Students hate doing it.
Teachers hate chasing it.
Parents hate harassing their children to do it.
So why do we, as schools, insist that children begin their homework journey as young as 4?
One could argue that it is a valuable opportunity to consolidate the learning that takes place in the classroom, independently. One could argue that it encourages independence for learning.
One could also argue that it fosters a love for learning away from the didactic constrictions of the classroom, therefore providing students with a much-needed opportunity for freedom within their learning.
However, when I meet parents to discuss homework, none of the above are mentioned. Instead, they say that homework creates a stress and a tension in their evening family routine. Parents also state that by having so much of the homework online it has become increasingly difficult to tear their young children away from screens and computers. This seems to be an ongoing struggle in itself.
Precious family time
On a school night, children have a relatively limited window of time, especially in the earlier key stages. Within this precious window, maybe students could be pursuing a hobby such as a sport or playing a musical instrument; they also need to have their evening meal; they need to shower or bathe; they probably should ensure that their uniforms, kits and bags are ready for the next day; and, above all, they need to have time to relax, play and spend time with their families.
Given that this window of time is so limited, to add the expectation and possible burden of homework seems almost unreasonable and increasingly unrealistic.
Where is the time to spend with family? Or maybe even watch or read the news? Or even read for pleasure? And how and when will these children learn the necessity and essential nature of domestic chores?
There is also the rather serious aspect of this issue, which has become even more pressing in recent times, and that is how homework and academic pressures can effect mental health and wellbeing.
Across Europe there is a growing culture that suggests homework is not the best way to create independent learners, nor is it the best way to improve results.
Ultimately, students in the UK are in schools for between seven and eight hours a day. If, as schools, we are unable to deliver the curriculum in this time, then maybe the students should not be bearing the brunt. Perhaps the change should come from elsewhere.
Anjum Peerbacos is an English teacher in London
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