As parents we’ve all been there haven’t we? Sat around the kitchen table on a Sunday night, trying desperately to help our children learn a ridiculously long and complicated series of spellings, which they will soon forget and probably hardly ever use. Or they may be attempting to complete a worksheet about some unfathomable little-known, grammar point or even endlessly sticking and cutting trying to make a model of the Great Fire of London out of egg boxes and glue. We all know how much stress homework can cause to the family dynamic but is homework worthwhile and relevant in our modern age?
I’ve been in teaching for over twenty- seven years now. In that time, I have seen many educational trends come and go, as well as many key changes from the introduction of SATs to variations in the curriculum and in how we test students at 16+. Yet one aspect of education that I have never agreed with is homework. I even banned homework at one school I worked in and this was met with disapproval, mainly from the parents! So why do I feel so strongly that homework, especially in Primary schools, should be banned? There are many reasons that support my argument.
The current education system relies heavily on target setting based on baseline assessment in Reception. Throughout a student’s educational career, they are continually and rigorously assessed to check that they are meeting targets. This takes the form of optional and compulsory SATs during the primary years, followed by testing throughout Secondary years and then culminates in GCSEs. Schools are assessed on attendance and performance of pupils in SATs and GCSEs. As a result of this, many schools force students to be hot-housed in after hours and early morning intervention groups. It is no wonder that so many students have such little self-esteem and feel that they are not ‘good-enough’, when they are constantly told what level they are in a subject and how they may or may not be meeting these targets.
For most students the school day is extremely long and demanding. Many of the creative arts have less and less timetabled time and are dying out. Music is no longer taught in most schools. Every subject is fighting against the other subjects to have enough time on the timetable to cover the curriculum. It is no wonder that so many of our teenagers are showing signs of anxiety and other mental health related illnesses. A recent survey in The Guardian found that Primary school children sitting national tests, are showing increased signs of stress and anxiety around exam time, with some suffering sleeplessness and panic attacks. According to a survey of school leaders, over eighty per cent reported an increase in mental health issues among primary school children around the time of the exams.
With such a demanding academic curriculum, children need down time to relax and unwind. If they are forced to do even more work when they come home, then when are they going to relax? They need time to interact with their family, to go outside, to enjoy hobbies and most importantly, to learn how to relax by switching off.
I am not convinced that doing additional homework necessarily ensures better grades in exams or even improves classroom performance. If a child spends the school day in purposeful work, then there should be no need for them to spend additional hours completing homework. In the World of Work, we are strongly aware of the negative impacts of working too many hours during the day and the need to switch off for the sake of our own peace of mind and our mental health. Thus, why do we expect children to be any different?
I also believe that one of the most important reasons why we should ban homework is because homework leads to so many misunderstandings and thus family arguments. How many times have you failed to understand exactly what your child is required to do? This is because most homework is set at the last minute, in the closing seconds of a lesson. How much of homework really benefits a child academically? Many children are far too tired when completing homework, which means that very little important detail goes into their memories.
If children are required to do homework, then it should take the form of nothing more than reading. It is common knowledge that children learn best when they are enjoying themselves and when they don’t think that they are learning. These days there are so many different media for education. We should never underestimate how beneficial it can be for a family to sit watching an educational programme or video together, such as one of David Attenborough’s programmes. I also really value the discussions that can take place at the dinner table about World events and politics.
Furthermore, it is vital that we teach children the joy of reading for relaxation. If you manage to find the hook to get a child into reading, then it can open so much joy as well as additional knowledge. We must teach our children that education is a life-long process and just because your school days end, does not equate that your learning should end. I have probably learnt far more since I left school from my own reading, than I did whilst at school. We should also consider the fact that we all learn differently, and all have differing levels of attention span. What works for one child, will not necessarily work for another. While some students remember things by rote learning, others learn through a visual or audio stimulus. There are so many other educational opportunities that children should be exposed to, such as trips to the theatre, museums or exhibitions and concerts.
We need to think about the impact of homework on the family. Surely it is essential that children spend time with their families, feeling loved and having attention rather than spending four hours revising for a test? I believe that if homework must exist, then it should take the form of reinforcing what is taught in the classroom. It should never be a substitute for good teaching. One might argue that at GCSE level, homework is more important than ever, but if students are being made to do additional intervention lessons then surely there is a greater need for down time at home? Similarly, if we teach students more effective means of study skills, then homework is not necessary. Ultimately, we are trying to prepare our children for the world of work where they will need to learn how to balance their working life with their personal life. Homework is an artificial construct which is teaching our children to take work home and to neglect their personal life. Childhood is a relatively short period of time in our lives. It should be filled with happiness, joy and a feeling of security that comes from knowing that you are loved.
I would love to hear your views on homework.
Do you agree with it?
Has it caused many problems in your family?
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AD / Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels
If you are looking for a lovely family show to take your children to then Wallace & Gromit are hitting the road in Spring 2019 with a touring orchestral show – Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels, in partnership with Carrot Productions!
First, see Wallace prepare for his live debut with his musical masterpiece, ‘My Concerto in Ee Lad’, as always with the help of his trusty companion, Gromit. Then sit back and enjoy Academy Award®-winning ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers’, all accompanied by The Picture House Orchestra and presenter Matthew Sharp.
The tour will consist of 38 performances at 18 major venues across the UK in May and June 2019. The Picture House Orchestra comprises of some of the country’s top musicians, from orchestras including the Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert and BBC Scottish, among others. It’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.
Musical Marvels will kick off the celebrations for #30CrackingYears of Wallace & Gromit!
For ticket information and tour dates click here