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Teachers praise ‘transformational’ impact of active learning hubs for ASN pupils

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FEL launched its first active travel hub at Lornshill Academy in 2019, and has now expanded to include similar projects at Alloa Academy, Bannockburn High, Balfron High and Larbert High.

The active travel hubs offer lessons and courses on good habits for walking, cycling, skateboarding, and other forms of active travel to increase sustainability and mental and physical health and boost student participation in school.

Since launching at Lornshill in Alloa, the school has reported that students are cycling nearly seven times the national average (9% compared to 1.3%). 

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All five schools also offer dedicated sessions for pupils with ASN. Senior project officer Scott Kennedy helps to lead these sessions and said that they can change how students engage with school, especially those statistically more likely to struggle with regular classes. 

“For pupils who struggle with attendance, we have seen real progress,” he says. “And we have had really positive reports from pupils about our sessions, especially those less likely to engage in PE classes.”

He said the courses also allow students to work together across age groups.

Part of the active travel project includes establishing “walking buses.” Older students volunteer to organise walking groups to pick up primary pupils and escort them to school. The initiative also allows senior pupils to qualify as walk leaders and ambassadors in their schools and communities, boosting their CVs for university.

Through skills courses for students and the community, Mr Kennedy provides lessons on how to walk or bike safely and helps to plan routes that avoid heavy traffic. But he said that the interpersonal benefits for the community and pupils set the project apart.

“The walking buses and led walk and cycle events give everyone a chance to get active and to have a wee chat in a safe environment. Active travel is important because it not leads to a healthier lifestyle throughout a young person’s life but it’s more sustainable as well.

“And it isn’t just the school that the hub supports, it’s the entire community that we are able to help as well.”

The Herald: Bannockburn High School teachers have said that the active travel hub has tranformed their school and community.Bannockburn High School teachers have said that the active travel hub has tranformed their school and community. (Image: Julie Howden)

Lorna Shepherd, Bannockburn Principal Teacher of Pupil Support, said that the impact of the Hub has been life-changing for some pupils. 

“The Active Travel Hub has truly transformed the school experience for students with additional support needs and those facing attendance challenges.

“Not only have they taught biking skills, but they’ve also cultivated self-confidence and fostered a love for learning in each pupil.

“Their school attendance has improved too. They actually want to come to school now because they’re excited to keep on learning new things with the support of some really great adults.”

Read more: Report warns that the majority of ASN pupils are not having their needs met

She said that attendance has improved at Bannockburn for pupils who normally struggle to engage. By building relationships between students and their peers, charity workers, teachers and younger pupils, the active travel hub has become a lifeline for keeping young people engaged.

The Active Travel Hub team take the time to understand each student’s needs, working closely with their teachers.

“Their patient and gradual approach allows students to progress at their own pace” she added.

“Seeing a once apprehensive student confidently cycling to school is more than just about bike skills. It signifies the courage to try new things, such as learning to swim – another skill which the cohort have just mastered.”

Project coordinator Jodie Murdoch said that FEL has targeted schools for its active travel hubs because they help the initiative reach parents and siblings at the local primary schools and the wider community.

“As community anchor institutions, our high schools play a pivotal role in promoting healthier modes of travel and nurturing a shared ethos of environmental stewardship and wellbeing.

“With the introduction of Balfron High and Larbert High to the programme late last year, we’re strengthening our commitment to making daily walking, cycling and wheeling more accessible for all.”

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