Tuesday, September 30, 2008

UK's biggest school scraps homework

The dumbing down never stops in Britain. And these kids are backward already! It's just lazy teachers who don't want the hassle

A new school that will be the biggest in the country is to abandon homework because the head teacher believes it does not justify the detentions and family rows it causes. 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 sari-making.

Government guidelines suggest primary schools should set pupils between one and 2 1/2 hours per week, while those at secondaries receive up to 2 1/2 hours a day. Many of the most 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. "If you ask most heads what most detentions are for, they will tell you for non-completion of homework," he said. "Homework causes an enormous amount of home conflict and parents and the community certainly won't mind children coming home later. "It is often set simply because there is an expectation it should be set. It does not help with education at all."

Day's 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. [What you can get away with among bright kids can be very different from what works with average or backward kids]

Day believes his changes will be fairer particularly for children from poorer or illiterate families or those whose parents do not speak English. 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.

Signs of moves away from homework were welcomed by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which is campaigning for an end to the practice at all primary schools. "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," Bousted said. "It is perfectly possible to teach independent learning properly within the school day."

However, Professor Dylan Wiliam, deputy director of the Institute of Education at London University, said Day was going too far. "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. "Properly designed, it can help pupils develop their autonomy in learning."

Geoff Lucas, general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference of independent schools, warned that, if widely adopted, the policy would result in lagging comprehensives falling even further behind. "Private study and independent learning are vital skills for university and employment," Lucas said. "It seems a terrible shame to have a blanket decision like this. It will inevitably widen the gap between schools like this and our members and the best-performing state schools."

Kenneth Durham, headmaster of University College school, London, said he was an enthusiast for homework. GCSE pupils at his school were given about two hours a night. "It is an education in its own right," Durham said. "Well-managed homework programmes leave students better able to cope with independent learning and give them time management skills."

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 $100m and will start life in former school buildings next September before moving into new buildings in 2011, when homework will be scrapped.

Nottingham East will make its vast size manageable by sharing children around three mini-schools on different sites. Balls approved it after a confidential review backed the plan in June, finding that education at one of the schools to be replaced, Elliott Durham, was "parlous". The school's head was quoted in the review as declaring: "The attendance rate is very low . . . swearing and shouting is [sic] common . . . students flout the rules openly."


Texas education board members back Bible curriculum

Only a small minority of Australians are religious to any degree but when I was in Grade school we had a religion lesson every week given by a clergyman. It was seen as just another thing that kids should know about

Four State Board of Education members have recommended to school districts a Bible course curriculum that was at the center of a lawsuit filed by parents against a West Texas school district. In a letter sent to superintendents and school boards, the four board members said while they were not trying to prescribe the curriculum to be used in an elective Bible course authorized this summer, they wanted to recommend course materials sold by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. "It makes logical sense to select a curriculum that has already been tested and proven within the field," the letter said. It was signed by Republican board members Barbara Cargill of The Woodlands, Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond, Terri Leo of Spring and Gail Lowe of Lampasas.

The materials were not recommended by the Texas Education Agency.

The National Council curriculum was the basis for a lawsuit filed by parents in the Ector County School District last year alleging that a Bible course in two Odessa high schools using the study plan violated the religious freedom rights of some students. The curriculum uses the King James version of the Bible as its main text. Ector County school officials settled the lawsuit in March by agreeing to quit using the National Council class materials and switch to a curriculum developed by seven local educators.

The Texas Freedom Network, a progressive group that follows education issues, sharply criticized the four board members for the letter and noted they were part of a board majority that declined to set specific guidelines for the Bible course. TFN and others had argued that guidelines were needed to avoid lawsuits against school districts. "These board members are recklessly encouraging school districts to adopt a curriculum that will put those districts and their taxpayers in legal jeopardy and threaten the religious freedom of families to pass on their own faith beliefs to their children," said Dan Quinn of the TFN.

But the four board members emphasized they "have no desire or intention of prescribing a set Bible curriculum for individual school districts to use. Rather, it is our desire to see local districts maintain complete control concerning this discretionary subject matter."

In August, Attorney General Greg Abbott decided that Texas high schools are not required to offer the elective Bible course under a Bible study bill approved by the Legislature last year. While his legal opinion said schools must include some coverage of the Bible's impact on history and literature in their curriculum, they do not have to offer a separate Bible course unless a local school board chooses to do so.


No comments: