October - Walk to School Month – When DO you let your child walk on their own in Locks Heath / Western Wards?

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By TinaGarner | Thursday, September 30, 2010, 23:35

October is Walk to School Month. Part of the Living Streets Charity’s Walk to School campaign, it is a month long awareness scheme held every year where schools across the world join forces to promote walking to school.

 

Of course walking to school with your child is a fantastic idea. Aside from the obvious health benefits – to us as parents as well as our children – there is the social element. Walking to / from school provides us with a chance to talk to our children free from the distractions of everyday life. Teachers report that children who walk to school are frequently more alert, relaxed and ready to start the school day compared to those arriving by car and, of course, it’s far cheaper.

But we can’t always walk our children to school. So when is it safe to let them walk to school on their own? What are the dangers? Ironically, a big peril for pedestrians is the enormous volume of traffic generated by parents driving their children to school or collecting them. One in five car trips in the morning is made by someone on a ‘school run’. (The ‘school run’ is in fact responsible for generating around 2 million tonnes of CO2 per year! [Sutton Trust Research]).

The fact is that there is NO legal minimum age for a child to walk to school alone. The below extract, taken from ‘Is it Legal? A parent’s guide to the law’ by the Family and Parenting Institute states:

“There is no law prohibiting children from being out on their own at any age. It is a matter of judgement for parents to decide when children can play out on their own, walk to the shops or school”.

I spoke to Karen Dockree, Hampshire County Council's Assistant Road Safety Service Manager. She told me that the council have no 'official' guidelines: "We work on the premise that children start to develop their skills judging the speeds and distances of cars at about the age of 10. For some children it is older and some much younger. Parents are the ones who are best placed to decide on this. Of course whether or not it is safe also depends very much on the journey."

What do you think?

A survey by Kidscape found that most parents allowed their children to cross local roads on their own from age 9, and the Child Accident prevention Trust say that “Children under nine should always have an adult with them when crossing the road, as they can’t judge speed or distances accurately.”

The other main worry for parents is abduction. The risk of this is harder to quantify. A survey carried out by national charities Parentline Plus and Living found that parents disproportionately fear their children being abducted. Over a thousand parents of primary school aged children were asked what they fear most for their children and 30% stated abduction or murder, with only 5% revealing a fear for their child’s poor health in later life due to their child’s current level of physical activity.

Do you worry about this? Is this a real danger? My Mum said I was walking to school on my own when I was 6. But of course the world was a much safer place in those days – or was it? When I was at school we talked about The Green Cross Code, but this is no longer part of the school curriculum.

What age will you, or did you, let your child walk to school alone? And would you let them come home on their own?

Local Mum Carole says: “This is something I agonised over for a very long time. I have a son of 9 and a daughter of 7. My daughter thought she was ready to walk to school on her own when she was at pre-school! They both go on their own together now but we only live a 6 minute walk from school,and they only have one road to cross - and I’m always there to meet them still. Of course I worry – but there’s only one way for them to get streetwise isn’t there.”

I asked Carole if she worried about abduction: "Yes - but the chances are so small. You could worry about everything if you chose to."

If you're a parent who won't let your child walk to school on their own yet how do you think we could make it safer for them to do so? Reduce the speed limits to 20mph around schools? Impose a vehice ban around schools perhaps?

For more information on this have a look at Hampshire County Council's Road Safety page, and if you’d like more general information and advice on your child being out alone, look at the NSPCC’s ‘Out Alone’ document.

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Comments

       
  • Profile image for BuiltClever Solutions

    "Clearly" a part of my response and the original article weren't read properly!!

    Tina's article 'clearly' states the following: "One in five car trips in the morning is made by someone on a ‘school run’. (The ‘school run’ is in fact responsible for generating around 2 million tonnes of CO2 per year! [Sutton Trust Research])."

    IF the statistic is to be believed and has been based on proper analysis, then neither "mums" 'imagination' nor observation is relevant!!

    I don't see where anyone has referred to parents driving their children to school to avoid heavy traffic - but the point about 'pedestrians' was noted and the response still stands!

    Ultimately, it is upto "pedestrians" of any age to be aware of road safety and the whole premis of the article is how we as parents view the paradox of comfortably allowing our cherubs to walk alone to school. Street conscious adults were children once themselves - who taught them??

    By BuiltClever Solutions at 12:47 on 04/10/10

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  • Profile image for KayD2009

    'Clearly' there are a larger number of cars on the roads that aren't conveying children to school? Really? Where does this information come from? In the areas actually surrounding a school I would imagine it is probably closer to 4/5 cars that are conveying children to school. Although this is not official and I have no stats to back it up - purely observational - ask any Mum.

    Yes, some people DO 'prefer' to drive their children to school. This doesn't mean it is the best thing for them or their children - which is what we're talking about here. If parents are driving their children to school to avoid the danger of heavy traffic then don't we have a catch-22 situation here?

    By KayD2009 at 23:01 on 03/10/10

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  • Profile image for BuiltClever Solutions

    I've had to read this item a number of times and it's interesting how, in these types of article, there is always more emphasis put on the poor 'motorist' than on the actual issue of child development!

    I don't know where the statistic regarding "1 in 5 car trips" comes from, but if it is correct, then to state the "a big peril for pedestrians is the enormous volume of traffic generated by parents driving their children to school or collecting them" would appear to be exaggerated, as clearly there are a larger number of vehicles on the road that aren't conveying children to school! Also, why are pedestrians at such a risk from motorists anyway? Do they walk around with their eyes shut?

    It really is individualised as to whether a parent trusts their children to walk to school or not, and common-sense should always prevail, surely? Despite all the campaigning to reduce the number of vehicles travelling to and around schools, the fact remains that people PREFER to drive their children to school - especially at times when the weather is inclement. Children may well benefit from the "social" contact of walking hand-in-hand with mummy to school, but will they actually be "more alert, relaxed and ready to start the school day" when they've had to encompass high winds, rain, snow, and the other 80% of drivers who are frantically trying to get to work on time?!

    Ultimately, the teaching of common-sense road-usage falls to parents, and it is they who must decide whether they believe that their child has grasped enough awareness of the 'dangers' of things like crossing the road, talking to strangers etc. It will always remain subject to individual circumstances - never governed by the 'herd instinct' that is muted by fanciful campaigns!

    By BuiltClever Solutions at 12:07 on 01/10/10

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