Homework can be a difficult and controversial issue for any school. It can easily be divisive and unhelpful to the overall learning process, particularly where:
- It is viewed by pupils as a chore or, even, as a form of punishment
- It accords exclusively with parental but not pupil agendas
The more traditional approach to homework has actually been shown by research to foster social barriers and, more seriously, to create a negative attitude towards learning per se. Given this situation, it might be a thought that homework should be reduced to a minimum and, for example, restricted to Upper School. However, this reaction would be based upon a narrow definition of the nature and purpose of homework which would see it as a matter of ‘duty’ rather than as having any intrinsic interest or tangible benefit. It is much more fruitful to consider homework under the broader heading of ‘consolidating learning’. Therefore, if our definition of homework focuses upon encouraging pupils to consolidate their learning in their own time, we can, hopefully, remove all negative connotations. Homework is thus essentially the pupil’s responsibility.
Within this context, our aim must be to create an environment in which learning is valued to such an extent that consolidation of class work is seen as a natural and important part of the learning process. In providing homework, teachers would thus be supporting pupils’ learning beyond the classroom – as opposed to imposing upon their leisure time - and, hopefully, parents would be encouraged to become active partners in this process. Clearly, the nature of the homework activity will be crucial (examples are given clearly here in this policy) if pupils are to be convinced of the value of out of school learning - meaningless or irrelevant exercises given in a tokenistic way must be avoided at all costs. Where homework activities require marking by the teacher this should be seen as ‘high value’ and something to be appreciated by pupils and parents alike.
To sum up, therefore, homework:
- Must be relevant to the teacher’s curricular objectives
- Takes place outwith formal classroom teaching
- Is primarily the responsibility of the learner
The Purpose of Homework
Homework can serve a range of purposes ie:
- Allowing practice and consolidation of work done in class
- Allowing preparation for future class work
- Offering access to resources not available in the school
- Developing skills in using libraries and other learning resources
- Providing opportunities for individualised work
- Allowing assessment of pupils’ progress and mastery of work
- Providing evidence for the evaluation of teaching
- Training for pupils in planning and organising time
- Developing good habits and self-discipline
- Encouraging ownership and responsibility for learning
- Providing information for parents
- Providing opportunities for parental co-operation and support
- Creating channels for home-school dialogue
- Fulfilling the expectations of parents, pupils, teachers and the public
The role of parents in supporting the out of school learning of their children is crucial. To support this process, a “Homework Guide for Parents” is issued to all parents of pupils joining the school. An exemplar is given as Appendix 1.
Types of Homework
The nature and frequency of homework will vary according to both stage and subject. It is not appropriate, therefore, to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach. In each of the Stage Guides, subject departments make statements about the nature and purpose of homework within their area of the curriculum and a wide range of approaches has been adopted. For example, opportunities for home study in practical subjects, particularly in the early years, are relatively infrequent. In some cases, a project-based approach may be more appropriate, involving pupils in research, analysis and collation and presentation activities. By contrast, in the upper school, the assumption is that homework is regular – possibly for every contact period.
The following guidelines are, therefore, generic in nature. Staff should:
- Provide varying types of homework set within a pupil’s capabilities
- Provide homework tasks which parallel or feed into course work
- Ensure pupils are given adequate notice of homework tasks
- Support pupils who experience difficulty in completion of homework tasks to ensure a sense of achievement and to allow their self-esteem to grow. Departments are encouraged to seek assistance and advice from the Support for Learning Department wherever appropriate
- Be sensitive to the social environment in which each child lives
- Make available any resources required to complete the homework task
- Establish a routine, known to both pupils and parents, regarding setting, collecting and giving feedback on homework
- Ensure feedback is positive with constructive criticism where necessary
- Maintain records of homework set and individual pupil achievement
- Evaluate homework tasks regularly
Amount/Frequency of Homework
There is an understandable pre-occupation amongst parents with the amount of time spent per night on homework and whether it is equally divided between each subject. This frequently translates into a request for fixed time allocations, such as 25 minutes for subject X per week. While possibly unhelpful and contrary to the tenor of our policy, we cannot brush parental attitudes aside and an element of compromise is essential. Accordingly, a rough guide to what, on average, is expected is contained within the Homework Guide for Parents.
Frequency of homework is very much an issue for departments to determine but it is useful if words or phrases such as weekly, fortnightly or twice per term are provided for guidance.
Sanctions & PROCEDURES
The school places great value on homework and it is important to emphasise to both parents and pupils that learning in any subject can be significantly enhanced by undertaking work out of school. The key to this process is a shared understanding of the benefits of the homework tasks themselves i.e. the activities to be undertaken must have an obvious relevance to the individual pupil’s learning process. It is within this context that the non-completion of homework should be addressed. From a somewhat idealistic standpoint, it could be argued that failure to do homework is its own punishment and completion is its own reward. However, pragmatism is essential in this respect and, while avoiding a more negative, punitive approach, we must seek to create a positive homework climate where non-completion is recorded, communicated as appropriate and the subject of further action. The school’s monitoring & tracking system has a key role to play in this process i.e.
- All formal class homework issued should be recorded in a ‘Homework’ sheet in Monitoring & Tracking, whether summative or formative. Exceptions would be activities such as revision, completing unfinished work etc.
- Colour coding should be used as follows :
GREEN: completed on time
ORANGE: late (but handed in)
RED: not completed
The colour coding is thus used to record whether or not homework has been completed, rather than as a measure of the quality of the homework. If, on the other hand, a teacher wishes to comment on the quality of a particular piece of homework, this can be done by using the ‘comments’ feature of Excel.
An ORANGE ‘late’ will become a RED ‘not completed’ after an appropriate period of time, to be determined by the class teacher.
It would be at the discretion of the class teacher whether or not to mark a late homework.
- Where a student is ‘red-flagged’ for not having completed a homework, an e-mail titled ‘homework concern’ should be sent to Office Staff, copied to Guidance Staff and to the relevant Faculty Principal Teacher, with the name(s) of the student(s) involved.
- Thereafter, the Office will generate a homework letter which reads as follows:
Name of subject : Subject name
I am writing because Student A has not completed a recent homework assignment in this subject. As you will appreciate, homework is an important part of learning and teaching and as a result I would appreciate it if you could discuss this with him/her.
All homework should be recorded in Student Planners and students should be encouraged to check these each night and to plan ahead so that all homework activities can be handed in complete and on time.
If you would like to discuss this further, please get in touch with me via the School Office.
- If a teacher would like additional comments to be included (e.g. from the Comments feature of Excel), these should be copied into the e-mail as the member of staff would wish them to appear in the letter.
- A homework letter will be generated which the class teacher will check and sign.
- To summarise, every time a homework assignment is not completed, this should be indicated in RED in Monitoring & Tracking, an e-mail sent to the Office (copied to Guidance and the Faculty Principal Teacher) and a letter sent home.
- In addition, there should be a reference to homework in annual reports
- Pupil commitment to homework should be recognised in the same way that we recognise other successful aspects of their work. It would seem appropriate, therefore, to incorporate homework as an issue into each department’s programme for promoting positive behaviour, eg letters of commendation, displays of work, credit points or prizes
- The homework planner should be used as creatively as possible (for example, parental signatures, brief comments by the teacher)
Differentiation of Homework
Homework should always be differentiated, in the same way that class work material should be, being appropriate to the ability and reading skills of the learner. Consideration should be given to making homework freestanding i.e. aimed at consolidating, but not dependent on, full understanding of work done in class. However, homework may also be issued to complete work being done in the classroom provided this approach is not used excessively as it has the potential to penalise the less able.
Departments are already able to bid for Support for Learning support time to help differentiate homework materials in the same way that they can for classroom materials. There is also the ‘Readability Guidelines’ document issued to all staff and available in the shared staff T Drive Support for Learning Department folder.
The Homework planner
All pupils are provided with an attractive homework planner at the start of the session. This is the key vehicle for communicating homework activities to parents and should be used as fully as possible (other than simply to record what homework has to be done and the date by which it has to be done) for example:
- To obtain a parental signature
- To communicate (briefly) with parents, particularly where there are concerns over non-completion)
Class teachers should build a ‘Homework Planner’ moment into their teaching routines, probably towards the end of the lesson.
Similarly, there are checking roles for Faculty Principal Teachers, Pastoral Staff and Senior Management.