The school that's ditched homework to help teachers get a life

Traditionalist academy spares educators the stress of marking

Adi Bloom

Michaela Community School, founded by Katharine Birbalsingh, has got government approval to open a new school in Stevenage

A "traditionalist" school, founded with the explicit intention of bringing the values of private education to a deprived corner of north-west London, has decided to stop setting pupils homework.

Michaela Community School was set up by Katharine Birbalsingh, the headteacher renowned for receving a standing ovation at the 2010 Conservative Party conference, after she decried the state of English education.

But now Michaela’s assistant headteacher, Joe Kirby, has explained that the school has decided to “replace…setting, chasing, checking, marking and logging homework with revision, reading and online maths”.

“For teachers who’ve got to set, correct, mark, track and chase homework, it’s taking time out of lessons,” he told TES this week. “I think there’s a clarion call in the teaching profession now to let teachers plan and mark, and not have to handle any bureaucracy. But we say: let teachers get on and teach, and not drown in hours and hours of marking.”

Michaela, in Wembley Park, is not the first school to have questioned the wisdom of the traditional homework timetable. Earlier this month, Eve Jardine-Young, principal of the independent Cheltenham Ladies’ College, made the national news when she said she might review the school’s policy of setting prep in order to tackle teenagers’ “epidemic of anxiety”.

But at Michaela, the elimination of homework is not about saving pupils – it is about saving teachers. “Common practices result in heavy workload, high burnout, and very, very high levels of teacher turnover,” Mr Kirby said.

“Every single decision we make, we want to look at through this lens: is it going to reduce workload for teachers? We want to create a new blueprint, where it’s possible for teachers to have a life.”

This is an edited version of a feature from the 19 June issue of TES. You can read it on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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