I know it is meant to encourage children to research and summarise a variety of sources and to hone their presentation skills. But most children, I mean parents, end up regurgitating a single source using the best IT skills they can muster in a bid to get on with their lives. Too often, all that such tasks really achieve is to stop children and parents unwinding for a few days. If we teach enthusiastically, now and again we'll fire up a student to research a subject on his or her own. Otherwise, life is too short to set unnecessary work.
Just as Ali G is fearful of being interviewed too close to his (fictional) Staines comprehensive school on account of his "unserved detentions", only now do I realise why I live in fear of ever contacting the website www.friendsreunited.com. I never completed any of the holiday homework I was set, and even today dread Mr Ramage finding out where I live and demanding my outstanding project on France. It was not a political act; these things had no relevance for me, and I wasn't given support for their completion.
I live in fear of being found out. Just before the Easter holiday, a colleague asked what homework I had set the sixth form. I had told the students what work they needed to consolidate, but stopped short of setting formal homework because they needed a break, too. My colleague stared at me as if I were hellbent on destroying our students' life chances as I mumbled about my one-woman crusade to end holiday homework.
The British work longer hours than anyone else in Europe, but do we really have to start so young? (I dare not put my real name to this article for fear of being severely reprimanded by the General Teaching Council.) Yet I shouldn't feel guilty. When I recall my own teachers, who could easily be candidates for Friday's My Best Teacher series, I realise that none set holiday homework. The closest the best ever got was to provide us with a list of great novels and suggest we pick one up if we were ever at a loss for something to do.
Meanwhile, I continue to have nightmares in which I receive the dreaded call from my child's school. "Why haven't you done her holiday homework?"
Holly Budd is a head of department in a northern comprehensive. She writes under a pseudonym