Parent criticises Surrey primary school's ban on children cycling to two of its three sites

Taxis taking children to school not a fitting legacy of London 2012, says father of 5-year-old girl

by Simon_MacMichael   February 22, 2013  

Dorking Olympic road race sculpture © Simon MacMichael

The father of a five-year-old girl at a primary school in Surrey has criticised a decision to ban children from cycling to school at two of its three sites on the grounds that it is too dangerous.

The decision, taken after a parent-governor meeting last Thursday, coincides with spending cuts forcing North Downs Primary School to move children between its three locations, located in the villages of Betchworth, Brockham and Leigh, which all lie between Dorking and Reigate, reports the Dorking Advertiser.

According to the newspaper, the school’s head teacher, Angela Ewing, has stipulated that from the start of the new academic year in September, the sites at Betchworth and Leigh will be “driving only.”

James Harvey, who lives in Brockham and rides with his five-year-old daughter to school in Betchworth each day, said he would not have chosen the school had he known that she and the rest of her class would be moved to the Leigh site.

"We wouldn't have chosen the Betchworth school if we knew this was going to happen,” he said. “There'd be no way. It's just too dangerous cycling to Leigh, they would be at risk."

He added that his daughter may have to travel to school in Leigh by taxi, although the school has said it will meet the cost for Year One children.

Surrey County Council has been keen to promote its commitment to ensuring a legacy from the county hosting much of the route of the road races and time trials in last year's Olympics, with this summer featuring the inaugural RideLondon-Surrey event and the return of the Tour of Britain.

It is also actively encouraging youngsters to get involved in cycling, it seems that has not filtered down to individual schools in this case.

Mr Harvey said: "It would be a national scandal if a school situated within view of the 2012 Box Hill Olympic Cycling Race introduced a policy that forces pupils into cars."

He is now talking to the school regarding having walking and cycling included on its curriculum.

North Downs Primary School is reported to be cutting one teaching post, with the number of children at Betchworth falling from 44 to 30, while there will be an increase from 43 to 60 in pupil numbers at Leigh.

Any children starting at the school from this September will also have been moved around all three of its sites by the time they reach their eight birthday, says the Dorking Advertiser, creating another potential headache for parents.

Betchworth resident Paul Potter said that plans to move the site where his three grandchildren attend school would entail an hour-long journey.

"I don't agree that it's going to be any better for the children and putting a five-year-old in a taxi is not a good idea," he explained.

"If Surrey County Council is offering the lifts for Year One pupils, surely they can keep funding the teachers?"

National cyclists’ organisation CTC published a guide last year aimed at helping parents help overcome resistance to their children riding to schools as a result of anti-cycling policies.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans also encourages educational establishments to participate in its Safe Routes to School programme.

 

6 user comments

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Walking and cycling should not be on the curriculum. That is a parental responsibility. Parents need to step up to the mark and take ownership of your responsibilities and duty to your children. Stop expecting the state to rear your kids. The state should provide a safe environment. It is a pity the school feels forced to make this decision. Is the school totally at fault? The article seems to heap consternation on the school. Can't be that simple, surely.

Still smiling politely at a persistently flat chain.

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posted by velophilia [38 posts]
23rd February 2013 - 1:14

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Interesting to think though,that schools have no say on how children and parents travel to school. They cannot stop people from walking and cycling or spacehoppering to school. Please note I'm speaking in general here, and have no idea of the local situation which may or may not be appropriate for people to spacehopper around.

posted by Jonnyd [21 posts]
23rd February 2013 - 10:55

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Probably the school has been snookered by the council that funds it, but it does seem like a particularly bad choice they've made in reply, punishing students who do what is generally seen as a healthy activity. I wonder why they're not insisting on road improvements, or closures to traffic at school times.

posted by a.jumper [654 posts]
23rd February 2013 - 11:16

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Headline: "The father of a five-year-old girl at a primary school in Surrey has criticised a decision to ban children from cycling to school at two of its three sites on the grounds that it is too dangerous."

Father: "It's just too dangerous cycling to Leigh, they would be at risk."

Bit of objectivity please.

posted by Rockplough [9 posts]
23rd February 2013 - 12:09

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I wish it had occurred to me to Spacehopper to school. I could have done, too.

Having said that, if kids no longer cycle to school, schools won't have bike sheds, and then how will anyone take their first fumbling steps into adult, er, cyclisthood?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [642 posts]
24th February 2013 - 0:45

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I tried Spacehoppering to school in the 70's, but the 11% gradient was murder on the way up and just flaming comical on the way down ...

Me, Myself and I

posted by phax71 [298 posts]
25th February 2013 - 9:15

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