Educating Afghanistan Refugees within Cheshire East through the power of sport

Dave Evans, Head of Alternative Provision, blogs about how The Lodge Alternative Provision in Sandbach, Cheshire, embraced change and used the universal language of cricket to break down learning barriers and build a community for Afghanistan Refugees.

The Lodge became one of the first educational establishments in the UK to educate recent Afghanistan refugees while they were still within hotels and without permanent residency. This was the first time our Alternative Provision had been involved in such a process, so the learning curve we were experiencing was a steep one. Not only did we have a language barrier as well as a vast range in the children’s core subject knowledge, but a distinct cultural difference was also apparent from the outset.

For this to be successful, our staff worked with students on a 1:1 basis trying to find the most common traits that we all shared. We felt that once these common themes and values became apparent, they would then become our core topics which would underpin all of our learning together. The one common theme we found that every child and every member of staff shared was…CRICKET!!

Most staff that work at the Lodge come from a sporting background and so this leant itself to this learning platform. As soon as the children saw that learning math through cricket (adding runs, calculating run rates and bowling averages) and progressing this to English (reading match reviews, creating score cards and talking through the games) could be done, they soon became obsessed with learning and wanting to be in school every day without fail.

We had them hooked, now we needed to reward them! Lessons were fun and exciting, and every day ended with a practical PE lesson based around cricket. With the help of Youth Sport Trust assisting with resources for all teachers to use, these practical lessons were a great way to end the day. Not only were they helping to improve their cricket skills but also, they began to form a sense of identity and belonging to our school and the local community.

We didn’t just stop there…every day as we dropped the children back off at the hotel, the parents would always want to discuss their child’s day, and most of that conversation would be based around how their cricket skills were improving.

After identifying how much love there was for this sport, we decided to take it a step further and organize indoor evening cricket sessions, not only for the children, but for the parents as well. These proved a huge success. We alternated between indoor nets and games to maintain motivation. Sixth form students from Sandbach School came along to make the games competitive and help integrate the students into the wider community.

As a result of this, some parents and students are attending local club winter nets where they are improving their skills but more importantly becoming part of our wonderful community.

Our advice to any educational settings in a similar situation:

  • Find a common value
  • Build your curriculum around this
  • Make it accessible for all
  • Invite the community to form positive links
  • Allow yourself to get swept away in the process

By following this model, it has taught us how to be fully inclusive. We believe in a curriculum being built around the child’s needs, not for a child to be placed into a very rigid one. This allows children to embrace learning and as a result, improve self-esteem and a sense of belonging. 

Dave is Head of Alternative Provision at the Lodge, a short-term Alternative Provision based at Sandbach School in Cheshire. As a Specialist Leader in Education for Behaviour he regularly delivers conferences for teacher trainees and experienced teachers at both primary and secondary level, including national webinars for the Youth Sport Trust as part of their Corona Virus support package for schools.

Published on 17 January 2022