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St Peter’s Pupils Learn to Ride

Posted: 14th December | by Robert Meaden

The youngsters are given first hand experience of riding on the road

From having just two Year 6s with usable bikes and helmets, St Peter’s Primary School in Ashton now has a class full of 10 and 11 year olds kitted out and qualified to cycle safely after a week long Bikeability course.

British Cycling's qualified instructors were invited to the school for a week to put 21 pupils through the Bikeability programme. The pupils ended the week with either a Level 1 or Level 2 certificate in Bikeability – and considering one or two children had never been on a bike before, that was quite an achievement.

Organising the Bikeability training sessions was not without its problems, though, as the Greater Manchester school had several obstacles to overcome – the main one being that only two pupils had both a bike in full working condition and a helmet to go with it.

Four more of the Year 6s had bikes that were in a repairable condition, but for the others, Kevin Connaghan - a teacher at St Peter's Primary School - turned to a partnership between the local Police and a local charity St Peter’s Youth (SPY).

It was through this agreement that the school was able to utilise a stock of unclaimed bikes, which the Police were willing to hand to SPY.

All the unclaimed bikes needed some repairs; from simple punctures to new brake cables and chains. These were completed by Mike McDonald (a local youth worker for SPY), Rob Kelly (the local PCSO) and Kevin. A further three bikes had to be sourced from another cycling project, which was 'The St Johns Mountain Bike Foundation', who are a voluntary organisation involved in engaging children through outdoor activitiies.

It was a process that took some time to instigate, but the end result was well worth the effort according to Connaghan.

“We had one girl who had never sat on a bike,” he told British Cycling. “We had three other kids who were very uneasy to say the least and then we had two of our pupils who have Autism, but by the end of the week they were all competent and passed the Level 1.

“So on Tuesday morning we had a girl that had never been on a bike, and by Friday she had passed her Level 1.

“The kids were buzzing. We had the whole class doing it and we have got a girl in a wheelchair who was also able to take part in some of the activities. So we had the whole Year 6 class engaged for four mornings.”

Bikeability is ‘cycling proficiency' for the 21st century, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes safely on today's roads in a practical, informative and fun way.

For the pupils, the experience of bike riding will not end there though, as the school's partnership with the local Police and SPY will see many of the youngsters earn a bike of their own.

Connaghan explains how: “The repairs and the provision of the bikes was provided by a local charity we have round here, who are like a Youth Service Provider and they are called SPY (St Peter’s Youth).

“They set up a cycling initiative in partnership with the Police force.  They have got lots of unclaimed bikes, so after they have been in storage for so long, they were assigned to the SPY team and obviously we tapped into that and were able to utilise the bikes.

“They also provided some of the helmets as did British Cycling.

“The bikes are part of the scheme now, whereby the kids sign up to it and if they go once a week for six weeks – they learn how to ride and maintain their bikes and pass a brief assessment to check they’re safe then they get a bike at the end of the scheme.”

It’s an incredible development for the school and is one that Sarah Cleall-Harding, British Cycling’s Senior Coaching and Education Officer commends.

“The effort and determination that St Peter’s School have shown to get their pupils riding is incredible.

“The transformation of some of the pupils in such a short space of time makes all that effort worthwhile and we were more than happy to play our part.”