Any parent will know that there’s nothing quite like a school transition or transition between school years for making them think about their child’s growth and development. Whether they’re going from infants to juniors, primary to secondary or just up a year, for the parent and child, the transition can be both exciting and unsettling.
Now the school holidays have come to an end for most of the UK and parents emerge from the endless tasks involving uniforms, shoes, PE kits and lunchboxes, we’d like to make a plea to remember safety, and particularly road and pedestrian safety, when it comes to easing children into a new routine.
Walking to school?
From experience, we know that even parents who are normally mindful of teaching their young child road safety, can lapse when it comes to the school run. It’s a stressful rush in the morning, but worth reminding parents that children learn by example.
All children under 9 need help from an adult when crossing the road. Teaching them the basics can be fun, and will give them a good start in road safety. Their school may run schemes to help teach them road safety but you still have a key role to play.
In fact 7-11 year olds are at real risk from road accidents. They are easily distracted and may run out quickly. They may also struggle to judge speed and distances very well. But, they are at a stage where you can encourage them to be “road ready” and safe on the road. The earlier they learn, the safer they will be.
This film is to teach children between ages 7 to 12 about road safety. Find out more about road safety education resources for different age groups: think.gov.uk/education/
Biking to school?
We recommend that children wear a cycle helmet at all times when they’re cycling, even if they’re not on a road with traffic. A serious head injury can be sustained after a fall off a bike, and children are particularly vulnerable.
Older primary school children will often be offered free bike training but provision is variable. Cycle training schemes for both children and adults are offered throughout the UK, are very often subsidised by local authorities.
More information on bike safety:
Driving to school?
Help parents to be mindful of the usual checks – if you’re reversing out of your driveway, make sure you know where your kids are – backover accidents do happen and they are especially tragic as it is often a parent at the wheel.
It’s probably only a short journey, but remind parents to make sure that children are strapped in. Most accidents actually happen on short journeys close to home. And check the seat belt, especially with younger children who can technically do theirs up, but actually still need a bit of help.
More advice on in-car safety
Finally, remind yourself and other parents to take extra care driving near schools. And to be considerate and stay within the law when setting down, picking up, or parking. The Highway Code states:
“Yellow zig-zag markings outside schools indicate the length of road where you should not stop, not even to pick up or set down children or other passengers. These markings are provided outside schools to ensure that children can see and be seen clearly when crossing the road.”
As with leaving children unsupervised at home, there is no ‘one size fits all’ to the question of when children are old enough to walk or bike to and from school on their own. When they’re ready depends on many factors such as environment, distance to school, confidence etc. However, we do know that children up to the age of nine find it hard to judge the speed and distance of moving traffic in the same way as adults.
CAPT recommends that parents help prepare their child by rehearsing the route and what they would do if faced with the unexpected. Walking the route there and back with the child, and discussing with them what they would do in different road or personal safety scenarios, will help build their confidence and skills and keep them safe.
And if you work with older children or young people, encourage them to use headphones and devices responsibly. If they’re distracted by the music, or texting, browsing or talking on their mobile, while they’re crossing a road, they are putting themselves at risk.
More information on safety whilst out and about