School scraps homework – and doesn’t tell parents

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A SCOTS primary school has controversially banned homework – without even telling parents.

King’s Road Primary in Rosyth, Fife, scrapped homework at the start of the new term in August.

Baffled parents at the council-run school only realised things had changed when their children came home week after week without their usual academic chores.

The benefits of homework are hotly debated within the education profession but it is extremely rare for compulsory homework to be banned altogether.

King’s Road headteacher Gordon Buchanan said staff wanted to look at the impacy homework is having on children’s learning.

The 480 pupils are instead being encouraged to read at home although there will be no punishment for failing to pick up a book once out of school.

Many parents of children at the school are angry at the school for taking such a drastic step without informing them, let alone consulting.

The mother of one nine-year-old, who asked not to be named, said: “Since my son started back at school we’ve asked every week, ‘Where is your homework?’

“He just kept saying he hasn’t been given any. At first we just thought he was being a chancer, trying to get out of doing it, but after chatting to other parents, across different years, it seemed to be the case for everyone.

“It would be nice to be consulted as we feel his homework gives us an opportunity to keep an eye on what and how he’s learning.”

The mum added: “They’ve had opportunities to tell us by sending out letters etc but just haven’t bothered. It’s pretty disgraceful actually.”

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith agreed. She said: “While this is a matter for the school, any decision of this scale should be fully consulted with parents.”

Fife Council issued a statement, attributed to Mr Buchanan, in which he said: “We are revising our current homework policy, looking at the impact that homework has on children’s learning.

“Some aspects of homework are on hold while we are looking at a new approach and parents are being kept informed.

“Meantime children are being encouraged to take reading books home and next term we will be taking up the First Minister’s Reading Challenge with all pupils.”

Pressed on what “some aspects of homework” meant, a council spokeswoman confirmed that children were only being asked to read at home and there was no punishment for failing to do so.

When it was pointed out that parents were not being “kept informed”, the spokeswoman admitted nothing had yet been sent out.

She said: “The school is planning on putting some correspondence out to parents about it before the end of term.”

The spokeswoman added: “The council doesn’t have a blanket policy on homework in schools.

“That decision is made by each individual school. If there were schools where this was not working then there could be involvement from the council if necessary.”

Most schools across Scotland still actively advertise the importance of homework on their websites.

An Educational Institute of Scotland spokesman said: “It is important that all pupils develop their abilities to study independently and homework is one – but not the only – method of supporting this type of independent learning.

“Ultimately, it is for individual schools and teachers to determine – based on teachers’ professional judgement, knowledge of their own pupils’ learning needs and appropriate engagement with parents – how best to structure the delivery of all aspects of the curriculum.”

In a letter to parents last month Susan Stewart, headteacher at Lawhead Primary School in St. Andrews, Fife, wrote: “Homework is given on a regular basis as part of our partnership with families. It allows the pupils to share their learning with others and promotes taking responsibility and becoming independent, successful learners.”

Rod Grant, the head teacher of private Clifton Hall School, Edinburgh, recently revealed he would like to scrap homework.

He said: “Hands up if you think homework is important? When I ask that question in my school’s community, I get about an 80-90% positive response.

“Being one to accept the democratic wish of my parent and teacher body, I allow ‘homework’ to march on without my interference. However, I really wish I could change people’s minds on the matter.”

In 2004, another private school in Edinburgh, Cargilfield, introduced a ban on homework saying they wanted to “encourage pupils to engage in clubs and activities after school”.

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