Cycle Training in Primary Schools Research

6. Findings and Conclusions

Key Findings

Attitudes to On-Road Training

6.1 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 and faster and more effective learning.

6.2 The biggest concern for schools relating to on-road training was being able to ensure pupil safety. 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.

Planning and Delivering On-Road Cycle Training

6.3 This research identified broad support for on-road cycle training for primary six and primary seven pupils.

6.4 The commitment and enthusiasm of head teachers, teachers, support staff, parents, Active School Coordinators and Road Safety Officers is critical to initiating and sustaining on-road cycle training.

6.5 Parents and parent councils appear positive about and supportive of on-road cycle training. However, there is potential for parent councils to be significantly more involved in decisions about on-road cycle training planning and delivery.

Barriers to On-Road Training

6.6 Teachers, support staff and parents all agreed that more volunteers were required to deliver on-road training safely, compared with off-road training. Identifying enough volunteers to deliver on-road training was the most significant and common barrier identified by teachers, support staff and parents.

Overcoming this barrier

Where schools identify a staff member with lead responsibility, it can encourage parents to volunteer without taking on sole or lead responsibility for pupil safety. These volunteers also develop specialist skills in on-road training.

There is potential for further training for volunteers (both parents and staff) to reduce concerns about responsibilities related to taking children on-road. There is potential for schools to use more innovative approaches to attracting volunteers, including working with community groups and volunteer agencies.

6.7 Generally, volunteers felt that they had the skills to deliver on-road training, and were supported well by the RSO. However, some volunteers (both staff and parents) suggested that more training would be valuable.

Overcoming this barrier

Schools highlighted that they required RSO support with initial bicycle checks and general support and advice. There could be opportunities for training volunteers to undertake initial checks, with support to build up confidence. However, all schools emphasised the need for ongoing support and advice from RSOs.

6.8 In two schools, off-road cycle training had been delivered in the same format for over 15 years and there was some resistance to change which proved a significant barrier.

6.9 Some schools struggle to identify a suitable safe site, and a way of getting children and bicycles from the school to the site safely.

Overcoming this barrier

Schools overcame issues of location through:

  • putting up signs alerting drivers to the training;
  • asking children to wear fluorescent tabards;
  • increasing the ratio of volunteers to children;
  • closely controlling the manoeuvres children made on the road; and
  • gradually progressing from off-road, to quiet roads, to busier roads.

6.10 Challenges with equipment and physical layout of the playground were the main challenges for schools unable to offer any cycle training at all.

Overcoming this barrier

Schools addressed challenges around bicycle availability and quality through:

  • pupils sharing bicycles;
  • applying for funding for equipment[14];
  • Road Safety Officers undertaking bicycle maintenance classes, to repair unsuitable equipment; and
  • suggesting that equipment could be hired.

6.11 Schools in areas with relatively high levels of deprivation identified challenges to providing cycle training related to this. Issues identified included access to bicycles, lack of parental support to repair bicycles, and challenges providing on-road training in a neighbourhood with community safety issues.

Overcoming this barrier

In one school, pupils were asked to share bicycles to ensure that no-one missed out on cycle training. However, this was not a common approach.


6.12 Prior to this research being undertaken, there was limited evidence about on-road cycle training for primary school pupils in Scotland. This research has provided rich information about the experience of considering, planning, delivering and sustaining on-road cycle training at 11 schools in Scotland.

6.13 This research has highlighted that there are barriers to on-road training in Scotland. The biggest barrier relates to attracting volunteers to deliver the training. On-road training is seen as requiring more volunteer resources than off-road training, to ensure a suitable ratio of adults to children. Volunteering as an on-road trainer is also seen as a significant responsibility.

6.14 The research also demonstrates that many schools have successfully overcome barriers to run sustainable on-road cycle training programmes. On-road cycle training has been most sustainable where teachers and support staff are supportive of cycle training; where parents are supportive and keen to volunteer; and where support is available from the Road Safety Officer or Active Schools Co-ordinator.

6.15 As the research focused on a small sample of 11 schools, it does not provide wider evidence about the extent and nature of on-road cycle training programmes across Scotland. However, it does demonstrate that a number of the case study schools have moved to on-road cycle training programmes in recent years, and that Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators have played a critical role in supporting and sustaining this shift.

6.16 Overall, this research highlights that there is broad common agreement among the parents, teachers, volunteers, Road Safety Officers and Active Schools Co-ordinators interviewed in this research, that on-road cycle training is considerably more effective and more enjoyable for children than off-road cycle training.