The only way is cricket

The main playground at Gascoigne Primary sits on a rooftop high above the streets of Barking, offering panoramic views of East London. This is one of the largest primary schools in the country, but certainly not your usual setting for cricket.

“Where we are, there’s not any sporting facilities at all,” says P.E. lead Rob Reynolds. “We’ve got Greatfields Park…you’ve got a couple of secondary schools with facilities but it’s hard to use. We have quite a long way to the nearest Cricket Club and it obviously costs money which a lot of our families don’t have, so we have to try and offer everything we can and do it for free as well.”

Working with Essex Cricket Board, the school, which boasts a mammoth 1,116 pupils, decided to offer the Chance to Shine programme to all pupils in Year 5 (that’s seven classes!). “The Year 5’s last year wouldn’t have had any regular P.E. since Year 2,” Says Rob, “We try and focus on Year 5 so that when they get to Year 6, they’ve already got the basics skills and we can enter into the competition that comes around in summer.”

“We also up-skill our teachers and give them an understanding of cricket because they’re alongside the coach. It’s a 2-for-1 deal – children are getting a fantastic coaching session and our teachers are understanding what makes a cricket session and it encourages them to teach it themselves.”

Ensuring that children are supported to play cricket outside of their Chance to Shine sessions is another key objective of the programme. Essex Cricket Board saw an opportunity for Gascoigne Primary to become a cricket hub for Barking by setting up an ECB All Stars and Dynamos hub at the school. Within a week, all spaces were taken up.

“That was actually a really good thing for the children,” say Rob, “it was a free session and gave them some equipment, but the best thing to come out of that was our parent volunteers who then qualified as coaches who we can now utilise.”

Rob is referring to a group of parents who trained as All Stars and Dynamos activators through the ECB’s Dream Big programme. One parent has since joined the school as a lunchtime supervisor and now leads activities during breaktime, something which Rob admits is very helpful, “It takes a bit of the workload from us because there’s three of us P.E teachers, but we have a lot of children to cover in an after school club. So we had a whole school impact instead of just on the children who attended.”

Looking forward, Essex is planning to launch a Chance to Shine Street project at the school. Off the back of their engagement with cricket over the last year, Rob foresees it continuing to play a big role in creating opportunities for their pupils to try out sport, “We want to encourage everyone to give it a go. If we can encourage children to be more physically active, if they enjoy it in class, that might encourage them to do it outside of school.”

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