Homework bugs Blunkett

July 23, 1999

Academics have reacted angrily to accusations of "blatant elitism dressed up as well-intentioned liberalism" by education secretary David Blunkett in a speech to business leaders.

Speaking at the launch of the Confederation of British Industry report on employability, Mr Blunkett said: "Some researchers are so obsessed with 'critique' and out of touch with reality that they churn out findings that no one with the slightest common sense could take seriously."

He rounded on a research report by Peter Tymms and Steve Farrow from Durham University's School of Education that concluded that primary children who completed more than one homework exercise a week did less well than those set just one homework task a week.

Mr Blunkett said the report seemed to suggest that daily homework was bad for children.

Dr Tymms has countered: "I think it is an outrageous misrepresentation of our position. We have surveyed more than 20,000 pupils across a wide social range and regularly run programmes of this sort. We have better data on this than the government. Our findings are not isolated."

He added: "I think this research is something that Mr Blunkett should sit up and take notice of instead of rubbishing it. It may contradict his common sense, so maybe he should change his sense."

The CBI presented the education secretary with an eight-point employability plan developed with an eye on post-16 reform. The plan says that all under 25s be given one attempt at full-time education up to A-level standard or an equivalent. Anyone who fails should be given two further chances on a part time basis.

John Cridland, CBI director of human resources policy, said: "Skills and knowledge are now too important for us to call time on people's education and training while they are teenagers. Many young people could be in and out of work for the rest of their lives unless they get another bite at the cherry."

Recommendations include better career guidance and developing lifelong employability. The CBI applauded the proposed Individual Learning Accounts as they enabled people take more responsibility for themselves.

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