Homework – Is It Really Beneficial?

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.

xxx

 

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32 Comments

  1. September 7, 2016 / 8:12 am

    I also find it unbelievable that children this young are given formal homework. Like you, I don’t remember receiving any on a daily basis back in primary school – sure, there were occasional projects or extra work we were asked to do, and my parents would always ask for me to have something to do over the holidays (thanks guys…) but nothing like this. I achieved the highest possible marks in all formal examinations later in life so the lack of early homework clearly didn’t hurt. I can only think that it comes back to a SATS-type issue – the pressing need for the government to PROVE it is “good at education” even at the expense of small people’s well rings. It’s sad.

  2. September 7, 2016 / 4:50 pm

    You’re perspective is fresh and incredibly valid. I am a teacher in the fourth grade and I give my students homework. In my opinion (not my school district’s opinion) homework is only important if it is being used. It is incredibly difficult to evaluate since each student has a variety of support when they are at home. With distractions, after school activities, work space, access to tools of learning, parent engagement, and time on task, evaluating homework is challenging. Teachers need to figure out what they want to learn from homework. Is it going to be busy work, extensions, reinforcement of skills, or discovery at home?
    At the end of the day, students should be learning. If homework is necessary, we should be questioning how homework assists in the learning process.

  3. September 10, 2016 / 7:54 am

    I had one kid that had plenty of regular homework and one that had the most pitiful amount that he was allowed to do over 2 weeks. It was a joke. I made him do it all in one night because once he was at high school he wouldn’t know what hit him. Guess what, once he was at high school he didn’t know what hit him. He didn’t know you couldn’t allow one night for an asssignment, or hand in a couple of paragraphs for an essay. He’s all good now but I still have to get on his case and teach him how to study and all this stuff that the other one learnt in primary school. So I’m a big fan of homework and projects in primary as all the new things in high school can be overwhelming. You don’t want the homework to also overwhelm you…#FortheloveofBLOG
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  4. September 10, 2016 / 8:10 am

    Great well-balanced article. I remember having weekly spellings to learn at home and was expected to learn my tables but I don’t remember sit-down homework. I’m afraid I’m a fan of allowing children free time to play. I think you hit the nail on the head with “many countries don’t even start school until the age of six or seven years old and have far better academic results than Britain.” Too much testing, too much stress, does not make for a great learning environment at any age but especially not for young children.
    #FortheloveofBLOG
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  5. September 10, 2016 / 8:15 am

    I really do think that for primary aged children it is unnecessary. Like you mentioned in your post my son is in breakfast club at 8 and we get home at around half five. He is beyond caring about homework by the time we get home – as am I to be honest. So we will make our best efforts to do it , but I won’t fight him about it , it’s an extra stress I can live without . #fortheloveofblog

  6. September 10, 2016 / 9:10 am

    I think there are pros and cons to homework but I do agree that homework at such a young age isn’t really beneficial. We have spelling and reading but usually does not take up more than 15 minutes which I feel is appropriate for his age. I like the idea of my child getting used to doing a little bit at home, just to get used to the routine of homework. Thanks for hosting #fortheloveofBlog
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  7. September 10, 2016 / 9:51 am

    I think homework should not be a thing in primary school. You’re right, some European countries put us to shame and they have vastly more ‘relaxed’ systems. I worry about my boys, my eldest starts next year and it breaks my heart to think his experience will be all about meeting targets and long days, not having fun and learning at his own pace. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  8. September 10, 2016 / 11:15 am

    I think you are right that they are young for homework. I’m kind of a nerd and love homework. But my son started reception last week and he is super tired, and finding just the new school environment challenging. We haven’t been given any homework yet – and if we do we will obvs do it as that’s the rule like you say. But I wonder what effect it will have. My son may hate it, but perhaps it will motivate him, as he loves books and he’s competitive. So maybe it will be good. The jury’s out. #fortheloveofblog
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  9. September 10, 2016 / 2:46 pm

    A really good post. I have ranted about homework for primary school children too – it’s totally unnecessary. Reading, spelling and times tables are all good to reinforce at home. Nothing else is required. Children will often produce their own work at home that they want to show their teachers: a model or a drawing. Giving primary school children homework tasks adds nothing to their education, just more stress at home.
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  10. September 10, 2016 / 3:47 pm

    My oldest is also just starting year six and I feel the same way you do about homework and the stress of getting it done! She has got a lot better over the past year and we don’t fall out about it quite so much anymore. I honestly fail to see why they need so much homework and have actually been in a staff room (I am a gymnastics coach and sometimes work in schools) where teachers were trying to think of something to give the kids for homework because they HAD to set something, it wasn’t an option to let them have a week off according to school rules! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  11. September 10, 2016 / 5:29 pm

    I haven’t got to the homework stage yet but it does sound like it is all a bit much for young children who are probably still used to nursery. I don’t think we should overwork our children, because the are children after all. It’s important that they learn but they also need to live and have fun. #fortheloveofblog

  12. September 10, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    I totally agree with you and I’m a trained Secondary school teacher. I really don’t think children should enter formal education until they are 7 and should learn through play until then. Finland has a world renowned education system, much better than the UK and this happens there. We need to stop ruining our children with too much formal education and give them a chance to be children. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  13. September 10, 2016 / 7:18 pm

    A really interesting post Fi, like you I never has homework in primary school I don’t think, maybe we had to make something and bring it in but that was about it. I think that homework has a place in secondary school but definitely not primary school, it all feels a bit much. Claire x #fortheloveofBLOG
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  14. September 10, 2016 / 8:00 pm

    I love this, it is something I have thought about a lot over the years. I think homework for primary school aged children is completely unnecessary. They are still so young and having been at school all day, the last thing that they, or me, needs is more work!! My eldest is at high school and I think it is good to get them into doing homework and meeting deadlines. When they start their GCSEs there is course work to complete and then college work in the future, it’s important to prepare them for that. But primary school age, not at all!!! #fortheloveofBLOG

  15. September 10, 2016 / 8:42 pm

    No I don’t believe it is beneficial. Primary school kids are too young for hoomework. Surely they do enough at achool? I never had any homework at primary school. xx
    #fortheloveofBLOG
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  16. September 10, 2016 / 9:32 pm

    I’m a former teacher and Headteacher and I’m passionately against homework for primary children. When I was the Head I implemented a homework policy which was basically 10 minutes of reading a night (which I know is beneficial!) and learning times tables (again, I know this can make a difference) and that was it – all the way through Primary. I just think kids should have time to be kids, have time to be with their families and doing things we don’t have time for in schools – exploring the world, spending time with their families, enjoying learning to play with siblings – invaluable childhood times! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  17. September 10, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    I don’t think kids so young should be given homework! They’re learning all the time as it is;sharing, manners, simple day to day things like eating at the table, rules around the house etc. There’s plenty of time for homework in high school, for now I think they should let kids just be kids xx #fortheloveofBLOG

  18. September 10, 2016 / 10:30 pm

    I am a few *coughs* years older than you, but no we didn’t have much homework either. I always remember being given words to learn in a travel sweets tin, plus general reading, but very rarely actual projects. I had a fab time at school. Yes, going to secondary was a bit of a shock to the system, but you soon adjust. Totally agree that after school should be relax time. X #fortheloveofBLOG
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  19. September 11, 2016 / 7:02 am

    I’m also in my early thirties and I don’t recall having lots of structured homework everyday. We definitely had some – spellings and a bit of project work – but I don’t have memories of it taking up my evenings. I don’t think a little bit which complements class work is a bad thing for the older year groups. But I don’t think it needs to start from age 5 and it doesn’t need to ever be in the volumes that you get a secondary school. Any homework shouls be just enough to teach children a bit of structure and independent learning. But it needs to stay fun and not drain them. Teachers also need to assume some children won’t get home support so not assume it will have been done by all kids. You cut punish an 8 year old for not doing their homework if they don’t have the family support… Sounds like it has definitely become about box ticking and performance measures in too many places.

    #fortheloveofBLOG
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  20. September 11, 2016 / 8:00 am

    I am 25 and I didn’t start getting homework until my last year of Primary. Since my two are not yet at school age, it’s hard to have an opinion on the amount of work they may bring home when the time comes. In a previous life Hubs taught Secondary age children – usually from under-privileged backgrounds. For this reason I find it easy to understand the other side of matters, especially why children get assigned certain amounts of homework in the first place. I do however believe that time flies far too quickly, and children should be children for as long as possible – without the added pressures of later life.
    #fortheloveofBLOG
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  21. September 11, 2016 / 10:28 am

    Such a honest post. Funny thing is that I loved doing homework when I was younger, but I was and still am a real geek! It must be tough on kids when they’re so tired from teh school day and then they need to use their brains at home! Hmmm lots to think about for when Big Munch starts school next year… #fortheLOVEofBLOG
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  22. September 11, 2016 / 11:28 am

    L hasn’t started school yet but I’m pretty certain I’ll feel the same as you in regards to homework. When they are so young are they really learning anything from it?
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  23. September 11, 2016 / 5:12 pm

    I think the biggest benefit to homework is in teaching responsibility. Kids are given a task that they need to find the time to finish without the formality of the classroom. I don’t see any benefit to it for very young children. Give them a break when they get home. #fortheloveofblog
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  24. September 11, 2016 / 8:20 pm

    I live in France and we get a tonne of homework – it’s the done thing here. But even back in the UK kids seem to be getting more and more. Yet I am reading more and more that there is no real evidence that homework is actually beneficial! Hmmmm….might have to start rebelling! #fortheloveofBlog

  25. September 11, 2016 / 8:23 pm

    I completely whole heartedly agree with you. At such a young age, children have been at school all day, they need time to rest and play. Kids are at school for so long as it is, there is plenty of time to fill it with homework when they are at an age to manage it. Reception is just far too young in my eyes. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  26. September 12, 2016 / 12:20 pm

    At that age kids should just be kids, you’re right. In Sweden school only starts when they’re 7, and they certainly don’t get homework. Yet they perform better than the UK in international studies.
    #fortheloveofblog

  27. September 12, 2016 / 8:43 pm

    I can’t imagine my little man having homework when he is so young!! I definitely think there is a time and a place and the first few years at school isn’t one of them #fortheloveofBLOG

  28. September 12, 2016 / 9:16 pm

    Recently there was a school teacher’s note home about homework doing the rounds and it basically said things like ‘please read with your child, eat with them, make sure the get outdoors, eat together as a family….’ etc etc and I think this is soooo much more important at primary school age then anything else – these things have scientific evidence behind them – homework doesn’t. As a secondary school teacher I have set days to set homework for classes designated by the school and do see the value of setting meaningful tasks but not just things for the sake of it! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  29. September 12, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    A few week’s ago there was a school teacher’s note home about homework doing the rounds and it basically said things like ‘please read with your child, eat with them, make sure the get outdoors, eat together as a family….’ etc etc and I think this is soooo much more important at primary school age then anything else – these things have scientific evidence behind them – homework doesn’t. As a secondary school teacher I have set days to set homework for classes designated by the school and do see the value of setting meaningful tasks but not just things for the sake of it! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  30. September 15, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    I am really dreading starting the whole homework thing next year, they are just so young. I totally agree that they need time to play, to use their imaginations, I think this over-education is actually to blame for the ‘stressed’ kids we have today. There is so much pressure to perform, I really don’t remember that at all. Hopefully, as with everything education related, this one will do a u-turn and we will be without homework again soon… Although I seriously doubt it. Most of my friends do their kids home works for them, does anyone else do this?! Would anyone admit to it?! #fortheloveofblog
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