"Absolutely no benefit” to homework in primary school says leading child psychotherapist
In Finland, children don't start school until the year they have turned – or turn – seven – and what is more, they have zero homework for the entire time they are in primary school.
The reason? They do all their school work in school, and when they leave school, they are encouraged to play, spend time outside and spend time with family and friends, so that come the next morning, they are well-rested and ready to do more school work – in school.
This, of course, is a stark contrast to life with children in primary school here in Ireland, where children start getting homework when they start junior infants – at just four and five years of age.
And as they go up through the classes in primary school, the homework load gets heavier and takes longer every day to complete.
However, this should not be the case argues Colman Noctor, a leading child psychotherapist.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this week, Noctor argues that homework in primary school has 'absolutely no benefit' and should be abolished altogether.
In fact, making children do homework in primary school, Noctor says, could end up ruining children’s relationship with school – and all without offering any educational benefit in the short or long term.
Through his work, the psychotherapist confesses, he finds that young children are increasingly talking about homework as the cause of their anxieties.
“I am well aware that I see the thin end of the wedge here, but homework is definitely up in the top five of things that are discussed in therapy with children as a difficulty,” he said.
“Oftentimes, it is a battleground for tears, arguments, rows – especially for children who struggle with buying into education, or struggle with learning or even just struggle with being in school.”
Studies paint a picture of what homework does to young children
Noctor reveals that several international studies have shown that homework is not beneficial to young children.
“When you look into it, there is actually no perceived benefits to homework, especially in primary school,” he explained.
“There are people who have done far more research on this than I and it seems absolutely nonsensical that we would persist with something that has absolutely no benefit and causes a great deal of difficulty.”
Since first talking about the issue of homework in his Irish Examiner column, the psychotherapist reveals he has received huge support from primary school teachers.
“When I wrote the column, I expected a backlash and I thought teachers might say, absolutely not but what I can’t believe is, over the last few days, every single teacher that has replied has said you’re absolutely right, it has no benefit and we don’t know why we’re doing it or we shouldn’t be doing it,” Noctor said.
“I have absolutely no clue why or who is pushing the agenda as to why this is important. To say look we have always done it and this is just how it is … when there is something that has no benefit, clearly creates a difficult relationship for children with school, then why persist with it?”
Do you agree homework should be abolished for primary school? Why? Why not?