3 things to consider before you set homework

Before you plan homework for your class, you should think about students' home circumstances, argues Dr Wendy Edwards

Dr Wendy Edwards

What are the factors that can stop pupils completing their homework at home?

Having the necessary space and resources at home has long been an area of discussion around the issue of homework.  But how far do you consider the following factors when setting homework?

Homework hindrances

1. Access to a computer 

Research completed in 2018 in six schools in one area found that at least half the homework set needed a computer and, in many cases, internet access.  

There was an assumption here, not always well substantiated or grounded in reality, that the student had access to those resources, and if they did, that this access was at a time suitable to complete the work.  

More and more schools, both primary and secondary, are setting the majority of their homework online without being aware of the home circumstances.  There could be brothers or sisters who also need access to the computer to complete their homework or other members of the family may be using the computer for work and social activities. 

In addition to this, is the lack, in some more rural areas, of internet access at appropriate times.  

Do schools take all these issues into consideration?  

2. Are homework clubs actually useful?

Schools will argue that they provide resources in school in the form of homework clubs; however, these may not be at a time suitable, with other demands on the student, such as extracurricular activities and peer pressure.  

For example, those schools where the majority of students rely on school and public transport to get to and from school will have extracurricular activities taking place at lunch time. Subject-specific homework clubs when subject staff are available to support students with their homework may not match the homework timetable.

3. How far are parents actually able to help?

Many schools, in their home-school agreement, ask parents to support students in giving them space to work, resources or encouragement.

Although it may not be possible, due to home circumstances, for students to be on their own due to space available, the 2018 investigation found that the majority of students completed their homework in their bedrooms between 3pm and 9pm. 

The majority of students involved in the study stated that they needed some help at home.  Both students and families agreed that help was given if necessary. However, fewer than half the families reported that they felt confident in supporting homework.

Families were asked what additional support they thought schools could give to help them in supporting homework and they responded with online support, subject-specific support, information booklets and clear explanations.

It must be remembered that homework has never been made statutory school policy and it is up to the school to decide if homework is to be set.  A school chooses to set it. 


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Dr Wendy Edwards

Dr Wendy Edwards is a retired university lecturer in teacher education. She tweets @wendyedwards1

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