Boys turned off by homework

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
A majority of pupils describe homework as "repetitive and boring" and boys say it turns them off learning, according to an East Renfrewshire study. Councillors have agreed to mount a further homework investigation in primaries and secondaries and have asked schools to revise their approach.

The education committee was told that teachers find if difficult to engage and sustain boys' interest from the middle years of primary onwards. A large number of pupils cite the nature of their homework as a reason for disillusion with school.

The council states: "It seems very likely that this also impacts on the well documented underachievement of boys in our schools. Whether homework is part of the problem or part of the solution, with regard to the underachievement of boys, remains open to question."

Jim Rand, a consultant who carried out the research, said: "Boys react negatively and more often to homework tasks. In primary school, it would be the page of sums and the five spelling words. It seems girls engage more enthusiastically."

The East Renfrewshire report suggests the Government's drive to increase homework, along with the impact of the "league table culture", may actually demotivate boys if traditional homework tasks continue to be dished out.

Even some headteachers have queried current practice and the value of homework in nurturing learning, confirming a Scottish Office finding that only one in three schools across the country uses homework effectively.

Although homework varied between schools and within them, it tended to increase as pupils progressed through school, going from 10 minutes a night in primary 1 to more than three hours in the final years of secondary school.

A primary teacher said: "I would like my child to do more homework and more challenging work. But I recognise that his teacher can't spend her time setting and marking homework tasks and cover all of the other things in the curriculum in class. We have to show parents that their children can learn without writing everything down."

The East Renfrewshire study found teachers had doubts about the time taken to set and mark. Parents broadly support homework and pupils accept there is a link with examination success, even if they are less than enthusiastic.

East Renfrewshire says there is a strong case for Scottish-wide homework materials, produced centrally, and tailored to the 5-14 programme, Standard grade and Higher Still courses. Materials could be in IT or disc formats and customised by individual teachers.

The council is to pilot supported study and homework clubs in two primaries and two secondaries.

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