Education latest: Homework may be completely pointless!

Jacquie Reid.
Jacquie Reid.
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A Coleraine teacher fears her pupils may have been right after all – some homework is ‘completely pointless’!

Jacquie Reid from the town, an officer with the Ulster Teachers’ Union and former teacher at Millburn primary, was responding to claims from a leading UK educationalist who fears school inspection systems could force teachers to set futile homework exercises simply to hit targets.

Tom Bennett, director of the ResearchEd conference, said schools were being forced to ‘pickpocket’ family life by the demands of the GB inspection body, OFSTED.

“Ironic though it sounds, teachers would agree with these sentiments. There is nothing to be gained – indeed there is more to be lost – if children are set pointless homework, in other words, homework for the sake of homework,” said Ms Reid.

“The point of homework should be to reinforce what’s been taught in school – a way to ensure that if there are gaps in a child’s knowledge these can be bridged at the earliest opportunity.

“Homework also gives parents a chance to share in what their child has been learning at school – although there is nothing to be gained by parents doing the homework for the child, though a GB survey last year revealed that a quarter of parents do just that!

“Crucially, though, what Mr Bennett’s arguments also highlight is the nature of school inspections. Inspections should not require schools to fulfil box-ticking exercises. Inspectors must understand and relate to the reality of teaching today at a time of austerity when teachers and families are under more pressure than ever before.

“No teacher would have a problem setting a worthwhile homework exercise which will engage the child and further their learning – but that should be the only reason for setting homework. It should not be to fulfil some inspectorate protocol which states that so many hours homework a week must be set.”