Hitchin family are distraught after daughter’s St Albans cycling academy offer revoked

PUBLISHED: 15:32 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:40 07 May 2020

Ella, pictured here, had been accepted into Oaklands College's Cycling Academy for 2020/21, but later had her offer revoked. Picture: Brian Ruggles.

Ella, pictured here, had been accepted into Oaklands College's Cycling Academy for 2020/21, but later had her offer revoked. Picture: Brian Ruggles.

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A Hitchin family say their daughters’ dreams have been “crushed” after her offer to attend a St Albans cycling academy was revoked.

Like most 16 year olds, Ella Ruggles was looking forward to her final year at Hitchin Girls School.

She was working hard, preparing for her GCSEs and had made plans to attend Oaklands College’s St Albans campus, where she had been accepted onto their cycling academy – the only one of its kind in the country.

But, as coronavirus started to creep throughout the world and change life as we know it, Ella’s plans all started to fall apart.

On January 18, she and a number of other young, enthusiastic cyclists took part in trials to determine if they would be able to join Oakland’s prestigious cycling academy.

Four days later, Ella and her family were celebrating as they received confirmation that she had been accepted onto the programme, and started planning for her September start.

Fast forward to March, 18 and amid a rising number of coronavirus cases across the country, the government announced that all schools were set to close.

Two days later, on March 20, Oakland Wolves’ Cycling Academy manager contacted all riders and their families to explain that their offers to attend the academy in September had been revoked.

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In an official statement Laina Baftjari, of the academy’s senior leadership team, said: “We have recently completed a review of our Cycling Academy provision. Unfortunately, we have very reluctantly made the decision that we will no longer be accepting new applicants onto the Cycling Academy in 2020-21.

“Our intention is to continue to run the Cycling Academy in 2020-21 for our current students only. We have not made this decision lightly and appreciate how disappointed next year’s applicants must be to hear this news.”

In emails seen by this newspaper, it appears that the decision was made following a financial review in which budget cuts were made. As such, the cycling academy was “instructed not to take in a 2020/21 intake of riders.”

Brian Ruggles, Ella’s father, says disappointed is an understatement, and explained that Ella felt “crushed” when she heard the news.

He said: “The cycling academy was the one sure thing she was holding on to and looking forward to. We had no back–up plan.

“She was so upset, this was her hopes and dreams being ripped away from her.

“Ella has been riding for four or five years now – she’s really good and wants to progress to that next level.”

Brian is in the process of preparing an official complaint.

He asks riders who have been affected by this to get in touch at Bwruggles@gmail.com


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