Published in the Brentwood Gazette – 24th July 2013
As I write this column I am listening to Test Match Special while eagerly anticipating a trip to Lords’. My first visit to “Headquarters” was in July 1979 to see Essex win their very first trophy in the B&H Cup against Surrey and I have been hooked ever since.
You will therefore understand why I was very happy to visit Shenfield High School recently to discuss the launch in September of their Cricket Academy with Headteacher Carole Herman and Head of PE Garry Sapsford.
Gazette readers may recall that former Shenfield student Matthew Salisbury took four wickets against Essex for Cambridge University earlier this year. The school has also featured in the national press due to their impressive progress in the U17 National Cup which included a triumph over renowned cricketing private school Dulwich College.
The Daily Telegraph was particularly interested in this fixture as it is rare for state schools to feature at an advanced stage of the competition. The launch of the Cricket Academy is a unique initiative within the state system.
The reputation for sporting excellence that Shenfield High has built up over recent years has already led to the formation of a Football Academy in conjunction with Colchester United FC. The Cricket Academy is informed by that successful template.
Approximately fifty students are currently in the programme. As the school year drew to a close Garry Sapsford and the lead teacher for the Football Academy, Lee Thomas, were preparing to set off with 24 of their charges bound for Los Angeles for a trip that included a fixture with the LA Galaxy Youth Team.
Building on a well established partnership with Shenfield Cricket Club, and with strong links to Essex CCC, the school have added to their existing cricket facilities by investing in new nets, a bowling machine and gadgetry to enable video analysis of batting and bowling techniques.
The Academy will be overseen by ECB Level 2 coach Richard Abson-Bennett and is open to male and female students from 16 onwards. Sixteen students are already signed up to start in September and these include pupils moving from other schools in Essex to join.
As Carole Herman explained, the programme combines full academic options with access to structured specialist coaching. It is important to stress that academic success is a key part of the strategy, increasing the possibility of further Cambridge “Blues”.
The benefits to the rest of the school were emphasised by Garry Sapsford, the programme includes a requirement to coach younger students for example. Both teachers were clear that involvement in sport has already led to clear improvements in terms of motivation, leadership and character development within the school’s student population.
We are very fortunate to have a nationally recognised sports specialist option within our town. It was clear from my visit that the staff are committed to this long term project that they believe will provide benefits to all students as well as unparalleled opportunities for talented cricketers within the state sector.
As covered in last week’s Gazette, this comes as Shenfield High complete their extension for new drama and 6th form space and kick off their summer drive to freshen up their learning environment via their “Adopt a room” initiative. The business, local college and parental backing already secured prove that the local community are keen to back the investment.
I wish them every success and look forward to watching successful Academy alumni at a future trip to Lords’.