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President of Ireland calls on schools to stop giving pupils homework

Children should be able to use time at home ‘for other creative things’, says michael d higgins, article bookmarked.

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<p>Michael D Higgins says schools should not continue after final bell </p>

Michael D Higgins says schools should not continue after final bell

Schools should strive not to give pupils homework where possible, the president of Ireland has suggested.

In an utterance likely to be seized upon by children for years to come, in classrooms far beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle, Michael D Higgins argued that school should not extend beyond the final bell.

“Time in school … should get finished in school,” the president told pupils at a school in County Tipperary this week during a broadcast for RTE.

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Should homework be scrapped for primary school students?

Some educationalists argue that homework provides little benefit for young children. now, an oireachtas committee is examining calls for it to be ‘eradicated’.

homework banned in northern ireland

‘Being completely honest, we all hate homework. We know it has to be done but it has a big impact,’ says Sarah Jayne Tobin (above) with her son Nathan Fanagan. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Do young children really need to do more work when they get home after a day at school? The Oireachtas committee on public petitions is currently examining a call for the "eradication of homework" for children in primary school on the basis that it provides little educational benefit is a source of stress and frustration.

It’s a view shared by a surprising number of academics who say, at best, evidence in favour of homework is inconclusive and, at worst, may be detrimental to younger children.

In Finland, so often looked to as a beacon of educational reform, students do not start formal schooling until seven years of age and are assigned virtually no homework.

homework banned in northern ireland

‘The brain needs some oxygen and some down time,’ says child psycholigist Dr David Carey

Child psychologist Dr David Carey, who has over 25 years experience in clinical and educational settings, believes homework for children who are still in primary school serves little purpose.

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“The research seems to indicate it doesn’t really consolidate learning. When children aren’t given homework, they don’t learn at a slower pace then when they are given homework,” he says.

“The problem with homework is the stress and strife it causes in the family, with parents being driven to distraction by children who don’t want to do their homework. It causes arguments, tears and disruption to family life,” says Dr Carey.

He maintains that children need to have a break when they get home from school.

“Nobody who comes home from work likes to sit down and immediately be asked ‘how much work did you bring home today?’ and ‘when are you going to do it?’, and so on, but this is what we do to children.

“They need a break, to relax and go out and play in the fresh air, get exercise, talk to other kids. That’s the work of childhood – it is to play, not to study endlessly,” says Dr Carey.

Geraldine Tuohy, a primary school teacher for the past eight years, works as a home school community liaison co-ordinator in an inner city school.

She feels the question of whether or not homework is a waste of time depends on the quality of the tasks required of children.

“Homework needs to be specific, brief and targeted. Schools need to concentrate their policy on what’s absolutely essential, such as literacy and numeracy targets.

“It needs to be manageable time-wise too. Primary school homework at senior class level shouldn’t take more than an hour and, if it does, the school needs to review it.

“I also think that a games approach could be adopted for homework purposes: parents and children alike should be encouraged to take up some board games both as socialisation tool and also for critical thinking and numeracy skills,” says Tuohy.

If there is an international authority in the field, it’s most likely Prof Harris Cooper of Duke University in the US.

He conducted the most comprehensive research on homework to date from a 2006 meta-analysis.

Prof Cooper found evidence of a positive link between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school.

The correlation, however, was much stronger for older students than for those in younger classes.

Overall, he feels homework is important as it helps with simple tasks like spelling words, maths and vocabulary.

For younger children, he says the evidence recommends no more than 10 minutes per class per night.

“They won’t learn after a certain amount of time because their minds begin to wander and their motivation is reduced. I don’t advocate piling homework on; it’s not going to work.

“The older you get, the more homework you should get. But there reaches a point where the law of diminishing returns kicks in.”

While a 12 year old should only get an hour’s worth of homework, he says a 16 year old can manage an hour and a half, after which point their concentration goes.

Dr Carey, however, believes parents are hard-wired into believing all children should have homework, all the way down to junior infants, because they experienced it as well.

“Therefore, if a teacher doesn’t rightfully assign homework there’s going to be complaints.”

While he feels it has a role at second level due to our focus on State exams, introducing it earlier is simply counter-productive.

“Homework deprives children of a right to play, to sit and day dream and to sometimes do nothing in particular at all. The brain needs some oxygen and some down time.”

‘We all hate homework . . . but it has a big impact’

As soon as Sarah-Jayne Tobin’s son comes in the door from school, homework takes over.

“All our days are arranged around it. It needs to be done as soon as we get home otherwise Nathan is too tired,” says Tobin, whose son is in third-class.

“Otherwise, it takes twice as long and there can be tears. Like other kids, Nathan plays football and basketball outside school so those days in particular can be quite full on,” she says.

Nathan has dyspraxia which affects his writing and attention span. It means that Sarah-Jayne often has to hassle him to get it done.

“Trying to do homework on those days [when it he tired] is a nightmare . . . I hate being that mum, the massive pain in the bum!”

Despite the tears and occasional stress, she feels it is a good thing for Nathan and other primary schoolchildren.

“Since he started third class, my son Nathan seems to be getting more into reading independently and I feel this is down to the comprehension homework he gets.

“Before this year he was more into annuals and books that had short snappy paragraphs but his reading and comprehension exercises this year have really helped with his attention span. He’s starting to finally delve into the books I’ve been buying him for years that have been gathering dust.

“Being completely honest, we all hate homework. We know it has to be done but it has a big impact.”

“The only thing I’d change about homework is maybe the frequency; instead of getting stuff each night, maybe give them a Wednesday evening off to break up the week.

“On the issue of whether kids get too much homework; it’s hard to call. Different kids have different levels of ability, and where one may fly through an exercise in 10 minutes, it might take others 30.

“In my son’s school, they say no longer than 30 minutes per night night and it’s pens down whether you’re finished or not, but the adult supervising has to sign off on it.”

How much homework should my child expect?

The National Parents’ Council says all schools should have a homework policy which should be prepared in consultation with parents and children. In general, it says the following guidelines should apply:

Junior/Senior infants: No formal homework but perhaps drawing, preliminary reading, matching shapes and pictures or listening to stories read by parents.

First/Second class: 20-30 minutes

Third/Fourth class: 30-40 minutes

Fifth/Sixth class: 40-60 minutes

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President Michael D Higgins says homework should be banned in Ireland

The country’s favourite leader believes that school activities should end at the school gate and students should be encouraged to engage in more creative pursuits

  • 10:39, 21 JAN 2023

President Michael D Higgins

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President Michael D Higgins has called for homework to be banned.

The country’s favourite leader has given hope to a new generation of students that the bane of their afterschool evenings could be scrapped. President Higgins argues that this would make time for young people to engage in more creative pursuits outside school hours.

The former Arts Minister believes that school activities should end at the school gate. He was speaking to RTE’s news2day current affairs and news programme for children on the occasion of the programme’s 20th birthday.

Read more: Children being 'corrupted' by drug dealing situation in Oliver Bond flats, Dail told

When asked what his opinion of homework President Higgins said: “I think myself, really that the time at home, and the time in the school is an educational experience and it should get finished at the school and people should be able to use their time for other creative things.”

To mark the show’s two decades on air, students from St Kevin’s National School, Littleton, County Tipperary put questions from RTÉ news2day viewers to President Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin. In a wide-ranging interview, the children asked the President questions like, what was your favourite sport when you were in school?

When you were nine years old what did you want to be? And when did you decide you wanted to be President?

The students also asked the President about his dogs, his official trips abroad, his favourite subject in school, differences between now and when he was a child and his favourite book. The President also spoke to the children about his love of handball and the importance of friendship in their lives.

RTÉ news2day will broadcast some of the President’s interview as part of Friday afternoon’s birthday celebrations at 4.20pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ News channel and the full interview will be available later on Friday evening on the RTÉ Player. In a message to the children of Ireland and the viewers of RTÉ news2day, President Michael D. Higgins gave this advice: “To stay curious about everything and I think it’s important to make sure you don’t miss the joy of sharing information.

“And I think an important thing is friendship and to make sure that there’s no one left without friendship and that people belong. And we will all do individual things... but I think friendships that you make will in fact always be great memories and that is so important. And also have the courage to stand your own ground and let other children be allowed the space of standing their ground too because none of us are the same.

“We’re all unique but at the same time we have a lot going for us.” President Higgins also encouraged the children of Ireland to speak the Irish language.

He encouraged them to speak Irish in a fun way and to feel free to use whatever bits of the language that they have.

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Students and parents plead case for homework ban

Students And Parents Plead Case For Homework Ban

School children and parents pleaded with the Minister for Education Norma Foley to step in and introduce a homework ban.

In letters to the minister, kids wrote about how they were being forced to give up hobbies because they were given so much work to do after school.

The correspondence followed comments by President Michael D Higgins in January that a ban on homework should be considered.

In one letter, a school child wrote about how seven hours of school each day was “plenty of education” and that more work on top was unnecessary.

“I do not ask for homework to be completely banned but for it to be reduced to a certain limit. Otherwise, if there is a constant build-up of homework daily, it can cause stress and even a lack of exercise which will affect a person’s well-being.”

Another said they felt homework was a “waste of time” and that a ban should be introduced.

They wrote: “Kids should be doing more creative things with their time after school. Many kids have had to stop doing hobbies they have because of it.

“It is a burden to parents, kids, and teachers [and] so for the above reasons, I think you should BAN HOMEWORK!”

Homework annoys teachers

One hand-written letter, decorated with a Minnie Mouse bow, said homework was “annoying for teachers and pupils”.

“I play soccer and love writing stories, but because of homework, I have no time for doing these things. For teachers, it gives them more copies to correct and they have to go through the trouble of deciding what [homework] to give.”

A secondary school student said that if “sleeping isn’t for school” then “work isn’t for home”.

They explained how they did between one and two hours of homework every evening after school and sometimes more.

“When I would finish, there would be barely any time for me to relax before I had to go to bed to get enough sleep to get up in the morning,” said their letter.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, our president Michael D Higgins also thinks that homework should be banned so if you don’t want to listen to me, listen to our President.”

Another suggested there could at least be a compromise so that students would not be given homework for over the weekend.

“[This would relieve] students of mental stress,” they said.

Help parents

One young student said they were left with no time to help their parents, or to learn how to cook or do other activities around the house.

They said: “We all do activities like swimming, dance, and all other sports. It’s hard work and it’s stressful and it’s unfair.”

A single parent also wrote in to explain how one of their children was getting two hours of written homework every day.

They said: “We need time to teach them life skills such as sewing, cooking, how to work the washing machine, change their own bed sheets and personal care.

“These teachings are very hard for parents with zero [time] left in the evenings. There is no time for them to spend with siblings and parents because they are so tired.”

Majority Of Workers In Favour Of Four-Day Work Week

In responses, the Department of Education told the letter writers that homework policy was not within its powers.

In emails, they said: “The Department does not issue direct guidelines relating to homework being given in schools. It is a matter for each school, at local level, to arrive at its own homework policy.

“In keeping with good practice, the process of drafting a homework policy should involve consultation with teachers, parents, and students.

“However, the Department does acknowledge that homework can play an important part in helping pupils prepare for forthcoming class work and in reinforcing work already covered during class time.”

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Is Homework Banned In Ireland? [LATEST Update 2024]

by E.A. Gjelten July 21, 2023, 10:04 am

Is Homework Banned In Ireland

With some countries like Australia and Finland completely banning homework, while countries like Ireland actively debating over the subject, homework has become a popular academic concern in recent times. Tracing its roots back to 1905, the concept of homework can be credited to Roberto Nevilis who originally invented it as a method to punish lazy students. In today’s time, however, its relevance and usefulness are largely questioned.

So if you find yourself debating the utility of this age old practice, know that you aren’t alone. Here we analyze homework from various social & academic angles, trying to determine weather it’s a useful academic practice in modern schooling. The center point of our analysis is the status f homework in Ireland & what it’s expected future looks like in the country.

Is Homework Banned In Ireland 2024

Although the subject of banning homework has become a hot national topic lately, homework is not officially banned in Ireland. There are two contrasting views on the subject; one by in favor of banning it by the president and the other opposing the ban by the current education minister.

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Do Check Is Homework Illegal?

Irish Laws on Homework

Irish Laws on Homework

There are no specific laws regarding homework in Ireland as academic institutes have the autonomy to give as little or as much homework as they deem fit.

Although a significant majority of the government is in favor of a homework ban and has called out on schools to not give homework where possible, there are no official laws regarding homework yet. There are a few guidelines formulated by the Department of Education to help regulate homework provided by schools.

According to these guidelines, the homework should be relevant to the curriculum and should help reinforce subject learning. It should help develop skills, be assessed, and should have deadlines. The guidelines also state that the homework should be manageable and not burdening in nature keeping in context the workload and the age of the students.

Ireland Homework Debate

Ireland Homework Debate

There is a hot debate on the topic of banning homework in the country as the president of Ireland believes homework to be burdening and stressful for students. The current education minister favors regulating homework instead of outright banning it.

The minister does not seem interested in backing up the call for the homework ban by the president or debating the issue with the president. the politics surrounding the issue.

The homework ban has been a difficult issue to tackle in Ireland, mostly because there is a plethora of contrasting views regarding the ban. There have been long and tiresome debates in various countries of the world over the matter. In Ireland, there have been some calls for a homework ban, particularly at the primary school level.

In 2019, a motion was passed at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland annual conference calling for a ban on homework for primary school students, citing concerns about the pressure it puts on young children and their families. Some belief homework to be utterly useless and stressful for the students while others perceive it as an integral part of learning and conceptualizing academic curriculum. A homework ban might develop a lack of engagement and interest among students regarding academics.

The politics surrounding the homework ban in Ireland reflect a broader debate about the purpose and impact of homework and the balance between academic achievement and student well-being.

What We Should Expect?

Currently, the homework ban is still being largely argued in the country so it is uncertain to assume what might come out of the debate . If the homework ban is officially implemented, we might see changes in the teaching methods to make education more interactive and engaging for the students.

Should We Ban Homework?

There are many factors at play in the discussion of the homework ban. There are contrasting views on the matter that are subjective to everyone. Homework has been around for decades and has enabled students to learn better. At the same time, homework can be stressful and burdening as well, especially for younger students or students who are working full-time jobs. Moreover, students study several subjects at a time. Homework of all these subjects combined can be mentally exhausting. Similarly, a complete ban may also lead to disinterest.

Does Homework Improve a Child’s Learning Capabilities?

does homework improve learning

Practice makes a man perfect, similarly by practicing the material studied in class, homework can help improve a child’s learning capabilities. Moreover, homework enables students to reinforce their academic concepts.

The (Possible) Advantages Of Banning Homework

Some of the advantages of banning homework may include.

  • Quality time with family and peers
  • Opportunity to learn new skills
  • Reduced Stress
  • Time for outdoor activities
  • Student Well-being

The (Possible) Disadvantages Of Banning Homework

Some of the disadvantages of banning homework may include:

  • Lack of academic practice
  • Disobedience
  • Poor academic achievements
  • Decreased sense of responsibility

Is Homework A Punishment?

Is Homework A Punishment

Homework was originally created in early 20th century to punish lazy and disobedient students, but it’s purpose in modern times is much different. Homework is given to students to help reinforce the learning matter and develop a better understanding of the curriculum. Considering homework as a form of punishment depends upon one’s subjective opinion.

What Age Should Kids Have Homework?

The appropriate age for children to begin receiving homework can vary depending on many factors. Homework typically begins at the elementary level with shorter assignments focused on reading, writing, and basic skills. As students progress through middle and high school, homework may become more complex and time-consuming.

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Call for children to be 'involved' in discussions around homework as President speaks out against it

It comes days after President Michael D Higgins called for homework to be banned at home and for all work to stay in the classroom. Irish Mirror readers were also overwhelmingly in favour of banning homework, with 98% of our readers in favour.

  • 18:37, 25 JAN 2023

Child doing homework

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A Government Minister has said that it is “important” to include children in discussions about homework policies in schools.

In a landslide decision, 57,440 readers voted yes, while just 1,211 voted no.

READ MORE: President Michael D Higgins calls for homework to be banned in Ireland

In an interview with RTÉ’s News2Day, President Higgins said that he believed that time at home should be spent doing more creative activities,

He said: “I think myself, really that the time at home, and the time in the school is an educational experience and it should get finished at the school and people should be able to use their time for other creative things."

Education Minister Norma Foley recently said that her Department does “not issue any guidelines relating to homework being given in schools. It is a matter for each school, at local level, to arrive at its own homework policy”.

It followed a question from Fine Gael Minister of State Neale Richmond who asked if research has been carried out by her Department into the benefits of ending the provision of homework for primary school pupils.

He told the Irish Mirror that children should be involved in conversations about their schools homework policy.

Minister Richmond said: “I submitted the Parliamentary Question following a visit to one of my local primary schools.

“The pupils were genuinely interested in the policy relating to homework going forward and I agreed it’s an important discussion to involve pupils in.”

Minister Foley told her Government colleague that the Department of Education has not commissioned research on the matter.

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National Homework Ban for April 12, declares An Taoiseach

'no homework for donegal students' says an taoiseach micheál martin.

National Homework Ban for April 12, declares Taoiseach

National Homework Ban for April 12, declares Taoiseach

Catherine McGinty

12 Mar 2021 3:04 PM

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homework banned in northern ireland

In his most pressing interview to date, when questioned by 9 year old Dean Aherne about the abolition of homework, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin declared: “On Monday, April 12, there will be no homework, and that’s for the whole country.” 

This is the first time ever such an event has taken place, or not taken place.

On the anniversary of Covid-19 related school closures, Starcamp is on a mission to keep children’s spirits uplifted as the pandemic continues.

And as part of its two-hour 'St Patrick's Day Show', which Starcamp is rolling out for free to all children in Ireland, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, chatted to Starcamp kids and gave them a very important message to share with the country.

An Taoiseach spoke about about overcoming shyness and the importance of confidence. He also told them that “it’s kinda cool” having a personal driver, that “he’d like Cork actor, Cillian Murphy to play him in a movie” and that his hidden talent is “mimicking people, I can take people off but in politics they don’t allow me to do that anymore”. Watch out Mario Rosenstock.

Starcamp, with Gala retail, is offering this free 'St Patrick's Day Show', which will be available to view from Saturday morning at 9am until March 18. It is oozing with positivity, smiles, uplifting messages, distraction, creativity and a feel good factor that children desperately need in their lives at this time. Starcamp has committed to creating something special for the sake of children, to aid their ailing spirits in what continues to be a challenging and confusing time for them as they return to the classroom.    

The action packed St Patrick's Day line up for the event includes: The Story of St Patrick, music, games, baking, Irish dance with Riverdance performers, The Gardiner Brothers, Don Conroy will teach how to draw leprechauns, Joe the Magician and so much more.

With children due to lose out again with the cancellation of parades, Starcamp wants to encourage children all over Ireland to get creative and imaginative over the next week or so, and in association with Gala retail are offering a whole host of prizes for Best Performance, Best Art, Best Parade, Best Baking and Best Costume. All entries must have a St Patrick’s Day (or Irish) theme. To enter, simply upload your photo or video onto the Starcamp Club Facebook page or Starcamp Instagram page by March 18.

The winner will be announced on March 23.  There will be a prize for each category and the overall winner will also win a Yamaha Electric Piano for their school.  

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homework banned in northern ireland

'Why I believe homework should be banned', by one primary school student

As the discussion around state exams through the Covid-19 shutdown continues, a separate debate about the very need for homework itself rumbles on. Over the years, many have argued that homework for students in busy modern-day family structures is no longer workable.

This year, the Green Party sought to open a discussion about the banning of homework in future. Here, primary school pupil Misha McEnaney, a fifth class student from Dublin, outlines why he believes homework is more of a hindrance than a help.

IRISH CHILDREN SPEND around 274.5 hours on homework in a year. Is it a waste of time? Generally speaking, homework does not improve academic performance among children, although it may improve academic skills among older students especially lower-achieving kids. Homework also creates stress among students who could be doing other things.

I think it is a waste of time. Here’s why I think so. 

Many students think homework is extremely boring and hard so it increases our stress levels. You might fight with your family or friends and that gives the impression you are angry and irritated when often it’s just because your homework is increasing your stress.

Also, a study by scholar Denise Pope at Stanford shows that out of 4,300 students at high-performance schools, 60% stated that their homework was their primary source of stress.

Movement is more important

I believe that homework eliminates time when you could be exercising, playing sports, carrying out hobbies, reading etc. So when your friends are playing outside or something exciting or important is happening you can’t go out because you’re stuck inside doing your homework. 

Homework messes up your sleep cycles and it causes you to be more tired. After school when you’re tired from working you still have to do your homework, so you don’t deliver your full concentration and that makes your performance not as acceptable as it should be. This can cause your grade to go down and so that defeats the whole point of education to become better and smarter. 

A study from teenink.com shows that students perform best in school when they receive 10–12 hours of sleep each night, while only 15% of teenagers in America reported themselves sleeping eight hours or more on school nights, according to the national sleep foundation of America. Sleep disruption is very bad for our health.

Teacher trust

If you’re completely booked up for the day doing sports or other activities you have no time to do your homework. Your teachers start to trust you less and less and this develops a bad view of you when it’s not entirely your fault. 

It’s also repetitive so you’re doing the same work at school and there’s no effectiveness, it’s not going in. So all that homework becomes a waste because you have already completed it at school. You can also easily get distracted.

Homework takes away revision time for tests and that can affect the test scores. That develops a bad reputation for the student and for the school. The parents then assume that the teaching at the school is bad and they might move school. So the kid might lose friends and over time the school becomes less liked and popular.

All because there is too much homework. 

Bad for the mood

If you don’t sleep enough it can cause mood swings which can affect students’ performance and relationships. To think we can stop all of this by just banning homework makes me wonder why schools still give out homework at all.

People who believe that homework should not be banned have reasonable points and arguments. They believe that doing homework at home can be better for the students and they would receive higher results. 

They also think the parents of the students will have an idea of what type of work they are doing in the classroom, at what scale the student is doing their work and how the student is doing that work. There is absolutely no reason why parents shouldn’t know what the student’s work is like. 

Some people believe that homework boosts interaction between a student and his or her teacher. Homework might develop their presentation skills. They believe that homework is “a remedy against weaknesses”. These can all be done at school. They believe it teaches the students responsibility because they have to make sure that they do their work and not lose it or destroy it. 

They think the students learn much more new information as well as in school. So people think it teaches the students important life skills. They also think it keeps the students busy and entertained. I would argue that these should all be the responsibility of parents, not school.

A shift in the debate

The Green Party in Ireland has promised to explore the banning of homework for primary school children. They also vow to review primary and secondary schools curriculum “to meet the needs of the 21st century”. Catherine Martin, deputy leader of the Green Party, said that “the phasing out of homework is something that definitely should be explored”. 

“This isn’t new, this has been on our policy for the past several years. And I think we really need to have a conversation on how best to develop the creative juices of our children, or really change how we do homework, homework could be, ‘go home and draw a picture of something that means a lot to you’,” she said.

homework banned in northern ireland

“They’re so young, especially up to the age of seven or eight, it’s a conversation that we need to have”. 

She used the example of Loreto Primary School in Rathfarnham, Dublin, which is currently trialling a “no-homework” programme for all classes except sixth. Ms Martin said that they had found the pilot scheme “amazing” and children were spending a lot more time with their families as a result. 

Mental health considerations

Psychotherapist Mary McHugh believes that we are reducing children’s natural “curious, imaginative and creative” tendencies by “pressuring them to conform”. 

“Our children from the age of three, are being trained to sit still and from five upwards, it’s expected that this is the norm.” McHugh also says that “stress is showing up at an alarming scale and we’re still applying more pressure academically younger and younger”. 

Let’s look at Finland. In Finland, there is no homework in all schools. Finland agrees that there should be no homework because it increases stress, it wastes time etc. Finnish students regularly top the charts on global education metric systems.

Some 93% of Finnish students graduate from secondary school compared to 75% in the USA and 78% in Canada. About two in every three students in Finland go to college which is the highest rate in Europe. The students’ test scores dominate everyone else.  These are the scores for the PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) 2006.  There are other reasons why Finland’s education system is so good but no homework is definitely an important one. 

Homework increases stress levels among students. It replaces time for hobbies and sports. It messes up your sleep. It can’t always be done and that causes trouble. It’s repetitive. You can develop health problems from lack of sleep.

It takes away time for studying and also when you don’t get enough sleep you can get mood swings and that can affect performance and relationships. There are reasonable arguments for why people who believe that homework shouldn’t be banned are wrong.

We have seen that the Green Party also thinks that homework should be banned and that some schools have already trialled it. We have looked at Finland banning homework and we have seen the impact it has made compared to other countries. This is why I think homework should be banned, not just in my school but in all schools. 

Misha McEnaney is a fifth class student at St Mary’s College, Rathmines, Dublin.

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homework banned in northern ireland

President of Ireland calls for ban on school homework - should all forms of school work stay in school?

He has said that it would make time for young people to engage in more creative pursuits.

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The Nolan Show — 24/01/2023

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What can be done about Post Office scandal convictions?

  • Published 2 days ago
  • Post Office Inquiry

Sub postmasters celebrate the quashing of their convictions

It's the biggest miscarriage of justice ever - and the government is under pressure to end it.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongly convicted and have been waiting years to clear their name.

There's also the question of compensation. Many sub-postmasters paid out thousands of pounds of their own money for shortfalls that were caused by the faulty Horizon software.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk says he wants a speedy solution to the Post Office scandal, but each solution has drawbacks - and it may take longer to solve than people would like.

Option one: A one-off law exonerating all

The promotional image of all the actors in ITV's drama about the Post Office scandal

The courts and the decisions of judges are constitutionally independent of politicians and Parliament.

That "separation of powers" makes this option difficult to do - but we know that Alex Chalk is considering whether a bill could be made to work without compromising the sensitive constitutional balance.

In a letter to the Times on Tuesday, Sir Robert Buckland, one of Mr Chalk's predecessors, argued that the convictions are so exceptional they require "an exceptional solution".

All of the miscarriages relate to the same simple allegation that the Post Office hid the truth about the Horizon system's flaws - and therefore a one-off Act of Parliament to quash all of the convictions could be justified.

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More on the Post Office scandal

  • Follow live: Latest updates

Why were hundreds of Post Office workers prosecuted?

  • How Post Office drama shone light on scandal
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What's wrong with that?

It's got cross-party support but ministers have a legal duty to protect the independence of judges from political meddling.

Any bill quashing convictions, no matter how noble its aims, could fall foul of that duty. And it risks paving the way for future politicians to do it again - and perhaps next time for their pals.

"If you use Parliament in this way, it is in a sense a parliamentary interference in the judicial process of our country," says Dominic Grieve KC, the former Attorney General.

"It could be done. But it's a shortcut."

Lord Thomas, the former Lord Chief Justice, told the BBC that there would be another problem with one-size-fits-all legislation.

"One of the difficulties with pursuing the course suggested of legislation is... there must be a real chance you would be freeing people who had committed a crime [unrelated to the Horizon system]," he said. "If you are to set up a system by legislation [to quash convictions], it's unprecedented."

Option two: The royal pardon

If that sounds like a plan plucked from a dusty shelf marked "Middle Ages", you're not far wrong.

Over the centuries an appeal to the monarch for clemency was the last chance of the condemned as they faced the gallows.

The power still exists today and is reserved for truly exceptional cases that can't be easily returned to court.

David Cameron's government issued a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 to Alan Turing, the World War Two codebreaker.

So the government could, at a stroke of a pen, "pardon" hundreds of convicted sub-postmasters.

It's little more than a symbolic act: It does not quash the criminal conviction. Only the Court of Appeal can do that.

In 1993, the then Home Secretary Michael (now Lord) Howard posthumously "pardoned" Derek Bentley, who had been hanged in 1953. He said the execution had been wrong.

It took five more years for the Court of Appeal to separately rule the teenager should never have been convicted of murder in the first place.

So while a pardon is recognition by the state that there has been an injustice, it does not wash away the stain of criminality. And that's why MPs supporting post office campaigners say many of the scandal's victims would not be happy with that solution.

Option Three: Speed up existing appeals

Parmod Kalia

The Criminal Cases Review Commission sent 42 Post Office cases to judges after an earlier ruling had finally shown the Horizon system was flawed. The Court of Appeal exonerated 39 people in one go.

Professor Graham Zellick, the CCRC's former chair, says this is the solution.

"Given the necessary resources, the CCRC could do this job very quickly, and the Court of Appeal could respond with equal expedition," he told the BBC.

"[The cases] have a common feature, and it isn't very difficult to identify what that common feature is. It is that the prosecution case depended largely, if not exclusively, on evidence obtained from the computer system.

"Once you identify that, the conviction is clearly, manifestly, unsafe, and has to be quashed. And that's why the Court of Appeal can deal with these cases very quickly once they're brought before them."

Of the 157 Post Office cases the CCRC has looked at, it has rejected 50 applicants. The CCRC applies a controversial and strict legal test which essentially tries to guess what the Court of Appeal will rule - and so its critics say it too often rejects pleas for help.

Another problem is the Post Office itself. Many victims want it removed from the appeals process.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has the power to take over the cases in England and Wales - but that could mean months of more work as its lawyers read into hundreds of cases.

However, a top CPS team could select a small basket of cases for the Court of Appeal's judges to consider so they could set clear rules for how to deal with all the others more quickly.

Lord Thomas told the BBC he did not understand why it had taken so long for cases to come back before judges - but they would be entirely capable of handling all of the cases, if everyone worked together.

"We've got a system of independent judges whose duty it is to ensure justice is done and speedily," he said.

What about Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Deirdre Connolly

Scotland has its own criminal law system. The Post Office did not prosecute cases there as it had no power to do so. It handed its evidence over to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service - which then charged and prosecuted the suspects.

Similarly, in Northern Ireland, the police investigated and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) pressed charges.

In 2020 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) wrote to to 73 potential victims . So far, only 16 people have come forward and only two convictions have been finally overturned.

So while the CPS could be presented as an "independent arbiter" in England and Wales, there could be a real confidence issue in Scotland and Northern Ireland if the victims of the scandal are being asked to trust some of the same people who they blame for destroying their lives in the first place.

What about compensation?

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Alan Bates was one of the main claimants who brought a case against the Post Office and says victims should be compensated quickly as "people need to get on with their lives".

Some sub-postmasters were never prosecuted - they can claim compensation covering the money they were forced to pay the Post Office when Horizon's errors led to accusations they had lost thousands of pounds. Many of their cases are unresolved.

Some of that group sued the Post Office - and their damages pay-outs are being dealt with separately.

It more complicated for people who were convicted of a crime. Quashing their conviction is the key to unlocking an offer of £600,000 no-questions-asked compensation - and that's why time is of the essence.

Critics of the UK's miscarriages procedures say the entire system is deeply flawed, making it very difficult for any victim of a wrongful conviction to be truly compensated.

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer - Panorama - The Post Office Scandal

This Panorama special tells the story of those whose lives were utterly devastated, reveals the damning evidence that was kept from them and investigates how and why the Post Office, a multinational tech company and the government covered up the truth for so long. (UK only)

Related Topics

  • Post Office Ltd

More on this story

  • Published 9 hours ago

Subpostmasters celebrate the quashing of their convictions

Ex-Post Office boss to hand back CBE

Paula Vennells

Irish Independent

Soldiers banned from ordering takeaways to Northern Ireland army barracks after dissident republican threat

S oldiers stationed at a British Army barracks in the North have been banned from getting fast-food deliveries to the compound amid a dissident republican threat, it is understood.

A message was circulated among the hundreds of squaddies at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, Co Antrim, that “with immediate effect, all takeaways to camp are now banned".

“They are not to get food dropped off at the camp gates as there has been a threat made,” declared the order.

It will be 15 years ago on March 7 that Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were gunned down by two masked Real IRA gunmen outside Massereene Barracks in Antrim.

The Royal Engineers were only hours from flying to Afghanistan and had gone to collect pizzas from a delivery man at the entrance to their barracks when they were shot.

The soldiers were the first to be murdered in Northern Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in south Armagh in 1997.

Prominent republican Colin Duffy was found not guilty of the murders.

Magherafelt man Brian Shivers was initially convicted but later had the verdict quashed on appeal.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

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