Government guidelines state that daily homework should be given to all primary school children to consolidate learning. In preparatory schools ( so-called as they set out to prepare a child for secondary education) the term 'prep' also means homework, and it is part of the history and culture of these schools that pupils complete a significant amount of school work out of school hours. However, to what extent is prep necessary and should it indeed be abolished in our school?
Let us begin with the amount of time children spend learning. Many parents believe that their children are worked hard enough in school. It is scientifically proven that acquiring new knowledge and learning new skills places great demands on the brain. Undoubtedly, school is a place where pupils are doing exactly that, all of their working day, so it could be stated that school is, in short, exhausting. Indeed, in a recent poll, 73% of parents surveyed stated that their child was too tired at the end of a school day and struggled to motivate themselves to complete homework. It therefore fell to parents and guardians to badger children into completing the work with many stating that homework caused unnecessary tension in the home.
Secondly, statistics show that teachers now spend an average of ten hours per week marking prep. Some educational leaders argue that this time would be better spent creating more meaningful and appealing lessons instead, for the marked work was rarely reflected upon by the student anyway. It is difficult to deny that pupils would benefit if more time were spent considering the best way to impart knowledge. Teachers, for their part, preferred planning over marking (89%), so it is reasonable to conclude that teachers would be more fulfilled and content in the workplace without homework.
In addition, we must consider a child's personal and social development. It is worth noting that prep can prevent children from engaging in and benefiting from social activities. Many parents stated that their child had given up a leisure pursuit or past-time due to the increasing demands of homework. Can this be right? Surely we would all wish our education system to produce well-rounded individuals with a wealth of experiences to draw upon? The persistence in setting prep may not allow for this diversity, nor allow for the carefree days of youth that our children are entitled to.
On the other hand, a recent study into the impact of abolishing prep found that exam results subsequently fell by 12.8 % across all subjects in the 100 UK based sample schools. This statistic clearly shows that homework helps children to learn and provides vital consolidation of the day's learning. Those in favour of homework asked whether we really wanted our exam results to fall due to “a snowflake generation who need to step up to the plate and work harder?”
It could be said that, particularly in the private sector, children are given plenty of time for rest and recuperation in the school holidays. In independent schools for example, children have nearly 20 weeks of school holiday per year. As a result, teachers can encounter difficulties in delivering the full content of their courses or accessing the ‘depth’ so often talked about. Prep undoubtedly provides welcome support in this respect.
It may be true to say that prep is particularly unpopular with pupils, but some people argue that this independent work at home is good for self discipline. Learners must be able to work without the assistance of the teacher, and setting prep encourages this independence, as well as providing parents with an insight into their child's learning at school. We know from our educational research that when communication between parents and teachers is strong, pupil performance increases. Surely prep provides a constant stream of information from school to home?
Conclusion - What do you think?
Taking everything into account, we can state that....I think that....
At the end of the day, it all comes back to....
The strongest arguments in my opinion are....
Is there a model in other countries that we might examine?
Is there a compromise?
K McCallam ©