Many teachers will be on the receiving end of a scowl from parents as their child drags a bin bag of exercise books, worksheets, art projects and sculptures towards them on the last day of school. It’s true that a child’s learning over the whole school year generates a lot of material and oftentimes this simply cannot be stored in the school.
So what can be done with the mountains of exercise books that accumulate during term time? In this article, we’ll look at some options.
Should Exercise Books Stay at School?
Some schools keep exercise books until the end of the following year in the provision of possible upcoming OFSTED inspections. While OFSTED does not explicitly require schools to retain exercise books from previous academic years, some teachers and education professionals deem it worth keeping them ‘just in case’. This could be as support in the case of criticism or if they are going after a particularly high rating, but wouldn’t specifically affect a rating in the normal process of an OFSTED inspection.
Another reason schools may choose to retain exercise books is simply for their own peace of mind so that evidence can be checked in the event of criticism from parents or other staff.
Keeping exercise books at school should not be a problem as long as there is adequate storage space for them. One reason many teachers send students home with their workbooks at the end of the year is to make space for next years supplies.
How Should Teachers Dispose of Exercise Books?
If you want to get rid of exercise books it’s important to get the ‘okay’ from the school and parents first. Check what the school protocol is with disposing of exercise books, they will inform you if they require any to be kept. The second thing to do is check with parents. You might want to circulate a letter or email explaining your decision and asking for feedback.
Most parents will likely be happy not to have to deal with the task of sorting and throwing out old work. Some parents may want to review the work themselves. If possible, you could make a list of those that want old exercise books and get rid of the rest.
The most common reason for parents wanting their childrens’ work is to select and keep a few treasures for the memory box. To make the task easier for the both of you arrange an activity in the last week of school for children to sort through their old work and select three or four ‘favourite’ items t bring home with them. You could turn this into a longer activity to fill some time at the end of the year by asking the children to write out how they created each of their favourite pieces and why they like them the most. Parents will thank you for doing the work for them and neither of you will be dealing with the unwanted bin bags of books.
What Should Parents do with Exercise Books?
Many teachers receive complaints or questions about what should be done with their child’s exercise books when handed back. If there’s no space for these to be archived at school the chances are parents have little space too.
Firstly it’s important to reassure parents whether they need to keep exercise books or not. Most of the time in primary school exercise books won’t need to be referred to the following year and so can be discarded. If there are students who struggle with certain topics it might be useful to advise parents to hang on to workbooks from those subjects for the sake of the child. This should reduce the volume of material that needs to be kept considerably.
Parents will spend a considerable amount of time going through the work their child has brought home so if there are certain subjects or projects you think are worth keeping perhaps you could task the children with sorting these in the last week of school to make the task easier.
Can Exercise Books be Recycled?
Yes, exercise books can be recycled with the normal paper recycling. Your school will likely have a paper recycling bin but the volume of exercise books being thrown away at the end of the school year could mean arranging a special collection. Make sure you know ahead of time where exercise books should be placed for waste collection.
Staples are recycled with paper so thankfully these don’t need to be removed but you should be cautious of other non-recyclable materials in the exercise book paper waste. Shiny or glittery wrapping paper is non-recyclable and should be removed from books before recycling. Similarly, check inside books by flipping through them for other non-paper materials. This might only apply to books from certain subjects like art and design.
Creative uses for Old School Exercise Books
If no one wants the exercise books you could have some fun getting creative with them. Personalised exercise books could be used for a display at the school, such as a showcase of all book covers showing the students names and subjects from previous years. You could also ask students to rip out pages they like to be used in a montage of what was learned in the school year.
You can even use the inner pages of exercise books to create new paper, ideal for art projects, or as an art project itself. The Spruce Crafts has an easy step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own paper unique from old shredded paper.