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How to encourage cycling at schools with anti-cycling policies

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If your child's school is trying to ban or discourage cycling, this guide is designed to help overcome the most common barriers. It's mainly for parents, but we hope it'll also be useful for teachers, heads, governors, local authorities, after-school programmes and, of course, children.
Don't stop kids from cycling to school
Don't stop kids from cycling to school

6) How to convince your child’s school to allow cycling - next steps

  • Present the solutions to the head teacher. Write to the head explaining that cycling is a healthy and relatively safe way for children to travel to school, and address any concerns the head teacher gave in your initial discussion. Suggest your solutions and a date by which you would like a response. Continue trying to discuss the issue with the head teacher, even if they do not respond positively to your letter. Make it clear that you don’t want to make a fuss, but that you will be forced to go down that route if the school’s cycling policy does not change.

  • Take the discussion to the Board of Governors. If the head teacher does not respond positively to your letter, try to attend a meeting of the Board of Governors. At the least, the AGM should be open to everyone and you should be able to submit a question for discussion beforehand. Ask for a written response, if possible.

A good outcome would be for the Board to agree to delegate a committee to look into cycling (or cycling and walking) to the school and to report back. Ideally, you should be invited to sit on it. You may also find it useful to become a parent governor yourself, but you will need to stand for election first.

  • Involve the local authority. Since all local authorities are required to promote sustainable school travel (as part of School Travel Plan requirements), your local authority should be broadly supportive of your campaign. All local authorities are organised differently, but yours is likely to have teams or departments focused on sustainability, transport or road safety. Look in these teams for people who are particularly excited about your campaign. They don’t need to be the heads of those departments, but they must want you to succeed. If your local authority has a cycling officer or school travel plan officer, contact them. They should be able to help you navigate local bureaucracy and policies.

  • Use policy and the political system. Write to your MP and to local councillors, explaining your plight. Ask them to visit the school. Look up the school’s Travel Plan. It will be based on a survey, which you should be able to see. If you don’t like the questions on it, ask the school to issue a new survey. Your contacts within the local authority should be able to help you with this.

  • Complain to the school’s line manager. Many schools are managed by Local Education Authorities. They have very strict rules about how they get involved in disputes between parents and schools. You will need to do your research, and it is likely that you will have to present evidence that the school is failing to meet a mandated requirement, such as promoting sustainable school travel. Once again, your contacts within the local authority may be able to help with this if your child attends a religious school, write to the local head of the church/institution.

  • Get the local media involved. This is really a tactic of last resort, as it will probably anger the head teacher and Board of Governors. But it is worth doing if other methods have not worked. The local media tends to be quite interested in cycling to school stories!

  • Don’t give up hope! Overturning a school cycle ban can be a long and complicated process. Your child may not even be there long enough for you to see any changes! But it is worth trying. We have heard of several instances where one family has campaigned unsuccessfully, but nevertheless managed to pave the way for another family to come along a few years later and work wonders.

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