Bikeability Spotlight: Ferryhill Primary School

28 March 2024    

Last year, a record 60,000 children took part in Bikeability Scotland cycle training across Scotland. More than the population of Livingston, and more than the capacity of Tynecastle and Easter Road combined.

We visited Ferryhill Primary in Drylaw, Edinburgh, to find out more and understand how cycle training is viewed by both pupils and teachers.

On a sunny February morning, the first thing that strikes you about Ferryhill Primary is its location. Sitting at the heart of a community, nestled within residential streets, small roads, and roundabouts. All is quiet. That is, until you walk inside. There is so much going on. How does cycle training fit into this busy and vibrant environment? The answers emerge as we talk to P7s Abdoulie, Kennedi, Mason, and Maeci, and PE specialist, Mr Robertson.

“I like to cycle when I'm going somewhere, like to my auntie's house.” Abdoulie already rode regularly, but it was the training that helped him understand how to do it more safely, “It showed me how to bike safer. I used to just go without signalling or doing anything.”

Maeci found the progression from playground to road a challenge, “When we went onto the road for the first time, it was quite nerve-wracking”, but as Mason explains, being on the road helped him understand the skills he had learnt in the playground, “I was not that confident because I felt like I wasn't that good at riding my bike, but then when I went onto the road I thought to myself that I could do it.”

Abdoulie smiles as he remembers telling his mum, “When I went home, I told my mum, ‘Mum, I learned how to signal.’ And she was happy. She was proud of me."

Kennedi finishes our chat by talking about the future and explaining how the training has expanded her horizons and her ambitions, “When I'm older, I could think about cycling to my high school, which isn't too far. If I could get to Broughton, I feel like I can go anywhere.”

In their own words

Bikeability Scotland cycle training develops skills that are about more than just riding a bike, as PE specialist Mr Blaine Robertson, who runs the training as part of the curriculum at Ferryhill, explains: “One of the big reasons we do it is because it’s confidence, it's life skills. It gets them to appreciate something a bit different. A lot of our kids have challenges with resilience, and actually, it's brilliant for that.”

For Ferryhill, embedding cycle training into the culture and structure of the school was something they identified as important for pupil outcomes. But how did they achieve it?

Firstly, Bikeability Scotland training happens all year round, as Mr Robertson outlines: “I suppose different schools do it differently. Some of them pack it into two weeks at the end, when it's nice, summery weather. Whereas to me, I think we do it in the purest form, which is doing it the whole year in different circumstances, different weathers, different environments.”

Secondly, the time set aside for training is prioritised, as Mr Robertson explains: “A lot of primaries have an entitlement, a Ferryhill 50 or something that, by the end of their time in school here, there's certain things that we say, as a school, they should do. They’re entitled to do. It might be a trip to the zoo or going to visit a certain place. It's part of the curriculum in the sense that we are seeing it as, you need to learn how to ride a bike. We are going to protect this time. We're going to say as a staff that it is really important for us.”

As we leave Ferryhill, the lasting impression is one of expanded horizons through cycle training. For a community in the suburbs of a city, it is easy to stay local, but children benefit when given the opportunity to think bigger and go further. “If I could get to Broughton, I feel like I can go anywhere”, expresses this better than we ever could.

Thank you to the pupils and staff of Ferryhill Primary and to photographer, Julie Howden.

Notes and next steps