There is no doubt that homework, appropriate to an individual’s learning needs, has real value. Prof Susan Hallam (Institute of Education) highlights “hard evidence” from research that appropriate homework really does improve pupils achievement. “There is no question about that.“
These views are supported by the DfE’s own research whilst the revised Ofsted framework states that, “appropriate homework, which consolidates learning, deepens understanding and matches individual need” is an indicator of quality teaching and learning. So, it would appear there is value in homework.
But, do schools believe it’s worth the hassle? Apparently so. When Michael Gove devolved homework policy back to school leaders, his intentions were that individual schools would be better placed to decide what “appropriate homework” looked like.
A school’s homework policy may be sound. In truth, however, as teachers many of us define homework as a hassle because applying the vision is not so straightforward! We cannot find the solutions to meet our teaching philosophy or indeed the Ofsted requirements for appropriate homework setting.
Often the outstanding teacher wants to differentiate homework, as they would an activity within the classroom, and make it appropriate to the learning needs of each individual. That takes time. Not a commodity that the teaching community is blessed with! So, with a heavy heart and at odds with our teaching core values, homework becomes a compromise. It’s not so much an extension of quality learning from the classroom but an exercise in “just getting it set”.
It is not appropriate to every learner’s needs. Therefore, there is little value. We know the quality of the homework set is compromised, and regularly question whether the whole process is indeed worth the hassle.
Sound familiar? Perhaps our thoughts should move away from the recent “scrapping homework outrage” media stories. These are schools that have not found their solution. Homework has proven value.
The challenge is to find the right solution that provides the balance. Removing the hassle of homework requires us to focus on innovative ways in which teachers can deliver appropriate, high quality personalised maths homework in a way that is sustainable and reduces burden.