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Supporting children and families through finding new skills in chess

My name is Jon Lloyd and I work as a chess tutor for the charity Chess in Schools and Communities.

People wouldn’t traditionally think of chess as a way of reducing social isolation, but over the last five years of teaching chess to children, older people and people living with or affected by cancer, I have seen an increase in self-esteem and socialisation among participants.

Learning to play chess can help children and families who are feeling isolated or suffering from stress. It can develop skills such as planning, decision-making and strategy - raising confidence as a new skill is learnt in a social setting. What’s more chess is totally absorbing; people who suffer cancer have said that learning to play chess gave them one or two hours respite from the anxieties caused by their disease.

During my time as a chess tutor I have also been particularly encouraged for the efficacy of the program to increase confidence and benefit behaviour for children in a local special educational needs school.

Bracknell Forest Council Adult public health team have supported me with marketing and publicity. Psychometric evaluations, devised by the council, have clearly shown the benefits for socialisation, learning and fun for over 150 local residents to date.

I applied to the Innovation Fund to allow me to bring chess to families, especially those who may have been isolated, lost confidence or developed anxiety over the course of the pandemic. Chess will be taught over ten weeks, in 1 hour easy-to-learn lessons. Community library clubs are already established so allowing learners to continue playing the game.

Chess is a social game, but more so it is a game that introduces sociability at a pace dictated by the learner. A learner can interact as much or as little with an opponent, or other learners, as he or she wants. There are no restrictions in playing chess for people with physical mobility or illnesses and can be played between age groups from same or different generations.

Learning to play chess in a group will encourage socialisation but with no pressure on an individual to do so and therefore I would like the program to become recognised as one to receive referrals from the council, schools and GP practices - especially for children and families that may not enjoy or feel confident with the traditional offers available.

I hope you will support the awareness of my project in the Bracknell Forest area.