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Homework can damage family relationships.



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9 February 2004

Homework can damage family relationships

Homework can cause friction between parents and children, especially in middle-class families where concerns about a child’s future can lead to a climate of pressure to succeed. The resulting damage to the parent-child relationship may outweigh any educational advantage homework may bring, says a new report from the Institute of Education.

Homework can also create anxiety, boredom, fatigue and emotional exhaustion in children, who resent the encroachment on their free time, even though they think homework helps them do well at school.

Homework: The evidence by Dr Susan Hallam is a review of 75 years of research on homework in the UK, the USA, Europe, Australia and the Far and Middle East. It analyses the effects of homework on children of different abilities, ethnicities, ages and genders and considers the viewpoints of teachers, parents and pupils.

Problems may arise when parents try to help with homework, especially when they feel they lack the knowledge or the time. Parents may inhibit their children’s effectiveness in doing homework by trying to control the homework environment - telling children when and where to do homework or trying to eliminate distractions - instead of helping them adapt it to suit their learning styles.

But homework can also encourage parental involvement in their children’s studies, increase children’s independence and provide opportunities for practice and skill development. Positive parental involvement in homework has been shown to be the strongest predictor of better grades.

Dr Hallam says: “Parents have the most positive influence when they offer moral support, make appropriate resources available and discuss general issues. They should only actually help with homework when their children specifically ask them to.”

The report makes a case for homework to be done in out-of-hours homework clubs rather than at home. Dr Hallam says: “Homework clubs give children the benefits of homework without the rows at home. Children feel they make homework enjoyable and give them a better chance of passing exams. They provide a suitable learning environment with appropriate resources and adult help if necessary, and they take the pressure off the parents. They may assist in raising standards for those

who need extra support or who find it difficult to do homework at home. As such, they help to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

The research also finds that homework can boost achievement, but only when done in moderate amounts - there is an optimal level beyond which doing more brings no benefit at all. As yet untested government guidance recommends from one hour a week for five- to seven-year-olds to two and a half hours a day for students aged 14 to 16. But, says the research, the overall contribution made by homework to performance on achievement tests is relatively small compared to prior knowledge, ability, time on task, good attendance at school, motivation and self-confidence.

Homework: The evidence is published by the Institute of Education and launched on 12 February at the Institute’s open day.

Notes for editors

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Hallam, please contact Helen Green, press officer, +44 020 7612 6459, h.green@ioe.ac.uk.

Homework: The evidence is available from the Institute of Education’s bookshop, +44 (0)20 7612 6050, ioe@johnsmith.co.uk, priced £9.99.

Dr Susan Hallam is reader in education in the School of Lifelong Education and International Development at the Institute of Education.

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London, specialising in teaching, research and consultancy in education and related areas of social science and professional practice.