For a whole host of reasons mentioned previously in this section, Homework should no longer be accepted as an undisputed and established part of school practice.
Where homework is part of carefully planned learning experiences, it rarely causes an issue. When it is an unplanned task - let alone the dreaded "finish this at home" experience, delivered more with a mind to filling a timetable expectation than improving learning - it can become a real issue.
The subject is further complicated by the fact that the skills that a child can gain through the completion of homework, equip learners for the revision and additional study that is generally needed to maximize performance in external examinations. What is needed is an approach that delivers these skills without also lumbering pupils with meaningless tasks. The solution some forward-thinking schools are coming up with is called 'Home Study'.
Home Study requires forward planning on behalf of the school, but the result ensures that pupils are allowed to develop skills and positive attitudes towards learning. It also ensures that teachers' time is spent more on learning than on the marking of unnecessary work.
Home Study is never given as a task to be completed that night. Learning requirements are worked out well in advance, often relating to work that will be developed more fully during the following term, and presented to pupils as a complete programme placing the emphasis on them to plan when and where the study will take place. The Home Study may relate to an area of work that may be studied the following term, or it may be a topic-based piece on an item of personal interest of public affairs. The important thing is there are no surprises and the pupil has to take responsibility and use their initiative to plan how and when the study will happen - skills that we wish all successful learners and employees to have.
Some schools have used Home Study to allow children a greater opportunity to practise and develop skills that are needed across all subjects, such as reading and processing information, and writing for different audiences.
The traditional approach where Homework is a daily expectation that hopefully adds to the learning experience, should be a thing of the past. No one benefits from that approach.
Badly planned schoolwork undertaken by pupils away from school can impact on other meaningful forms of learning such as that enjoyed through sports clubs and organised youth groups.
Home Study programmes provide each pupil with work that they have to undertake away from school over a period of several weeks, often to be presented during the following term.
1. allows pupils and their families to plan when school-based work can be done
2. gives them the responsiblity to organise their work alongside other interests
3. allows the development of positive attitudes to study
4. more closely meets real-life experience.
A carefully considered Home Study programme can be cross-curricular in nature and in some schools is monitored by personal tutors. We have visited schools where assignments chosen by individual pupils are presented as a talk to other class members and then discussed openly. In one school this was extended with great effect when the presentation was given during the annual parent/teacher meeting.
Parents should not feel embarrassed to approach their child's school to ask for clarification on Homework Policy.
Everything that can be achieved through a traditional approach can be improved upon through the introduction of a Home Study programme.
Thoughtfully constructed Home Study programmes can also include challenges to partake in charitable activity, events that benefit the wider community, or partcipation in group activity.
In the same way that the programmes of study issued by many primary schools to inform parents about what their children will be learning over the next school term allow parents to look for opportunities to support their child's learning in the home - so too Home Study encourages parents to assist their child's learning through conversation and discussion, the provision of reading material, visits, and targeted television viewing.
If pupils need help or further guidance from their teachers, Home Study provides the time and space for this to happen.