One of the broad objectives of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum for primary schools states that the SPHE curriculum should enable the child to develop a sense of safety and an ability to protect himself/herself from danger and abuse. The SPHE curriculum is divided up into strands and strand units for each two-year class grouping (junior and senior infants, first and second class, third and fourth class, fifth and sixth class). One of the strands, Myself, has a strand unit called Safety and Protection in which personal safety and safety issues are explored.
Under personal safety, at junior and senior infants level, the child should be enabled to explore appropriate safety strategies; identify situations and places that are safe and those where personal safety might be at risk; and explore how accidents might be prevented at home, in school, on the farm, or in the water. Under safety issues, the child should be enabled to identify people who are responsible for safety in the community and learn and practise safety strategies for crossing the road, using the bus or being a pedestrian; and realise and understand that rules are necessary in order to protect people and keep them safe.
The spiral nature of the curriculum means that the understanding and learning of the child progressively develops. By fifth and sixth class, under personal safety, the child should be enabled, inter alia, to explore rules and regulations at home, in school and in society and the importance of adhering to them; identify situations and places that may threaten personal safety; and discuss a variety of risky situations and behaviour and assess and evaluate how these risks may be avoided or minimised and the implications of taking risks etc. Under safety issues, the child should be enabled to recognise places where it is safer to play and how to behave in a responsible manner when playing; know how to keep safe when travelling; and develop responsible attitudes towards the prevention of accidents and know what to do in the event of an accident etc.
While the specific issue of using phones while crossing the road is not stated in the curriculum, the spiral nature of the curriculum ensures that pupils will progressively develop a broader understanding of personal safety and safety issues such as crossing the road, and should be equipped with the necessary skills to do so safely.
In addition, the Road Safety Authority is responsible for ensuring Irish schools and colleges have the support and resources they need to promote road safety. Educating road users about road safety is one of the priorities of the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012. The Strategy acknowledges that education plays a crucial role in permanently reducing deaths and injuries on Irish roads. Raising awareness and increasing understanding of road safety issues among schoolchildren and college students is one of the primary targets of the Strategy’s action plan. Since the Strategy was published in 2007, the RSA has implemented a comprehensive integrated road safety education programme in pre-school, primary, post-primary, third level and in the community. This has been done in partnership with many organisations including the Department of Education and Skills, An Garda Síochána, the Health and Safety Authority and the Higher Education Authority. As part of this, the RSA has developed a range of material that teachers can use to educate school children about road safety as it applies to all road users – pedestrians, motorcyclists, cyclists and motorists.