At what age can a child walk to and from school on their own?

When's OK to let kids get to school solo? Primary school, secondary school, or when they're older teens? We ask 1,427 parents and an expert, to weigh up the pros and cons...

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In a nutshell: Age is 11 is when most people said they’d let their child walk to and from school on their own (we polled 1,427 parents). 

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It’s pretty likely that, once your children are at secondary school, they’ll be making their way to and from there and home without you, either alone or with a sibling or group of friends.

But, knowing that stage is coming up, would you ever consider letting your child make the journey on their own when they’re still at primary school?

What does the law say?

There is no legal standing on this topic – much like the issue of what age a child can stay at home unaccompanied.

UK law leaves it up to parents and sees no wrongdoing as long as the infant is not at risk (which, obviously, they would be if they were incredibly young, like, toddler age).

We think this is an interesting topic because it really divides people: here at MFM we’ve read stories particularly from the USA, where parents of say, 9 and 10-year-olds, are pilloried by some for letting their kids get the bus and subway to school, but applauded by others for giving their children that freedom.

What do parents from our survey say?

When we asked 1,427 parents at what age they’d let their child go to school on their own the mot popular answers were:

  • 11 (26%)
  • 10 (22%)
  • 12 (12%)
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When we probed further, lots of parents told us that the age they’d let their kids do it very much depends on:

  • how far away the school is
  • how busy the roads are
  • how mature their child is.

A few said they’d only consider it if the school was in walking distance and not if they’d have to get a school bus or public transport.

Others though, pointed out that because of their own busy life schedules, they didn’t really have a choice.

One parent of 2, the oldest being 9 years old, told us: “Work-wise I have no choice but to let them walk to school as we live on a farm and the animals need feeding and milking.”

Another said they’d let their kids do it from 10 – but only in a group with other children.

What does the expert say?

“This is scary for parents and exciting for children,” educational psychologist Naomi Burgess points out. “As a psychologist, I would suggest always thinking forward and working towards your child being independent.

“So rather than seeing the journey to school as the morning nightmare, use it for teaching, learning, observing, and enjoying.

“If driving, try to leave the car half way and begin walking. Use that walk to instil road safety, meeting and greeting friends, and gradually letting them take on a little more responsibility for their journey.

“Let the school personnel know when you are going to let them go on their own so they could call and confirm arrival.

“Yes, it might take some planning and confidence, and keeping an eye on heavy bags, but by starting the process you will be improving their health and ensuring they know how to manage themselves.”

Here are some of the keywords that came up when we asked parents about this topic…

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Image: Getty

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