In 1998 the Labour government introduced guidelines about how much homework should be set for pupils of different ages. These were in total:
Primary schools: 60 minutes per week for 5 – 7 year olds, rising to 30 minutes per night for 7 – 11 year olds.
Secondary schools 45 to 90 minutes per night for 11 – 14 year olds, rising to 90 to 150 minutes per night for 14 – 16 year olds.
However, in March 2012, the Coalition government scrapped these guidelines, giving schools the authority to set their own rules.
In October 2012, French President Francois Hollande declared an end to homework in primary schools.
This suggests that government ministers are far from convinced that homework is a necessary part of learning.
Give positive messages
As soon as your child starts school, show an interest in what they are doing. This includes talking to them about what they've done at school during the day and making sure that they have somewhere at home where they can do their homework without distraction. In some households where space is limited this might be difficult, but you send a very important message to your child about the importance of their education if you sit together around a table with no distractions whilst homework is being done.
If this is not possible in your home, talk to the school. Most schools now provide some form of free Homework Club where children can do their homeowrk after school before going home.
Use the skills you already have to support your child's learning in the home.
Read our page on supporting home study for more detail on this.
Homework is not just an opportunity to build on, or prepare for, work done in the classroom - it also provides an opportunity to develop study skills and positive attitudes towards work that are necessary for pupils if they are to achieve their best. These skills are particularly important when taking external examinations and many teenagers struggle to apply the self-discipline needed to revise successfully if they have not built these skills from an early age.
Parents should be prepared to help support the development of these skills and attitudes in their children from an early age, even before they start going to school, by such simple ways as talking together, looking at books together, telling stories to each other, or reading to them. When they start school there will be opportunities to listen to them read, or help them with other work they bring home.
Within British schools, the learning of new information generally takes place in the classroom, and homework should reflect this. So your child should only be given homework they are able to do without help from you. It should never rely on you teaching your child in order for them to complete the homework. If your child has problems understanding the homework, talk to their teacher and explain the problem. It is the teacher's job to ensure that all children are given homework tasks that they are capable of completing.
Homework should not be about 'finishing off' work started in class. For understandable reasons this encourages some children to rush their classwork! It also means that children who are struggling to understand the work in class are faced with the same experience at home.
Support your children as much as possible with homework tasks by encouraging them to do the work sensibly and stressing the importance of doing their best. If there is nowhere in the home where they can do their homework without distraction, ask the school about access to Homework Clubs. Most schools are only too pleased to supervise children after school hours so that they can complete their homework.