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How Much Homework Should My Child Be Getting?

Two Hours’ Homework A Night Linked To Better School Results

How Much Homework Should My Child Be Getting?

The discussion of how much homework is beneficial for children has hit the headlines once again with a Guardian article published on the 28th March 2012.  A study of 3,000 children from pre-school age upwards has been carried out over a 15 year period. The results appear to show that there is a link between doing two hours of homework a night and achieving better results in Maths, Science and English.  The producers of the study claim that any level of regular homework can increase a student’s ability to succeed in their learning. According to the article these findings are at odds with other research which showed a

“relatively modest” link between homework and achievement at secondary school.

Pam Sammons one of the authors of the study who is a professor of education at Oxford University was quoted as saying

“What we’re not saying is that everyone should do large amounts, but if we could shift some of those who spend no time or half an hour into [doing] one to two hours – one of the reasons private schools’ results are better is that there’s more expectation of homework.”

The report also highlighted the fact that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do well are those backed by parents who value learning and encourage them to participate in extra-curricular activities. According to the report:

“Parents’ own resilience in the face of hardship provided a role model for their children’s efforts,”

How Accurate Are These Findings?

Our initial response, based upon the relatively vague information available, is that some of these results are neither new nor revelatory. It is and has been widely accepted for a long time in education circles that students who have supportive parents achieve more highly because these parents value a good education and will encourage their children and provide as much support as possible. This would therefore, apply as equally to disadvantaged children as it would to middle class and wealthy families.

Our second issue is that there have been many studies carried out on the efficacies of homework on educational achievement. These surveys have produced mixed results and we posted a piece recently in response to the DfE’s announcement that they would be scrapping the homework setting guidelines put in place by the previous Labour administration.  It was our basic contention in that article, which you can read in full here, that homework, even in small amounts, from a young age can be beneficial. But the benefits gained are only possible if the homework is appropriate for the studies in question and targeted according to the age and ability levels of the students concerned. It is therefore, the quality rather than the quantity of homework that makes the difference.

Thirdly, it appears that this report hasn’t even been published yet so it is impossible to produce a fully informed assessment of the study as we have no way of knowing the methodologies applied by the producers, no information on any variables and consequently, no idea how they have drawn their conclusions. We await the publication of the report with interest.

Finally, we note that this study was commissioned by the DfE. So our final question would be – Why did Michael Gove make a policy decision on this matter when the availability of conclusions of an in-depth and expensive departmental survey was imminent. Once again, it appears, rather worryingly, that he is enacting policies based on political ideology rather than on evidence based findings and expert guidance.

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