Dreary worksheets get filed in the bin

11th May 2007 at 01:00
Uninspiring, unwieldy and unattractive - worksheets are the workhorse of the British classroom, allowing pupils to plod through activities at their own pace while teachers catch up on a spot of marking. But one school has taken the drastic step of banning them.

Jane Heyes, headteacher at Brompton-Westbrook primary in Gillingham, Kent, said she was so sick of teachers complaining about the ubiquitous photocopied sheets, she felt she had no option but to outlaw them altogether.

"Children didn't respect them, they didn't write on them nicely, they didn't take pride in them and they didn't see them as proper writing," said Mrs Heyes.

"They were invariably cut out badly and stuck into their books badly. We were constantly moaning about how ugly and messy they were."

Jon Carthy, a key stage 2 teacher, agreed. "They're just a time-filler. And if you do away with them, you talk to the children more and get more out of them," he said. "Even doing equations is more engaging if you have to write them out yourself."

The ban follows the school's adoption of the Royal Society of Arts' Opening Minds scheme, which encourages schools to throw out rote-learning and embrace cross-curricular projects.

A number of schools are thought to have adopted similar bans.

Worksheets are a vexed issue and have been energetically debated on The TES online staffroom. "Once you break free from them it's great!" one poster said. But others praise them as a "practical and child-friendly" way of consolidating new information.

Dr Bethan Marshall, a senior lecturer in education at King's College London, said that while worksheets could create calm and focus on key facts, they should be approached with "great caution". Fill-in-the-gaps exercises were "singularly pointless", she said.

As pencils and paper are replaced with whiteboards and palm-top computers, worksheets are increasingly becoming obsolete, said Carole Whitty, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

"Children's expectations are higher and it's hard to meet them with photocopied sheets. These days there are other ways for pupils to work at their own pace," she said.

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