It often amuses me when I hear parents saying we are learning Geography, Maths or French this evening and it makes me wonder if homework really is for the benefit of the children or whether it is just a parental inconvenience.
On a recent visit to a prep school I was intrigued to hear that homework is an important part of delivering their educational objectives, but it is completed during the first lesson of each day, not at home. Supervised by the teacher who set it, the homework has to have one of two objectives; to practise or consolidate recently acquired knowledge and skills or to encourage the development of investigative skills, research techniques or creative thinking. The teacher is on hand to offer guidance, while encouraging independent learning and problem solving skills. In this way, the school gains a far more accurate picture of each child’s acquired skills and knowledge, since they can be certain that it is the child’s work and not that of supportive parents. Children also develop team working and peer mentoring skills, since they have the opportunity to work together, to complete homework tasks.
With stringent curriculum attainment targets, homework is certainly a way to extend and challenge children’s capabilities outside curriculum boundaries. Much has been written to question whether we are stifling the imagination and creativity of our future inventors and entrepreneurs by offering schools little flexibility within the curriculum.
Attaining consistently high expectations and standards of educational provision across all schools is a strong argument in support of this strategy. It is my feeling however that creatively set homework tasks, if completed in the right environment, with only essential adult intervention, can lead to the development of important life skills, such as the ability to problem solve and think or work independently.