Clarendon school has been running a bicycle maintenance scheme since September 2010. This initiative was created when a pupil was at risk of being excluded from the education system. The scheme was designed to give students, like him, the opportunity to learn how to maintain and service bikes, learning on our fleet of school bicycles, whilst being accredited with AQA Unit Awards in Cycle Mechanics.
Shortly it became clear that all our students would benefit from cycle mechanics with the hands-on, and transferable skills it offers, and therefore we began offering it to all our students, both boys and girls, aged Yr. 9-Yr. 11.
As we got the first cohort through the Unit Award and we had achieved getting the students skilled at regularly maintaining our fleet of school bicycles, staff started to ask if we could service their bicycles and ask whether they could buy bicycles from us. Students who had completed the Introduction to Cycle Maintenance Award then started to use their skills servicing and repairing staff bikes, and restoring second hand bicycles. Profits going back into the scheme.
We decided to start advertising that we collect donated bikes and bikes literally started to roll in. Kingston Market gave us a spot to sell our second hand bikes, and offer our services. Therefore as well as our staff being interested in what we had to offer, the local community became more aware of our scheme and its benefits. Richmond Council started to regularly give us abandoned bikes and we were inundated with them and struggling with storage to keep them. We started to sell these donated and then renovated bikes through Gumtree and Ebay to broaden our sales from the local community to further afield.
It became clear that the local community was really interested in what we had to offer, and we decided to get a steering group together and go through the process of creating a business plan to turn our scheme from Clarendon Cycle Scheme into a full time social enterprise- Bespoke Be Heard. A big motivation to go through this process when we did was down Richmond’s Den offer.
To gain this award, ‘Bespoke Be Heard’ was one of eight businesses shortlisted from 58 applicants. A fine tuned and professional presentation resulted in ‘Bespoke Be Heard’ being invited to the final 3 of Richmond’s Den. At the final, ‘Bespoke Be Heard’ was awarded the winner’s cheque of £10,000 and professional support from Richmond Business Society after an evening of intense interrogation by a high profile panel of Dragons.
Having won the Richmond’s Den we wanted to further broaden our horizons to all abilities and started offering the City and Guilds courses to mainstream schools- with the intention to give students a stepping-stone through cycle mechanics onto a career avenue into Transport industry and engineering. Over the last 5 years we have received more and more interest from schools who see the value of students gaining vocational qualifications with City and Guilds, which we teach up to Level 2 (A-C grade GCSE equivalent).
The following are some of the schools who have been involved in the scheme to date: Richard Challoner, Christ’s School, Richmond Park Academy, Hampton Academy, Twickenham Academy, Gateway, Malden Oaks, Orleans Park, Kingsley Academy and Cambridge School.
Teachers and professionals started to see more and more the benefits of students gaining the cycle mechanics qualifications because the qualifications either; directs students into a career with bikes; and/or provides the steps into engineering; and at the same time enriches students’ educational experience alongside their regular subjects.
We now also offer our students further courses to accompany their Introduction to Cycle Maintenance: Renovating a Bicycle and Trail Riding, which has given students the chance to understand how the social enterprise works when picking, renovating and selling second hand bicycles. As well as getting the students use to riding their bikes on trails and the road, all whilst gaining awards that will go towards their record of achievement.
For more information on our courses, please click on the link below