2009 saw the start of an exciting new sport initiative for young people within the London Borough of Hackney. Two primary schools came together and created a unique opportunity for their pupils: a youth cycle racing league in Hackney.
Keir Apperley - then a dedicated cycle sport development officer at The Learning Trust, (the org. responsible for education in the borough and today renamed Hackney Learning Trust) brought together headmasters from Southwold and Gayhurst schools, British Cycling and Go-Ride accredited Cycling Club Hackney in order to set up a programme of training and cycle sport competition aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils (ages 8 –11).
"CC Hackney's assistant manager and coach Neil Irons was on hand to get this strategic proposal up and running and committed to steadily building up a vibrant competition league for all of Hackney that is going strong today. Neil and the league has given many youngsters knowledge and experience in the sport who'd otherwise not have this to take forward as skills for life. Hackney is a better place for it!" Keir Apperley
The story so far...
The project started in summer 2009 when year 5 and 6 pupils from Southwold Primary School, Gayhurst Community School and Tyssen Community School received some Go-Ride training from British Cycling, which led to after-school cycling clubs being set up.
The club members then competed for places in their school teams in order to take part in two grasstrack racing events held in the summer term. These race meets were very successful; a series of different track races being hotly contested by girls and boys from all three schools using track bikes. Over the following academic year the league was expanded: 5 schools took part in 9 race meets, held about once a month. We did more grass track, a time trial for 70 kids, a circuit race, a roller-racing fundraiser, two hill climbs, a MTB event, and all of the schools involved continued their individual cycle programmes, including Bikeability and sports cycling, riding with Cycle Club Hackney, participation in mass cycle events and even attendance (and success!) at several national cycle racing championships.
The 2011-12, 2012-13 seasons followed in a similar format with more schools joining in including schools from the neighbouring borough of Haringey.
The 2013 -14 season promises to be the closest league yet with more teams wanting to join and Millfields, Kingsmead and Southwold all keen to knock Gayhurst off the top spot.
Why competitive cycling?
The league is providing a fun and safe introduction for young riders to the world of cycle sport.
The young people involved are able to try out various cycle sport disciplines and start enjoying one of the fastest growing sports in the UK today; cycling has been a hugely successful sport for Great Britain in the last two Olympics. Hackney is an Olympic borough and the 2012 Olympic venues are just next door, providing indispensable inspiration and motivation!
The league is providing children who would not otherwise have the opportunity with an appropriate way into competitive cycling and a chance to develop their skills; it contributes to the schools’ commitment to the government’s 5 Hour Offer. It brings cycling to a wider range of young people whilst meeting aspects of the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda and optimises the provision of coaching expertise and leadership in cycling at a primary school level. Through this introduction to the sport the young riders can progress to join local cycling clubs and perhaps to represent their borough in the London Youth Games and beyond. Alongside attaining Intermediate level British Cycling Go-Ride skills riders are taught road awareness
and Bike-ability skills to make them skillful and observant riders.
• Monthly race meets: hill climbs, circuit races, mountain-biking and cyclo-cross, grasstrack, time trialling, roller racing.
• Points awarded for teams and individuals.
• 5 schools regularly taking part, with 4 more hoping to join in this year!
The long-term vision
The future we envisage is one of healthy Hackney children enjoying sport, learning life skills and contributing to sustainable travel patterns within London. It is accepted that those who enjoy cycling when they are young are more likely to continue cycling throughout their adult life – be it for fun, transport, or sport.
The Hackney Primary Schools Cycling League will hopefully become an established part of the Hackney primary schools sports calendar, expand to include secondary schools, and provide inter-borough competition between the five Olympic boroughs, making the most of the 2012 legacy.