Cheshire's Chance to Shine stories

CHANCE TO SHINE IN CHESHIRE 2015

CHANCE to Shine helped put cricket firmly on the front foot in Cheshire in 2015, with more than 9,000 children engaged in 'inspirational' school activity throughout the county.

It was another year to savour for Cheshire, with several headline acts including a Chance to Shine Award winner, secondary school national champions and a special visit to Lord's for one lucky primary school.

The success of the scheme was felt county-wide, with Cheshire Cricket Board's professional coaches delivering activity to 85 primary and 65 secondary schools, with many more schools accessing the increased competition framework.

Of the 150 schools engaged directly, 21 were 'new' to the programme (13 primary, 8 secondary) and in total 9,421 children were engaged, with more than 4,000 being female participants.

Secondary schools in particular received a renewed focus thanks to further investment and support from Sport England, with CCB staff delivering 93 Sports Clubs across the academic term. This investment allowed coaches to target pupils aged 14+, encouraging new players to take up the game and making cricket 'easier to choose' in the school environment.

The Sport England funding also contributed to the deployment of three part-time staff during the summer term, with one of these coaches graduating to a full-time position with the Board. As a result of this, Cheshire now boast two Women and Girls' Development Officers, helping to drive up female participation in both school and club environments.

One of the many success stories of 2015 has been the evolution of a sustainable cricket culture at Kingsley Community Primary School. When Mid-Cheshire DCO Mark Greaves first visited the school in 2012, most of the children had never played cricket, which didn't feature on the PE curriculum due to the teachers' limited understanding of the sport.

Fast forward three years and Kingsley have just been crowned Cheshire Schools Kwik Cricket champions, with many of the children now migrating to nearby Kingsley Cricket Club. To aid this transition one of the female teachers is now a volunteer coach at the club and is taking her Level 2 coaching qualification this winter. In recognition of their achievement, the children and staff were chosen to attend the MCC Spirit of Cricket Day at Lord's.

Not to be outdone, Altrincham Grammar School for Boys were crowned National 'Super 8s' Champions after holding their nerve to win a bowl-off in the final of the Chance to Shine Schools Cup. The Trafford-based school battled through three rounds of local and regional qualifying to reach the finals of the Under 15 competition, which this year attracted more than 400 entries from around the country.

With a dedicated Women and Girls' Development Officer (together with the support and subsequent employment of a second), the female playing offer in Cheshire was greatly enhanced in 2015. New 'girls only' Sports Clubs were created, underpinned by an increased competition offer. The County saw eight new girls sections emerge at clubs, populated by pupils engaged in the 2015 Chance to Shine programme.

Cheshire were also fortunate to be selected by Chance to Shine and ECB to participate in a pilot scheme geared at inspiring and retaining new players (Young Person Player Journey). The County opted to run four 'girls only' projects, linking schools to club-based delivery, with a total of 65 girls engaged. Of these girls, more than 95% went on to access further coaching at the clubs or were signposted to other, less formal offers.

One of the key driving forces behind the growth of Women's Cricket has been secondary school teacher Kieran Smith, who was named Volunteer of the Year at the annual Chance to Shine Awards in London. Kieran was responsible for inspiring pupils at his former school, Prenton High School for Girls, and then oversaw their transition to Oxton Ladies CC, where he acts as club coach. The school now competes in regular competition, winning through to the County Finals and progressing to represent Cheshire in the regional finals in York.

Competition forms a major part of Cheshire's Chance to Shine activity, with pupils accessing intra (in-school) and inter (between schools) tournaments year-round. During 2015, a staggering 2,342 matches were played between schools through a series of leagues and one-off festivals, representing an increase of 195 matches from 2014. The competition framework was also increased to include a Year 7 Mixed tournament and the introduction of Girls Soft Ball events (on a local and county-wide level) for U13s and U15s.

Cheshire expanded the disability cricket offer in 2015, delivering 160 hours of activity in specialist schools for children with severe and moderate learning difficulties. In addition to this, delivery reached 420 pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) within the mainstream school network.

The county finals provided a chance for special schools to shine at the annual soft ball competition, which was staged in glorious sunshine at Warrington Cricket Club. More than 70 excited youngsters from seven (SEN) schools took part in the event, which was coordinated by Chris Edwards, the Cheshire Cricket Board Ambassador for Disability Cricket.

With leadership from Coach Education Manager Graeme Rickman, Cheshire Cricket Board continued to deliver the bespoke ECB Activator Course in 2015. Eleven secondary schools took part, with 196 young leaders attending the 7-hour course. There were some excellent examples of pupils organising their own competitions, assisting with local festivals and becoming volunteer coaches at their own local clubs.

Coach Education has a major role to play in ensuring the sustainability of cricket within schools, and Cheshire reacted by delivering 37 informal teacher training courses, designed specifically to meet the needs of staff and their pupils. Run on school sites during inset days or after-school, a total of 135 teachers attended these sessions, ensuring cricket remained at the forefront of the sporting agenda.

Within the club network, Cheshire delivered three ECB Coach Support Worker courses which were well attended by volunteers. The three 'host clubs' - Parkfield Liscard, Heaton Mersey and Brooklands - are also listed as Chance to Shine club deliverers and were instrumental in promoting and marketing these courses.

Against a national backdrop of falling participation in recreational cricket, Cheshire achieved some impressive 'migration' figures - the key performance indicator that measures the number of new players moving from the school to club environment. In 2015 there were 706 new club members arising from Chance to Shine activity at primary level, with a further 485 pupils from secondary schools. These figures helped to establish eight new girls sections within the existing club network.

With winter fast approaching, the legacy of the 2015 programme is already being felt across Cheshire, with school sports clubs, intra cricket and indoor competitions well under way. In four of the eight geographical areas (Trafford, Wirral, Stockport and Chester) there are also 'community led' indoor leagues taking place. Hosted by secondary schools, these leagues focus on engaging players in the U9-U14 age groups and are organised jointly by club coaches and Cheshire staff.