Sussex Cricket have announced a new three-year partnership agreement with Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) and the Aldridge Foundation.
This flagship partnership sees Sussex Cricket continuing to lead the way in giving children at state schools the chance to break into the top tiers of men’s and women’s cricket.
BACA’s new “Junior Cricket Pathway” will offer students in years 7-11 a personalised programme of cricket activities that fit around their academic studies.
From September, Sussex 1st XI coaches James Kirtley, Ian Salisbury, Jason Swift and Richard Halsall will have weekly involvement at the school, while players will be available for leadership workshops and 1-to-1 student mentoring.
The partnership builds on a six-year relationship between the three organisations that began with the launch of the Aldridge Cricket Academy at BACA’s 6th form college in 2014. The state-of-the-art academy enables students to combine high-level academic studies with an intensive cricket development programme.
Ex-England captain Mike Atherton, who attended a state school, described BACA as “a beacon for cricket in the state sector.” The academy is just one of four state secondary schools named by The Cricketer magazine in its “Top 100 Cricketing Schools 2020”.
Sussex Cricket Chief Executive, Rob Andrew, said: “This is an outward statement by Sussex Cricket to be one of the first counties to implement the recommendations of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s 5-year plan, “Inspiring Generations,” designed to address the dearth of organised cricket in state secondary schools.
“With its magnificent dedicated facilities, BACA fits the bill wonderfully and we have high hopes that it will provide an increasing number of high quality youngsters within the Sussex Cricket Pathway.”
In England, professional cricket is overwhelmingly dominated by players who attended private schools, that can afford high-level coaches and facilities. Since 2011, no English batsman from a state school has managed to hold down a regular spot in the national team.
Commenting on the potential for programmes like BACA’s to make cricket more inclusive, the Academy’s Principal, Bob Speight, said: “As Sussex Cricket’s state school of choice, we are excited to be able to provide the same opportunities for boys and girls in local state schools to play the game and develop as those who go to independent fee-paying schools and have always had these opportunities open to them.”
“Whether starting secondary school, working towards GCSEs or in sixth form, this partnership with Sussex Cricket means that BACA students can combine their academic studies with top class cricket coaching in exceptional facilities. For parents, there’s no compromise between academic studies and sporting development; no rush to get from school to training every day; and no school fees.”
Since 2005, the charity Chance to Shine has done brilliant work in enthusing state-schooled children about cricket, holding coaching days and competitive matches, but it has not yet developed into a programme that regularly produces professional players.
Partnerships like BACA and Sussex Cricket’s will be vital if cricket is to be an inclusive sport that is open to all.