Primary school homework of no real benefit, say principals
PRIMARY school principals have questioned the value of giving pupils homework.
They say there is little evidence to suggest that it had any real benefit and, if it did, it was "far outweighed" by good teaching.
The Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN) yesterday highlighted their "serious concerns" about the impact of homework and said its role in education required serious analysis.
The IPPN, which represents principals and deputy principals in 90pc of primary schools, raised the issue at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Education discussing primary curriculum reform.
IPPN director Sean Cottrell pointed to a string of negatives associated with asking children to do extra work at home.
He said it caused a lot of stress between parents and children, and parents frequently reported being unable to help their children with homework.
It could also erode the short amount of 'quality time' parents had with children, he said.
Mr Cottrell said homework was often based at a level suited for average to high achievers and was a "huge reminder to low-achieving children of what they cannot do".
The IPPN is of the view that the quantity of homework is no reflection on the quality of teaching in the school.
Mr Cottrell told the committee that inexperienced teachers frequently over-prescribed the amount of homework.
Mr Cottrell also said that the more homework a teacher gave, the more teaching time was lost 'correcting' it.
He said effective teaching in the classroom, which differentiated both children's learning styles and learning abilities, far outweighed any value of homework.
There are no official guidelines for schools about homework, although they are recommended to have a policy on the matter.
But the Department of Education website does provide advice for parents on the matter and states that "homework is an important part of learning and it is important to encourage your child to do his or her homework each evening".
Among the other issues raised with the committee was the need to increase the amount of time given to the teaching of maths at primary level, up from the current three hours a week.
Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan said our primary schools had one of the lowest allocations of teaching time for maths, at about two-thirds the European average.
She also called for a "substantial change" in the way that teachers were trained to teach maths and said it was time to extend teacher training to four years from three.
The INTO also criticised the lack of investment in school computing and the lack of a nationwide supply of reliable broadband connectivity.
Ms Nunan said, to date, €22m had been given to primary schools to facilitate the purchase of minimum computer hardware, which was less than half of what was required.