A LOCAL primary principal has said her school community is ‘deeply disappointed’ to hear that funding, which, for 50 years has been used to run an annual children’s cycling course, has been pulled by the Department of Infrastructure (DfI).
The words of regret came from the principal of St Conor’s Primary School and Nursery Unit in Omagh, Katrina McGettigan, after the DfI announced that it will no longer be funding the Cycling Proficiency Scheme – a programme which, for decades, has taught thousands of local primary school pupils how to be safer cyclists.
“The Cycling Proficiency Scheme has been running in our school for many years; helping many hundreds of Primary Seven pupils develop their cycling skills, increase their confidence as cyclists, and identify risks they may come across on the roads,” began Ms McGettigan.
“Between Easter and the end of June each year, we typically had around 60 Primary Seven pupils enrol for the Cycling Proficiency Scheme which ran after school, in the school playground.”
Ms McGettigan went on to explain how DfI funding enabled the school to facilitate the programme.
“A number of our school staff are trained instructors, approved by, and registered with, the DfI Safe and Accessible Travel Promotion and Outreach branch, which was all paid for by DfI.
“These staff were responsible for teaching the children how to do ride their bike more safely; what to wear, bicycle maintenance and the rules of the road. And at the end of their 12 sessions, the children had to pass a practical and written assessment, before being awarded a Certificate of Completion.”
Ms McGettigan said that it is, therefore, disappointing news that the department can no longer afford to pay staff to deliver the scheme.
“We will have to pay out of our school budget to continue offering this extra-curricular activity to our pupils,” she said.
Commenting on the decision to bring an end the decades-long funding commitment, a DfI spokesperson said, “The cycling proficiency scheme is delivered by teaching staff in schools, who receive payment from the department for doing so.
“Due to budget constraints, we are not currently in a position to fund this payment to teachers.
“We will still provide training for teachers, should that be needed, and any practical resources needed to deliver the scheme, should schools want to continue to provide the scheme.”