Talking Head

Headmaster's blog at Newcastle School for Boys

January 31, 2019

Home learning

This blog is about homework.  It is intended to summarise and capture the key content and discussion at our recent parents’ forum held at The Grove.  I hope it captures the content and some of the discussion from the evening and that it is particularly informative for those parents who were unable to attend our second, parents’ forum.

There were a wide range of parental views expressed on homework, or ‘home learning’ as the forum helpfully suggested it might be more constructively labelled.

However, the initial feedback we have received on the launch of our new online homework site Show My Homework has been universally positive.  Senior School Deputy Head (Teaching & Learning), Alex Newman, gave a guided tour and demonstration of the software and some of its functionality.

Our initial aim in launching the site was to minimise or remove completely as many barriers as possible to boys completing homework to a good standard.  We found that we were wasting a lot of time and energy chasing and following-up missing or incomplete homework.  Typical barriers appeared to be boys’ uncertainty as to task requirements and lost or forgotten resources.  Parents had shared similar frustrations in the form of tales of fruitless rummaging in the bottom of sports bags followed by fraught, late evening pursuit on the unofficial portal of collective parental knowledge and wisdom: WhatsApp.

Early feedback and signs suggest that many of those frustrations are disappearing for school and parents.  If there’s any disenfranchisement, it’s from a small number of teenage Kevins and Perrys expressing it ‘so unfair’ that a previous homework loophole has now been closed and that their parents now know what homework they should be doing.  Kevin and Perry have been outnumbered.

Access to the Show My Homework site should now mean that a lost or forgotten text book or worksheet or a lack of recall of what ‘do sheet’ recorded in a planner might actually mean are things of the past.  All of the correct information is now available to boys, parents and teachers at the touch of a button on a computer, tablet or phone.

Energy can be diverted away from chasing and compliance to a focus on learning and quality of work.  As one parent remarked at the forum, it affords an opportunity to redefine homework.  The School can now monitor the quality, consistency and frequency of homework being set.

The Show My Homework site also offers other functionality too such as online submission, feedback and instant messaging – features that we will consider and explore in the coming months but, in the meantime, we’re celebrating the effective sharing and accessibility of information online to support the completion of learning tasks.

Authoritative research published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) confirms the positive impact homework has on outcomes particularly for senior age children – on average five and potentially up to eight months’ additional progress[1].  The evidence is a little less secure for primary-aged children.  Nevertheless, one of the benefits of an all-through, 3 to 18 school, is the opportunity to develop positive learning approaches and habits from a young age.

Good quality homework promotes and supports classroom learning.  In addition, it helps children to develop self-discipline, independence and planning skills as well as to take ownership of their learning.

Emerging from the discussion with parents at the forum was the importance of homework being in balance.  Balance with the rest of children’s lives according to their age and balance with family life.  Opinion appeared divided on holiday homework but it shouldn’t dominate school holidays which provide valuable opportunities to relax, to read and to learn in other ways.

The slides used by Mr Newman, Miss White (Head of Junior School) and Mr Clark (Year 4 class teacher) at the forum are available to be viewed here.  If you have questions or problems accessing your son’s homework on the Show My Homework site, please contact the relevant school in the first instance.  The office will direct your enquiry to the appropriate person.

The School’s next parents’ forum event will be held on 7th March with a likely focus on the School’s work in relation to its aim to develop boys and young men of excellent character.  We look forward to seeing you there.