THERE maybe 28 languages spoken at Pikes Lane Primary — but the common language of cricket unites them all.
And the sound of leather on willow is giving young people at the school a “Chance to Shine” on the field — and in the classroom.
National charity Chance to Shine whose motto is “Educating Through Cricket” is working with the school as part of its campaign to encourage more children to take part in the sport.
And not only are children enjoying the game, the scheme is helping pupils overcome language barriers in school.
So successful has the game been at the school, it has been filmed and highlighted as a case study by the charity, which is supported by retired England cricketer Graeme Swann and television personality Stephen Fry.
Headteacher Louise McArdle said: “We have 481 pupils and 98 per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language.
“We currently have 28 different languages spoken at the school. We have a wide ethnic mix from Somalia, Eastern European, all over the world.
“One of the great things about sport is that you don't need to speak English to be able to play it, so when children first come to the school we use sport as a way in which help children communicate, build their confidence, team building skills, all those things that are fantastic to help them with their language development.
“So sport is something we use a lot at Pikes Lane, to help them build confidence, to see them blossom and to grow through sport.
“Cricket has been an amazing way to help the children grow and blossom.”
She added: “Cricket helps with communication because you don't have to speak English to play. It's amazing teamwork, children love it and it helps in the classroom because if children see they can succeed in one area, they can also apply that to the classroom.”
The charity links up schools with professional coaches and at Pikes Lane, Chris Highton, as well as leading timetabled lessons, also stages breakfast and after school sessions.
Now there is an all girls team and even when the coach is not in school, teachers like Sue Cummins can lead the sessions.
Mr Highton, cricket development coordinator for Bolton with Lancashire Cricket Board, said: “We've had a few examples where children have come and not been very confident in themselves, maybe struggling to fit in because they've only just come to the school, the language barrier.
“They just get involved in our sessions and the more they getting involved the more they enjoy what's going on.
“The more they learn to work as a team and make friends and that's definitely helped them. We do a lot of demonstrations with them means that you can get the point across even if they're not that confident with the language.
“We've helped cross the cultural divide by getting the kids to work together, to play together. I don't think you'd know there were different languages in the school, because it's just cricket. It's definitely helped them all work together, become friends and enjoy the sport.”
Mr Highton cited examples of youngsters who had benefited including one who displayed challenging behaviour because of the language barrier and through cricket felt more at ease and even became his helper, collecting the equipment at the end of the session.
Former Pikes Lane Primary School pupil Harris Akhtar, aged 12, who now plays for Astley Cricket Club, said: “Chris, encouraged me to go for the district trials and I got in.
“Cricket has made us know each other better and made children from different backgrounds more comfortable with each other. They've got to know more people, not just play on their own.
“One of my friends is from another country and was really shy. He started playing cricket and became more confident in class.
“Chance to Shine is making children enjoy cricket now and in the future, by joining clubs.
“Cricket has helped me to feel more comfortable in everything I do. I used to sit around doing nothing and now I'm playing a lot of cricket.
“At first I was worried that I wouldn't fit in at secondary school but now I'm feeling more confident as I'm good at cricket and others have got to know me better.”
He added: “My dream is to play for England and to play internationally.”
Nonna Puzova, aged eight, said: “I really enjoy cricket, it makes you active and I like playing with my friends.”
Gracia Bayo, age eight, added: “Chris is really good, there are really cricket sessions and I think we do better in class afterwards.”