Many young people use the railway for travel to school and for their own leisure time. It is essential that they know how to use the railway safely.
Those who do not could find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and at serious risk of causing harm to themselves and others.
Trains travelling at high speed are not able to stop quickly and will hit any obstruction on the track. There also are dangers from the electrified rail and overhead lines, as well as the possibility of tripping and being injured.
Britain has a better rail safety record than many other countries but, tragically, 44 people have died at level crossings in the last five years and 69 people were electrocuted on the rails in the last decade.
A focus on how to stay safe around the railway at key stages 3 and 4 is important to protect pupils enjoying the first taste of independence in their teenage years. This age group is, of course, vulnerable to peer influence and peer pressure, so as part of our new safety initiative we have developed lesson plan activities to explore self-awareness and emotional resilience in a range of situations.
Network Rail has launched a new nationwide youth rail safety initiative, Rail Life, which was created with the help of teachers, youth workers and young people. In a series of workshops pupils helped shape the campaign brand, approach and awareness activities.
We believe that education plays a pivotal role in our national and local activity to reduce tragic incidents on the railway. Recent national guidance on PSHE teaching supports this view, stressing the need for schools to promote a pupil’s ability to assess and understand risk and to keep themselves safe.
The campaign saw the launch of assembly kits for secondary schools situated close to level crossings. The resource includes an interactive assembly presentation as well as a teacher’s guide. Contents include a speed quiz, top facts, the Cross Safe rules, and a video of the hard-hitting television advert Level Crossings – Life-savers not time-wasters.
New lesson plans
The programme has now widened to cover broader rail safety issues – such as the dangers of trespassing on the railway and the electrified third rail – with the launch of new secondary school lesson plan activities which have been developed with teachers to match curriculum areas and meet requirements for PSHE teaching.
There is a range of activities catering for different year groups. For key stage 3, there’s a “Listen up” exercise which encourages pupils to experience the effects of being distracted from what’s happening around them when listening to headphones. This kind of distraction is believed to have been a factor in a number of recent fatal incidents at level crossings.
For key stages 3 and 4, there is an opportunity to review real-life stories in order to research and create their own drama, Danger on the Tracks, which encourages them to explore potential causes and consequences of a tragic accident in a powerful and memorable way.
For key stage 4 pupils, there is a creative lesson plan which guides pupils in setting up and running a local campaign to improve level crossing safety.
It explores practical solutions, such as building tunnels, footbridges and lights/alarms, and the processes and local sources of power that would need to be involved in making safety decisions. The class also discovers how to promote the campaign through local publicity and how to measure its effectiveness in improving safety.
We want the Rail Life initiative to make a lasting impression and provide effective material for pupils and teachers. By working together we hope to prevent future harmful incidents at level crossings and make the railway safer for everyone.
Further informationAll of the resources are now available online at www.networkrail.co.uk/safetyeducation
Mark Shaoul is head of marketing services at Network Rail.