Tuesday April 17th 2018

The summer term seems to have been abolished. How can schools cricket survive?

Well, perhaps I should qualify a little. When I were a lad, the summer term ended more or less at the end of July, and our exams – which we sort of took in our stride – were concentrated into the last two weeks of it. When I wrote this sort of thing for Wisden a couple of years ago, the editor didn’t quite believe it, but I showed him the evidence, thanks to a former meticulous colleague who kept records of such things as term calendars.

In my 35 years of teaching, for much of that time the summer term was still a teaching term; for example, we started teaching new set books in my two subjects and the exams were at least towards the end of June.

The exam season has remorselessly extended its maw ever forwards. I was startled to hear from one school that their A2 students now left school on May 4th and, perhaps even more startling, the GCSE year left school for the term on May 10th.

Why and how has this happened? The entire school year (for all age-groups) is beholden to the demands of a single year group (Year 13) because the papers have to be marked in time for University entrance in October. The obvious answer – though with a one-year difficult transition, admittedly – is for the school year to end in December (as elsewhere in the World), and for University entrance to be dealt with once the results are out. I raised this at a national conference some 35 years ago, and the pundits on the panel said yes in theory, but the problem was that the government would not pay unemployment benefit for those spare six months. Not insuperable, surely?

It was, as always, a privilege and delight to attend the eve-of-publication dinner of Wisden where the closely-guarded secret of the 2017 Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year (chosen by me) was unmasked as Teddie Casterton of RGS High Wycombe. I was startled when he told me at the dinner that no counties had shown much interest in a young man who had scored 1423 runs in 2017, with six centuries including one of 267 (followed the next day with a century in a National Schools T20 match). The dinner featured an absolutely brilliant speech by Miles Jupp who spoke in the traditional way of fairly hopeless cricketers who thrive on the minutiae of the game as exemplified in the august publication.

As I travelled on the train to the dinner, it was saddening to see the fields completely sodden, indeed flooded. So it is no surprise that although many schools enterprisingly arrange pre-term fixtures, very few were played. Therefore there are virtually no results this week, but I hope that ALL schools will be sending results shortly, especially as we are promised a heatwave this week, starting tomorrow.

Oxford MCCU 183-6 (40 overs, St Edward’s 139-6
St Edward’s 183-5 (40 overs) (H Ward 101), Hampshire Under-17 182-8
St Edward’s 171-9 (50 overs), Malvern 162

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