A big thank you to everyone who responded to my recent blogpost on homework. I spent last week ill in bed with flue and during this time I was very interested to hear that Francois Holland, President of France, has just put a ban on homework. His argument is that ‘an education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.’ He has enforced the ban to promote equality, arguing that homework gives children of wealthier parents (that is, children of those parents who have the time and inclination to engage with their children’s homework) an advantage over children from less prosperous families. Hmmm. I am not convinced by this; it reminds me of Maya Angelou who writes evocatively in her autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, about how her grandfather sat her on his knee and helped her to commit her times table to memory. She did not have a privileged upbringing; nor did the wonderful, salt-of-the-earth Yorkshirewoman, Eva, who helped my Mum bring up five children. Eva was one of seven siblings born to the local gamekeeper; she had been educated at the village school in the 1940s. By the time she left at the age of 13, she could read the leaders in The Times, as could most of the children in her class. Both women had in common parents who recognised that literacy is a way out of poverty and wanted to give their children support; in Eva’s case, school standards were also more exacting than they are now. I agree with those of you who suggest that homework such as going out in nature can help connect learning at school with learning at home but this can be hard to achieve when both parents are working.

And now for some healthy distraction from the heady subject of homework. The first snow has come! I lay in bed on Sunday morning, groaning quietly to myself at the sound of heavy rain drumming on the roof of my cottage. ‘Oh no’, I sighed to myself, ‘I’m going to get drenched when I walk Tara (Tara is my golden retriever) and I’m going to get mud all over my boots again and they’ll take ages to dry and…’ I dragged myself out of bed and into the wet – and as I walked, the rain changed! Within half an hour, the downpour had become a whirl of snowflakes. Within another half hour, the snow was thick and icy enough to settle on the fields. It was astonishing, and it was an early reminder to me of how magical the cold winter months can be in this northern land. Tara thought so too!


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