Education Quandary: 'I'm not a cricket fan and wonder whether it can really be used to raise standards. Or is this idea just another education gimmick?'

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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

It's a gimmick. In fact, it is probably about the millionth curriculum gimmick I've come across as an education reporter. Gimmicks fall into two categories: they are either a bid to make children more interested in learning by building lessons around things they like; or an attempt to make children interested in something they don't like by forcing them to do lessons around that subject.

The cricket gimmick is definitely in the second category, although Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, has dressed it up in higher ambitions. He appears to believe that if children are given lessons in, say, the maths of off-spin bowling, or history – how cricket shaped Victorian identity – this will help to raise school standards. But the way to raise standards is to put well trained, supported and paid teachers in the classroom. Balls should stop running around throwing his weight behind gimmicks and concentrate on the matter in hand.

The same goes for cricket itself. If the England and Wales Cricket Board wants to boost the game among schoolchildren, let it find more ways of putting inspiring cricket coaches in front of pupils so that they can experience the joy of the game itself. Cricket develops co-ordination, balance, teamwork and tactics, and children would probably benefit from learning it. And, who knows, if cricket makes them more alert, they might start to start to learn better in class – especially if they have great teachers teaching them when they get there.

Readers' advice

After years of neglect, cricket was at risk of dying out in state schools, with fewer than 10 per cent of schools playing competitive matches. But initiatives like The Cricket Foundation's Chance to Shine campaign, launched in 2005, are helping to reverse the decline. Research for the charity has shown the educational benefits of playing cricket. Loughborough University's report highlights examples of state schools that had extensive behaviour problems; in these schools, both pupils and teachers acknowledged the value of cricket in giving pupils positive experiences and helping them to develop good behaviour.

Fabian Devlin, The Cricket Foundation (www.chancetoshine.org)

In our staffroom, we believe this was an idea dreamed up by a load of men who had been to Harrow or Eton. The only pupils we know who follow cricket are a group of Year 9 boys from Afghanistan. The girls couldn't give a you-know-what, and most of our boys are only interested in soccer. At my school, trying to bring in lessons based on cricket would be a joke.

Stevie Renwick, London E9

With so many children overweight, is cricket the right game? Children need more sport, but that should mean games such as football, and events such as running, not standing around doing almost nothing. My husband likes playing cricket, but he is 56.

Eve Long, Herefordshire

Next Week's Quandary

I started teaching this year, but my so-called mentor seems to be more intent on sapping my confidence than helping me learn. She is always criticising me, often in front of other people, and talks to me in a voice that implies I am an idiot. Is this bullying? What can I do?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are available to be read online at www.hilarywilce.com where they can be searched by topic.

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