Schools should establish homework contracts with parents to set out everyone’s responsibilities in making sure it gets done, according to a new report.
Pupils with parents who make sure they complete their homework before they do other activities score almost two points (1.93) higher in verbal reasoning tests aged 11, research from the Social Market Foundation has found.
Its authors are now recommending that schools and parents draw up a contract at the start of each year agreeing to keep in regular contact about their children’s progress.
Under former education secretary Michael Gove, the Department for Education chose to scrap statutory guidance which required schools to have a formal policy on how they would engage with parents in 2016, in a bid to cut “red tape” for headteachers.
However, the report wants teachers to sign a home-school contract in which they commit to setting “high-quality homework” and to supporting parents.
Meanwhile parents should commit to making sure homework is completed and to stay in touch with the school.
A survey of school leaders and pupils conducted on behalf of Ofsted in 2015, found around half of all children said their homework ‘never’ or ‘only sometimes’ helped them make progress.
Researchers also found pupils with parents who ensure they complete their homework make more progress between the ages of five and 11.
Kate Ryan, the principal of Christleton International Studio in Chester, which does not set homework, believes it causes too much stress at home.
Instead, pupils could sign up for sessions with teachers to complete independent work in “self-scheduled lessons”.
The school also offers sessions to parents on how to “support learning at home” without setting formal homework tasks. “We believe in the value of our pupils having free time to explore hobbies and interests,” she told Schools Week.
But the report gave Michaela Community free school in north London, whose chair of governors, the Conservative MP Suella Fernandes, also sat on the report’s commission board, as an example of where homework contracts with parents were a “cultural norm”.
The report quoted headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh (pictured), who said the school “made it clear we will hold not only the child to account, but to parents too”.
Schools use “vague” home-school contracts too often, she said, adding: “Before the parent signs, we emphasise just how important that signature is”.