Once we had established our cycle clubs within mainstream schools we decided that if we were going to be true of our aim of taking cycling into hard to reach and marginalised groups of children we needed to take on a bigger more complex challenge.
We identified a school in Orpington that provides alternative education provision for pupils aged five to 11 excluded from mainstream schools. The children have social, emotional or mental health difficulties and communication is particularly challenging due to Dyslexia / Speech, learning and language difficulties.
We believed that if we worked with the children over a period of time and offered them additional support and development, we could use cycling to improve their health, behaviour and educational attainment.
The school took a bit of convincing, especially as we wanted to set a target of entering a cycling team from the school into the Bromley Inter Schools Cycling Championship. They had never entered any sporting competition before due to the challenges they faced. Fortunately, we were able to convince them that breaking this pattern would lead to a reduction in stigma and discrimination for the children as well as increasing their understanding and inclusion into the community life of Bromley.
Our first problem was that the school did not have any bikes or funds to buy them. We overcame this by using social media to mobilise local residents, businesses and bike clubs into donating old bikes that we then made road worthy.
The first few weeks were quite challenging but as the kids grew to trust us, their confidence grew and the difference in their approach, attitude and commitment was remarkable.
So, it was with some trepidation that we took the kids along to their first ever sporting competition. We had agreed a plan with the kids from arrival, warm up and into the races that emphasised the journey they had been on and everything they had achieved.
There was not a dry eye amongst teachers, parents and coaches when after a remarkable day the kids came 2nd. Not just the first time in that competition but their first time in any competition. .
The success of the children spread much wider than the medals and trophies they received though. They achieved numerous additional benefits such as the opportunity to employ and experience less violent behaviour, resulting in safer environments for themselves, their families and their communities. The cycle club also increased their self-efficacy and provided the ability for them to participate in decision making processes. This gave them a better understanding of personal life choices and how they affect their lives.
To read more about their amazing journey see the "News Shopper" Article here :