Gliding into Bikeability: training teachers to become cycle instructors

How balance bike training in early years is breaking down barriers to cycling in Bradford

July 29, 2022

Case Study

Early years practitioner Miss Hussein is out on the playground with her class of early years students. Like other teachers at Dixons Marchbank Primary School, she is being trained up to deliver Bikeability Balance, so children receive expert cycle training as soon as they start school.  

We know that children are more likely to cycle if it’s embedded as a habit from an early age which is why in Bradford, Bikeability provider Bike Futures is helping raise the next generation of cyclists by getting children cycling at all ages.  

Through money from the Bikeability Trust and Department for Transport’s Widening Participation Fund, Bike Futures is helping to train up teaching staff at Dixons Marchbank Primary School as Bikeability Balance instructors. The fund is supporting 44 projects across England which remove the barriers to cycling for children who wouldn’t usually learn to cycle. Training up teaching staff to deliver balance bike training in early years, equips pupils with the skills they need to start their cycling journey. 

Before pedalling, comes balancing! Bikeability Balance helps set children up for learning to ride. During the sessions they learn how to glide, how to balance and how to be aware of others when cycling. At Dixons Marchbank, children are first introduced to balance bikes during early years, when bikes provided through the project are provided for children to enjoy.  

Bikeability instructor Emily Groves, who has been training Miss Hussein, said: “We’ve been training here today so Miss Hussein can feel confident in maintaining the balance bikes, looking after the helmets, and getting the right size bikes for the children. Through the training we’re giving her the skills she needs to teach those basic balance skills. 

“The great thing about early years is they have outdoor provision and children should be allowed outside for a large proportion of the day. If we can integrate balance biking into that outdoor provision, then children are learning the fundamentals of how to ride a bike without going through any serious training.” 

By empowering teaching staff to teach Balance, Bikeability is enabling children to develop cycling skills from an early age. And with cycling, comes better progress in other areas.  

“A lot of children don’t have the facilities to use a bike at home so using them in schools has really helped them with their confidence, their balancing skills, close motor skills, and hand to eye coordination. It’s helped our children a lot having the bikes.” 

As children progress through primary school, they progress through Bikeability. Completing their Level 1 and 2 modules before they leave in Year Six.  

A young girl in a purple school cardigan is on a balance bike whilst a woman in a white t shirt guides her. They are both on a playground.

“If we can integrate balance biking into that outdoor provision, then children are learning the fundamentals of how to ride a bike without going through any serious training. Emily Groves, Bikeability cycle instructor.

For the children getting their first taste of Bikeability, cycling was a hit! Early years pupil Ayra said: “I’ve been riding the pink bike and it was super fun. It made me feel happy and exciting on my bike. I still have stabilisers but I’m going to go home and tell mum I can do it now. I’ll only have two wheels!” 

With Bikeability ever present throughout their education, children leave Dixons Marchbank with a love of cycling, and that spreads through their families and into communities.  

Bikeability instructor Emily said: “We’ve found if children do learn in school, their parents are more likely to buy them a bike. And if they can’t afford a bike, there are some great organisations locally that gift second hand bikes to children, so there are ways for children to get hold of a bike, once they’ve got the skills to use it. 

“Even in central Bradford there are areas where children can cycle, and families will go out and take children for a ride once they have the learnt the skills. This school is just next to a big park with a massive path all the way round. It’s got a big walking path which a lot of families walk around, and the kids can cycle along beside them.” 

As children grow with Bikeability, they become competent and confident cyclists through their teenage years and into adulthood. Having worked as a cycle instructor in Bradford for a decade, Emily has noticed a shift in attitudes to cycling in the city. 

She said: “I’ve been working in Bradford for 10 years and we’re starting to see cycling increase in young people and that goes along with Bradford building infrastructure. That’s what needs to go hand in hand, we need children to get the skills so they can go on to be teenagers and adults who have the skills, but we also need to make sure that they’ve got safe routes to the places they want to go.  

“We are seeing changes and the shift is in the right direction. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for cycling, people know that is makes them healthy and it’s a good thing to get out with their families. I can see that children and their families are really keen for cycling and really excited about it.” 

And for schools considering embedding Bikeability into their curriculum? Miss Hussein said: “I think other teachers and schools should do this. It’s really good for children’s developmental skills and it helps them a lot. It’s something they should all try.” 

Schools can find out more about Bikeability by watching our schools playlist on YouTube, or you can find Bikeability cycle training near you here. 

The Department for Transport and Bikeability Trust’s Widening Participation Fund has invested in £1.6 million in 44 projects across England that help remove the barriers to cycling. To help reach the government’s ambition to offer cycle training to every child by 2025, Bikeability is investing in projects that help children who wouldn’t usually learn to ride take part in cycle training. 

A group of five small children stand on balance bikes in a playground. A woman wearing a green parka stands with her back to the camera, teaching them.

“I think other teachers and schools should do this. It’s really good for children’s developmental skills and it helps them a lot. It’s something they should all try.” Miss Hussein, early years teacher.

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