Saturday 5 July 2014

Time to refine school cycle training?

Floating an idea here that I've been mulling over the past week as I've been teaching year 7s for a change (albeit ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder)

I teach a lot of Bikeability, what used to be called Cycle Proficiency, level 2 in schools. The first session is in the playground, checking pupils' bikes are in okay condition and a reasonable fit, that the pupils can cycle competently, and that they will follow instruction when taken out to the roads.

The following few days are on local roads, progressively developing until the pupils are turning right from a major road, wide enough to require moving across their lane and with some traffic, into a minor road. Children are trained and assessed for competency, consistency and confidence in undertaking the maneouvres.

This is almost always done in primary school, ideally in year 6 before the pupils leave for secondary school. In practice Year 6 is SATs year, so many schools are reluctant to take a chunk of time out for this. In consequence there is a mad demand for courses between the end of SATs and the end of the summer of the summer term.

The alternative that many schools like is to run the course in year 5. At this age most children struggle to achieve consistency, competence and confidence. Their ability to judge speed and distance is fairly weak and they often have a delightful sense of playfulness at odds with mixing competently with traffic. This quite often continues into year 6. I get the sense that neither parents nor the schools expect the primary pupils to cycle on-road to their school

So, it seems to me that year 7 is the logical time to do on-road cycle training. Old enough to judge speed and distance reasonably, at a school that is likely to be further from home than the primary school, more likely to be travelling independently, and without any exams that year. Year 5 or 6 in primary school should focus on off-road cycle control skills.

Being older the pupils should pick up the basics of on-road riding to level 2 standard quickly, and additionally can be taught about roundabouts, traffic lights and lorries. A route to school could be rehearsed with the pupils. There can also be buddy systems arranged with older pupils and a range of other measures, such as cycling as a class on outings.

There could then be a refresher and consolidation of the skills at the end of year 12 after pupils, aged 16 or 17, have taken their AS levels and before summer term ends when schools struggle to find useful activities for the pupils to do. This would serve two purposes, firstly to remind them of the ease of moving around their local area by bicycle, and secondly, to brush up their on-road skills which would be of benefit to those aiming to acquire a motor-cycle or driving licence.

What do you think? I'm particularly interested in the views of secondary school teachers and pupils, and also the views of other cycling instructors.