In the ongoing pandemic ensuring our young people are getting access to a full well rounded education has never been more important. Some children across the UK are currently doing their best to continue their education from their kitchen tables whilst their classmates with key-worker parents are physically attending school. 

“Sport is a school for life” is an old adage but it rings true in 2021; the constant setting of goals and challenges and either getting close to or overcoming them sets our next generation up for the future not just in sporting terms but also in education and work. 

Bike4Health is currently running cycling activities with a handful of our partner schools who have a high proportion of children attending school. It is so important to not let children’s development fall further behind than it needs to. We consider cycling an essential component of a holistic education so we’re pleased a number of our schools are still offering cycling programmes to their pupils.

Out and about!

One of our directors Dave Buchan has been personally guiding with Hadrian Park Primary in Wallsend and I asked him to round up his thoughts on the last few riding sessions in January and February 2021. 

“Taking 60 children (with qualified ride leader teachers) out on a bike ride in the snow might at first seem overwhelming, but it’s amazing what you can achieve.

Simple instructions and skills are practised in the school yard, then it’s straight out to your local park or bike paths to explore and practice these techniques. This is just one of the many benefits of cycling, taking on instructions and applying them as a team. A few stops at local landmarks and very quickly the young students are riding along like a pro peloton!

Training laps on Hadrian Park’s on-site track

Maybe I am a bit biased towards cycling but the rewards and benefits are huge, just look at the facts and figures from the Netherlands. There every year, 200,000 school children take cycling training culminating in an exam which helps them feel safe and confident on the roads. Communication skills, resilience, learning how the body works – its essential to get moving to keep warm in the cold! All of these skills are developed outside the classroom on our cycling sessions but bring our pupils benefits when they are back sat at the school desk too. 

From the various groups we’ve taken out over the years we could write a book of quotes from the children, things like “ Sir, I didn’t realise the world was so beautiful!” “This has changed my life Sir!” Some questions that groups have asked whilst riding along the Tyne, “How long has the river been there?” “Did the Romans really build that?”

Listening into conversations is always quite insightful and lovely to hear as you know that by the end of the ride, they will be feeling very proud of themselves and their accomplishments. Initially, I hear a lot of, “I am scared!” “I can’t do this!” “It’s too steep?” “How far now?” But by the time we have finished the ride, children are congratulating each other and thanking friends for their help and encouragement.

Riding to Jesmond Dene with Hadrian Park PS (this photo pre-social distancing)

All in all these group rides should be part of every day school life, in every school. The feeling of exploration, even from a small local ride to the park plants that seed of adventure, and it is something that could never have the same impact in the class room.

A child from the age of 6 can ride 10 miles easily, broken down into steps. At Bike4Health and with our school partners we’ve seen how cycling can impact on kids – connection to their local area, understanding of how they cope with adversity and challenges, as well as improved physical and mental health are all benefits that pupils get from our cycling sessions. If we want to save our planet, if we want to cut the cost to our Health providers, if we want to continue to develop, we must get cycling!

New technologies develop all the time to make our lives easier but sometimes its the old ones like the bicycle which help us develop ourselves.”

We look forward to our schools opening up to more students as the pandemic wanes so we can continue cycling with more of North Tyneside’s young people.