Homework, especially for primary age pupils, has become the subject of an increasingly ferocious debate. Despite government guidelines that primary school pupils should do at least 30 minutes of homework a day, some unions and academics doubt its efficacy, and protest that the home lives of pupils are becoming increasingly ‘schoolified’, robbing children of free time to play. One headline-grabbing best-seller, The Homework Myth, argues that frustrated children are made weepy, anxious and stressed by the demands put on them after a long day at school.
Politicians justify homework for primary school children on the basis on evidence suggesting that what happens in the home is of vital importance to education. In the new ‘Children’s Plan’, ‘family learning’ is presented as pivotal to academic achievement, and schools have been tasked with eliminating ‘barriers to learning’ within the home. While some parents relish being surrounded by worksheets in numeracy, literacy and spelling, others prefer to spend time with their children doing other things: at parents’ evenings, those mums and dads can expect a ticking off from Miss Broom for not reading the right books for the right amount of time with their kids at home. Even those rebellious primaries that have abandoned formal homework have replaced it with ‘fun’, but teacher-directed, ‘activities that children can do with their parents’, such as making models, trips to museums or cookery.
How important is homework for primary age students, and what form should it take? Should parents take more responsibility for their children’s education, or are they being blamed for deficiencies in schooling? Is the government’s enthusiasm for homework is as much about disciplining parents as pupils.
head of social science and deputy head, sixth form, Queens' School, Bushey; IoI Education Forum; founder, Fans for Freedom
| Susan Hallam
professor, Department of Psychology and Special Educational Needs; Dean, Faculty of Policy and Society, Institute of Education, University of London; treasurer, British Educational Research Association; co-author Improving behaviour and attendance at school.
managing and acting deputy editor, Prospect magazine
lecturer and researcher in media, film and communication studies; IoI Education Forum
Homework can cause family friction, particularly when middle class parents pressure their children to succeed, according to a report published today by London University's Institute of Education.Donald MacLeod, The Guardian, 12 February 2008
Once upon a time, homework was for schoolchildren – now parents spend up to seven hours a week helping with their kids’ study, cookery and craftwork. Is this right?Leah Hardy, The Times, 27 October 2007
Who would dare to challenge the consensus that parental involvement in schools is a good thing? Parents as school sponsors, parents as co-educators, parents as "drivers for change" or as the recipients of contracts, orders and classes are now unassailable concepts in the education landscape.Fiona Millar, The Guardian, 31 October 2006
Expanding the role of parents in education has become a key policy goal of recent governments. In fact, a profound change is taking place in the relationships between families, pupils and schools.Kevin Rooney, The Battle for Ideas, 1 October 2006
The Impact of Parental Involvement, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment: A Literature Review.Professor Charles Desforges, department for education and skills, June 2003
Government guidance on the setting of homework including references to parental engagement.The Standards Site, department for children, schools and families
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