Voices: Kirstie Allsopp is right – homework is a waste of time

Kirstie Allsopp’s recent tweet about “the tears” and “the time together lost” over forcing her sons to do homework really resonated with me as a parent; those are the same reasons I don’t do it with my children who are eight, 10 and 13.

Property presenter Kirstie – who shares Bay Atlas, 16, and Oscar Hercules, 14, with her husband Ben Anderson, as well as two step-children from Ben’s previous relationship – said “one of her greatest regrets” was forcing her children to do homework.

I wholeheartedly agree. Homework causes unnecessary stress, invades family time and ruins weekends. I would rather spend the time when my children are not at school doing things we enjoy, not cursing my way through Sunday making a model boat, trying to print off PDFs from Microsoft Teams, or sitting down to learn about declensions.

I make sure to spend half an hour every evening reading with my younger two but that’s it. My eldest is now at the stage where he can take responsibility for his own homework and rarely asks us for help. He learned over lockdown how hopeless I was at maths and anything remotely science related, and eventually gave up on asking. I think it’s actually quite a good life lesson in self-sufficiency and responsibility.

As the daughter of a teacher, I also know how much time teachers have to spend setting and marking homework, so I do wonder who actually benefits from it. I’ve seen very little research to support the idea that it actually aids learning anyway.

Yes, giving children responsibility to manage some aspects of their own school work might help consolidate their learning and also help teach them to work towards a deadline, but trying to force tired primary school aged kids to sit down and look at spellings for half an hour a night in between dinner and bedtime just seems like work for the sake of work.

Kirstie also tweeted: “Question, real question not reason for abuse please. How much difference would it make to a teacher’s working day if the Gov said ‘from now on homework is reading only, no more written homework that needs marking etc’?”

When one follower asked her how teachers would be able to assess students, she replied: “Don’t want to cause a pile on David, but homework as a way of assessing a student?! Are you mad? Do you have any idea how much is done by parents, including GCSE coursework?”

And that’s another key point. It’s almost always the over eager parents which do most of the homework anyway, especially at primary school. It’s often more about them than the children, in my experience.

My middle child is also on the autism spectrum and trying to get him to sit down and do school work outside of school is a whole other challenge. He has quite a black and white way of looking at the world. School is where you work, home is for relaxing, Lego and Minecraft.

We learned this the hard way over lockdown and I nearly lost my sanity in the process. Homework for children with additional needs adds a whole other layer of complexity, and is another example of how a mainstream curriculum does not work for many of them. It’s not a level playing field, and a parent with one conscientious child who works part-time has much more free time than a frazzled working mother of three.

We also put my eldest through the 11 Plus – which is another thing I know can be quite divisive – and that was pretty hellish too. I have to admit I outsourced much of it to my husband, and was only really able to help out with verbal reasoning and English. He passed, by the way, so it did pay off; but I vowed not to put my youngest through anything like that again.

As Kirstie recently tweeted: “Dear God, Give me the strength to be polite & kind to all the people about to tell me their children love homework.”

Good for them, I’d say but don’t drag the rest of us who loathe the stuff into it.