All work and no play

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Q: I'm about to start my first job and I'm confused about the amount of homework I should be setting. Should the school have a policy on this for different age groups, or are there government guidelines? While I want to do right by the children, I don't want to overburden myself with marking.

A: Your school should have a homework policy based on government guidelines, and your subject department should also offer specifically focused advice.

Generally, Year 7 pupils should be spending, in total, about 45 minutes on homework each evening, rising to about two and a half hours for Year 11.

Heads of year will have prepared a homework timetable for all subjects.

The quality of the homework you set is as important as the time you ask pupils to spend on it. Asking pupils to finish off what they didn't complete in a lesson is not enough: tasks that demand independent learning, investigation, and use of new skills are more satisfactory.

Differentiate or offer a choice of homework tasks as study conditions and facilities at home are not the same for every pupil.

Extra marking need not become an issue and not all homework needs to be formally written. Ask pupils to research and prepare presentations and oral reports on background reading, and use peer marking as an alternative to your sitting down with piles of books.

The majority of parents will take an interest in their child's homework - that will probably be part of their home-school agreement - and will be reassured to see that you are setting appropriately challenging tasks. Keep records of what you set, and make pupils keep records, too.

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