Sacre bleu! So I'll have no homework at all?

2nd November 2012 at 00:00
UK campaigners welcome French president's ban plan

They are famous for their 35-hour working weeks and long lunch breaks dripping with Camembert and bonhomie. To the outsider, life as a French worker seems like a holiday compared with the intense work ethic of les pays anglo-saxons.

Yet French schoolchildren - in the absence of union representation - have always stood outside this easy-going scenario. The country's school system has long been known for its long days, traditional teaching methods and poetry by rote.

But France's new socialist president, Francois Hollande, has given them one reason to be cheerful in a move that has stirred up the prickly issue once again in the UK. As part of overarching education reforms, the president wants to ban homework for all primary school pupils in a bid to make the system fairer for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not have support at home.

Instead, pupils will complete their "personal work" in designated class time, overseen by a teacher, between 3.30pm and 4pm.

Campaigners in Britain have cheered the move, which is in effect the enforcement of a 1956 French law banning written homework in primaries that has largely been ignored by teachers.

Margaret Morrissey, founder of parenting information website Parents- Outloud, said: "I don't agree with a lot of things about Francois Hollande, but I do agree with this.

"I really think that homework in every sort of school should be axed. Children are in school every day of the week, and I don't see why children can't learn sufficiently in all that time."

A 2008 survey by teaching union the ATL found that 94 per cent of primary teachers set their pupils homework, but also highlighted teachers' concerns that not all children had the support, space or facilities to do it.

Nansi Ellis, head of education policy and research at the ATL, which has called for a ban on primary homework in the past, said: "This is a brave move by Francois Hollande because among certain parents homework can be popular. But it is important to balance children's fun and enjoyment of life."

IN FIGURES

94% of primary teachers set homework.

58.5% set it once a week.

25.3% set it several times a week.

92.9% of teachers cite lack of support at home as a reason for pupils' failure to complete homework.

UK survey by ATL 2008.

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