Should children be punished for not doing homework?

A child doing their homework.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about homework in primary schools. I was concerned that my older son was getting too much of it and concluded that a balance needed to be struck.

Since then, however, my thoughts have changed a little. With no letup in the amount set and with his younger brother now getting regular assignments too, I’m taking a much stronger line.

I think homework should be abolished at primary school. Albeit with a caveat. I believe that children should read every day and actively encouraged to do so. But that’s it.

I’m far from alone in thinking this, of course. Celebrities including Rob Delaney, Kirstie Allsopp and Gary Lineker have questioned the value of homework.

Even more recently, an 8,000-strong group of primary school parents submitted a freedom of information request to current Education Secretary, Damian Hinds.

This request asked him to confirm that primary school parents are not legally required to make their children do homework.

As a result, I was contacted for my opinion by The Sunday Times – yep, that’s one of my sons in the picture above the paywall! – followed by LBC and BBC Radio 5 Live.

So I’ve spent a lot of time discussing homework over the last few days. Obviously, given my stance, I think it’s grossly unfair for children to be punished for failing to do it.

For the record, I don’t know whether my sons’ school does this as we don’t want to risk being the only parents seen to let their kids down.

As a result, neither boy has ever failed to hand in their work. But this hasn’t been without stress for all concerned.

Going back to the general rather than the specific, these are primary school children we’re talking about. They learn enough in the classroom and are visibly tired at the end of every day.

They need time to unwind and process what they’ve learned each day. Above all, they need time to just be kids.

Infographic: When Do Children Start School In Europe? | Statista

As a nation, we shouldn’t be putting them under so much pressure so early in life. Children start school later in most other European countries yet the UK’s performance is, rather alarmingly, slipping.

I’m not saying that children should start school later here, but I think this demonstrates that the current system isn’t working to the best of its abilities. And I think that homework plays a big part.

It creates extra stress for children and parents and I genuinely believe that its educational value is negligible at best.

But what about other parents? I’ve heard from several via social media and it seems that the approach to homework they have experienced is wildly inconsistent.

Many are in the same situation as me, with some reporting an even bigger workload. Indeed, one reader emailed me details of an assignment about British values.

It couldn’t be taught in the classroom due to time constraints. While it stated that those who completed it would earn certificates, it also mentioned Government legislation right at the top of the page. Presumably, the school felt it had no option but to set this as extra homework.

Meanwhile, other parents have told me that homework has been abolished due to the stress it caused. The general consensus across the responses though is that there should be reading and little or nothing else.

So, further to the aforementioned freedom of information request – specifically that of enforcing homework – I think we should be calling for more clarity on whether it should even be set in the first place.

It seems unusual and, indeed, unfair that it differs so much from school to school.

What do you think? Should children be punished for not doing homework? Should they be getting it anyway? How much do your kids have to do?


  1. John Adams

    Well Tom, this is a very interesting blog post. Should kids be punished? Sparingly in my opinion. There is also a big difference between punishing a 10 year old and 4yo in reception class. The example you give about studying British values is frankly shocking. I am very concenred about the amount of competition in the English school system and I think this is the route cause of this issue. Should parents stop doing homework because they aren’t legally compelled to? That’s a very worrying development. Where does that end? With kids not attending sports day? Kids not attending RE lessons? The implications are quite worrying. having appeared on BBC 5live yesterday to discuss this very issue (no idea how that happened) I have blogged about it myself. It may even mention you.

  2. Emma T

    I can see both sides of the homework thing. I’m not a fan – apart from reading, spelling and timestables we learnt as children at primary, I’m not sure anything more is necessary. It’s hard to fit it in when my son gets home just before 6 from wraparound care (he refuses to do it there like some of the others, because there’s too many younger children making a noise and he can’t concentrate).

    But, it helps me understand whether he’s learnt what they’ve been taught in class, what he doesn’t know, and therefore what I can ask the teacher via his homework diary (I only pick up 1 day a week to speak to a teacher). It’s also noticeable when he doesn’t do homework. I can help explain what they’ve learnt in a different way to help it sink in, I can also encourage him in the right questions to ask to get the explanations he wants from the teachers (or to ask at all). That extra reminder of the work they’ve done helps it sink in. So I think small amounts can be good.

    However, his school is one of those which seems to give quite a lot of homework vs others schools. He had a maths, english, spellings, occasional timestables and reading every week in Year 2. But it was a shock to get that, plus weekend homework when they started Year 3. I don’t agree with holiday or weekend homework, and it’s painful getting him to do it, but the rest of the week, now it’s settled down, is generally ok. If N focuses, it should only take 20 minutes or less. My only issue is that when he has english or topic homework, and it gets nearer to bedtime when he start it, there’s no way he’ll get reading in. He doesn’t like reading so to me that’s the one he needs to do more regularly than anything else.

  3. Laura

    Homework is not compulsory at primary school age and if you have concerns about your child then I would urge you to discuss it with your teachers. They might be more supportive than you think. I have certainly never heard of a child of this age being punished for not doing homework? I have children of my own and work in a state primary school!

  4. Pingback: Homework, that FoI request and problems with the school system - Dad Blog UK

  5. Tracy

    My son who only turned 8 last week in year 3 at school we do reading english & tables every week – reading every night, last night I forgot to write in his book that he had and today he missed some playtime as he was made to sit and read even though he said he’d read the school said that didn’t matter because I hadn’t signed his book! What is this teaching my son? I am fuming!

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