Summer of Cycling

In recent years, children’s sporting heroes have been limited to football layers and track runners, the David Beckhams and Usain Bolts of this world. Children’s bedroom walls have been adorned with posters of these sportsmen, the occasional tennis player, perhaps even a swimmer. But there was never a cyclist in sight. Thankfully, things have evolved and, through the dramatic shift of the past five years, the country has witnessed a cycling Zeitgeist spearheaded by Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Paralympian Sarah Storey and the entire Team GB who have flown the flag from the podium for the much-lauded ‘Summer of Cycling’.

A recent study (MORI, 2011) concluded that 43 per cent of children cannot ride a bike by the age of six. While the government injects millions of pounds into the Bikeability programme for children aged seven and above, there is no equivalent provision for Foundation Stage children to learn the basics.

Yet being able to ride a bike is a life lesson, which is being increasingly overlooked in the home as many parents rely on pre-schools and primary schools to get their children in the saddle. With young children lacking the exposure, parental support and opportunity to cycle, an increasing proportion are unable to master the skill of riding a bicycle until around the age of ten or above. This is one reason why, of the 8.3 million children who travel to school every day, only two per cent cycle, with one in ten children never learning the skill (Tata Steel Study, 2011).

Children’s health has never been under more scrutiny with the Chief Medical Officers’ Report and the NHS Physical Activity Guidelines for Children (under five years) demanding increased activity and a renewed approach to physical education for young children. The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, which came into effect in September 2012, features three prime areas for children’s learning. One of these, physical development, can readily be delivered through Balanceability.