Further to Judith Judd's article ("11-year-olds shun homework for TV", 17 November), are primary schoolteachers setting the right homework?
If a nine-year-old is set a book-based project (a bibliography being asked for), but there are no school library books, no books in the home and the public library is too far away to be visited safely by a child on his or her own, what then?
Parents are asked to help as the child needs guidance, but if they find the public library's small stock of relevant books has already been borrowed by other parents quicker off the mark, do they then have to find time to guide the child through reference books (which can't be borrowed) and wait around until the child has written out the information required?
The child's success depends entirely on the parents' willingness and ability to help. So much help is required that one feels the homework has become the parents' rather than the child's, or that the parents rather than the teacher are doing the teaching.
Schools should not set book-based projects until children are old enough to visit public libraries on their own. If primary schoolchildren are set homework based on their own experiences and imaginations and are taught to construct an essay and express themselves clearly, this is surely sufficient preparation for the rigours of secondary school homework.
I appreciate that your journalists Fran Abrams and Judith Judd ("And now, a lesson from our sponsor", 16 November) feel it important to sound a warning note about what they fear is unchecked commercialism in education, but they fail to distinguish between marketing promotion and sponsorship.
The article referred to both bona fide sponsorships and marketing promotions set up by a number of companies. For example, reference was made to the 1993 WH Smith promotion, Free Books for Schools, which offered vouchers for books. At no time did WH Smith suggest that this was anything other than a marketing promotion. There was a huge postbag from delighted teachers, none of whom seemed to fear that this would cause them to bend "the content of lessons or other activities to fit in with" WH Smith's marketing agenda. WH Smith has also sponsored a large number of educational projects in the past 25 years, none of which has a marketing promotion purpose. Two examples are the Poets in Schools scheme and the WH Smith Young Writers' Competition. Poets in Schools has been fully funded by WH Smith since 1971. It costs schools nothing and there is no hidden marketing agenda. The Young Writers' Competition celebrates the excellence of children's writing and their teachers' work. The prizes are pens and cheques, not vouchers, and the children's work is published.
Schools Projects Manager,
London, SW1W 8NR.
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