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Walking to school alone - what age is too young?

(11 Posts)
pottymummy Thu 14-Apr-16 12:56:39

So in the DM today - a boy was found safe and well after not turning up to school (thank goodness)
He is 8. The walk is half a mile. Apparently its through a town. I don't know if he's Y3 or Y4. (relevant to me as my eldest DS is Y4)

The reason for my post, is the amount of negative comments on the article about how the boy is too young to be going to school along/parents shouldn't have children if they can't be arsed/no way I'd let a primary child walk to school alone/yadda yadda

Obviously only the parents know their own child, and how sensible he is/isn't, but you can't really predict an 8 year olds behaviour even if you think they are sensible. You have to start the process at some point.

Its not about 'when we were young'. I was 5 when I walked to school alone for a mile 36 years ago. I think that was too young personally, but I think 8 is reasonable.

I let my 9 yo (Y4) walk to school twice a week now. I check he's arrived (I follow on with my youngest in the car as I'm en route to work on the days I can drop off) but he really really wanted to do this. He needs to have his independence at some point. I can't keep my beady eyes on him all the time. Its only 350 metres from home - so safe streets with one residential road crossing. I feel that he needs this trust from us and I don't think its in any way 'unsafe'.

So what is reasonable? At what point do you loosen those apron strings a bit? I am working up to allowing him to go to the park on his own. Is it too soon for that?

slicedfinger Thu 14-Apr-16 12:59:09

It depends entirely on where you live. We lived in Scotland when DD started school, and by the end of her first year were the only ones still walking her. Conversely her school in England insisted on all DC being collected till the start of Y6.

JJJHeimerSchmidt Fri 15-Apr-16 16:15:55

Depends on the child too, and how savvy they are. How likely is your son able to help himself if he gets into trouble without you around? Is he sharp enough to use his phone, or to run to someone's house and ask an adult for help? Or is he still the type to ask, "What's the number for 999?"

We've gone back and forth about my DSD (who is now 10) and her own independence. We'd love to have a confident, free-range kid. But at 8, she still couldn't remember our house phone number off the top of her head. She actually once complained that the five-digit area code for our city was "too hard" to memorize. To me, that is a huge safety issue. Even if she had her own mobile phone (she doesn't), mobile phones lose battery all the time, and she might need to borrow a friend's, or ask a neighbor for help, or a police officer may need to contact us (heaven forbid...).

Does he know your mobile and landline numbers without hesitating? Does he know an emergency phone number (a grandparent, or a good friend of yours that you trust) without hesitating? Does he know his address? Does he know when it is useful to talk to strangers and when it is not?

JJJHeimerSchmidt Fri 15-Apr-16 16:19:42

I think when people talk about how young is too young to walk to school, their opinions are very much shaped by their own kids' capabilities. Which then feed into their expectations of their kids, IYSWIM. At 8, DSD couldn't/wouldn't memorize our phone number, which made her too "young" to walk herself to school, which made us wonder if any 8 year-old was capable of walking themselves to school. But obviously, she had some pals who were a little more with it at that age.

And she did finally learn the stinking phone number!

enchantedfairytale Fri 15-Apr-16 16:19:43

Honestly, I do think eight is just a bit too young.

I'd say nine or ten with friends or siblings.

Natsku Fri 15-Apr-16 16:28:05

Depends where you live and how far the walk to school is (and how sensible the child is!) but at least half of the children in the school at the bottom of my road (1st and 3rd graders - 7-9yrs old) walk or bike by themselves. I live in a small safe town.
Will be quite happy for DD to walk to school by herself when she's 7, she's already quite free-range at 5 (as is the norm where I live).

Natsku Fri 15-Apr-16 16:29:00

Oh and they all have mobiles by 7 years old here so parents can keep contact with them, which probably makes parents feel more comfortable allowing it.

Timeforabiscuit Fri 15-Apr-16 16:34:13

This is really interesting, our school is a 7 minute walk away, dd1 is a thirty year old trapped in an eight year old body - I allow her to walk herself to her year groups separate entrance while I drop off her sister and this is frowned upon!

She was really excited when she turned eight as she's allowed unaccompanied in the library, but I can't let her because of other people's reactions rather than her ability to cope.

Her sister on the other hand.....

MigGril Fri 15-Apr-16 16:36:57

Well considering schools around hear allow this from Year 4, DD being one of the youngest is still only 8. She is allowed to walk to and from school on her own if she wanted to. But I wouldn't let her from our house as we have two rather difficult roads to cross. She does walk a short way with a group of friends that meet part way there though. The school actively encourage it from year 5 onwards.

I can see how a lot of people would question it though. I want allowed to do young and it does seem a bit odd to me having to get used to it.

dimots Fri 15-Apr-16 16:44:07

Depends on the distance and type of roads. I let mine walk home alone from Year 3 (aged 7). But we live a 5 minute walk from the school along slow residential roads. And I don't allow walking to school alone at that age, as I want to know they have got to school safely, rather than risk them not getting there & the school not letting me know.

popperdoodles Fri 15-Apr-16 16:45:36

My youngest is 9.5yrs. He walks to school by himself frequently. I work on the same site as school and we live very close by. I think this is appropriate for him. He also goes to the park in the next road and plays in the woods behind us. He doesn't have a phone but is never more than a few mins walk away and must always tell me where he is. At the moment he has earned my trust, he always keeps the rules we have set out. Can't imagine allowing him this time last year though

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