Hythehill Primary School in Lossiemouth, Moray is the Bikeability Scotland ‘School of the Year’. Deputy Head Teacher, Martin Collins, talked to Cycling Scotland about what lessons he would share and why cycling is part of a much bigger picture.

Martin has worked across a number of schools in Moray and his experiences elsewhere combined with a personal commitment to cycling and support from parents, children, teaching staff, management and Outfit Moray combined to make Hythehill, in his words, “a Bikeability school”.

The Bikeability Scotland award is in recognition of the school’s ongoing commitment and dedication to cycle training and the development of a wider cycling culture. The school has a proactive and fully inclusive approach to training including specific support for those with additional support needs and transient pupils associated with the local RAF base. Additionally, Hythehill was recognised for its efforts to deliver numerous and wide-ranging cycling activities, including bike maintenance classes, learn to ride sessions and mountain biking for P7s.

Hythehill is in Lossiemouth in Moray. It's got a roll of about 319 just now. There is a big RAF base in Lossiemouth. There may be [up to] 50% children of RAF personnel and the locals from Lossiemouth itself. It is a unique mix. On the back of being a sort of service school, there is a culture of bicycles. It was there but not tapped into. There was potential at Hythehill. That's where it all started.

I've actually worked in lots of schools in Moray. I've been very involved in cycling from working in the Forres ASGs (Associated Schools Groups) and then getting mass transition cycles to help with Active Schools and then going to Seafield where I was involved there.

When I came to Hythehill it was a case of speaking to Donna from Outfit Moray and saying, “well, look at the potential here”. If you want the Bikeability 1 and 2 to be really embedded, you have to say, “right. What do need to do for P3 and P6?” And then what happens is you can put taster sessions in for the P1 and P2 and for P5 as well. The fact that they are trained up and they're proficient in P7, means you can then get them out for curricular issues.

That's what I was doing at Kinloss and Seafield. Getting the P7s and P6s out to the sea and doing projects. It was helping you access the curriculum. And if you're talking about Curriculum for Excellence, this is ticking lots of boxes.

Management at the time were very appreciative and supportive. And I think that's a really big thing. Management has to be really behind things like this. Anything outdoor learning, Bikeability - just embracing the idea of it. Without management, that can't happen.

Before it was a case of, oh yeah Bikeability is out there, and maybe quite a lot of schools are like that. Och, Bikeability, it's another thing we have to do. It should be really up there. High profile. I think that that's where the journey started at Hythehill. We said, “right, let's make it high profile.”

Last year was setting the scene. But this year, we sat down, and I planned out a program. I was very involved with the Cycling Friendly School and the eco committee. So it was on the back of that which, I suppose, is the way it should be.

It's not just doing one thing, it's lots of things that you're doing at the same time and hopefully bringing them all together. We looked at sustainable transport, and we thought we should get a school policy out because people are bringing bikes in, and if we want to make it high profile, we should make it a school policy.

National Bike Week was a big part. We just had everybody on bikes throughout the week doing different things. Outfit Moray were great because they had ramps. So that brought in something different. And then we had games, and it was really nice to see everybody on bikes. We had parents involved in that as well.

Children just started to bring their bikes in. At the beginning of the year, there were about 10 bikes coming into the cycle shed. So this was a really good way of measuring what was actually happening. At the end of the year there were 40 bikes. It was so full we had to put bikes around the back. People were really buying into it. There was a buzz as well. Parents were talking about it.

When you see all the parents with their children cycling out, it's like, okay, we're a cycle school now. It's like a switch has changed. And all of a sudden people are just doing it now, they're just cycling.

There are communities here who wish to see this change. That's one of the things that I'll be looking at this session is to have more engagement with Moray Council. And say, “look, what's happening here. There's a community here who are actually changing their views and their perceptions of sustainable transport.”

If you can do something with Bikeability and with getting people on bikes, it can change a whole idea of life. These are life skills, and these are ways that people think about how they live and that's generated within a primary school. I'd always stand up and say, these are things that are really important, and I'll fight for them. And that makes a difference in a school.

I look back and the structure of everything that we've put in place from the Bikeability through the sessions, to the workshops, to the involvement with parents, to the policy. It's all good. It's like a model. And I am very proud of that model. The way that the community have been working together. The boys and girls and the eco committee in particular.

So, to actually hear we had that recognition, I'm over the moon. And the community will be so pleased, they really will. It's a Bikeability school and it's the whole school. From P1 right up to P7 and all the parents. Staff are saying, “what's happening here?” And they're going for their Cycle Trainer [qualification] and things like that.

The school should be sustainable. It should be about to provide that level of commitment to Bikeability and training and just getting people out on their bikes.
Photography by Julie Howden.

Music by Birds for Scale.