Stuart, you are a very strong bridge player. Is that
a requisite for having a successful school club?
Not at all. Of course, it is helpful if the teacher does
understand the game but we're not trying to turn
out champions. The boys gain so much simply from
participating in an activity which teaches them the
value of cooperation and gives them a real sense of
achievement. We're all about building the child's
self-esteem and competitive spirit.
How many pupils at the school play bridge, and
how do you recruit new players?
There are over forty-five members at present,
mostly aged from 14 to 18. The club is advertised
and promoted, but I also ask the children directly to
come along and try it. We play next to the canteen at
lunchtime, so we are highly visible. This removes a
lot of the mystery surrounding the game - anyone
can wander in and watch. I (along with colleagues
and former colleagues before me) encourage the
boys to play and, like any activity in schools, enthu siasm
and success allows the club to strengthen.
How does bridge compete with other activities?
There isn't a stigma about playing bridge. The boys
applaud academic success amongst their peers, so
they are not worried about appearing 'geeky' by
going to a bridge club. And I coach the Under-14
rugby and cricket teams, so they can see that
cerebral and physical pastimes can mix.
How do you allow for the range of abilities that
must exist in the club?
One session a week is specifically aimed at
beginners through mini-bridge. At other times,
when there is an inter-house competition, or the
Schools Cup, for example, priority is given to those
playing in those competitions. We also have a longer
after-school session where more teaching takes
place. But mainly boys of different abilities play in
the same game and better players talk through their
decisions with weaker ones to help them learn. It is
not all 'teacher-led', and the resources are available
to use every lunchtime, even without staff present,
so they get lots of playing time. The boys just enjoy
playing the game at whatever level they choose, and
the social aspect that there is to bridge.
You mentioned the Schools Cup. HABS has been
particularly successful in recent years.
Yes, the school has won the last six Schools Cups. We
have also won the local Middlesex C league. Some of
the team are involved in the England Junior Squad.
What benefits have staff at the school noted?
There have been numerous advantages. Alongside
the social aspect that the boys have enjoyed, they
have developed strategic and logical thinking, to
plan ahead, choose which information to give, and
also interpret the information they receive. These
are transferable skills which can be used in their
academic work as well as being useful life skills in
the workplace. Specifically, I have received com ments
that the better bridge players are significantly
ahead of their peers of similar mathematical ability
when dealing with permu tations, combinations,
probability and conditional probability. The better
players are also involved in teaching and setting
problems for the newer players, which develops
their leadership skills.
How do you hope the club develops?
We are hoping to have participants from the
adjacent Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls. With
help from Andrew McIntosh, we have run events in
a local bridge club involving other schools and
groups in the area, including a 'kids' duplicate
session to expose more to that form of the game.
That is an area I would like to improve on to get
more school children playing 'club bridge'. r
June 2015 English Bridge
HABS' Secrets of Success
Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School (HABS) in Elstree, north-west London, has one of the most successful school
bridge clubs in England. Stuart Haring, a maths teacher and former pupil of the school who runs the club,
talks to Simon Barb about bridge at HABS.