What Age Should Children be Allowed to Walk to School Alone? An update

Guest Blogger is Kirsty McHugh, mum to a P7 girl in East Renfrewshire, Glasgow.

I first blogged about this subject in March 2012 when my daughter was in Primary 5 and it received a fantastic response.  I even appeared on a national radio station to talk about my concerns.  The original blog is: https://kipmcgrathtutorsscotland.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/what-age-should-children-be-allowed-to-walk-to-and-from-school/ I have copied the content below also.

My daughter is now in Primary 7 and I wanted to give an update on where we are now.  I always said that in Primary seven I would give my daughter more freedom and she is now walking home from school 3 days per week, sometimes on her own but mostly with a friend who lives nearby.  She is very proud and loves it.  I must admit, I am still at the window watching for the moment she turns the corner into our road but she doesn’t know that.  We did a few walks together and crossed the road at the ‘right places’ to practice beforehand.  I did have to pick her up unexpectedly one day and imagine my surprise when I saw her walking with a big group of her pals right past the zebra crossing and she decided to cross at the busiest corner.  Arrgh!!

On Friday she was walking home with her pal and they were supposed to be coming here for a play date.  Twenty minutes after they were due they had not arrived and I went across the street to see if they had gone to the other girl’s house.  The panic in the other mum’s eyes told me they were not there and we frantically got in the car to find them.  We found them near the school laughing and giggling and oblivious to our panic.  They had apparently found a school bag in the street and gone back to school to hand it in doing a good deed.  They did not understand why we were so upset.

So now for the next dilemma!  My daughter said “If you would let me take a phone to school you could have phoned me”.  I totally agree she should have a cheap phone for emergencies.  Her dad however has always said she can’t get a phone until she goes to High School.  Hmmm.  Think he has to relent on that one!

It’s time to let her grow up and have some independence I think but one baby step at a time!

Original Blog From March 201o

I am mum to a nine year old daughter in P5 in East Renfrewshire and she is an only child. We live in a good area and about a mile away from her school  with two roads to cross (one on a quiet street) and one on a main road with a zebra crossing (although no lights or lollypop person).

My daughter has noticed that her friends are walking to and from school (although in groups) and she is at an age where she also wants more independence and to do the same.  She has no friends who live nearby so wants to walk home herself and is forever berating me that I am treating her like a 5 year old!

I am all for encouraging my daughter to become more independent but I just can’t seem to let her do this.  I tried this week to drive her across the road so that she had no roads to cross but then she had a 10 minute walk home and I couldn’t help myself but park up ahead and watch her in the mirror.  She says this is cheating and that I should just go home and let her make her own way home.

I know some in her class (especially the boys) walk home alone but I just can’t let her do this.  I don’t know whether this is because as a mum I am not ready to let go or whether I feel she is not quite ready.

As a child, I remember walking a mile to and from school myself everyday from Primary 3 but I had no roads to cross.  Apart from being beaten up in P5 by a girl who went to a different denominational school, I can’t remember any bad incidents.  When I was 13, a man tried to get me into his car on the way home from school and I ran all the way home.  At the same age, my younger brother’s best friend (7) was knocked down and killed getting of the school bus to enter our Estate.  Am I being too over protective?

My daughter was only one when the Soham Murderer kidnapped and killed Jessica and Holly but I was deeply affected by this and even although I know the odds of this happening are rare, all I want to do is protect my daughter and ensure that she is safe.  I have school friend mums who share my concerns but others who feel that our kids will be suffocated if we don’t give them some independence.

I have decided to stick to my guns for the time being and we will walk home together.  I will even let her walk ahead of me if she wishes but until Primary 7, I will not let her walk home along.

Am I wrong?  I can bear being the bad mummy who treats her like a 5 year old but should she be allowed more freedom at age 9?  I know I could have done it at age 9 but she seems so immature compared to me at that age.

I would welcome feedback from other parents.  What should I do?


Preparing for Secondary School in Scotland – Top Tips

Moving up from Primary 7 to S1

March is generally the time for schools in Scotland to hold parents’ evenings and, especially for parents of children in primary 7, this is the ideal time to discuss with your child’s teacher exactly how your child is performing academically in class and how to help children make the transition from P7 to First year as smoothly as possible.

Developing? Consolidating? Secure?

Since Curriculum for Excellence was introduced in Scotland, parents will be familiar with the above terminology on report cards but do you understand exactly what these words mean and how your child is coping with school work in class?  Make sure you take this time to ask about results of assessments undertaken and how these compare with others in the school and region.  Are they in the top group for subjects?  If not, ask what can be done to help.

Kip McGrath Maths and English TuitionAcademically some children can be surprised when they move to First year and mix with students from other schools to find that they aren’t quite at the same level in English and Maths and this can lead to a lack of confidence and cause additional stress.  At our 27 Kip McGrath centres in Scotland, we tutor thousands of children and find that this is the time when most parents realise their children have fallen behind and call for help.

Having spoken to your child’s teacher, if you have any concerns please book an assessment with one of our qualified teachers at your local Kip McGrath centre.  This is FREE and we will be able to identify any areas of weakness or gaps in learning that may have developed and prepare an individual lesson plan focussed on your child’s needs.  Kip McGrath Tuition Centres only employ qualified teachers who have experience of teaching in Scottish schools giving parents peace of mind.  Our Primary and Secondary tutors teach children from age 5-18 up to Higher Grade English and Maths.

Free Kip McGrath Assessment

Tips for Parents to Help Children Cope with Move to Secondary School

Moving to a new school can be daunting for children emotionally and they will worry about fitting in, following timetables and will have much more reponsibility than ever before.  It is never too early for parents to start helping children prepare for this huge transition and we have listed below some suggestions.

Be organised – children should get into the habit early preparing for the next school day.  Ask them to look over their timetable and ensure that they are organised.  Do they need gym kit, musical instruments or anything for special projects?

Homework – What are their homework projects for the week?  Ask them to create a time plan to complete homework as early as possible and not have to rush at the last minute. Make sure they have a quiet place to work which is free of distractions.

Responsibility – Allowing your child now to take more responsibility will reap rewards in the future.  Teach them how to be more independent and to prepare for school by themselves.

Talk about Fears – In a big new school children have to follow a timetable and find classes and may worry about being late or get lost. Teachers may be a bit stricter.  Talk to your child about any fears they may have and discuss who can they go to in school if they are worried.

Making Friends – Your child may be in a class with none of their friends from primary school and may find it hard when their existing friends form new relationships.  Try to teach your child to smile, learn others’ names, show an interest, ask questions, be inclusive to all students and encourage them to form new class friendships.

Find your local Kip McGrath Tuition Centre in Scotland

Kip McGrath Tuition

Tuition in Dunfermline – How to Help Children Learn Times Tables

This is an excellent article written by our Dunfermline Centre. Click on Read more above to view the whole article.

Dunfermline Tuition at Kip McGrath Education

Why is Learning Times Tables Important?

When a child is learning maths concepts at school, it is very important that a child knows their multiplication times tables as this will help them quickly master maths in the future such as division and algebra.  A child who can recite their times table will find it much easier to complete questions in class and cope with higher levels of maths.

It used to be the practice in schools to learn times tables by rote but this seems to have gone out of fashion.  Parents can help their children at home by encouraging them to practice memorising multiplication tables and try to make this a fun activity with rewards.  This will pay dividends in the future as your child is more likely to be confident and able to grasp new ideas.

As a teacher and dad of three young children, I understand how…

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How to Study for and Pass Secondary School Exams – Top Five tips for Students and Parents

Exams in 5 Weeks – is it too late?

The countdown has begun to the 2012 Scottish Secondary Exams which commence on Wednesday 25th April.  This is a time when students and parents alike start to worry and panic can set in if the child does not feel they are fully prepared.  If this is the case, then now is the time to take action.  The student probably knows more about the curriculum than they think but perhaps the actual exam process itself is causing worry.  Students may be re-reading subject notes but their study technique is not effective.  Do they feel they have too many subjects and not enough time to prepare?  Are they stressed, anxious or distracted?

Although teenagers often do not want interference from their parents, if there are concerns perhaps it is time to sit down and ask if you can help but only in a way that does not cause additional pressure.  Offer practical advice and support.  Perhaps you can offer to mark past papers under exam situations?  If you have a busy, loud household try to ensure that study time is quiet and without distraction.  Encourage your child and praise their efforts – a teenager will not learn any more if they are under pressure from parents and sulking.  Encourage them to do the best they possibly can and as long as they put in the effort, you will be proud of them.

5 Weeks to Go to Exams- The countdown has begun!

Time is tight and students should have already been preparing but here are our top tips to help students get on track and be as prepared as they can be:

1.    Find out the dates for each exam and note them in either a computerised or written diary

2.    Create a timetable for studying.  Work around extra curricular activities and choose a maximum of two hourly slots to dedicate to studying a particular subject when distractions are at a minimum

  • Do not study for more than 2-3 hours at a time and ensure you take regular snack breaks
  • Follow the timetable religiously and make sure your family also knows your timetable and you are not to be disturbed
  • Turn off mobile phones and other distractions like loud music

3.    Be organised – prepare proper notes.  In class, students will probably by now be revisiting the Curriculum. It is important to take proper notes in class:

  • Highlight any points when the teacher says “this is important”!
  • Highlight any areas you feel you have a weakness or don’t fully understand – When home make sure you read about this and fill in the blanks
  • If your notes are messy and incomplete, when you get home, rewrite them as bullet points in your own words (don’t just copy) and do some further research online or from books to gain as much information as possible.

4.     Past Papers

  • Obtain past exam papers for the last 5 years and sit one now but ensure you are uninterrupted and that timescale is adhered to.  Do not refer to notes and cheat.  Have someone mark your score realistically using the score guidelines
  • If there are questions that you do not perform well in, make sure you concentrate on these areas for next study practice and learn it.
  • Try another test paper and repeat the same
  • Practice makes perfect – Study the results and try to notice a pattern of what examiners are looking for.
  • Getting used to what examiners are looking for in each subject will help you

5.   The Week of Exams

  • Exams may take place over the course of a few weeks – Once you have sat an exam do not dwell upon it and move on to the next.  If you think you have failed or done badly, there is nothing you can now do but prepare for the next.  Most students think they have done badly but can sometimes be very pleasantly surprised
  • Ensure you eat well and get plenty of sleep – there’s no point in worrying now – you can only do your best
  • Do not listen to stories from fellow students.  It does not matter how they perform – only how you do.  They do not know how prepared you are and deep down they will be as uptight as you, even if they choose not to show it.

After the Exams

After the exams, take some time out for yourself and enjoy the summer.  Results will come and for now there is nothing you can do so relax.  When the big day comes, if you have received the results you wanted then a huge congratulations is deserved.  If your results are disappointing then it is not the end of the world.  You have time and options to get there.  Next year you should be more prepared.  My colleague has written a very good blog on this subject on how to deal with disappointing exam results. and we will follow up on this soon with our own tips.

10 Tips to Help your Child Become an Independent Learner

10 Tips to help your child become an Independent Learner written by Angela Giglio of Kip McGrath Musselburgh in East Lothian, Scotland. This is a fantastic article for parents on how to encourage their children to become independent learners. Excellent advice for parents.

Kip McGrath Musselburgh blog


I’m up early this morning planning for my sessions down at Kip McGrath Education Centres in Musselburgh. Thursday is a busy day for us and I’m very much looking forward to tutoring English, French and Maths to all our wonderful Primary and Secondary students. Can’t wait to see 8-year-old Becky beat her times tables record again. She’s become so confident with the table she’s been practising that she’s even beating the Secondary kids! Way to go Becky!

 Independence in Scotland

The news in the background that Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting Edinburgh today to discuss the issue of Scottish Independence, has reminded me that I need to get back to one of my parents with a few tips on how to help her little boy become  more independent with his homework. As a former Head of Department, transforming children into independent learners was always high on the…

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Building the Maths Brick Wall – How gaps can form when learning maths

This is an excellent video and article written by my colleague Suzanne Lanzon of Kip McGrath Cambridge South that explains how gaps in your child’s knowledge of maths can hold them back as they progress through school.  Every Kip McGrath teacher understands that these gaps need to be filled so that they have solid foundations in maths and allow them to reach their academic goals.  This is a very well explained article and we would like to thank Suzanne for allowing us to share with you.

I’m sure that most parents understand that the foundations in learning are vitally important to how well their children do at school. In most subjects, learners can begin at almost any level, then learn something else at a different level and there is no real impact on overall understanding. Science for example: I could learn about electricity, forget exactly how it works 3 months later but have no difficulty in then learning about waterproof materials. I did not need to understand the first concept to understand the second. In contrast maths is a subject that builds upon itself, this is what we mean by saying learning maths is like building a brick wall. When building a brick wall, we place brick upon brick and we are certain not to leave any bricks out. In maths, we need to place concept upon concept and we must also make sure we do not leave any concepts out.

We enter Year 1. We are bright eyed and bushy tailed and we love school. Everything at school is ‘playing’. Our teacher is great and we learn so quickly that we constantly surprise our parents with how much we know…but…let me ask you these questions:

  • Did you ever miss a day or more of school?
  • Did you daydream occasionally?
  • Were you ever distracted by your classmates? Were there one or two who seemed to demand more time and attention from the teacher?
  • Are you certain your teacher covered every concept and until you personally understood it fully?

Generally we can assume that we have not understood every single concept that should have been covered in our first year of learning. We would have missed one or two bricks out of the 100 that we needed to lay down that year. This is not the point where we really think twice about there being anything missing. Laying down 99 bricks has been a great effort. Our results show that we are achieving and we are keen for Year 2!

So along comes Year 2. We still enjoy learning although we’re beginning to see the difference between playing activities and learning activities. Playing is just a little bit more fun than learning. We have the next lot of 100 maths ‘bricks’ to place on top of what we learnt last year and mostly, we do that well. There is a slight glitch when we have to place learning ‘bricks’ on top of the one we missed last year. The concept is ever so slightly more difficult we just don’t seem to really ‘get it’. Our teacher has 24 other children in the class. She does well to make sure everyone is on task and everyone is learning but she doesn’t have enough time to cover what we were supposed to understand last year as well as teach this new concept. We’ve understood most of this year’s maths but we now have a wider gap forming on that weaker point of ours. Once again, we get a report card that shows that we are on track. There might be a mention that we need to develop in some areas.

You can see what is happening here. We enter Year 3 and of course, the work gets harder and it gets faster. There are always plenty of other children in our class and only one teacher. Once again, we have a wonderful teacher but she cannot teach me the concepts I missed in Year 1 and 2, Samuel the concepts he missed in Year 1 and 2, Kara, the concepts she missed – as well as make sure we are all learning this year’s work. Through no fault of our own we have a gap in our maths brick wall. By about now, it is starting to show. Every time we attempt to build more difficult concepts on top of the weaker part of our wall, they fall down. It’s frustrating and we begin to think that maybe we’re just not very good at maths. In Years 4 and 5 our gap widens and we lose that wonderful confidence and love of learning we once had. Most of the time we’re doing okay but whenever we try to build on that widening gap we are reminded of how we are failing, how we just can’t seem to keep up.

This is the point when most parents notice that something isn’t quite right. It can be quite painful to realise that our ‘little learner’ has lost some of that shine they used to have; that they are having some difficulties in learning maths. Parents will usually try to help by assisting with homework, buying maths books or asking for more work from the teacher. I am always heartened when I meet great parents such as these! The problem is however, that parents can have no way of knowing exactly where those missing bricks are…or how far back they were missed. This is where we can help. At Kip McGrath Education Cambridge South our tutors specialise in finding exactly where those pesky, missing bricks are and in helping children to understand them once and for all. The learner can then build on that area until they are at the level they need to take on the new work in the classroom. Once students have a solid brick wall up to the level of their class, they are confident enough to put the new information on top and continue the process of building their maths brick wall once again.