Mountain scaled in cricket pads

30th July 2004 at 01:00
I have just read the article about the successful run of Christ Church middle school cricket team in the David English Bunbury Cup, despite having to practice on concrete tennis courts with a litter bin for wickets (TES, July 16). In getting to the final they apparently dispatched a number of private schools, including Manchester grammar, before losing to Millfield which has unlimited access to year-round indoor and outdoor pitches.

David English is quoted as saying: "If the kids from Christ Church can get to Headingley practising with a litter bin for stumps, think how far they would go with nets" and gave them pound;1,500 to buy a pair.

This prompted me to dig out a book review by Peter Wilby of Public or private education? Lessons from history (TES, February 13) , which recalled that in the 1950s, "private companies contributed over pound;3 million to equip new science facilities in elite fee-charging boys' schools". Eric James, high master at Manchester grammar, advised the ministry of education that "there was no point building up science in 'dim schools with dim staff'".

Isn't this yet another shocking expose of this country's dreadful waste of potential, from which we are still suffering 50 years on? I have no problem with Millfield's pupils benefiting from the kind of financial backing that they take for granted, but only when it is available to every child in this country will such talents as shown at Christ Church be shown on a level playing field.

In an analogy to pupils during a sculpture workshop where some children felt they were having to "compete against the good artists" in the group, I pointed out that everyone who goes up Snowdon is entitled to purchase a certificate at the top to celebrate the "feat". Some buy their way up on the train and others drag themselves up, but in the end, the pound;2.50 "prize" remains the same for all. A thoughtful silence followed, as I left it to them to work out who had achieved more. Well done, Christ Church cricketers. You climbed a mountain much bigger than Snowdon!

Jeff Teasdale 114 Prestbury Road Macclesfield, Cheshire

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