A secondary school in Colchester has opted to scrap the ‘traditional’ approach to homework in order to assign pupils greater independence and responsibility for their learning. This brings into question whether homework is a beneficial help or a hindrance to children’s learning.
By Bella Audsley
Pupils at Philip Morant School and College will be able to participate in the optional schemes ‘Prove It+’ for children in Key Stage 3 and 4 and ‘Independent Study Tasks’ for sixth formers. Principal Catherine Hutley designed the initiative in response to their analysis of the impact of ‘traditional’ homework on student progress.
The tasks are available for students to select from the school website and include activities that promote “the development of kindness” through community and charity. Hutley expressed that “this new approach allows [them] to more carefully track and monitor students both academically but also against skills critical for their lives ahead.”
Although some parents and carers are not yet convinced by the new homework programme, pupils have responded positively to the scheme. A pupil in Year 8 claimed: “It is better than doing homework because you can choose what you focus and develop.” A Year 11 student praised the initiative by stating: “We can be independent and the teachers help us to make the right decisions as individuals.”
This is not the first school to question the value of homework. This August a primary school teacher in Texas informed parents that she would not be setting homework, in favour of promoting quality family time. The letter was widely shared on social media and has opened up debate on the benefits of doing homework.
A study from researchers at the University of Oxford, Birkbeck and the Institute of Education, supports the positive impact of homework. The study, published by the Department for Education, found that “the strongest effects were noted for those who reported spending two to three hours doing homework on a typical school night.” However, Prof Susan Hallam from the Institute of Education questions the benefits of setting homework to primary school pupils.
Given that there are no official guidelines for homework policies, schools are free to establish their own systems. In June 2015, the Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College, Eve Jardine-Young, published a statement on their website to correct inaccurate claims that the school had banned homework. The College has moved away from a ‘Victorian’ concept of homework that focuses on rote learning in favour of setting tasks that are “interesting, challenging and varied, and designed to foster a positive attitude to independent learning.”
Principal Jardine-Young expressed her concerns that “with the evolution of educational pedagogy and modern technological opportunities, the purpose and nature of traditional ‘homework’ is something that needs attention and regular review if it is to continue to be a relevant and effective tool for the 21st century learner.”