Homework represents a regular link between home and school and as such represents a good opportunity for the development of a practical partnership between parents and teachers. (National Parents’ Council)
The negative effects of homework are well known. They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning. (Alfie Kohn – Re-thinking Homework)
Much has been said over the years about the value of giving homework to children, but whether we like it or not, homework is a part of our education system and as such a requirement in all schools. We strive for very high standards in RETNS, both in classwork and homework, while always mindful of a child’s ability and circumstances. We believe that small, regular amounts of ‘do-able’ homework reinforce what is taught in school, enable children to extend their knowledge, encourage self-discipline and strengthen links between home and school. Homework also provides opportunities for research and for use of sources which are outside of school, e.g. parents/grandparents, library, museum, internet, etc., which help children to realise that learning is not just something that is done in school but can be an enjoyable lifelong activity.
In RETNS our aim when setting homework is that it is suited to the capabilities of pupils, that it is properly explained, and that it has meaning in the overall context of learning in the classroom. Homework assignments will change with age, with more project based assignments, due at a future date, being set for senior classes. Teachers also aim to give variety, with a combination of oral homework (learning or reading), written homework, an occasional physical task or experiment, or indeed a choice homework on occasion.
Parents have a crucial role to play in supporting children and helping them to see homework as a meaningful experience. A positive attitude is essential. It is important that children are supported to do their homework well by giving them a regular time and a quiet space where they can work. In younger classes children may need some help with homework, but even as children get older and begin to work independently, it is important that they are supported to keep their books and copies neat and tidy and to do their best work. While children are expected to do their work themselves, they are encouraged to discuss their tasks with their parents/guardians, who, in turn, are asked to provide the appropriate support. If children feel that their parents value what they are doing, they will value their own efforts also.
This key role that parents play in their child’s education is emphasised in both the Primary School Curriculum and more recently, Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life (NCCA, 1999, p.21; Department of Education and Skills, (DES), 2011, pp.19-26). Although homework is not discussed directly, the strategy states that “The support of parents who are engaged in their child’s learning has a significant positive impact on a child’s educational achievement, especially in literacy and numeracy” (DES, 2011, p.19).
For some children homework poses no problems and they actually enjoy completing their assignments. For others it is a chore that they constantly try to delay or avoid and as such it poses a challenge to parents also. The INTO has described homework as the ‘thorniest issue’ at primary school level, with complaints from parents of too much homework, parents uncertain how to help and negative attitude from children cited as the main difficulties. It is important that homes do not become second classrooms, with parents feeling obliged to act as teacher to police children’s homework. In this situation, everyone will feel under pressure and homework will become a very negative, stressful experience for the child.
So, what can we do to help?
There are things we can do, as parents and teachers, to make the homework experience a more worthwhile one, maybe even an enjoyable one. The challenge for teachers is “to ensure that homework is enjoyed, valued, and not seen as a disliked solitary activity” (Warton, 2001, p.164). The task for parents is to plan for homework, create a positive space, be supportive and ask for help if necessary. If children persistently have difficulty in completing homework assignments parents should not hesitate to speak to the teacher about the difficulties before it becomes an area of stress for the child. Teachers are always glad to know if difficulties arise so they can adjust their approach or work with a child individually on an issue. As in all areas of education, the pupil’s voice is important. If pupils voice their concerns about homework, we need to listen. With some thought, the right attitude, and the child’s development kept to the fore, homework can be an enjoyable experience that enhances the child’s independent working skills, increases their knowledge and develops their interests in ways that can be enhanced by the unique parent-child relationship with the backing of the school.
See below for link to NPC document ‘Homework’ and RETNS homework policy.