Monday 22 January 2018

Sinead Ryan: Homework stressful? Life's stressful...get on with your homework

Children hate it, parents dread it and it seems that homework now has one more enemy. Primary school principals are questioning the value of 'ecker' after decades of doling it out to groaning pupils everywhere.

The principals' organ-isation, IPPN, claimed there was little evidence to show it made any difference to learning while being "very stressful" for children and reducing quality time spent with parents.


Hello? Life is stressful and none of us have enough quality time -- but at least sitting down at a table with your children on a one-to-one, even if it is to recite Irish verbs, is just as important as baking a cake or playing football.

But the real eye-opener was gob-smacking in its naivete. Sean Cottrell, director of the IPPN, said homework was "not suited to low-achieving children" and could be a "huge reminder" of what they could not do.

Well, slap me in the face with a ruler. The answer is to lower standards for everyone? Brilliant. That'll get the smart economy on a firm footing for the future when we're already fighting with super-intelligent and educated Chinese, Indian and other foreign workers for too few jobs.

Schools are already too politically correct at primary level.

The notion, for instance, that everyone gets a medal at the end-of-year ceremony for dickied-up achievements like turning up every day, or being helpful in the playground, is ridiculous.

Kids then progress to secondary school and on to college where they find out, very swiftly, that life doesn't work like that.

Failure is an option, and in the real world of work, it's survival of the fittest.

Cotton-balling children when they're younger makes the transition harder, not easier.

If we go down the route of setting the bar lower for everyone, we're gearing ourselves up for the failure of a generation.

Giving out homework is one small sub-set in how to create more able and resilient children.

Learning they can't do something is as valuable a lesson as finding out a subject is easy.


If a child is finding sums or reading difficult, the solution is not to bring everyone in the class down to that level while ignoring the benefits of repetitive learning and preparation that homework offers.

It involves good, sound teaching instead and proper learning supports for that child where necessary.

Classroom assistants and SNAs play a fantastic role to help children who are finding the work more challenging than others and there should be more of them, not fewer.

It can be incredibly stressful for parents to see a child struggling, perhaps through tears to learn a poem, or reams of spellings. We've all been there.

At heart, though, you know that the homework is vitally important to them preparing for the next lesson and reinforcing what was learned today.

The IPPN says that some teachers only give out homework because they think the parents want them to. But how would you feel, as a parent, if your child sailed home, dumped the bag and announced with a big grin that there was no more homework because one child in the class was feeling "reminded" of his inability, so everyone gets off to make him feel better?

Homework is important.

Focusing on divining different, creative ways of learning which children of all abilities can benefit from is the way forward.

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