FIRST YEAR PILOT PROJECT - Academic Year 2016/17

In September 2016 Stamford Bridge Club with almost 600 members was not involved with even one school!

Changing the Status Quo:  Forty of our DBS registered, inspired Stamford and surrounding Club members, have bravely and determinedly made small ripples, breaking down perceived barriers and changing the status quo.

No. of Pupils participating in the First Year Pilot Project:  By the end of the 2016/17 Academic year, 296 pupils had taken part in a quality in-school bridge experience involving thirteen Schools: eight Primary and five Senior from Stamford and the surrounding areas.

The Starter Bridge Schools Handbook:  All Buddies and schools have used the structure and framework laid down in the Starter Bridge Schools Handbook (8-13 years) the catalyst which has spearheaded the Stamford Schools Project. This step-by-step instruction book has been specifically written to evidence criteria linked to the National Curriculum and Ofsted’s Inspection Handbook.

Quote:  Head teacher Primary School

‘You cannot fail to see children’s cognitive development . . . . the skills are complex and their need to develop their reasoning skills and deep thinking is crucial. Our children have absolutely loved every single session.’

Stamford Starter Bridge Awards: Recognition of pupil achievement has been paramount to the success of the Initiative. 150 Stamford Academy Starter Bridge Certificates Stage One, 53 Stage Two and 7 EBED Mini bridge certificates have been awarded to pupils, highlighting and flagging up pupil achievement, the schools commitment to the Project together with giving visibility to the newly formed Stamford Youth Bridge Academy (syba).  


Stamford Inter-Schools 1st Celebratory Morning: Seventy-two students from seven of the Pilot Project schools participated in Stamford’s first Inter-Schools’ Celebratory morning on 30th June 2017 at Stamford Bridge Club.  Prizes were presented by Alan Shillitoe, England Junior Squad Leader and Nicky Bainbridge, Northants County Chair. Click Gallery to see photos of the event.


Regular Buddy Training Sessions:  The Stamford Schools Initiative has been rolled out to clubs in several Counties including Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northants, Rutland, Suffolk, and Warwickshire. All Clubs having sent interested volunteer members to one of our regular monthly Buddy Training sessions. In November ‘16, two members from EBED attended a training session resulting in part-funding for our Schools Project.


Action for Kids (AFK):  We have received several enquiries via EBED, one of which was from AFK. We have been particularly pleased to train six AFK volunteer Trainees to disseminate the Starter Bridge programme. AFK are a London based Charity for Young Adults (15-26 years) with Learning Difficulties. The analysis of the feedback has been very positive. So much so, that it has given us the confidence to accept an invitation to extend this programme and train volunteers to deliver the Starter Bridge programme to physically challenged young people later this year.


Seminar:  In July we accepted an invitation to deliver a 30 minute slot on ‘The Stamford Schools Experience’ at a Bridge Fair in Dunchurch, near Rugby.

Our exhibition stand and Talk, attracted much attention and we look forward to attending next year on the 14th July. We are looking to extend the time slot to include a Training Session for would-be Buddies in neighbouring clubs around Rugby. 


Academic Year 2017/18

We are in negotiation with a further 5 schools


Taster Sessions: In the first week of September 2017 the Academy has delivered eight x 25 minute Taster Sessions to classes of 25-30 Primary School pupils.  That’s a huge 220+ Year 4, 5, and 6 young pupils that have been introduced to an exciting partnership card game in Curriculum time. The children have had tremendous fun and the feedback has been most encouraging from all eight teachers involved.  It is likely that Starter Bridge will be included in the Curriculum under the umbrella of Golden Hour as well as being run as an after-school club.

Assembly: We have also been invited to deliver a Starter Bridge introductory talk to an Assembly of 220 Year 7 students later on in the Academic Year. The intention of the school is to build Starter Bridge into the school’s Elective Curriculum giving opportunities to learn Starter Bridge to ALL Year 7 students in blocks of six to eight weeks throughout the year. That will be another 220 students participating in an in-school quality bridge experience. The inspired teacher running the Elective programme has advised us to use the title ‘Competitive Cards’.  We are flexible in working to support the schools Agenda.

Parental Support School Groups: We have been surprised and pleased to receive enquiries from a Parental Support Group working with Primary school pupils who are also keen to become involved this academic year.  This was not something we had expected or anticipated but which we are delighted to respond. Negotiations are on-going.

Stamford’s DBS Registered Buddies:

The Youth team has been overwhelmed, excited and thrilled, by the response to the schools initiative. Our DBS registered Buddies are sharing their love of the game with a new generation of youngsters regardless of age, colour, creed, wealth, ability, disability or language. Our fantastic, committed and dedicated Buddies are leaving a legacy no amount of money can parallel, breaking down the perceived barriers of bridge being purely for the old, the white, and the middle class. Despite, or maybe because of all the brilliant technology today, many of our young people feel stressed, anxious, lonely and isolated. By no longer hogging this great game, Buddies are opening up avenues of friendship and companionship for life, and we believe, slowing down mental health issues, for the benefit of all our young people. One young person’s suicide, is one too many.

So Why Has The School Experience Suddenly Taken Off? We would love to say it was something revolutionary.   It isn’t. It’s something so simple that you wonder why it hasn’t happened before.


·      Simply put, the research confirmed that the responsibility and ownership of the in-school bridge experience had to be handed over to the non-card playing classroom teacher in school, empowering them to do what they do best: teach, inspire, evaluate and assess performance. 

·      In particular the Starter Bridge game had to evidence that it identified with the rigours of the National Curriculum and it had to have an in-built assessment structure that added value.

All the Academy had to do was to provide the back-up, the encouragement and the tools necessary for the non-card playing classroom teacher in school to succeed. 

By working to the schools Agenda we are:

·      Adding value, by producing educational resources linked to Ofsted’s Inspection Handbook. Starter Bridge Schools Handbook8–13 years, has been designed for the non-card playing teacher and has been the catalyst for the pilot project, spearheading, engaging and increasing the schools awareness of what bridge clubs can offer schools, particularly in Years 4, 5, 6 and 7.

·      Empowering schools to give youngsters access to the rigorous demands of the National Curriculum through an exciting, absorbing and thrilling partnership fun game of Starter Bridge. Our flexible DBS registered bridge club buddies  provide free coaching and mentoring for both staff and children.  No longer are we only offering luncheon/after-school clubs.

·      Curriculum: Identifying and working to the individual schools Curriculum, for example, Golden Hour, Enrichment, Electives, Special Needs, Gifted Children, PSHE, Maths, Sports, Activities week, etc.

·      Providing a bespoke, flexible, customised service, for example the Maths department may only require a 3-week block of 45 minute sessions. Electives may require 6-8 weeks/35 minutes, PSHE 4-weeks/30 minutes, or Enrichment 4-weeks/60 minutes.  If the experience is being repeated across a year group, on a rolling programme, it is likely that Bridge Buddies may only be needed as back-up in the classroom for the very first few sessions.

·      Quote: John, Bridge Buddy –   Year 6 pupils                                           ‘The Enrichment Programme . . . . . .. . . . in addition to the Bridge, the programme included things like to how solve Rubick’s cube, playing chess, dealing with puzzles, and only runs for half a term’  etc.

·      Highlighting Opportunities in the Curriculum:  For example, Starter Bridge can, by taking some of the fear out of maths, make the complex learning of numbers enjoyable for our young children whilst developing the skills of reasoning and deep thinking. Starter Bridge brings fun and a different dimension to the classroom in developing memory, recall, logic, probability, analytical and communication skills teambuilding, collaboration and respect.  

So, for example, if a Maths department wanted to introduce Starter Bridge to the whole Year group, we can either offer to deliver a one hour Training/Taster Session to the Maths Teachers after school or we can deliver the Taster session to the whole Year in class sizes of no more than 30.  We make available one Buddy per table. So a Taster Session for a class of 28, would necessitate 6 Buddies plus the classroom teacher who is in overall charge of the pupils. Once a school has been accepted, we put in place a Team of Buddies for that particular school.

The opportunities are endless once a school recognises the educational resources Stamford Youth Bridge Academy has to offer. For instance,

·      Prior to University, the Sixth Form could be offered a fun, one-off morning ‘Introduction to Bridge’ Taster. It is much more likely that a Sixth former will join a Bridge Club at University if perceived barriers to the game have been changed, showing how much fun, challenging and absorbing a game of Bridge really is.

·      During Activities week, the Academy can deliver a whole morning fun programme to any year group both Primary and Secondary Years 4-13  

Quote: ‘We were surprised at how easy the game was to set up’  Teacher, Primary School

·      In-built into the programme are opportunities for staff continuing professional development, identified and evidenced to individual school targets. (see P7 Starter Bridge Schools Handbook)

·      An exciting spin-off from the Pilot Project has been that four classroom teachers are looking to attend Beginners Bridge courses in the Autumn.

By working to the schools Agenda we are building a relationship with schools built on trust. We are offering flexibility, leading to independence for the delivery of teaching Starter Bridge, in schools whilst providing a partnership fun card game, giving youngsters access to the rigours of the National Curriculum.  


Research Data: Via the Buddy Training sessions, the Academy is sourcing a huge amount of up-to-date feedback both from the schools and from attendees. We are analysing and using this research data to inform, shape and give direction to Stamford Youth Bridge Academy. We are listening and learning.


In order to serve and fulfil the schools Agenda we are changing the quality, the flexibility and the delivery of the bridge experience we take into schools. By transforming the way we work with schools, bringing closure to the old ways of working, we can ensure the survival of bridge clubs in the long term and most importantly, open up avenues of friendship for life for all our young people.

We expect, in time, that the natural progression from Curricular activities will be that our young people and their parents request the setting up of after-school bridge clubs. But that’s for another day!


For further information contact: 

Liz Dale, MBA Education, Project Team Leader,

Stamford’s Bridge into Schools Initiative



EBED, Alan Shillitoe, England Junior Squad Leader, Nicky Bainbridge, Northants County Chair,The Stamford Academy Team: Jenny (County Youth Liaison Officer), Sandra C,(Strategy & Project Planning), Lynda (Marketing), Marcus (Liaison) and of course our fantastic team of Buddies led by Jenny.