Classroom revolution as chess puts a check on unruly children
SCOTTISH Executive researchers have called for chess to be introduced as a pastime for primary pupils throughout the country to help improve educational attainment and behaviour in the classroom.
A chess development programme, first launched in seven primary schools in Aberdeen’s Northfield housing scheme in 2001, has led to improved attendance at school, enhanced numeracy and literacy skills and better behaviour in the classroom, according to a report to go before members of the city council’s education and leisure committee.
The report claims that the scheme is already putting a check on unruly behaviour in the classroom and even leading to enhanced family learning, revealing the chess-playing family as a previously untapped educational resource.
Researchers say chess helps improve literacy, numeracy and confidence amongst pupils and called for a new specialist teaching post - a visiting chess coach - to be introduced to the educational system.
Pete Hamilton, the council’s community learning and development manager, states in his report that the research, carried out to evaluate the project, found anecdotal evidence that playing chess had "demonstrable results in relation to improved behaviour at school, improved learning, enhanced parental involvement and active citizenship" and could be "an important tool in improving attainment".
He went on: "Chess-play assists the teaching of ‘how to learn’ and creates a desire, alongside increased motivation, and the will to use knowledge. This initiative has made a significant difference to classroom life, family circumstances and community development. There is also clear evidence of enhanced family learning."
The introduction of chess as a pastime at primary school led to the development of "intergenerational chess play" between parents and children and even grandparents, generating a new period of quality time at home for adult-child relations.
Children also gained access to a chess set, computer and chess software, books and library membership.
The study, funded by the education department, states: "The findings provide substantial qualitative evidence of social, emotional and community development. A substantial number of chess-playing family, school and community networks evolved over the period of study. These developments formed new social and community relationships between pupils and schools, pupils and teachers, teachers and parents, parents and children, and parents and parents."
The report continues: "Chess, like all educational initiatives, cannot be a substitute for social policy measures that tackle the material poverty of low income and a long working day for many parents. It can, however, contribute to children’s personal growth and resilience in circumstances of poverty.
"If a primary source of social capital is the ‘keeping of privilege’ by the rich and powerful by means of extended family resources and the purchase of educational opportunity, then chess-play, as a form of cultural capital, can redress some of these imbalances of educational opportunity.
"The introduction of chess coaching to the primary school curriculum will have major implications for the teaching profession, continuous professional development initiatives, pupil support, parental involvement and the role of the classroom assistant.
"Substantial funding for chess development in Scotland’s primary schools could improve literacy, numeracy and the confidence of pupils who require learning support. We advocate an innovative and creative contribution to Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence - a new specialist: the visiting chess coach."
A spokeswoman for Aberdeen City Council said the chess development project had originally been started in 2001 at seven schools in Northfield and had now been extended to schools in the St Machar, Torry and Kincorth areas of the city.
She said: "The project was introduced as a small-scale pilot initiative, as it was originally assumed it was unlikely to take off as a way of engaging young people in learning outwith school hours.
"In fact, it has proven to be highly popular and successful with clear outcomes for children, young people and their families.
"The initiative has been successful in engaging with children who have experienced difficulty settling into traditional learning situations."
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