New funding puts schools into bat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The playground at Archbishop Tenison's School, a Victorian building in the shadow of the Oval cricket ground, is not large. At lunchtime it teems with shouting, running children, and although a football is being booted into the air from somewhere, there is scant time or space for organised sporting activity.

Luckily for those pupils, however, the sporting edifice they see from their windows, the site of England's Ashes triumph in September, is now open to them on a regular basis thanks in part to a new scheme set up by Sportsmatch.

As its name implies, the organisation matches commercial investment with Government funding. Thus the £27,000 put forward by the Oval's sponsors Brit Assurance will see a total of £54,000 spent on a programme to provide coaching for youngsters in local schools, as well as on Surrey's ground, and will provide the same opportunities for disabled children.

Since England's cricketers began their Test series-winning run (recently ended in Pakistan), applications for cricket projects have leapt by 30 per cent, according to Sportsmatch director Mike Reynolds.

"The success of the 2012 Olympic bid will give a tremendous impetus to sport in this country," Reynolds said. "We currently get £3.5m a year, and we believe that over the course of the next year we could make very good use of an extra million. The response in terms of Government interest and support has been very good, but we have yet to see if funding will increase. We would hope to hear soon after Christmas."

The Government indicated its awareness of the way recent successes have heightened the game's profile with yesterday's announcement that £2m of Lottery funding will be devoted over the next two years to reinvigorating cricket in schools.

Surrey's captain Jon Batty looked on as children from Archbishop Tenison's School and St Giles' School, Croydon, in south London, tackled the newly painted indoor markings within the OCS Stand - floor targets encourage young bowlers to find the correct length, while targets painted around the wicket also reward accuracy. "This is fantastic," Batty said. "The main thing is to get the children playing, but it's not impossible someone will come through to the top level."

For the Archbishop Tenison's boys, there is already an obvious role model - Chris Thompson, the England Under-19 player, is a former pupil.