Homework is no benefit to young

18th April 2008 at 01:00
Setting homework for primary pupils does not make any difference to their academic achievement, research has shown

A review of 16 years of academic research on homework has concluded there is little link between how well primary pupils do in national tests and the amount of homework they are set.

By contrast, there was strong evidence that secondary pupils were more likely to get higher grades if they regularly spent time doing their homework.

The Government recommends that a Year 5 pupil should spend an hour a week on homework. But it is not uncommon for pupils in Years 5 and 6 to be set two or three hours per week - and parents frequently demand more.

The researchers, from Duke University in North Carolina, offer several explanations for this. They claim that younger children find it harder to ignore external distractions and focus on work. They are also unlikely to study effectively, while secondary pupils use various strategies to consolidate their learning, such as self-testing.

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, is not surprised. "Children get extremely tired mentally and physically at school," she said.

"Then they have to come home and do more work on top of that. It's counter-productive.

"While we're making six-, seven- and eight-year-olds do extra work, in some countries they wouldn't even have started formal schooling."

The researchers said the effectiveness of homework also depends on what, and how much, is set. Many primary teachers set homework intended to improve time-management and organisational skills, rather than results.

But David Fann, head of Sherwood and Broughton primaries in Preston, Lancashire, insists homework does improve achievement.

"Reading books at home, or doing half-a-dozen spellings, is an essential part of primary education," he said.

"Without that process, a lot of children wouldn't have acquired confidence in their literacy and numeracy skills.

"It's a reinforcement of what's going on in school. And it also keeps parents informed, as well as breaking down the barrier between home and school."

Reference: `Does homework improve academic achievement?' by Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson and Erika A Pattall, Duke University


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