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School Life

ASSIGNMENT OVERLOAD How much homework is it reasonable to expect kids to do? by Mark Angus Principal The British International School Shanghai Nanxiang Campus


chools in general take the view that homework can make an important contribution to children’s progress in school. A good, well-managed homework programme helps children and young people to develop the skills and attitudes they will need for successful lifelong learning. Homework also supports the development of independent learning skills and provides parents with an opportunity to take part in their children’s education. Homework is important at all stages of education and, when used properly, challenges pupils and ensures that their teaching time is used to maximum effect. Homework can be defined as anything children do outside the normal school day that contributes to their learning, in response to guidance from the school. Homework encompasses a whole variety of activities instigated by teachers and parents to support the children’s learning. For example, parents who spend time reading stories to their children before bedtime are helping with homework.

School Life







Why do homework? Most schools would acknowledge that the educational experience they can provide by themselves is limited by the time and resources available; children can therefore benefit greatly from the complementary learning that they engage in at home. Homework is thus seen as an important example of cooperation between teachers and parents. One of the aims of schools is for children to develop as independent learners, and most would argue that doing homework is one of the main ways in which children can acquire the skill of independent learning. Most schools believe that homework makes the greatest contribution to learning when: á tasks are carefully planned and structured to support progression in learning as part of the school’s schemes of work; á there is a well structured homework timetable so that the workload is appropriately balanced and everyone – teachers, pupils and parents – knows what to expect each week; á pupils and parents are clear about what is expected of them in relation to the completion of homework, and parents are treated as partners in their children’s learning;

á there are high expectations of pupils completing homework. The purpose of homework The purpose of homework for primary age pupils should include: á developing and sustaining an effective partnership between school and home; á enabling pupils to make maximum progress in their academic and social development; á consolidating and reinforcing skills and understanding, particularly in literacy and numeracy; á enabling all aspects of the curriculum to be covered in sufficient depth; á providing educational experiences not possible in school; á consolidating and reinforcing the learning done in school, and allowing pupils to practise skills taught in lessons; á encouraging pupils, as they get older, to develop the confidence and selfdiscipline needed to study on their own, and preparing them for the requirements of secondary school. For secondary age pupils, further purposes include: á helping pupils develop the skills of an independent learner; á allowing pupils to organise and prioritise

their work; á providing opportunities for extended project and/or research work (including examination coursework); á sustaining the involvement of parents in their child’s learning and keeping them informed about the work they’re doing. Types of homework In most schools, staff and pupils regard homework as an integral part of the curriculum, and as such it is planned and prepared alongside all other programmes of learning. Pupils will usually be set a variety of different homework activities appropriate to their age group. In Foundation Stage and at Key Stage 1, children might be: given books to take home and read with their parents; asked to learn spellings or mathematical tables; asked to talk about a topic at home prior to studying it in school; asked to find and collect things that are then used in science lessons; asked to take home work that they have started in school. Key Stage 2 pupils will usually be expected to complete homework tasks more independently. Literacy, numeracy and science homework is set more frequently and regularly, and the aim of such homework is generally to consolidate and reinforce the learning done in school


help their children as and when they feel it to be necessary, and provide them with the sort of environment that allows children to do their best.

Years 1 and 2 1 hour per week, consisting of reading, spelling and other literacy and number work

Parents can support their children by:

Years 5 and 6 30-45 minutes per day, based on a regular weekly schedule or homework timetable, with continued emphasis on literacy and numeracy but ranging more widely over the curriculum Years 7 and 8 45-90 minutes per day, based on a regular weekly schedule or homework timetable, providing sufficient study time in each discrete subject Year 9 1-2 hours per day, based on a regular weekly schedule or homework timetable, providing sufficient study time in each discrete subject

In Key Stages 3 and 4, and at IGCSE and IB, homework tasks are set which encourage independent learning, consolidate classwork, encourage the practice of new skills, involve research and have as an endpoint extended pieces of work such as project or coursework.

Years 10 to 13 1.5-2.5 hours per day, based on a regular weekly schedule or homework timetable, providing sufficient study time in each discrete subject

How much homework?

Parents have a vital role to play in their child’s education, and homework is an important part of this process. Schools always want parents to encourage their children to complete the homework tasks that are set, so often suggest that parents

As they move through the school, the amount of homework a pupil is expected to do will usually increase. There are of course no hard and fast rules, and these

Mark Angus



amounts will vary depending on the school, the subject and from teacher to teacher, but nevertheless the following may serve as a useful guide:

Years 3 and 4 1.5 hours per week, consisting of literacy and numeracy as in Years 1 and 2, with occasional assignments from other subject areas, including simple research and project work

through practice at home. At this time, homework is also used to ensure that prior learning has been understood and for helping children to revise for tests.


How to help with homework

á providing a peaceful, well-ventilated and well-lit working space at home which is clear of distraction and where pupils can complete their homework; á enabling their child to visit other places where homework can be done, e.g. libraries, IT centres or places for field work; á discussing the work that their child is doing and making it clear that they value homework and support the school; á encouraging pupils and praising them when they have complete homework; á expecting deadlines to be met and checking that they are. Is using the Internet homework? The use of ICT and the Internet has made a significant contribution to the amount of reference material available at home, and the ease and speed of gaining access to it. Nevertheless, your child’s teachers will expect them to produce their own work, perhaps by editing something they have found or by expressing it in their own words. Pupils are not achieving anything worthwhile by merely downloading and printing out something that has been written by somebody else, particularly if they do not understand it. There are many websites containing highly educational material which can have a powerful effect on children’s learning. School websites and Moodle sites also provide links to sites which support children’s learning, as well as containing their own valuable collection of relevant and age-appropriate resources. §

ark Angus read English and Drama at Flinders University, Adelaide, where he specialised in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. He also has an MA in Early Modern Studies from King’s Principal College, University of London, where his main focus of study was The British International School the repertories of 16th- and 17th-century playing companies. Further Shanghai, Nanxiang Campus study includes a Post-Graduate Diploma in Acting from Mountview Theatre School, London, which was followed by six years as a professional actor in theatres throughout the UK. He gained his PGCE in Secondary English from the Open University and was previously the Academic Deputy Head at Westminster Cathedral Choir School in central London. He has been at Nanxiang since the school opened in August 2007, becoming Principal in 2009. Mark Angus has written for the theatre and radio and published articles in a variety of journals on a diverse range of subjects, from Victorian crime to the theatre of Sophocles. His interests include literature, theatre, wine, sport and travel.

Assignment Overload by Mark Angus | Adelaide Copywriter  

Article commissioned by Family Matters, journal of the Nord Anglia Education on the amount of homework that is beneficial for international...

Assignment Overload by Mark Angus | Adelaide Copywriter  

Article commissioned by Family Matters, journal of the Nord Anglia Education on the amount of homework that is beneficial for international...