ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

National developments, strategies and ideas.
Neill Cooper
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Neill Cooper » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:33 pm

When Phil Ehr asked me to become the ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator I was pleased to take on the role, assuming it was to encourage chess in secondary schools.

I was in a good position to do this as I had a proven record of making chess popular to teenagers. As well as being a maths teacher at Wilson’s School (a selective state boys school in Wallington) I also run the chess activities. This year over 200 pupils have come to chess club, with up to 70 on one lunchtime, and 99 have played chess for the school. I run five 6-board school teams in the Surrey Schools League, as well as running (and grading) the league of 35 school teams. I was known by many school chess organisers around the country due to Wilson’s playing in the National Schools Championships and at other regional events. Many in the South East knew me from my period as the SCCU junior Organiser, where I sustained and developed inter-county U18 and U14 chess tounraments, and in 2010 stepped in to host and run U18/U13 county championships when otherwise it would have been cancelled.

I had already realised that inter school chess would be more popular for many schools if run as a large event rather than a series of single matches. So I organised ‘ECF Afternoon Schools Tournaments’ and ‘ECF One day (Rapidplay) Schools Tournaments’. I assumed that since I was organising them as the ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator then it would be natural to use the title ‘ECF’. This had the added benefit of giving legitimacy to the event for the hosting schools, who did not charge for use of their facilities. Some players also got to know that the ECF existed. There was a financial benefit as ECF events were then exempt from grading fee.

To keep everyone informed I started a monthly newsletter which I circulated to many secondary school and junior chess contacts. I also published reports of all the ECF schools events I ran on the ECF website. Everyone could see that I was running these events with the ‘ECF’ title, and no one said there was anything wrong about the usage.

Then in the Autumn of 2012 came the first problem– the ECF Board declared that ungraded events would not be included on the ECF calendar. This even included the ECF Afternoon Schools Tournaments I was running but, more significantly, it upset many junior chess organisers. Fortunately the board in due course revised their decision and junior ungraded events can again be listed.

Then came the March Board decision – again with barely any notice nor consultation. I had a few choices: I could drop the ECF appellation from my events, but I was an ECF officer co-ordinating these event so that seemed inappropriate; I could stop grading them, but as indicated elsewhere, I see grading as useful in motivating teenagers to play chess for their school; or I could resign and run these events independent of the ECF, which is what I have decided to do. The last ECF Afternoon Schools Tournament will be hosted next week by Vandyke Upper School in Bedfordshire with a collection of schools, many new to inter-school chess. I doubt if many chess players have heard of Vandyke before, but it is one of the state schools who have enjoyed playing chess at one day school events and are now promoting chess in their area.

In conclusion, I think the problem has arisen because I am the only ECF officer who has started running new events for the Federation. I have been successful in promoting chess to the extent that others are now keen to run similar events at their schools. Surely the Board should have commented how well I was promoting chess?

LawrenceCooper
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by LawrenceCooper » Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:44 pm

Neill Cooper wrote:
I think the problem has arisen because I am the only ECF officer who has started running new events for the Federation.
Firstly I'd like to acknowledge all the work you have done and it is a shame to see you go. The above statement did confuse me though, for example Sabrina and Jovanka have run new events for the federation including the National Girls Chess Championship and the supporting regional qualifiers and Andrew Martin has also been involved in a new girls team event. I don't know how their experiences compare to yours though.

Neill Cooper
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Neill Cooper » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:11 pm

LawrenceCooper wrote:
Neill Cooper wrote:
I think the problem has arisen because I am the only ECF officer who has started running new events for the Federation.
Firstly I'd like to acknowledge all the work you have done and it is a shame to see you go. The above statement did confuse me though, for example Sabrina and Jovanka have run new events for the federation including the National Girls Chess Championship and the supporting regional qualifiers and Andrew Martin has also been involved in a new girls team event. I don't know how their experiences compare to yours though.
It was Claire Summerscale who started the National Girls Chess Championships quite a few years ago now (I helped her set up the first website for it), with the four regional qualifiers. Interestingly this year's "National Girls’ Chess Championship" does not include 'ECF' in its title.
The Under 11 and Under 18 ECF Girls' National Schools Chess Championships (and the U11 Open) are new parts to the existing ECF National School Chess Championships.

Yes, though, my statement was hyperbolic.

Sean Hewitt
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:30 pm

Neill Cooper wrote:Lots of interesting comments from both sides of the argument since I last posted. I think that there at least 5 issues, and it would be best if they became separate discussions:
1) The role of ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator - the subject of this thread
2) The National Schools Championships 2013-14
3) ECF Junior membership
4) Junior grading
5) How the ECF make decisions
Good idea. We should start though with the biggest issue first (which appears to be missing from your list) "Why are junior organisers against ECF membership?"

Andrew Varney
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Andrew Varney » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:37 pm

My view. Easy answer - junior organisers are no more against ECF membership than any other party, and presumably the reasons are the same. However, junior organisers are pro junior chess and see some unique issues in the blinkered way that policies are implemented which set back the development of this, particularly at entry level.

Neill Cooper
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Neill Cooper » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:54 pm

Sean Hewitt wrote:Good idea. We should start though with the biggest issue first (which appears to be missing from your list) "Why are junior organisers against ECF membership?"
I've started a new thread and added Andrew's comment. Perhaps the moderators can make it tidier than I have and remove his comment.

Mick Norris
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Mick Norris » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:24 pm

Neill Cooper wrote:Lots of interesting comments from both sides of the argument since I last posted. I think that there at least 5 issues, and it would be best if they became separate discussions:
1) The role of ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator - the subject of this thread
2) The National Schools Championships 2013-14
3) ECF Junior membership
4) Junior grading
5) How the ECF make decisions
Neill

If we say that the cost of running the ECF properly is £x and agree not to argue about what x is for now, I would like to be clear what you are arguing for

Is it that adults should pay a greater proportion of x than under the current arrangements because it is the right thing to do?

Or, is it that if you reduce the Junior ECF membership fee and/or requirements, you will actually bring a greater amount into the ECF which in turn means you would cover a reasonable share of x (albeit possibly not in the very short term)?
Any postings on here represent my personal views and should not be taken as representative of the Manchester Chess Federation www.manchesterchess.co.uk

Roger de Coverly
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:54 pm

It seems to me that the ECF proposed that Junior chess paid more of the expenses under membership than they would have done under Game Fee. So the scheme as proposed at the October 2011 imposed a hefty price rise on junior organisations, some of which was clawed back by the concessions at the April 2012 meeting.

Angus French
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Angus French » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:44 pm

Mick Norris wrote:
Neill Cooper wrote:Lots of interesting comments from both sides of the argument since I last posted. I think that there at least 5 issues, and it would be best if they became separate discussions:
1) The role of ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator - the subject of this thread
2) The National Schools Championships 2013-14
3) ECF Junior membership
4) Junior grading
5) How the ECF make decisions
Neill

If we say that the cost of running the ECF properly is £x and agree not to argue about what x is for now, I would like to be clear what you are arguing for

Is it that adults should pay a greater proportion of x than under the current arrangements because it is the right thing to do?

Or, is it that if you reduce the Junior ECF membership fee and/or requirements, you will actually bring a greater amount into the ECF which in turn means you would cover a reasonable share of x (albeit possibly not in the very short term)?
I don’t understand this comment (nor did I understand the relevance of Mick’s earlier comment).

As I see it, the situation under discussion is more complex.

Currently, for graded ECF-organised junior-only events (or for some of them at least) there is no membership requirement and no game fee is payable.

Currently, for graded non-ECF-organised junior-only events a game fee of 25p/50p per non-member per game is payable (with the 25p rate applying for Rapidplay games and the 50p rate applying for Standardplay games).

Now the ECF Board has decided that for graded ECF-organised junior-only events all participants must be members – there is no option to pay game fee. Thus, the requirement for ECF-organised junior-only events has gone from being less stringent than for non-ECF-organised junior-only events to being more stringent. This is particularly problematic for the National Schools Championship for reasons which Neill has described.

Sean Hewitt
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Sean Hewitt » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:03 pm

Angus French wrote:Now the ECF Board has decided that for graded ECF-organised junior-only events all participants must be members – there is no option to pay game fee. Thus, the requirement for ECF-organised junior-only events has gone from being less stringent than for non-ECF-organised junior-only events to being more stringent. This is particularly problematic for the National Schools Championship for reasons which Neill has described.
I suspect no one had realised previously that people were sticking an ECF badge on events and circumventing the membership scheme.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Apr 29, 2013 8:19 am

Sean Hewitt wrote:I suspect no one had realised previously that people were sticking an ECF badge on events and circumventing the membership scheme.
The National Schools has been running since the 1950s and has been an ECF event since the Times stopped running it. The ECF gave itself an exemption from Game Fee back in the 1990s.

It's all very well preparing documents outlining membership schemes and expecting ECF voting membership to vote for them, but if you are making changes, it is as well to consider the effect of these changes on the various events run in England. The original Farthing paper was particularly poorly researched when it came to looking at the impact of membership demands on Junior events. That paper had a watering down to attempt to reduce the disincentives of membership, which is that ungraded players who remained that way didn't have to become members. That premise got lost when it was realised that denying players grades if they weren't members wasn't going to work if they couldn't get grades through lack of activity.

In case it's been forgotten, the original Farthing paper was able to attract a small majority of the voting membership in support of it despite proposing a flat rate membership charge for all players with a reduced rate for Juniors alongside a lack of detail as to what sanctions were proposed against non-members and any analysis as to whether this redistributed the ECF's funding sources.

The ECF's latest actions demonstrate that if you have a membership scheme, you are supporting the premise that it is necessary to become a member of the National body before you play a single game of graded chess. All the non-member concessions you see that water down the current scheme are in the nature of temporary fixes to gain voting support and the longer term objective is to abolish them.

Those setting ECF policy are not prepared to accept that demanding membership as a prior condition of participation can act as a disincentive to take part in events and will no doubt continue to maintain this as events opt out of ECF grading.

Alex McFarlane
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Alex McFarlane » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:33 am

Sean,

You now seem to be complaining that different junior organisers have different points of view. What a surprise. As Richard pointed out you have junior organisers catering for different markets.

If you asked me to outline one simple membership strategy then I would have a very difficult job doing so.
Consider a 6 board schools’ competition. It is quite likely that a significant proportion of the top boards will have reasonable grades and will welcome playing a graded game but by the time you reach the bottom board the opposite will most likely be the case. It therefore would make some sense that only the top two boards were automatically graded and others only where both players had a grade. Not only would this break the ECF’s ‘all or nothing policy’ but it would lead to considerable problems if playing on a certain board meant that membership had to be taken out. Even someone running one team might have different strategies on different boards regarding membership!
As things stand you will now have tournaments that are not graded or will continue to be graded but will have fewer entries. This, in simple terms, will mean that there is even less chance of secondary pupils continuing to play chess. Ergo England will continue to have reducing numbers playing. I don’t know if the ECF has carried out a breakdown of membership by age but it would not surprise me to discover that 50% of its membership is 50 or over. If I am correct in this then membership fees in the not too distant future will have to rise significantly just to bring in the same revenue.

The type of membership a junior organiser wants will depend on the players they have. A school teacher with only their own school club to consider will want a cheap and cheerful one. Possible even a club membership at say £20 would be a better option if it allowed participation in graded games in school competitions than a £2 individual membership. The logic for this suggestion is simple. The school may well pick up the £20 tab, the teacher is the one most likely to have to pay the £2 per head every time they bring in a reserve and possibly even for some regulars.
For those organising junior clubs then a membership fee of £8 is not a problem. Though even here, organisers are pointing out that Silver membership is almost a necessity to start playing decent competitive chess.

Many junior organisers have been around for a considerable time, some have even contributed to the chess boom of the 70s. It is very easy to say that these organisers are having limited success. It is very disappointing however to hear an ECF Director actually making that claim. Without these organisers there would be no more than a handful of young chess players taking up the game at all. These organisers are the lifeblood of chess in this country.

I cannot argue that things could be better. What produced the boom of the 70s? The answer to that is obviously publicity. But it goes further. It was possible for keen players to see that they could actually make a living from the game they loved. This is now very unlikely to happen. The education system is also very much different. I have had children spending hours gaining an extra mark or two on practical work. In many of these cases those extra marks did not improve their grades. I won’t go as far as to say that time was wasted but it could have been spent more productively doing something else (including chess). These last two points in my view contribute considerably to a junior organiser’s problems. I haven’t even mentioned other distractions.
When I went to a selective secondary school 40 odd years ago the list of activities undertaken were very few. Most played football, a few cricket in the summer. I knew of one who swam competitively and a couple who played tennis. Chess fitted in nicely as something to do on winter evenings. When I stopped teaching a few years ago in a comprehensive school the numbers participating in minority sports had vastly increased and almost every child spent a couple of hours a night on either computer games or ‘social networking’.

That is the background that junior organisers are battling against.

It does not help when a senior figure is so dismissive of the efforts that are being made.

I remember Bob Wade travelling the country giving courses on how teachers should promote chess. When did the ECF last do something like this? An organisation should not attack the grass roots workers unless it can be seen to be doing something to promote and foster the activity itself. You continue to draw comparisons with football. The initiatives here came from the top and filtered down to club level. People who live in glass houses should be very careful.

Finally, if the former Times tournament is continuing as an ECF event will Scottish, Irish and Welsh teams be required to take out individual membership?

Sean Hewitt
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Sean Hewitt » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:09 am

Alex McFarlane wrote:It is very easy to say that these organisers are having limited success. It is very disappointing however to hear an ECF Director actually making that claim.
You may want to re-read my posts again. What I've actually done is asked what their track record is because I don't know. Perhaps you could tell us what it is? Until we see it, and compare it with similar countries, it's impossible to comment whether they are having "limited success" as you put it, or not. I have certainly made no claim as to what their track record actually is.
Alex McFarlane wrote:Without these organisers there would be no more than a handful of young chess players taking up the game at all. These organisers are the lifeblood of chess in this country.
That's one view of course.

Ray Sayers

Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Ray Sayers » Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:44 am

Sean Hewitt wrote:
Alex McFarlane wrote:Without these organisers there would be no more than a handful of young chess players taking up the game at all. These organisers are the lifeblood of chess in this country.
That's one view of course.
Saturday - spent all day helping set up, do the scoring, then clear up after the EPSCA U9 finals (18 teams, 12 players per team + reserves + families).
Sunday - spent the day running a Last Chance Saloon for kids to qualify for a Megafinal.
On Saturday night my wife spent the night in A&E.

Nice to know unpaid volunteer Junior organisers efforts are so highly regarded!

Richard James
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Re: ECF National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator

Post by Richard James » Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:29 pm

Alex McFarlane wrote: I remember Bob Wade travelling the country giving courses on how teachers should promote chess. When did the ECF last do something like this?
John Foley is doing precisely this at the moment on behalf of CSC.

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