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With the kids back in school, here we are with the return of the dreaded homework

Jen Hogan: The sun may be splitting the stones, but maths and Gaeilge wait for no boy or girl

There are three things that guarantee good weather in Ireland – the Leaving Cert, putting the Child of Prague out, and kids going back to school.

So, it is and so it always has been.

And it’s never more frustrating than when these two weather patterns sandwich an absolute washout of a summer, that left camp leaders, parents and anyone with outdoor plans throwing their hands up in the air with exasperation at the never-ending rain.

Still here we are, with the kids back in school, frantic mornings well under way, and the return of the dreaded homework. The sun may be splitting the stones, but maths and Gaeilge wait for no boy or girl.


Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough that your child attends a school with a no homework policy. Or one that at least has a policy of no homework in September, to allow the kids adjust to the return. And December, because it’s Christmas and families have things on. And June, because, well it’s June, the guaranteed Leaving Cert sunshine and all that jazz.

I’m a long-time adversary of homework. But it seems even more pointless when the sun is shining. We have so few opportunities in Ireland to take advantage of the good weather that it seems cruel to send children skipping home from a day at school, so they can take their place at the kitchen table and do even more work.

In 2020, researchers at Dublin City University found that one-in-four children cannot run properly, one-in-two cannot kick a ball properly, and less than one-in-five can throw a ball. Play is children’s work, yet as children struggle with fundamental movement skills, we continue to remove opportunities to get outside and play, replacing them instead with more academic work, and more frustration.

International research suggests homework is of little to no academic benefit to primary schoolchildren – perhaps even counterproductive when the negative associations with school are considered. And yet still we continue with it. When it comes to secondary school, there are academic benefits to be seen. And we allow ourselves to justify its existence on that basis alone, as we lament the number of exhausted and stressed teens who drop out of sports and other activities.

Instead of instilling healthy work, rest and play habits in children, the sort of positive health habits and expectation they can take into adulthood, we do the very opposite with homework.

How many of us on these glorious sunny days in particular, would look forward to going home after a hard day’s work, to once again open the laptop and work some more? How many of us would even advocate it to fellow adults?

But Irish schools appear largely not for turning. The president threw his tuppence worth in. Child development experts have frequently expressed a desire to see an end to homework. And many parents would love to see the back of it. But still we continue with it, under a misbelief of benefits, rather than looking at the whole child development and what’s best for them.

Parents are their children’s primary educators. We are the ones who influence their values, their beliefs, and their goals in life. I want mine to know that education matters, hugely matters. But there are many ways to learn. And all of it is not tied up in schoolbooks.

Some of it is found in just having fun on sunny, and other, days.