Homework sucks

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I usually listen to Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Drivetime show on my way home from work. One of the features is Homework Sucks, where a listener explains a piece of homework they’re having problems with, and then other listeners contact the show to offer help.

Since the feature started in the new year, I’ve only heard a couple of maths-related questions. The more interesting of these was the following question: how many ways can you arrange three eggs into a six-egg box? The respondant is a regular poster on the TES maths forum, and you can read the thread here.

Some teachers have objected to a radio feature called Homework Sucks, but it’s a sentiment I find myself agreeing with. As a learner, homework didn’t have a great impact on me – at primary school we were expected to read every night (which for me was a joy rather than a chore), learn a few spellings, and learn our tables. Secondary school brought with it the structure of a homework timetable, and tasks which were intended to take an hour or so each evening to complete, although more often than not I finished them off on the bus or in the library at break or lunchtime. It was only really at sixth form that the workload associated with four A levels dictated that I had to spend lots of time on independent study.

As a teacher, I had to fit in with the homework policy of the schools where I taught, which sometimes meant that I had to set a homework task even if there was nothing appropriate which fitted in with what I had been teaching. I would much rather have had the freedom to set homework when I felt it would support the learning that had been going on, and the freedom to give my pupils a night off when there was nothing I wanted to set. I know that a homework timetable avoids the congestion of nineteen subjects all wanting you to spend an hour on a task on the same night, but it should not constrain teachers into feeling they have to set busy work in order to be able to tick a box on their markbook.

I could rant all day about the pro-homework arguments about instilling discipline and work ethic, preparing children for the long days and overtime they will put in as adults in corporate careers, giving children something purposeful to do with their evenings… I could rant about the unfairness of expecting a child living in a cramped untidy flat with several younger siblings to produce the same piece of work as an only child living in a mansion with a spacious study with an anglepoise lamp… but instead, I will just say that in a perfect world, I would want to encourage learners to discuss their maths with their family and friends between one lesson and another, and maybe do the odd practice-paper in the run up to their GCSEs and A levels, but otherwise, I don’t really mind what they get up to in the evenings.

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One Response to “Homework sucks”

  1. lordhutton Says:

    Quite right. Our homework this weekend was dressing up a blown egg for Easter with daughter’s daughter. Far more constructive was informal stuff like getting her to read things
    Oh, and it is about 18 isnt it?

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