Bike Project, St. James’ School
(Case Study in partnership with SERIO)
St James School in Exeter has been committed to promoting active travel for many years and in January 2022, launched their Enrichment Programme to offer additional extra-curricular experiences to their students. A member of staff at the school was passionate about offering a cycling and bike maintenance course to students as part of the programme, thus not only enabling them to maintain their bikes but also giving them the opportunity to explore safe routes to school and around Exeter.
The school approached local charity Ride On, who suggested that they contact Live and Move who helped them to create a proposal to run the Bike Project. The Live and Move programme funded bikes, work stands, tools, lights, hi-vis vests, consumables and mechanic time for two school terms.
Making it happen
A 12 week course was offered each term, with up to 13 students taking part, and which successfully met its aim of encouraging female and disadvantaged students. A bike mechanic from Ride On ran the Bike Project session each week with support from a member of staff. Students learnt basic bike maintenance skills including puncture repairs, safety checks, and general maintenance. Later they moved onto more complicated issues including brake cable replacements.
The project received funding to buy bikes for the students to use, and students were able to work on their own bikes as well as some of the teachers’ bikes. They also received a one to one cycling assessment to check their riding ability before going on any rides. This one-to-one support reduced any potential embarrassment arising from students feeling self-conscious about their riding ability. Each cohort also took part in group cycle rides from the school, led by a volunteer, exploring the local area and increasing their knowledge of safe cycle routes in their community.
“it was fun!”
“It was informative and I learnt how to fix my bike and showed how close I was to school.”
The student feedback was very positive, with all of the students saying that they felt confident to ride a bike on a route already known to them and planning and riding a bike on a new route.
The staff involved with the Bike Project have seen positive impacts. They described considerable increases in students’ cycling skills, both on the road and in the workshop. They highlighted that some students could not ride a bike at the start of the course and none of the students had undertaken any bike maintenance. By the end of the course, students had developed a wide range of bike maintenance skills and all students were confident to cycle, with some cycling to school more often.
Staff reported the course had helped two students for whom English is an additional language to learn to ride, having had no experience since early childhood. Six other students increased their cycling confidence having only ridden a bike briefly over the last few years. Others have started to cycle to school or around the city, with three students now cycling every day as a result of the sessions. The Bike Project has also benefited the wider school community; four bikes belonging to members of staff were repaired by students in the workshop, and the staff members now use them again.
“It’s the highlight of my week. It’s good. It’s really good. Seeing the changes in the students is great and it always flies by. Particularly the mix of practical skills and on the road skills. I’ve heard some of the students have been helping fix their parents’ bikes and friends’ bikes as well, so the impacts have really spread.”
Sam White, Volunteering and Outreach Manager, Ride On
Staff also highlighted that the students created a supportive environment to learn both cycling and bike maintenance skills. Overall, the staff felt the mix of ages in both groups was positive, and found students had made new friends during the course and enjoyed learning with students in different year groups.
“There’s at least one disadvantaged student that now cycles to school as a result, but there’s probably more.”
Stephen Brown, Assistant Head Teacher, St James School
The Bike Project has made meaningful impacts on the students who took part. The project has successfully introduced students to bike maintenance skills, supported them in developing those skills, and seen their confidence significantly grow.
The project has also helped to break down some of the barriers to cycling for the young women and disadvantaged pupils who participated. More students are now confident to plan cycle routes and have started cycling to school more frequently. The team at Ride On are keen to build on their experience at St James School, and are exploring the possibility of introducing the Bike Project to other schools in Exeter.
The Ride On team highlighted empowerment as key to the success of the Bike Project; they found students felt empowered by learning practical skills and gaining confidence to continue developing those skills.
“I can see it working anywhere. It’s important that you have one teacher who wants to support it and is already on board. I think that was crucial because the team at St James are fantastic but I’m sure that could be easily replicable.”
Sam White, Volunteering and Outreach Manager, Ride On
With support from Ride On and Live and Move, the Bike Project will be continuing as part of the Enrichment Programme at St James School throughout 2022/23, with the opportunity being offered to new cohorts during the course of the year.