Homework – the topic alone is enough to send an almost collective shudder through students, parents, and many teachers. Homework isn’t quite universally unpopular, but there has been a considerable division of opinions over it’s worth. This is particularly apparent in primary schools.
The debate over whether schools should give children under the age of 11 homework is raging. Yet, despite the debate, many primary schools still send their pupils home with additional work throughout the school week. Should this continue to be the case, and just why are pupils under 11 given homework in the first place?
Homework: Additional Learning or Additional Stress?
Much of the homework debate comes down to how worthwhile it is for students, and there’s plenty of divided opinion. Academically, research has found that homework can make a difference, particularly at GCSE level. However, the benefits for primary school students are widely inconclusive.
A study in 2001, by Epstein & Van Voorhis, grouped homework into 10 purposes:
4. Personal Development
5. Parent-Child Relationship
6. Parent-Teacher Communication
7. Peer Interactions
9. Public Relations
The purposes were a way of showing how homework could deliver a greater worth to pupils than just achieving academically. To some degree, parent opinions in the 2017 Ofsted Parent Panel support these purposes. Some of the parents said that homework made them feel involved in their child’s education, it promoted independent learning, and it helped with additional skills, like time management.
However, opinion wasn’t entirely positive. 36% of parents said that primary school homework wasn’t helpful. Parents also said that homework was incredibly stressful for everyone and negatively impacted life at home.
Evidence of homework causing stress is not a new discovery. In 2004, the BBC reported on a survey from the Institute of Education, which stated that homework was causing arguments. The survey described homework as causing ‘emotional exhaustion’ and ‘anxiety’.
Many schools persist with setting homework to help their pupils achieve more, and learn additional skills, like time management. However, there are plenty of reasons why homework for primary school pupils isn’t a good idea.
So, are the positives of homework worth the negatives? Some schools don’t think so…
The Future of Homework: Who Decides Whether Homework Stays or Goes?
Across the UK, some primary schools are taking a stand and either completely banning homework or reforming the way that teachers set homework. One primary school in Fort William banned homework in favour of reading at home, after 62% of parents agreed with the decision. Another primary school in Devon banned homework for pupils up to Year 6, saying that homework was too stressful. This school again promoted reading as an alternative, stating that English and maths homework were not having much of a positive impact.
After the government scrapped guidelines on homework in 2012, the decision to persist with homework for under 11s is now firmly down to head teachers. This means that it’s up to individual schools to decide whether their pupils will continue to get homework.
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