Should homework be scrapped?

Numerous celebrities, including Gary Lineker, have recently raised concerns about primary school children being given homework.

A key problem that is rarely addressed in the homework debate is the breadth of adult literacy in this country. If child A grows up in a literate, degree-educated household, learning is important. It’s taken seriously and done diligently, with or without the school’s input: trips to museums, reading at bedtime and helping with cooking and shopping. If child B grows up in a home where no adult has ever worked or finished school, they have little hope of achieving what child A will without some outside input.

For many parents, homework is a very high priority. It is their opportunity to see what their child can do and many believe it pushes them to keep achieving. For teachers, however, it is less important. We know what they can do because we’ve been teaching it to them all week! Often the children who don’t need homework complete it every week, while those who would benefit from it have lost their folder two days into term!

Homework is intended to consolidate learning but make it too hard and the child will need help, disadvantaging the already disadvantaged. Make it easier so they can do it without an adult around and what’s the point?

Learning is so much more than struggling through dry worksheets and pointless spelling rules on a Sunday night.

Learning is experience and conversation. It’s reading and questioning. It’s team work, trial and error. Our current system of reading, spellings, maths, writing and projects diminishes the broad spectrum of learning to merely writing stuff down.

Some children grow up in reading, talking houses. They are pushed, encouraged, enabled and challenged to be the best version of themselves. Their parents read with them every day and buy them books for their birthdays. They ask them what they want to be when they grow up and help them get there. These are the parents who either want to abolish homework or want more homework, both for obvious reasons. These children will likely excel, homework or no homework.

But some children grow up in empty houses, as their parents have to work three jobs to afford food or they prefer to go out than provide childcare. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on input from home but if we take away the opportunity for disadvantaged children to read, write, spell and do more maths at home, are we not disadvantaging them further?

As people who care deeply about the future of the children we teach, can we risk downplaying the importance of continuing learning? For so many of the children I teach, home doesn’t have a place to play outside; it doesn’t have any books or stimulating toys and it doesn’t have a consistent adult to learn from. Surely we have a responsibility to provide something, anything, to keep their little minds active, to try to keep them learning? Homework is boring and it’s a pain, but take it away and surely we’re also taking away an important opportunity?

Chloe Withers is a primary school teacher in London.

Parents urged to put family mealtimes back on the menu

Parents are being encouraged to get into the habit of regularly eating with their children, while ignoring media images of unrealistic and ‘perfect’ family meals. The message comes after new research found 53 per cent of mums and dads choose to serve tea for the children before eating later themselves.

Speaking to Premier Youth and Children’s Work, Philip Jinadu from the Christian charity Care for the Family said: “See whether you can even just once a week have a meal together. See how you get on with that, rather than trying to have every meal together in a kind of perfect set up, just start with smaller expectations.”

The survey by the recipe box delivery company, Hello Fresh, also found that 73 per cent of parents thought family dinner time was a thing of the past, while 36 per cent said finding meals the whole family would enjoy ended up putting them off eating as a family.

Speaking about the importance of family meal times, Philip Jinadu said: “When we eat together as families, it bonds us together. It helps children with their own psychological development. It helps build a sense of identity for ‘who I am’ and ‘how I fit into my family’.”

Nearly 60 per cent of the 1,500 parents involved in the study said picky eating among their children caused arguments. Chef and co-founder of Hello Fresh, Patrick Drake, said: “The results of this research make us really sad - and the fact that 73 per cent of the population think family dinner time is a thing of the past is actually quite worrying. We understand the physical and emotional benefits of sitting around a table, discussing the day; food can bring people, friends and families together.”

Church kids say the funniest things

Here’s some of the best things our readers have heard kids say recently…

At dress rehearsal for a nativity dress rehearsal the angel Gabriel announced to the shepherds:

“And you will find the baby Jesus, wrapped in foil and lying in a manger.”

A little girl practicing her memory verse told her Sunday school group:

“All we, like sheep, have gone to Australia.”

Becky, Bedford

A young son recently told his mum:

“Mummy I wish I could have married you. But I wasn’t alive during the war.”

Pippa, Middlesex

Have your kids said anything brilliant recently? Get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.