There has been quite a lot in the media recently about the state of parents’ attire when dropping off and picking up their children. One facet of the school run where people are less tolerant is the driving habits of their fellow parents. This can range from curious to outright dangerous.
Are you quietly tolerant and understanding of other parents’ needs to queue jump, tail gate, and allow children to hang un-seatbelted from car windows? Is your early morning tranquillity punctuated by the melodious tune of car horns and parents angrily sharing their own innocence and the evils of other drivers?
Hmmmmm….sounds like a regular start to a Headteacher’s day!
What can we do? The land outside the school gates is not under our jurisdiction so we cannot police it. Should we allow parents to divert our thinking time from their children’s progress to their own driving behaviours? Our parents come from many different cultures with a fascinating variety of interpretations of what is good driving. How can we actually make a difference?
At Kings’ School Al Barsha we decided to take a different angle, aiming to appeal to hearts rather than heads.
We started with a regular parental engagement activity. Parents were invited to come into school for a 1 hour meeting to share what they think is acceptable and not acceptable driving and parking behaviours.
Then on to students for engagement with them. And here’s the key part. The whole purpose is simply about keeping these young people safe, isn’t it? So why not invite the words from their mouths, not ours? It’s one thing to be told by a suited official about sensible driving; it’s something quite different to be asked by a child to help keep him/her safe by driving in a way to secure this.
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We gathered student leaders from Year 6 and Year 10 to review what the parents had written. They edited, adapted and added to the parents’ ideas. In the end, this is what they came up with:
Our Kings’ School Al Barsha Driver’s Charter
Thank you for keeping us safe by:
Being a polite driver
Not using your mobile phone whilst driving
Not driving in the emergency lane
Not cutting in on the junction
Being aware whilst reversing
Not parking in the drop-off zone
Leaving me space to open my car door
Being patient with other drivers
Not beeping or honking
Not bumping over the curb
Using the correct exit
Primary and Secondary Student leaders, on behalf of all KSAB children
(followed by their signatures)
The key point here is that the message comes from children, not adults. Secondly, it focusses on keeping them safe.
At a Sunday drop-off time student leaders handed out to all drivers an A5 copy of the new Charter. Poster sized versions were displayed in the three Reception areas.
The next stage will see our own road signs being placed strategically in the carpark and along the school driveway. Each will take one item from the Charter, and be written in a child’s handwriting, again to emphasise the point that the voice is a child’s.
Has it worked so far? Will it continue to work even better after the road signs have been put in place? Hard to quantify. But what it has done, apart from the obvious engagement with student and parent voice, is establish a baseline for what our school children feel is acceptable driving, and therefore what we adults also feel is acceptable.
The high profile of road safety in Dubai’s news media shows that it is a worry for everyone. Perhaps if we personalise the issue, making individual drivers see through the eyes of their own children, we have a better chance of changing driver behaviour.