It’s a dream come true for children at Markethill Primary School - no written homework for the rest of the term and a chance to enjoy the long summer evenings.
The rural school, which has 332 pupils, has created something of a stir, but in a positive way, with its decision to “let children be children”.
While the spelling, tables and reading homework will continue, there will be no written maths and literacy.
Instead, a letter to parents encourages them to “inspire” their children to get outside and be active, to go for walks or cycles, to read, draw or play with friends, or to spend time with family and develop a new hobby.
This is the second week of the initiative and according to vice-principal Roberta Chapman ‘homework replacements’ have included a water fight in the garden, climbing trees and walking in nearby Gosford Forest Park.
The initiative is not an impulsive one, spurred on by the spate of good weather, but has been carefully considered by principal Jim Richardson and other senior staff for some time.
Said Mrs Chapman, “We piloted it for the first time last year but we have been thinking of it for a long time. What we are doing is a nod of the head at a bigger issue which is the value of written homework.
“Schools in Scandinavia and Finland have a completely different but very successful approach to homework. What we are doing is a compromise.
“We have also looked at the amount of time children have before they go to bed at night, By the time some of them get off the buses at 4pm they only have a couple of hours and they may have out of school activities too.
“There is a whole education happening outside school, be it music or sports. We have one or two children here who are very highly involved in the equestrian field and many children from a farming background, and that is an education in itself.
“So many things happen after 3.15 in a child’s life. The children already work so hard inside school. Like most adults, they don’t want to do more work when they come home.”
The homework suspension has also been a hit with parents, with comments on Facebook that more schools should follow Markethill’s example.
Joanne McClean, a teaching assistant at the school and mum of Jodi, a pupil, said, “It is a great initiative to get children out socialising and being active. Family time is precious and there is enough time spent sitting at desks working. Jim Richardson and Roberta Chapman have the right idea.
“I’m really proud to be a part of this school. Markethill Primary School has always prided itself on being a friendly, confidence-building school and as a colleague as well as a parent who has put three children through this school, I feel a great gratitude to them for the confidence my children have.”