GCSE coursework requirements have led to a "considerable increase" in the time students spend on homework, and some "found it necessary to withdraw from worthwhile activities such as Young Enterprise, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and sports in order to meet coursework deadlines", says the report, Homework in Primary and Secondary Schools.
It was usual for at least an hour to be allocated to each subject each week in Year 10, often increasing to 11Z2 hours during Year 11.
Pupils reported that they frequently worked much longer hours than was indicated in the homework timetable in order to meet coursework deadlines. Some worked at home for three hours each evening and for several hours at weekends, says the report. However, they were rarely given guidance on how to organise coursework to make good use of time.
The report shows that homework in secondary schools increased the working week by up to 20 per cent in lower secondary classes and 50 per cent in GCSE courses. "Some teachers felt this to be one of the contributory factors to the improvement in achievement at GCSE in their subject." The inspectors say homework provided additional time for redrafting work, leading to higher standards at KS4.
Peter Downes, president of the Secondary Heads Association, said children were working a great deal harder than in pre-GCSE days, but it would be a "great pity" if they gave up extra-curricular activities.