At what age can children walk to school on their own? That’s what one mum is asking us at FamilyPoint in this week’s A Problem Shared…
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My friend has allowed her 9 year old son to walk to school by himself. Is this allowed? Are there any rules? Personally I think 9 is a bit young, I mean what if someone approaches them? Now my son who is also in Year 4 is asking to walk to school without me. As well as the ‘stranger danger’ thing, we have to cross a busy main road to get to school. Is it appropriate for children his age to walk to school by themselves?
Our FamilyPoint Advice on walking to school
It is so difficult to navigate being a good parent. This question of allowing a child to walk to school without a parent is a hard one. There are no laws in the UK that give age limits for children to walk to or from school alone. There aren’t even any laws that state a suitable age for children to be left without supervision at home. A lack of age related guidance can make it tricky when it comes to deciding whether to let your child walk to school without you. Even though there aren’t laws against leaving children unsupervised, a parent is still responsible for their welfare.
The age of the child is less important than the maturity and responsible nature of the child when making this decision. Films like Home Alone highlight but glamourise some of the perils of being without supervision at a young age. However if this was played out in real life, the consequences for the child and parent could have been catastrophic.
Things to consider
If you are thinking about letting your 9 year old son walk to school alone you might like to consider the following:
- How would your son cope with crossing a busy road?
- Is your child aware of the dangers of crossing roads?
- Might he take risks than might result in him being unsafe, or harmed?
- How would he respond to a stranger who approached him?
- Would he know how to get help if he felt threatened?
If you know your son has the knowledge, sense and maturity to cope, you might decide to let him walk to school without you. If you have doubts about his knowledge or maturity, it isn’t a risk worth taking.
Do a trail run and use games to highlight hazards
You know your child best and what his capabilities are. At the same time it is natural to want to cocoon your child against harm and underestimate them. Perhaps you could trial it by walking the same route with him, and asking questions about hazards he may encounter along the way?
There is a great resource parents can look at from “Think” – the UK road safety scheme. It has activities you can do with your child to learn about road safety and assess their readiness. There are also a number of online games and activities that your child can do to help prepare them for becoming independent.
What to other parents think about allowing children to walk to school alone?
YouGov surveyed over 1700 adults in 2012 about what age they felt was appropriate for children to be unaccompanied in various situations. 10 was the average age at which Britons say that a child is fine to walk to school unaccompanied by an adult.
The NSPCC have produced a guide for parents called Out Alone. The leaflet contains useful and practical information about ensuring your child’s safety when they are away from you.
Ultimately it is your decision on when your son should walk to school alone
The bottom line is, you need to be sure your child is ready to take good care of themselves. You shouldn’t feel pressured to follow the lead of other parents if you don’t think your child is ready for that level of independence.
If you decide your child is ready to walk home from school without you, you might like to agree some rules to follow.
Rules might include:
- Come straight home
- Take a set route
- Phone if there is an unexpected change of plan
The rules are there to protect you both from worry and harm and allow you to take additional action if necessary.
Trust your judgement 😊
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
I hope this advice has been helpful. Good luck.
The FamilyPoint Cymru Team
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