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How to set impactful primary school homework

01 December 2023

How to set impactful primary school homework

In this blog post, we explore how manageable homework tasks can nurture positive mindsets, develop good habits and reinforce the practice of basic skills learnt at school.

Over the years, primary school homework has been the cause of much debate. Many argue that homework is unnecessary for younger pupils, but one of the key reasons for ineffectiveness may be due to the nature of the homework tasks themselves. In which case, what homework should we be setting for primary school children?

Retention of knowledge

It is commonly accepted that the best kind of homework tasks are those that link closely to what has already been taught at school. This is partly because pupils rely heavily on their working memory when processing new information, which means they are quite likely to forget new learning without further consolidation. By reinforcing what a pupil has already learnt at school, homework helps to transfer this knowledge from the working memory to the long-term memory, so that learning becomes firmly embedded.

Activities that build on prior learning, such as practising column division at home following a maths lesson on the subject or learning a set of spellings based on a newly taught spelling rule, are likely to be much more valuable than unrelated or routine homework tasks.

Revision and study skills

For pupils nearing the end of primary school, homework can be a good way of preparing for the KS2 SATs tests or 11+ exams. Series like our SATs 10-Minute Tests, which consolidate key maths and English skills in short 10-minute sessions, allow pupils to revise in quick bursts that won’t encroach on family life.

Parental involvement

Parents and carers sometimes have little understanding of what goes on within the classroom. Children are usually more interested in sharing their playground antics than what they learnt in maths today. Homework bridges this gap, helping parents to familiarise themselves with the curriculum and engage with school life. By making the most of support at home, teachers can unlock learning gains of over four months in a year, according to the EEF.

Creating the space for homework

While parents may have the best intentions, they may not be able to provide an ideal space for home learning or the materials to do it. Homework clubs can alleviate these pressures by providing a suitable environment as well as the resources and support needed to undertake homework or revision. Curriculum-aligned resources, such as the SATs 10-Minute Tests, can be used for independent practice at after school clubs.

Getting it right from the start

Homework isn’t just about academic achievements; it is also about cementing the relationship between school, pupil and parents to build a close-knit support network for children as they progress through school. In the Early Years Foundation Stage, parental involvement is crucial to their child’s progress. Simple phonics or handwriting resources with tailored guidance for adult helpers, like our My Letters and Sounds or WriteWell activity books, can provide parents with valuable reassurance about how to support their child in these important areas.

A balanced approach

With the right homework comes innumerable benefits for pupils and adults alike. Teachers can maximise their pupils’ education by extending learning outside the classroom, while parents gain a valuable insight into their children’s academic lives, perhaps even learning a thing or two themselves! For pupils, knowledge and skills are more secure and their chances of academic success are higher, plus they gain valuable study skills for later life. Short, sharp activities, consolidating what children have already learnt in school, provide far more value than longer, vague tasks and have the added benefit of not interfering too much in home life.

Homework is not intended to prevent children from doing all the activities that help them grow into well-balanced, rounded individuals, such as family time or having fun with a new hobby. The best homework tasks support these activities, rather than minimising them, and equip children with skills that will benefit them throughout their school careers and beyond.

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