President of Ireland calls on schools to stop giving pupils homework

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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.

Children should be able to use their time at home “for other creative things”, Mr Higgens continued.

Reiterating his point, the 81-year-old president added: “I think as much as possible that [homework] should happen in the school and I think it’s more relaxed than it used to be.”

Mr Higgins was asked for his thoughts on homework by pupils at St Kevin’s National School in Littleton, during a broadcast celebrating the 20th anniversary of RTE’s children’s news show – viewers of which sent their questions in for the president.

Asked if he had a message for the children of Ireland, the president, who has been in office since 2011, said: “Stay curious about everything. Make sure you don’t miss the joy of getting information.

“And I think an important thing is friendship, and that nobody is left without friendship.”

Michael D Higgins speaks to children in County Tipperary for an RTE broadcast

Suggesting that children of Ireland place “great value” on friendship, Mr Higgins lamented that this makes it even more tragic when there is an “abuse of phones for bullying”.

Mr Higgins revealed that, having started school himself at the age of seven, his love for reading soon saw him decide that he wanted to be a teacher – and he attended teacher training as an adult before going on to spend 25 years in Ireland’s lower house of parliament Dail Eireann.

It is not the first time that Mr Higgins has offered his thoughts on children’s education. Last year, on his 80th birthday, Mr Higgins suggested that yoga should be taught in schools across Ireland.

Research suggests that Mr Higgins’ is far from alone in his views on homework, at least in the UK.

A 2018 survey of parents by British education regulator Ofsted found that more than a third did not think homework was helpful for primary school children.

Homework is a “huge cause of stress” for many families – and for children with special educational needs or disabilities it can be detrimental to their health, Ofsted was told.