"Woohoo, I'm so excited to see what homework you've got this week," said no parent of a primary school child ever. Or if they did, they were probably hoping that sounding enthusiastic might rub off on their child. Either that or their son or daughter is in Key Stage 1 and the novelty hasn't worn off yet.
As for secondary school kids, they're more than capable of doing all the groaning for themselves as they check their homework diary.
The bottom line is that both in primary and secondary school, homework sucks. Even if you think it's good for kids and agree with the concept in principle, the reality is that it often eats into family time. And even if you and/or they sometimes find it fun, it often involves arguments.
So how much homework should your child expect? And is it actually beneficial?
The Government doesn't lay down any hard and fast rules around homework, leaving it up to individual schools, but the general rule of thumb is that primary school children are expected to produce between 30 minutes to two-and-half hours worth of homework in the school week. Meanwhile, children in secondary school are usually expected to produce between one to two-and-a-half hours of homework per day, which takes into consideration coursework and revision for examinations.
The idea is that children become more skilled at independent learning and back up what is learned in the classroom. But Simon Bignell, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby, is among those who believe many children get too much. "Although homework is generally associated with higher achievement, success and good educational outcomes, studies show that too much can lead to sleep deprivation, stress and negative attitudes to school," he says.
In older children, this negativity can influence attendance or decisions about going to college or university, he believes, whilst younger kids can be put off key areas of learning like handwriting or reading and sometimes even school itself. In both cases, the result is that homework can make children actually less likely to achieve their potential. "Meanwhile, in all age groups, homework can eat up the precious free time during the evenings that children spend with their families," adds Bignell.
Studies show that when homework reaches two hours of homework a night, it is in particular danger of keeping children away from extra curricular activities like playing game and forming attachments, which can be of equal importance to children's development. One without the other leads to an imbalance, says the research, which is no good thing.
"As for weekend homework, the phrase might as well be a swear word in our home," says Wendy Bradley, a parent of two girls, aged seven and six. "These projects can ruin weekends, which we see as our time together and a break from school."
Not all schools agree with homework, however, with King Alfred School in north London among those which have made the decision to operate a "homework only if necessary" policy. "It isn't given in lower school until year five when only about half-an-hour a week is set," says Rod Jackson, head of the upper school. "In upper school, it is given across some subjects, but only when it adds anything to the lesson and helps them become more interested in that subject. Even then, we encourage pupils to be able to approach the teacher if they feel there's too much homework at any time."
The school recently commissioned a review of the literature on homework, as well as their own school survey. "We found homework has zero effect on attainment at primary aged level and that it causes stress, tension and arguments at home. In our own school survey, almost a third of parents said they worried about homework with almost 60 of parents said that homework helps them be involved in their child's learning, when you ask children the same thing, only 11;display:block;}
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