MORE than half the pupils at Ferndale Primary School are pedalling their way to class as a part of a national initiative aimed at encouraging bicycles and scooters as a mode of transport to school.
The Big Pedal, organised by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, is a giant inter-school cycling and scooting competition that encourages children, teachers and parents to choose two wheels for their school journeys.
This year’s competition, which has been rolled out at Ferndale by assistant headteacher Liz Horrobin, will span 10 school days, from March 3 to 14, and the more children who scoot and cycle each day, the more points their school earns.
Schools right across the UK will be competing against each other, and the competition is weighted according to the size of the school.
In its first two days of the contest, Ferndale has already managed to get more than 230 of its 365 pupils on their bikes and scooters, in what has proved a beneficial scheme for the wider community as well as the pupils.
“We spoke to Sustrans and they said it’s pretty good if you get 10 per cent of your school doing it,” said Gary Evans, headteacher at Ferndale.
“We’ve got 230 children doing it though, which is more than double our total number of pupils, so we have been very pleased in the effort shown.
“I have never known this many pupils to be coming to school on their bikes. It’s wonderful to see all these children coming in.
“There are more children coming in on time. They are finding out it’s quicker to cycle. It’s also bringing families together.
“Mums and dads are bringing their children to school together on their bikes, which they might not have done on foot.
“It’s proving healthier for the kids too. It’s also tackling traffic congestion – the roads have never been so quiet around the school.”
Mr Evans said the school’s playground is awash with bikes and scooters locked up to the gates which surround the play area.
He hopes the event will have a lasting effect on the school’s pupils and parents.
“Cycling to school isn’t a huge weak point for us. We do already get around 30 pupils cycling in on a normal day, but if that could go up to 100 or so in the long-term, I think that’s achievable,” he said.
“When you speak to the parents you do get a sense of their keenness. It was pouring with rain on Monday and I expected a big drop off in those cycling in, but it went up in numbers.
“Judging by the conversations we are having with people at the moment, you can see everyone is aware of the benefits.”