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Homework hassles

Q: I've been battling to get homework from my pupils. I'm determined to get 100 per cent homework from my two Year 7 classes and my Year 10 class. Our school policy states that we can issue an after-school detention for work that hasn't been handed in after one reminder. That was my threat. It has proved to be a struggle with pupils losing sheets, trips for me to homework club, and three pupils assigned to detention so far. I asked some colleagues how they got on and there was a lacklustre answer: 75 per cent response rate for homework was not uncommon. Several said that they ignored departmental policy and did not set much homework. Does it have an educational value? Is it worth the effort to chase missing work? What strategies could I use for getting better responses?

A: This is a whole-school issue and one that your school management team should be addressing, urgently. Any policy, whatever its merits or defects, is useless if it is not fully implemented. If some of your colleagues are ignoring policies, what message are they sending about the school's expectations?

There's plenty of research to suggest that high-achieving schools have effective homework policies. That doesn't mean that it's the homework itself that produces the good results, but an insistence on intelligently set and carefully monitored homework is a very effective way of sending clear messages about the school's high expectations of its pupils and of its teachers. The work may not be directly responsible for good results, but it's an expression of the attitudes and values that lead to success.

Responses to your requests will improve if:

* the tasks you set are clearly linked to the whole programme of study and to classroom learning

* the tasks offer opportunities for independent work - research and reporting back

* you value homework as highly as classwork

* parents know what work you are setting and why, and are clear about what defines a good response to the task

* you have and are using a homework diary that is checked by parents and the form tutor.

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