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We’d rather our kids read a good book: Parents vote to ban homework at Highland school

Pupils at Inverlochy Primary (Iain Ferguson / The Write Image)
Pupils at Inverlochy Primary (Iain Ferguson / The Write Image)

A PRIMARY school has made the bold decision to scrap homework – after parents voted to drop it.

Instead, pupils at Inverlochy Primary School in Fort William will be encouraged to read books, magazines and comics “for pleasure” every night in the time they used to use for homework.

The school carried out a six-week trial last year where pupils were given no homework so they had more time to play and have fun.

And following that it was decided to ask parents whether or not they wanted to ditch it on a long-term basis.

Pupils were sent home with slips that asked mums and dads to put a simple “yes” or “no” to a “no homework policy”.

The result was that 62% of parents at the 193-pupil Highland school voted to drop it.

Pupils and teachers were given a vote too and 79% of pupils voted in favour of the ban.

Meanwhile, the 10 teachers at the thriving school were split 50/50.

Jubilant parents told last night of their delight at the decision – saying their children would flourish without the burden of doing school work at home.

Dad Barry Hutchison, 38, who is a children’s author, said: “Homework stresses the kids and the parents out.

“Kids have so many things outside school, like clubs. They just need time to be kids.”

Barry, whose seven-year-old daughter Mia is in Primary 3 at the school, said parents who still wanted to give their kids homework could find material on the internet for their young ones.

And he praised the school for having a democractic ballot. He said: “I thought the vote was well done and took in everyone’s views.

“There might be some parents who were very firmly in favour of keeping homework but all the parents I’ve spoken to wanted to get rid of it.” Parent Susan Campbell, 30, voted to scrap homework for pupils, including her eight-year-old son Kadyn.

She told us: “It takes up a lot of time and quite often Kadyn has after-school clubs and things like that and it can be left until 8pm at night.

“He should be going to bed but instead we’re sitting doing homework with him.

“He’s really not that responsive at that time of night. So we voted no and we’ll do reading with him instead.”

Kadyn said: “I voted for no homework. So I’m happy.”

Leona Jones, 34, said her six-year-old son Levi Maclean actually voted to keep homework while she voted to scrap it.

She said: “For the amount of after-school activities they have, it can be difficult to fit it in, especially when you’re a working parent.

“I don’t mind doing a bit, we’re still doing reading and I totally agree with that, but it’s for pleasure, not work. I think some other schools do this already and it says if your child still needs help or they’re struggling, they will get stuff home. It won’t be completely ruled out if they need it.”

Levi said: ““I wanted to do homework because I couldn’t read the little things for writing.”

Emma Rodger, 33, said she voted to keep homework for pupils like her five-year-old son James.

She said: “A bit of reading and sums and basic sounds for P1 are really important. I found when James was learning the sums at home it brought him on a lot.

“He wanted it to stay as well. He liked doing it.”

Inverlochy isn’t the first school in Scotland to drop homework for pupils – but it is the first to do so after staging a vote for parents.

Last month King’s Road Primary in Rosyth, Fife, scrapped homework.

However, parents there complained about the decision as they said they hadn’t been consulted.

The Inverlochy decision vote comes amid a fierce debate raging in educational circles about whether homework is good or bad for youngsters. Parents in Spain are planning to hold a protest against what they claim is too much homework for their children.

And their revolt comes after a study in America revealed 82% of parents thought their kids got too much homework. Half also thought it harmed family life.

A spokesman for the EIS teachers’ union said the Inverlochy decision was the first time the union had heard of parents actively voting to abolish homework.

He said: “Certainly, 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 and knowledge of their own pupils’ learning needs, how best to structure the delivery of all aspects of the curriculum.

“Clearly, engagement with parents is also key in this process – such as through parent councils and forums or, as in this case, through a survey or poll to gauge parents’ views.”

Eileen Prior, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “It is better for children to have free time to play and take part in other activities rather than do homework that is given out for no other purpose than ‘it’s what we always do’.

“Homework should be an opportunity to consolidate learning done in the classroom so, rather than a child being asked to complete mundane tasks, it might be better for them to demonstrate their learning to their parent/carer and make it more interactive.”

Inverlochy headteacher Kirsty Clark was unavailable for comment.

But a Highland Council spokesperson said: “Highland Council has a devolved school management system in our schools.

“The authority does not have a Highlands-wide ‘no homework’ policy in place – this is something that Inverlochy Primary School is trialling in their school.”


Is the school right to ban homework?

YES: by Jennifer Barnes, Spokeswoman for Voice The Union

WEEKNIGHT evenings are very short for families, particularly with earlier bed-times for primary-aged children.

As such there is the risk of homework pushing out family time and extra-curricular activities, which children benefit greatly from.

It’s positive to see that Inverlochy Primary School’s decision was reached as a result of consultation with parents.

This is not to say that children should be discouraged from activities such as reading after school.

Also, parental engagement in a child’s education is to be encouraged at all stages.

There will be times when home projects may be beneficial for primary pupils as part of parental involvement.

However, at the primary school stage, children should be encouraged to undertake any home-based activity, rather than taking the approach of setting mandatory homework and penalising pupils for failure to complete it.

If you let children choose what they want to read – whether that be a comic or a book – it encourages them to read.

If you tell them to read something they don’t want to, you turn it into a chore and can put them off learning altogether.

It’s more important to encourage them about learning.

NO: By Chris McGovern, Campaign for Real Education chairman

HOMEWORK is often portrayed as some sort of punishment.

Many primary pupils, however, want to learn.

True, they should not be overburdened but they do need homework.

Young children need to read with their parents and learn number bonds and tables to reinforce the work being done at school.

A problem only emerges when children are given meaningless, poorly thought-out, homework.

It needs to effectively support what is going on in class.

People who want to ban it often point to Finland as an example of somewhere pupils are given much less homework.

But it’s a different culture there. Finland has a high-quality teaching force and children also benefit from the high levels of adult literacy.

In comparison, there are a large number of parents in Britain who do not have the necessary reading and numeracy skills.

And if you want to see the benefits of homework, then you should take a look at China.

Pupils in Shanghai do the most homework and lead the field in international student assessment.

If you ditch homework in Scotland, children from the most deprived areas will lose out the most.


Homework should be banned

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