Scrap homework, says British school, sparks debate

September 30th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 30 (IANS) How to lighten a school kid’s burden? No heavy book loads, no stressful teaching, no caning, no lunch boxes thanks to free meals. And now, no homework.The unending British search for making students’ lives more profitable in schools has thrown up the suggestion of doing away with homework, sparking off a debate on where to draw the line.

An upcoming school in Nottingham, which will be the country’s biggest when it opens next year, is to abandon homework because the head teacher believes it does not justify the detentions and family rows it causes and the tensions students suffer.

The move follows news last week that Tiffin boys’ school in Kingston, Surrey, one of the country’s most successful selective schools, had slashed homework from two or three hours a day to just 40 minutes for the oldest pupils.

Nottingham East academy, which will have 3,570 pupils, claims it will be the first school to scrap homework. It will instead have an extra lesson and after-school activities such as sport, model aircraft-building and the Indian art of sari-making.

Nottingham East will retain some homework for exam revision and coursework, but otherwise will simply encourage parents to read books in a relaxed way with their children and ask the pupils to report twice a term what they have read.

The new academy has been given the go-ahead by Ed Balls, the schools secretary, and will open next year, educating children from nursery age to 19. It will cost about 50 million pounds and will start in a former school building next September before moving into a new building in 2011, when homework will be scrapped.

British government guidelines say primary school students need to spend 1-2.5 hours a week on homework. It is 2.5 hours a day for secondary students. Many of the academically successful schools in the private and state sectors prescribe three or four hours of homework a night for older children.

Barry Day, who will be principal of the new academy, believes much of this time is wasted.

The Times quoted him as saying: “If you ask most heads what most detentions are for, they will tell you for non-completion of homework. It is often set simply because there is an expectation it should be set. It does not help with education at all. Homework causes an enormous amount of home conflict and parents and the community certainly won’t mind children coming home later.”

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which has been campaigning for doing away with homework, welcomes the move. General secretary Mary Bousted said: “A lot of the time, state schools are just competing with the independent sector in setting lots of homework as they think that is what the parents want. It is perfectly possible to teach independent learning properly within the school day.”

However, Dylan William, deputy director of the Institute of Education at London University, opposed the move: “Research shows homework does not make much of a difference, but that is because it is not properly planned and is too often, for example, just finishing off what you did during the day.”

Said Kenneth Durham, headmaster of University College school, London: “Well-managed homework programmes leave students better able to cope with independent learning and give them time management skills.”

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