More work at home
Voluntary guidelines on homework sent out for consultation by the Department for Education and Employment say that primary children should spend between 20 and 50 minutes a day on reading and other activities outside school.
A 1995 National Foundation for Educational Research study found that 43 per cent of 10-year-olds were given no regular homework.
The guidance, which applies to England only, is intended to give practical advice to parents and teachers about how much time pupils at different ages should spend on reading with their families and other activities, such as maths. Homework should become more formal as children get older, and homework policies should become part of home-school agreements.
Recommended homework times
Reading (mins) Other (mins)
Recep 10 10 daily
Y 1 amp; 2 20 10 daily
Y 3 amp; 4 20 20 daily
Y 5 amp; 6 20 30 daily
Homework: Guidelines for Primary Schools, from DFEE Publications, PO box 5050, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6ZQ. Call 0845 602 2260
Your portable friend
The Government has announced that it will hand out sophisticated multi-media laptop computers to 10,000 teachers and heads at a cost of pound;23million by the end of June, about half of them to primary schools.
Education Secretary David Blunkett said the use of computers helps reduce teachers' administrative burden and increases their skills.
"Previous schemes for serving teachers have shown that giving a teacher sole use of a portable computer is one of the most effective ways of training them in the use of information and communications technology," said Mr Blunkett. "It helps their confidence and their teaching and helps them to organise their work so as to use more effectively the time they spend with their pupils."
The Government's aim is for all schools to be connected to the Internet by 2002 and form a National Grid for Learning.
* Design a website - see page 27
A different tack in Wales
Primary teachers in Wales will have the option to teach a slimmed-down curriculum beginning in September. However, the Education Minister for Wales, Peter Hain, has taken a different approach from his counterpart in England, David Blunkett. The Welsh Office plans to specify a mandatory core for each of the foundation subjects (art, music, history, geography, PE, and design and technology), which must be covered. In England, the detailed programmes of study are being suspended, although the subjects must still be broadly taught. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is sending out guidance on the essential core of each subject, but its use is optional.