Schools are waiting

Discussions regarding the 70,000 Free Chess Sets for Schools in England.
Neill Cooper
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Schools are waiting

Postby Neill Cooper » Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:30 pm

I've just had this email from a local primary school

"We haven't forgotten about chess at [our school] - just a few problems at the moment with lunch time cover and also the new chess sets I sent off for have been delayed. Can I contact you in the New Year for the 6th former you so generously offered us?"

Sean Hewitt

Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Sean Hewitt » Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:11 am

This story has a bit of "man bites dog" about it.

Richard Bates
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Richard Bates » Sat Nov 15, 2008 8:49 am

Are schools so strapped for cash these days that they can't find £50 for a few chess sets? Or is it just that they can't justify the expense to their auditors as long as they have a promise of getting them for free?

I kind of assumed that the whole business case for the thing rested on the belief that 10 sets per school wouldn't be nearly enough anyway and the company making the sets saw them as a "starter pack" leaving them perfectly placed to capitalise on the subsequent demand.

David Robertson
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby David Robertson » Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:49 pm

Richard Bates wrote:Are schools so strapped for cash these days that they can't find £50 for a few chess sets? Or is it just that they can't justify the expense to their auditors as long as they have a promise of getting them for free?

You're grabbing the wrong end of the stick here, Richard, although your basic scepticism is well-placed. Any school can afford to buy ten chess sets - if it chooses to. Many thousands already have; and chess sets aren't expensive. The problem lies for the most part in the micro-dynamics of the process.

To explain: first, assume an average primary school without chess sets; second, assume an enterprising teacher who wishes to establish a chess club. That teacher will now have to approach the school's budget-holder, the headteacher, with a proposal to spend £50 or so. The headteacher might be keen too, but there are procedures to follow and competing claims on scarce funds to reconcile. Another teacher might want £50 for an art class; yet another, £100 for keep-fit, or road safety awareness, or a class trip to the museum. Not every good idea can be funded, not just now anyway; priorities etc etc. You know the rest...

Now assume, as we've been told, this school receives a letter from their MP informing the school that ten chess sets are available free of charge from the ECF. This has to be a reliable offer because it comes with the MP's authority, and is backed by the national federation. This is a gift from the gods to our enterprising teacher. She no longer need wait in a resource queue; she can start up the chess club at no cost to herself or the school.

So 7000 schools apply in good faith. And they are told by the ECF, if we are correctly informed, that the offer will be honoured shortly....soon....after a little delay...one day....at some point....within the next year.....by the end of 2009.... You get the picture.

Meanwhile, back in the school, our keen enthusiastic teacher, acting in good faith, has announced the 'good news' to her headteacher, given up her place in the resource queue, and set about canvassing support for the chess club among pupils and parents. If she's very energetic and successful, the teacher will have generated a fair swell of anticipation by now. Everything is ready to go, just need the chess sets....

And so the embarrassment builds, the enthusiasm ebbs away - at every level, kids, parents, teachers, headteachers, MPs. And if things go as now looks clear, our enthusiastic teacher faces not merely disappointment, but local humiliation too. Her reaction to this may not impact on ECF or its Board in any way. But the reaction of MPs to being led up the garden path may not be so easily ignored over the long-term. No one will trust ECF again, not at all with the current regime in place.

David
Atticus CC

Richard Bates
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Richard Bates » Sat Nov 15, 2008 1:26 pm

Sure i've no doubt that is how things work. However leaving aside for a moment the arguments about whether Chess for Schools is going to happen and who is to blame for its failings, I doubt very much if a school chess club/program can be run for nothing other than the cost of 10 chess sets (or not one of any particular value). There will be demands for more resources within a very short space of time, and therefore a lot of consequent disappointment if those demands can't be met. And if headteachers/budget holders haven't taken that into account then they aren't doing a great job.

Still i can't say that i've paid much attention to the whole thing, and i'm sure that such points have been made (and answered satisfactorily?) before in significantly more depth, so that's all i've got to say. I guess the idea was that by providing the "starter pack" it would give enthusiastic teachers the chance to establish a "free" club, watch it rapidly become over-subscribed, and give them a theoretically powerful weapon when they moved in with requests for extra resources. It's obviously a stronger weapon if the commitment implied by the use of school funds has already been made.

Dai Carpenter
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Dai Carpenter » Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:47 pm

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.

One final comment, the ecf cannot do everything on the ground. It's role imo should be to give direction, support, and to manage. That is why I asked the above questions and that is why I propose solutions in which the ecf tells clubs what to do and then some clubs do it - this is much more manageable then even a small team of people (let alone one man) trying to coordinate national projects. But I see less direction from the top in chess then I see in every single sport with which I am familiar.

Steve Henderson
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Steve Henderson » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:23 pm

Some worthwhile ideas to consider :D
However ...
Dai Carpenter wrote: But I see less direction from the top in chess then I see in every single sport with which I am familiar.


How very true :!:

Paul Stimpson
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Paul Stimpson » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:47 pm

Dai

As an outsider I think everyone is getting too hung up here on the sets.


Last I checked this IS what the ECF offered for free, or perhaps I missed something.....

Dai Carpenter
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Dai Carpenter » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:58 pm

Paul Stimpson wrote:
As an outsider I think everyone is getting too hung up here on the sets.


Last I checked this IS what the ECF offered for free, or perhaps I missed something.....


Sorry Paul but I miss your point? I am trying to demonstrate that chess is unsure what it wants to do, that not having any free sets is a set back but not a fatal one, that chess is going about it's development the wrong way - even an organisation the size of the FA does a huge amount of work through its clubs rather than trying to do everything in house, that there is money out there to bid for (that could even be spent on sets hypothetically), and that I think the ecf should be looking at giving clubs direction and the keener ones accreditation as I think that is the most efficient development method. I don't see any relevance of your post to mine.
Cheers,
Dai

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IM Jack Rudd
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby IM Jack Rudd » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:05 pm

I think Paul and Dai both have valid points here. Paul is right to point out that the ECF has promised free chess sets, and will suffer long-term damage to its credibility should these not materialize. Dai, however, has made some positive suggestions for working around this issue, which could well work to further the cause of chess in schools.

In my capacity as chairman of Barnstaple Chess Club, may I say I would be happy (subject to the approval of the club's other officers) for us to lend sets to local schools. Who knows; it may have the knock-on effect of arresting the decline in our membership.

Paul Stimpson
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Paul Stimpson » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:11 pm

Dai,

Sorry Paul but I miss your point? I am trying to demonstrate that chess is unsure what it wants to do, that not having any free sets is a set back but not a fatal one, that chess is going about it's development the wrong way - even an organisation the size of the FA does a huge amount of work through its clubs rather than trying to do everything in house, that there is money out there to bid for (that could even be spent on sets hypothetically), and that I think the ecf should be looking at giving clubs direction and the keener ones accreditation as I think that is the most efficient development method. I don't see any relevance of your post to mine.


This is all well and dandy and I don't disagree with any of what you have said, however this isn't how the ECF have gone about it. The ECF have done it by advertising to all and sundry that each School in England will get 10 free chess sets, so though you cannot understand why people are hung up about the chess sets as you put it, I was just pointing out why they are!

Neill Cooper
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Neill Cooper » Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:57 pm

Richard Bates wrote:Are schools so strapped for cash these days that they can't find £50 for a few chess sets?


£50 is not always easy to find in schools, so a free offer is always attractive. Also there is no hassle try to find out where to buy them from, what is a good price etc.

Neill Cooper
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Neill Cooper » Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:02 pm

Richard Bates wrote:I doubt very much if a school chess club/program can be run for nothing other than the cost of 10 chess sets (or not one of any particular value). There will be demands for more resources within a very short space of time, and therefore a lot of consequent disappointment if those demands can't be met.


I've run chess clubs in two schools where the only cost has been sets, my time and UK Chess Challenge entry fee. These were/are good and popular school chess clubs, the one which my children attended reached the national final of the EPCSA U9 Schools tournament, the other (where I teach) won the ECF National Schools plate competition this year.

Richard Bates
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Re: Schools are waiting

Postby Richard Bates » Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:33 am

Neill Cooper wrote:
Richard Bates wrote:I doubt very much if a school chess club/program can be run for nothing other than the cost of 10 chess sets (or not one of any particular value). There will be demands for more resources within a very short space of time, and therefore a lot of consequent disappointment if those demands can't be met.


I've run chess clubs in two schools where the only cost has been sets, my time and UK Chess Challenge entry fee. These were/are good and popular school chess clubs, the one which my children attended reached the national final of the EPCSA U9 Schools tournament, the other (where I teach) won the ECF National Schools plate competition this year.


Just for clarification though, did you do this with only ten sets? I'm sure you can run an internal school club on just sets and voluntary teacher time, i am just surprised that 10 sets would be sufficient for a thriving (as one would hope it would become) club.

How was the travelling (and accommodation?) to the external competitions funded? Was it all parentally provided?


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