Organising practical roadside road safety training for pupils with SEN

Effective, safely-delivered roadside training can be very labour intensive and take many hours, particularly if catering to the varying needs of different pupils. However, it is also extremely worthwhile, and the most effective method for teaching safe walking and cycling skills to children.Practical training has been shown to be particularly effective for children with learning difficulties and disabilities, helping them to relate road safety rules and skills to a real-life context, and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own safety.[1]

For pupils with average learning development, roadside pedestrian training should be provided to pupils age 5-11, while pupils age 10 and over can be offered practical cycle training. However, if you teach pupils age 11-18 with SEN, you should also consider whether these pupils could benefit from pedestrian training to help them grasp and practise the skills involved in staying safe on foot.


Contact your local road safety officer
Before organising roadside training, it is essential to contact your local road safety officer for advice and assistance to ensure training is carried out safely.

Carefully plan safe trainingYou will need to talk through the needs of your pupils with your road safety officer, and work with them to carefully plan training so it is delivered in a way that is inclusive, relevant for all pupils, and safe for all pupils to attend. You should also consult with parents and carers (as below) and your local authority's SEN specialist.

It is imperative to ensure that no pupils are put at risk through training, so discuss with the road safety officer how many trained adult supervisors will be needed. You should particularly take into account pupils who may be harder to control and supervise on and near roads (see page on risks faced by pupils with SEN).

For children of average learning development age 5-7 you need at least one supervisor for every two children (so every child has an adult's hand to hold). For children of average learning development age 7-11 you need at least one supervisor for every six children. However, you may decide that to take some children with SEN out, it is safest (and most effective) to work with very small groups, with one adult supervisor per child.

Be aware that, for some pupils with SEN, intensive training over a long period of time may be required to bring them to a standard where they consistently apply safety rules.[2]

It is also important to ensure that a safe road environment is used for the training, such as a very quiet road, with pavements and crossings. You road safety officer will be able to offer advice on where training should be held, and carry out a safety audit. You can also download a safety audit designed to help schools decide whether roads are safe enough to take children on supervised walks.

Training content

For guidance on the key skills that effective training should cover for different age pupils of normal learning development, click here. Depending on the needs and abilities of pupils, you may decide with your road safety officer that training for a lower age group is most appropriate (or a better place to start) than training that would typically be provided to pupils of that age.

It can be useful to practise basic safety skills in the playground first, particularly if pupils have limited experience of using roads. For example, you can teach children to respond to important words like 'stop' and practise the Green Cross Code by standing on lines in the playground or by marking out a road with chalk. Get children to use 'self-instruction' both in this environment and at the roadside, where they recite safe actions before carrying them out, e.g. 'stop near the edge of the kerb, look left then right.' This has been shown by research to be effective with children with SEN.[3]

Involve parents and carers
Training should aim to build on children's existing knowledge and should aim to develop skills through discussion and practice.[4] Ideally, training should be reinforced by parents and carers who supervise children outside of school time, so it's important to communicate the key messages of training to parents and carers. This is particularly important for pupils who still need adult supervision when using roads.

Many pupils will start to walk and cycle independently aged 8-11, but pupils with SEN may still require adult supervision during and beyond this age range. Consult with parents to find out whether pupils with SEN are starting to use roads independently and, if so, what they perceive the main risks to be. Once training has taken place, encourage parents and carers to provide opportunities for pupils to put their skills into practice, such as by regularly taking pupils on short, supervised walks and talking through key safety rules as they do so.

You may also be able to involve parents and carers in the training as supervisors, as long as they receive appropriate training and guidance, which you can discuss with your road safety officer. Research suggests that training for children with learning difficulties that involves parents and carers can be more effective.[5]

Back up training with classroom learning. It's also important to back up practical training with classroom learning, using discussion, diagrams and models. Use our lesson ideas for 5-11 year-olds for inspiration and go back to the page on teaching road safety to children with SEN for guidance.

Follow-up after training It's important to bear in mind, and communicate to parents and carers, the limitations of training and any ongoing problems individual pupils experienced during training. For example, some pupils may master the Green Cross Code in some situations, but have problems transferring the skill to different road environments. Other pupils might have had ongoing problems staying focused on what is being taught.

It is also impossible for courses to cover all eventualities and dangers on the roads, however detailed the course. Children, parents and carers should not be lulled into a false sense of security that they have been taught the rules and will therefore be able to always look after themselves. Some children may need ongoing adult supervision when using roads, even if they have received training. You should ensure that pupils? performance in training is fed back to parents and carers so they can make informed decisions about whether a child is ready to start using roads independently.

Some children may continue to be at extra risk due to their learning disability, or due to a tendency to be influenced by pressures to act dangerously. Ideally, you should continue to develop pupils' understanding of risks on the road and how to keep themselves safe by regular lessons, which can refer back to the practical training.

Work towards safer routes to school As well as providing practical training and classroom-based learning to help pupils walk and cycle safely, you should also work towards achieving a safer road environment for pupils in your community, particularly on routes between your school and pupils? homes. You can find advice on doing this here.


In 2007, the Government launched Bikeability, a new training programme being rolled out across England which replaces the old ‘cycling proficiency’, and which can be taken by both children and adults. To get their Bikeability award, pupils are instructed on how to ride their bikes to the Government-approved 'National Standard for Cycle Training'. Bikeability is delivered by accredited instructors, usually employed by local authorities.

According to Cycling England, which administers the scheme, most children with SEN will be able to make use of the training, although you should consult with both your local authority road safety officer and pupils' parents and carers to assess the risks and ensure training can be undertaken safely. Level 1 of Bikeability is taken off-road, so can be a great introduction to basic cycling skills as there is no risk from traffic. It is also important to ensure that pupils and parents do not regard the training as a guarantee that children will be competent enough to cycle unaccompanied, when they may not have the skills, abilities or experience to allow them to do so safely.

Bikeability involves three levels of training and assessment:

  • Level 1 takes place off-road (e.g. on a playground) and involves a 1-2 hour session with no more than 15 pupils per instructor. It is suitable for pupils of normal learning development aged 8 and upwards. Level 2 takes place on quiet roads and aims to enable pupils to cycle safely to school or local amenities using quiet local roads. It consists of five sessions, with at least two instructors for a group of no more than 12 pupils. The first session should last two hours and include a cycle check and assessment of Level 1 skills in the playground. The next four one-hour sessions take place at local road junctions. Level two can only be undertaken by pupils who have completed level one and is not recommended for pupils of normal learning development under the age of 10. Level 3 takes places on busier roads and aims to equip pupils with the skills to be able to cycle on busy roads using complex junctions. It can only be undertaken by pupils who have completed level 2 and is not recommended for children of normal learning development under the age of 14.

Bikeability modules are currently being developed that are specifically aimed at children with SEN who need additional, tailored training. These are expected to be ready by late 2007 ' check or ask your local authority to let you know when these are available.

For more information go to To find out if Bikeability is offered in your area, contact your local road safety officer.

Bikeability is an England-wide scheme, but schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can contact their local road safety officer to find out if similar 'National Standard' cycle training is offered locally, or click through here to online information on cycle training in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

For advice on promoting cycling to pupils, go to our web page on School Travel Plans.

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[1] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[2] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[3] The Road Safety of Children and Adults with Disabilities (Transport Research Laboratory, 2002)

[4] Step Forward guidelines, (Department for Transport)

[5] *Phillips, S and J Todman. *Pedestrian skills training for children with learning difficulties.

International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 1999, 22, 237-238.

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