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Is homework for primary age children a good thing?

Before N started school I was pretty much against homework at primary school. I didn’t recall doing any during my primary years, and really didn’t feel like I did much at secondary either despite being a bit of a swot.


My arguments against homework for primary kids:

1, We didn’t do homework at primary and still managed to do well at school
2, There’s not enough time in the evenings (especially when children are at after school club and don’t get home until nearly 6pm most days)
3, Weekends should be free for family time
4, Kids begrudge doing work outside school which can in turn mean they don’t enjoy school as much
5, They work hard enough at school as it is
6, It’s going to be a battle every evening
7, OMG, it was years since I was at school and teaching methods have changed a lot. How the hell am I going to be able to help him?

Other people compare the UK’s kids to those in Scandinavia where they don’t learn formally until age 7. Some US teachers have been in the news for banning homework. Some parents refuse to give their children homework. So where do I stand now with homework?

I was surprised recently after posting a homework photo on Instagram, at how many people were horrified by the amount of homework N gets at only 5 years old. To me, it’s reading that takes the time because N takes an age to read half a book (along with being distracted by the pictures). The rest of his homework probably takes 10-15 minutes max a few times a week. There’s certainly a difference in the amount of homework different schools set.

Homework in Foundation stage

Once N started in reception it was all very easy. Parents were just expected to read with their children every night for 10-15 minutes, and gradually as they started learning phonics and how to read, the expectation was that the children would do reading supported by parents with the occasional phonics worksheet (simply reminding them of the phonics they learnt that day and learning to write them). All very easy, and apart from the reading which N hated doing because he was a more practical than academic child, it was over quickly leaving plenty of playtime.

N also had 50 words to learn in an envelope by the end of the year. While we learnt them, even now in year 1 he still sounds some of them out – more so the easy ones, he has a real brain freeze when it comes to ‘on’!

But thinking back to my school days, I did do homework. I learnt to read really easily so I don’t remember the process or flashcards (although my younger brother had a tin of them to learn). But in juniors we had spellings each week, we had times tables to learn, a weekly arithmetic test, we had to learn poetry to recite and various other topic type of learning. My mum also used to set me maths work to do as well, because she didn’t believe my teacher was pushing me to work at my level (unlike my brother’s teacher who was wiser and realised he needed pushing).

So thinking that we didn’t have homework wasn’t reality. What was different was that there were no league tables, the majority of our mums were at home all day (at least during primary school), and after school clubs were limited to the occasional sports match when we were at the top of the school. Nowadays children have a lot more on and both parents are more likely to work.

Homework in Year 1

The reception year homework didn’t bother me apart from the pain of trying to persuade N to read the extremely dull books he got sent home with. But I wasn’t prepared for the announcement of home work in year 1. From 2 reading books twice a week, he now has 1 longer book 3 times a week, 6 spellings a week, a literacy worksheet and a maths worksheet. Plus occasionally he’ll have the big talk prep – where he has to think about something he might talk about for a set topic. I did worry initially over how he would take it, and how much there was. But he’s tackled it really well (stickers have helped and our new reward system).


He loves maths so one worksheet based on the maths they’re doing that week is easy to fit in, doing half over 2 days.


Literacy is usually a picture taken from a book they’re studying that week, and he needs to write 2 or 3 sentences about the picture. Again it’s over 5 days, so we do it over a couple of days. N finds writing harder, or more realistically he struggles with knowing what to write.

‘I don’t understand what you’re saying’
‘I don’t know what to write’

When I say ‘tell me what you see’, he can’t seem to straight away answer which is strange given how long he spends on his reading books just gazing at the pictures and then pointing out everything about them and asking questions about them. Sigh. But usually I’ll turn around or come back to the sheet later and I’ll see he’s written something on his own anyway.

He loves spellings – and will happily pick up his spelling book at any time of the day and practice. He’s not happy when the teachers mark a spelling wrong because they can’t quite read his writing. Although this week he was back to 6/6 so, he’s a happy boy again.

Considering N spent most of reception playing rather than doing writing and reading, I’ve been really impressed how he gets on with his homework. Yes he still moans he’s too tired to read his books, but we split it down and do half a day, and he usually gets a Friday and Saturday off. I just point out if he doesn’t do a little bit one day, he’ll have more to do the next. It’s about giving him choices.

doing homework

This compares with other children where parents told me what their kids get:

Tobyandroo ‘Roo gets 2 books 3x a week, one maths sheet and one writing/phonics/word sheet. I think it’s a lot!’

Poppety ‘P has a reading book that she has a week to read 4 times and she gets 3 homework tasks and they choose the one they want to do, they are issued on Mondays and we hand them back on the following Monday, so we do the task on the weekend’

Mummy Adventure ‘D is in year 1 and still only really has reading’

Sparkly Devil My boy has spellings and a piece of homework once a week, then reading books every day/every other day. He’s in Year 1.

Over 40 and a mum to one ‘Blimey! We have reading and spellings every day. Maths but as a ‘this is what we’re concentrating on this term’ so if you want to do anything then this would help. Weekly topic O – 6 weeks and 9 options to pick from. That’s more than enough and I certainly wouldn’t be doing any more with Monkey (Yr2)’

Cardiff Mummy Says ‘That is a lot! My daughter in year two gets homework every weekend plus a book to read. I don’t mind a little bit of homework but it shouldn’t be too much’

Suburban Mum ‘I think we are lucky at E’s school they have to read or be read to 10 mins every evening and then he gets homework to do some weekends. (He’s in year 2)’

Mother_Joseph ‘My little one is in reception and hasn’t any homework yet. Eldest year 3 receives spellings on a Monday and a small maths sheet on a Wednesday so basically nothing’

Mudpie Fridays ‘We get it every night too and only in reception. Plus they gave just put them into sets at 4.5 yrs old’

Pondering Parenthood As a teacher I don’t agree with homework at primary school (but was often made to set it. I compromised by giving a choice of tasks and refused to set any over holidays). Typical worksheet homework tasks have little impact. Daily reading is essential though!

Keep up with the Jones family We get once a week. I was a teacher. I think it should be optional. With multiple siblings at home it can be hard and stressful for families to do – can ruin relationships and also takes away from what little family time we have.

Benefits of homework for us

[bctt tweet=”Is homework for primary age children as bad as we presume? Check out the benefits we’ve found ” username=”etusty”]

There have been lots of homework articles in the last couple of years saying that there’s no little or no benefit in giving homework to children. While I agree that there are other just as valuable things that children could be doing, for me there’s plenty of benefits a little bit of homework can bring.

1, It reinforces what they’ve learnt in class. N is quite forgetful, so the more he covers something, hopefully the more it’ll sink in

2, He’ll hopefully learn what he does and doesn’t like. I just think back to the OH who hated school, but loves history – something that wasn’t really recognised at school. Hopefully by N getting to do more of something he loves like maths, will help him in making choices down the line

3, It’s good for us to work together and for N to know that he’s got the support and encouragement from his parents for his school work. Now, even the OH encourages him to do his homework before doing the fun stuff…kind of.

4, I get to know exactly what they’re doing in class and how he’s doing. I only do one pick up a week, and while the school send round a ‘what we’re doing this week’ by class email on Mondays, N can never tell me exactly what they’ve been doing.

5, Homework encourages N to do things other than watch YouTube. In the summer there’s still time for him to go out and play afterwards, so he doesn’t miss out on play time or time with us.

6, A little every day has helped N progress. And I’m sure faster than he would have done without it. Definitely for reading, it’s noticeable when he misses a couple of days, that it takes a while to get back into the flow of reading again.

7, It gives N encouragement that he does know what he’s doing even if he initially thinks he doesn’t

8, It gives him pride in his work. While N’s year group is small and the classes are under 30 in size, there’s still no way that every good thing that N does can be picked up as well as the other children in the class. So we’re able to show our pride in what he’s achieved as he does it. Anything that gives N confidence in his reading and writing is essential in my eyes.

9, It gives him responsibility and routine which should help him understand how to work when he’s older and responsible for his own time.

The one thing I am pleased about is how we (so far) haven’t been given big projects or topic work to do. I think that sort of homework we’d struggle more with. I’m not creative, I was always better at tests and exams at school than project work, so the thought of creating stone age buildings or projects on the railways etc, fills me with horror. I’m also hoping that the amount of homework doesn’t massively increase over the time he’s at primary school.

What are your thoughts on homework for primary age children? How much do your children get?


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  1. I think it definitely has its place in year one, but in reception we get two books a night. We would read anyway but Monkey also needs to read one and spell out his words. We have a wordhouse each week where he needs to learn 4 words to spell out load, form and recognise. We get a maths numicon challenge every two weeks. He has phonic sounds to practice although we only do these once a week because its just too much otherwise. He also has one off things like documenting the parts of a bean as it grows into a plant. He’s not even 4.5 yet and he’s been at school since Sept. Thats a lot by anyone standards. It makes me worry how I am going to do it all with him when I am back at work, as he will be at after school club until 6 three nights a week!! Poor mite. x

    1. I remember you saying he gets a lot. That is an insane amount and probably more than our Year 6 kids get because our school tries to keep it pretty basic. In our reception they didn’t start phonics until after Oct half term, and had reading books from just before Christmas. Before then, the books were twice a week for parents to read to the kids. They had 50 words to learn for the year (N still doesn’t know many of them by sight) and then abit of phonics worksheets. But that was it and plenty.

      Teachers have said to me that at a young age,it’s all about reading – whether parents or the kids. The rest doesn’t do a lot!

      N doesn’t get back home til nearly 6 as well 3 nights, then tennis on Mon and Fri. He’s a whole year older than Monkey, but even he finds it hard going doing homework at that time, so I feel for him being so young. You might be able to get after school club to help him with homework while he’s there? Ours will do that if asked to.

    1. Oh dear. Some of our year 1s are in with year 2 and do the same work, so they’re the ones who’ve had the big jump up at our school. N’s being eased in more easily thankfully. Looking at what’s written on the class 2 boards, is very different to what’s in his class 1!

  2. A very timely article for me as we’ve just seen our homework ramp up. My daughter is in reception and has new sounds to learn, a maths game and reading every week. I feel it’s very intense as we struggle to fit it in especially if we have plans at the weekend. It’s tough trying to remain enthusiastic to encourage them too. Like you say, though, it does help to reinforce what they are learning and it’s amazing just how quickly things can then start to sink in.

    1. Hi Jodie, That seems quite a lot for reception, we didn’t start reading until just before Christmas when N was in reception. This weekend N came home with 2 books and we’ve only read half of one. He just wasn’t around to do it. Thanks for stopping by

  3. I really do think homework should be given but it should be optional/only for the kids who want to do it or have time. My older 2 are in years 1 and 3 at the moment, I find homework is a chore for the eldest, and sometimes we have battles over it. I never had any homework in primary school and remember asking for it in year 6 as I was a bit of a geek! #TheListLinky x

    1. That makes a lot of sense. Some kids love doing it, others don’t. I guess though, it could mean that some kids progress faster, while those who aren’t that keen fall further behind. N is still mixed with his love for it when there’s other things to do instead.

  4. My daughter isn’t at school yet, but I do think that it all sounds quite excessive at such a young age. I know I certainly never got homework at primary school and my evenings were spent playing with friends or my sister. I think a little bit is probably a good thing since it helps parents to stay in touch with what their children are learning, but I really don’t think it’s necessary every night – especially since it’s not like kids stay up until 10pm, so we don’t have that much time in the evenings at all. Great informative piece and interesting how it differs across schools x #TheList

    1. Thanks. Yes, I was amazed how much it differs. Our school generally says that it’s the reading that’s the key one to do every night, but it’s really noticeable with N how much confidence he gets from doing it and showing what he can do outside of school. He’s now at the stage where he’s choosing to do extra stuff rather than just homework. (Although today he’s brought home 2 books, but then is refusing to read even half of one – means they won’t get read as I’m/he’s not around much this weekend!)

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