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The Role of Homework Over the Holiday Period

05 December 2014

Regardless of your personal beliefs, I hope that your Christmas will be a time for family, friends, festivities and a chance to relax and recharge batteries after a busy term. For many of our pupils, these Christmas holidays will not be filled with holiday homework as it is a time to stop, take stock of trackers and reports, and enjoy being young.

The debate about whether this is right and children should be given holiday homework has raged for years and it’s a topic which divides teachers, parents and pupils alike.

It is an increasing trend in schools to not issue holiday homework as it is felt to be totally unnecessary for primary school pupils and for those in the first three years of secondary school. However, it is necessary when students reach their crucial exam years. For Year 10, 11 and our IB students, homework assignments serve a clear purpose; they provide opportunities for students to develop valuable skills in independent research and consolidation of knowledge and help breed familiarity with the types of questions that they will get in their exams.

For our Year 11s and Year 13s this means practicing questions with past exam papers and by doing this, building their knowledge and helping them identify strengths and weaknesses.  Practice makes perfect, and giving students the chance to see and practice questions well in advance of the real exams in May is a crucial part of good preparation. It takes a lot of self-discipline to plan the time over the holiday to realistically work on the homework set and our teachers and Heads of Key Stage work closely to provide homework goals that bear in mind the workload of our exam students.

It is also very important therefore, to also strike a balance of support and rest for the students in our exam year groups. I have written before of the need to strike a healthy balance of family support that pushes a child to revise and practice where necessary and yet allow a child to take a break and relax, just as any of us need to when we are stressed and working towards a goal that is still five months away.  It is good to encourage your children to take breaks, get fresh air, stay hydrated and do some exercise. Even when the children do things that we are not used to thinking of as relaxation such as playing computer games, this can help them. A recent piece of research has shown that playing relaxing, nonviolent video games leaves people in a happier, more sociable mood than if they had played fast, violent games. So let your children relax in ways we may not have imagined. But not till the early hours of the morning!!

 I hope that over the next month you and your children have a great time, relaxing and at the same time encouraging the students in exam classes to do the extra work that will pay off come results day in July and August.  If they can see the point of the effort they are putting in, it certainly helps keep them focused. Any ways you can interact with them and help make the learning more fun also helps make it a family task. This may seem a big task with a stressed, surly teenager but help them revise with quizzes and see what you could do in the time they do a past paper or a question. Let them prove to you what they have learned that day.  Help and support in both the learning and relaxing is an important combination for all families.  Christmas sometimes brings its own strains, but helping each other to play and work (and that includes chores) is a good break from the normal school routine.

There are lots of fabulous events this week in school as we head towards the holidays and I look forward to seeing many of you at the Winter Concert tonight, the PTA Christmas Fair on Saturday and I challenge you to sponge me or beat me at the penalty shootout game in aid of our charities. It should be a fantastic day with interesting stalls, tasty food and fun games.  We also have our choir performing in a carol concert at the Regal International East Asia Hotel on Monday and of course we have the secondary school pantomime and Christmas lunch on Thursday. It is definitely a festive week of fun, exciting experiences, learning and helping those less fortunate than ourselves. A great combination to end the year on.

- Chris Share, Head of Secondary

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