Homework for primary pupils ‘should be scrapped’

Times Online 11 Mar 2008

Giving homework to primary children is a source of family conflict that breeds resentment of school and should be scrapped for the benefit of pupils, according to a teaching union, backed by education experts. It is counter-productive and the pressure to complete assignments makes pupils unhappy, said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. “Everyone just accepts that homework has got to be done,” she said. “It puts a huge amount of stress, particularly on disadvantaged children from disadvantaged homes.”

For these poorer children, who do not have books, computers and well-educated parents to help, homework can lead them to resent school. “Middle-class children can go home and get help with their homework. Disadvantaged children can’t and then they get in trouble,” Dr Bousted added. “It sets up a cycle of resistance to school because they don’t have access to the cultural and emotional and learning support which middle-class children can get.”

Dr Bousted’s comments add to a mounting body of evidence suggesting that homework does not work. Research from the Institute of Education has found that homework can cause such friction between parents and children – especially in middle-class families, where concerns about a child’s future can lead to a climate of pressure to succeed – that any potential educational benefits are lost. The study, by Dr Susan Hallam, also found that homework only boosts achievement when done in moderate amounts. There is an optimal level beyond which doing more brings no benefit at all.