School visits were an important communications tool SCIRT used to promote to children how to keep safe around its work sites and to inform local people about its work.
During its six-year work programme SCIRT's communications team conducted 170 school visits in Christchurch.
Talking to pupils, students and teachers about how to keep safe when there were SCIRT work sites in their neighbourhood was a key objective of the visits, and part of SCIRT's commitment to proactive, open, clear and timely communications with the Christchurch community.
Like other communications channels, school visits helped to prepare neighbourhoods for the intensity and disruption of some of SCIRT's projects and to build goodwill and patience with those works.
Where SCIRT projects were close to schools, SCIRT asked the school whether it would like a visit from the SCIRT project team to talk about the work it was doing.
The key objectives of school visits were:
- To talk about what SCIRT was and why it needed to do the work it was doing.
- To talk to pupils and students about how to keep safe around worksites in their neighbourhood.
It was considered that the visits, targeted primarily at children, might also help to inform adults like the teachers and the children's parents.
Safety messages were the main part of the school sessions where SCIRT communications team members explained the risks around work sites, why workers had to wear special protective gear on the work site and the reasons for all the cones and signs.
Keeping the explanations clear, simple and interesting for young people was important.
SCIRT developed a number of resources to engage school children in the conversations about safety and to make the visit for children fun. These included several safety-related pictures to colour in, magnets, stickers, pens and miniature cones.
SCIRT communications staff prepared a Schools Engagement Plan for each school visit which included which techniques and activities the visit would use to suit the age of the pupils. School visits ranged from 30 minutes and longer with older pupils to short 10 minute sessions for younger pupils and in several cases also site visits.
A feedback form for teachers was used to evaluate how SCIRT messages were received, if they were well understood, and which activities helped best to engage children and get the messages across.
SCIRT found that school visits proved to be an effective and much-appreciated communications tool to build understanding and tolerance of its work programme.