One of Britain’s most prestigious schools is considering banning homework to combat depression among its students.
Cheltenham Ladies’ College is set to consider dropping homework – known at the school as “prep” – in response to an “anxiety epidemic” among teenagers in the UK. Students at the £11,000-a-year school will also attend weekly meditation classes from September.
Eve Jardine-Young, principal of the 162-year-old school, told The Times that teachers will also be trained in spotting signs of depression and anxiety.
“We will have to look at how we are doing things. Will we even be doing prep?
“What we’ve been reflecting on a lot in the last few years are the big national trends and international trends in the worsening states of adolescent mental health.
“We’ve created this epidemic of anxiety for ourselves as a society, and if our obligation as educators is to try to the best of our ability to set young people up as best we can for whatever the future may hold, then to ignore this whole area or to trivialise it is really irresponsible.”
Ms Jardine-Young said she was concerned by what she saw as a crisis of stress and unhappiness among teenagers. The average age at which depression is first diagnosed has fallen from 29 in the 1960s to 15 and a half in recent years, she added.
However, head teachers from other independent schools disagreed with the idea.
Speaking to Sky News, Sir Antony Seldon, master of Wellington College in Berkshire, said: “We shouldn’t be shielding girls or boys from anxiety and stress.
“Life is stressful. Adult life is stressful, so unless we teach them to cope with that we’re not going to prepare them to cope in the adult world.
“That’s what schools are about – helping children learn to become adults, to learn to take responsibility themselves, rather than pampering young people.”