The case for homework


Sir, – I was fascinated to read Aine McMahon’s article on suggestions that homework requirement be taken away from primary school children (Education, January 23rd).

I am not an educationalist but must confess to being surprised by the level of support this idea seems to have.

Schools need to be flexible about homework demands. There should be variability so that work is individualised and targeted at helping all students achieve within their ability. Success builds on children achieving goals rather than failing at ones beyond reach.

Yet all children need to learn how to cope with not succeeding and they certainly need to learn that not all work is immediately brilliant but benefits revision and improvement after good advice.

Homework may be a nuisance but it is also vital for forming good habits that stand to people throughout life.

Homework also provides parents and children with an opportunity to work together and allows for thinking and ideas to be shared. If hard work and doing unwelcome tasks are not learned at school, the world can come as a shock afterwards. As long as there is balance between work and recreation, the outcomes are usually good.

Much has changed in education. Technology has brought the school and university classroom to the desktop but the requirement of hard work has not changed.

Like self-regulation and other basic human qualities for successful living, these habits are best arrived at early. Small doses of homework from a young age seem to me a very useful help to development. – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.

Sir, – Prof Desmond Swan (January 25th) makes several important points about homework, and rightly asks “should not time be found for both homework and play?”.

I was blessed, aged 12, to be taught by one of the most outstandingly gifted primary school teachers in the country. He was also an exceptionally nice man. One feature of our sixth class was homework “credits”, which were awarded based on the quality of each pupil’s homework.

By Friday, the more credits one had built up the less homework was required of one over the weekend. If you consistently scored well from Monday to Thursday you could end up with a long, playful, homework-free weekend.

It taught me three important lessons for life. First, carrots work better than sticks. Second, incentives and rewards really do work. Third, rewards need not be financial to be effective.

Mr Mackey has been in his grave for a long time. And yet I’ve such happy memories of his class that I only need to hear a pop song released during the 1982-1983 school year to be instantly reminded of a brilliant, kind teacher and his homework “credits”. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.