The charity Chess in Schools & Communities (CSC) has supported many Stoke schools to play chess by supplying equipment, online accounts, curriculum and CPD to encourage more participation at this age range.

Historically at this age students number of interests start to reduce and chess has been one of those that gets lost amongst more mainstream sports and the pressure of studying for exams. The benefits of learning and playing the game are seen for a holistic approach to learning; problem solving, reasoning, logical & critical thinking. The game provides mental stimulation, has a wealth of knowledge that can be absorbed academically, provides a set of rules which allow creativity and is extremely competitive – there is nowehere to hide as every decision you make could be fatal!

This might be why chess is booming in Secondary schools across Staffordshire& the surrounding areas!

CSC held a training day in Stoke before Christmas and we were delighted to have attendees from Discovery Academy & Sandbach High School. I personally live and run chess clubs close to Sandbach’s catchment area and I know for a fact that them having a chess club has influenced several decisions of selection of secondary school.

Sandbach High School took part in one of the first (in the new age) matches when they took on Trentham Academy on the platform (as reported in Chess magazine January 21 edition 86) These online accounts provided action safely online when the pandemic was in full swing. Since then they have gone on to compete in national qualifying events!

I had the pleasure this week on 6th April 2022 of visiting another school that entered the national online championships in St. Thomas More Catholic Academy. I’ve been in touch with Chess lead Mr L. Brown for some time and was more than happy to visit and was provided time after school to run a Chess Masterclass specifically for chess club & Honours students. All made me feel very welcome as I put them through their paces using the chess pieces to set them challenges and asking them to problem solve. The engagement of the students was fantastic.

I look forward to visiting this school again as they have indicated a will to hold a high school event for the charity.

In the same area we have Blythe Bridge High School which has had a successful chess club for a long time that the charity has supported, mainly in a response to a facebook message asking for sets!

As the regional coordinator I’m not just looking to start up chess clubs in schools I’m also well aware there are numerous teachers and students playing chess in clubs that just have no contact with anyone. That’s why it was great to finally talk to and meet the children of Abbey Hill School & College who have, under the guidance of Mr S. Flye, been running a chess club & lessons session for a long time! It was great to see that the new sets from CSC had been delivered and was an upgrade on the mismatch of sets in use before. The children clearly enjoyed the game immensely and I was surprised to hear comments like ‘I play the Caro-Kann and Italian game’ prompting fear that I could be in for a real challenge here!

As more schools see the benefit of engagement in chess to help their pupils both socially & academically we hope to add more schools to the roster in and around Staffordshire with massive thanks to CSC for making this happen.

There are already clubs in St. Edwards (Leek), Eaton Bank (Congleton) and some South Staffordshire connections are also being made including Denstone College. A big thank you to the teachers that run these clubs in and around their workload because they themselves enjoy the game and can see the benefit it has on the children.