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Turn logic of sweatshops upside down

Should we "contrast and compare" David Blunkett's proposal for compulsory junior school homework with the Austin Knight report on The Family-Friendly Workplace which describes Britain, with its long working hours, as Europe's sweatshop and leading producer of stress and mental illness?

Before we pile stress on junior school children (and teachers) by introducing compulsory homework, alternative ideas could be considered. As someone who gained an MA after a thoroughly enjoyable and completely homework-free secondary modern education, I find myself questioning the value of homework altogether, not only in primary schools but in secondary schools as well.

If, despite increasing the workload, we are still failing to achieve the desired results then, instead of heading for the knacker's yard by proclaiming like Boxer in Orwell's Animal Farm "I must work harder", perhaps it is time to turn the world upside down and try something new.

Was Rousseau so wrong, I wonder, in arguing that the child aged between two to 12 should learn by way of play with no compulsion other than personal desire? Like many radical ideas, Rousseau's proposition might contain more than a gain of truth.

ALAN MILLARD 8 Medina Court Marine Parade West Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire TES November 3 1995

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