When do you let a child walk to School alone?

I knew this question would crop up sooner rather than later - my eldest at the sprightly age of 8 has asked to walk to school by himself. It is no longer cool to be walking with mum and he would much rather be walking with his friends.

Now before I am blasted the answer is definitely going to be no until he is in year 5 which is the age our school allows children to leave school un-attended. This however is 2 years away! Do I have to put up with his sulky face until then?

I am a loud and proud free-range parent. I want to give my children as much freedom to explore and exercise their independence as I can but obviously within safe limits. These safe limits tend to mimic what I was allowed to do at his age (which did not include walking to school by myself until I was 9 I might add). I do not believe there are more dangers now than there were when I was young, we just seem more aware. Harry is a very sensible and responsible 8 year old but I do have to bear in mind that whatever freedom's I allow Harry set a precedent for what I allow his slightly crazier younger siblings to do in the future.

So, I have decided on a compromise. Our walk to school does not involve any roads - it is a 1.5 mile walk straight up one cycle path. I would estimate that 80% of pupils and parents walk this route and everybody generally knows each other. I have decided that after Christmas, Harry can walk ahead of us with his friends as long as he waits for us at the school gate so we can all go into school together. I feel like this is a fair compromise as he will always be in my eyesight but can walk far enough ahead to feel like he is gaining some sort of freedom with his friends.

What do you think? When did your child start walking to school alone? I would love to hear your opinions.


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