14 September 2011

School's out

Just why do kids not seem able to walk to and from school on their own any more?

Took two dogs and a cat to the vet yesterday for their latest booster injections and check-ups, and it was a 3.10pm appointment. Now, the closest vet's surgery is on a side street in the small town where I grew up (but no longer live) and about three doors away from the pedestrian entrance to the primary school I attended between 1978 and 1984.

The road is residential, narrow and no-through, so it's accessible only from one direction. Cars that belong to residents already line the street as one side is terraced housing with no garages or driveways. The vet's place has a car park which is a bit of a tight squeeze but straightforward enough.

So, out I drive from the vets at about 3.25pm with two grumpy Basset hounds in the boot and a seething cat in a box, and the sight that greeted me was horrendous. It was like trying to exit the main car park at a football stadium five minutes after the final whistle. Cars lined both sides of the street; those shuffling up the road were entirely invisible to drivers like me trying to edge out and go in the other direction. People were doing seven-point turns to make progress or just get out of someone's way. I dread to think what the residents make of it.

And all because the kids needed picking up.

Now, as I understand it, primary schools are exempt from the "choice" element that is attached to secondary education and therefore every child, of all abilities, has an automatic right to a place at their local primary school until they are 11. This means that almost all of these kids rushing out to meet their parents yesterday would have lived within walking distance of the school.

I don't wish to be all "fourth Yorkshireman" about it, but when I attended that very school I went with my mum until my seventh birthday and then walked there and back alone while she went back to working part-time. I had the same pelican crossing to use across the busy main road and the same streets and lanes to gallop down with my mates. I have a good memory of school, and I genuinely can't think of any pupil around my era who got a lift in with mum or dad in a morning or a ride home afterwards, even those who had parents working at the school. There were some kids who were a stupid distance away towards Hull, right on the East Riding boundary, but they used to get a service bus each way.

If the kids all live within walking distance of the school then that obviously means the parents do too. So why not still pick them up but do so on foot? The exercise would be nice, it gives the kids longer to tell their mum and/or dad what they got up to that day and it doesn't completely snarl up an innocent residential street and annoy veterinary customers. Like me. I don't think the crime rate (especially in sleepy East Yorkshire villages and towns) is any worse now than it was in 1980 and so I can only assume that the parents who choose to take their kids to and from this school in their cars are a combination of lazy, paranoid and disorganised.


Callum said...

In England everyone has a right to a primary school place in their local authority area. Schools are allowed to adjust their catchment areas according to demand, I think. Nevertheless, it's to be expected that in a village in the East Riding, most pupils at a school will live within walking distance...

Lee Slator said...

Mrs. S previous house (which I lived in with her before we moved) was just off the centre of Goole, right opposite a Primary School. It was an absolute nightmare when kicking out time came around. If I had to go out in the car for any reason, I used to try and avoid 3pm to 4pm for either outward or return journeys as it was just plain ridiculous.

Like you say in the blog, in theory all these kids/parents should have been in walking distance from the school, especially as this school only served part of Goole (there were 4 others which served the other areas). It was just one of the frustrating issues with parking in front of the house during the three and a bit years I lived there. Thank heavens for moving to a quieter town, away from a school and in a cul-de-sac.

Sorry for the rant!

Ishouldbeworking said...

It's not just state schools. There's a posh private school close to us, which has its entrance on a main road which is also the main access route to our local hospital. Twice a day, a wretched PE teacher in a high-viz tabard literally stops the traffic, to direct the Chelsea Tractors or the nannies in Mum's spare Golf in and out of the school gates.

The facts that it's a) illegal for the school to stop the flow of traffic like this and b) a huge inconvenience to any poor sod who might be in a bit of a rush to get to their hospital appointment, is neither here nor there.

And don't get me started on the 6th formers who turn up in BMWs. I'm not joking.

Matthew Rudd said...

When I was a sixth former, ISBW, I went to school on a bike. The only ones who had cars were a) a middle class girl whose dad bought her a 2CV for 40 quid, and b) a lad whose dad had made a few quid playing professional rugby and so got a Ford Fiesta Turbo.

Kid today, etc etc. I really am the fourth Yorkshireman after all...

Jo said...

They're probably being lazy but there could be one other option that I too am guilty of ... dropping off and picking up kids on the way to/from work. However, it is a bit rough to ask a 5yr old to walk a mile to school with his brother when I'm going that way to work :0S

office pest said...

Because, you can't walk through the Drive Thru afterwards, unless you've got the car, it's off the menu, innit.

The key question, I think, is not why kids can't walk to and from school on their own - or in company with their parents - it is, ta-da,

'why can't adults be arsed to walk a f-ing yard these days?'.

Where we lead, others might follow, and all that.