Zak’s home from his first day back at school and with him came the talk of this week’s homework assignment. He has just started his final year of Primary education and we are well underway with a routine of after-school homework by this stage in his school life. We know the drill; daily reading, weekly spellings / times tables and around three pieces of homework designed to support and underpin the learning that they have been doing in class.
Thinking back to my own education, I don’t recall being given any formal homework in Primary School. Reading, spellings and time tables were par for the course and I agree that these are an important fundamental to any child’s schooling. Formal, sit down homework? Not so much.
The reason that I don’t recall being given any formal homework is because we weren’t. If you suppose that I am within touching distance of my thirties, then you can probably work out that in 1998 when said formal homework was brought in by David Blunkett, I was just entering the senior school system. I consider myself to have had a very good education, for which I am most thankful. I worked hard (mostly) and achieved very good exam results. I’ve got a pretty decent job and have always made my own income. I’d consider myself to be a pretty educated person so a lack of formal homework in Primary school clearly didn’t do me any harm. Nor that of any of my friends or family members who also escaped it.
So what, I ask myself is the purpose of all this homework?
Watching the new reception class intake this week has been a visual reminder of just how young and tender a four, nearly five year old child is. Little more than a baby and in all honesty the same can be said right the way through the infant classes. 4, 5, 6, 7 even 8 and 9 is no age at all really is it? School can be a long day, it can include breakfast and after school clubs, it can be emotionally draining, sometimes exciting, sometimes stressful. Big emotions and situations to deal with at a very young age as well as important life lessons to be learned all independently of their parents or caregivers. So it’s no wonder that children are tired out when they break free of the school gates each day.
My son still wanted to have an afternoon nap when he started school. His day and many others started at 7:30 with breakfast club and went on until 17:30 in after school club. He would often fall asleep over his dinner, too tired to even remove his uniform or brush his teeth let alone have time to play, relax or unwind. Yet homework was expected to be slotted in somewhere. To what benefit?
I always think of children who go home to homes where they are maybe neglected or who perhaps are acting as a caregiver to a sick parent or sibling. I know this shouldn’t be happening but that doesn’t change the fact that it is. It is also a fact that some of those children will be too afraid to tell their teacher what their home lives are really like. What are they supposed to do? Where are they supposed to access a computer or the internet, which are frequent requirements of homework completion these days. Where do they find the time or peace to fill in their maths sheet? Who will help them when they haven’t the faintest idea how to answer a question? What if they can’t even find a pencil to use? For those kids, knowing that they have to hand in their homework the next day must be incredibly upsetting, embarrassing and stressful. If by some miracle they do manage do complete their homework, what benefit will they see from it?
I understand that the principle of homework is to encourage families to support and underpin lessons learned in the classroom. I also guarantee that it does not do that. Anyone with a school aged child will know, if you ask your child what they did at school today, the answer will almost always be “dunno.” Homework is then almost always completed under duress or bribery and forgotten about two seconds after the pencil case is closed. It really isn’t consolidating anything apart from a foul mood. That’s the reality.
When you think that many countries don’t even start school until the age of six or seven years old and have far better academic results than Britain, it does beg the question what on earth the point is of all this homework. I feel really strongly that there is too much emphasis on formal, academic education at too young an age in this country and that children start school far too early. That’s a subject for another time but it really does annoy me that they are being forced to bring it home as well. I wish that we could let them just play, relax and unwind in those few hours before they start the bedtime routine (presuming they have one). After all, there’s time enough for forced, formal academic education once they go to high school.
Having said all of that, I will still be supporting Zak to do his homework as I have always done because the rules are that homework has to be done and I don’t agree with teaching kids to defy authority. I guess I just wish it was a bit different and needed to have a little rant tonight.
What do you all think? Do you think homework is an important part of education, maybe I’ve got it all wrong? Love to hear your thoughts as always.