Home without work

The countdown to a new school year begins and, as usual, we are promised educational reforms.

The new education minister wants changes in September but may have to learn patience. All changes take time; plus funds, plus willing staff to implement them – and, for that, staff have to see practical logic, not just political aspirations.

Commendably, the minister wants to reduce the number of children who fail at school – or who are failed by school. One main cause, he reasons, is social and economic inequality and this is best illustrated by homework. Some parents help their kids with homework because they have the time, knowledge and are willing to do so. Others cannot because of pressure of time or lack of skills or because they place little value on education – either way a struggling child is not to blame and is likely to fall behind.

The solution proposed is to abolish homework done at home and transform it into homework done in school hours. A bonus of this could be a less stressful family life. Children have a right and a need to relax in the evening and weekends: free and family time are as important to an overall education as formal schooling.

It is very difficult, however, to eliminate the advantage of having motivated parents and the disadvantages of being, say, from an immigrant family where parents do not have the language skills to help, but it is a start.