When Nick Windrum asked a teacher how old his child should be before he allowed him to play out unsupervised, he expected some friendly advice on childcare.

Instead he found himself having to defend his credentials as a single parent after being reported to social services.

Mr Windrum, the sole carer for his son Ben, eight, had gone to pick him up from his after-school club at Greenway School in Horsham when he spoke to the teacher.

He said: "I had discussed with some of the other parents what age they felt was suitable for a child to be allowed to play outside with friends in a public park or in the local countryside un-supervised by an adult.

"This is a perennial topic of conversation in the public eye as parents and others discuss how children today are infinitely more controlled and confined than previous generations by parents frightened to let them out because of perceived dangers such as paedo-philes.

"In the course of the conversation I said I had just arrived at the point where I felt I could allow my son, at the age of eight, to go to the local park to play with his friends without parental supervision during the day.

"She said she thought I was wrong and that eight was too young."

Full-time parent Mr Windrum said the teacher advised him she believed even ten was too young and the conversation ended. A few days later Mr Windrum received a letter asking him to attend a meeting with headteacher Keith Todd, school governor Reverend Graham Low and a representative from social services to discuss Ben's welfare and other issues.

Mr Windrum was stunned.

He said: "I have spoken to social services and they advised me there was no minimum age for a child to be allowed to play out unsupervised, and that alone was not enough for them to be concerned enough to intervene."

Mr Windrum attended the meeting at Greenway School but social services declined to send a representative.

Mr Windrum said: "I met with the headteacher and Rev Low.

"The headteacher made various allegations implying some indefinable parental inadequacy, which defied proper comprehension.

"He seemed to think my letting my son out to play with other children without parental supervision was unacceptable and a cause for a referral to social services.

"The headmaster spent the better part of the hour-and-a-quarter meeting constructing a fabrication of concern for my son based entirely on misconceived fantasy."

Mr Windrum is considering removing Ben from the school.

He said: "I would have removed him immediately but for the desperate shortage of alternatives in this area."

A school statement said: "All matters relating to children at Greenway School are confidential and hence the headteacher is unable to comment."

West Sussex County Council Social Services and Education Services said it had nothing to add.