We fuss over our children’s safety but are missing the real danger
- Credit: PA
Here we go again. Roads blocked, traffic chaos, cars double parked and small children in shiny new shoes wandering into the road.
Yes the school run's back.
It's annoying for anyone trying to get to work, doubly annoying for anyone who has to get a child to school and themselves to work and absolutely infuriating for anyone living near a school who might find themselves blocked in by a parent's car. Every school morning.
Do any children walk to school any more, or does that count as cruel and unnatural punishment? Why do they all have these super waterproof ski jackets when they're never actually out in the rain or cold?
What seems really weird is the illogicality of it. In a bid to deter mad gunmen, schools have, understandably, become fortresses. School trips, where they still exist, are a nightmare of health and safety and hi viz vests. Schools police lunch boxes to ensure children are eating healthily and anything remotely risky is banned, whether it's British Bulldog or frilly socks (you could trip over them, apparently…)
Yet the more obvious and immediate danger on a daily basis - chaotic cars and hundreds of children in one small space at the beginning and end of the school day - is apparently quite acceptable. Doesn't that seem strange to you?
The chance of your child being attacked by a stranger in school is thankfully very low indeed. But the chance of them getting out of the car and running into a car driven by another mum in a hurry is a very much higher. We're concentrating on the wrong thing.
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It's also sad, though probably inevitable, that we're depriving children of the freedom to walk to school alone. It was one of life's earliest independent adventures where you learned to cope with everything from bullies to heavy rain.
Parents don't let children walk to school because of the danger of traffic. Yet much of the traffic is parents driving their children to school…. And as schools get ever bigger, that danger zone round the school gates gets bigger too.
A survey by the AA recently found that around half of all child seats aren't properly fitted, so even inside the car's not desperately safe either.
Never mind the threat to their healthy from too little exercise. And that's before they jump out into the traffic.
Around 1,000 children a week are hurt in accidents near the school gates.
Schools and councils are doing their best to protect children, making more effort than some parents. Bollards looking like children – seriously weird, like an alien invasion - have been installed near a number of schools in the country. They might slow drivers down but are equally likely to freak them out.
Other councils have turned roads near schools into restricted zones with automatic number recognition cameras. You need a permit to drive past or get fined £130. It seems a little extreme but that's what it's come to.
There's no simple solution to the problem but as the school run starts a new round of chaos it's time for us to think hard about a better way of doing things. And to get our priorities sorted about the real dangers our children face.