"Homework is a nightly curse in thousands of homes and a cause of nerve trouble, sleeplessness and family friction.”
Times Eduction Supplement 1929!
In all my years as a school leader, there is no doubt that I received more parental complaints and queries about homework than any other subject. So as a parent, you're not alone.
Those queries most frequently took the form of ‘Why wasn’t any homework set last night?’ But there are other, more pressing questions that parents need to ask, such as: Should it be set? When should it be set? How long should it take to complete? What should it consist of? Will it improve my child's learning? Is my child getting too much/too little homework?
Just to confuse us even further, educationalists aren’t even in agreement about whether we need homework or not. I could easily find two esteemed professors of education who could present highly valid arguments – for and against homework.
More recently the news media has reported on a turning of the tables, with schools berating parents for not supporting positive attitudes of schools towards homework, as in the case of a girl who was punished for failing to complete homework set for the Spring Term half-term even though she was away on holiday in Africa for the entire holiday.
Clearly what is needed is some clarity here, so within this section we will be looking at Homework from different angles and making suggestions about what we believe to be the best way forward for all concerned.
Homework is the name we give to tasks given to pupils by their teachers to be completed outside of usual lessons.
It has been an established part of education for over one hundred years.
There is no one agreed way of setting homework. Schools - and sometimes individual teachers - have different views on what 'Homework' should consist of and how often it should be given.
Parents often associate the setting of homework with high academic success.
Even researchers have different opinions about the effectiveness of homework. One thing they do agree on though is that it should not be set just for the sake of filling time, or to impress parents.
If your child is having a problem with homework, you obviously have to look into the matter more carefully - know exactly what the problem is.
Does your child understand what they have to do?
Do they know everything they need to know to complete the homework?
Is your child frustrated by homework that is too hard or too easy?
A good starting point is to look on the school's website where you should be able to find the School Policy on Homework. This should give you an indication of when and how much homework should be set. Most secondary schools will also publish a Homework Timetable so that children are not set too much homework on any one night. Your child may also have been issued with a Homework Diary where they can keep a record of what they have to do and when it has to be handed in. If your child's school does not issue these it may be an idea to buy one for your child.
Whatever the school policy is, teachers should be following it. If, after reading it you're still not happy, you should at least know if the problem stems from the policy or an individual teacher 'doing their own thing'. Be clear on what you see as the problem and approach either the teacher or the head /principal.