“Homework is a waste of time.”
So quoth football legend and crisp-flogger extraordinaire Gary Lineker on Twitter last week. Unsurprisingly, this set off quite the debate about the value of homework.
But before you give the practice the red card entirely, why not try subbing in these suggestions from teacher Yvonne Williams, based on her school’s approach to homework.
- If there is nothing to set after a lesson, don’t create a pointless exercise.
- Students will have other interests. Many pupils enjoy dancing, horse riding and a whole range of sports, sometimes at a high level. Be tolerant of late handing-in when there are performances or competitions for which students need extra practice time.
- Help students who are too ill to come into school with catch-up work. Many are still not fully recovered when they return, so it’s better to ease them back in. In KS3, this can be by photocopying work and giving summaries if the work is indispensable. Science and maths are subjects in which earlier knowledge is a foundation for later realisations in KS4 so there may be a requirement to read through more closely. If students don’t understand, then they can either ask or go to relevant catch-up sessions.
- The time on the homework schedule should be adhered to – although this, of course, is tricky, given pupils’ different work rates and the fact that it is done under different conditions. This should reinforce the time limits for the overconscientious students.
- Set different kinds of homework. There is something very attractive in flipping the classroom: students come to the lesson with some ideas and don’t have to start from cold. It cuts down the start-up time.
- Make sure the school library is open and supervised by the librarian until 6pm. It’s easily possible to complete the standard 90 minutes of homework within that slot and still have time to read before going home or being picked up by parents.
- Three weeks before school exams, ban homework so that students can revise.
- Keep homework continually under review.
- Homework shouldn’t involve parents, except to help their child check spelling, punctuation and grammar by listening to a final draft to be handed in the next day when written assignments are set. The student is the one who needs to do the academic learning.
So it seems like homework, much like football, is a game of two halves, with fans and detractors alike making plenty of noise.
Whether Williams is on target with her homework tips or whether her plans are only good on paper, that’s for you to decide.
One thing’s for sure, though: there’s still acres of space for debate – not to mention for a bit of “handbags” – for the armchair pundits on Twitter (or, as we like to refer to it: The Back of the ’Net).