Cycle Training in Primary Schools Research

3. Attitudes to On-Road Cycle Training


3.1 This chapter focuses on attitudes to on-road cycle training. It explores the attitudes towards on-road training from the perspective of teachers, support staff, Road Safety Officers, Active Schools Co-ordinators and parents involved in active on-road cycle training programmes, as well as those at schools with off-road or no cycle training programme in place.

Schools Offering On-Road Training

3.2 All of the case study schools, whether offering on-road training or not, could see the potential benefits of on-road training. Participants at schools offering on-road training felt that it offered:

  • Faster learning – Parents, teachers, support staff and Road Safety Officers pointed to improved technique and confidence, better awareness of danger, improved judging of speeds, and understanding the danger of both parked and moving cars. Parents indicated that their children had come on ‘leaps and bounds’ since taking part in on-road training.
  • A more realistic experience – Learning on-road was seen as better preparing the pupils for cycling on-road outside of school hours, or cycling to school – which many did or were encouraged to do after cycle training.
  • A greater awareness of safety issues – Children were more aware of the traffic and their own surroundings while on the road.
  • Encouraging on-road cycling – Some schools felt that on-road training encouraged more children to cycle on the roads, reinforcing messages of fitness and health.

‘It prepares them to cope with the added pressures of road cycling. The use of bikes is important for the environment and general fitness, which are both important points to reinforce to the kids.’
(Head teacher)

‘The kids got to experience a real life situation. They seemed to appreciate the scenario more than being on the playground.’
(Volunteer trainer)

‘We have a track painted on the playground, but it just isn’t the same as getting them out on the road.’
(Deputy head teacher)

‘Realism is the key benefit of training on-road.’
(Classroom assistant)

3.3 Schools which had recently made the change to offering on-road cycle training were able to reflect on the difference in the quality of the training compared to off-road. All agreed that on-road training was ‘far superior’ to the playground based approach. One volunteer trainer suggested that, with the benefit of hindsight, having delivered only off-road training in the past was ‘virtually worthless’ and that there was ‘no comparison’ between on and off-road training.

3.4 Parents were generally positive about on-road cycle training, feeling that children enjoyed the training and learned appropriate skills more quickly in an on-road environment. One parent was pleased that the school was able to teach children the essentials of cycling on-road, as children require some on-road awareness to participate in the school’s outings to local attractions using the cycle network.

‘(On-road) puts kids in a realistic situation. It reminds them that they can’t just go zig-zagging around on the road, as they can on the playground. They just can’t get the sense of importance on the playground that they would on the road. There are other road users and it helps build their confidence in being around them.’

3.5 There were some concerns about on-road training. The key concern was from teachers and support staff at the schools, who had worries about how to ensure pupil safety. Related concerns included identifying a suitable location – which needs to be safe but realistic – and identifying enough volunteer trainers to supervise the children. However, even schools which were initially hesitant about on-road training could see the benefits.

‘The kids took the training more seriously when they were on the road, so it is important for them to experience being on-road in a controlled environment.’

Schools Offering Off-Road or No Training

3.6 All schools said that road safety was a priority for them, even those not currently offering any cycle training. All of the case study schools offering off-road or no cycle training agreed that on-road training would provide pupils with a much more realistic experience, which better prepares children for cycling on-road.

3.7 Some schools were experiencing particular barriers to introducing on-road training – such as lack of volunteers. These are explored in Chapter Five. Other schools had been so used to delivering their cycle training programme in the playground, they had never considered changing the training to include on-road practical sessions.

3.8 Two of the three schools which did not offer any cycle training were keen to do so and were able to see the benefits of this being on-road.

‘Some of the children are already cycling on the local roads, so giving them a real training experience on the road would be very important.’
(Head teacher)

‘As we try to improve health and increase awareness, kids should know how to be safe, and that includes the helmets, the high-visibility jackets. I see kids leaving the playground with no lights on, no hat and they scoot in and out between cars...I have real concerns.’
(Head teacher)

Attitudes to on-road training

At one school, which did not offer any cycle training, the head teacher could see the benefits of on-road training and was keen to introduce this. She was concerned that the school was promoting cycling more generally, without practical training in place. She felt that on-road training would be more effective than playground based training as children can see that ‘it’s real’ and develop cycling skills in realistic situations.

The head teacher was particularly frustrated as the school is located in a quiet street, with adequate facilities both on-road and in the playground for the pupils to practice in. The head teacher would like to introduce a cycle training programme with training happening in the playground to begin with, until the children were confident enough to be let out onto the roads. This would alleviate any immediate safety concerns about taking the pupils on-road. However, the school has struggled to identify volunteers. Without someone to deliver the training, this school stated it would not be offering cycle training.

Find out more about this approach in Case Study 5.

Comparison of Stakeholder Views

3.9 Overall, parents had a very positive attitude towards on-road cycle training. Our discussions with members of parent councils at the case study schools identified a strong interest in cycling and recognition of the value of cycle training. All of the parents that we spoke with were supportive of on-road cycle training, provided there were enough volunteers and a suitable safe road environment could be identified.

3.10 Teachers and support staff at schools were also broadly positive about on-road training, believing that it offered more effective and appropriate learning. However, there were more concerns about how to ensure pupil safety, and how to identify adequate volunteer resources – both parents and staff – to enable safe training.

3.11 Volunteers were very positive about on-road cycle training and the benefits that it had for children, in relation to learning and enjoyment. However, some volunteers – particularly parent volunteers had concerns about the level of responsibility they had for children, the level of training that they received, and the ratio of adults to children.

3.12 Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators involved in this research had a very positive view of on-road training, believing that it led to more effective learning due to the real life environment. Many were working with schools in their local authority area to encourage a shift to on-road training.


3.13 The attitudes of parents, teachers, school support staff, Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators towards on-road cycle training were very positive.

3.14 On-road training was seen to offer a more realistic experience which:

  • encourages faster learning
  • fosters a greater awareness of road safety
  • encourages children to cycle on-road safely in their free time
  • offers greater enjoyment for children.

3.15 Overall there was a feeling that on-road cycle training was much more effective than off-road training. Practicing in a realistic environment was seen as focusing children’s minds and preparing children effectively for on-road cycling in their own time.

3.16 All stakeholders were positive about on-road training. Parents, Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators were particularly positive about on-road training.

3.17 Teachers and support staff were positive about the principle of on-road training, but often had more concerns about ensuring pupil safety and attracting volunteers.

3.18 Volunteers were very positive about on-road training and the benefits it had for children, but had some concerns about the level of responsibility they were taking on.