Cycle Training in Primary Schools Research

4. Planning and Delivering On-Road Cycle Training


4.1 This chapter explores the on-road cycle training programmes offered by the case study schools. Six of the eleven schools involved in the research were offering on-road cycle training. In addition, two schools offered only off-road cycle training, and three were not providing any cycle training at all.

On-Road Training Programmes

4.2 Most of the schools delivering on-road cycle training did so with primary six pupils. Generally, participants felt that this was an appropriate time to deliver on-road cycle training. A minority of participants suggested that cycle training in the playground should begin earlier, meaning that pupils could undertake more on-road training by the time they reach primary six. Some schools did undertake off-road cycle training earlier (for example through the Bikeability Scotland 1- Ready Steady Bike scheme).

4.3 All six case study schools offering on-road training began this on-road training programme in the playground. Five schools held two or three lessons in the playground initially - to allow the children to build up a basic competence. Children were then on-road for up to six lessons. One school, which had only piloted on-road cycle training for one year, only held one on-road session at the very end of the cycle training programme.

4.4 Generally, training took place in the spring and summer (April to June), but one school ran its training from August to October. Most cycle training programmes lasted between six and eight weeks. One school was able to extend this to ten weeks of training if the children needed extra practice. Schools were offering the following:

Training Offered by Schools
Case study number Number of practical sessions Length of sessions Length of course
1 Three per week Varied Eight weeks
3 Two per week 90 minutes each Six weeks
6 One per week 60 minutes each Eight to ten weeks
9 One per week 60 minutes each Eight weeks
10 One per week 60 minutes each Eight weeks
11 One per week 40 minutes each Eight weeks

4.5 The schools all followed the Bikeability Scotland 2 - Scottish Cycle Training Scheme, involving practising stopping and starting, left and right hand turns, and overtaking. The schools offering on-road training were generally content that there was the right balance between on and off-road training in their cycling programme.

4.6 All of the schools undertaking cycle training held classroom based work to complement the practical training. In three of the case study schools, the classroom teacher had begun to use the new I-Cycle interactive resource for use on interactive whiteboards, which is linked to the Scottish Cycle Training Scheme[12]. Feedback from staff indicated that the use of this resource gave the pupils a ‘realistic interactive experience’ that helped them engage with road safety issues.

Responsibility for Delivering On-Road Training

4.7 Responsibility for delivering on-road training varied significantly across the case study schools:

  • In one school, the training was delivered entirely by parent volunteers. One parent took the lead, supported by four other parent volunteers.
  • In two schools, a classroom assistant or learning assistant led the delivery of the training, supported by parent volunteers.
  • In one school, the training was normally delivered by a learning assistant. However, due to long term illness, the Road Safety Officer (RSO) had to step in to deliver the training in 2010/11, supported by another learning assistant. This school did not have any parent volunteers.
  • In one school, which was piloting on-road training, the on-road element of training was delivered by two RSOs with support from community wardens, two members of teaching staff, and parent volunteers.
  • In one school the Active Schools Co-ordinator was involved in assisting the trainers who tended to be parent volunteers and on occasion, members of the teaching staff.

Involving community wardens

In one of the case study schools, RSOs organised for community wardens to attend the on-road session. The community wardens are employed by the local authority, and help to ensure safety, tackle anti-social behaviour and prevent crime. The RSOs felt that the presence of community wardens would be an effective way of reducing safety fears through increasing the number of volunteers present. It would also help community wardens to build relationships with young people who they might meet in their area at evenings or weekends.

The volunteers essentially lined the on-road route, and were present at junctions to ensure the safety of the pupils. The RSOs said that they had been ‘trying for years’ to get schools to think about on-road training and the idea to supply community wardens had been really useful to show schools that with additional volunteers, safety fears are reduced.

Find out more about this approach in Case Study 1

4.8 A number of the case study schools which are committed to sustaining on-road cycle training have identified a key member of staff to act as the lead volunteer, with support from other parents or staff. This appears to have provided continuity in the delivery of on-road training, allowing the lead volunteer to develop expertise in the area. The responsibility of volunteering as a parent is also significantly reduced, as the lead volunteer can plan and co-ordinate the programme with limited support from others.

Setting Up On-Road Cycle Training

Reasons for introducing on-road cycle training

4.9 Of the six case study schools providing on-road training:

  • one was persuaded to try on-road training by the RSO, despite initial reluctance from the head teacher;
  • one piloted on-road training due to the enthusiasm of a probationary teacher at the same time as dedicated support was offered by the RSO;
  • one had a head teacher who was a cycling enthusiast, who introduced on-road training with support from the RSO;
  • two had offered on-road training for some time, and did not know how it came about due to staff changes; and
  • one school had introduced cycle training for the first time in 2006 with help from the Active Schools Co-ordinator who implemented an on-road element from the start.

4.10 It is clear that the head teacher and RSO play a key role in introducing on-road cycle training in schools. Good relationships between the school and RSO appear to encourage schools to try out new approaches to cycle training. In one case, a change of staff resulted in an enthusiasm to change the existing off-road programme which had been delivered in the same way for a number of years. This was coupled with a high level of support from the RSO, and a commitment to working around the barriers that the school faced to delivering an on-road programme.

4.11 In three of the four local authority areas involved in this research, the RSOs were very keen to promote on-road cycle training and seized opportunities to encourage schools to shift towards this approach. In some cases, RSOs were identifying a small number of schools each year and encouraging and supporting them to move to on-road training. The remaining area was committed to promoting on-road cycle training, but found this challenging within the resources available.

Moving to on-road training

Two schools had moved to delivering on-road cycle training relatively recently. One had adopted a staged approach. In the 2010/11 school session it introduced one on-road practical session at the end of its cycle training programme. The other school adopted a flexible approach. It does two or three sessions in the playground, then three or four on-road. This flexibility allows trainers to keep children in the playground if they feel that they are not ready for an on-road environment.

For more about this approach see Case Studies 1 and 3.

Moving to on-road training

Another two schools who offer on-road training take a gradual approach to building up children’s skills and confidence. Both initially practice in the playground. One then moves to a lay-by, followed by a 60mph main road. Another moves to a quiet road (among disused housing) followed by a busier road. This helps children to develop their cycling skills, and helps volunteers to understand the competences of children and gain confidence that they will be safe on the roads.

For more about this approach see Case Studies 6 and 10.

Parental involvement in planning on-road training

4.12 Parent councils were not involved in planning on-road cycle training at any of the six case study schools. Parent councils had only been involved in two schools – in both cases schools which were not offering any cycle training. At one, the school had been newly formed in 2010, by amalgamating two existing schools. It had not been able to offer its cycle training programme because of the disruption of the amalgamation. The parent council of the new school insisted that the cycle training be offered to both primary six and primary seven pupils the following year (2011) to ensure that no pupil missed out on training. At the other school, the parent council was keen to introduce cycle training, but had not been able to identify a volunteer.

4.13 In one school, staff volunteers delivering cycle training had decided not to proceed with on-road training due to safety fears, and had not involved the parent council in this decision at all (despite advice from the RSO to consult parents).

Maintaining On-Road Cycle Training

4.14 There were a number of factors which helped schools to maintain and sustain their approach to on-road training:

  • Head teacher leadership – In schools where the head teacher was committed to sustaining cycle training, staff were able to invest time in maintaining on-road training. This included time spent recruiting volunteers, meeting with volunteers to plan sessions and attending training sessions.
  • Dedicated staff volunteers – In three of the schools, staff were involved in delivering the cycle training programme as ‘volunteers’. This reduces reliance on parents, and means that cycle training is seen as part of one staff member’s job. In one case, the head teacher included cycle training delivery in the job description for a classroom assistant.
  • Parent volunteers - Parent volunteers also helped considerably in sustaining on-road cycle training. In some cases, schools had identified either a ‘lead’ volunteer or a parent who was prepared to volunteer for a number of years in a row – perhaps because of having a number of children at the school. This appeared to help greatly in ensuring sustainability and continuity of the cycle programme.

4.15 Overall, where individuals (whether staff or parents) were interested in cycle training and believed that on-road training could be effective, they invested time and effort in making their programme work.

Head teacher commitment

One school had a very enthusiastic head teacher who was keen to be involved in planning on-road cycle training. This head teacher decided that the reliance on parent volunteers in delivering the training was too unpredictable – as it was difficult to identify enough volunteers each year. As a result, the head teacher made arrangements for cycle training to become part of the classroom assistant’s role. Staff also attended an on-road cycle training course, to ensure that they had the skills to deliver the programme.

For more about this approach see Case Study 6.

4.16 As well as providing leadership, head teachers also often perform an essential administrative role. The administration of the scheme is essential to ensure that time is built in for both classroom and practical training, and this is well co-ordinated.

‘I have to play the administrative role in making sure cycling training can and does happen.’
(Head teacher)

4.17 Generally, schools felt that once on-road cycle training programmes were set up there was limited additional work in maintaining and sustaining the programme. Those involved felt that they developed an effective approach to managing and delivering the training each year. The key challenge was sustaining volunteers (which is explored in more detail later in this chapter).

The RSO Role in Maintaining Cycle Training

4.18 The involvement of RSOs (or Active Schools Co-ordinators) appears to be critical in initiating, sustaining and maintaining on-road cycle training. In the case study schools, RSOs had been instrumental in getting the on-road programmes set up. However, as training programmes became more established, RSO involvement tended to decrease.

‘RSOs were initially very heavily involved and were invaluable in training the schools training providers – but as the provision matured, there was less and less need for them (RSO) to be quite so involved and they eventually took on a more advisory role.’
(Head teacher)

4.19 Schools were generally happy with this approach. However, teachers at many schools emphasised that ongoing support from the RSO, even if it was minimal, was essential in sustaining their cycle training programme. In one of the eleven case study schools the RSO was essential for maintaining the on-road cycle training programme due to staff absence, and issues around staff skills and confidence to deliver on-road training. This RSO delivered the on-road cycle training programme in 2010/11, and in previous years visited the school once every three weeks to review the programme and provide support as required.

4.20 All case study schools felt that they had a good relationship with their RSO or Active Schools Co-ordinator, and this was reciprocated. As cycle training had been ongoing in several case study schools for many years, the RSOs were able to forge strong relationships with the staff.

‘Most of the staff have remained the same over the years which has helped retain the good relationship.’
(Road Safety Officer)

4.21 The case study schools all felt that they could go to their RSO (or Active Schools Co-ordinator) for support and assistance if required. Recently, there have been changes in the support some Road Safety Units are able to offer schools with cycle training – whether on or off-road. Some Road Safety Units have become smaller or have new responsibilities, and have reprioritised their work which has resulted in a reduction in the time they spend on cycle training. Generally, RSOs have moved to a role of facilitation and support, rather than direct delivery.

4.22 In many case study schools, volunteer trainers have taken on the responsibility for undertaking final assessment of pupils involved in cycle training – which used to be done by the RSO. In most cases the volunteers were happy to conduct this, following training from the RSO on how to carry out the final test. However, some schools felt that the involvement of the RSO in the testing gave the test more of a status, and helped to make it ‘important’ for the pupils.

‘The RSO used to have a big role, especially in examining the children at the end of the course, which made it all seem a bit more real to the children.’
(Head teacher)

‘It seems to make it more important in the eyes of the kids – someone from outside the school and linked to road safety’
(Head teacher)

4.23 One head teacher had received complaints from parents that the volunteer trainers were not suitably qualified enough to carry out the assessment.

‘I’ve heard disgruntled parents asking what right, qualifications or experience someone who is not an RSO has to fail a child.’
(Head teacher)

4.24 Although some Road Safety Units no longer offer support with the final assessment, all case study schools offering cycle training received help with the initial bicycle safety check at the start of the training. Many schools felt that this was a very important aspect of RSO involvement. Some volunteers suggested that they did not feel adequately trained to carry out safety checks.

Challenges to Setting Up and Maintaining On-Road Cycle Training

4.25 Generally, the schools offering on-road training were very content with their cycle training programmes, and had not experienced significant challenges in establishing their on-road programmes. However, some had experienced challenges to introducing and sustaining on-road cycle training. The key challenges experienced were related to ensuring pupil safety, including:

  • maintaining a sufficient number of volunteers to allow a reasonable ratio of adults to children;
  • ensuring that volunteers had the skills and confidence to deliver an on-road training programme;
  • identifying a suitable location which offers a real life road environment without endangering the pupils.

4.26 These barriers are explored in more detail in Chapter Five, which focuses on barriers to on-road cycle training.

Stopping On-Road Cycle Training

4.27 Of the six schools which had introduced on-road cycle training, only one was considering stopping the training in the future. This school had piloted on-road training because of the enthusiasm of a new probationary teacher, with support from the RSO. However, the probationary teacher was only at the school for one year, and teachers were not sure whether the approach will continue. There were two key barriers:

  • Attitudes – Off-road training has been delivered in the same way, by the same member of staff, for many years. The programme is seen (by staff) as successful, and there is some resistance to change.
  • Resources – The pilot involved considerable support from RSOs, community wardens, teachers and parents. The school does not believe that this approach is sustainable.


4.28 Six of the eleven schools involved in this research were offering on-road cycle training. All of the schools offering on-road training held at least two or three lessons in the playground initially - to allow the children to build up a basic competence. Children were then on-road for up to six lessons. All schools offering cycle training followed the Bikeability Scotland 2 - Scottish Cycle Training Scheme. Most cycle training programmes lasted between six and eight weeks.

4.29 All of the schools offering cycle training did so with primary six and/ or primary seven children (in line with the RoSPA guidelines). Generally, participants felt this was an appropriate stage to deliver cycle training – both on and off-road.

4.30 Overall, decisions about the type and level of cycle training offered at schools are made by teachers – generally head teachers and deputy head teachers – working with their Road Safety Officer. Successful on-road training programmes generally have strong leadership from the head teacher, dedicated staff volunteers, and an active pool of parent volunteers.

4.31 Schools offering on-road cycle training were generally very content with their programme. School staff felt that once programmes were set up, they were generally relatively easy to sustain. The main challenges to setting up and maintaining on-road cycle programmes related to ensuring pupil safety in an on-road environment.

4.32 In one case, resistance to change from school staff involved in planning and delivering the training was a key barrier.