Inverness Academy

Empowering young people through bikes.

An ambitious project 

Inverness Royal Academy, a comprehensive secondary school, was funded by Cycling Scotland as part of an ambitious project to grow their cycling offering that has increased the number of pupils cycling to among the highest rates in Scotland.

With the catchment area including areas of multiple deprivation, the school and attached community sports hub sought to address a lack of cycling activity within the local community. A number of pupils didn’t have access to bikes or a safe environment to learn skills and gain confidence. 

They were especially keen to target inactive young people from surrounding areas of deprivation, providing them with cycling opportunities and bike maintenance drop-in sessions.

Cycling Friendly funding

In October 2018, the school was funded £2,000 from the Cycling Friendly Secondary Schools fund towards the purchase a fleet of bikes and to stock their old PE store, now a bike workshop, with maintenance equipment.  The school started 1:1 cycling activities, successfully renovated the bike shed and has been running family-focused Dr Bike sessions.

Working with others

Four active pupil cycle champions, who attended a pupil cycle champion development event held by Cycling Scotland in Elgin in February 2019, have made their impact on the project. The school has worked hard to change the cycling culture and get more young people involved through Friday coaching sessions, led rides and trained volunteers with mechanic, leadership and mountain bike skills. Strong partnerships have been developed with Velocity Café, Active Schools, and Sustrans to support school mapping, Dr Bike events and Bikeability Scotland across feeder schools.

"A culture of cycling"

This sustained activity and promotion means that 16% of pupils are now cycling to school and PE teacher, Jane Chisholm says that longer-term the school aims to “embed cycling and maintenance into the curriculum to make it sustainable and drive forward a culture of cycling in the school community.”

Three special stories 

  • The stories of three girls at the school who have benefitted from the programme really stand out: firstly, a pupil who found cycling challenging who worked to build up her skills and finally, after much perseverance, conquering mountain biking in local woods.
  • A second young woman struggled with the social aspects of PE lessons but loved being active. She attended taster sessions and Friday coaching, and now has developed more confidence in herself and is more assured in class, giving her a much more positive experience of sport.  After the coaching sessions she got a second-hand bike which she brought to a Dr Bike event with her family – and now cycles to school each day.
  • The third pupil has found so much confidence through access to bikes: she attended the Velocity Build Bike project, went overnight bikepacking with the Adventure Syndicate and has just completed a Cycle Training Assistant course. Her teacher, Jane says, “one thing that strikes me about this young lady is how quiet she is, but the love of bikes and the opportunity to attend rides out has meant she has grown in confidence.”

Jane continues: “the nurture base, The Bothy, use the school bikes regularly, taking out pupils who struggle with school for emotional, social or behavioural reasons or because things at home are hard. The bikes give them an opportunity to be active, work with others and relax in the outdoor environment.”

Award-winning

The school was awarded Cycling Friendly in January 2019 and are now working towards the award with distinction.

Jane comments: “the whole process of applying to the grant fund and completing the audit for the Cycling Friendly School award has been excellent at highlighting and focussing us on doing things which will have the best outcomes for our pupils. If another school was thinking of becoming Cycling Friendly, I’d say ‘go for it! ‘Think about what you want to achieve first and work back from there!” 

You can find out more about becoming a Cycling Friendly School here.