Dear Parents,

Homework is one of the most controversial subjects in education, and I do love controversy! Some parents want more, some less, the same for students and for teachers - but everyone has a view on it.

On the one hand is the school of thought that there should be lots of it, every day, from an early age, like in China where children can spend 3 hours or more a night on homework. At the other extreme is the Finnish approach - no homework at all. (However, to me the most interesting aspect of the system in Finland is that teachers have to be extremely highly trained, usually with a Master’s degree, are as valued and respected as engineers and doctors, and there isn’t a private system, so the best school is always the local neighbourhood one, but this discussion is for another time!)

As is so often the case, I am of the opinion that somewhere in the middle lies the truth. I absolutely believe that children should be children, and that time out of school should be used to explore, to play sport, to talk and discuss interesting topics, to cook, to climb trees and, of course, to get enough sleep. I believe passionately that children should spend far less time on tablets and devices and far more playing with their peers, talking with their families, and, of course, here, on this beautiful island, making the most of what lies all around us.

On the other hand, and especially as students move closer to public exams, I do think that some time out of school should be used to extend and embed their learning. Good homework should help students to practise skills and embed new learning, to learn spellings and vocabulary required in languages, to develop independent study skills that will be necessary at university and beyond. I would argue that, despite us living in the Google age, it is still important - vital, even - to build durable long-term memory, and the scientific evidence strongly suggests that revision and self-quizzing are some of the most effective ways to do this. And whatever your view on homework, I am passionate about the importance of reading, which improves all students’ writing, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, memory and attention, as well as, of course, opening them up to the wonderful world of books and expanding their knowledge and imagination.

Whatever your views, what we would all agree on, I hope, is that our school should have a clear policy on homework with a strong rationale. A priority this term for me is to have a clear policy about homework, making sure that whatever is set is valid, appropriate and achieves what good home learning should - but without robbing our children and young people of that most valuable of things, time to be children and time to enjoy life.

Alison Colwell


BIC, Sa Porrassa