I wrote a while ago on Should homework be banned? and thought I would follow that up with some more thoughts about homework, and especially around the topic of how much homework should primary school children be expected to do each night?
Recently many people involved in education have argued that primary school children should be free to explore, experiment and enjoy learning without the pressures of homework after school.
So as we can continue to look at this area, what can we learn from other countries? In Finland, formal education does not start until children are seven and the country comes top of the international league tables for educational achievement. Children are encouraged to learn through play; to develop social skills; to gain confidence in their own ability to make things; to learn language through music and song – to do stuff they should be doing – acting their own age.
In England, by contrast, we expect children to start learning to read and write at five years of age. Government guidelines state that children between five and seven years old should receive 60 minutes of homework a week. Yet teachers and parents tsay that young children are exhausted after a day at school and need time to rest and play.
So is it all negative, or are there any benefits to homework? Dr. Susan Hallam, a researcher from the Institute of Education, found that homework only boosts achievement when done in moderate amounts. There is an optimal level, beyond which it produces no benefits at all. Dylan William, deputy director of the Institute of Education, argues that the most effective homework is that which asks pupils to prepare work for a forthcoming lesson. Requiring pupils to ‘finish off’ work not completed in the lesson has little effect, he believes, and yet that appears to be the predominant form of homework set.
The debate, I am sure will run and run. The current guidelines that state that, at age 16, pupils should be doing two and a half hours of homework a night. I think that is quite a lot, but what irritates me more, is that to actually do large portions of the work (especially coursework) you (or at least I and plenty of others I know) take way more than 2.5 hours per night in the guidelines to complete it.
The big issue for me, is that as I worked hard, doing the homework during my GCSEs how much of it has actually helped me in life, how much of it has made me into the person I am now, or was it just trying to tick boxes on a syallabus?
I think more support needs to be provided for young people in doing homework (quiet spaces, well resourced with books and internet facilities, and ‘teacher’ support to help pupils when they truly don’t understand the topic); and the homework needs to not just be ticking boxes but helping young people to become creative, rounded, confident and independent.
What do you think?