6.1 Key Findings
The research has provided considerable insight into how the books are being distributed and used, and also provides valuable feedback on the way that the books are designed and their appropriateness for the early years audience. The main findings in relation to the distribution, use and content of the resources are detailed below.
Distribution and Uptake
- 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 for making the ordering system more flexible throughout the year, including the capacity to order full sets of books at a single ordering point. Given that uptake is usually higher for the existing Autumn distribution, the start of the academic year would seem to be the most appropriate time for a single order approach, if adopted.
- There appears to be a preference for online or email ordering. Although evidence from the survey may have been confounded by the research approach used (i.e. an online survey), qualitative interviews and workshop contributions confirmed that this might be a preferable option going forward.
- 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.
- There might be scope for collaborative work between Road Safety Scotland, Education Scotland and the Scottish Government to refine and update the existing database of early years establishments that is held and managed by Education Scotland, to ensure that it is up-to-date, and that ordering data is more accessible and can be monitored more regularly to identify areas where uptake is poor. In addition, further exploration could be undertaken to identify contributing variables where uptake is identified as consistently high (i.e. to identify ‘what works’). There may also be scope to cross-reference the existing database with those held by, for example, the Care Inspectorate, to ensure that the offer of books reaches the widest audience possible.
- There may be scope for more proactive involvement by RSOs in the regular monitoring of ordering activity at the local level. The intelligence that is already held by Education Scotland regarding who is ordering the books in each local authority is perhaps not being used to maximum effect (i.e. to inform targeted promotion and encourage wider use of the resource).
- The distribution of order forms could potentially be accompanied by more direct communication and information about the online resources, support resources and the main aims of the books to ensure that the full range of resources are being used to their full potential.
- Awareness of the online resources was found to be particularly poor and there is scope for better signposting of these, perhaps via the distribution and ordering process. Signposting the website more clearly on the small and big books seems key to ensuring that parents are aware of the online resources.
- Local practice for distributing books to parents varies and there is some evidence that a more personal approach to distribution, including guidance or supporting information to parents may ensure that the books are used as intended.
- While most establishments still have and use their big book packs, 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. A preference for hardback, spiral bound or board books seems to be evident among a reasonable number of staff, since the format at present can be unwieldy, and may be one of the main things that puts teachers off using the big books at present.
- The small books appear to be well received overall. The Halloween book appears to be one of the most popular and is well used for organising classroom based activities, possibly because it comes at the start of the year and has a clear theme.
- Some of the small 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 form 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 are being used 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 prompts for use. The books are also being used as a reference in cases where children fail to act safely.
Content and Design
- 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’.
- A number of respondents identified the length of the books and the sophistication of some of the stories as potential limitations. Feedback suggests that this is especially true for ante-pre-school children and 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 the 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.
- There may be scope to expand the Ziggy series to include younger readers and bridge the gap between the existing ‘buggy book’ and the ante-pre-school year. 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’), the value of making hard copies of these books available could be further explored.
- Although a new addition to the Go Safe with Ziggy resource, the journey pack is already being well received and, based on comments from professionals and parents alike, it appears to further improve the home links agenda.
- There was a strong desire from all stakeholders to see an accessible app that can be used in both the education and home environment. This may have value beyond the resources already provided online, since it may be perceived to be a safer, stand-alone resource that children could use independently. It could also be developed to not require internet access, although it would require a smartphone or tablet. Success, however, would be contingent on raising awareness of any such development, to prevent similar barriers that currently exist regarding awareness and use of the online resources being repeated.
Overall, the findings from the evaluation suggest that the Go Safe with Ziggy books are a strong and much appreciated resource, that are being used, for the most part, to encourage active approaches to teaching and learning (including interactive and experiential learning). There may be some scope for small adjustments or enhancements to both the distribution process and the content/format of some of the resources to maximise their use but, on the whole, the resource is well received as a road safety tool for the early years.
6.2 The Findings in Context
The Go Safe with Ziggy resources were developed following a consultation with key stakeholders on what they wanted from an early years resource. The evaluation suggests that the new resources have been successful in meeting many of the desired criteria that were set out. This includes achieving a core recognisable character in Ziggy who provides a strong link between the separate books and acts as a recognisable brand. The books cover both urban and rural settings and the key messages are clearly linked to Curriculum for Excellence to make clear how the books fit in the wider educational context. The availability of resources in different formats is welcomed and the use of home links is supported. All of these were requirements revealed by the earlier consultation.
The requirement for a resource that children could learn from more independently was also highlighted from previous research and this seems to be something that the Ziggy resource is achieving. The ‘free’ use of the big books in nurseries that was described here evidences that children are using the books independently as well as with adults. At home, children are being encouraged to lead the choice of books and copies are left available for children to use as and when they want for home-based reading activities. Independent use is encouraged after P1 for children as they grow older. The suggestion for an app indicates that there is a preference for encouraging additional independent learning, if possible.
Perhaps the one area where the new resources do not appear to reflect the preferences expressed in the previous consultation is the length and complexity of the texts, especially those where multiple messages are conveyed within a single story. Whilst some of the books do contain only 2-3 key messages, others are more diffuse and this might not meet the expectations of parents/carers, as expressed in earlier research. Limiting all of the texts to a smaller number of key themes may be more effective in ensuring that young readers take away the key messages. Whilst the books also offer ‘side’ stories to engage children, these also possibly detract from the main messages, and may be unnecessary if condensed versions of the books were sought.
The research into the CTCS also showed that factual notes for parents were not being read, and this seems to remain true of the Ziggy resources. The design of a covering letter explaining the rationale and purpose of the books was suggested by participants to help to bridge this gap, but this would need to be tested to understand its likely efficacy. It may be that parents and carers prefer to use their own existing road safety knowledge when sharing the books with children, but this does mean that there is potential for some ‘current’ road safety education messages (such as appropriate use of car seats and so on) to be lost.
Previous research showed that uptake of CTCS membership in Scotland (the road safety programme for this age group that preceded Go Safe with Ziggy) was around 50%. This is similar to the percentage uptake in small books that was found in this study, based on Education Scotland distribution data, although it is recognised that there are some limitations to the reliability of this data (discussed above). Given that feedback is largely positive among those who do already order and use the books, the main challenge seems to be in encouraging more widespread uptake.
Encouragingly, unlike the previous research, there is little in the analysis that points towards differences in ordering by deprivation or rurality. Variance, instead, appears to be at the collective local authority level. This research was not able to identify with confidence the reasons behind the books not being ordered to all educational establishments despite universal entitlement. This is largely because the majority of practitioners who engaged with the survey had previously ordered the books due to the research design. Of the small number in the survey who had not ordered the books, the main reason for not doing so was a lack of awareness. This suggests that awareness raising in targeted areas may be the first step to increasing overall uptake, working with individual local authorities that currently appear to be engaging less well.
Previous research has also shown that there is generally a need for more dissemination of good local practice in road safety education, training and publicity. This was echoed by those who attended the workshops, as well as among some survey and telephone interview participants and there seems a genuine appetite for CPD activity among early years teachers to learn more about what is available and how it is being used elsewhere. It is recognised that much of this good practice is already documented as an online resource for educators but, again, lack of awareness of the online resources means that this may not be being used to maximum effect.
Finally, one of the questions for the evaluation was to consider whether the Go Safe with Ziggy resources are perceived as offering ‘value for money’. It is recognised that it is difficult to place an economic value on resources of this kind, and that much of the value can only be seen in the long term, with children remembering the messages and staying safe. Linking the success of the resources to any decrease in child road causalities is perhaps tenuous, since it is recognised that children’s safety as pedestrians and road users is influenced by many factors beyond their own control (including other road users). It does seem, however, that there would be merit moving forward in trying to capture feedback on a regular, localised basis on what children and parents are taking from the books as a measure of the potential impact they may be having. This is missing at present and so makes an assessment of the impact and value of the resource difficult to achieve.
6.3 Strengths and Weaknesses of the Resource
Table 16 summarises the main strengths and weaknesses of the resource identified from the research, reflecting the views of the full range of different stakeholders who took part. Most of the strengths relate to the style and design of the books, while the weaknesses relate mostly to communication/awareness barriers.
6.4 Opportunities and Challenges Moving Forward
Table 17 highlights the main opportunities and challenges moving forward, taking into account what parents/carers and professionals have reported. Several opportunities for further developing the resources were raised across the research strands, and there seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for the resources 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 are considerable. There is also a risk that resource is invested in developments or additions which are not used or under-used meaning that the costs outweigh any additional road safety returns. Inspiring changes to the ways in which the existing resources are used as well as raising their profile to strengthen their presence in the curriculum may be more realistic solutions.
It is recognised that any resource will only ever be as good as the parent/practitioner who employs it, and so ensuring that books continue to reach the right people, and that their importance is communicated and understood remains the main challenge moving forward.
Overall, the Go Safe with Ziggy resource is well liked, and has many strong and attractive features compared to the resource that preceded it. There is a strong brand and a recognisable character that children, educators and parents on the whole seem to be engaging with well. The design of the books evaluated positively, with the length and complexity of the books being mentioned by some as providing the only barrier to use among the younger aged children. Parental understanding of the purpose and rationale for the books could be improved, but neither of these issues seem to be creating significant barriers to use. The full range of resources is also welcomed, but some materials are perhaps 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. One suggestion would be the simplification of storylines and main road safety messages for the youngest children. It seems that the new additions to the Ziggy package, including the journey pack, are likely to help engage users even more, and the online stories for children between the baby and pre-school years seem to be a move in the right direction to fill a gap identified for this age group.
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’.
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).