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18. Homework

"Homework!" you cry as the mob heads towards the door. "Finish-exercisethreeanddoasummaryoftheextractwediscussedI" Charlotte stops to write it down. The rest pause to check that Charlotte has in fact stopped, before resuming an analysis of the big fight. Wayne apparently felt that the best way to win Tracey's love and affection was to tweak her bra strap.

"So she 'it 'im."

"An' he fell down, right in front of Mr Brown."

"He cud be dead, or sumfink."

There are ways around the homework problem. There is the I'll-let-you-off-just-this-oncescenario and the revise-for-the-test-next-weekmonthyear.

Honesty is sometimes useful - "I haven't marked your projects yet, so there won't be anyhomework tonight."

Outright cop-outs such as, "Make sure you watch Horizon" are contemptible and should be reserved for real emergencies.

Most schools tend to have a strict homework policy. One head used to expect homework to be set on the first day of term, a laughable exercise since the kids spent the entire day going to the wrong rooms and being issued with books.

The Department for Education is also keen on homework. Its guidance says that schools should begin with half an hour a week in Years 1 and 2, rising to two and a half hours a day for Years 10 and 11.

Two and a half hours? Ye Gods! How many adults would welcome the prospect of two and a half hours of study at the end of their working day? What about a life outside school?

It's not even certain whether all that effort has any effect. While there does seem to be a relationship between time spent on homework and achievement at secondary school, that result could equally be a measure of the quality of support offered in the home.

For primary-age pupils, there is no conclusive evidence tosupport the setting of homework, and the most important issue for teenagers seems to be thequality of the task set.

Longer term project-type work is more popular with pupils, but that is precisely the kind of exercise that disadvantages poorer families, where children do not have the same access to books and resources.

Whatever the task, it's important to ensure that it is understood and noted down in thechildren's homework diaries. Take my advice - give Charlotte a copy in advance.

Phil Revell

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