The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has made a grant of £689,150 to the charity Chess in School and Communities to test the impact of teaching chess to primary school pupils.
The programme will see chess being taught within normal class time for one hour a week by accredited chess coaches. A 30-week curriculum is used to teach chess, this starts by teaching children how to play chess, before developing thinking skills through the use of chess problems. Each class teacher will also be trained in how to teach chess and will be encouraged to start a chess club in their school.
The majority of studies that link chess to academic attainment have been carried out abroad and included self-selecting intervention groups. However a randomised controlled trial was carried out in Italy and this showed that chess had an impact on maths attainment. The EEF will be testing the programme as a randomised controlled trial, with 50 schools receiving the intervention in one year and 50 acting as a control group. Those in the control group will receive the intervention in the following academic year. Pupils’ mathematical abilities will be tested before and after the intervention.
The independent evaluation will be conducted by the Institute of Education.
Chartered Psychologist Dr Fiona Starr says: “I think it is a great idea to introduce chess into schools - logic, strategy, planning skills, visuo-spatial skills, turn taking, dealing with losing and fun! What's not to like?
“I hope the evaluations show lots of positive effects on kids psychological, cognitive and social development. Then perhaps schools can scrap incessant assessment from nursery to A level.”