West Hampstead school scraps homework due to excessive ‘stress’ for pupils

PUBLISHED: 12:08 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:08 19 February 2020

Mulberry House headteacher Victoria Playford with pupils. Picture: Mulberry House School

Mulberry House headteacher Victoria Playford with pupils. Picture: Mulberry House School

Mulberry House School

A West Hampstead school has called time on homework as it causes pupils too much ‘stress’.

Homework is now scrapped for the youngsters. Picture: Mulberry House SchoolHomework is now scrapped for the youngsters. Picture: Mulberry House School

Mulberry House School, in Minster Road, is laying down its pens and pads for students outside school hours as it believes children's early-years development can be harmed by excessive workloads.

As an independent, pre-preparatory school, Mulberry pupils are two to seven years old, an age at which kids are vulnerable to mental health struggles of anxiety and insomnia, the school says.

Mulberry headteacher Victoria Playford believes children need more time and space to call their own, and have enough to worry about with the education system's strict emphasis on exams.

She said: "Apocryphal tales of the stress these exams impose on parents are rife but what about the stress on children?

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"While I do believe that many children can sail through assessments with little or no stress and even enjoy them, I think that is only the case if the preparation for what is ahead is handled correctly - and, conversely, I now believe the best way to do this is by imposing no stress at all on these very young children in the form of additional work."

Ms Playford admitted even before the school's self-imposed ban it set little homework, but that it had fast become hard-wired into pupils' day-to-day routine.

She said the vast majority of primary schools impose some form of homework with the aim of exam preparation, either for SATs in state education or seven and 11-plus tests in the independent sector.

"We believe that the academic outcomes for our children will not be any different without homework and their mental health and resilience will be stronger as a result. A win-win situation," she said.

"We hope we are leading the way in showing that young children benefit when formal learning stays at school and they are free to relax and enjoy their evenings and weekends and make their own discoveries."

Ms Playford insists she is far from alone in demanding radical change.

She pointed to a 2013 study by Stanford University which suggested 56 per cent of secondary school students examined considered homework to be a source of stress.

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