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Victorian-style chalk slates help GCSE children get ahead by two months

Using Victorian-style chalk slates in the classroom dramatically boosts teenagers’ ability to learn, a new study has revealed.

The old-school slates promote academic achievement by providing students with instant feedback, instead of having to wait for tests to be marked.

Students who took part in the trial were told to hold up handwritten answers on the chalk slates, where the tutor could give immediate feedback to those pupils who had the right answer.

The latest findings are the result of a three-year study which reintroduced the chalkboard in 140 schools across the UK.

Despite often being overlooked in favour of interactive whiteboards, tablets and Chromebooks, researchers found old-fashioned chalk slates can boost pupils’ grades by two months of learning. 

However, a digital app could be designed to achieve the same effect, albeit without the cost saving benefit of the back to basics approach being suggested.


Using chalkboard in the classroom could be revived after a study found that teenagers did better when using the old-fashioned method. The old-school slates boost academic achievement by providing students with instant feedback (stock)

The latest findings come from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), a charity that specialises in improving classroom standards, which reintroduced chalkboard slates to 140 schools across the UK.

Of those schools selected for the study, most (106 out of 140) were rated as either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, and almost a third (29 per cent) of the 25,000 pupils included in the study were eligible for free school meals.

Researchers asked GCSE-level students to use chalk slates in the classroom, answering questions on the miniature chalkboards and holding them up to the class.

The study found this simple method provided children with instant feedback instead of having to wait for tests to be marked.

After three years, the study found the less academically gifted students were those who benefited the most from the reintroduction of chalkboards.

According to the EEF, the project would only cost £1 per pupil to install and could be one of the most cost-effective ways of improving academic attainment.

Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of educational assessment at the Institute of Education, who designed the study, told The Times: ‘Getting teachers to use real-time knowledge of their pupils’ strengths and weaknesses to adapt their teaching is a great way to boost learning.

Despite having fallen out of favour in the classroom in preference for smart whiteboards, iPads and computers, the primitive form of teaching boosted pupil's grades by two months of learning (stock)

Despite having fallen out of favour in the classroom in preference for smart whiteboards, iPads and computers, the primitive form of teaching boosted pupil’s grades by two months of learning (stock)

‘The teacher can base a decision about what to do next on evidence from the whole class, rather than just from the confident students who raise their hands.’

One teacher who trialled the use of chalkboards told the researchers the scheme worked because of its simplicity.

The unnamed educator said: ‘Other initiatives are like the emperor’s new clothes; the next thing comes along and you kind of forget.

‘So that has been the main seller for us, that it is nothing new, it is just really good practice and sometimes the old things are still the best things.’

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said that the results were extremely encouraging. 

He added: ‘The fact there is tentative evidence that the approach particularly benefits poorer students is especially promising.’  


An experiment, the results of which were published in June, revealed most children surpass the intelligence levels of chimpanzees before they reach four years old.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology, tested for foresight, which is said to distinguish humans from animals.

The experiment saw researchers drop a grape through the top of a vertical plastic Y-tube.

The researchers then monitored the reactions of a child and chimpanzee in their efforts to grab the grape at the other end, before it hit the floor.

Because there were two possible ways the grape could exit the pipe, researchers looked at the strategies the children and chimpanzees used to predict where the grape would go.

The apes and the two-year-olds only covered a single hole with their hands when tested.

But by four years of age, the children had to develop to a level where they knew how to forecast the outcome, and they covered the holes with both hands, catching whatever was dropped through every time.