How much homework is too much?

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  • Very few children enjoy doing their homework – in fact, the ones we know will try almost anything to get out of it – but when the papers continue to pile up, we do sometimes wonder if there’s a limit to how much they should be expected to complete.

    Headteachers were given higher levels of discretion over homework levels in 2012, when Michael Gove scrapped the official guidelines for home study. Previously, an hour a week was recommended for 5-7 year olds, rising to 2.5 hours a night for older pupils aged between 14-16.

    The weekly average amount of homework for primary children in the UK is now 4.9 hours – which may seem like nothing when you consider some students in Shang-Hai, who get 13.8 hours per week! But if the amount of homework given to your child significantly impacts their mood or your day-to-day family life, it may be that there is such a thing as too much.

    In January 2015, one education expert hit the headlines when he wrote that he found a lot of homework tasks to be totally pointless. ‘I have no problem with setting challenging homework,’ Tom Bennett, who teaches at a school in Essex, wrote in the Times Educational supplement, ‘but I do disagree with the pickpocketing of family life to serve the requirements of a school’s homework timetable. ‘This may seem harmless but we must never forget that time is one resource you don’t get back.’

    Mr Bennett used examples of real-life homework tasks, including ‘design your own ideal bedroom’ and ‘imagine how Jesus felt on the cross and draw it’ to illustrate his point that not all homework tasks are relevant or necessary.

    My child has too much homework – what should I do?

    If you feel that your child is being given too much homework, keep a log of how much time they spent on their studies every night, and discuss your findings with other parents to see if their experiences corrolate. A recent study in Spain found that for teens, homework should take no more than 60 minutes to complete, and is actually less effective if the task takes more than 90 – so you could use this as your benchmark, taking into account that it should be less for younger children.

    Take the information you have gathered to their teacher and explain – hopefully their response will be reasonable, but if not, it may time to take your complaint to senior staff.