Edinburgh school becomes first in Scotland to add chess to the curriculum

Cargilfield Preparatory School has become the first school in the country to add chess to its curriculum.

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Pupils at the Cramond school have already achieved national success in the game with one student making the national team and many others competing in Edinburgh tournaments.

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Chess coach Andrew Green who is one of Scotland’s top players, is canvassing the Scottish Government to add the game to the school curriculum across Scotland.

Chess is not classified as a sport in Scotland but 24 of 27 European Union member states list it as an official sport and receive public funding to teach it in schools.

The campaign has received the backing of Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams who is committed to raising the profile of the world’s most enduring game.

Currently, chess is not classified as a sport in Scotland but 24 of 27 European Union member states list it as an official sport and receive public funding to teach it in schools.

Mr Green believes Scotland is “missing a trick” and urges the government to open up funding opportunities.

He says: “Most European countries receive public funding for chess in schools and follow a curriculum, with the benefits of the game to kids well proven.

“Research points to the educational benefits of chess, including around cognitive and emotional skills, mathematics and problem-solving.

“As a country, I think we’re missing a trick here. Chess is increasingly played in an online environment without language barriers, so it’s never been easier or cheaper to get into the game.”

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Mr Green, who currently teaches chess in 11 state schools and 6 independent schools in and around Edinburgh said the evidence shows children want to learn the game.

“We have proven in Edinburgh that with a proper structure, children love chess.” He said. “The next step is to scale it.”

“Chess needs to be taught. There needs to be structured teaching and competitions for kids to enter.

“Having a few chess boards hanging about won’t get results. You don’t just give a child a guitar and expect them to play - the same applies to chess.”

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The popularity of chess with youngsters has been growing steadily in the Capital, spurred on by the popularity of the Netflix series The Queen's Gambit.

While independent schools in Scotland tend to have more dedicated chess clubs there is the same appetite for learning the game in state schools.

He said: “I think there is this misconception that chess is confined to private schools, and I think we need to get away from that.

“Before lockdown, I was teaching in state schools like Pirniehall, Niddriemills, Forthview Primary and Craigroyston, and the children in each school loved it.”

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Deputy Head of Cargilfield Ross Murdoch said: “Andrew’s arrival at the school to help drive the inclusion of chess in our Form 4 curriculum has really taken our children to the next level with some representing the school at chess tournaments in Edinburgh and one making the national team.

“Even when Covid-19 looked to interrupt the progress we had been making, Andrew has been delighted to dial in every week during remote learning and since being back at school, which has allowed the children to continue to develop their knowledge and ability of the game.”

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