The debate about school sport, brought up by our Olympic success, has raised many interesting questions about our school system and the role of sport in it. How are elite sports stars made and what role does do our state schools have in preparing not only elite sportsmen and women, but in helping all of our children lead fit, active lifestyles?
Being a state school boy who became the first British born Pakistani to play professional cricket in the is country, I know the importance of luck; that is being lucky enough to have a sports mad teacher spot you in the playground. Why should luck be purely responsible for sporting opportunities? Sport England have now put in place a strategy for the next four years to give opportunities and keep people involved in sport, so the likes of the schools games and this on-going investment is positive.
I believe the debate should focus on bringing state schools up rather than putting private schools down. Yes, facilities are an issue, there is nothing we can do to reverse that, but what can be done is for the government to adopt a model such as our Chance to Shine campaign, which has proved that it can work in state schools, across every sport. Ultimately on-going investment is only as good as the programmes that are being delivered. Linking schools and clubs is critical to address the facility issue, using external coaches to up skill teachers in a sustainable way is vital and offering competitive match play opportunities is a must, if you are to develop a sporting culture in state schools.
We launched the £50 million Chance to Shine campaign in 2005, with the aim of regenerating competitive cricket in state schools. Since then, we have worked with 1.5 million children (6-16 year olds) across 4,500 schools. We currently have the 4,500 schools linked to 900 cricket clubs across the country and Chance to Shine sits as one of the biggest sports development programmes in the world.
In 2003, the research we carried out showed that well under 10% of state schools played any form of meaningful cricket. With the support of the then Labour Government, we set about to address the fact that children were being denied vital educational opportunities through the lack of structured cricket.
We pay coaches from the schools to go into schools to deliver coaching and competition programmes; 5,000 teachers have received training and 2,000 coaches currently operate in the state schools. We have raised £37 million since we launched, £25m through private sources and £12.5m through Sport England.
We spend £5.5 m a year on the programme (it costs us £15 to put a child through the programme for a year). We also have 600,000 girls involved which is incredible. We have found that it is about investment as well as opportunity; if you want to change a culture in schools then you have to be prepared to be in it for the long-term; this can only come from each political party jointly deciding that school sport should be part of the fabric of school life.
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