How we are supporting children to cycle with the Primary PE funding

Peter McQuillen Strong, headteacher at Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Leeds, blogs about how the funding has helped them to get more children to learn how to ride a bike from a younger age.

Our school had been trying to ensure all pupils could ride a bike when they leave in Year 6 as we are passionate that cycling is a life skill that allows people to be active, social, competitive and environmentally friendly.

We had given disproportionate resources to achieving this. It was highlighted by our foundation stage staff that pupils in the early years were increasingly inactive and struggling with co-ordination and balance.

As a school we decided to try to develop cycling from the age of three rather than when they are seven in Year 3. By enabling pupils to use balance bikes and pedal cycles from the day they start at the school we are supporting the development of pupil physical literacy with a focus on preparation for cycling.

Supporting early years children to balance and cycle

Since September 2018, 52 pupils have been able to participate in the activities around cycling. All of our early years staff supported the project as did lunchtime support staff. Some were involved in teaching cycling, others simply facilitated independent learning. We believe that a key benefit to this approach will be that as we have started pupils cycling at such a young age there is a greater possibility that in the following six years, pupils will gain greater competence on a bike. It will help give a greater opportunity to achieve 100% of pupils able to ride a bike before they move to high school. We’re seeing great results and will continue to encourage cycling in the early years foundation stage as part of our daily work. 

Realising the benefits of learning to ride young

Pupils have become more active and physically able because they have had this opportunity. They have become more socially active and co-operative while cycling with each other. Developing balance on a bike has also supported other movement activities.

Two SEN pupils (twins) who struggled to walk when they began school are now in Year 1 and they can competently ride a pedal cycle. They have also developed much better co-ordination that is evident in a wide range of physical activities and they have developed much better social interaction. The two pupils were motivated by the opportunity to cycle which impacted on their in-class learning. They have become much more physically active and can walk over a mile now.

Teachers have reported a greater number of pupils are more motivated to be in the outdoor area. They are naturally active which helps when they return to class as they have expended energy.

Top tips for embedding cycling

It is important to provide the appropriate resources; balance bikes, pedal bikes (of appropriate size) and helmets in an accessible area. By giving children access to the equipment during free play, it has meant that children have often learnt to cycle independent of adult action – they essentially teach themselves.

The bikes do get damaged and need regular servicing and maintenance. This is costly as is the purchase of quality bikes in the first instance. This challenge was overcome as we were able to use some of the PE premium for resourcing and realising our ambition.