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walking home from school - what age, and can school stop it?

(50 Posts)
BerylStreep Tue 13-Sep-16 16:34:49

My DS is 9 years old. The school he goes to is set in large grounds, and we live right beside the grounds. It is a 700m walk through school paths, and a further 150 metres to our house along from the school entrance. There is one road to cross, which is marked with school markings, dropped kerb etc.

DD is 11 years old, and already walks home from school - it is about 1.5kms for her. She is able to meet DS and walk through the rest of the way with him. Both are mature responsible children.

So DS's school are being a bit funny about it. They both walked home last week without incident, but I was told it was a one off, and if I wanted him to be able to do it on a regular basis I was told I would have to seek permission from the head teacher to enable DS to walk home from school. I called to make an appointment with the head, and she is unavailable this week. I gave all the details to the school secretary, and told her that I would be happy to sign something absolving school of responsibility.

I have an appointment tomorrow which means I will be unable to collect DS from school. Head hasn't yet come back to me, and I called in to speak to the secretary who told me she had passed the message on, but that the head wasn't keen on it, and had to make some further enquiries to see if he could do it.

She is aware of the intention for him to walk home, accompanied by DD tomorrow.

So, is 9 too young, especially given the proximity of our house to school?

Is it a decision for the head to make, or me, as the parent?

Is it normal for schools t be iffy about this?

SirChenjin Tue 13-Sep-16 16:37:49

We have to give written permission for children younger than P5 (i.e. aged 9/10) to walk home by themselves, but the school has never been iffy about it afaik (although I'm sure they would if a P1 was going to walk home by themselves). In your case, your 9 year old would be walking most of the way with their 11 year old sibling - seems fine to me!

BertramOliphantWest Tue 13-Sep-16 16:43:47

At DS's school Year 4, 5 and 6 children are allowed to walk to and from school alone. I just need to persuade DS (Yr 5) to take the plunge - we are new to the area and school and he is not keen yet.

Shurelyshomemistake Tue 13-Sep-16 17:25:29

How absolutely batshit crazy. Health n safety gorn mad! Other countries (excepting USA) think we are mad.

KP86 Tue 13-Sep-16 17:27:31

No wonder current crop of Uni students want mum and dad to move into the halls with them.

FFS. It's a 10 minute (or less) walk.

pollyblack Tue 13-Sep-16 17:30:42

At our school it seems to be normal for kids to walk home from p4, which is age 7/8 yrs. Mine both walk home themselves at 6yrs and 10yrs but we live in the same street as the school and they both know to go to the school office if i am not home due to an emergency.

BerylStreep Tue 13-Sep-16 17:35:06

When I was 8 years old I used to walk a mile each way to school with my 4 & 5 year old sisters.

I was a bit taken aback at the prospect of having to ask permission, even more so when the school secretary told me that the Head wasn't keen.

I really wonder what we are doing to our children if we don't give them any freedom to learn and develop basic life skills such as walking home from school. I still haven't heard from the Head.

I think I'll just send DS in to school with a note to state that he will be walking home with his sister tomorrow.

friendshipstruggle Tue 13-Sep-16 17:40:04

What can they actually do to stop you though? 9 is old enough to walk home on his own if you think he's responsible enough (my 7 year old walks home with a 10 year old). I'd be tempted to ignore the school and do as you see fit.

paxillin Tue 13-Sep-16 17:43:50

I would be very surprised if they can deny this if you have said it's ok. What do they say if he turns up alone in the mornings?

onlyconnect Tue 13-Sep-16 17:48:40

I can't believe it's up to them in any way, shape or form. It's one thing to give guidance to parents who ask but to think it's their decision is poppycock. At what age a child can walk home alone will vary from child to child and is for parents to judge. I'd be very firm with the head if I were you.

BerylStreep Tue 13-Sep-16 17:52:54

Thanks all. I feel I am under a bit of pressure because I have this appointment tomorrow afternoon that I have to go to. So if school say DS can't leave school, I won't be around to sort it. DH had to go abroad for business this morning at short notice, so I'm on my own.

Having said that, it's not the appointment that is driving my decision for DS to be able to walk home, IYSWIM, but it does put a bit of pressure on me.

ShutUpLegs Tue 13-Sep-16 17:56:17

If you give signed permission, I would have thought they should be ok. IN our school, Yr 5 can go home alone with a signed slip. In Yr 6, no parental permission is required, the school policy is to allow them to go unless parents indicate otherwise. Yr 6's can collect siblings with written permission from parents (except from Reception).

AnotherUsernameBitesTheDust Tue 13-Sep-16 18:04:54

DS1 walked to do from school on his own from y3 (age 7) because lived in a cul-de-sac and through a park. The school never had a problem with it, loads of kids did the same.

Then we moved when he was in y5 and his new school wouldn't let him go without written permission. Most of the kids were escorted by parents till they went to secondary.

Do no other children walk home on their own?

GoblinLittleOwl Tue 13-Sep-16 18:05:25

Is their concern because he walks through the school grounds and they obviously are unsupervised? Unlit in winter?

PacificDogwod Tue 13-Sep-16 18:09:58

Is it too young/too far?

All depends on the children and the exact circumstance of the walk they would have to take IMO

But asking permission? Feck, no. hmm
Your children, your risk assessment, your choice.

What you are describing sounds utterly reasonable to me, your DCs are happy to do it, you are happy for them to do it - where is the problem?!

Fwiw, I walking to school myself from age 6 (admittedly about 200 years ago grin), and DS3 announced aged 8 he was walking himself, which DS4(6) wants to do now also. I'll not bore you with the details of our school run, but lets just say that we will work it out between us. The school has a duty of care for my children from 9 til 3 - beyond that they are my responsibility. Thankfully the school has never suggested otherwise.

PacificDogwod Tue 13-Sep-16 18:11:04

Beryl, can you phone a secretary/office person and give verbal permission for him to go home without an adult?

BerylStreep Tue 13-Sep-16 18:11:56

I'm not sure what the concerns are, because the Head hasn't spoken to me yet. I'm pretty sure the paths are lit up - it is a well used rear entrance to the school.

I'll just send a note in tomorrow and take it from there.

BerylStreep Tue 13-Sep-16 18:13:58

PacificDogwood it was the afterschool teacher last week who initially said I would need the Head's permission. I spoke with the secretary who has been passing on messages.

AndersArms Tue 13-Sep-16 18:14:31

OP I'd make sure you phrase your note along the lines of "this is happening" and not in a way that could be interpreted as asking for permission.


PacificDogwod Tue 13-Sep-16 18:19:14

The Head's permission? Poor Head grin
Or do you have to put it in writing, addressed to the Head?

Good luck.
I hope he gets to go and you don't have to be too stressed tomorrow.

I do worry about how we as a society are hoping to rear resilient, confident, capable adults when we a. don't allow them to do stuff themselves (when ready etc etc) and b. we model that their parents have to 'ask permission'.

I'd be quite livid but I know I can be quite unreasonable that way. The constant nannying gets on my wick grin

PacificDogwod Tue 13-Sep-16 18:20:32

Good point, Anders.

"Dear Head, this is to inform you that DS will be walking home independently/with his sister, aged whatever. Kind regards, Beryl."

Short and sweet smile <passive-aggressive smile

akkakk Tue 13-Sep-16 18:32:35

Are there not two bits to this...

a) - school prepared to hand over child / their responsibility = choice of school
b) - ability to walk home alone = totally responsibility and choice of parent

there is nothing to stop you picking child up from school (covering (a)) and then your choosing what you do next - i.e. saying off you go little one, I am going down the pub (covering (b))

once the school has handed the child over to a parent it is the choice of the parent what happens - the hand over is the choice of both, much as a parent has a right to say to the school don't hand my child to xyz (e.g. abusive ex without pr etc.), so the school has a say in how the hand over takes place and the age at which they feel it appropriate to no longer need a handover...

An 11 year old wouldn't be considered a replacement for an adult, so I can understand why the school should need to think it through - however your request still makes sense, but hopefully the above clarifies why you need to formalise it?

NNChangeAgain Tue 13-Sep-16 18:39:37

I posted on another thread about this - the school cannot insist that your DC is placed in charge of an adult when they leave the school.

They can ask you for written permission, and they could even make a child protection referral, or even call the police if they thought your child was at risk of immediate harm - but unless there is a court order, school staff cannot prevent your DC from leaving the school.

BerylStreep Tue 13-Sep-16 18:42:43

akkakk I think that is where school are getting a bit confused. They said DD wouldn't be old enough to collect DS, and I said but surely DS is allowed to walk home by himself, regardless of DD being there. That's when the whole 'permission from the Head' thing arose.

It may be that issues are being lost in translation, because I haven't been able to speak to the Head in person. Hopefully all will sort itself out. I'll send a letter tomorrow.

bastedyoungturkey Tue 13-Sep-16 18:44:48

I think there are two different issues here. If your ds is being met by DD and they are both walking home to be met by you then that's perfectly acceptable.

If ds and DD are going home to an empty house (you mention an appointment but it is unclear of the timeline) then that may provoke other concerns IMO.

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