Fitter children and reduced carbon footprint: Half of Stockport school’s pupils cycle on daily commute

By Ross McLean

Pedal Power is all the rage at a Stockport school where almost half of their pupils cycle to school – with their achievements even drawing praise from cycling’s national governing body.

Brookside Primary School has this year flown the Greater Manchester flag in two inter-school race competitions – the Big Pedal and the Big Bike Race.

And the pupils’ efforts have not gone unnoticed by British Cycling, home to the highly successful Great Britain Cycling Team.

“It is always heart-warming to hear of the good work that is being done in schools throughout the country,” a spokesperson said. 

“At British Cycling, we work directly with pupils and teachers alike through various programmes.

“We believe it is hugely valuable in helping us achieve our goal of getting more people riding their bikes more often.”

Of the 171 pupils on their school roll, Brookside Primary School has an average of 80 who cycle to and from school every day.

For three years, pupils have taken part in the Big Pedal – a virtual Tour de France-style race featuring a new stage along a UK cycle route each day.

The more children that take part, the faster each stage of the race is completed and this year has proved their most fruitful.

Brookside were Manchester’s finest with a time of 87:04:32, finishing third across the north-west and 62nd nationally.

They have also enjoyed success in the Big Bike Race where they competed against their peers at other schools in their local authority area.

This again is a virtual bike race along a set distance, covering daunting routes such as Land’s End to John O’Groats and the moon and back.

The competition usually lasts for three weeks, although Brookside reached the finish line within four days.

Headteacher Maxine Holmes cannot speak highly enough of her school’s cycling achievements and is happy to be seen as a standard-bearer in promoting healthy lifestyles.

“I am extremely proud of our pupils for their achievements in cycling,” she said.

“We didn’t expect to be up there in the Big Bike Race this year as we are now classed as a big school with more than 150 children on the roll. But it didn’t prove a problem to us.

“Cycling is not just something we do when there’s a competition but everyday, all through the year, which is just brilliant.

“More parents and staff are cycling now and we provide healthy breakfasts for those who cycle to school – there is a great community feel to the place.”

Cycling prowess is rooted in Brookside’s heritage after setting up partnership with Sustrans – a charity supporting sustainable transport – in 2008.

A year later they became the first school in the country to be awarded the bronze Bike-It award, something noted in their Ofsted Report that year.

This was followed by the silver award during the 2010/11 school year with attention now firmly focussed on securing gold.

Sustrans even funded the construction of a new cycling shelter in the school grounds in recognition of their achievements, something Ms Holmes is extremely grateful for.

“I didn’t have the money in the budget to pay for cycling shelters so when they said they would come and do that for free, I was delighted,” she said.

“And it is testament to the pupils who worked so hard. Without that, where would we be able to keep so many bikes and scooters safe at the school?”

The cycling efforts of Brookside’s pupils, staff and parents have also been noted in Parliament, with Hazel Grove MP Andrew Stunell suitably impressed.

“It’s great to hear of Brookside’s pedal power successes. It certainly puts me to shame! Fitter children and staff, and a smaller carbon footprint is good news all round,” he said.

Picture courtesy of Professor Cooper, with thanks.

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