How important is being able to walk to school?

(39 Posts)
AnnabellesScarf Wed 10-Aug-16 19:52:06

Starting to think about applying to secondary schools.

We have 2 good ones that we have a healthy chance of getting into.

One, school A, is a 20 minute walk away.

The other, school B, is in the next town, and would involve a fifteen minute walk to the station, a ten minute train ride and another fifteen minute walk onwards from the station.

I think there might possibly be a school bus as well, I don't know how long that takes or if there would be spaces on it. School is only actually a 20 minute drive away, so perhaps a bus would be quite quick.

Both schools look attractive, and we will go to the open days and look round both.

But we are struggling to decide how much weight to give the fact that a school is walking distance. School B is a lot more shiny and modern and I expect we will all be wowed by the facilities.

Would you pick one school over another purely on distance?

DH went to his nearest school, in walking distance, regrets it and wishes he had gone to a different one a bus ride away.

I had no secondary school in walking distance so had to travel anyway - it didn't particularly bother me (but I disliked that lots of my friends lived far away). On the other hand, one of the reasons we moved here was so that DC could walk to school.

DH thinks we should judge the best school for itself without thinking about location.
I think location is a key factor in deciding which is best.
DS, I suspect, will want to go where most of his friends go, or where has the shiniest facilities (ie, probably school B)

NapQueen Wed 10-Aug-16 19:55:16

Secondary school with public transport is totally fine for that age. Everyone round my way bussed to school as the one in walking distance was shite.

These kids are 11-18 a walk/bus or train/wall combo is totally fine.

TheWindInThePillows Wed 10-Aug-16 19:57:51

I am not fussed about location, I'd go for best teaching, added value, facilities, just liking the feel of the place. My children travel to secondary though, and longer than 20 min so it doesn't seem a big deal to me.

AnotherDayInParadiseLost Wed 10-Aug-16 20:01:01

Walking is obviously a plus point, but you need to choose the right school for your child across all factors.
Draw up plus/minus points for each school if it's close. Easy transport obviously gets a plus but you might find out about school buses when you go to the open day.

LynetteScavo Wed 10-Aug-16 20:02:32

I think it depends how much better the other school is.

My DC travel, but I personally think it's worth it. Life would be easier if they wen't to the not nearly so nice school nearby.

museumum Wed 10-Aug-16 20:05:57

It depends what everyone else does. I went to a far away school and had to get the school bus and the journey on public buses was awful. But most other pupils just got an easy public bus.
Cause if this they had lots of after school music and sport but I couldn't really take part. It was quite gutting.

MadamDeathstare Wed 10-Aug-16 20:13:57

We looked at teaching style, class size, academic opportunities, diversity, amount of homework given, school activities, available subjects, and culture of the school.

Location was not a factor.

Having to make a 30 mile round trip twice a day to complete the school run is frankly a PITA. It is worth it though as my DC are in a place that suits them as students. They would not have been happy in the local school.

Oddly enough their current school is in rundown buildings in the roughest part of town. The teachers, the students, and the school administration more than make up for the facilities being a lot less than they would have at the big, modern, extremely well funded, local school.

Wigeon Wed 10-Aug-16 20:17:57

There are no secondary schools within walking distance of where I live, despite being in a town. But there are several either a bus ride away, or a cycle ride. Lots of the schools have dedicated school buses. In your situation I'd find out about the school buses - seems a bit silly to plump for the walking distance school if there are genuine other options where the logistics aren't necessarily that bad.

booellesmum Wed 10-Aug-16 20:18:04

Look round both and go with the one that suits your child best. We have a great school within 5 minutes walk but my 2 both chose the school 3 train stops away.
They are really happy and it has helped with their independence.
Only downside is the £60 a month I spend on their train passes!

AnnabellesScarf Wed 10-Aug-16 21:51:23

Yes, we will definitely have a good look round both.

Sounds like most of you are with my DH, and think location is not a huge factor, which is interesting.

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 10-Aug-16 21:53:53

Two of mine go/went to schools within walking distance for us, although the majority of children at those schools come from further afield, with many doing journeys at least as long as your school B journey.

And then conversely, my other two go/went to school by bus, and at that school the vast majority are within walking distance.

Neither are really a problem smile If the journey is doable and fits into your day, then just go by which school suits best.

Hulababy Wed 10-Aug-16 21:55:18

DD has never been in walking distance of school.

Her primary was about 3.5 miles away. Even if she'd gone to the local school it is just over a mile away and she would have been driven due to me and DH needing to go on to work afterwards.

Her secondary is a similar distance. She could catch the bus and very occasionally does so on her way home. She chooses to grab a lift in with her dad as he drives not far from her school on his way to work - he drops her a few minutes walk away. She usually chooses to work to my school after she finishes to grab a lift home with me.

It hasn't hampered any social/friendship life etc.

PettsWoodParadise Wed 10-Aug-16 21:57:41

As long as it is not a nightmare journey, the journey can actually be a positive experience. One where friendships outside of the immediate class and year group are made. It also nurtures independence as they have to learn to compensate for cancellations or delays. I do however appreciate that cost of transport can be a factor for some.

Please also don't judge a school by how shiny it is. Sometimes when you dig deeper into the accounts they pay for shiny by having a higher proportion of NQTs or lots of other reasons. DD will be attending a school that spends a fairly shocking percentage by average guidelines on its teachers. The school isn't a wreck but then it's facilities are also far from shiny.

Bobochic Wed 10-Aug-16 21:58:36

All things being equal it is much nicer to be able to walk to school. But things rarely are equal!

Acornantics Wed 10-Aug-16 21:59:22

DS, 12, walks to school everyday with a friend, about a mile each way, no major roads to cross. It's a really great school and the walk to/from gives him exercise and a buffer between school and home to chat/mess around with his friend. For him, it's working perfectly.

Now just hoping DC2 gets into the same school next year then they can ignore each other on the way to/from school smile

J0kersSmile Wed 10-Aug-16 22:04:45

I work in a school, all the teachers surprisingly have sent their dc to the closest school even if it's not the best in the city.

They have said a bright child will do well in most places but being able to walk to school and be a part of the community is more important then deciding between a mediocre or good school. They have said it's parents that have the biggest influence on whether they'll do well or not at school.

I was toying with the idea of my dd taking the bus next year to get to an outstanding girls school with entrance exams and a 100% gcse pass rate, but speaking to them I'm putting down the closest school. It's not the best school in the city but it does offer a lot plus dd will have friends in the same area. A long commute for an adult is bad enough let alone a teen with loads going on.

PonderingProsecco Thu 11-Aug-16 00:28:07

I always had to schoolbus to secondary from my village and also for sixth form.
Could never attend after school stuff apart from discos where I begged and begged for lifts! Depends on whether as parents you are prepared to drive for 'extras'; my parents were not prepared to and no public transport.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Thu 11-Aug-16 12:05:18

I was able to cycle to school. It made a huge difference as we got older, the friends who relied on buses out to villages etc either weren't so much part of the gang, or - I hate to say - hung around smoking in cafes after school (obvs you couldn't smoke now) with dodgy types on the pretext of "waiting for the bus". I did much less of this, as I could go straight home and wasn't inclined to hang about. I also saw a lot more of local friends at their houses, rather than glue sniffing in the park.

BUT if everyone is bussed in to school b, this may not make for such a divide. It'd have to be a LOT better academically, imo

Badbadbunny Thu 11-Aug-16 15:16:59

All other things being equal (which they never are), then walking distance is clearly better than travelling further. But in reality you need to choose the best school for your child, based on the breadth of subjects they offer, whether non-academic pursuits are important such as sports, art, music, drama, etc as these vary enormously between schools. You also need to consider your child's "feel" for the school, such as whether they like it at the open day, whether they feel the teachers engage with them whilst walking around, what the teachers say they can offer for any particular interests/abilities of your child, etc. And yes, you need to research how good the school is based on numbers achieving higher grades at GCSE and how that fits in with your child's ability. Up to, say, an hour or so of travelling I'd say is fine and yes it does broaden their friendship group as they will meet new friends on the commute, many of whom will live close to you if they're on the same bus/train route, so accessible for them to get together outside school.

bojorojo Thu 11-Aug-16 17:08:51

I think an hour is too much and will create problems with after school activities and time for homework after a long commute home. Having said that, I would choose the best school for your DC but work out if the journey is reasonable and how it will be done and take that into account if you prefer the school that is further away.

goldierocks Thu 11-Aug-16 17:19:40

At the time I was looking at secondary schools for my DS, the only school we are in catchment for by distance was in special measures and had a GCSE pass rate of 30% (5 passes A-C, including English and Maths). We went to the open evening anyway - it had airport-style metal detectors at the entrance and a fight broke out between two groups of prospective parents. It's improved (a bit) now, but I still would not want my child to go there.

We looked at five other schools where we were high up on the over-subscription criteria. Luckily my DS got into his favourite one. It's a 10 min walk to the train station, 15 minutes on the train then another 15 min walk/5 mins on the bus at the other side. It would take much longer if he did the whole journey on the bus. The school has a lot of children who travel in from quite a distance. The vast majority of clubs are held at lunchtime so the kids who have to get public transport home are not disadvantaged. My DS likes his school and has made great friends. He doesn't mind the journey in the slightest and he has never felt that he's missed out by not going to a local school.

All things about both schools being equal, I'd go with whatever one your DC prefers. It might be worth getting them to do the journey on their own, just to check they would be comfortable.

catslife Thu 11-Aug-16 17:32:14

Would school B really have places available for pupils commuting from the next town? In my area this wouldn't be realistic anyway no matter how much they like the school.
dcs change a lot between the ages of 11 and 16 and what seems doable for an enthusiastic keen 11 year old may change once they hit their teenage years and find it more difficult to get up in the mornings! Would there be a back-up plan if they missed the school bus and how reliable is the train service? Would you be able to drive them to school if they missed the bus or the train was late for example?
We considered a school 10 miles away but dd was less keen once she realised the bus left at 7.30am every morning. She chose a local school that she can walk to instead (20 min walk) and the benefits on a cold, or wet winter's morning are more obvious than in the Summer.

catslife Thu 11-Aug-16 17:37:31

My post sounds rather inconsistent. The school 10 miles away was a possibility 6 years ago and did take pupils from our area, but an increasing number of 11 year olds and changes to other local schools (the other girls school has gone co-ed) mean that it wouldn't be possible now as it's catchment has decreased.
The main reason we considered this school though was that it was single sex so was able to offer a different type of educational experience to the local co-ed school.

AtiaoftheJulii Thu 11-Aug-16 17:42:26

The train would give more flexibility than a school bus and might be cheaper.

Honestly a 15 minute walk/10 minutes on train/15 minute walk doesn't even come close to my "might be a bit long" boundary. My son's school is about a 20/25 minute walk from the station and hordes of them walk it. There's no chance of getting lost, as long as you follow the right uniform, lol! If your dc were literally to be the only one walking from the station, then you might be put off, but don't write the school off before you've even visited smile

Honeyandfizz Thu 11-Aug-16 17:46:46

Dd started senior school last year that includes a bus journey, I am quite happy to drop her but she loves catching the bus. She meets friends on the corner of our road and I've been impressed by her attitude towards it. Importantly though it's only around 10-15 minutes max on the bus then a 10 min walk. Ds starts this year so will see if he settles into it as well.

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