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Tuesday, November 10, 1998 Published at 17:35 GMT


Homework cut for youngest pupils

Teenagers are expected to do up to two and a half hours

The government has cut by as much as half the amount of time it is recommending that primary school children spend on homework.

Definitive new guidelines recommend 20 minutes a day for those aged seven to nine, for instance. The consultation document published in April suggested 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of "other home activities".

Half an hour is now proposed for the oldest primary pupils, whereas the original proposal stressed that there should be 30 minutes of homework in addition to 20 minutes of reading time.

Some parents and educationists are concerned that forcing young children to work after school when they were already tired was counter-productive.

The workload for secondary school pupils remains as originally proposed, ranging from 45 minutes at least for 11-year-olds to as much as two and a half hours for 14 to 16-year-olds.

The table shows all the recommendations:

Primary schools
Ages 5 to 7
Years 1 and 2
10 minutes reading reading, spelling, other literacy work and number work
Ages 7 to 9
Years 3 and 4
20 minutes literacy and numeracy as above, with occasional assignments in other areas
Ages 9 to 11
Years 5 and 6
30 minutes regular weekly schedule with continued emphasis on literacy and numeracy, but also ranging widely over the curriculum
Secondary schools
Ages 11 to 13
Years 7 and 8
45 to 90 minutes
Ages 13 to 14
Year 9
1 to 2 hours
Ages 14 to 16
Years 10 and 11
1.5 to 2.5 hours

Source: Department for Education


The guidelines form part of new home-school agreements intended to improve co-operation between parents and teachers.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, believes that homework is essential for all children.

"Homework is one of the many areas where partnership between parents and schools is essential," he said.

"Homework does more than just reinforce what goes on in schools during the day, it also helps develop important skills like independent learning and enquiry, as well as self discipline. These are skills that will remain relevant throughout a person's life."

Mr Blunkett said parents should have a clear idea of what it was reasonable to expect for their children so that where no regular homework is given, they could discuss this with teachers.

The Conservative Party again accused the government of centralising control of education.

The Shadow Schools Minister, Theresa May, said: "David Blunkett is obsessed with guidelines and telling schools what to do.

"Surely it is up to teachers to decide when homework is to be set and how much should be set."

Homework clubs

There are plans to ensure that more than 6,000 schools in England set up after-school homework and study support centres over the next three years.

Those centres are being financed in part with National Lottery money. Schools and their local authorities across the UK will have to come up with half the money and bid for the rest from a £220m pot for the years 2000 to 2002.

""We will consult widely over the coming months on how to get the best out of that money," the government says.

[ image: West Ham: Signed up]
West Ham: Signed up
The after-school study centres are seen as important in helping children who, for whatever reason, have difficulty studying at home. They will provide access to computers and also to sports and arts activities.

Mr Blunkett was at West Ham United football club to mark their launch formally: West Ham is one of the clubs hosting study centres.

The others are: Barnsley, Blackburn, Bolton, Bradford, Charlton, Crystal Palace, Derby, Everton, Huddersfiled, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Man United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham Forest, Port Vale, Portsmouth, QPR, Reading, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke, Sunderland, Swindon, West Brom and Wolves.

Mr Blunkett thanked players and teacher training volunteers from Newham College for their efforts to give children extra help on top of their schooling.

Replying to suggestions that by asking teachers to volunteer he was using up a lot of goodwill, Mr Blunkett stressed the voluntary nature of the scheme.

He said that in the early 1990s teachers had still participated in after-school activities but industrial disputes had put an end to that.

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