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Cambridge school head says he was shocked after a child was treated in intensive care

A headteacher is taking drastic action to make cycling safer - with detentions for children who cycle dangerously.

Ed Elliott, headmaster of the Perse School in Cambridge, was dismayed to see his charges cycling to and from lessons on poorly maintained bikes in a less than orderly fashion.

Pupils at the independent school, where fees are £17,000 a year, have been told they must wear high-visibility clothing, helmets and no headphones.

Those found to be flouting the rules face a letter home to parents or a detention, and teachers can report transgressions on and off school grounds.

“Everyone who cycles to school must wear high-visibility clothing, correctly fitted cycle helmets, they must have working front and rear lights, brakes and pedal reflectors,” Elliott told the Times. “I tell children off when they are wearing headphones to listen to music when cycling; you can’t hear the reversing sirens on an HGV if you have headphones on.

“We spend a lot of time talking to pupils to make sure they stop at red lights. It is amazing how many cyclists run red lights in a place like Cambridge.

“In a teaching career you will sometimes see children who die. Early on in my career a child I knew well was killed in a cycle accident. That changed my behaviour.”

Elliott added: “Last year 309 children were seriously injured in cycle accidents reported to the police and there were eight deaths. Those aged 10 to 15 are most at risk, particularly between eight and nine in the morning and three and six in the evening and that risk increases in the winter months.”

This summer Ewan Morris, 16, a GCSE pupil at the Perse, who cycles a mile or so to and from school, was treated in intensive care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital after coming off a bike. He was wearing a borrowed cycle helmet.

“I can’t remember what happened,” he said. “I was put into a medically induced coma and released after a few days. My helmet was split open at the back — and I think that saved my life.”

Elliott, also a cyclist, has a festive message for parents wondering what to get their kids for Christmas. “I will be encouraging parents to consider buying cycle safety gear. Children think they are invincible; we are trying to create a different mindset.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.