Would You Let Your Primary School Child Walk To School Alone?

Should Children Walk To School Alone?
28 April 2016

At what age would you let your child walk to school alone? When they start secondary school, or is primary age old enough?

Reports show that the number of primary school aged children that walk to school unaccompanied has dropped dramatically in recent years, with just 25% doing so now compared to nearer 90% in the 80's.

But why is that? Have things become much more dangerous for children, or does this rather reflect a change in parenting attitudes instead?

There are fears for 'stranger danger' though no one has shown that there is any more risk for children these days than in the past, but a big fear for many parents is the walk to school itself and the danger from traffic. The number of cars on the road has increased significantly in a generation, and many parents would cite this as a main concern with their child crossing busy roads on the way to school.

Personally there's no way I'd let my primary school child walk to school alone and I realise that some people may refer to me as a "helicopter parent." Well guess what? I don't care. I'd much rather know my child was safe and had arrived at school safely than be bothered by labels.

Some parenting experts argue that we are doing our children a disservice by not allowing them the freedom and independence to walk to school alone, that the risk is minimal, and that we need to teach our children to look after themselves. But as parents surely we know our own children better than anyone else and are the best ones to decide when they are ready to take what to them must be a huge step? And is throwing them out into the world the best way to do that? I don't think my child's safety is an issue where I want to be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

Years ago people left their doors unlocked, babies outside shops in prams and there was more of a community spirit. No-one does any of these thing now and with good reason as far as I'm concerned.

To further complicate matters some schools impose restrictions on Primary age children walking home from school and will not let them leave until a parent or guardian is there to escort them, so the decision is taken out of parents hands altogether.

We have had quite a discussion here at Playpennies and there are some very different views being shared, so we would love to hear what you think. Let us know on the poll below, in the comments or over on our Facebook page.

Personally I feel while there's a difference between protection and paranoia, my child is too precious to me to take any chances.


  • Sal F.

    no chance

  • Leah D.


  • Karen R.

    No chance!!!

  • Stacey M.

    I live less than a 2 minute walk away and would not allow her to go alone

  • Kelly F.

    Even If I lived round the corner from the school I wouldn't let them walk themselves. Too much risk that I'm not willing to take. I think events are more frequently documented through social media etc, than in the 80's so perhaps it's not that less things happened, but you maybe didn't hear about it back then?

    • Sharon B.

      Used to live about half a mile from school. We had a lollypop man to help cross the main road. We also dawdled on the way home. I was p3 before i walked home alone and would often go and walk one of the old ladies dogs on qay home from p5 onwards. But i was canny. I think we all were back then. My daughter is aware of the risks but others (drivers)dont really care tbh.

    • Jacqueline S.

      Statistically the rate of pedophile crime has stayed pretty much the same since the 80s. As you say it's much more widely reported on now but it did happen then. However, I used to walk home alone (quite a long walk too) in the 80s but wouldn't let my son do the same.

  • Toni A.

    Most kids in my area don't walk to school alone untill last year of junior school even hen they tend to walk wiv other kids

  • Hazel T.

    I'm a 20 min walk from my kids school so there's no way I'd let them go alone. I won't even let them walk to the bus alone which is a 5 min walk. Far too many weirdos and boy racers out there

  • Sharon B.

    Yes as its not even 300m.. However there is one road to cross at a junction and so many folk speed, even people dropping kids off at school! But i would let my daughter, she is 7 in june and I think capable. Whether she would go straight to school.is another matter!

    • Karen M.


    • Nicola E.

      Wow really ?

    • Shellie H.

      You would let a 6 year old cross a road that you just said is dangerous ??

    • Doriane A.

      7 and you let her walk 300m alone? when all weirdos know it's the best time to catch a child outside? You are brave.

    • Hazel T.

      That's rather scary that you'd allow your 6 year old to cross a road that you've just classed as very dangerous

    • Sharon B.

      I would if she walks with the before school group. Personally i think that wrapping them in cotton wool and bubble wrap doesnt help. So yes i would but i would explain to her time and time again how to do it safely. To many people don't and so I have had local kids running out in front of my car without looking. That and if anyone hurts my child, they will have my partner to deal with and he will make sure they relive the trauma it for as long as he knows where they live.

    • Sharon B.

      I didnt say very dangerous.....a dog attacking is very dangerous. Crossing an a or b road at rush hour which requires traffic lights is dangerous. It is not a dangerous road. It's stupid having the crossing at a junction. They can cross further down. And personally i think that she council should provide some supervision as they have literally this week asked pupils to try to walk to school rather than be driven, and lambasted parents for parking on the double yellows and the bus stop. I

    • Kirstine G.

      All these people must know ur daughter really well and the route to her school to pass judgement wow, my kids were all different and allowed to walk to school when I felt they were ready to on their own they were different ages cos they matured and understood safety at different ages. ur child u know them best and if they r ready to walk to school on their own. I used to catch a bus to primary school on my own from around 9 it was never an issue same dangers though it's not like pedos and cars have all of a sudden appeared

    • Sharon B.

      I used to catch a bus on a 90 min journey to school when i was 11 (academy). I am unsire how i survived on that bus with all those weirdos for 90 mins...let alone having to traverse streets in town with busy rush hour traffic.

    • Gillian C.

      Sharon I agree with u, I'm really surprised by these responses! X

  • Aileen B.

    I walked to school with my sister at age 4 n half, she was a big 5 n half and school was a good 20/25 min walk away. Not nowadays, straight to school grounds.

    • Doriane A.

      Yes, I walked home age 6/7 alone with my then 4/5 yo sister a few times. Was at least 30 minutes walk on our short legs. It was exceptional though. Once I forgot her, came nearly all the way home alone. Had to run back, shit scared that she'd be gone! lol

  • Shellie H.

    No chance and it could be a number of reasons ... Pervs get a slap on the wrist these days instead of long prison time .... Teens are feral ... And no one is afraid of the police as everyone gets a fine in court :joy: so people can just do what they want !!

  • Ewa E.

    This days is to risky to send kids alone to school. To many crazy, dangerous people around, speeding cards...lots to talk about it..

  • Kate G.


  • Karen M.

    He'll no! my son was only allowed to walk home with his friend at primary school age near the end of year 6 when he was going to start secondary school the school was 5 mins away and I hated every bit of allowing it for a week.My 6 year old will never be going to primary school and back on her own and her school is only 10 min walk away.

  • Yvonne E.

    I would not let my children walk on there own to they are in year 6. I would be to worried. My oldest is 17 and i still panic and he has been going to school by himself since year 7 lol

  • Vicki T.

    Unfortunately our school is a 10minute drive from us so there is no way I could let them walk. There is a school 2 mins walk from me and I would have let my daughter walk there when she was older.

  • Tessa F.

    No chance. My boy's school is at 25/30min walk away with to many roads to cross. It's far too dangerous these days. When I was little the school was literally at the back of our house. All I needed to do was walk around the neighbours house, over the bridge and I was there...

  • Marie H.

    No way too many weirdos around these days!

    • Jean B.

      I am 69yrs old and believe me there were weirdos on the go back in the olden days. You are all ruining your children life's by not giving them more responsibility, but when they reach their late teens you will let them roam the streets and walk into pubs and get blotto.

    • Marie H.

      My son is 4 years old...no offence but don't tell me I'm ruining MY child's life you keep your opinions to yourself...I will give my son responsibilitys when he is old enough thank you.

    • Kerry D.

      So you're allowed an opinion but no one else is? That seems a little unfair.

    • Marie H.

      So it's unfair that I'm being told I will ruin my son's life by not letting him walk to school??

    • Jean B.

      Well you are stupid Maria, I wouldn't even let a 4yr old out to play. I will air my opinions like everybody else but I won't wrap school children of a certain age in bubble wrap.

    • Marie H.

      Are you a moron Jean Bowie firstly my son is NOT of school age and is not let out to play and when he is of school age I will walk him to school...take your "opinions" and go bore someone else who actually cares you stupid woman!

  • Charlotte W.

    Not a chance and I don't think it should be allowed! My Daughter is 9 and my Son 8! I can see there school gates from my street about a 4 min walk and I still wouldn't let them walk down there alone!!!x

  • Toni C.

    All the weirdos we know about now Adays

    • Katie D.

      Statistically a child is more likely to be abused by a family member or someone they know!? Would you stop them seeing anyone just in case?

    • Toni C.

      I don't let them stay with anyone but my mum and my mum is a single person so I am always there

    • Toni C.

      And there are people who snatch them off sides of roads and stuff so I wud to let them walk home no

  • Gemma M.

    If you can't be bothered to take your primary school age child to school, ensuring they have arrived safely then your just down right lazy! Look after your child otherwise why bothering having them in the first place.

    • Rachel L.

      If you think so, but I don't think an 11 year old walking a few hundred metres means you're lazy. As I said elsewhere, so many variables

    • Doriane A.

      I tend to agree Gemma, may depend how far they have to go though and if meeting with mates at the door!

    • Katie D.

      Nothing to do with being lazy. I still take my 5 year old but my 10 year old leaves 15 minutes earlier and walks in with his mate! I think teaching your kids it's ok to be judgemental is far worse than giving them a bit of responsibility!

    • Rebecca K.

      My mum had to work at the time I was meant to be in school. She started work at 8. She'd take me and my brother to my nans and we'd make our way to school together. But I guess my mum was a bad single parent for working instead of taking me to school.

    • Neil W.

      What a ridiculous comment to make. My 11 year old has just started walking to school in readiness for secondary school in September. Children should be getting used to taking themselves to senior school. Unless you plan on taking them and picking them up each day. My daughter has her phone and checks in during her journey and when she gets to school

    • Gemma M.

      I would worry all day if I didn't see my child safely walk into school. I understand their are variables and difficulties as a parent, I have experienced many obstacles myself, all us parents do. However our children should come first and we have to find a solution that still ensures the safety of our children.

    • Gemma M.

      Neil Williams I agree from year 6 if they don't live too far away from the school they should start being prepped for high school. I did this for my eldest son but left it until the last term of year 6 and let him walk home. I did live in a small village and we lived approx 5 minutes from the school. I am more referring to children 10 years and under.

    • Neil W.

      Fair enough Gemma. Thought it was a reference to all primary school kids. My daughter started walking after easter. She wanted to start sooner but we said post easter was ample. Although we do live 25 minute walk away she need to prepare for the 2 bus journey starting in September

    • Katie D.

      Depends in the child, my 10 year old is very sensible, more so than a few 13 year olds I know, and he's very big for his age too! It's down to an individual parent to decide whether their child is old enough no one else surely!

    • May D.

      My daughter is 9 she walks but is very sensible I have a 4 year old 2 so when I am at the school grounds I always make sure she has arrived. She is very independent for her age

    • Jenni F.

      Nothing to do with being lazy Gemma. I'm a single parent who has to work to pay the bills, when I leave at 8.30am my 9 and a half year old daughter walks to her friends house 100 metres away and then walks to school with her and her two sisters. They're very sensible children, know all about stranger danger and only have 1 traffic lit road to cross, the school is only 100 metres in the other direction from my house.

  • Cecilia K.

    Id be more worried about child snatchers then their actual ability to walk safely to school. Too many weirdos

  • Rachel L.

    Depends on lots of variables so each person's situation is different. Personally, my son walked the 7 min journey from the last term of Y5

    • Emma A.

      finally someone who as able to see the full picture! if only the world was as simple as black and white lol x

    • Rachel L.

      Thanks! There's the distance, vicinity of roads, personality of the child (danger awareness etc), amount of traffic, time they leave, time of the year (dark nights) and other things to consider. Personally the thing I worry about least is someone snatching them

    • Emma A.

      its the "fat lazy" comments that i dont understand. if i let my child walk on her own when shes ready but still in primary it would be for the experience for high school. lol. x

    • Rebecca K.

      The fact that some parents work early too. My mom would drop me and my brother at my nans and we'd make our way to school.

  • guest

    Whether it's a stones throw or a mile away.. NO CHANCE IN HELL! And people who do let them should get off their fat lazy arses and stop plopping out kids if they don't wanna get em and make sure they get to school safely!

    • Katie D.

      Not a case of that, I still take my 5 year old to the same school, so not lazy at all but I let my 10 year old go with his friend about 15 minutes earlier, he's learning independence, nothing to do with being lazy. And I'd prefer my decision to being a judgemental arsehole thinking I was a perfect parent :joy::joy::joy:

    • Keri M.

      Exactly as me katie!! My 10 yr walks before us and I take my 5 yr old. its the right thing to do, they need that bit of responsibility. I also let him play out with his mates unsupervised. What a lazy b☆☆☆☆☆☆ I must be!!

    • Kathryn D.

      Getting to school safely I wish these parents would get out their cars and walk, then it would be a lot more safer

    • Emma A.

      in p6/7 it can give the experience of walking to school for when they start high school. but then i guess im being lazy not taking them to high school...and college...and uni lol :joy:

    • Kayleigh L.

      Definitely a lazy b*****d, luv! :joy::ok_hand: u nailed it!

    • Keri M.

      Should I take my 14yr old in the oposite direction to her school at the same time?

    • Katie D.

      And they wonder why so many kids get depression these days, maybe because they aren't allowed to develop and learn independence because they are so wrapped up in Cotton wool by their parents and then can't deal with the real world when they start secondary school!

    • Jean B.

      So true.

  • Mandi E.

    Not alone no and we live next door to the school. My 9 year old walks to school with her friends.

  • Emma A.

    wow some really nasty comments as always!

  • Lynsey S.

    No way. I like to see that my 5 year old and 8 year old are safely in their classrooms before I leave school grounds. Will have to let them walk in year 6 to prepare for comp but until then I am with them every step of the way.

  • Gemma T.

    Not in a million years would I let any of my children walk to school at primary school age.

  • Angela G.

    No chance and it's only 5 mins walk!

  • Katie D.

    My 10 year old son walks to school with his friend most mornings and home most nights, I still take my 5 year old daughter. He starts secondary school in just under 18 months and will need to get several buses to get there so he needs to start learning responsibility as to just land that on him would be a massive shock!. He's a sensible lad and I trust him! Each to their own but I walked to school with my friend from the age of 6 and that was a good 20 minute walk away! You can't stop them living and learning independence because your worried about weirdos!

  • Emily V.

    what were we talking about the other day! X no chance ! X

  • Keri M.

    Yes. My 10 yr old walks by himself or with a friend. He's in year 5. There are of course dangers all around us. And of course I worry. It's part of being a parent to worry. They still need to beable to do things by themselves.

  • Emma B.

    I consider y 5 year old too young to walk alone to school. I also love the fact that we have time to walk to school together, no tv, toys or other distractions....just us and her brother having 10 minutes together

  • Kelly H.

    no way

  • Rachael S.

    I have started letting my son who is nearing the end of year 6, just to get him ready for secondary school.

  • Donna L.

    (Copey) The point is, at one time it wouldn't be an issue. We're living in shit times when scum wish harm on our children & aren't dealt with properly by our liberal laws.

  • Kayleigh L.

    Depends on if, like so many of the commenters, you can up your chances of winning Mother of the Bloody Year Award by letting your small child walk to school alone for the sake of them "gaining experience". God forbid your child should be snatched on the way to school, or hit by a car crossing the road! All because you couldn't be bothered to make sure they get there safely! You wanna get a grip and live in the real world! Letting a 6 year old walk to school on their own? Should be laws against it, nevermind encouraging it! Idiots!

    • Jean B.

      I agree with Gareth, for goodness let your children off the cord. I looked after my grandchildren and had many cross words with my daughter about this. The oldest grandchild walked to school from his sixth birthday because I wouldn't take his baby sister out in the cold winter. My granddaughter was seven and that was only because of the mindless parents parking their cars all round the school, many an argument I had with the school and stupid parents.

  • Tara G.

    It's a different world now to when i was a child. No way on this earth I'd let ether of mine walk to school. Even when there in secondery school I'd be worried.

  • Emma P.

    I would only let my children walk home when they at in year 7, I know in my son's school I think in year 3 you can sign a consent letter saying you allow your child to leave the classroom without a parent waiting, when my oldest child get to year 3 I will be signing that letter but will talk to him and tell him his isn't allowed to leave the school gates without me. I wouldn't be able to relax knowing my child is out walking to school or from school on his own I would worry too much.

  • Christy B.

    No way. ..over a mile...4 busy roads to cross....so no.

  • Lesley B.

    I remember in the late seventies that Susan Maxwell had been abducted and was found murdered. She was 10. Then there was another abduction of a younger girl, Caroline Hodge, or something like that, soon after. These were super-rare things to happen at the time. I think nowadays, we are all aware of how paedophilia has saturated our world and we hear of far more kids going missing. I think it's very important to ensure that your child reaches school. Afterall, if they don't arrive there, the school may just think they are absent and may not follow it up. Coming home is different because you'd expect them by a set time and if they weren't home, you could go seeking them straightaway. That said, my eldest boy only came home on his own at 10. I thought he was streetwise enough by then.

    • Gareth G.

      I don't think there are any more or less child snatchers than back then but if one happened at the other end of the country you'd know about it in 5 minutes through social media and 24 hour news. It would have gone by unnoticed outside the local community back then.

    • Lesley B.

      Gareth Gaz Crandon Yes, I think you've hit the nail on the head there : )

    • Sadie C.

      Absolutely Lesley. I think today's technology not only makes us more aware of dangers but also makes it easier for Paedophile ring to form etc which must make our kids more vulnerable today than years gone by, children to order :(

  • Nicola B.

    Definitely not, kids that young shouldn't have that responsibility of getting themselves to school we are called "Parents" for a reason look after your kids!!!!

  • Sih

    my 9yr old walks her self its only 1 street away. She walks up the same side of road and meets lollipop man 5 mins walk also have family in the same street she walks. If shes late home i panic. But usually just gossiping with friends Would never allow a younger child. And this has oy started as shes in p5. Depends how far they have to walk how grown up they are etc.. every child/parent is different 

  • Sih

    my 9yr old does. Up the same street as family 2 min walk to the lollipop man shes in p.5 wouldnt allow younger. Depends on child/parent. Cant smother them as they will rebel as teenagers. 

  • Lisa K.

    I will let my daughter walk from a certain distance due to the type of roads she would have to cross, but at this point in life I wouldn't be cruel enough to put her through the embarrassment of walking her right to the door each day. And I definitely would not leave her incharge of her younger brother getting into school safely either, think that is so wrong no matter how sensible the older one seems.

  • Shauna M.

    It depends on so many things Inc how far, the individual child, where you live, are they walking alone or with friends etc etc. My daughter is only 6 so she is accompanied to school but I imagine the last year of primary school she will want to walk with friends and I imagine I will let her in preparation for high school when she will have to get a bus from the village

  • Claire L.

    Coz of the world we live in :confused:

  • Linda M.

    I take my children right into the classroom door. Too many sick and twisted individuals around.

  • Penny R.

    Both parents tend to have to work nowadays, so time restrictions are definitely a factor too.

  • Gareth G.

    There are no more or less paedophiles, rapists and murderers now than 25 years ago. It's just social media and 24 hour news stuff it down our throats so it appears there is.

  • Razam

    I actually remember walking to my primary school when I was 7. It was about a 30 minute walk & the route included walking across the High Street, walking past a small park know to be frequented by winos, through a small ally, then a choice between crossing a 4 lane dual carriage way without a pelican crossing etc. or using the underpass used by druggies, then another long alleyway, before reaching the back entrance of the school. 

    My son is now 7, and his school is only a 15min walk, along pretty quiet, nice roads. Would I let him walk to school by himself? Not a chance!

  • Gillian C.

    I'm really surprised by these responses! I certainly don't think allowing children to walk to school indicates lazy patenting! I teach in the school my son goes to so he comes with me but if I didn't I would definitely allow him to walk with a friend by age 8-9 I would say. As kids we walked from about age 6 and we're here to tell the tale!

  • Maria J.


  • Maria J.

    Msybe on the in the last year of primary with mates as i did with my 2oldest

  • Jill G.

    I watch my son go into school from the top of my drive then run upstairs and watch him from his bedroom window in the playground, he's 8, we live in a small village were everyone knows everyone and everyone knows a stranger

  • Linda B.

    It's a shame because children used to years ago but I wouldn't let my children. I don't think the world is safe and my kids school is just across the road. I might reconsider when they go to secondary school.

  • Kirsteen G.

    No way

  • MsPiggy

    I think if your child is streetwise by the time they're in Yr6 at Primary school, then I would consider allowing them to walk to school, but only a) if they have a mobile and b) they remember to let you know once they're at school).  I remember walking to school with my siblings at age 10 (no mobiles were around at the time) and never having any problems either crossing the road or in terms of "stranger danger". 

  • Rachael M.

    Primary school children range from 4 - 11. Certainly younger children should be taken to school. For older children it depends on the situation. Distance to school, busy roads etc and of course the child. We take our 7 year old to school but may be by year 6 she can go by herself we shall see. I remember walking to school on my own at 9 and possibly before.

  • Kerry D.

    My daughter can't walk to school because I start work too early so she goes in with a friend of mine who works at her school. However she does go to our corner shop on her own at the weekends - at 9 I think it's important for her to learn some basic road safety and awareness of danger. She won't learn to be street wise if I've always got hold of her hand.

  • Emma B.

    My son is in yr 5 and has started to walk to school and home with his friends,we have to let them do this we can not wrap them up in cotton wool. I think they will have so much change in a year and a bit when he starts senior school.

  • Jessica T.

    No way! Just not safe, too many weirdo's about

  • Katie C.

    Should see the road our primary children are expected to walk to school no paths narrow lanes don't trust them with me !!!! But the council believes it's perfectly safe for 4 years olds to walk

  • Rebecca B.

    Your child could be the most mature, sensible and traffic savvy child in the world. That will of course stop them from getting physically snatched/groped/assaulted by a weirdo in the street. NOT. Yes it DOES happen. A child is no match for a large adult.

  • Rachel L.

    I would never forgive myself if something happened id rather take turns with other parents walking children to school. What 10 minutes when it ensures your childs saftey!

  • Angela R.

    No he 5 years old

  • Vicky M.

    Not in this day n age :dizzy_face::dizzy_face: no way to many kiddies going missing and stuff. I wouldnt like to be one of those parents who have police knock at the door. I want to keep them as safe as I can. Even if I hate early mornings hehe.

  • Sadie C.

    The school run, same route, same time, mon- Friday . Easy pickings for sick scum. For me it's a big no till they are old enough to really recognise stranger danger and know how to deal with it, eg run! Scream! Also you have you seen the amount of cars on the road at school times it too dangerous

  • Sharon H.

    my son is in P7 , he is 12 years old ... he has been walking to school himself since the start of p6..... its a few minutes walk with a lollipop man on the only road he has to cross...... he will be going into secondary school this summer so he needs to be able to walk back and forth

  • Emily K.

    I would allow my son to walk on his own in yr 6 but I've got to take my other 2 anyway! I think they need to start getting independent at that age ready for secondary school!

  • Debbie S.


  • Debbie S.

    Or secondary not nowadays

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