Knowing when to let your child walk to and from school alone is not always a black and white decision, but it is a rite of passage. In this post we have compiled a few factors that ought to be considered before letting your kid take on this new responsibility.
The University of Westminster found that the number of primary aged children in the UK walking to school independently has gone down dramatically, from 86% in 1971, to just 25% in 2015. Legally, there is no age limitation for children to be accompanied on their walk to school, however, a study by YouGov revealed that the majority of us in the UK would be happy for our child to walk to school by themselves at the age of 10.
The Walk to School Campaign urges parents to take out a risk assessment of the journey and judge the level of maturity your child has before letting them walk to school alone. In terms of the journey itself, parents should consider how long the walk is, whether there are lots of pavements and streetlights, whether there are lollypop ladies at crossings, how busy the roads are and how early it gets dark. In terms of your child’s maturity levels you could ask the following questions: are they sensible and street-smart? Can they follow directions and not get easily distracted? Would they be susceptible to stranger danger? Whilst the majority of Britons believe it’s more than fine for their child to walk home at 10 or earlier, remember every child is different and has different capabilities dependent on their nature and the nature of the journey. Therefore, some kids might be fine to walk to school alone at 6, whilst others are better suited to waiting until secondary school.
Where possible, avoid wooded areas, alleyways and dark roads. Accompany them until they know the way off by heart and have demonstrated traffic-safety awareness.
If they have friends who live nearby, suggest that they walk together. They will feel as if they have gained independence from their parents, but will also have safety in numbers. Make sure they know basic road safety: this can mean looking both ways before crossing a road (Stop. Look. Listen. Live), or only crossing at ‘safe’ points such as zebra crossings.
A phone or UBEE GPS Tracking Watch could be useful so that you can see where your child is using real time tracking. They would also be able to call you in case of emergency. You might want to teach them how to make 999 calls too.
Make sure they understand that whilst the majority of strangers are good and will look out for them, this is not the case for all. If someone they don’t know approaches them, they should tell a trusted adult (teacher, parent, lollypop lady) as soon as they can.
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