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Between a rook and a hard place

Your article "Toys, games, gum, tennis ball bombs ..." (3 January), about an art exhibition featuring items confiscated at school, included the example of a home-made pack of playing cards that teenage boys were using to play blackjack.

I was reminded of when I was head of sixth form. There was a table in the students' common room that had a chess board fixed to the top. Someone brought in a chess set and it became the latest craze. I said it was fine for them to play at break and lunchtimes but that during their private study sessions students should be working.

When I called in to the common room to find a game in progress during lessons for the third time, I confiscated the chess pieces. But the next time I went in I discovered they were playing with small pieces of paper on which they had written "black king", "white queen" and so on. Not only that, but one of the players was the head boy, who was a normally rule-abiding and responsible individual. I said nothing and just scooped up the pieces of paper and took them away. But then I returned with the chess pieces and let them resume the game.

I reasoned that a) if they were so committed to playing and b) if my reliable head boy was one of them, then it was time I rethought the rule. After all, chess is an intellectual endeavour.

Jill Berry, Former headteacher.

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