House work

15th June 2007 at 01:00
Stephen Manning discovers how pupils are being helped by a day spent at home and working independently

Can the comfort of home be beneficial for learning or does the motivation to do schoolwork dissipate outside a strict school environment? What if pupils worked from home one day a week?

It's an idea being trialled at the Bridge Academy, a former pupil referral unit in Fulham, south west London, where the 170 youngsters range from children excluded from school, the victims of bullying and those in foster care, to pupils with autism or ADHD. Twenty-two Year 9s began the pilot in March, but a whole school roll-out is planned for September.

The pupils spend Monday of each week learning from home, completing tasks set by teachers in their core subjects: English, maths, ICT and science.

They are only be online for a short time: to gather their tasks, email the teacher with queries, submit their results, or save them to their e-locker.

Sarah Tickle, head of English, is teaching five pupils who are preparing for their Sats. They are working on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Sarah has put her scheme of work on the system, including clips from film versions.

The tasks are set according to the individual's abilities. One pupil, expected to get a level 6, might compare their own assessment of the character of Beatrice with that of an article by a Shakespeare expert.

For another who is having more difficulty, the tasks will be more literacy-focused, such as Shakespearean spelling.

"As learners, they lack self-esteem - they don't think they are good at it," says Sarah. "But, generally speaking, I've found they respond to the technological approach much more than to pen and paper. The downside to this, especially for an English teacher, is that they're not physically writing, but then they are doing that in class the rest of the week."

The project is in its infancy but, according to Sarah, parental reaction has been enthusiastic. "They get quite excited finding out about Shakespeare for themselves. It helps to foster a culture of learning at home."

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