guide to homework
Homework tends to receive a mixed press. While
some parents complain their children shouldn・t be asked to
do work at home until they reach secondary school age, others
consider that children, particularly those aged 7 to 11, are
not given enough.
One thing is certain, since government
guidelines were published in 1998, homework for primary age
pupils is here to stay.
This article covers the four questions
most frequently asked by parents;
What is homework?
- What is homework?
- What is its value?
- How long should it take?
- What is the best way to help?
Homework is any task set by a school that children undertake
without direct instruction from their teachers. It may not
even be done at home. Many schools nowadays have study
support programmes running before or after school where
children can complete homework under careful supervision.
Don・t expect every homework task to have
written outcomes. Your child may be asked to play a game in
order to reinforce a maths skill, share a book with you,
learn something specific such as spellings or tables,
collect a series of items or even to make something
following a set of instructions.
Some homework obviously will be recorded.
Your child may be asked to write notes after watching or
listening to a particular programme, interviewing a friend
or undertaking research using books or the Internet. On
other occasions a maths worksheet or a written comprehension
exercise might be the homework activity. Sometimes a task
will have been planned and prepared at school and brought
home for completion.
In other words homework covers a multitude
of activities reflecting the variety of educational
experiences your child receives at school.
What is the value of homework?
Each day at school your child will be covering a range of
subjects and learning many new skills. Focused homework
tasks encourage your child to revisit, practise and
reinforce this new learning thus making it more secure.
Homework undertaken with your interest and support will also
encourage your child to develop positive attitudes to
learning, in a wider context than just school. This will
allow subjects to be covered in greater breadth and depth.
You will benefit by becoming familiar with
your child・s particular strengths, difficulties, preferred
learning styles and the curriculum areas being studied. Your
child・s school will gain by having motivated pupils and
well-informed parents who are fully involved with their
How long should it take?
Government guidelines suggest that children aged from 5 to 7
years should spend about an hour each week completing
homework tasks. These will probably be activities associated
with reading, spelling and number work. By Year 3 and 4 when
children are between 7 and 9 years about 1.5 hours a week is
the recommended allocation.
The major focus will be English and Maths
with the addition of subjects such as Science, History and
Geography. Towards the end of Key Stage 2, in years 5 and 6,
about 30 minutes each day is suggested. English and Maths
will still retain a high profile combined with a wider range
of subjects to help prepare your child for the homework
demands of secondary school.
The above times are recommendations only.
Children will obviously complete tasks at different speeds.
You wouldn・t stop a child who was deeply involved and
obviously enjoying an activity just because the time had
passed, but if after a good attempt homework has still not
been completed, don・t insist, particularly if your child is
becoming distressed. A short note attached to the work
stating time taken will alert the school to possible
Remember: The time your child spends doing homework
should never interfere with other out of school pursuits
such as brownies, cubs, sports and music.
What is the best way to help?
Word of warning:
Schools are extremely keen that parents become fully
involved in their children・s education but please don・t be
tempted to correct homework and make your child copy it out.
Schools need to know how much your child understands and can
Most important: Remember to have fun
and enjoy the learning experience together.
- Ensure you are familiar with any
school guidelines concerning homework.
- Ask for copies of any leaflets about
parental support at home.
- Watch out for school newsletters
advertising forthcoming parents・ subject sessions.
(These are particularly useful for learning about modern
- Nominate somewhere at home as a
homework area with a
- Flat surface,
- Good light source
- Resources such as pens, pencils,
rulers, scissors, glue, dictionary and notebook to
- Establish a daily routine.
- Ask your child to explain the
homework task and how it follows on from what has
been covered at school.
- Be interested and available and
talk to your child about what has been learnt so
- Help your child to develop
independent learning strategies by modelling how to
look up information or find a word in a dictionary
rather than simply giving an answer in order to get
the task completed.
- Don・t be tempted to teach your
child methods you used at school.
- Turn off the television while
homework is underway but don・t discourage listening
to music if your child finds it helpful.
- Use home/school books to note how
your child tackles the task, what is done well and
where difficulties arise (remember your child is
probably one of 30 so keep your comments brief),
read carefully any comments that your child・s
teacher makes in return.
- Discourage your child from
copying when undertaking research tasks. Talk about
the information together, tease out the key facts
and help your child to write these down as brief
- Be positive about your child・s
attempts. If you have concerns about your child・s
progress make an appointment with the school.
- Don・t let homework become a
chore. Make it a special time that you both look