Every so often there are articles in local papers and online about new schemes to help children at particular schools, nursery’s or clubs to learn to ride a bike or a balance bike. Have you ever stopped to wonder how these schemes get funded, how easy they are to set up, and whether it’s something that’s possible for your own school or organisation?
Regular Cycle Sprog reader Stuart has been involved in bringing one such scheme to his local area and he’s kindly explained to us the journey he’s been on so far.
Getting funding for balance bike lessons and bikes
Our local authorities Senior Sports Development Officer applied to Sport Wales for Development Grant funding to buy a package of balance bikes, helmets, cones (and other equipment within the ‘Balance Bag’) and training through a company called Balanceability.
The package consisting of fifty bikes and helmets was to be placed in a cluster of five primary schools within the locality of mid-Wales.
To support the application the local British Cycling Go-Ride / Club Mark club wrote a supporting letter highlighting the linkages between the schools and a social club. Welsh Cycling also supported the application.
The bid was successful with an award of £12,700 and the package was bought. The bikes arrived at the schools prior to training and the teachers completed the self-assembly of the bikes.
It’s also worth noting that the dedicated primary PE and Sport Premium, announced in March 2013, goes directly to primary school head teachers who can decide how best to use it to provide sporting activities for their pupils, so this is another way to fund this scheme on an individual schools basis.
In Scotland there is a scheme being rolled out called Play on Pedals, run by Cycling Scotland, and there are various other companies throughout the UK who provide similar schemes, some of whom are listed at the end of this post.
The Balanceability Scheme
Balanceability is typical of all the schemes available, although each will provide slightly different features. This scheme provides an accredited Foundation Stage ‘Learn to Cycle’ programme for Reception and Year One children (and can also be used with pre-school children from 2½ years). The programme is designed to help children gain the confidence and skills required to ride a pedal bike independently, getting them off to the best start in cycling and assisting their ability to participate in Bikeability at a later stage.
Schools are able to get set up with Balanceability by buying a Balanceability Pack which includes all the equipment, programme materials and training required to deliver the sessions. Balanceability can be run by teachers indoors or outdoors as part of the weekly regular PE activity and has been developed to fit into the school lesson planning.
Training the teachers to teach balance bike lessons
The training course itself ran from 9am to 3pm and was held at one of the primary schools. The majority of attendees were teachers, but we’d also managed to secure a place for one of the youth members of our club. He’s only 13, but is already part of the Welsh Cycling’s Youth Ambassador scheme.
There was a short amount class-room evidence based theory at first, followed by the checking of the assembled bikes over coffee.
We then moved onto using some pedal-less adult sized bikes brought in by the trainer.
For the remainder of the morning session there were demonstrations of various warm-up routines using the different equipment supplied in the package followed by the standard ‘M’ bike check, followed by the sequence stages of balance bike riding consisting of: walking with a bike, mounting and dismounting, seated walking, scooting, gliding and finally balance riding.
After lunch the school yard was set up for practical sessions using real little people! Two groups of pre-school children aged 3-4 years joined the trainees who then ran a 30-minute session with each group.
Each trainee took in turn having a go at leading a warm up, helmet fitting and the sequence from walk to balance riding. After a few wobbles, and in no time at all, first time balance bike riders were scooting around the playground as if they had been doing it for ages! The whole process really is as easy as…riding a bike! By the end they were running “What Time Is It Mr Wolf” games…..
A few weeks after the training, each trainee received an email containing a printable file certifying that the individual had “attended and successfully passed the Balanceability Instructor Training course”.
Support materials for use in schools
Within the package each school is given coaching manuals which are useful reference tools post training as they contain lots of ideas for different types of warm up activities and off and on bike balance games.
The Balanceability scheme comprises structured lesson plans that help children develop gross motor skills, spatial-awareness, dynamic and static balance and bilateral co-ordination, along with the necessary skills to make the transition from a balance bike to an ordinary pedal bike in a safe and fun way.
Balanceability is a two-level programme with each level being delivered in six 45-minute sessions. It can also be run as a continual programme for schools delivering a weekly activity. It is “outcomes-based”, meaning the programme is flexible and not specific to age.
Thank you very much to Stuart for sharing his experiences of setting up this scheme.
More information on setting up balance bike lessons
If you’re interested in getting balance bike lessons into your school, nursery or organisation there are a number of providers available, including:
Play on Pedals (Scotland only)
Other articles you may find interesting: