Homework can have a positive effect on a child’s performance. But it needs to be proportionate and relevant, not set simply to please the parent or headteacher.
How much homework is necessary?
How much homework is too much? And does it really have any benefit at all? Certainly, Match of the Day presenter and father of four Gary Lineker thinks not. He recently tweeted about the ‘pointlessness’ of homework, attracting widespread support from other parents. Especially comedians Rob Delaney and Jason Manford – see below.
How much homework is necessary? Homework is a waste of time. Brings stress to the home, stress to the child, stress to the parents, stress to the parent-child relationship. Reading every night should suffice, imho. https://t.co/NQgl8d4rU7
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) September 25, 2018
Absolutely bang on @robdelaney! There’s no need for primary school kids to have homework other than reading a book they want to read! In a time where mental health is critical, it’s important for kids and adults to realise that their free time is theirs to do with what they like. https://t.co/a9E6Qgi3QM
— Jason Manford (@JasonManford) September 25, 2018
How much homework is necessary in other countries? It isn’t just in this country where there is opposition to homework, either. Many Spanish parents think the same too. The CEAPA (which represents 12,000 parent/teacher organisations) is organising protests against what it claims that schools are setting too much homework. Indeed a recent survey revealed that 82% of Spanish parents believed it was too much or excessive.
And Spain isn’t even one of the ‘worst offenders’ when it comes to setting work for children to do at home. According to the OECD’s 2014 survey, Spanish 15-year-olds received an average of 6.5 hours a week. That’s more than in the UK (4.9 hours per week). But significantly less than China where students received an average of 13.8 hours per week.
Links to Performance
However, does more homework equate to greater exam success? Here the evidence is patchy. A 2001 meta-study by the National Foundation for Educational Research concluded that there was “a positive relationship between time spent and outcomes at secondary level”. But that “evidence at primary level is inconsistent”.
More recently John Hattie’s seminal Visible Learning study concluded that homework overall had a marginal effect on the performance of 0.29. But it was higher in older children (0.64). Other studies, such as Does Homework Improve Academic Study, reported similar results.
Interestingly, both Finland and China top the Programme for International Student Assessment. Yet while Chinese students receive the most amount of homework in the survey, Finnish pupils only receive an average of 2.8 hours. That’s much less than many other countries (including the UK where academic performance is lower).
What’s key is the type of homework that children are set. In many schools, teachers are under pressure from headteachers to set homework while in some private schools (in particular) it is the parents who insist on more for their children.
“Some fee-paying parents believe that their child must automatically achieve top grades and a top university place: others demand monthly or even fortnightly reports on their child’s progress – and lots of homework fully and regularly marked,” wrote one headteacher in an article in TES last year.
The result is that children can often be set pointless homework which won’t necessarily improve their academic outcomes. For example, making Wanted Posters for Guy Fawkes for History or building volcanoes out of papier mache for Geography. All too often homework is set because children are between topics and not because there is any good reason to do so.
Mental health and wellbeing
The mental health of children is becoming an increasing concern too. Understandably so. Children face a range of pressures that previous generations did not, such as the influence of the internet and social media.
An investigation by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that referrals to children’s mental health services in England have increased by 26% over the last five years with many unable to get treatment. See full story here.
Homework can simply add to their stress, making them tired and resentful of school. And while Gary Lineker’s suggestion that it is a ‘waste of time’ may go too far, it is important for their mental health that children have time off. Time they can spend in the company of friends and family.
5 ways to help children manage their workload
- Try to create an environment in which your child can do their homework in peace. Ideally, this should be a place with their own desk and without the distractions of smartphones and games consoles!
- Resist the urge to help children with their homework. They will only learn if encouraged to work independently.
- Don’t let your child work late into the night to finish homework. If they are tired call it a day, if necessary, allow them time to finish the work in the morning.
- If your child is having extra tuition be realistic about what they can achieve and give them days off when they don’t have to work.
- Make sure you spend some time in an evening with your child when they can relax before going to bed.