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Safe School Travel: a Guide for Parents and Carers

19 January 2024 | Posted in Student Protection

Safe School Travel: a Guide for Parents and Carers

Krystal Stevens

By Krystal Stevens

Student Protection Officer

Townsville Catholic Education

Safe School Travel: A Guide for Parents and Carers

As a new school year begins, many families are looking at safe school travel plans for their children. While allowing children to travel independently is a great way for them to develop confidence and new skills, it's important to ensure they are equipped to keep themselves safe. Here are some things to consider as you plan your children's school travel for the upcoming year.

Walking and Riding

Walking and riding to school can be an excellent opportunity for your children to not only release energy through some daily exercise, however it also fosters a sense of independence and ownership over their schedule.

If children are walking or riding to school for the first time, consider going with them for the first week or two to demonstrate how to obey traffic rules and show them the safest route to school. This allows you to point out potential hazards along the way to help them develop an awareness of their surroundings. This also enables you to assess their readiness and ability to navigate the journey independently in the future.

Laws and Age Considerations

In Queensland, there are laws regarding the supervision of children under 12 years of age. If a child under 12 is left unsupervised to walk or ride to school, it may be considered a violation of the law if the journey is deemed unreasonable for a child of that age. As there is no set age at which children are allowed to walk or ride to school, to assist in assessing if the travel is reasonable for your children, it is important to consider:

  1. The travel distance to and from school.
  2. The time taken to travel to and from.
  3. Any potential risks in your neighbourhood. These may include crossing major roads, travelling through areas that are not well lit or visible from passing traffic and/or lack of foot or bike paths.

Other key tips for children walking and riding to school

  • Walk with others if possible and always stay together. Don’t leave younger children to walk or ride alone.
  • Be aware of road safety, especially how to cross roads and driveways safely.
  • Have a safety plan if you find yourself in trouble. Memorise the phone numbers of the people in your safety network.
  • Remember to ensure children are safely at their destination before proceeding to yours.
  • Avoid dawdling and stopping along the way.
  • Walk or ride on designated paths as much as possible.
    • When walking and there is no footpath, it is advised to walk facing the traffic.
    • When riding and there is no footpath, ride in the direction of traffic at a safe distance.
  • Be aware of your surroundings including cars, people and landscape features. Look around at what is happening and where you are walking. Don’t wear headphones, as they may stop you from hearing danger approaching.
  • Stop, Look, Listen, Think every time you cross the road. -
    • STOP! one step back from the kerb.
    • LOOK! continuously look both ways.
    • LISTEN! for the sounds of approaching traffic.
    • THINK! whether it is safe to cross.

Catching the Bus

The school bus is an easy and safe form of transport for students. A number of schools have school buses in operation, however there are also school buses operated by external organisations.

Parents and carers are encouraged to speak with children regarding general bus safety including waiting until the bus has pulled out before crossing the road and to always STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and THINK before crossing the road.

Parents and carers are also encouraged to discuss what their children should do if the bus is delayed, if they catch the wrong bus, if they get off the bus at the wrong bus stop or if you are not waiting for them when they arrive at their stop.

Driving to school

Many students in senior years may obtain their provisional licence allowing them to drive to school. It is encouraged that parents and carers discuss the importance of driving safely in and around the school grounds with their child. Students should also make themselves aware of any student parking allocations prior to using school carparks.

Parents and carers who drive children to school should also prepare for back to school drop off and picks ups.

Roads around schools during pick up and drop off times are often congested so please pay attention obey all road rules.

When dropping off or picking up your children, keep a few things in mind:

  • Learn the drop-off and pick-up areas and procedures for your school and follow instructions from school staff on duty.
  • Do not double-park, block crosswalks, or pass stopped vehicles.
  • Avoid manoeuvres like U-turns and three-point turns in and around school grounds.
  • Adhere to the 40km/h speed limit in school zones.
  • Be prepared to share the road with school buses and always give way to them.
  • Give way to pedestrians, particularly when entering and leaving driveways.
  • Drop-off and pick-up students from the school side of the road so students are not having to cross the road.
  • Ensure students exit and enter the vehicle from the kerb side of the road to be away from passing traffic.


Stranger Danger

The start of the school year is a great time to talk with your children about their personal safety and stranger danger. Children should be reminded not to stop and speak with strangers on their way to school, never to accept a lift from someone they don’t know and to have strategies for what to do if someone is making them feel unsafe. 

Townsville Catholic Education share the “Yell and Tell” process with students, and encourage parents and carers to use this as a starting point for speaking with your children to create a safety plan. 

This process explains to children that they should not be afraid to say ‘NO’ to a stranger and if a stranger makes you feel unsafe, always ‘YELL AND TELL’:

  • Yell ‘HELP’ or ‘I DON’T KNOW YOU’ to get someone’s attention.
  • Tell someone you trust what has happened.

Other safety tips for children

  • If someone tries to stop you to talk, keep walking or advise them while still walking that you are expected at school where your friends and teachers are waiting for you.
  • If someone offers you a lift or calls you over to their car - say no thank you and continue walking. Never get into the car with a stranger.
  • If you think you are being followed, remain calm. If possible, safely change to the other side of the street. Make your way to the nearest safe place, be it school, a police station or shops - anywhere people are.
  • If trying to get away from someone in a car, always move in the opposite direction to the car. This will make it harder for them to follow you.
  • Never tell a stranger your name or where you live, unless they are the police.
  • Always tell a trusted adult if a person or situation made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.


By working together, we can all play our part in keeping children safe.



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