For generations, homework has been an accepted part of school-life. However, over recent years, there has been a growing tendancy for members of the public to question what were previously established practices within society. Homework is one of the areas that has been challenged.
Many parents think that the regular setting of homework is an indicator for high academic attainment and there is therefore an expectation on their part, resulting in a pressure upon the school for the teachers to set homework. Unfortunately this expectation does not take into account the huge changes that society has undertaken in the last twenty years and in particular the constraints on time that many families face organising out of school activities for their children.
When a homework is set that is manageable and meaningful for the child, and set within a timeframe that gives an element of flexibility, there is rarely a problem. However, when it is obvious that a homework task has been badly designed, or the child does not have the capacity to successfully complete the work, or completion of the task will mean sacrificing another out of school activity for a member of the family - understandable problems arise.
Many schools attempt to manage the setting of homework through a homework timetable so that pupils and their teachers know in advance when work will be set. However, this can set an expectation amongst parents that work will be set as per the timetable which can lead to situations where teachers, who for good reason have not reached the point in their lesson where children fully understand the content, set tasks that they cannot complete or devise meaningless tasks just to meet the expectation.
Problems have also occurred where homework has been set during school holidays. As we now strongly discourage parents from taking their children out of school for family holidays, is this a fair practice?
Homework also generates work that has to be assessed and therefore increases the amount of time teachers have to spend on assessment. The time that teachers expend on marking meaningless homework could be more productively spent on their pupils' learning.
Homework is an area that demands careful thought before it is implemented as a school policy.
Parents now have radically different attitudes towards the setting of homework. Wheresas some see it as being an essential element for their child's academic progress, others see it as a waste of time, especially if it does not improve or consolidate the child's learning, causes anxiety because the child is not able to complete the task, or the timeframe given for completion stops other established family commitments.
An inflexible attitude towards homework completion fails to recognise that children also learn from other experiences and activites out of school at various clubs and societies.
Some parents have been criticised for using homework as a means of occupying their children's time, rather than interacting with them themselves.
There is still no hard evidence that the setting of regular homework has a major impact on pupil attainment.
Because homework has been an established part of school life for generations, it is one of those areas that often receives little thought.
Parents should make themselves aware of the school's homework policy and if they have issues about it, these should be discussed with the head teacher or one of the school governors - perhaps a parent governor.
It is always a good idea to make a note of what you see as the problem before you meet, to be familiar with what you see as the remedy, and why you think it would benefit learning outcomes for children.
We would strongly recommmend that parents read all of the pages within the Homework section of this website to more fully equip themselves for these discussions.
Greater detail of our recommendations to schools on this subject will be available on www.schoolsandparents.co.uk and this may more fully inform you of the alternatives.