William Ford does not set homework
Having worked in five different schools, with five very different approaches to this topic, it is clear there are a lot of different views. I also know that if I speak to five different parents I would get five very different responses! I have also been very active discussing this topic on some educational leadership forums which also sparked a lot of interest.
Those of you who follow the news will be aware that pay is only one small part of the recent teacher strikes. These also cover school funding and teacher workloads. The government are very clear that it is not good for teachers to be working at home after working hours. So why do we expect children to do this? We all expect to be able to leave work at our place of employment then be able to relax - spend time with families and friends at home. So again, why do we not provide this for our children? Are we bringing up children to think that home is an extension of the workplace? The school leadership spends time looking at how we can protect teacher work-life balance. It is time we also did this for our pupils.
I have thought about this long and hard and have informed staff that we will not be sending any work home. The only exception is reading (as this should be enjoyable - and research shows this becomes enjoyable if encouraged at a young age) and revision before SATS tests - although this should be minimal. We will not be sending spellings home to learn. Times Tables Rockstars will still be active, but this is optional.
There is no educational research that shows that homework has a significant impact on pupil progress at primary age. Most schools who responded to my post on the forums had either already stopped setting homework or only did this because parents expected it. If you are a parent who expects homework, let me list some more beneficial activities to undertake with your children:
- Having a conversation - asking them about their day. We recognise that a lot of our pupils struggle to talk to adults and to justify their views (hence the installation of our radio station). How much practise are they getting at this incredibly important life skill at home? Again research shows that families where parents are not constantly on their mobile phones, or place their earbuds in on the school run have children who are more articulate, have better vocabulary and achieve higher outcomes. As a parent, I do understand the temptation to disengage from the world at times but do consider the impact this could have on your child.
- Take them shopping with you. Let them pay for items and count the change. They will learn much more about money from being in a shop or market than from any worksheet.
- Throughout your conversations, regularly ask them what the time is. What time does their favourite TV programme start, when does it finish? How long is it on for? Our whole curriculum is based on 'purposeful learning' - this provides a purpose for learning about time.
- Cook with them. This involves weighing and measuring, reading recipes, setting timers etc - all examples of purposeful learning along with teaching a life skill. Again, far more engaging than a worksheet.
- Encourage an out of school interest. This could be sport, music, drama or fitness based, or could be attending a local church youth group. All of this promotes mental wellbeing, fitness, social skills, team work and problem-solving.
Of course, we know that some children actually really do enjoy working at home or want to practise a certain skill. Some families love completing projects together. Maybe your child was inspired by a recent science unit on space or wants to learn more about volcanoes. Maybe they really want to write at home in order to practise their handwriting. If that is what your child would like then by all means let this happen. If children want ideas from a teacher then I am sure they will oblige. All we are trying to do is ensure that all children have a healthy balance between work, rest and play - something that is important for all of us! We also hope this takes the pressure off working families to complete homework but please, do still read with your children!
The bible reminds us that God rested on the seventh day. He did not continue working. We are encouraged to rest on the Sabbath rather than to reach for the worksheets or textbooks.