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Parents’ homework? – Headmaster’s Blog – 3 May 2017

May 3, 2017
Parent's homework blog Ballard School

Parents’ homework?

Parent questionnaires for school inspections  -it’s homework time…

Every time inspectors send out their questionnaires to parents ahead of a school inspection, the topic which elicits the most comment is invariably homework (or what independent schools usually call ‘prep’). Parents generally fall into two ‘camps’: there’s either too much homework or not enough!

A recent article in the Times newspaper had a comment on homework:

A parenting expert has warned that parents micromanaging homework can hurt children’s prospects, as they grow up less resilient and do not learn from their mistakes. Speaking yesterday at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, Noushin Rahman-Blake, who runs parenting classes at schools, said: “Homework comes up all the time on our courses. Parents don’t always realise that how you learn is through making mistakes. As a parent you should allow children to have a go.” In the Times, Jenni Russell comments that while she sympathises with this view, the reality is that only the wealthy and well-connected can be relaxed about their children’s education, as “only they have the social, intellectual and financial resources to cushion their children if this laidback approach doesn’t work out.”

What is clear from this comment, and my earlier observation about inspection questionnaires, is that homework can raise strong emotions amongst parents and pupils – as well as teachers. I suppose that we all feel we have an opinion because we all went to school and will have some memories about our own homework days. As a boarder myself, I can remember long evenings in the House being supervised by Prefects and, occasionally, House Tutors. Prefects varied in their approach to discipline but were generally too busy with their own A-level work to have time to answer queries or to help younger pupils. Teachers were generally much more approachable!

Ballard’s response to homework

Here at Ballard we provide a staff supervised homework time after school during the daily activities’ slot (in addition to ‘clinics’ for GCSE pupils). Teachers will certainly give advice and help where they can but they will also challenge the pupils to try and work things out for themselves rather than ‘spoon-feed’ them the ‘answers’. As noted in the Times above, it’s a really dilemma for parents. How much help should they give? I spoke with a parent of a Y4 boy just yesterday and she explained how frustrating she had found it trying to help her son with Maths where the techniques and approaches, even the vocabulary, were so different from when she was at school. She then went on to say how helpful she had found the session for parents of Y3-5 children held earlier this week in which these new styles were explained. This has now helped her assist her son by asking him the right questions and directing him to think for himself.

And so I suppose my advice for parents is to show a keen interest in their child’s homework and to learn the vocabulary and styles of learning being used today (perhaps by attending a session in school). This will enable them to ask the right questions – or at least to be able to give some direction to their child. Ideally it should, however, be the pupil’s work and where a significant amount of help has had to be given this can then be noted by the parent for the teacher to be aware. This way the teacher can gauge what more needs explaining and even whether or not it might be helpful for the parent to have a ‘help sheet’ for use at home. Most of all this also helps to foster the all-important home / school partnership where, within reason, each complements the other.

Happy homeworking!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool 

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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