Should you let your child walk to school

Years ago, most primary school children walked to school. Today less than half do so. More and more parents take their children to school by car and that is causing problems – for the environment, for our children’s health, and for their development. Many parents fear letting their children walk to school at any age - yet the benefits of regular walking are immense. We asked some parents to tell us their views on whether they would allow their children to walk to school. Listen to our podcast to hear what some of them they had to say. We also spoke to Living Streets, which runs the Walk to School campaign which encourages parents to let their children walk to school, to ask them to respond to some of the concerns of our parents.

A survey carried out by national charities Family Lives and Living Streets as part of national Walk to School Week has found that parents disproportionately fear their children being abducted or killed in a road accident over the more likely threat to their health from childhood obesity. Over a thousand parents of primary school aged children were asked what they fear most for their children (from a given list) and 30% stated abduction or murder, with only 5% revealing a fear for their child’s poor health in later life due to their child’s current level of physical activity.

Although there is about a one in a million chance of a child being killed by a stranger, the risk of severe health issues and early mortality as a result of the lack of physical activity is one in three. Family Lives and Living Streets are calling for a greater understanding of a child’s health needs as almost half of parents surveyed underestimated how much physical activity their child needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Government recommends that children should have seven hours of physical activity per week , but in fact 68% of boys and 76% of girls are not currently meeting this recommendation. The call comes during national Walk to School Week, run by Living Streets, which sees thousands of children, parents and teachers leave the car keys at home and walk to school. The Walk to School Campaign is now more vital than ever as the number of children who walk to school regularly has reached an all time national low, with an enormous 43% of children now driven to the school gates.

Parents can help children walk to school safely by teaching them road safety skills as they walk them to school from a young age. This helps parents to identify when their children are ready to find their way to school safely by themselves, safely giving them independence.

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How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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