Samantha Steed, Principal at Ranches Primary School, is a passionate advocate for home learning.
Parents today lead busy lives and homework can often be a source of friction between parents and young children; homework, for many is viewed as another daily chore.
There is a growing movement within education, backed up by extensive research around the world, which believes that homework is damaging and has no significant impact on a child’s academic achievement. A study carried out by The CEM Sutton Trust concludes by suggesting that homework is more valuable at secondary school level and much less effective for children of primary school age.
Homework erodes family time, reduces opportunities for more meaningful learning opportunities and often involves solitary time facing a computer screen. Homework can have a negative impact on a child’s well-being and there are signs of emotional stress and obesity occurring in children as young as seven or eight.
Playgrounds are empty as parents chivvy children home for another hour’s hard work yet many adults agree that their most valuable lessons learnt were when playing outside. If parents and children are going to give up their home life and freedom for homework then there should be evidence that it will produce something.
I had misgivings about homework as a parent as well as an educator yet endorsed the institution for fear of reducing my child’s chances. I would have certainly taken the view that a school that did not issue homework reflected a worrisome lack of seriousness about academics.Not anymore.
There is growing support for ‘Home-learning’. At Ranches Primary we do not set homework, however, we value parental involvement and aim to bring back good old-fashioned family time. We used to have hobbies as a child, not expensive coached activities but time to spend on collecting, crafting and slug races.
We want parents to share those learning experiences with their children; we want to give parents permission to play with their children, to communicate and to be active. Home-learning at Ranches consists of weekly tasks that are project-based and practical; more importantly they are optional.
Mathematical, scientific, historic, entrepreneurial and technological skills are gained through cultivating plants, caring for animals, studying a place or person of interest, starting a mini enterprise or recording weather patterns. We encourage parents to create story corners and communication dens in and outside their homes; to cook with their children and to provide diaries, scrap books and collection boxes for their children.
At Ranches Primary we recognise that the world beyond the classroom is a full and fascinating place, rich in life and talk and stimulation of every kind; we aim for home-learning to engage pupils’ curiosity and to engender a spirt of enquiry. Parents are more willing to engage in tasks that are of interest to them as well as their children (show me a parent who has bonded with their child over a punctuation worksheet!).
If parents are opting out of home-learning altogether we ask only for the following; read together, talk, sing, tell stories from the past, play, listen to music, take some exercise and please, please switch off the iPad and iPhone!
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Samantha Steed is Principal at Ranches Primary School and a passionate advocate for home learning.