5 Overall Perceptions of the Resource
5 Overall Perceptions of the Resource
Across the research, participants were asked about the extent to which they perceived the books to be ‘fit for purpose’ for their intended audience, in terms of content, language and structure. This included questions to each of the different stakeholder groups (early years practitioners, parents/carers and road safety professionals), recognising that they each may have different perspectives on what would make the books user friendly and appropriate as both learning and recreational tools.
5.1 Ratings for Engagement
As part of the survey of practitioners, feedback on the Go Safe with Ziggy books was generally positive, with 75% of respondents overall indicating that they felt the children in their establishment engaged well or very well with the books. Less than 5% of the total sample indicated that the children did not engage well with the books (as shown in Table 14 below).
|Response||Number of Responses||% of Respondents|
|Not very well||8||3%|
|Not well at all||2||1%|
When looking separately at the overall ratings provided by establishments that taught Primary 1 aged children and those that did not, the proportion of those who said that the children engaged very well was slightly higher for those with older children (78%) compared to those teaching only pre-school and/or ante-pre-school children (69%).
The parents and carers who took part in the focus groups were all very positive about the books and considered them to be engaging:
“Every page makes you want you to turn to the next, it is not like you get halfway through and think, you know how with some books you think “I really want this book to end”, and you squeeze a few pages together to skip.” [Parent, Focus Group 4]
5.2 Individual Features of the Books
Survey respondents were asked about five different features of each the books: appearance, length, age appropriateness, format and usefulness. Ratings for all features were very positive overall, with over 75% of respondents rating each feature as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ (see Figure 3 below). While ratings were high for all features, the length and age appropriateness of the books were rated less favourably overall while the format, usefulness and appearance of the books (e.g. images and illustrations) received higher ratings.
Figure 3: Ratings for Individual Features of the Books
Most Likable Features of the Books
Overwhelmingly, respondents said that the thing that children liked most about the books was the Ziggy character:
“Ziggy - an alien is always a winner!” [Nursery, Survey]
In particular, several practitioners mentioned that the children liked the idea of being able to ‘help’ Ziggy and also feeling that they knew more about road safety that he did:
“Teaching Ziggy who doesn't know anything about road safety - they feel they know more than him and can help him.” [Nursery, Survey]
“They like to show that they have more knowledge of Road Safety than Ziggy.” [Nursery, Survey]
“Children identify with and like the character of Ziggy. They like to help Ziggy.” [Nursery, Survey]
Similarly, several parents commented that the ‘silliness’ of the Ziggy character appealed to their children. The benefits of children observing Ziggy’s learning process was considered to be valuable as it was a way of reinforcing the message without the parents being the sole bearer of the message, which could be perceived as “nagging”:
“I think it is nice that they are getting the message from a book rather than you just ‘going on at them’ about things all the time.” [Parent, Focus Group 4]
The children accepted that Ziggy needed to learn just like they did and also felt good at times that he was learning things that they already knew about. One of the parents suggested that children learn best through teaching someone else and that is what they are doing with Ziggy.
Several practitioners and parents alike also mentioned that the children liked the humour and the recognisable language/catch phrase that they associated with Ziggy.
While humour was a positive feature for the children, respondents also commented that they perceived the books to achieve a good balance between accessibility to children and the seriousness of the messages being conveyed:
“Stories can be quite funny but with a serious note.” [School, Survey]
“The books are a fantastic way to broach the subject of safety with the children, allowing them to understand the dangers and manage the risks.” [Nursery, Survey]
Other likeable features included that the child characters in the story were the same age as those the books were designed for, and that this meant that the children could relate to their experiences. In addition, several respondents commented that having the story available in different formats (such as book and audio) was something that the children liked:
“It's really good to have them in different formats as you can go back to them in a different format and they still seem a bit fresh. For example, I have used the big books in lessons and then revisited the material some time later using the online format.” [Nursery, Survey]
A number of comments were also made in the survey that the children loved being able to have a copy of the book to take home and the fact that their learning at home could be linked to their school/nursery experience of the book:
“Having worked with the book in class pupils are often excited and motivated to share the book at home too.” [Nursery, Interview]
“The children love to share the books at home and talk about what they have learnt at nursery.” [Nursery, Interview]
“Children love getting a book to take home that they are familiar with and can talk to mum and dad about.” [Nursery, Survey]
Parents also liked the idea of links between nursery/school and home, but felt that the success of this approach was heavily dependent on parental interest, which was difficult to influence:
“Half the parents wouldn’t read the books. Some parents would be keen on doing it and see that’s a really important message, but a lot of them wouldn’t.” [Parent, Focus Group 2]
Several comments were made about the value of the repetition in the books (for example, the characters, Ziggy’s language and general format) and it was felt that this helped the children identify all of the books as being part of a road safety themed series:
“I like the fact that they all revolve around Ziggy - this allows the children to become familiar with the character and link him with road safety.” [Nursery, survey]
“They like the characters being the same in all stories.” [Nursery, Survey]
“They really engage with the characters and the sayings that they come out with - they get to know repetitive words which help them to learn.” [Nursery, survey]
Another common response from both early years practitioners and parents/carers was that the use of real life photographs made the scenarios in the stories seem real for children, and that this was a strength of the resources:
“The real life illustrations are excellent promoting the real life understanding of the road safety message.” [Nursery, Interview]
“I really like the photographs, the real life pictures, that’s a really good idea…Sometimes at this age, I think that illustrations and cartoons don’t work, but they do understand photographs.” [Parent, Focus Group 2]
More general comments included that the children liked how colourful the books were and that the pictures/illustrations held their attention. The interactive nature of the books was also considered to be a positive aspect. Some mentioned that the Scottish settings and Scottish language used made the books relatable. In practical terms, the size of the small books was also described as a child-friendly feature: “small enough to hold in their wee hands.”
Least Likable Features of the Books
When asked specifically about the least likeable feature of the books, around a third of survey respondents cited that the books were too long/too wordy. This was suggested to be especially true for ante-pre-school children:
“At times the stories can be too long, in particular for ante pre-school children”. [Nursery, Survey]
“The children find it difficult to sit and listen to the whole book.” [Nursery, Interview]
“They like that Ziggy is an alien but the stories are a bit long for the age group and they lose concentration.” [Nursery, Survey]
Similar views were expressed by several of the parents/carers who took part in focus group sessions:
“Lovely [books], and lovely pictures, and very engaging, but some of them are too much and the children just lose interest half way through.” [Parent, Focus Group 2]
“For flicking through, it’s great, but as a story it’s a bit too long.” [Parent, Focus Group 3]
Some school and nursery staff did note that the books may be more suitable for the pre-school children compared to ante-pre-school, but the mixed nature of many nursery based groups/classes made it difficult to separate the two for group reading activities. Whilst this is useful to note, it is a challenge that is not easy to resolve given that many pre-school establishments have children of different ages and different needs attending at the same time.
Several survey respondents commented that, because the books were so long, they tended to shorten or paraphrase the stories themselves. This was also mentioned during interviews with some teachers/nursery staff:
“The length of some stories can prove too long for some of our children: we adapt them accordingly.” [Nursery, Interview]
“I tend to paraphrase the stories as they can be too wordy to use in a big group but this works fine. I think for some 3 year olds the books are a bit too complicated even one-to-one with parents.” [Nursery, Survey]
“As I read them with the children, I find that I miss out some of the pages. The messages are either repeated, or the content is meaningless, or too sophisticated for their age group.” [Nursery, Survey]
More specifically, some comments were made that the story-lines were overly complicated and sometimes confused the children:
“I feel the books are quite "busy" and long for the children to sit and remain fully engaged with. A simple message of safety has been slightly over complicated through plot and illustration (based on my experience reading them with the children in my setting over the years).” [Nursery, Survey]
“The length of the stories are too long for children aged 3-4 years old. Their attention levels fade after only a couple of pages into the books.” [Nursery, Interview]
The side stories that run in parallel with the main road safety stories in the books were also seen as confusing to young children, and as being potentially distracting by a minority of the survey respondents:
“The books are very long for ante pre-school children and the additional information about Scottish songs and sun awareness, for example, has impacted the lasting impression of the story for some children with them talking more about wearing sun cream than being safe crossing the road.” [Nursery, Survey]
Some professional respondents also commented that some of the language, subtle jokes and use of humour was too sophisticated for young children, and that this may be a barrier to better engagement.
While most practitioners said that the alien character was a strength of the resource, several others commented that this sometimes confused the children, and some of the ideas were described as being quite abstract. The alien focus was also seen as distracting from the core road safety messages of the books in some cases, although it must be recognised that for a similar number, this was an attractive feature of the books. On balance, views regarding the alien character and the side stories were mostly favourable, but this nonetheless highlights one area where there was polarity in the views expressed:
“They are not relating to the Ziggy character. One child asked if Aliens come to help him across the road. Would be better if the books were based on real life and not include Aliens as the focus turned more to space than the message we were trying to get across about road safety.” [Nursery, Survey]
The language in some of the books was described as “strange” and “odd” by quite a few respondents. Several comments were also made that the books may be in need of updating, either because the stories were not contemporary or because they felt that children with older siblings would already be familiar with the stories and that something new would better grab their attention:
“Needs to be a bit more current topic wise (the granny story is a bit outdated)”. [Nursery, Interview]
“…they are the same stories every year - it would be good if there was some new story lines as the children do get bored of the same stories all the time.” [Nursery, Survey]
“We have lots of families who find that the older siblings already have the books so perhaps a cycle of different books would mean it less likely that children already have the same book in the house. “[Nursery, Survey]
It is important to note that, despite this criticism, several telephone interviewees commented that they felt it was still important for children to have their ‘own’ copy of the book, rather than having to share and that the gift of giving a book to each child separately was very valuable. This contrasted with the views of parents (discussed above) who most often said that they were reluctant to keep multiple copies of the same books in the house, and so had discarded older copies of the books as younger siblings had brought home fresh copies.
Several of the practitioners who provided negative feedback did also comment that the books might be better suited to one-to-one contact and that as a resource to be used at home, they would probably work well:
“One parent commented that her child really enjoyed them so perhaps they are better on a one to one basis at home.” [Nursery, Interview]
“The story can be a bit long for some of the children, but because they have the books at home they become familiar with the story.” [Nursery, Interview]
Overall, those who provided negative feedback usually tied this to the length and complexity of the books. Again, it is worth reiterating that some of those who took part in the follow-up telephone interviews were selected specifically because they had provided less favourable views as part of the survey, and so some of the negative comments regarding the resources may be over-represented here. Feedback from both the survey and the telephone interviews was, on the whole, positive and the limitations of the resources presented above are included to highlight where minor tweaks or adjustments to the resources might potentially be made to improve on what was already considered to be a good resource overall.
5.3 Perceived Usefulness as a Teaching Resource
Feedback on the overall usefulness of the books as an educational resource for teaching road safety education was very positive. Overall, 89% of survey respondents said that it was quite useful or very useful. Only 5% of the total sample perceived that the books were not useful (shown in Table 15 below).
|Response||Number of Respondents||% of Respondents|
|Not very useful||10||4%|
|Not useful at all||2||1%|
Again, when looking separately at establishments that taught Primary 1 aged children and those that did not, 94% of those who did said that they found the resource quite or very useful, compared to 88% of those who taught only pre-school or ante-preschool children.
Interviews confirmed that teachers perceived the resources as helpful overall for teaching road safety education. That being said, several comments were also made that much of the teaching relied on “common sense” or learning from their own childhood, rather than being linked explicitly to the books. Overall, teachers and nursery staff commented that they liked the fact that the books were clearly linked to the Curriculum for Excellence, but were not dictated by it. The adaptability afforded by the resource was welcomed.
5.4 Retention of Key Messages
In assessing whether the books were fit for purpose, the evaluation sought to understand whether the key road safety messages contained in the books were being retained by practitioners, parents/carers and children. The technical book review revealed that the books each contained different road safety messages, as well as repeating some core messages, (e.g. finding safe places to cross, use of pedestrian crossings/the ‘green man’, holding hands, and so on). Across all of the books, the point is also emphasised that children do not need to understand all of the content of the books, and that the main message is that children should learn to hold hands and wait before crossing the road. The contents of each book and the messages they contain is summarised in Appendix A.
There was mixed feedback on whether both the main message and individual messages in the books were always appropriate and clearly conveyed. Some practitioners felt that the main message should be to stop, look and listen and, indeed, some said that this was the main message that they taught to children in their establishments. Others said that the message should include a prompt for children to think before they cross roads and should also be more explicit about where children should wait (i.e. behind the kerb). Some participants questioned how easy the concept of ‘waiting’ was for children and felt that stop provided a clearer message to this age group. Parents, in contrast, seemed to stress that holding hands was the main message that they wanted to see conveyed:
“At this age, its ‘holding hands’ that’s the most important thing – ‘You’re either holding hands or you’re not walking”, that kind of thing.” [Parent, Focus Group 4]
In speaking with parents and carers, the other main road safety messages that are taught to children, and which they felt should feature in the books, appear to be:
- not to run near roads;
- to stop at the edge of the kerb;
- not to play with car seats/seatbelts;
- that the grown up should be on the side of the pavement nearest the road;
- to look left and right while crossing the road; and
- to wait for the ‘green man’ (at crossings).
The desired messages seem to be the same for both older and younger siblings and parents felt they were all covered by the existing books, albeit subtly, in some cases.
While parents/carers and practitioners agreed with most of the main messages conveyed in the books, and could see their importance, all agreed that the messages were quite complicated at times, and could be challenging for young readers to take on board. The independent book review also suggested that some of the books, in particular Ziggy Visits Granny and Ziggy’s Summer Holiday, may contain too many messages for one book and may be too sophisticated for younger readers. The book review also revealed that it was not always clear what the main messages from each book were, and that, unless parents/carers read the guidance notes at the end of the books, some of the more subtle messages could potentially be missed. This was also noted by workshop participants.
Indeed, parents and carers in particular stressed that it would be useful if the main road safety theme of each book could be flagged on the front cover (e.g. in bullet point form), so that they could easily select the books that met their needs. The titles of the books alone did not always provide a clear indicator of the main road safety messages that they contained. There were comments that the books were used in cases where children had demonstrated unsafe behaviours to act as a refresher, for instance, if children had failed to stop before crossing a road, and so knowing which book to refer back to ‘at a glance’ would be helpful.
Despite the complexity of some of the messages in the books, some parents commented that they felt that the books challenged them to think about what they needed to teach their children. For example, although they were aware of driveways crossing pavements and watching out for their children, they had not necessarily thought to teach their children about being aware of this. In this respect, the books were educational for parents too.
Overall, it was not clear which, if any, of the main road safety messages were being retained by the parents/carers who took part, nor was there anything to clarify whether the road safety messages were being retained by young children. Instead, it seems that the books are being used as a reference tool or a refresher for adults to remind themselves of the ‘types’ of messages that that they should be sharing with their children. This is not necessarily a weakness of the resource, and instead highlights how, in line with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, the resource is encouraging adaptive and flexible teaching and can be used responsively depending on children’s interests and behaviours. There is, however, perhaps scope to make the key messages more explicit in some cases.
5.5 Raising Awareness
Across the research strands, one common theme to emerge was a lack of awareness either of the resource (overall) or of specific component parts of the Go Safe with Ziggy package (especially the online resources). Even among those who currently use the books and are familiar with the resource, there was patchy awareness of the wider offering. For parents and carers in particular, all familiarity was from the books alone and there was a commonly shared view that increasing awareness of the full range of resources was key to maximising use.
Parents most often said that they had only limited awareness of the books, and this was based purely on the copies received from nurseries. They did not know or understand the rationale behind the books in some cases and felt that some accompanying information issued by schools/nurseries, the Scottish Government or Road Safety Scotland could be beneficial.
While several parents/carers and professionals suggested that TV advertisements were probably the best way of achieving national awareness (and most could remember road safety TV advertisements from their own childhood), they recognised this was expensive. A potentially lower cost alternative that was suggested by parents/carers and practitioners was a Ziggy animation or You Tube video which children could access either at home or at school/nursery.
Practitioners suggested that there was scope for Ziggy to feature as a link resource on the websites of other early years providers/organisations (again, Bookbug was cited as an example of a resource that had a high profile and made good use of links on other websites). Specifically, using the national GLOW network was suggested as a means of reaching schools and using Mumsnet was suggested as a way of reaching parents/carers. Another group of parents who regularly met as part of a toddler group suggested that social media was a good way to make local parents/carers aware of the resources.
Finally, several workshop attendees suggested a national re-launch of the resource, but stressed that this would need to be accompanied by a new addition to the resource in order to make it more appealing to practitioners. They also recognised the cost implications of this, however, and so a targeted re-launch in areas where uptake is low may be an alternative option.
5.6 Other Suggestions for Maximising Utility and Engagement
Simplified Books for Younger Readers
There was consensus among practitioners and parents/carers that road safety education could begin at an earlier age than 3, and many suggested that a simpler, abbreviated Go Safe with Ziggy book would be welcomed for children under 3. Although the ‘Out and About’ buggy book was seen as meeting this need to some extent, it was felt that there was room for a book to bridge the gap between the baby and pre-school years (i.e. for those aged 1 and 2). Indeed, parents in particular stressed that a book aimed at children aged 12-18 months would be helpful when children were leaning to walk and having their first outdoor independent walking experiences. Introducing the Ziggy character at this early age would also mean that children were familiar with the character before they received the first ante-pre-school book. While there are two online books that perhaps fill this gap (‘Spot the Traffic’ and ‘Cross the Road with Ziggy’), hard copies of these books, available via Health Visitors or libraries was seen as a possibly valuable addition to the Ziggy package.
Although not explored specifically as part of this evaluation, comments were made by parents and early years practitioners that a textless version of the books would be welcomed for children and parents experiencing literacy or other learning barriers. Comments were made that, because the books are relatively text heavy compared to other pre-school story books, this may be particularly off-putting to parents/carers who cannot read. This book could also be used for children under 3 and adapted by parents/carers and educators to meet the learning stage of the child. This was something welcomed by nurseries working with children aged 0-5. A textless version of the books was also suggested as being useful to enable early years practitioners to work with children for whom English is not their first language.
Rewarding Good Practice
During the workshops, examples were given of other initiatives that reward schools for taking part, and also reward examples of good practice. In such cases, the rewards were often nominal (e.g. a paper certificate to signify that the school/nursery was actively participating). Feedback suggests that this acts as a good incentive to participation for establishments. Other forms of incentives or prizes were also discussed in workshops, including an annual national or local prize for those evidencing use and impact of the resources.
The main other comment received through the research was that schools and nurseries would like to have visits from a Ziggy character to their school. Several respondents indicated that a visit from a life size Ziggy would really reinforce the messages being taught from the books:
“Visit from characters to nurseries would be great! They could act out the stories for children and bring them to life.” [Nursery, Interview]
As an alternative to having Ziggy characters visit establishments, some suggestions were put forward that it would be good if an independent visitor (for example, a Road Safety Officer) could visit the school and share the stories, since children were more likely to listen to a ‘new face’ conveying the stories. While external visitors seem to be a popular option, it is important to note that no consideration was given in responses to the resource implications of funding these activities. If the cost of such visits was to be paid for by establishments, for example, it is not clear if they would still be popular. An alternative may be for school/nursery staff to dress up as Ziggy (and this was reported by more than one authority) or for Junior Road Safety Officers to play a role in speaking to younger children as ‘special visitors’. These provide lower cost alternatives, but may still require significant time and financial resources. They are also options that would need to be initiated and co-ordinated locally, since Road Safety Scotland has no jurisdiction to dictate the use of local staff time or resources.
Although the interviews generally revealed that staff were comfortable with the resources and confident using them as a teaching resource, some suggestions were made for an accompanying CPD event/activity to keep Ziggy fresh in people’s minds, and ensure that staff (particularly new staff) were aware of the full range of resources available.
A CPD event would also potentially provide an opportunity to share some of the innovative practice that appears to be operating around the country, and to further advertise and raise awareness of the online resources. Suggestions were made that this would ideally be led by Road Safety Scotland or local Road Safety Officers, via in-service training. That being said, the cost of providing such events was also recognised as being potentially beyond existing budgets and would also need to be considered against the ‘added value’ it would contribute, since it seems that most staff who engaged with the research, are already comfortable with their knowledge and use of the resources. Perhaps, the real value would be for newly trained staff and those not currently using the resources.
Notes for Parents
The evaluation revealed that the factual notes for parents that are included in the books may not be being used. Indeed, parents/carers commented that they were unlikely to read the parental notes and concentrate only on the story. Some suggested that trying to incorporate factual guidance in the books may also be a distraction or off-putting feature for both children and adults.
That being said, it was recognised by parents/carers and practitioners that road safety education for parents was essential in reinforcing the messages to children. Early years’ practitioners attending the workshops commented that they had witnessed many examples of poor parental practice with regards to road safety, with commonly reported issues including:
- children being allowed to alight vehicles directly onto busy roads, instead of exiting on the pavement side;
- inappropriate use of car seats;
- children being allowed to run in car parks;
- children being walked on the outside edge of pathways or on kerbs/roads, instead of on the inside of the pavement; and
- lack of helmets for children using scooters and bikes.
Stressing parental responsibility was something that all practitioners felt was key, and so there were suggestions that separate parental ‘road safety guides’ should perhaps be introduced to complement the Ziggy books or replace the guidance already published within them.
Finally, across the research, requests were made for additional collateral under the Go Safe with Ziggy brand. There were requests for florescent reflectors, stickers, keyrings, wristbands or other collateral to help engage children in the road safety themes. Posters for each of the different books, and for Ziggy’s Road Safety Mission overall were suggested as being useful for nurseries/schools to catch parents attention. That being said, some respondents did indicate that if a project or resource became ‘overcomplicated’ it could put people off using it.
While these types of additional support resources do already exist, and Road Safety Officers have direct access to these for local use, there was limited awareness of what was currently available among those delivery road safety education in nurseries and schools. This suggests that more could be done by RSOs to promote them locally or, in areas where RSOs are no longer available, to let establishments know directly about the full range of resources that exist (e.g. as part of the book order forms).