Research on the benefits of homework is mixed. On the one hand, there is certainly evidence to suggest that it teaches discipline, and it reinforces learning- both are highly useful in the long term. A report for the Department of Education in 2014 found that students in year 9 who spent on average 2 or 3 hours on homework every week night were almost 10 times more likely to achieve 5 good GCSEs than students who did no homework. What's more, some of the best performing education systems in the world demand longer homework hours than the UK. In China, the average 15-year-old is set 14 hours of homework a week, compared to just 5 in the UK. In turn, PISA considers China to be one of the highest achieving academic countries in the world.
However, research has also revealed the downsides to homework. For a start, a survey in The Guardian discovered that 56% of students considered it a primary source of stress. It begs the question: should we limit homework (especially at primary school) for the sake of our children's mental health? Meanwhile, there are also concerns that homework broadens the divide between rich and poor children. A BBC study found that in advantaged homes, 2/3 of children received help with homework, whilst only half of disadvantaged children were given similar assistance.
While the landscape is changing, since the government scrapped its guidelines on homework to schools in 2012, allowing them to design their own systems of out of class work, homework does look set to stay for the time being. Therefore, we've put together our favourite ways of making homework a productive exercise for your children, whilst also keeping stress to a minimum.
Building a Supportive Environment
This begins by taking an active interest in your children's homework- indifference can lead to a lack of motivation. By setting up a homework friendly space, your child will find it easier to settle down and learn. This can be achieved by finding a quiet spot, free of distractions with easy access to pens, glue, scissors and other important items. We recommend that this space is not in a child's bedroom as this can be confusing and can add stress to your child's sleep routine.
Don't Let it Become a Chore
Homework after school should never feel like a worrying part of the day! Instead it should be a process of reinforcing what's already been learnt. If your child is struggling with a particular concept it's sometimes best to let them stop there, so the teacher knows which areas of work have been a problem.
Have a Good Relationship with the Teacher
Communication is key, but understanding their homework policy makes it easier for you to support your child. You will then know exactly how long your child should be spending on their work and how to connect with the teacher if the homework is too challenging. Attending parents' evenings is a start, but don't be afraid to contact them in between if you notice a change in behaviour or attitude, or if a subject that really seems to baffle your child. They may be able to offer you extra guidance on how to help your child at home while they provide extra support in the classroom.
Praise their Work and Effort!
Homework can be stressful for your children. Ensure that they always feel as though it's a positive learning process rather than a strict measure of their ability. We often focus on the positives and target to mention when they've done really well.
Set a specific moment in the day that your children know is homework time. This way it becomes part of a routine and doesn't feel like it takes up the whole evening or weekend. Find times that work for everyone and that won't cause stress. It may mean you get stuck in as soon as you get home, or allow some time for the children to burn off steam. If reading is stressful for your child, do not include this as part of the bedtime routine as it can cause them to sleep restlessly and they may have more difficulty understanding it the next day.