October - Walk to School Month – When DO you let your child walk on their own in Locks Heath / Western Wards?
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.
Photo by D Sharon Pruit from Flickr
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.