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The Dog Ate My Homework!

12 september 2014

The dog ate it…I left it on the bus….My mum and dad didn’t know how to do it!

Every teacher has heard an amazing range of highly creative excuses for homework not being completed, and every parent at some point has had to “nag” their child to get their homework done. This is because parents and children often have differing ideas on whether homework helps, hinders or even hurts. While most parents hold on to the hope and belief that homework (after ECAs, sports matches, piano practice, dance class and dinner) advances their children academically, most children would say that after a full day of active and challenging learning at school, they just want to have unstructured time to enjoy their hobbies and to play.

The homework debate has long been a topic of controversy in schools and around family dining tables with teachers, parents and children each having their own views on whether homework is helpful or harmful. On one hand there are those who strongly believe in the benefits and effectiveness of homework, and on the other hand there are those who would like schools to abolish homework altogether, and of course there are those who sit somewhere in the middle. The experts and educational research also disagree over the advantages and disadvantages of homework, with little or no evidence of a true connection between homework and academic gains in the primary school years.

The key arguments given in favour of homework are that:

  • It is an extension of classwork that allows students to achieve mastery of the content, concepts and skills learned during the school day.
  • It improves achievement in tests and assessments.
  • It teaches self-discipline, time management and research skills.
  • It promotes good study habits.
  • It lets parents see what their children are doing at school.

On the other hand, homework is viewed by some as doing more harm than good because:

  • It is often meaningless busywork which does not promote real learning.
  • It can be too burdensome and stressful for young children.
  • It can create negative parent-child interactions by putting the parent in the role of enforcer or ‘homework cop’.
  • Rather than creating a positive link between home and school, homework can create a negative experience of learning,
  • It robs children of much needed unstructured time, free play and family time,

There is no easy right or wrong to this debate and within BISS Puxi Primary we are having lots of discussions around the value and nature of homework for children of different ages and stages of schooling. Throughout this year we will be reviewing what we do, why we do it and what gives the best outcomes for the children.

We aim to strike a sensible balance in relation to homework. We do feel that small amounts of meaningful homework have a place but that tasks need to really engage the children and advance a spirit of learning, curiosity and inquiry. They need to extend student learning beyond the school environment, allowing children to apply their learning to real life contexts and situations. And essentially, they need to motivate and instill in children an intrinsic desire to learn. As students move through primary, we can also use balanced amounts of homework to help students develop valuable life skills such as taking personal responsibility, time-management, study habits, and perseverance to complete tasks.

We want to ensure that families are able to strike a positive balance between school and home life as we know that children greatly benefit from time spent on traditional childhood activities such as free play, quality social time with family and reading for pleasure.  We want to ensure that a child’s evenings and weekends allow time for getting lost in what they love doing, whether that is star gazing and puzzling out the constellations, playing tennis, thrashing their drum kit, or putting their nose in a book for long, lost hours — these are the passions that can shape a child’s personality, aspirations and dreams and we do need to allow time for them too!

If you are interested in the debate around homework, do feel free to come and speak with me and if there is enough parental interest, we will run a parent workshop to share ideas and thoughts on this subject. We won’t all agree but it would make for an interesting discussion!

- Niki Meehan, Head of Primary