CHILDREN at a Bradford primary school were overjoyed to have one of the district’s top junior sporting stars pay a visit to open their new community learning zone.

World Junior Cyclo Cross Champion Tom Pidcock opened a new purpose-built cycling track at Horton Park Primary School on the Canterbury estate, just one element of the new £100,000 outdoor play area.

The school has been working with the cycling charity Sustrans since 2014, and has used cycling at the heart of its approach to increase attendance and encourage healthy lifestyles and integration amongst children from different cultures.

After cutting the ribbon to officially open the eight-acre site, 17 year-old Pidcock, who rides for Team GB and Bradford cycle club PH-MAS/Paul Milnes/Oldfield ERT, cycled around the track to huge cheers with six pupils who had completed their bikeability training as all the other children from the school released a huge shower of balloons to mark the occasion.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to put something back into cycling and see how cycling can make a difference in a local Bradford community,” said Pidcock, who also recently won the prestigious Junior Paris – Roubaix event.

“It’s quite funny, when I was in my first PE lesson in year seven at school I asked if they had a cycle track and they just laughed at me, so to see something like this is great for these kids. It provides something different, not just football or rugby, so that’s brilliant.”

By working with Sustrans, the school has helped to boost attendance levels to more than 96 per cent, and it also introduced a scheme in which every child who attended school every day - achieving a 100 per cent attendance record - was rewarded with a recycled bike, helmet, and cycle training.

Ian Cullen, the charity’s schools officer in Bradford, said: “It’s been a real pleasure to work with such a pro-cycling school. I have been privileged to see at first hand the benefit of the schools engagement which has had a positive impact on children’s life skills.”

The learning zone was funded by WREN, Bradford Public Health, and the school itself, and Naveed Mushtaque, community learning manager at Horton Park, said he was thrilled the project had come to fruition.

“Having this cycle track means the world to our children and families,” he said.

“Every year we give out a large number of bikes for 100 per cent attendance and now the children have a safe place to ride in school, after school, as well as at weekends and holidays.”

Head teacher Salma Rahman added: “We feel quite emotional that this space is finally available to the children and also the community as well, which is very important to us. They can cycle, play sports, and just think about healthy lifestyles in general, so it’s a great facility that we have here now.

“Having a healthy lifestyle definitely supports children being able to function in the classroom. They are focused, disciplined, and they’ve got a willingness and persistence to succeed.”