Rethinking Homework: Too Close To Home?

2-1This week’s TES has a very interesting article on homework. This is an issue that I have been giving a great deal of thought recently, not least because I have spent the last few weeks struggling to keep up with an enormous pile of exercise books to mark. Is there a better way to ‘do’ homework? Almost certainly. Is it clear what that is? No, definitely not.

The TES article kicks off by saying that the French president, François Hollande, has declared an end to homework in France’s primary schools, and asks if it is time that we in the UK did the same thing.

According to the article, there is plenty of opposition to the concept of homework, not least from the charity Parents Outloud who believe that homework can lead to rebellion and burnout. Parents Outloud’s director, Margaret Morrissey, believes that children “spend all day at school five days a week and that should be sufficient.”

The article also highlights the concern that homework

ingrains social inequalities between pupils; clever, motivated children in higher sets or at better schools tend to be given more homework, while less able, less motivated pupils are given less. The result is a widening of the attainment gap. More advantaged children are also more likely to have a quiet place to study at home, with access to the internet, again giving them the chance to pull ahead.

What is perhaps surprising is that the evidence that supports the argument for homework is not as convincing as it might be. Professor Susan Hallam, of the Institute of Education, believes that research shows a “positive but low” correlation between doing homework and improved attainment, whilst being quick to point out that improved attainment might also be caused by other factors.

Meanwhile, Sir Robin Bosher, a former primary head and now primary director for the Harris Federation of academies, is quoted on the benefits of homework:

It’s all about feedback and the role it has in building a relationship between the pupil and the teacher. When you achieve something independently in your own time, the feedback you get from the teacher has a higher value. The acknowledgement from the teacher can raise your self-esteem.

Towards the end of the TES article, they point out that

many educationalists have indicated that technology might be quietly transforming the type of work that is set and the willingness of pupils to complete work at home. It may also relieve teachers of marking whilst still allowing them to analyse how well their pupils are doing.

All in all, the article is most thought provoking and well worth a read.

More on my personal struggles with the idea of homework in a future blogpost, but in the meantime please do share your thoughts below.