Denholm Education Correspondent
March 25 2002
IT HAS its origins
in the mists of eastern history and has inspired and confounded
billions of devotees down through the centuries. Chess has been
played by everyone from emperors to peasants and inspired a musical
and a ballet - despite an apparently simple story-line based on
a board and 32 small figures.
Now the game's
unique characteristics are being harnessed to tackle the behaviour
of unruly pupils in Scottish schools. Experts have discovered that
troublesome youngsters who find it almost impossible to concentrate
on a single activity can focus effectively by playing the game.
Scotland have found employing a chess tutor develops pupils' concentration,
raises academic performance and improves the behaviour of disruptive
youngsters. The positive influence of the game, which seems to work
especially well with boys, has now prompted a school in Edinburgh
to teach chess as part of the curriculum.
principal of Blackford Brae School, which deals with primary age
pupils who have behavioural difficulties, said the influence of
the game had a positive effect on his pupils. He introduced chess
to the school after a boy with an attention deficit disorder began
to control his concentration after learning how to play the game.
said: "There is a great deal to be learned from chess - how to succeed,
how to cope with losing, how to persevere when things are looking
bleak and how to build a cohesive strategy. The biggest single asset
is probably the increase in concentration levels, particularly among
boys. "There is something about chess which fires the imagination
and can get children hooked. All of a sudden, someone who has spent
months unable to sit still in a classroom for more than a few minutes
without causing trouble can find themselves immersed in a game for
up to an hour."
said the school worked to harness the positive effects of chess
to enable pupils to progress in their studies. He said: "It works
on one level by building up self-confidence and showing pupils that
they can achieve, and on another level it raises the expectations
of teachers. If a child enjoys chess and learns to play it well,
then there must be potential for academic improvement. "We find
the positive benefits are particularly noticeable in maths, where
there is some degree of cross-over thinking."
treasurer of the Lothian primary school chess league, believes boys
are particularly attracted to chess because there is an element
of combat to the game. He said: "Many of us believe that chess significantly
improves critical thinking skills, as well as helping children to
develop the ability to focus and concentrate, which obviously benefits
children in their school work.
"A chess grandmaster
pointed out that two of the most popular forms of computer entertainment
are simulation games and warfare games and then noted that chess
is simply simulated warfare. "I genuinely believe that this combative
aspect of the game is inherently attractive to boys, who are often
initially impulsive in their play compared to girls who are often
more thoughtful and considered."
chess correspondent for The Scotsman, believes the game is invaluable
for its ability to promote creativity as well as having a more thoughtful
side. He claims to have personal experience on the use of chess
to calm troublesome pupils. He said: "About five years ago, I taught
chess in a school, something I don't normally do. I was warned that
there was one child who was very unruly but after six months of
chess training, the teachers discovered his work had improved because
chess helped him to concentrate."