‘Home learning’ or ‘homework’ is an issue that is difficult for a school to come up with a definitive solution which satisfies all parents’ point of view. This sentiment was reflected in the recent survey canvasing parents about their thoughts on home learning; it came as no surprise that the feedback we received was varied.
The spectrum of views ranged from parents that would like a return to the more formal homework model, those that like the current format and those that don’t want home learning at all.
It’s imperative we strike a balance in whatever model the school chooses to take on board. Our children are living increasingly busy, and sometimes, stressful lives. There has been a rise in levels of mental health issues amongst young people, and like adults, we also need to allow our children time to switch off, relax and play.
What is uncertain, is the impact homework actually has on children and their learning. Finland and South Korea’s educational systems both perform extremely well compared to the rest of the world. However, their approaches to education are the polar opposite of one another. The average school day for a child in Finland is five hours and they have very little homework. Conversely, Korean students typically are in school from 9 am- 5 pm and often attend additional classes at night.
Personally, I suffer the same battle as most other parents do. Homework is more often than not a source of friction when the ‘H’ word is mentioned during an evening or at the weekend. Often it is difficult to find the time. The responses from the questionnaire clearly indicate that this is not a battle unique to me, but also something that other parents face.
I believe that home learning does have its place in education. However, it should be manageable for children and their parents alike. It should be enjoyable, ensuring that children feel excited about having a go. However, not all children have the organisational skills to be able to approach tasks that are set. This was a sentiment expressed in the results of the survey. As a school, we need to be thinking about teaching children organisational skills and the confidence to have a go independently through the home learning tasks that are set.
When setting home learning, it’s vital that we are mindful about the children and their varying circumstances at home. Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive of the parenting charity ‘Family Lives’ argues that, “Homework needs to be part of the family routine. Parents need to create a space for children to do the work without the television or radio blaring out.” However for some of our children this is not a reality, as space at home varies, as does access to resources needed to complete home learning, including easy access to the internet. Parents have varied amounts of time available, due to work commitments, the number of children they have and the amount of help they have with the general chores that come with being a parent.
It has been extremely helpful and a worthwhile exercise canvassing the views of parents about home learning. We will be arranging to meet with parents who expressed an interest in being involved in the consultation. Whatever the school decides on, we want it to be a model that reflects our ethos and how our children learn.