Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Discussions regarding the 70,000 Free Chess Sets for Schools in England.
Brent Smith
Posts: 36
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:58 pm
Location: Reading
Contact:

Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Brent Smith » Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:28 pm

New Year resolution #43: write something about chess in schools for the venerable ECF forum; start a new topic to avoid being slapped again by the moderator for being off-topic like my only previous post :) .

As a very minor cog in the machine of development of junior/school chess in England, my personal experience is that many schools have chess sets, but only a very small proportion have a chess club. As a specific example, I live in Reading where there are only 2 (state) primary schools and 3 prep/independent schools with an active chess club - and I ought to know since I am the Berkshire Primary Schools Chess League secretary. There are 32 other primaries in Reading without a chess club. Many posts ago, someone said that chess was flourishing in primary schools - I'd hate to think what moribund would be like.

Schools frequently do have chess sets that are used for indoor play when it rains. I can easily imagine that many of the free sets (should they appear) will end up being used this way. So schools will get some decent sets to replace their incomplete / lightweight ones, but it doesn't immediately follow that kids will learn chess beyond the basic moves.

The "problem" is not lack of chess sets, but rather a lack of people willing / able to run a school club. I have discussed this with fellow school chess club organisers and there was near universal agreement. If a teacher or parent offers to run a club, it may well happen - in these cases, getting hold of sets is rarely an issue. School clubs tend to come and go as teachers arrive / leave and/or parents take on running a club for a few years while their own children remain keen. Matters aren't helped by the difficulty of organising an outing for only a handful of children - inter-school matches, at least for Berks, are for teams of just 5, and school trips entail a lot of paperwork and preparation.

The organisers are often over-awed by the prospect of running a chess club, thinking that they don't know enough. I am an absolutely hopeless player, but most children of primary age are not and will never be grand-masters. Most games are decided by who makes the most one-move mistakes. Despite my lack of any in-depth chess knowledge, our school team sometimes wins matches against the best other Berks schools. My point here is simply that you don't have to a chess expert to give the opportunity to children to enjoy the game and do reasonably well. If they are really promising, there are plenty of non-school junior events to challenge them.

The free chess sets (if they happen) may act as a spur to get chess going in some schools, but we need to find a way to get volunteers to actually run the school clubs. The work-in-progress DVD pack may actually be more useful here. The most likely source of people to run clubs is the teachers. I know that I am very much the exception as a parent running a club. Chess coaches are a possibility but are expensive (most round here ply their trade in the independent sector). However, teachers are busy (at least during term time), get little recognition for running chess clubs, and, (to be blunt) at primary level are predominately women who don't see themselves as chess players.

In short, and apologies for going on so long already, how do we get more teachers / parents / chess players to run all these hoped-for clubs? Or how do we convince the powers-that-be that chess is a worthwhile activity for schools and something they will get credit for?

User avatar
Charles W. Wood
Posts: 554
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:50 pm
Location: Bradford, West Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Charles W. Wood » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:52 am

Hi Brent

Your Post will fall on deaf ears as far as this lot are concerned. The world of funding has changed massively and in order to bring about change on a local level you would need to tap into that funding stream in order to get your younger (16 -67) players to be able to keep putting food on their table. This is a POSSIBLE solution that I have found that works. In Reading I have made a couple of enquires and you should be able to get something in the region of £50K to £75 per Annum to fund Coaching staff going into schools (That was from a 10 minute phone call and an E-Mail). Your are totally right about finding the right people, parents and kind hearted teachers are a god send when found but tend to have a short shelf life.

Its about ticking boxes (I always hoped I never say that) but you have to be structured right to start with. I would love to meet with you (or the best person) to be able to pass on the right ideas (Down this line) and GIVE you the information needed to give you a long term success.
Charles W. Wood
Captain of Legion

User avatar
Greg Breed
Posts: 714
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:30 am
Location: Harrow, Middx, UK
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Greg Breed » Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:53 pm

Other than teachers and parents the only other likely people you could hope to find for coaching purposes are the professionals or retired people. I love chess and would love to coach, but my job finishes when most kids are having their evening dinner so there's no chance of coaching in school. Only professional chess players and retired people will likely have the time during the day to be able to coach in a school and even then you may only be able to get the latter.

It may be worth canvassing the local chess clubs to see if there are any players willing to volunteer. They are usually loaded with retired people who enjoy the game. With the right support they might be tempted. The CRB issue, teaching materials and methods are what will deter the most so encourage them by supporting them with these issues.
- Chess players are not born teachers and vice-versa so some joint help would serve well I think.
Hatch End A Captain (Hillingdon League)
Harrow Captain (Middlesex League)

User avatar
Charles W. Wood
Posts: 554
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:50 pm
Location: Bradford, West Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Charles W. Wood » Sun Jan 04, 2009 9:51 pm

Greg Breed wrote:Other than teachers and parents the only other likely people you could hope to find for coaching purposes are the professionals or retired people. I love chess and would love to coach, but my job finishes when most kids are having their evening dinner so there's no chance of coaching in school. Only professional chess players and retired people will likely have the time during the day to be able to coach in a school and even then you may only be able to get the latter.

It may be worth canvassing the local chess clubs to see if there are any players willing to volunteer. They are usually loaded with retired people who enjoy the game. With the right support they might be tempted. The CRB issue, teaching materials and methods are what will deter the most so encourage them by supporting them with these issues.
- Chess players are not born teachers and vice-versa so some joint help would serve well I think.


This begs the question: what happens if YOU where paid to coach full time. 9 - 5 52 weeks a year with holidays and benefits?
Charles W. Wood
Captain of Legion

User avatar
Ben Purton
Posts: 1618
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:53 am
Location: Berks
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Ben Purton » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:25 pm

Only a chess teacher hired by a given school can get those conditions.

The only 2/3 I know of are Oakham which use to have G Lee, Millfield has Matt and I think Wellington college has Nick Pert but again Im not even sure if there 9-5 fully, Just more consistant.

So I think the question wont occur in schools for a long time.

Ben
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

User avatar
Ben Purton
Posts: 1618
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:53 am
Location: Berks
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Ben Purton » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:27 pm

PS: Brent do you work next to Maiden Erlegh?
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

Mike Gunn
Posts: 590
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 4:45 pm

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Mike Gunn » Mon Jan 05, 2009 1:45 pm

I don't think coaching is necessarily the key. OK, this is just my experience (in a grammar school in the 1960s) but we had no coaching. One master was responsible for chess and was present at the school club one night a week and must have arranged fixtures with other schools but everything else was down to us pupils, including team selection, and we made our own way to away fixtures by bike or public transport. In my last year at the school I organized and ran the internal chess competition (inter house) and I produced training materials for beginners. Most lunchtimes we would play chess against each other and/or analyse a game from a newspaper or magazine. One of us (not me) owned a copy of MCO and we would discuss openings before school matches. The key to all this activity was the chess cupboard which contained sufficient sets and clocks to make all this possible. Many more resources are available today using computers and the internet. Coaching is good - but not essential!

User avatar
Charles W. Wood
Posts: 554
Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:50 pm
Location: Bradford, West Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Charles W. Wood » Mon Jan 05, 2009 2:44 pm

Ben Purton wrote:Only a chess teacher hired by a given school can get those conditions.

The only 2/3 I know of are Oakham which use to have G Lee, Millfield has Matt and I think Wellington college has Nick Pert but again Im not even sure if there 9-5 fully, Just more consistant.

So I think the question wont occur in schools for a long time.

Ben


All my full time coaching staff do too.
Charles W. Wood
Captain of Legion

Neill Cooper
Posts: 1147
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Croydon
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Neill Cooper » Mon Jan 05, 2009 8:53 pm

Mike Gunn wrote:I don't think coaching is necessarily the key. OK, this is just my experience (in a grammar school in the 1960s) but we had no coaching. One master was responsible for chess and was present at the school club one night a week and must have arranged fixtures with other schools but everything else was down to us pupils, including team selection, and we made our own way to away fixtures by bike or public transport. In my last year at the school I organized and ran the internal chess competition (inter house) and I produced training materials for beginners. Most lunchtimes we would play chess against each other and/or analyse a game from a newspaper or magazine. One of us (not me) owned a copy of MCO and we would discuss openings before school matches. The key to all this activity was the chess cupboard which contained sufficient sets and clocks to make all this possible. Many more resources are available today using computers and the internet. Coaching is good - but not essential!


That echo's my experience (in the early 1970s) with one extra point a receptive local chess club (Maidenhead). The local secondary school league was also a good stimulant. We ended up with even the 'rabbits' being graded 140+.

I've tried to recreate a similar atmosphere at my school (Wilson's), but by its nature more regimented for today. So I take them to chess matches and run UK Chess Challenge (though at some schools the 6th form do run it). The couple of chess sets in the 6th form common room are regularly used (though sometimes abused) and they often ask for more sets. We don't employ an external coach - though obviously having someone (myself) who once reached 190 running the club means there can be useful input. We don't have many schools with teachers who are also strong chess players, and willing to give a lot of time to running chess.

Brent Smith
Posts: 36
Joined: Fri Oct 24, 2008 10:58 pm
Location: Reading
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Brent Smith » Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:21 pm

Ben Purton wrote:PS: Brent do you work next to Maiden Erlegh?


No, I live in North Reading (Caversham), and run the Caversham Primary chess club. My experience of secondary schools (limited admittedly to just my two older children) is that they are less receptive to parents being involved in school activities than primary schools. At the risk of stereotyping, even the local boys grammer school, for goodness sake, didn't have a chess club for several years. I understand it has been re-started by a sixth-former, but whether they will play any matches or run a UKCC tournament remains to be seen.

Ben, you will be saddened to hear that Maiden Erlegh no longer have a chess club, do not run a UKCC school tournament, and have even given up hosting a Saturday Afternoon Event - for so many years, the traditional and popular season opener in Berkshire.

I did try to get the Berks Secondary School League(s) going again a couple of years ago, but there was limited support, and it is now dormat again. As far as I know, the only "active" (take part in competition) secondary level school chess clubs in Berkshire are at Wellington and Eton, Claire's Court, and St. Mary's (Ascot), all private schools where teachers are expected to run such clubs, and there is more time after normal school hours. In the state sector, non-academic activities run by teachers seem to be limited to sport, and some drama / music. I am not seeking to "blame" anyone, but just to describe the current situation honestly.

User avatar
Ben Purton
Posts: 1618
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:53 am
Location: Berks
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Ben Purton » Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:15 am

Hmmmmm that is annoying. Id be more upset if Ridgeway lost there club tbh, they taught me to play in dyslexic unit and my mum helped expand their club. Maiden erlegh lost Teressa Conlon(Joe's Mum) to kendrick, so its no surprise they collasped as she got no support from the school. Which is a shame, because theyd happily blast my UKCC win in to their prospectus and didnt really fund the club at all.

Reading Grammer lost their team???? Thats another surprise.

Ben
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

Dai Carpenter
Posts: 15
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:15 pm

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Dai Carpenter » Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:21 pm

I like this thread. Brent - big fan, of course schools don't need more sets, schools and clubs already have enough. A while back I gave some ideas on how I think the ecf could give some direction in this area. Again, please could someone from the ecf / someone who has some influence respond to this. I repeat my posts below:

(Around a month ago)
As an outsider I think everyone is getting too hung up here on the sets. Last time I checked we weren't short of chess sets in this country, it's just that 99% of them are used once a week and in between sit in chess clubs' store cupboards. That is a waste. Chess needs to link clubs to schools; the ideal is that clubs will assist with sessions or be a signpost for keen/talented players, but I think even something as simple as clubs lending spare sets to a school, or even sets that are usually being used to schools one day a week could help you here. With all the kids and parents involved that walk in and out of a chess club each week, this could be arranged.

Next point, money. Any of you seen http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/funding-uk or http://www.awardsforall.org.uk/england/index.html There are many sources of funding for groups that wish to do something that engages people in their community.

Chess needs to ask what is it looking to use money for? If it's to increase the prize money in tournaments or team fees to top players then forget it, other than a limited few companies who may offer sponsorship. If it's to try and increase it's player base then there's a huge amount of funding pots available. If it's to try and increase the standard of promising juniors/club players then I don't think chess needs money - it needs to go down the route (like all sports have done) of insisting that all membership clubs with junior players have at least one qualified coach. Can't find someone in your club to do it? Fine, get the nearest strong player (I think very few parents would be unwilling to pay £2-3 for an evenings coaching).

Previously I outlined on here that chess should start going down the route of a full club accreditation scheme in which clubs would be required to link with schools. In return the ecf could offer incentives (such as 2 free places in the national champs (would also help promote a struggling competition)). I came up with a long list a while back on here. Shame in my opinion that the major players on here never responded to my posts.


(Around 6 months ago)
I would like to continue the debate from another thread in which I proposed that the ECF adopt a club accreditation scheme. Many sports governing bodies in the UK are now operating such a system (including some I would guess small governing bodies such as table tennis, canoeing and lacrosse), and so I think it would be feasible to start one. I think if chess wants to 'professionalise' its approach (this is the key, professionalise means a lot more than merely paying people money), then club accreditation:
1.) Is very useful in attracting funding from bodies, as it ensures that child protection policies, committee's etc are in place. Chess doesn't need to become a sport etc to attract funding, there is a lot of funding out there now due to current political policy that seeks to use community groups to combat social exclusion and promote community development, but to access this funding issues such as child protection and perhaps coach accreditation need to be addressed.
2.) Could be used to assist the development of the game, particularly in schools, by giving the clubs some direction and incentives to try and boost their membership
3.) There are other reasons also, and these should become clear below.

Based on the approach being taken by several sports, the outline of the scheme I proposed was as follows:

"The most common thing being pushed (in sport) is developing school-local club links. Whilst ideally this would involve regular chess clubs being set up in a number of schools supported by local volunteers, it's difficult to obtain sustained commitment from volunteers and you want to attract as many schools as possible. So a short cut is to instead run a few 'taster' sessions in schools (i think finding volunteers to do say two or three sessions in total is easier; or if you have only a couple of volunteers - move around and approach new schools). Adapt chess, it doesn't matter if the kids don't know how all the peices work at this stage. Then following this invite the school(s) to some sort of fun tournament at your club - hopefully they'll enjoy this and you'll attract a few kids (and their parents) to try it out a few more times.

The difficulty usually faced is finding volunteers. Towards this many sports are expanding their club accreditation schemes - the basic idea is that the governing body gives sufficient incentives so that clubs see a gain in providing them with volunteers. So for instance in chess, it could be that each club is required to say link with 2/3 local schools as part of the club ECF membership. In return for doing this and becoming an ECF accredited club the club receives:
1.) 2 free coaching/simultaneous sessions a year from a titled/2300+ player (we have enough of them in this country!). Many sports operate a similar 'ambassador' scheme and in chess it already works both ways a bit with the elite players getting free entry to everything 'in return'. (Might also help the clubs raise a bit of cash as members would probably be willing to pay a little to attend these.)
2.) 3 free places in tournaments that are part of the British Championships fortnight (would help also to promote this a bit and stop the slide in numbers competing). Give away free/discounted places maybe in other events that we are looking to boost too.
3.) Free entrance into some sort of couty/national club knockout champs
4.) Free/discounted coach and arbiter training (organised regionally)
5.) Members of the club become eligible to play for county/zonal/national/junior representative teams (i.e. to play junior international chess you have to be a member of an accredited club; that may make the parents more keen to help the club out in its duties)
6.) Entrance to some kinda prize draw
7.) Access to a 'member clubs' only section of the ECF website (which could say include the grading list)
etc. There are any number of things you can introduce, but I do like ideas 1 and 2. Hehe perhaps even idea 5 and 7!

I should also explain that accreditation in sport normally means that the club has things such as a committee in place, a child protection officer, signing up to codes of conduct, and that all people working with juniors have CRB's etc. This is moving towards becoming compulsory; often those clubs who are actually developing school and community links then become eligible for higher accreditation and bonus benefits such as the 'ambassador' scheme which gives them free visits from top coaches and athletes etc. Some sports also stipulate that in order to compete in events, you also have to be a member of an accredited club; though personally I don't think this would be appropriate for chess as chess has a number of recreational players who drift in and out of the game.

Dai Carpenter
Posts: 15
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:15 pm

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Dai Carpenter » Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:23 pm

I appreciate the above is a lot to shift through. Main point for anyone who can't be bothered is that the ecf could be providing some incentives for clubs to link with schools, that may actually also help the ecf.

User avatar
Ben Purton
Posts: 1618
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:53 am
Location: Berks
Contact:

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby Ben Purton » Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:31 pm

That would cost ALOT , those 7 things....
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

User avatar
IM Jack Rudd
Posts: 3449
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 1:13 am
Location: Bideford

Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Postby IM Jack Rudd » Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:42 pm

Some of these don't cost much. Giving away free places in a tournament costs very little in terms of direct costs (it may impact on opportunity costs, I'll grant you).

I'd be willing to be a simul-giving ambassador.


Return to “Chess Sets for Schools Project”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest