Yesterday I took my youngest to enrol him at his new school; the one his brother attends at the moment. My youngest knows that his brother walks there and back on his own (aged 10). It's roughly a 5-minute walk, there are no busy roads to cross, and is about as safe as it gets. He thus asked me if he could walk to school by himself too.
This, naturally, threw me into a quandary. It just so happened that The Telegraph this week reported the results of a study into how much freedom modern children have, and how little they are able to roam about.
When I was young, I lived down a cul de sac in a road of new houses for young families, next to the secondary school, a farm, and a wood. I had friends to play with, farm fields to build dens in, and a wood to get scared in. We went out and came back for meals. We didn't roam far in fact - no more than a few hundred yards from the house, but we had such diverse environments to play in, it didn't matter.
When we moved up the road, I remember walking the couple of miles or so into the centre of the town, or taking the bus having walked down the road, into the main commercial centre. I went into London on the tube for the first time alone, from the end of the District Line, round about the age of 15.
Funnily enough, I now live down a similar road - a cul de sac with new houses for young families. It's next to a wood, but not a scary dark one; a pine wood which is cleared of fire-risk bushes every year making it pretty tame really.
My boys walk down the road into the village which takes 5 minutes and can roam about pretty freely as long as they are back for meals. However, my youngest, alone, is not allowed to go beyond the end of the road. Would I let him walk to school unaccompanied? I'm sure he could do it. He's a sensible boy, knows the way and wants to do it. I'm not so sure about the school allowing him to appear without a parent, or go home unaccompanied however. They are keen to know that the child is in safe hands as s/he leaves the school and is not being carried off by the wrong person. This is understandable in a litigious age.
I'll have to wait and see next September concerning my youngest's bid for freedom. We live in a safe place, intentionally, so that they can run about and have a similar environment to the one I had. Still, we live in a different age, and schools have rules and regulations which may well oblige me to drop him off at school on my way to work and pick him up on my way home.
Thank goodness my eldest will take the school bus to Collège.