There has been debate surrounding homework in primary and secondary schools, especially after a primary school in Fort William and a secondary school in Essex banned homework and opted to let students read books and magazines during the time they would have used to do their homework. This decision understandably caused a division in opinions, with some people supporting it and others opposing it.
Is homework necessary, especially in the lower years?
Homework is necessary in schools, but it should be given in moderation. Many schools give homework to students to gauge how much they have learnt in a particular class, and how much they have retained, without officially testing them in an exam. I find this important as teachers can then know the weak areas of their students and help them improve on them.
Let us first try to understand where the parents and teachers who supported banning of homework come from. A parent of a pupil of Fort William’s Inverlochy Primary School said that his daughter was often up past her bedtime to finish her homework. He said that she had clubs and other after-school activities, important for her development, and often came home tired, but still had to stay up for her homework. She often did not get the recommended eight hours of school. He, therefore, together with other parents of a similar opinion, decided to vote against homework.
Alfie Kohn, in the book The Homework Myth, argues that no study has found any correlation between homework and achievements in academics. He further argues that “homework is all pain no gain,” suggesting that it may result in a diminished interest in learning. Nancy Kalish, in her Washington Post, supports Kohn’s statements by writing that very few teachers are trained in homework, hence they do not have the skill to give homework that is not too much, but just enough, for the student.
I, however, believe that homework, given in a proper amount and with enough time to tackle it, is good for a student’s academic development and time management skills.
How much homework is enough?
Schools should ideally give homework on weekends and holidays when students have enough time to work on their homework, work on their co-curricular activities and have enough time left for family and rest. The best homework is one that is quality over quantity. Homework that is reasonable enough for a student to do it on their own without the parents’ help, not one that is given without considering the time the student has to complete it, and their level of education.
If homework is given on weekends or holidays, teachers get enough time to prepare quality classwork and homework that best reflects their students’ abilities. They also get enough time to plan for their lessons and mark any classwork. Homework is almost always made up of uncompleted lessons, and if teachers are given enough time, they could adequately cover the curriculum instead of spending much time marking homework at the expense of regular classwork.
If given during weekdays (twice a week would be best), the homework should not exceed about ten minutes per year, i.e. a student in Year Two should not have homework that exceeds twenty minutes, and so on. This gives the student enough time to work on their homework and still spend some time with their family. Parents mostly complain about not having enough time with their tired children, as the children spend hours doing their homework. If this rule were to be enforced, they would have enough time to catch up with their children every night.
Less homework also gives students a sense of responsibility, as they are now more in charge of their academics. They have to find time to read on their own, and not depend on their teachers for that. Opponents of homework claim that it does not help much since the students do what their teacher has told them to without reading anything else on their own. Some may even copy just to finish their homework on time. However, if the quantity is reduced, students will have to plan how to read on their own.
While homework is considered effective in adding to the knowledge of students, too much of it may result in tired and overworked students who have no time for anything else, including family. In giving homework, it is best to consider the students’ level of education (which year they are in) so that they can be given homework that is just enough for them, not too much or too little. Homework for children in nursery schools should not be given at all, as they are still too young. For other years, the ten-minute rule, twice a week, and some homework on weekends, would be best in ensuring students study and also engage in other activities.
Bill Hayton, who has two children at the school, has started a Facebook group for concerned parents who want to co-ordinate their opposition to the no homework policy.
“They have replaced homework with random tasks like visit an art gallery. So everyone thought it is obviously a joke and optional,” said Mr Hayton, a 49-year-old writer and journalist.
“They have this idea that they will create a generation of self motivated people, but they might also create a generation of children who flunk their GCSEs. People are concerned about seeing their own children slacking and not getting help from the school.”
Tony Cheeld, a director commercial building consultancy who has two children at the school, said the no homework policy is a “disaster” and he was “bemused” when it was introduced.
Mr Cheeld, who has complained to the headteacher, the chair of the board of Governors and Ofsted about the school’s stance on homework, said that a growing number of parents are becoming exasperated with it.