Cycle Training in Primary Schools Research

Exective Summary

About this Research

Transport Scotland and its partners want to ensure that all school children in primary six or seven are offered cycle training on public roads. However, evidence suggests that only around one fifth of primary schools offer on-road cycle training. There is limited evidence about why schools are not delivering on-road cycle training.

This research involved developing eleven detailed case studies setting out the experience of planning, delivering and sustaining cycle training in primary schools across Scotland. It focused on exploring the barriers to delivering on-road cycle training in these schools, with a particular focus on how schools have overcome obstacles to introducing sustainable on-road cycle training programmes.

The research involved telephone interviews with those involved in planning and delivering cycle training programmes at eleven primary schools in Scotland. The schools were selected to include schools offering different types of cycle training, and a mix of characteristics such as geographical location and level of deprivation.

Cycle Training Programmes

At the time of this research, cycle training for primary six and seven pupils was delivered through the Scottish Cycle Training Scheme, which involves both classroom based and practical training. The practical training is normally delivered through parents, school staff and others who volunteer as trainers, with support and training from Road Safety Officers or Active Schools Co-ordinators[1].

Six of the schools offered this practical training in an on-road environment, two offered off-road training (in the playground), and three did not offer any cycle training at all. Two of the three case study schools without a cycle training programme were keen to have one, but the other felt that it would be a challenge to find time in the curriculum.

All of the schools offering cycle training did so with primary six and/ or primary seven children (in line with current RoSPA guidelines[2]). Generally, teachers, parents, Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators felt this was an appropriate stage to deliver on-road cycle training.

Planning and Delivering On-Road Cycle Training

Overall, decisions about the type and level of cycle training offered at the case study schools were made by teachers – generally head teachers and deputy head teachers – working with their Road Safety Officer or Active Schools Co-ordinator. Support and guidance from these road safety professionals was critical in establishing and maintaining on-road cycle programmes.

Almost all schools offering on-road cycle training were very content with their programmes. School staff felt that once programmes were set up, they were relatively easy to sustain. Successful on-road training programmes tended to have strong leadership from the head teacher, dedicated staff volunteers, and an active pool of parent volunteers.

Attitudes to On-Road Training

There was common agreement across teachers, support staff and parents that on-road training was superior to playground based training – offering a more realistic experience, faster learning and greater awareness of safety concerns. All of the case study schools, whether offering on-road training or not, could see the potential benefits of on-road training. Schools which had recently made the change to offering on-road cycle training all felt that on-road training was ‘far superior’ to the playground based approach. Parents were generally positive about on-road cycle training, feeling that children enjoyed the training and learned more effectively in an on-road environment.

Barriers to On-Road Training

The biggest concern for schools relating to on-road training was being able to ensure pupil safety. Identifying enough volunteers to deliver on-road training was the most significant and common barrier identified by teachers, support staff and parents. Volunteering to assist with on-road training is seen as more of a responsibility than assisting with playground based training, due to concerns over pupil safety. Teachers, support staff and parents all agree that generally more volunteers are required to deliver on-road than off-road training, and volunteers require more intensive training.

Resistance to change (amongst teachers and support staff) was a barrier in three schools, with some participants feeling that there was no reason to change what they saw as effective off-road cycle training programmes. There were also some barriers to introducing any type of cycle training. Two of the three schools not offering training indicated that some of their pupils would not own or be able to borrow a bike to take part in the training. Both were in areas of relatively high deprivation. Another school which did offer cycle training also felt that it was a challenge identifying suitable bicycles.

Schools with sustainable on-road cycle training programmes had often faced these challenges, but introduced strategies to address them. However, attracting adequate numbers of volunteers often remained the most significant ongoing challenge for sustaining on-road cycle programmes. Where schools were able to dedicate staff time to volunteering, this appeared to provide more sustainability – with a skilled team able to develop expertise and support parent volunteers as required. Ongoing support, training and guidance from Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators was also essential.