Mountain biking track for school PE lessons

Liberton High pupils Nathan Portes, 17, Jake Shek, 14, Lewis Balsillie, 16, Kyle Riddell, 16, and Nathan Barron, 13. Picture: Jane Barlow
Liberton High pupils Nathan Portes, 17, Jake Shek, 14, Lewis Balsillie, 16, Kyle Riddell, 16, and Nathan Barron, 13. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE Capital’s newest mountain biking trail has launched – in the backyard of a city school.

Liberton High has unveiled the track ahead of an interschools competition later this month, with the pursuit now set to be offered during core sports lessons.

One of the first school-based facilities of its kind in Scotland, the trail will also help Liberton become a city-wide centre of excellence, with discussions already under way on holding classes for keen bikers from elsewhere in the Capital.

National agencies and local businesses have ploughed nearly £100,000 into the school’s kilometre-long aggregate and whindust track, which is set to be extended to two kilometres in the coming session.

Delighted teachers said the trail had sparked a surge in enthusiasm among pupils and predicted it would lead to a step-change in attitudes to sport.

Ellie Forgan, active schools coordinator for the Liberton High cluster, said: “It’s really exciting – kids have been proactively asking to come up and use the trail.

“I’ve had parents saying their kids have spent the whole day out here. It’s been really huge for their confidence.”

Built on a patch of empty grassland behind Liberton High’s main building, the trail features jumps and bespoke soil banks, or “berms”, as well as a specially designed woodland section.

It has allowed school staff to offer a wide range of activities to youngsters, from biking and speedway to leisure cycling and leadership programmes.

“It’s the only purpose-built trail in an Edinburgh school,” said Ms Forgan. “But we would want to emphasise the fact that this is not just for the school, it’s for the whole community.”

Liberton High currently has around nine mountain bikes and is working to secure more so that as many pupils as possible benefit from the new track.

Headteacher Stephen Kelly said: “We are probably a bit further on in terms of being the only school in the city with a purpose-built mountain biking trail, and it will be offered within our core PE provision.

“We’re currently getting teachers trained up to provide national qualifications in mountain biking. We can also offer certificates in skills such as trail building through schemes such as the SQA leadership awards.”

Liberton pupils have been quick to give their new trail a firm thumbs-up.

Keen mountain biker Lewis Balsillie, 16, who is in S5, said: “It’s given pupils at the school an opportunity to do something different and hands-on, allowing them to use skills that they would not normally use in school.

“I would say it’s a really good trail for a very broad range of skills. It’s suitable for beginners and for more advanced bikers like myself.”

Nathan Barron, 13, who is in S2, said: “I think it’s great. It will definitely influence the younger kids coming up to get more involved.

“I think a lot of the quite unfit kids have been using it every day at school.”