Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Discussions regarding the 70,000 Free Chess Sets for Schools in England.
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Charles W. Wood
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Charles W. Wood » Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:10 am

Tony Robson wrote:
Brent Smith wrote: ...my personal experience is that many schools have chess sets, but only a very small proportion have a chess club
...The "problem" is not lack of chess sets, but rather a lack of people willing / able to run a school club
I agree, Brent, from our modest experience we feel too that lack of chess sets is often not the problem. Our problem is perhaps slightly different, but frustrating none-the-less.
1. I and two colleagues have taught chess to children from 4 to 18 since 2007.
2. We can provide chess sets and teaching materials at no cost.
3. We do not charge for our time or other expenses.
4. We have enhanced CRB clearance.
5. We are not members of the teaching profession.
6. Less than 15% of the 60 schools in our immediate area "do chess".
We have approached about 25 of these schools and they are simply not interested in receiving any outside help. As far as we can judge, they appear reluctant to deal with people not within the schools system.
Have any others found this in their areas of the country? Why do you think this is? How can we overcome this?
If you would like me to clarify anything regarding our experience, please just ask.
This is a good case to bring forward because both you and Kevin are hitting a wall with ECM (Every Child Matters) written on it. And "FREE" does not mean anything to schools unless you can put one foot over the door frame. Firstly its nothing to do with you being on the outside of schools, in fact schools can receive extra funding cash if they use external agencies such as chess.

Heres the first hurdle (after all the work you've done so far); insurance, and before you say anything nearly everyone reading this is going to say we are insured by the school if we coach there. Here is an issue between logic and policy. Government Guidelines state very clearly that ALL external bodies going into schools (Which there is masses) must have heir own Public Liability Insurance, why....... because each body going into schools has adults in it that don't just disappear when they leave the school grounds. In other words there may be contact between a chess coach and school pupil of site either accidentally (say at the supermarket) or organised (say in a local chess league match). Its thin but schools and governments do see it as a risk.

The next biggy is ECM its self. Read it first and all this makes sense. Schools will want you to tell them where your chess coaching will lay within the ECM structure, as it can fall into many subject areas this does cause schools a problem. I will try and explain this but if you haven't read ECM it might not make loads of sense. ALL State Schools follow ECM structure to the letter and often need to get funding to cover coaching and equipment even if it is offered free, this is because coaching in schools can have an affect on the cost bottom line if someone needs to stop back for an after school club, caretaker time, heating bill, lighting, letters to parents, permissions for food, photography and others etc added to all this is, when a school is applying for this funding to be able to get you in free it will have to argue of the funding forms what sort of organisation they are suggesting to bring in, is it an unincorporated association, a limited company, ltd by guarantee. Then is it Not-for Profit, volunteer based, Employee structured, a mix etc. All this would need to be explained as well. Good example of this is Professional Football Clubs "in Communities" schemes which are set up exactly as above and are usually at no cost to schools.

Outcomes and objectives are a big area to explain on first contact too, "What would be the benefit over all", "Who are you aiming to help", "How would you measure your outcomes", and "at What point do you class measured outcomes as a success". All that has to be delivered in ECM language.

ALL that needs to be spelt out at first contact with the school. I'm sure Dia Carpenter will agree will everything I have just said. It may look like the work needed to do something as simple as coaching chess in schools is massive but it has been done like this on purpose to ensure a structured and safe approach to dealing with children in every environment in any and all subjects from football to tidley winkles. Schools are mad keen on getting chess to their pupils, we just need to be set up correctly first. And before you all say it, some schools do have chess in them already, in some cases thats because schools did most of the work to keep their chess at the point of ECM implementation back in 2000, others are exceptions where a teacher, head, governor have done it themselves.

The irony in all this is that setting up a company, paying your staff and charging schools is actually the easiest route. I still say, as a parent, the ECM structure is right its just really hard.
Charles W. Wood
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David Levens
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by David Levens » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:59 am

I agree entirely with this - chess sets are NOT the problem. I work full time as a professional chess coach, mainly in Notts. In this county we have a large number of willing adults, mainly retired teachers plus a few active younger ones. Consequently we have a queue of schools wanting to join the local schools leagues. We have set up our own award scheme based on the scheme used in music: Grade 1 through to Grade 8 [we may yet go up to 10, as in the Yamaha system]. For many years now Notts has produced a string of good juniors, regularly finishes in the top 3 or 4 counties, and last year finished equal first with Wey Valley.

New teachers coming on board are provided with coaching materials and are helped and encouraged all the way - I believe the same is true in Wey Valley. It is not rocket science.

Last weekend the Midlands Counties U-11 championships, for which we gained a generous sponsor, was held in Nottingham. There were just 3 counties involved, Leics. having pulled out the night before claiming that they could not raise a team - shame on them! When I first got in involved in coaching, about 11 years ago, we had as`many as 9 or 10 counties competing. Where are they now?

If we are to progress junior chess, and without juniors coming through chess will die in the UK, we neeed a properly set up training scheme for coaches, as in almost every other major sport! As Mike Basman said to me many years ago, you do not have to be a good player to teach beginners, you need to be a good teacher. In other sports being a good player is not considered good enough; even Olympic gold medallists have to QUALIFY as coaches first before they can coach other athletes. Similar things hold true in football, rugby, cricket, squash, tennis etc etc. What we have in British chess are people who have "coached" a few kids, got a friend or two to say they are OK, got CRB clearance and then they are "Accredited Coaches." So what?

A properly set up training scheme would give us different levels of coaching [Grade 1 to Grade 8 say] which everyone would readily understand and these new coaches could even earn themselves a buck or two. In Notts. we have mainly state schools paying for the services of one of our coaches; money is not the problem that one of your subscribers indicated.

David Levens - Head Coach to Notts Primary Schools Chess Association

Neill Cooper
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Neill Cooper » Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:28 pm

Neill Cooper wrote:
Ben Purton wrote:Reading Grammer lost their team???? Thats another surprise.
They (Reading School) have entered the National Schools tournament this year
And have reached the national finals (last 4) of the plate tournament http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/schoolschamps.htm

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Ben Purton
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Ben Purton » Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:15 am

Ive only played Reading Grammer at 2 things, Rugby and Chess... they were overrated in both. Are they any good these days?

Ben


On another note, why o why doesnt each junior association run a simul where the proceeds contribute to the JR fund each year. In a ECF forum message I offered to play the simul for Berkshire however Brent Smith didnt reply. I don't actually want or need anything from it, Id want to do it to contribute to it , ill to it 4 times a year if you want.

Ben
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat May 30, 2009 5:57 pm

I've just left my school, and I frequently faced several problems.

My old school has the tradition of letting the "captain" run everything, the member of staff simply pays for equipment, transport etc. I was the captain for three years, so I had to run school events, pick the teams for inter-school matches (although they were mostly done by discussion).

We ran a UK Chess Challenge event, and in the year I left, I managed to get 56 competitors. However, each match was played at a rate of 1 round per week, and on the entry form, I had to let players tick lunchtimes they were available. Chess was not the #1 priority, it came behind rugby, netball, choir, drama, music lessons etc. It was a challenge pairing people, because not only did you have to allow for score and colour, but you had to try to find a time at which they could all play. That said, about 30 players qualified, and 3 got into the Terafinal & Challengers. The UK Chess Challenge is a wonderful event, and frankly, without it, chess would be dying even more than it is perceived to be. There are a few problems with it, though. I don't like how girls and boys are split up. For instance, one girl entered as an U18, and qualified from school with 0/7, qualified from the Megafinal with 1.5/6 (but 0 would have done), qualified from the Gigafinal with 0.5/6 (a bye), and finished last in the Terafinal. Yet she won £130, essentially for just turning up. Conversely, I got 5/7, 4/5/6 and 3/6 and went out. A little unfair, in my opinion. The boys are disadvantaged! But that's not really an issue, in the end she became interested, and she's gone from an 1100 rated player to 1500 (roughly) in the year since (she entered on the proviso that I taught her so she didn't embarrass herself...). Anyway, the UK Chess Challenge got lots of people interested. This year, the new captain trialled the idea of holding it all on one day - like a Megafinal. Even though a few players left who entered the year before, only 14 entered this time. Children aren't overly prepared to give up their "free" time, but they are if it's at a lunchtime, and you pester them enough.

We also fielded school teams in the Birmingham & District Junior Chess League. Speaking to an old school Master, there were once about 20 schools in it. When I left, there were just 7. There were only 2 teams in Division 1 and Division 2, and the other divisions had no more than 6 teams. 7 years ago, I would play 6 or 7 matches per year, by the end, I was only playing 3 matches per season, plus a few other tournaments to pad the calendar. Another problem I had was writing reports for assemblies. Certain players specifically requested that their names were not mentioned. They were *afraid* of being good at chess. Even though their friends knew they played it for the school, they were worried about what their friends would say when their name was read out. They were afraid, if you like, of the "bullying" that would come from being associated with chess.

There was a team House event that was nearly struck off because the organiser of the school's house system wanted it all done on one lunchtime. She wanted us to play 5-minute chess, and couldn't understand why that was a strange thing to be basing a supposedly high-prestige event on...

We held an individual knockout tournament too (that I kept losing in the final of :( ), and generally the school "club" was a bristling place to be. The room would be full.

I also frequent a junior club, Birmingham Checkmate, that was run by Mike Fox until his death. Since then, the numbers have dropped from over 30 players to about 10. I've seen a couple of new members recently who haven't returned since.

As for free sets, it's probably all the ECF can do to get people to play chess. And more chess sets certainly won't result in fewer people playing it. As long as the sets eventually come, I think it's a good thing. However, it really isn't the number one problem with chess amongst juniors. We may have high quality junior players, and lots of them, but the players underneath them will quickly be put off by all the negativity surrounding it. Of course, a major thing that has been missed here are Playstations. More people would rather sit playing Grand Theft Auto or something, rather than learn how to play a board game.

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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Nick Thomas » Sat May 30, 2009 8:41 pm

Alex.

You have my respect and congratulations for all the work you have done to promote chess in the West Midlands area. I'm sorry to hear about the decline of Birmingham Checkmate but Mike Fox was a one off and was always going to be impossible to replace. Look me up if you want the opportunity to continue working in the field of junior chess.

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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sat May 30, 2009 9:32 pm

Nick Thomas wrote:Alex.

You have my respect and congratulations for all the work you have done to promote chess in the West Midlands area.
Ah, thanks very much. :D
Nick Thomas wrote: I'm sorry to hear about the decline of Birmingham Checkmate but Mike Fox was a one off and was always going to be impossible to replace.
Yeah, it's such a shame. Hard to know how to halt the slide.
Nick Thomas wrote: Look me up if you want the opportunity to continue working in the field of junior chess.
You coach Camp Hill? Well, that would explain why Five Ways could never beat them (although, watch out for the next year or two, if we're going to beat them, it'll be then). We did win a Year 7 Tournament ahead of Camp Hill once, though. :D

I'm still teaching Five Ways people over the Internet, we're all in one big IRC channel. As for working in junior chess... I may be in touch.

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Ben Purton
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Ben Purton » Sun May 31, 2009 11:06 am

I don't like how girls and boys are split up. For instance, one girl entered as an U18, and qualified from school with 0/7, qualified from the Megafinal with 1.5/6 (but 0 would have done), qualified from the Gigafinal with 0.5/6 (a bye), and finished last in the Terafinal. Yet she won £130, essentially for just turning up. Conversely, I got 5/7, 4/5/6 and 3/6 and went out. A little unfair, in my opinion. The boys are disadvantaged!
Hardly, you get to the top or you get out, if shes top of her gender shes top of her gender, regardless of score. got 5/6 lots and only got in to challengers, usually 4 wins and 2 draws but never ever have played lorin who qualified every year in my group.
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun May 31, 2009 12:05 pm

Ben Purton wrote:
I don't like how girls and boys are split up. For instance, one girl entered as an U18, and qualified from school with 0/7, qualified from the Megafinal with 1.5/6 (but 0 would have done), qualified from the Gigafinal with 0.5/6 (a bye), and finished last in the Terafinal. Yet she won £130, essentially for just turning up. Conversely, I got 5/7, 4/5/6 and 3/6 and went out. A little unfair, in my opinion. The boys are disadvantaged!
Hardly, you get to the top or you get out, if shes top of her gender shes top of her gender, regardless of score. got 5/6 lots and only got in to challengers, usually 4 wins and 2 draws but never ever have played lorin who qualified every year in my group.
Well, it was a little tongue in cheek, but I still think it's a little unfair that some players qualify not on merit, but because of their gender.

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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Ben Purton » Sun May 31, 2009 1:42 pm

Well They are the winners/champions of their respective age/gender groups. You could argue the terafinal is easier to win than some of the older gigafinal sections, but this is the format. If a girl is the best for getting 1 points, shes still the best girl of her age and therefore is the champion.

In terms of the value of respective titles, then this is a much more subjective issue. My girlfriend was a multiple terafinal winner but "only the stratette" title. She needed 3.5/6 usually to win this, but it still means she was the best female in UK for U18 for given year.

So it is an achievement , like WFM, its not as good as FM, but its still a respected good achievement.

Ben
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun May 31, 2009 2:20 pm

Ben Purton wrote:Well They are the winners/champions of their respective age/gender groups. You could argue the terafinal is easier to win than some of the older gigafinal sections, but this is the format. If a girl is the best for getting 1 points, shes still the best girl of her age and therefore is the champion.

In terms of the value of respective titles, then this is a much more subjective issue. My girlfriend was a multiple terafinal winner but "only the stratette" title. She needed 3.5/6 usually to win this, but it still means she was the best female in UK for U18 for given year.

So it is an achievement , like WFM, its not as good as FM, but its still a respected good achievement.

Ben
Yes, I have no problem with them winning the trophies and even the prize money, that's perfectly fine. My argument is that someone on 1/6 shouldn't go through to the next round at the expense of someone who scored 5/6. Indeed, at the Megafinal stages, the girls sometimes deliberately lose their games against friends, or people from the same school/club, so they increase the chances of their friends going through (the girls have no competition). (That said, fixing draws in the last round when both players are on 3.5 out of 5, needing 4 to go through is to be expected, and who can blame them?)

The parallel I can draw to the format is the old Speedway World Championship format. It used to have national stages, and then increasingly international stages until you got to the World Final, the equivalent of the Terafinal. A British rider would have to go through the British Final and into the Overseas Final, which would include riders from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United States. From that, the top 8 would qualify for the Intercontinental Final. There was no rule that said the leading Australian, Brit, Canadian etc. would qualify, it was just the top 8 in the meeting, whether all 8 of them were British or otherwise. There were no exceptions given to nationality. I don't see why there should be an exception given to gender in the UK Chess Challenge. The good players who are girls would still get through and do well, and there are plenty of girls good enough to mean that there would be a fair cohort of them in the Terafinal.

That said, I don't think it detracts from the tournament on the whole. I think it's excellent at getting people playing chess, which at the end of the day is the most important thing.

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Ben Purton
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Ben Purton » Sun May 31, 2009 2:46 pm

The girl is the champion of her gender age, your not, thats why they go through.
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
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Richard Bates
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Richard Bates » Sun May 31, 2009 5:59 pm

I don't see how anyone who scores 0/6 can be considered "champion" of anything. It's one thing to have specific prizes to challenge underparticipation among girls. Another to make the whole thing a complete farce.

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Ben Purton
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Ben Purton » Sun May 31, 2009 8:13 pm

talking of farce's are Richmond getting 8 men out next year?
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.
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Re: Lack of chess sets is not the problem

Post by Mike Truran » Sun May 31, 2009 8:28 pm

Ben - with your track record I don't think you're in any position to cast the first stone!

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