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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May, 2005, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Schools try abolishing homework
By Shola Adenekan

Alex Taylor thinks school homework is a waste of time.

As he goes through his physics homework, Alex, a pupil at a secondary school in Edinburgh, thinks there are few benefits in the ritual.

"I don't know if I'm getting something out of it," he said.

"I'd rather not do it. I don't think life would be bad without homework."

Some head teachers in the UK agree and are experimenting with no-homework policies.

'Long day'

Malsis School, an independent prep school in North Yorkshire, adopted such a policy two years ago.

boy doing homework
The government regards homework as essential
Its head teacher, Christopher Lush, said: "This is not a question of banning homework as deciding it was inappropriate.

"At the end of a long, busy school day it's not necessary that children should be forced to sit down and do homework or prep.

"Being an independent school, parents and children would vote with their feet if they believed their children were being short-changed academically. This is far from being the case."

Instead of homework, the school, which has a significant boarding community, uses evenings to offer children an array of clubs and activities.

High standards

Mr Lush says the evening is a time when most children are far from their best in terms of producing high quality academic work.

The time for that, he believes, is earlier in the day when they are fresher.

"In other words we offer a better learning experience all round. We maintain very high academic standards but there is more to education than being schooled for examinations," he said.

"Children should be allowed to experience the joy of childhood and have time for play and activity, to develop human qualities, and develop talents and interests that will last them a lifetime."

The latest report on the school by the Independent Schools Inspectorate says pupils do perform to a high standard in all academic subjects.

It's a basis for parents and pupils to work together and to understand the curriculum
Head teacher Roy Tedscoe
Some educationists say no-homework policies at a number of independent schools are examples of the choice and variety on offer within the private sector.

They doubt if it would appeal to pupils and teachers in the state sector.

Roy Tedscoe, a head teacher at Coleraine Park Primary School in Tottenham, London, says homework will continue to be an integral part of his pupils' learning experience.

He believes it underlines the learning that takes place in school.

"It's a basis for parents and pupils to work together and to understand the curriculum, reinforcing knowledge for both students and parents," he said.

"It's a handy assessment tool for teachers in order for them to understand their pupils. In addition, it's a very good home-school link."

Current government guidelines on the amount of homework children should have range from at least an hour a week for five to seven-year-olds to two-and-a-half hours a day for pupils aged 14 to 15.

Like Mr Tedscoe, the government is very keen on homework, believing it is the equivalent of an extra year's schooling and a way of involving parents in what schools are doing.

Anxiety

But is there any evidence that homework actually does anything for attainment?

What is not helpful is where students have to do so much homework that they have no time for other activities
Researcher Susan Hallam
A recent study by the Institute of Education, University of London, suggests that homework can create anxiety, boredom, fatigue and emotional exhaustion in children, who resent the encroachment on their free time, even though they think homework helps them to do well at school.

The report's author, Dr Susan Hallam, says that while homework can enhance examination results, its impact is relatively small compared with the students' prior knowledge in a particular subject.

"What is not helpful is where students have to do so much homework that they have no time for other activities or where homework is not planned so that they are sometimes overwhelmed," she said.

"This leads to anxiety, which in itself is detrimental to learning."

But for students on the borderline between grades, Dr Hallam believes it may make a difference to the grade that they get.

"The important thing about homework is that it should be set because it has a meaningful purpose in relation to the learning of the students not just because it is on time table," she said.

"Teachers and schools need to make a judgement about whether it's important in relation to the learning needs of particular groups of students."




SEE ALSO:
Head suspends homework shirkers
09 Dec 04 |  Education
Head scraps homework 'dinosaur'
21 Jan 05 |  Education
Pupils 'stressed' by homework
07 Oct 03 |  Education


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