28 April, 2007

SFYS-School Focussed Youth Service. Gavan Thomson - Co-ordinator

The School Focused Youth Service (SFYS) is pleased to be, once again, one of the contributing funders to the CHESS-SQUARED project across the schools in the Mt Alexander cluster.

The SFYS is all about promoting the mental wellbeing of young people, in particular young people who are at risk of social isolation, depression or school disengagement.

Each year the SFYS brokerage fund supports a number of projects and programs that aim to make schools safer , more inclusive, more supportive and more respectful places, and places where students can connect with each other, with other schools and with the community in many different positive ways.

The CHESS-SQUARED project is a great example of an unusual and innovative activity that includes a wide range of children of different abilities. It helps develop their cognitive skills in an interactive and social way and opens the door for them to interact with adult mentors, community organisations and the whole world of chess.

In particular, it introduces young people to the social, interpersonal and cultural enrichment that chess may bring.

Gavan Thomson
School Focused Youth Service
-across the Macedon Ranges, Mt Alexander & Central Goldfields Shires
Cobaw Community Health
PO Box 146 47 High Street Kyneton 3444

21 April, 2007


Welcome to CHESS-SQUARED for 2007. A lot has happened since our conclusion in 2006.

Harry, and a loyal band of parents, took 24 students to Melbourne in December and participated in the Victorian Youth Championships. One student, on the train ride home after two nights in Melbourne said to Harry “I’ve only ever done two good things at school, the year7 camp, and this. And I liked this a lot more!’ A great endorsement.

We welcome new tutor, Peter O’Connor, who is working at Maldon and Newstead. Peter joins local chess stalwarts Ron Moore, Greg Smith, John Lavery, and Sir Harry Poulton.

We will bring interviews onto our blog, so we can get to know all tutors- not just the ones coming into our own classes.

I’m just completing a submission for a National Numeracy Award, that will summarise our program and what was achieved in two terms in 2006. The Awards will be announced in Literacy and Numeracy Week in early September 2007 that receives high exposure nationwide. A strong feature of our program are the partnerships we have with Castlemaine Community House, School Focussed Youth Service, James Cook University, and of course the Innovations and Excellence Program. Fingers crossed our program gets some recognition.

There is presently a world-wide ground-swell of Chess In Schools progams.
When Susan Polgar offered a free 30 lesson chess curriculum on her blog, amazingly, 5000 requests came from all around the globe! I’m still processing the implications of that, not just for chess, but to highlight the power and potential influence of blogging in terms of linking classrooms with the global community.

In September, there will be an International Chess In Schools Conference in Aberdeen Scotland. A team from Mt. Alexander is examining the possibility of visiting that conference. We had initial conversations with conference organisers, sent them our blog address and received a reply stating ‘…….your program covers many themes of our conference, in a way we have not yet been able to do yet in Scotland’.

But most importantly, we are continually grappling with our ‘core business’: to find ways to increase exposure of chess to children, innovative ways to use chess as a tool for maths learning, and to increase engagement and enjoyment of schooling for young people.Stay tuned.

To pinch an appropriate quote from Kevin Brown, one of our cluster principals: May the moves be with you’. Let CHESS-SQUARED 2007 begin!

Steve Carroll

UPDATE: A recent post on Susan Polgars blog states
'Since I offered the free chess curriculum from the Susan Polgar Foundation on my blog a few months ago, I have received almost 25,000 requests from coaches, teachers, parents and educators, etc., from over 85 different countries.'