Why Homework Is Brilliant....Says This Parent

10/10/2014 17:31 | Updated 20 May 2015

Woman assisting son (10-12) with homework

Should primary school children be given homework? Discuss.

It's a perennial hot topic, back on the agenda because, according to the head of a leading private school, after-school tasks damage our kids.

Furthermore, the nagging, encouraging and cajoling our children to JUST GET ON WITH IT creates tensions within families.

Do you agree? I asked a couple of mums on the school run and opinion was divided.

One mum, whose older sons are now 22 and 19, went to a primary school that had an anti-homework policy.

Both graduated with straight As. She now has a very laid back attitude towards her 10-year-old doing anything beyond having a good time after school.

Another mum thought half an hour a night was acceptable because it instilled a routine of discipline that prepared children for the rigours of secondary school and, ultimately, the working world.

But let's look at what Dawn Moore, the head of £14,000(ish)-a-year King Alfred School in north London thinks about the issue.

Virtually all schools in the state and independent sector have policies of giving children aged five to 11 up to half an hour a night of homework a week – but Mrs Moore believes this may be damaging to children's education and home life.

She said: "I really question how beneficial homework is, particularity for the younger primary age children.


I have been quite concerned about this idea of children doing two or three hours of homework a night at the age of eight or nine.


Debate surrounding the amount – and type – of homework set for children has intensified in recent years, particularly in primary schools.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has called for a ban on compulsory homework for primary-age children, saying that children should be able to explore, experiment and enjoy learning without feeling pressured.

One school - the Jane Austen College in Norwich – has banned homework altogether and expects pupils to do all their work during normal timetabled hours.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Mrs Moore said her school didn't introduce children to basic homework until Year 5 – when pupils are aged nine to 10 years old. By the age of 11, they're required to do one hour a week – typically receiving a project on a Friday and handing it in the following week.

She said: "I think children have a very busy day at school and when they get home they're often quite tired and need some downtime.

"When we were kids we used to go out to play and get a lot of fresh air and there's a huge amount of value in that."

She added: "One of the things that worries me most is when families get into situations where the whole evening gets tense because of the amount of homework that needs to get done - trying to squeeze homework in between school and having a bath and going to bed."

She believes homework should only be set for older children 'if it is worthwhile' and directly linked to a lesson.

She said: "I feel that it can lead to demotivation and finding learning somewhat boring.

"It is not about seeing how it can help them explore their curiosity; it is about ticking boxes.

"I say to all of my teachers, only set homework if there's a point to it. Don't set it for the sake of it."

It sounds like common sense and, of course, as with all of these things, it's about balance: some parents take homework to a Tiger-type extreme; others don't bother doing it at all.

A friend told me about one family who dedicate their entire free time to tasking their kids, night in, night out, weekend in, weekend out.

The friend said: "Their kids are miserable and anxious." But perhaps they'll be miserable anxious millionaires when they grow up! Who knows?

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, believes a 'modest amount of homework' for older primary age children is appropriate but 'it shouldn't be extensive amounts on a daily basis'.

He said: "It can be helpful particularly for practising spellings and times tables for doing little projects where they can build projects with their family.

"But you can certainly overdo it on the homework front and there needs to be some space for childhood. There also needs to be some space for children to relax and recover. We find that they learn better in the classroom when that's enabled."

What's your attitude to homework for primary school children?

My sons are in Years 5 and 3 and I've noticed that, this year, the demands on them have definitely stepped up a gear compared to last year.

Whether that's because the new curriculum has come into being; or because they both have new-to-the-school teachers; or because they've each stepped up a year. I'm not sure.

Regardless, there is a daily expectation that they will do work at home.

Every night, the oldest does a times table against-the-clock 'torture test' (five minutes), followed by 20 minutes of reading (Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider books, since you ask) and then 10 minutes on his project (this week: a heroic black person for Black History Week).

He then squeezes in 15 minutes of guitar practice (my idea – which he loves), five minutes on the trombone (the school's idea – definitely not mine!) and five minutes on his lines for the school play (he only has a couple!).

After that hour (if my maths are correct!), I then turn my attention to the seven-year-old: 15 minutes reading; five minutes spelling; 10 minutes sums; 10 minutes guitar practice (seriously – he wants to emulate his brother).

From my perspective, close on two hours of homework – and that's on top of their after-school activities (swimming, Akido, computer coding and cookery club).

It's friggin' exhausting reading it, isn't it? Imagine how I feel.

But, d'you know what: I love it.

I love it because they love it. I love it because it gives me super-focused time with them: instead of my kids just disappearing into their room and playing Minecraft or FIFA World Cup on the Xbox, I get amazing one-on-one time with my boys when we connect with each other in a way that is good for us all.

Helping them learn gives me purpose and fulfilment; watching their eyes sparkle as their little brains absorb new information is one of the greatest feelings going.

Sharing their Alex Rider and Willy Wonka adventures isn't a chore, it's a privilege – both for me and them.

Spurring them on past their 6,7, 8, 9 and 12 times tables helps them both in the classroom and in their future lives.

Inspiring them – as I did this week – to design a poster of a black hero (Pele, since you ask) wasn't a pain in the backside: it was a gift - for both father and son.

In fact, if it wasn't for homework these moments, these memories, just wouldn't happen.

How else should a house dad interact with his kids? Join in with their computer games (they'd thrash the life out of me)? Play football with them in the park (I'm 50, FFS!)?

Make cardboard castles and woolly finger dollies (I'll leave that to the crafty mums, thank you)?

Watch Come Dine With Me on Channel 4 (yes, please...but, sadly, they're not interested)?

You see, homework is really the only thing me and my sons have in common. It is the glue that bonds father to sons. Bring it on!

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