Ofsted's blog: What parents told us about homework

21st March 2017 at 09:04

Between November and December last year we invited members of Ofsted’s Parent Panel to complete a short on-line survey about homework. We wanted to look at the impact it has on their child’s learning and home life.

In particular we wanted to know what parents think about homework – does it help their children in primary and secondary school? Or would ‘prep’ at school be a better alternative? Over 300 parents countrywide responded and this is what we found.

A thumbs up

Those parents who responded positively said homework helped them feel part of their children’s learning. As a result they could plan activities to support the work, such as visits to museums and home projects. Plus they said that it also reinforces the notion that learning isn't confined to the classroom.

Parents agreed that homework consolidates what children have learnt in the classroom and helps to embed that in their minds. And as one parent commented, “Homework is a good opportunity for parents to be aware of what is being taught in schools.”

They recognised that it also helps to promote independent learning, introduce discipline, planning and management skills. And back in the classroom, homework can be a useful tool for teachers to see how much a child has understood.

On the downside

A common view held by parents is that homework causes huge stress for the whole family and so impacts negatively on home life. The volume of homework set is also a concern. Parents feel that the time taken to complete it is often underestimated.

There was also frustration expressed about homework not always being marked. Parents said this can be demoralising. They are also unsure about how much help they should be giving their children.

What parents of children with SEN and disabilities told us

This group of parents see their children struggle with the concept of homework. They often have to put in more effort than their peers, so homework can become exhausting for them.

The stress of homework for this group of young people can often be overwhelming. And this can impact on their health, self-esteem and confidence.

One parent commented, “Many children and young people with SEND really struggle with home/school compartmentalisation. Home is home and school is school and never the twain shall meet.”

What parents think homework should be

Overall the parents surveyed said that homework should be worthwhile; that it should have a positive impact on their child’s learning. They agreed it needs to be meaningful, interesting, engaging and useful for future work.

The parents felt that any homework should be clearly explained, achievable and challenging. And the volume of homework needs to be manageable. One common suggestion was to gradually build up the amount of homework set in the early years. In that way by year 11 pupils are used to studying independently, but without being burnt out. Many parents thought that homework in primary school should be limited to reading, spelling and learning times tables.

The majority of parents said homework is helpful to their children, more so in secondary (87%) as opposed to primary schools (64%).

More than a third of parents didn't think that homework was helpful for children in primary school. But only 12% said it wasn’t helpful in secondary school.

Almost three quarters of parents thought there could be better alternatives to homework. In particular they liked the idea of pupils having 'prep' time in the classroom to plan and get ready for lessons through research.

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