As a parent I struggle to achieve the right balance between the things my children want to do during their down time and activities I feel they should be doing. I have such mixed feelings about all the electronic paraphernalia that’s out there; as I believe there is so much more to these precious childhood years than the latest electronic game, phone, etc. I find myself going to great lengths to encourage hobbies and outdoor pursuits and prove that mums and dads, do on the whole, know what’s best!
I was caught by surprise last year when my eldest son announced he wanted to cycle to a friend’s house and I was not allowed to escort him on any mode of transport! I had to reason with him that, as a striving, responsible parent, I would no sooner let him ride on any roads without the appropriate tuition, as I would put him in 20foot of water, knowing he could not swim.
I took my thoughts to the PA and with their approval set about researching various companies. I was looking for a professional all-encompassing company, and one I felt I could develop an on-going relationship with. There are a lot of money-making companies out there; over-keen, over-marketed and over-priced. I was looking for a responsible, experienced group who were down to earth and suited the York House ethos.
Last year 29 boys signed up for the course and during our last April break 27 either existing students or new ones came along. Learning to ride on our roads and manoeuvre through traffic, road junctions and over roundabouts is an education in itself and one that requires professional, experienced instruction. I would like to see it incorporated in all schools weekly curriculums but that’s an argument for a different time. It is a fun and energetic course, but not easy at any level. There is preparation homework to do and during the day the long, undulating and busy routes can be tiring. Every single child has mentioned, in one way or another that it was harder than they realised, but the look on their faces when they receive their awards at the end of the course is always priceless.
They do become increasingly harder and more demanding as you move through the levels. I would mention all the courses are pass or fail and we have had students who have not quite reached the appropriate standard. But it is not our intention to let children out on the road, if we feel that they have not developed the necessary skills and road awareness during the course. We all learn at different speeds and have to accept that developing your cycling proficiency is the same.
If your child, like mine, is pulling gently away and requesting some independence and you are considering letting them off on their bikes, please take road safety seriously and sign up for the next “Arrive Alive” course. The course name says it all; you will see an improvement in their confidence and this will give you some peace of mind. I am not saying it is an all-encompassing panacea, but it is a good grounding.
To the best of my knowledge, York House is the only private school in the area offering this course; a first, which we are very proud of.
There were nine boys participating in the level 3 course. All the trainers/examiners were really impressed with their fitness, confidence and correct, independent decision-making in Watford’s busy town traffic. They passed all boys with flying colours and again, York House hit another first when we were told that we were the only school ever to have boys under year VI pass this course first time.
To all those pupils who have completed level 3, very well done; This was a three-day, full-time road course which involved a lot of independent work as well as at least a cycle ride of 10-miles a day. Be very proud of your unprecedented achievements.
To the rest of the students who are level 1 or 2, I would recommend regular, short cycle rides from home with an adult who will allow you to make all the decisions and note in your diary to join up again next year. Please do not just put your bike back in the shed. Keep pedalling!
York House Parents Association