Hythehill Primary School in Lossiemouth is the 2023 Bikeability Scotland ‘School of the Year’. Class teacher, Blair Williamson, talked to Cycling Scotland about how inclusivity and community are at the heart of the school’s cycle culture and how Bikeability Scotland training has enabled all pupils to flourish.
The Bikeability Scotland award recognised the school’s ongoing commitment and dedication to cycle training and the development of a wider cycling culture.
Hythehill has a proactive and fully inclusive approach to training - including specific support for those with additional support needs and transient pupils associated with the local RAF base.
Additionally, Hythehill was recognised for its efforts to deliver numerous and wide-ranging cycling activities, including bike maintenance classes, learn to ride sessions and mountain biking for P7s.
I’m Blair Williamson. I am a class teacher at Hythehill Primary School in Lossiemouth. This year I'm teaching primary 6 and 7, but last year I was the wandering around McCrone teacher who did a lot of PE and sessions working in our ASN base with children with additional support needs. That allowed me to work with the Bikeability team, in supporting these guys to access that level of learning.
I did Cycling Scotland’s training. Throughout all of last year it was great to be able to put that into action to help the kids at Hythehill be more bikeable and more bike aware.
I stay in a town about five or six miles away and there's a good cycle path straight from my house up to the school. So I thought it would be nice, as a teacher, to take the things that you are involved with and you’re passionate about and try and spread a bit of that enthusiasm and fitness and wellbeing into the school.
The cycle training was good. It was late November, so we were well wrapped up. I think a lot of the people that were on it were a bit anxious about the level of cycling ability that they might be expected to have. But if you can go on a bike and can walk for 500 meters, then that level of exertion was all that was needed.
As a teacher, it was good to see a trainer teaching in a similar way that I would teach in the classroom. Where you ask more questions than tell people things that they already know. There were plenty of stops. It was lots of chatting, lots of consultation about, “what do you think you would do in this situation if you were out with a group of novices just to make them feel secure?” [The trainer] didn't know the area very well, so it was quite nice to work together to find suitable routes to undertake all the aspects of the training.
A nice partnership developed with the five or six others, plus the trainer. It was quite a broad range of people who were coming into the Cycling Scotland network from, not just education, but of one or two people from charitable trusts. It's good that there was an opportunity for us so far north to engage in a national training event.
I used to be a driving instructor years ago. Having that level of, “what's the detail, what's the nitty bitty, where would you not take a real novice in a car?” And then you've got to transfer that back to where would you not take a beginner on a bike. You forget how much you know and how much other people haven't learned yet. It was valuable that way. Thinking like a novice again and thinking how to help them.
We did a refresher with our primary sevens before we went into Elgin with the whole class. There were about 70 of us. We went into town, had a day in the park, and then turned around, came back with our bellies full of ice cream and sunburn. That level of Bikeability knowledge, which they had, it was just renewing it and refreshing it, and it made for a good celebration of all the hard work - the day out that we took on our 12-mile cycle.
Outfit Moray worked together with us. They took one or two tutors along to support us because of the number of kids we had, and they supplied a few bikes.
I would imagine one or two of them would've been a bit nervous about going on such a long ride. When we were doing our cycle maintenance work, they were very keen cyclists who wanted to learn more. Whereas the other ones, who hadn't taken part, and were bike reticent: On the cycle in, they were wary of bumping up curbs, of cycling in groups, and the awareness of the hazards around them - even though it's a restricted cycle path.
On the way back, yeah, they were a bit more tired, but they were keeping up. They were aware of the procedures and the techniques that Bikeability taught them. To stay safe and stay aware of their surroundings. No girns, as we say up here. No complaints.
I think they say if you've met one autistic child, you've met one autistic child. There is such a broad spectrum of dealing with the individual and helping find a way for them to access as much of the learning as possible in an effective way. The Bikeability training that they have had through Outfit Moray is fantastic. You see a different side to the children. They have that independence. Because with additional support needs, they usually have quite a restricted education path or curriculum. Whereas the wellbeing side and the Bikeability side just lets you see them flourish.
I came to teaching quite late and I think it's just a fabulous thing. It's never boring. It's maybe not always exciting, but the reward when you see partners come together - Outfit Moray, Martin Collins [our Deputy Head Teacher] and the amazing staff that we have in our ASN base as well - to deliver quality experiences for all children. Not just those who are confident on the bikes, but those who need a little bit more support.
You might have a skill you don't know you have. Bikeability and the way that it's structured, helps kids develop those skills in a really controlled and safe place and they can maybe find a new talent and a new love for cycling and then fitness and wellbeing and then they're Chris Hoy in 20 years.
We actually asked the kids at the very start of our journey, “why are you not taking your bikes in?” Bikes cost money and the shed doesn't have a lock on it. Yeah, how about we get a lock on the shed and bikes descend. “What other reasons might you have for not taking your bike in?” “I'm not sure my bike's good enough to ride in school.” “How about if we do some bicycle maintenance stuff?”
We ran four or five weeks of courses increasing in complexity. From the M checks to changing tires, changing chains, all the safety checks that you need to do regularly on your bike. In the final week we got some of the younger kids, the P3s and P4s, and they were taught by the P6s and P7s what you need to do.
It's the community thing. It's not just top down, “go and look after your bike, or go and do biking”. There's a buy-in from all stakeholders in the community, which I'm very confident it will keep going. I'm certainly keen to keep it at the level it's at, and then move on to the next step too.