With the homework debate continuing to rage and be fuelled by all parties involved, could publishing a robust homework policy help take some of the headache out of home learning?
What is a homework policy?
The idea of a homework policy is for the school to officially document and communicate their process for homework. The policy should outline what is expected of teachers when setting homework and from students in completing home learning tasks. It is a constructive document through which the school can communicate to parents, teachers, governors and students the learning objectives for homework.
Do schools have to have a homework policy?
It is a common misconception that schools are required by the government to set homework. Historically the government provided guidelines on the amount of time students should spend on home learning. This was withdrawn in 2012 and autonomy was handed to headteachers and school leaders to determine what and how much homework is set. Therefore, schools are not required by Ofsted or the DfE to have a homework policy in place.
The removal of official guidelines, however, does not give pupils the freedom to decide if they complete homework or not. Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, clarified that although schools are not obliged to set homework, when they do, children need to complete it in line with their school’s homework policy; “we trust individual school head teachers to decide what their policy on homework will be, and what happens if pupils don’t do what’s set.”
The majority of primary and secondary schools do set homework. Regardless of the different views on the topic, the schools that do incorporate homework into their learning processes, must see value in it.
Clearly communicating that value will demonstrate clarity and create alliance for everyone involved – both in and outside of school. This is where the publication of a good homework policy can help.
5 Benefits of publishing a good homework policy
#1 Manages students' workload
Studies have shown a correlation between student anxiety and demanding amounts of homework. One study found that in more affluent areas, school children are spending three hours per evening on homework. This is excessive. Secondary school students’ study between eight and ten subjects, which means they will have day-to-day contact with a number of teachers. If there is no clear homework policy to provide a guide, it would be feasible for an excessive amount of homework to be set.
A homework policy that sets out the expected amount of time students should spend on homework will help prevent an overload. This makes it more realistic for children to complete homework tasks and minimise the detrimental effect it could have on family time, out-of-school activities or students’ overall health and well-being.
#2 Creates opportunity for feedback and review
The simple act of having an official document in place will instigate opportunities for regular reviews. We often consider the impact of homework on students but teachers are also working out-of-hours and often work overtime. One reason is the need to set quality homework tasks, mark them and provide valuable feedback. No-one, therefore, wants home learning to become about setting homework for homework’s sake.
A regular review of the policy will invite feedback which the school can use to make appropriate changes and ensure the policy is working for both teachers and students, and serves the school’s homework learning objectives.
#3 Connects parents with education
Parents’ engagement in children’s education has a beneficial impact on a child’s success in school. Homework provides a great way for parents to become involved and have visibility of learning topics, offer support where needed and understand their child’s progress.
A good homework policy creates transparency for parents. It helps them to understand the value the school places on homework and what the learning objectives are. If parents understand this, it will help set a foundation for them to be engaged in their child’s education.
#4 Gives students a routine and creates good habits
Whether children are going into the workplace or furthering their education at university, many aspects of a student’s future life will require, at times, work to be completed outside of traditional 9-5 hours as well as independently. This is expected at university (students do not research and write essays in the lecture theatre or their seminars) and will perhaps become more important in the future workplace with the growth of the gig economy (freelancing) and the rise of remote working.
A homework policy encourages a consistency for out-of-school learning and helps students develop productive working practices and habits for continued learning and independent working.
#5 Helps students retain information they have learned
A good homework policy will indicate how to set productive homework tasks and should limit the risk of less effective homework being set, such as just finishing-off work from a lesson and repetition or memorisation tasks.
What makes a good homework policy?
A good homework policy will determine how much homework is appropriate and what type is most effective for achieving a school’s learning objectives. Publishing the homework policy – although it might not unify everyone’s views on the matter – fosters good communication across the school, sets out expectations for teachers and pupils, and makes that significant connection between parents and their children’s education. But most importantly, if the policy is regularly reviewed and evaluated, it can ensure home learning remains beneficial to pupils’ progress, is of value to teachers and, ultimately, is worth the time and effort that everyone puts into it.
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