, and so suggests that the books had been in their possession at some point in the past, but were no longer at the establishment. Indeed, some practitioners reported in interviews that they only had some of the books remaining, and were unsure what had happened to the others from the set.

Table 10: In the last five years, has your school/nursery used the big books with the children? (n=276)
Response Number of Respondents % of Respondents
Yes 191 69%
No 40 14%
Not Sure 45 16%

Among the 40 respondents who said that they had not used the big books in the last five years, the majority indicated that this was because they were not aware of the resource (n=27) or no longer had the books (n=4).  

Among those who said that they had used the big books with their children in the last five years (n=191), most said that they used them to read to groups of children in the classroom/nursery (97%), as shown in Table 11. 

Table 11: How you have used the big books in your nursery or school?  (n=191)
Response Number of Respondents % of Respondents
Read to groups of children in the classroom/nursery 186 97%
Made available for children to ‘read’ or ‘look at’ alone 116 61%
Used as part of a game/activity focused on road safety in the classroom/nursery 93 49%
Used as part of an outing/journey outside of the classroom/nursery 58 30%
Shared reading between older and younger children 28 15%

A large proportion (61%) also reported that they leave the books in the classroom/nursery to be read independently by the children. This was confirmed during telephone interviews, where several respondents indicated that the books are included as part of their reading library in the classroom, are left on display or are kept in an accessible reading corner:

“We also encourage the children to investigate and ‘read’ the big books to their friends on the floor.” [Nursery, Interview]

Other respondents reported that they used the big books as part of assemblies, for children to use as a prop to tell the story themselves and with parents as part of ‘stay and play’ parental involvement sessions.   

As part of wider feedback in the research, some comments were made that the big books were unwieldy and the large soft-back format made reading them to groups of children a challenge:

“Big books are very long and floppy, so when adult is reading the story it`s difficult to hold and turn page at same time, so children are a little distracted by that.” [Nursery, Survey]

It was suggested that most books that are used for group reading are A4 in size, and that smaller hardback books, spiral bound flip books or board books would be better as a group resource.  

One childminder who took part reported that storage of the big books was also problematic: 

“When I was a registered childminder I got a delivery of huge books, massive, in a clear bag… I have to admit, because I had the huge big ones, and a bookshelf doesn’t accommodate big books, I prefer this size. So if I could have got the batch as a small set I would have looked at them more frequently. I gave my big books to the private nursery so they had an extra set.” [Child Minder, Focus Group 3]

This contrasted to another childminder who took part who commented that she had used the big books over a number of years and that they had been very popular with children because they were so big and this made them unusual and appealing:

“They’ve never had a book that size before. They like to lie on the floor and spread them out.” [Child Minder, Focus Group 3]

While there were perhaps some mixed views on the format of the big books, it seems that they are being well used in most cases where establishments or individual carers have them.

4.2 Use of the Small Books for Home

Feedback on how the books were being used at home was sought from parents/carers who took part in the focus groups and had previously received them via their children’s school/nursery.  

Most of those who had received the books said that they had kept them, although not all said that they were well used. The approach to using the books seems to be very child-led and most parents said that they would only read the books if their child asked them to or selected them for their reading time together. There were mixed experiences on whether children did or did not choose the books:

“He will choose them, I’m not expecting him to choose them after we have read them once or twice, but he does. He quite likes Ziggy.” [Parent, Focus Group 1]

“I definitely used them when she was wee. I did make an effort to read them, and we went over it a few times, but now they are just kept with the other books.” [Parent, Focus Group 2]

“Mine are mixed in amongst other books, and they do sometimes pick them out, but not often.” [Parent, Focus Group 4]

Parents/carers typically said that they read the books together with their children when they first received them, and then left them readily available as children got older to use independently:

“I’ve used them with all my kids, but after they go to school, they’re old enough to look back at them themselves.” [Parent, Focus Group 3]

Other suggested that, over time, books were used most often as a reference tool or follow-up to unsafe behaviours, as a refresher to remind children of what they were doing wrong:

“You know you’ve got something in the house that, if you need to remind them, “You’re forgetting about holding hands again”, then you’ve got a book to show them again.” [Parent, Focus Group 3]

Most of the parents/carers who took part also said that, although the books were a welcome reference tool, they considered that active learning was the best way to teach road safety messages, and that they needed to be accompanied by outside learning to be effective, wherever possible:

“You need to read the book and show them as well, otherwise it doesn’t really work. Some people just take the car everywhere, so they don’t practice walking near busy roads.” [Parent, Focus Group 4]

Overall, parents and carers expressed that the small books acted well as a prompt to remind them to teach their children road safety behaviours. Most parents already engaged in road safety education with their children anyway, but a reported strength of the books was in making this fun rather than presenting it as a disciplinary activity. 

4.3 Use of the Online Resources

Awareness of the Website and Online Resources

There was an even split between the number of respondents to the practitioner survey who said that they had previously visited the Go Safe with Ziggy website and those who had not (49% of respondents in each case). The remaining 2% were not sure.  

Use of the Online Resources

Table 12 shows the most commonly used online resources were the online stories and games (each used by around two thirds of respondents).    

Table 12: Which, if any, of the following ‘Go Safe with Ziggy’ online resources have you used with the children in your establishment? (n=132)
Response Number of Respondents % of Respondents
Online stories 86 65%
Online games 84 64%
Ziggy Zone videos 43 33%
Activity idea cards 35 27%
Audio stories 28 21%
None - just looked at what was available 21 16%
Sound and image library 18 14%
Other 8 6%

As previously mentioned, wider feedback received during interviews and in the survey suggests that some teachers would like to see greater promotion of the online resources, since they perceived that the online activities and audio/visual resources might better capture children’s attention:

“I feel ICT software would be better utilised by the children than the books.” [School, Survey]

“The children would really enjoy animated versions and this would support the engagement of all pupils.” [Nursery, Survey]

“The staff and children love the interactive books at the [website].” [Nursery, Survey]

Several respondents praised the resources that could be used on the smartboard and there were also comments that the audio books were enjoyed by the children. In the survey and the workshops, there were several comments that a smartphone or tablet app would be well received.   

Similar views were expressed by parents and carers who believed that apps were the way forward for educational resources for children, given the growing popularity and use of smart phones and tablets in the home:

“I think most children now come from a house where there is either a smartphone or a tablet, and so an app would be a really great idea.” [Parent, Focus Group 2]

“A free full-on educational app would be great.” [Parent, Focus Group 4]

“Playing with the iPad is a treat, so making it available as an app would make it [road safety education] something they wanted to do.”  [Parent, Focus Group 1]

There was some discussion about the problems with using the internet with children in this age group and one group of parents/carers suggested that the option of apps was preferable because the children were less able, or less likely, to accidently navigate away or access other (inappropriate) sites. Some indicated that they would feel safer leaving their children to play independently with an isolated app rather than allowing them to play freely on the internet.  

Parents felt that having the resources available in a range of formats was ideal as children learn in different ways and this facilitates different learning opportunities. A number of the fathers/male carers in particular highlighted that they would be more likely to use audio books compared to written books. Some suggested that audio books or podcasts could be played in the car to reinforce safe travel messages.  

One issue to emerge across the research was that the audio stories and online visual stories are not currently linked in a way that makes it easy to read and listen to the stories at the same time. This was perceived to be a weakness by practitioners and parents alike. There was some discussion among parents about being able to access the audiobook as a podcast to allow the children to read and listen independently, with the message “When you hear this ding please turn the page”, or the child being able to open the book as an app and turn the page to hear what it says. This was considered especially valuable for those unable to read the words and so unable to follow the text at the same time as the audio file plays. The cost of developing a linked resource or an app that would provide this function does, however, need to be borne in mind and considered alongside the additionality it would bring.  

Reasons for Not Using the Online Resources

The main reasons given for not previously using the online resources across the survey and interviews was a lack of awareness. This was mentioned by 68% of non-users in the online survey, as shown in Table 13 below. One in five survey respondents said that they did not have time to use the online resources, and one in ten said that they did not have access to a computer in the classroom/nursery. This suggests that, although awareness is the biggest barrier, there may also be some practical and logistical barriers to greater use of the online resources too. This is interesting to note against the other finding that a Ziggy app might prove popular since use of any digital application requires access to digital resources, such as a computer, smartphone or tablet. It is reasonable to expect that the finding regarding limited access to computers might be replicated with an app, due to some schools and nurseries (as well as parents and carers) not having access to the required technology. 

Table 13: What are the main reasons why you have NOT previously used the online ‘Go Safe with Ziggy’ resources?
Response Number of Respondents % of Respondents
Was not aware of the online resources 107 68%
Too busy/not enough time 31 20%
No access to computer/internet in class 19 12%
Other 13 8%
Did not consider them a useful resource 4 3%
Did not consider them appropriate for our children 3 2%

The lack of awareness was again reiterated during interviews and workshops, with practitioners highlighting that they had only found the online resources and information about how to use them accidentally, and some interviewees commenting that they had not known about the online resources until taking part in the evaluation survey. Some had since visited the site and several also mentioned that they would be visiting the site after having completed the survey.

Very few parents or carers were aware of the online resources, and none reported that they had used them. Despite this, there was considerable support for the idea of online resources, and most parents/carers said that they would have visited the site before if they had known about it. Although the website is signposted in the small books for home, it was suggested that this needed to be much more prominent, or that separate communication was required from schools/nurseries to alert parents.  

4.4 The Ziggy Soft Toy and Journey Pack

Few of the practitioners and parents/carers who took part in the research had heard of the Ziggy soft toy and Journey Pack, probably because it is a relatively recent addition to the range of Go Safe with Ziggy resources and was introduced very shortly before the research began. Indeed, only one respondent indicated in the survey that they had taken part in the ‘Ziggy’s Fun Day Out’ exercise to upload their photos and make their own book online. Several of those who took part in a telephone interview also mentioned that they had taken part in creating their own story online using the story creator and received a ‘My Journey with Ziggy’ pack (complete with the Ziggy soft toy), and provided very positive feedback on the experience: 

“We sent our story to the website and received our cuddly Ziggy. The children are currently taking him home on a rota basis, and sharing their knowledge with the parents and family members. Learning about road safety with Ziggy has been very worthwhile and the children are all using their knowledge in practical situations.” [Nursery, Interview and Survey]

All practitioners who took part in the workshops liked the idea of the Ziggy soft toy and take home bag/story pack, especially as this might help to engage parents/carers better with the road safety message. This was seen as a particularly useful resource in areas where literacy at home might be an issue, or in households where parents chose not to read with their children.

Parents and carers also suggested without prompting that a ‘take home’ soft toy would help with home links, and were surprised to find out that this already existed. Parents and practitioners alike suggested that soft toys for all of the main characters from the books would be well received by children, who could use them to engage in ‘role play’.   

4.5 Individual Projects

Various examples were given in the online survey of how the Go Safe with Ziggy resources are being used in innovative ways to engage children. This included:

  • art and craft sessions; 
  • visits from community police and crossing patrol staff to read the books and reinforce taught messages;
  • inviting Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSOs) or primary school ‘buddies’ to read and share the books with younger children; and
  • Ziggy appearing in Christmas nativity scenes.  

Several establishments said that they had ‘painted on’ roads in the playground and roll out zebra crossings which they used to reinforce the messages in the books. Most establishments said that they used the resources alongside practical trips outside of the classroom, for example, on walks to the local shops. Some also used role play based on the Ziggy stories when out and about or took their Ziggy soft toy on journeys:

“Ziggy goes out with the children on their weekly walks, we have a road safety champion who takes Ziggy and together they keep the group safe while out and about. The book and Ziggy then go home with that child to reinforce the learning.”  [Nursery, Survey]

A number of establishments said that they had organised displays as part of open events or workshops for parents/carers at which Ziggy had been a key focus:

“We recently ran a Stay & Play for Parents with all the books on display. We used the interactive whiteboard to discuss the road safety points within the book with the children and their parents.”  [Nursery, Survey]

Interestingly, where respondents provided details of individual projects they had run, these mostly related to the title “Ziggy’s Halloween Wish”. Several also mentioned that this was the first book that they introduced to children and so tended to make this a bigger focus than later books. Having a book tied to a specific event was also seen as an appealing feature and some commented that it was easier to use this book as part of a wider event/activity than some of the later books in the series.

In one area, a dedicated early years project had been set up which was using road safety to increase numeracy skills. In this area, volunteer school crossing patrollers were working with children in their early years to carry out class-based and outdoor numeracy activities, using the Ziggy Visits Granny book (e.g. pattern matching, counting, measuring). Take home bags had also been developed featuring Ziggy toy activities and an activity book for parents/carers and children to complete when they were travelling outdoors together. The project sought to increase parental and child discussions and understanding of road safety at the same time as encouraging numeracy skills, and involved collaboration from the local authority Road Safety Officer and the local Early Learning Development Co-ordinator. The volunteer staff who were involved in the project reported positively on the experience and the project had also attracted widespread community attention. Although only one project was running at the time of writing, it was hoped that the learning from this initiative would be shared with other groups within the locality and that they would embed the learning into local practice.    

Overall, feedback from the research suggests that both the big and small books are being used as intended, although there is less engagement with the online resource. This is not as a result of lack of interest, however, rather a lack of awareness of the full range of resources that are available.