Do young children really need to do more work when they get home after a day at school? The Oireachtas committee on public petitions is currently examining a call for the “eradication of homework” for children in primary school on the basis that it provides little educational benefit is a source of stress and frustration. It’s a view shared by a surprising number of academics who say, at best, evidence in favour of homework is inconclusive and, at worst, may be detrimental to younger children. In Finland, so often looked to as a beacon of educational reform, students do not start formal schooling until seven years of age and are assigned virtually no homework. Child psychologist Dr David Carey, who has over 25 years experience in clinical and educational settings, believes homework for children who are still in primary school serves little purpose. “The research seems to indicate it doesn’t really consolidate learning. When children aren’t given homework, they don’t learn at a slower pace then when they are given homework,” he says. “The problem with homework is the stress and strife it causes in the family, with parents being driven to distraction by children who don’t want to do their homework. It causes arguments, tears and disruption to family life,” says Dr Carey. He maintains that children need to have a break when they get home from school. “Nobody who comes home from work likes to sit down and immediately be asked ‘how much work did you bring home today?’ and ‘when are you going to do it?’, and so on, but this is what we do to children. “They need a break, to relax and go out and play in the fresh air, get exercise, talk to other kids. That’s the work of childhood – it is to play, not to study endlessly,” says Dr Carey. Geraldine Tuohy, a primary school teacher for the past eight years, works as a home school community liaison co-ordinator in an inner city school. She feels the question of whether or not homework is a waste of time depends on the quality of the tasks required of children. “Homework needs to be specific, brief and targeted. Schools need to concentrate their policy on what’s absolutely essential, such as literacy and numeracy targets.