Blythe Bridge High School & Sixth Form have been providing an open chess club for a range of year groups since the start of the last academic year, 2015-2016. In particular, it has been hugely beneficial for key members of staff to get to know our new Year 7 students’, and for them to get to know their peers.
Our chess clubs are an outlet for many students and a chance to socialise with others and an opportunity to gain confidence. Furthermore, it has been used as a reward for school work completed and thus motivated a number of students, on occasions, chess has been implemented as a calming strategy for students.
A large number of students now attend our chess clubs including students who have an additional educational need, and in some cases students whose behaviour can sometimes be challenging. We have assessed the impact of our chess clubs and have noticed a dramatic change in the ability of concentration, for example, students are able to sit down and concentrate for 30 minutes on strategies, forthcoming outcomes and tactics. This can only have a positive impact on their concentration, resilience and confidence. We also encourage respect at all times for the opponent, the pieces and the environment they play in.
A most recent example of our Year 7 chess club saw 7 separate games running concurrently, with many spectators waiting to challenge the winner. The current Year 8 students who took part in last year’s tournament, against a local primary school, enjoy returning to the chess club and challenging or coaching the current Year 7 student’s. Chess is also played during our early morning breakfast club.
Some quotes were taken from last year’s tournament players (current Year 8’s):
“The chess games against the primary schools were enjoyable and I met some very nice people…It made me feel confident with my chess abilities…helping the primary school students that I met in the tournament made me have a good feeling inside as I told them about the clocks and how to use them.”
“I think it was very professionally set out with the timers and the board showing the different matches…I think it was very fair how everyone got medals…things I would like to have…I feel it was good how we helped out the students from the local primary school”.
“It was brilliant because of all the different experienced chess players getting together to play each other…It was brilliant that I met so many different students”
Not only do we encourage our KS3 students to engage in chess on a daily basis, we offer the challenge and enjoyment of playing chess to all KS4 students, within these year groups and age ranges we are sure that playing chess helps our students to develop their ability to focus and concentrate; if they are not paying attention on the chessboard, they may miss an important opportunity or their opponent may punish them by taking a piece or checkmating their king!
Students also develop their visualisation skills. Before making a move on the board, students must first make it in their minds, anticipating how their opponent might respond and how they would respond to that. Analysing and evaluating is an important part of the game, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of a move, considering alternative moves, and selecting the best move from these possibilities. Moves without purpose are of little use on the chessboard and so students improve their ability to develop short and long term plans. Of course, as in life, something will inevitably happen to throw a spanner in the works and so the plan must be adapted as the situation develops.
To ensure that our students can continue to access chess, staff donate chess sets from home and charity shops to provide resources for the ever increasing student numbers.
What is so positive to see is that, it’s not only the students who take part in the games but staff and senior leaders join daily teams and tournaments. Our Headteacher enjoys to challenge our students to a game of chess at lunchtime too!
If we had the opportunity to access a funding stream to support us in our quest to grow our chess clubs, we could provide timers, new boards and chessmen for our ever increasing and inspirational chess clubs here in school.
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