Early Childhood Safety Education: An Overview of Safety Curriculum and Pedagogy in Outer Metropolitan, Regional and Rural NSW

By Barr, Jennifer; Saltmarsh, Sue et al. | Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Early Childhood Safety Education: An Overview of Safety Curriculum and Pedagogy in Outer Metropolitan, Regional and Rural NSW


Barr, Jennifer, Saltmarsh, Sue, Klopper, Christopher, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood


Background

Childhood safety is an important concern, and learning to recognise and avoid potential hazards is broadly considered a necessary dimension of young children's formal and informal learning. This article reports on research conducted in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services located in regional and rural districts of south central New South Wales (NSW). The rationale for the study was based on a preliminary review of the literature showing that existing safety education research is primarily focused on risk factors for specific types of accident/injury (fire, road, etc), often with emphasis on vulnerable groups (Dowswell & Towner, 2002; Hendrickson, 2005; Mulvaney & Kendrick, 2006); strategies for accident/injury prevention, including issues pertaining to teaching various aspects of safety (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001; Cullen, 1995; Price, Murnan, Thompson, Dake &Telljohann, 2005; Tomlinson & Sainsbury, 2004); and program or curriculum analyses or evaluations (Bruce & McGrath, 2005; Cullen, 1995, 1998; Gatheridge et at., 2004; Utley et al., 2001). Less is known, however, about how pedagogic approaches, modes of delivery, social contexts and existing cultural practices impact on the effectiveness of safety education programs across different cohorts. While the area of road safety has, to date, received the most consistent attention by education researchers, areas such as fire safety, water safety, home safety, farm safety, and community safety are as yet under-represented in the Australian educational research literature.

This research was conducted in early-mid 2008 as part of a larger project concerned with the development of safety education pedagogies and curricula across key domains of enquiry including fire safety, community safety, water safety, farm safety and home safety. The research is a scoping study that aims to map the range of safety education programs and resources currently in use in early childhood settings regionally, and to identify early childhood educators' perceptions of aspects of safety education that might be usefully developed for trial and implementation in the region. Here we report key findings pertaining to safety education themes that inform curriculum and pedagogies in participating ECEC centres.

Methodology

The mixed-method study utilised survey and informal interview methods, generating quantitative and qualitative data that maps current safety education practices, as well as areas of practitioners' perceived needs with regard to safety education resources. A sample of 27 directors of early childhood and preschool centres participated in a telephone survey and interview, with regional representations as depicted in Table 1.

The telephone survey incorporated informal, semi-structured interview questions, and included standardised questions pertaining to specific programs, resources and community services currently used for teaching safety in the ECEC setting. Interview questions were open-ended, allowing for differences in the locations, clientele and operations of the centres surveyed. Interviews ranged from 10 minutes to 30 minutes in duration. Limitations of the study primarily related to the lack of time available for directors working within busy ECEC environments. This resulted in: numerous interruptions during some interviews with directors; insufficient time for checking details of requested information, such as names of particular safety education resource suppliers that could not be immediately recalled; and, in some instances, directors declining to participate or becoming unavailable because of time pressures and/or interruptions to scheduled interview appointments.

Summary and discussion of key findings

Key findings from the study can be summarised under four main themes, as illustrated in Table 2.

Perceptions of safety in regulated contexts

Safety education is a broad term that potentially encompasses a considerable range of topics. …

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