Cycling and walking to school now habit in Luton school

By Guest Blogger,
Richard Noon and Simon Marshall

Richard Noon (left) and Simon Marshall (right) meet at Wigmore Primary School

As this year’s Big Pedal competition reached its conclusion Richard Noon, our Bike It Officer in Luton, spoke to long standing school champion and PE Teacher, Simon Marshall, at Wigmore Primary School in Luton to discuss the legacy that has been left behind by Bike It.

Thanks to funding by Luton Council I’ve worked with a number of schools over the years helping them to inspire and encourage pupils to ditch the car in favour of something healthier - but there’s only so much one man can do! But imagine what a different place the world would be if we could inspire others to take up the challenge. At Wigmore Primary School in Luton that’s just what’s happened.

Working with Sustrans in the beginning helped massively and the work we did together is now just habit at school.

- Simon Marshall, PE Teacher & School champion at Wigmore Primary School

For two years I worked with the school intensively through the Bike It programme – I even helped to develop a network of shared use routes around the school area. In 2015 the school received a Sustrans Silver School Mark Award and since then has been pretty much self-sufficient in terms of active travel promotion. It's great to see the school has built on early success more than ever.

As you’d expect from an outstanding school like Wigmore they took part in the Big Pedal this year between 23 April and 4 May. The school achieved some impressive results, coming 12th nationally and managing to get nearly 70% of its pupils cycling and scooting to school.

Getting to this point didn’t happen overnight and as support from Sustrans has gradually reduced I was curious to know just how has Wigmore Primary School maintained, and built on, the active travel culture it has established?

According to Simon Marshall, the schools cycling champion and PE Teacher, their Big Pedal success this year was achieved by building on the success of previous years:

“Success from previous years has driven us on to try and beat previous years scores. So throughout this year’s Big Pedal we’ve put on events - some of which have attracted up to 400 pupils. We’ve set up obstacles and ramps for use throughout the day, we’ve given prizes for the best decorated bikes and even given the kids breakfast.”

At a time when so many schools are facing a difficult financial situation I was keen to ask Simon how the school has maintained a commitment to active travel:

“We want to encourage our pupils to make smart and healthy life choices inside and outside of school and active travel on the school run is a great way to start the day. Working with Sustrans in the beginning helped massively and the work we did together is now just habit at school. So a lot of things like the Big Pedal, walk to school week and bike/scooter after school club are still in place now. Knowing that Sustrans were at the other end of the phone definitely supported our development.” Says Simon.

The comment about habit forming stands out to me. Surely if we’re seeking to change behaviour that’s the strongest, and most powerful, behaviour change legacy that we could ever hope for. But isn’t the real question how do we replicate the achievements of this successful school elsewhere?

Simon’s advice is simple, create lots of events to engage pupils and tell people about your success:

“Using our newsletter, the school website and our assemblies we publicise how well we’ve done in previous years. This has inspired our pupils to get involved and carry on the tradition each year so success has led to success. It’s also vital to set up events - whole school events have worked really well and pupils always love having extra time out of class being active on their bike or scooter!”

I really enjoyed talking to Simon again. In the early days we inspired him – today his infectious enthusiasm is inspiring others.

Find out more about our work in schools

The Bike It Plus London programme