Why Do Primary School Children Need So Much Homework?
This September, Logan moved up from reception into year one. I knew it would be a step up from the play based curriculum of reception, but I perhaps didn’t anticipate how much of a step up it would be. I was also quite surprised at how quickly Logan started receiving homework and just how much.
At the end of his second week, we received a list of what homework we would expect to see each week. I have to admit to being a little taken aback by it. This is his current homework schedule. This is for 5 and 6-year-olds.
Weekly Homework Schedule
This is the year one homework schedule from my son’s school.
Reading – books can be changed daily, children are expected to read 10-15 mins every night.
Spellings – a weekly spelling test sent home on Monday, to be tested on Fridays – (this now also includes making up sentences with the spelling words included on their own)
Big Talk – to be sent home on Thursdays in readiness for a Big Talk on Friday
Maths – weekly maths homework based on the weekly focus
I have no problem with daily reading, I actually think it’s really important, but why at 5 or 6 years of age do children need so much homework? Research has shown that homework before secondary school has no educational benefit.
I will share with you this quote from an article in The Independent:
Some cultures have normalised long periods of studying for primary age children, but there is no evidence to show this has clear academic benefits. Studies have actually linked excessive homework to sleep disruption and stress.
So why are we forced to put them through it?
The first few weeks in year one have been exhausting for my son. He’s finding the day itself a challenge – he told me he doesn’t get to play very much anymore. Children need to play to run around and to have time to relax. Just this week we had tears over breakfast because he was just so tired and overwhelmed by everything.
I am also quite taken aback by the words they need to know at this age. My son said to me the other day – that’s a digraph – now I have a degree in English Literature and I am not ashamed to tell you I had no idea what a digraph is – I had to google it. Why does a 5 or 6-year-old need to know? Talk about making things more complicated for them.
Will it get better? I’m sure it will, but should it be like this and does it have to be? I would argue no.
With rates of depression in children and teenagers being at the highest they have ever been. A report recently shared on The BBC shows that:
A quarter of girls and nearly one in 10 boys show signs of depression at the age of 14
Doesn’t it show that things are present are scarily not right for the children at the moment? Let’s just reflect on these numbers, a quarter of girls have depression by 14. I don’t for a minute think that school is entirely to blame for this, of course not. I also think it’s very important to say at this juncture that I think teachers do an amazing job. I know I couldn’t do it.
But, growing up now is so very different to the time that I grow up as a child. Children are under so much pressure. The pressure to be perfect and to succeed is one of them. I never remember getting homework like this a girl. All I remember is a bit of reading, the odd spelling test and creative project as I got older and practising my recorder in junior school. I actually clearly remember my parents having a chat with me in year 6 about secondary and getting ready to do homework on a regular basis.
So why do things have to be this way, why do children who only a year ago couldn’t even write their name need this volume of homework? Why when there is a generation of children clearly struggling under the pressures of the modern day world do we add more burdens to their lives?
I also find it a hard one to balance as a parent. At this age, I actually think it’s ok if they don’t do their homework. If they are too tired and overwhelmed. But I am worried about setting an example for future years. There are regularly nights now when I say to my son it’s ok, we won’t do reading tonight, whereas before we had read every single night in reception. This is because we have spent so long sat down doing spellings and putting together sentences around these words – bearing in mind just writing them is a task and a half for him – that it’s just not fair on him. It also takes far more than the 15 minutes stated. But I worry if I tell him it’s ok not to do homework now, what am I teaching him for the time when he has to submit coursework as part of his qualifications? I’m finding it quite a hard line to balance. I am also trying to remain upbeat about it and not show my opinion on the matter to Logan, but never the less after he’s come in and got changed and had a snack, while he always does it, he has started asking why does get homework and getting resentful towards it and me – I can’t say I blame him.
What Do Parents and Teachers Think?
At the school gate at the moment every parent seems to be talking about this. How there is suddenly so much homework and the battle to get through it when attention spans are already exhausted from a day at school. But I have asked some parents bloggers and a friend who is a teacher (who wishes to remain anonymous) for their thoughts on the matter. There are some that agree and some that don’t what are your thoughts on the matter?
“I teach and it’s unfair what the children are expected to know and do in infant and primary school. The idea of taking away levels was to allow children to learn at their own rate, embed what they learn and move on when they are ready but in reality, they are expected to know things far beyond their years. They are bamboozled with new terminology, have limited time to practice and are moved on far too quickly to new topics. Rarely do they have time to link one thing to another. Even the best teachers struggle to keep pace. As you say regular reading is enough at this stage. I totally back parents that there is too much pressure on these little minds. We need a bit more puddle jumping on the curriculum. “
Anon, School Teacher
“Our school have now scrapped homework, with the emphasis being on reading and spellings. There is work there available if children would like to do things at home, or parents want ideas on what to do. The school have also signed up to several subscription websites and each child has a login, so they can also access these at home.
Last year, however, my eldest hated the work, and we really struggled to get him to sit and do it, so thankful they scrapped it!”
“I think our school has the balance about right. When they were younger it was just reading, then spelling was introduced but now my boys are in years 4 & 6 we get weekly spellings, weekly worksheets and termly projects to complete but the projects are very creative and often involve paper mache and painting and aren’t compulsory either. “
“My eldest is in year 1. Last year she just had reading this year they get 2 ‘projects’ every 2 weeks and 10 days to complete them. Not sure how it is going to go. My daughter loves learning when she is in the mood, but if I push her when she isn’t she has full on meltdowns.
I’ve told the teachers that if she doesn’t want to read her school book I’m fine with that because she will probably go to her room and read 3 other books. I would rather she is enjoying what she is doing, so I’m fully expecting to have to tell the teachers at times that she was doing more important stuff than the homework they set.”
“I’ve got one in reception and one in year 2. They have reading books, and very occasionally (maybe 4 times last year) things like use the paint program on the school portal to create a picture of a sea animal, they don’t get any homework. I quite like them having a small amount (by small I mean maximum 10 – 15 minutes) homework. Because our school doesn’t do it, ours do a page in a workbook every evening. The reception one does some number or letter formation practise, the older one does some maths. They both enjoy it. If they’re tired they don’t do it, and the night they have football club they don’t do it, but it’s part of our evening routine (they do it in the holidays as well – by choice!). I don’t agree with hours of homework or children being punished for not doing it though.”