PUPILS at a Great Missenden school that was once criticised for having chess on its curriculum are seeing the benefits of playing the game.

The Gateway School is bucking a national trend of declining numbers of players, with around 50 pupils regularly taking part in classes at the school each week.

A 1997 independent school inspectorate report was critical of the Gateway for dedicating time for pupils to play the game.

But John Wade, the headmaster at the time, said there are many benefits to playing chess - and it's starting to show amongst Gateway pupils.

He said: "It aids concentration. When you play chess for any length of time you have to be able to concentrate rather more.

"It encourages logical thinking, which is beneficial to children's development.

"If you play chess you invariably lose and you discover something from that. It's a bad experience but you learn from that experience and what you learn is part of life.

"Children take what they learn from chess to their other games, whether that's football or cricket or whatever."

Mr Wade, who is still involved in teaching chess to pupils at the school, added: "There's been a call recently from the government to introduce chess to school life.

"In 1997 we were criticised for having it on our curriculum - now they are saying it's beneficial, which I always thought it was."

Both of the Gateway's U11 teams recently made it through to the next round of the English Primary Schools Chess Association competition after battling it out against six other teams to qualify from their heat.

A total of 387 teams nationwide have entered the contest.