‘Homework should not be box-ticking exercise’, says former Larne principal

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A former Larne principal fears her pupils may have been right after all – some homework could be “completely pointless”.

Audrey Stewart, an officer with the Ulster Teachers’ Union and former head of Olderfleet Primary, was responding to claims from a leading educationalist in the United Kingdom that school inspection systems could “force teachers to set futile homework exercises simply to hit targets”.

Tom Bennett, director of the ResearchEd conference, suggested schools were being forced to “pickpocket family life by the demands of the GB inspection body, OFSTED.”

Mrs Stewart said: “Ironic though it sounds, teachers would agree with these sentiments. There is nothing to be gained – indeed there is more to be lost – if children are set pointless homework, in other words, homework for the sake of homework.

“The point of homework should be to reinforce what’s been taught in school – a way to ensure that if there are gaps in a child’s knowledge these can be bridged at the earliest opportunity.

“Homework also gives parents a chance to share in what their child has been learning at school – although there is nothing to be gained by parents doing the homework for the child, though a GB survey last year revealed that a quarter of parents do just that.

“Crucially, what Mr Bennett’s arguments also highlight is the nature of school inspections. Inspectors must understand and relate to the reality of teaching today at a time of austerity when teachers and families are under more pressure than ever.

“No teacher would have a problem setting a worthwhile homework exercise which will engage the child and further their learning – but that should be the only reason for setting homework.”