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Howzat! Cricket gets promotion

New initiatives are aimed at developing the game and supporting teachers, writes Diane Spencer.

With the England team licking its wounds after yet another dismal tour and the home season on the starting block, it is timely that the England and Wales Cricket Board is taking a stand at the Education Show.

But contrary to popular belief, especially given the national obsession with football, the game is not dead in the country's schools and recreation grounds. The board's development department's report shows that at least one million boys and girls in primary schools play cricket and 800,000 in secondaries - the highest participation rates ever.

Unfortunately this has not resulted in success at the highest level, but the board has not given up on nurturing the grassroots. On the contrary, it is targeting secondary schools to bridge the gap between the popular Kwik Cricket scheme in primary schools and the fully-fledged hard-ball game.

A new game being launched this month is designed to be played on any surface, in or outdoors. With different rules to reward genuine cricket skills, the board hopes to make cricket more attractive to young people.

The board is also signallingits commitment to quality as well as quantity by appointing two specialists in primary and secondary education to its development department's team.

The game's fortunes have recently been boosted by cricket's broadcast agreement with Channel 4, which took over from the BBC to televise Test matches last season. Some of the largesse will go into supporting a schools' initiative: over the next three years, 25,000 copies of a resource pack will go to primary schools to give teachers all they need to deliver cricket in physical education lessons and through cross-curricular exercises. Five thousand copies of a CD-Rom will be sent to secondary schools.

Channel 4 will also broadcast a cricket skills programme during school time and children's peak viewing time next year to support an inner city development project.

In a separate initiative, the 10-year-old Capital Kids cricket scheme, supported by the charity the Lord's Taverners and former England captain Lord Cowdrey, is about to launch its programme to boost participation in secondary schools in 16 London boroughs, following its success in primary schools.

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