Homework (1937)

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various chapters:

I Introduction
II Elementary schools
III Secondary schools
IV Vocational schools
V Conclusions and recommendations
Appendices

I am grateful to PGCE student Alex Bailey for drawing my attention to the existence of this pamphlet.

Homework was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 9 May 2019.


Homework
Board of Education (1937)

London: His Majesty's Stationery Office 1937
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


[title page]

BOARD OF EDUCATION
Educational Pamphlets, No. 110



HOMEWORK




Crown Copyright Reserved



LONDON
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY HIS MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE
To be purchased directly from HM STATIONERY OFFICE at the following addresses:
Adastral House, Kingsway, London, WC2; 120 George Street, Edinburgh 2;
26 York Street, Manchester 1; 1 St. Andrew's Crescent, Cardiff;
80 Chichester Street, Belfast;
or through any bookseller

1937
Price 1s 3d net


[page 3]



CONTENTS

PAGE
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION5
CHAPTER II ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS6
CHAPTER III SECONDARY SCHOOLS24
CHAPTER IV VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS44
CHAPTER V GENERAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS62

APPENDIX I
73
APPENDIX II74
APPENDIX III75





[page 5]

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION

During the last decade or so the problem of homework has attracted steadily increasing interest throughout the country. This increasing attention has coincided with the rapid development of facilities for secondary education, and also with the increased importance with which the possession of a school leaving certificate has come to be regarded. Public interest has shown itself in letters to the press, in articles (which have sometimes been well informed), and finally in a debate in the House of Commons in which all the arguments adduced were on one side.

The Board of Education has been actively interested in the homework problem for some time, and some three years ago Inspectors in England and Wales were asked in the course of their ordinary routine visits to carry out certain investigations in order to discover, if possible, the most significant facts. The core of the homework problem, it must be said, lies in the secondary schools of the country, but it was felt desirable to make the inquiry cover schools of all types, elementary, secondary, technical. Events have shown that this was a fortunate decision, for, as will be seen in Chapter II, there is very clear evidence to show that a homework problem is beginning to occur even in the elementary schools, and is especially discernible in the Junior Schools.

The inquiry followed different lines in the three branches to meet their differing conditions. Inspectors of the elementary branch were asked to carry out certain definite inquiries in a representative number of elementary schools of every type and size, making in addition any such special investigations as, from their general knowledge of the area and its conditions, they found necessary. Inspectors of schools under the secondary regulations were asked: (i) to select, at random, about one-sixth of the schools in their area, and to make detailed inquiries along lines which were precisely indicated to them; (ii) to make a special report of any school in their area where the handling of homework was in any way of special interest. Inspectors of the Technical branch were left to choose their own method in dealing with part-time education, but were recommended, in dealing with Junior Technical schools, to conduct their inquiries on the same lines as those being followed in secondary schools.

From the mass of detailed information thus obtained, the information contained in the following three chapters has been sifted.


[page 6]

CHAPTER II
ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

The general position as regards homework in public elementary schools may be stated quite briefly.

The setting of lessons to be done at home has at no time been regarded as a part of compulsory education. In fixing the hours of compulsory school attendance - 2 full sessions a day (morning and afternoon) for 5 days a week - both educational and social considerations have had weight. Educationally, the age of the children concerned has generally been felt to make longer school hours inadvisable: socially a system of compulsory school attendance must leave time also for the claims of home. The work of the public elementary school is, therefore, framed and organised on the principle that the children's school work shall be done within school hours. On that principle the elementary school of today sets itself to provide a full and balanced day's work adequate for the needs and the age of the children concerned. Its curriculum, varied and interesting as it is, is so planned that it can be fully carried out within the school hours. The elementary school curriculum does not make homework necessary.

Yet of recent years there has been a growing tendency in many elementary schools to set homework and a growing volume of complaint about the amount and nature of the homework which elementary school children are being called upon to do.

The Board, therefore, instructed all Inspectors of elementary schools to carry out an inquiry in the schools, and to collect information as to the number and ages of children doing homework, the kind of exercises set, and the time occupied in doing them. The inquiry was also directed to obtaining information as to how far the setting of homework was controlled by the head teacher, how far it was set at the demand of the parents themselves, and whether it was being set to the whole class or to selected children only.

The inquiry was very thoroughly carried out in every type of area and school. There are returns from great industrial towns and from county boroughs, from suburbs and new housing estates, from villages in remote country districts, from the most distressed and the most prosperous areas. Similarly, every type of elementary school has been visited for the purpose, reorganised departments of Infants, Juniors and Seniors as well as the unreorganised "all-age" schools. The inquiry included schools with a local reputation for the winning of Special Place Scholarships - where the practice of setting homework might be expected


[page 7]

to be most developed-and also Selective Central Schools, where external examinations are frequently taken.

Within the schools head teachers and assistants were consulted, and the children themselves were questioned, and examples of the homework set and done were seen. It was not, of course, possible to visit the homes of the children and to see the conditions under which the homework was carried out; but the Inspectors were able in some cases to gather from teachers or children what these conditions were. The widely different nature of these conditions may be illustrated by quotations from two reports:

(a) "Except in a few cases the children return home to work in the common living room. Often a meal is in more or less continuous session, the wireless booms and the family chatters. Against such odds, work which might be completed comfortably in a short school period may linger fitfully throughout the evening."

(b) "Children in these schools are expected to work hard, but they come from good homes, are properly fed, and have separate bedrooms."

Nor was it possible for the Inspectors to assess the amount of strain which might be imposed on individual children - a matter which would require medical investigation.

But the inquiry has served to show certain facts clearly. It serves to show why homework is set at all in elementary schools, what form it commonly takes, at what ages it is mainly set, and in what types of school its incidence is greatest.

Number of children doing homework

The number of children doing homework was found to vary very much both from one school to another and from one district of the country to another. In some schools none is set. In others it is set either to all the children, or in certain classes only, or, sporadically, to individual children throughout the school. Speaking generally, less homework was found in the rural than in the urban areas, and more in the prosperous than in the distressed areas: and more was found in Junior Schools than in Senior Schools.

In one large suburban area in the South of England an inquiry covering some 6,000 children under 11 showed that 28 per cent of them were doing homework. Every one of the Junior schools in this area was setting homework, and the percentage of children doing it varied from school to school, from 100 per cent to 4 per cent. Each school had a scholarship class or group.


[page 8]

In a large city in Wales, of some 7,000 children, 15.5 per cent were doing homework: here the proportion in particular schools varied from 25 per cent in the more prosperous area to 8 per cent in the poorer area: in the poorest area, however, it was 12 per cent.

The variation in practice over the country as a whole may be illustrated from the following extracts from reports:

"Children begin homework at 7: all are expected to do it."

"Out of 1,700 Junior children in X 20 per cent are doing homework."

"The number of children doing homework in Y does not exceed 2 per cent of the total roll."

"There is no homework in these rural areas."

Reliable estimates of the length of time spent by children on homework are difficult to get. It was often found that the children's own estimate exceeded the teachers' estimates, sometimes considerably. Children are not accustomed to time themselves accurately over their work: but a piece of work which the teacher is justified in thinking could under good conditions be done in half an hour may, owing to interruptions or unsuitable surroundings, in fact take much longer. It was found impossible to judge even the average length of time in any area; the estimates obtained varied from a few minutes to (in extreme cases) over 3 hours a night: 30-40 minutes was the commonest figure, but 1½ hours a night was not uncommon. In attempting, however, to assess what is certainly a main point of general interest and importance, viz., how far homework in Junior Schools is affecting the physical and mental welfare of the children, account must be taken not merely of the actual time spent on it but of the sense of pressure to which it gives rise at this stage of education.

Why homework is set

Nothing has emerged more clearly from the inquiry into homework in the public elementary school than that the reason for it is something external to the school itself. Homework, it was nearly always found, is extra work set to the children so that (it is thought) they may have a better chance of succeeding in an external examination - usually a competitive one.

The examinations taken by elementary school children fall into two classes:

(a) The Special Place examination (commonly known as the Scholarship examination) by which children from

[page 9]

the public elementary schools are selected for secondary schools.

The local regulations vary considerably, but it is usual for children to compete between the ages of 10 and 12. These examinations, therefore, affect Junior Schools. It is in Junior Schools - occasionally even earlier, in Infant Schools - that homework is found set in preparation for them.

(b) The public examinations - whether academic or technical - which are taken by children of 14 and over in order to qualify themselves for posts which they are hoping to obtain: e.g. Matriculation, School Certificate, Oxford and Cambridge Locals, the Royal Society of Arts, the Dockyard, the Post Office and certain other Civil Service Examinations.

Homework in Junior Schools

The inquiry leaves no doubt that a considerable amount of homework is being set to children in Junior Schools and that it is set in preparation for the Special Place examination. The Special Place examination includes as a rule two subjects, and two subjects only, viz., English and Arithmetic: and the evidence shows that the homework set in Junior Schools consists nearly always of exercises in these two subjects. It was also found in many cases that the nearer the day of examination came the more the homework set tended to resemble the questions set in previous papers, certain kinds of sums, certain kinds of English exercises being set in increasing quantities, to the exclusion of all other work.

The following extracts from Inspectors' reports are typical:

(1) "The subjects set are formal and quickly marked work in English and Arithmetic, based on questions set in previous Special Place examinations. Very little informal or recreative work is found. In only three Junior Schools have I found work set which encourages individual experiment, observation and research."

(2) "The idea that homework in the Junior Schools means practising Arithmetic and formal English has become so entrenched that the possibility of developing "out-of-school" activities like those in the Senior Schools is entirely disregarded."

(3) "I have not found anything worth speaking of in the way of homework besides 3R work."


[page 10]

Homework for Junior School children is found in most cases to be an extension of formal school work into the home under the pressure of an examination. It consists merely of a repetition or prolongation at home of what has been done in school during the day.

Homework a symptom of examination pressure

It is very clear from the investigation that homework in Junior Schools is in fact a symptom of the pressure caused by the Special Place examination. This, as things are, is a highly competitive examination often critical for the child's whole future career. It is not surprising that both parents and teachers should emphasise to the children, directly and indirectly, the importance of success in it, and that homework should be represented as a means of ensuring success. To the pressure on the child of this strong personal motive there must sometimes be added the pressure of another motive, school patriotism; for in a good many areas there is keen competition between school and school for success in these examinations: and the publication in the local press of the names and schools of the scholarship winners (a not uncommon practice) fosters such competition.

The inquiry has revealed some disquieting effects of this pressure. Homework is beginning to be set to quite young children: cases have even been found where it is set in Infant Schools. Quite apart from the actual burden of the homework, which may or may not be heavy in itself, there is evidence that the issues at stake in the examination are causing many parents, and teachers too, to invest homework for children of Junior School age with a sense of both urgency and anxiety.

It should be added that homework - lessons set at school to be done at home after school - is itself only one of the effects of the pressure on Junior Schools of the Special Place examination. In the larger Junior Schools special scholarship classes are sometimes formed, containing children from 9+ to 11+; homework in the examination subjects is set in these classes, and in the classwork itself the more recreative subjects are apt to be curtailed. In some areas, as the inquiry showed, another form of what might be called homework is appearing. It is not rare now to find parents of Junior School children encouraging teachers to coach their children out of school. A number of Inspectors refer to this practice: the following are typical quotations:

"Some of the parents ... are willing to engage teachers to coach the children. In one centre in the County ...

[page 11]

teachers make a practice of preparing pupils for the examination and in many cases pupils in schools other than their own. Teachers have been known to advertise in the local newspapers that they are anxious to coach children. Homework and coaching will cease only when parents and teachers realise that the character of the examination is such that special preparation does not pay."

"This year, of the 30 boys who entered one of the city secondary schools by examination, 17 had been professionally coached. ... To give their children a reasonable chance of success, poorer parents who cannot afford private coaching ask the head teachers to provide work to be done at home. Occasionally this leads to whole classes taking homework."

"Paid classes have been advertised in at least one local newspaper. ... In several places the idea seems familiar."

It is hardly necessary to point out that such coaching entirely defeats the purpose of the scholarship examination, and gives a most unfair advantage to those children whose parents are able to afford it. At least one Authority has found it necessary to forbid it.

It is quite clear from the inquiry that in the opinion of many of the teachers themselves the setting of homework to these young children is undesirable. They do not set it because they regard it as a necessary complement to the normal school work. Frequently, it was found, the teachers were setting homework because the parents of some of the children asked for it.

"As the time for the examination approaches, the head teacher says that the parents come to her worrying about the children's chances and asking for more homework."

"In the eyes of many parents the way to material prosperity lies through homework and a Special Place. In the case of boys, winning a Special Place is the way to avoid going down the pit."

"In practically all cases homework is set because of demands from parents. Many boys from one large school are doing homework because their parents think they should have the same advantages as secondary school boys who live in the neighbourhood."

"The work is in almost every school done mainly in response to a demand from parents, but the effect of a few requests from individual parents tends to spread beyond the children immediately concerned."


[page 12]

"Time and again I have met with the following argument from head teachers: 'I think homework is undesirable, but the parents demand it and if I refused to set it, they would at once transfer their children to a school in which homework is set.'"

"One head teacher told me that both children and parents expected it to be set and that many of the parents would soon be asking for it if it was not set."

Double homework

Sometimes teachers were even found to be setting it to protect the children from less suitable and more arduous work set by the parents themselves. Even so, many cases were noted of children doing "double" homework - i.e. work set by some member of the family in addition to the work set by the school. In one area in the home counties it was found that over 33 1/3 per cent of the children in the "scholarship" classes were doing such double homework. A report from an industrial district in the North may also be quoted:

"Many parents also give help to their children with their work, and a considerable number set additional homework themselves. A clever girl at one school said that in addition to three hours homework for the headmaster, she did half an hour more with her father, besides washing the pots."
It is impossible to question the value of such concern on the part of parents for the progress of their children. But it is pertinent to draw attention to the fact, abundantly clear from the inquiry, that the demand by parents of Junior School children for homework for their children is based on the idea that the standard of work in English and Arithmetic required for success in the Special Place examination can only be reached by doing extra work out of school: or, to put it in another way, that the normal school course in these subjects, which is devised in the children's general educational interest, does not suffice for the purpose of the Special Place examination.

It might at first sight seem that if more work - in the form of homework - is found to be required, the school course itself must be at fault and should be altered to include more English and more Arithmetic. It may be said at once that the inquiry has furnished no support for this view. The Inspectors have in no case themselves suggested that the Junior School curriculum should be more heavily weighted in the direction of English and Arithmetic than is the case already: nor do


[page 13]

they represent that to be the opinion of the teachers. On the contrary they find some cause to think that, quite apart from homework in these subjects the school course in some Junior Schools, and particularly in the scholarship classes in Junior Schools, is apt already to lay too much stress on the examination aspect of these two subjects, to the neglect of other activities and interests, and that the balance of the curriculum is consequently interfered with.

"The evil is rather that the ... examination subjects loom so large that the educational values of the curriculum as a whole, for all children, are not considered, and interests in e.g. nature study and practical work, which might be developed out of school, are apt to be neglected."

"In some cases the time given to such subjects as Needlework, Drawing, History, Geography, etc., is curtailed, and this time is given to doing papers in English and Arithmetic, during the examination term."

"Homework may be and is used to improve the results in Arithmetic when the teaching is at fault, and the total time given to this subject becomes unreasonable ... The balance of the curriculum has been upset for children who stand no chance whatever of being selected for a scholarship. ... It is significant that in no Junior School is any subject other than Arithmetic and English given as homework and the time given to these subjects leaves no time for anything else."

If the normal Junior School course, which requires no homework to complete it, is judged to be full enough and difficult enough for the children it might be pertinent to ask whether the standards of any examination which are thought to make homework in addition to school work necessary for children of 10 to 12 may not themselves be at fault.

Homework represented as voluntary

Homework where it was found was invariably represented as voluntary. There are obvious reasons why it should be so in schools where attendance is compulsory as well as free. It should be added, however, that in a number of areas the Special Place examination consists of two parts, and that entry for the first part is compulsory for children of a certain age group, whether they are going on to secondary education or not. This fact cannot fail to influence the teaching of many children for whom, as they will not be going on to secondary schools, work of a rather different scope might well be more suitable: and it undoubtedly is a cause of homework being asked for.


[page 14]

The following quotation may illustrate this point:

"Last year the Local Education Authority adopted the policy of requiring all children of a given age to sit the examination. Many of them were unfitted to do so, and the policy probably had evil educational effects in that backward children were unduly pressed with homework."
The following typical figures show how many children may under this system have to undergo two examinations in order that less than one-tenth of this number may be awarded Special Places. [The total of Col. 2 is more than ten times that of Col. 4.]

These figures show how large in certain areas are the numbers of children affected by the Special Place examination. Yet those children in whose interests the examinations are held, i.e. the children who are going to hold Special Places at a secondary school are but a fraction of the public elementary school population. Taking the country as a whole only one child out of nine from the elementary schools proceeds to a secondary school. An even smaller proportion obtain Special Places. Yet the supposed requirements of this minority are often having an undue influence on the school life of vast numbers of children who will never enter a secondary school.

The examination syllabus affects directly in these cases many more children than the minority whom the examination seeks to secure for secondary education. Where, as is the case in many other areas, entry for the examination is not compulsory, it affects these other children, and they are the majority, less directly, but it still affects them to the extent that the syllabus of the class in which they are taught may be based on the requirements of the minority who will take the examination.


[page 15]

Homework was in some cases found to be confined to the few potential Special Place winners. In other cases - though it could nowhere be said to be officially compulsory - it was found to be done by whole classes: and a good many of the reports point out that where homework begins to be set to the brighter children in the class it tends to spread also to those who have in any case little chance of passing the examination.

"Undue pressure is no doubt felt by the few children who have no chance in the examination but whose parents have asked for homework to be set."

"Dull children are not forced to do homework but I think that in classes in which the majority of the children do require homework there is pressure on those children who do not do homework which is no less real for being indirect."

"There are also other cases where the homework is corrected in school hours, when the backward section of the class suffers considerably, having to listen to formal grammar exercises, etc., which are much above their heads."

"If an hour's homework is set to children in a rich part of a district who will take it in their stride, it is likely to be set also in the poorer parts, where the same amount of work will impose much greater strain."

Homework in country schools

The inquiry revealed that homework is much less commonly found in rural districts. "In the rural areas there is none at all" says one report. Others, from different parts of the country, confirm this, though rather less confidently. "Except in the case of the town schools visited, the number of children doing homework appears to be negligible."

But though less common it was found also in village schools, and sometimes rural conditions were themselves urged as justification for it.

"The head teacher said 'The village child has no chance of gaining a scholarship unless homework is done regularly from an early age.'"
Homework in this village school was found to begin at the age of 6.

This view of the chances of village children in competition with town children is no doubt exaggerated. Teachers do not as a rule set homework unless it is asked for. The reason why


[page 16]

homework is found less frequently in country schools is probably because it is not so much demanded by the parents of country children.

The inquiry tends to show that in urban areas the demand by parents for homework varies directly with the prosperity of the district. The competition for secondary education is keenest in the better class urban districts and parents press for homework as a means towards it. In the country districts the competition, for different reasons, is less keen, and the demand for homework less. Secondary schools are much less numerous in these areas, and so, for many children, difficult, if not impossible, of access. Where the candidates for scholarships in each school are so few, their needs will influence the work of the school much less.

Homework in Infant Schools

Reference has been made already to homework being found in some Infant Schools. It takes the form, at first, of learning words and practising figures, and later, of writing sentences and working little sums.

The following quotations from the Inspectors' reports illustrate the practice found in some Infant Schools:

"All the children possessed homework books, which they supplied themselves. All the work is either English or Arithmetic."

"Age 5 (30 out of 49 do homework) 10 minutes per night, figures or words: later, little addition sums."

"All have homework books; 15-20 minutes, on 4 nights a week. Either 3 sums or sentences or composition. Many write a whole page."

Such cases, however, are exceptional rather than normal. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that the Board strongly deprecate the setting of homework to infants.

Results of inquiry

So far as infants and junior children are concerned, the results of the inquiry show:

(1) That homework is set to a good many junior children and to some infants.

(2) That it consists generally of exercises in Arithmetic and English similar to those done in school.

(3) That it is nearly always set with the requirements of a competitive examination in view.

(4) That it is most prevalent between the ages of 9 and 12.


[page 17]

On the question whether in amount or in frequency the homework set imposes a strain on the children, the information collected varies. In some cases the amount of homework was slight, and the time taken over it, as estimated by the children themselves, not more than 20 minutes. In other cases - particularly as the examination drew near - the amount was heavy and the time occupied by it varied from 1 to 3 hours.

There is reason to think that some children under 12 are being given excessive homework.

The following quotations from the reports of Inspectors are significant. The first is from an urban area in England:

"The scholarship class looks lively and vigorous at present. but the headmaster says that when the examination is imminent they show very marked signs of strain. His own description of them is 'they look as if they were carrying all the cares of the world on their shoulders, and look like old men and women. The parents have made them feel the tremendous importance of the examination.' All these children of 10 and 11 are doing regular homework."
The second is from Wales:
"The assistant School Medical Officer told me that during April and May there is every year a marked rise in the number of cases of nervous and physical disorders brought to his notice, and he attributed the rise to anxiety over the examination. In certain schools competition is extremely keen, and I am convinced that the children spend much more time than they should upon homework."
The results of the inquiry point to a close connection, even for young children, between homework and examinations. It has also served to show that where the examination is of a type that does not admit of definite preparation, and tests intelligence rather than attainments, homework as a rule is not found. This fact gives additional importance to the investigations and experiments which are at present being carried out by the Board and various Local Education Authorities in different parts of the country with a view to devising, with the help of intelligence tests, a more suitable type of examination for the selection of children for secondary education.

The following quotation is taken from a report from an area in which new methods of selection have been substituted for the former examination in English and Arithmetic:

"There is no scholarship examination in this area, and the method of selection is such that extra work in Arithmetic and English would not help a child to be selected.

[page 18]

Recreational home activities are being steadily encouraged by the more progressive schools, and there is no doubt that the number of children taking part in them is increasing. This development has certainly been helped by the freedom from formal homework which the schools enjoy."
Homework for senior children

Except in the Selective Central Schools, which will be referred to separately, there is less setting of homework to senior children than to junior children in elementary schools; senior children are free from the widespread pressure exerted on junior children by the competitive Special Place examination. The Senior Schools, being thus more independent of external examination objectives, are in a better position to control the scope, and the pace, of their work themselves. Both the presence of homework in some Senior Schools, and its absence in others, may be regarded as significant. Where it was found set to senior children it was almost invariably being set, as in the case of junior children, in preparation for an external examination, not as a necessary complement of the normal school course: and where - as in the majority of cases - Senior Schools were not setting homework, its absence was deliberate: it was felt that the school course was adequate without it, and that children's leisure occupations, fostered by the school, should be more recreational. Instances of such recreational out-of-school activities organised among senior children are given later.

Homework in Selective Central Schools

In most of these schools homework is set regularly. In at least one case the regulations of the Local Education Authority require it to be set.

As the range of subjects included is wider in the public examinations for which Selective Central School children enter than it is in the Special Place examination for which junior children enter, the homework set in Selective Central Schools was found to include more than the two subjects English and Arithmetic, which form the staple homework set to junior children. In the Selective Central Schools, homework is set in History, Geography, Science, French, as well as English and Mathematics, these being the main subjects of the examinations for which the pupils enter. They are also the subjects taught to the children during the day, and the homework is as a rule merely a prolongation of what has been done during school hours. Very often the work is written, as in this way it can be more easily checked or assessed.


[page 19]

The inquiry showed that the amount of work set generally increases as the examination for which the pupils have entered draws near. Thus in a typical instance 30 minutes a night was set in the first year, and this was increased to two hours a night in the last year. In one area the homework set nightly in the Selective Central Schools was found to rise to two-and-a-half-hours.

Some of the examinations taken in these schools - e.g., Matriculation and School Certificate Examination - are those taken also in secondary schools: and more than one report suggests that in the matter of homework the practice of Selective Central Schools is influenced by the example of secondary schools. Several reports point out that parents, and sometimes teachers, appear to attribute special virtue to the fact that a school expected homework; and one of the reasons given by one Selective Central School for the setting of homework was that it increased the resemblance of the school to a secondary school.

In some Selective Central Schools the results of this effort are considerable, and the examination records compare favourably with those of secondary schools. In selecting their pupils, however, the secondary schools have had the first choice, and the Selective Central Schools the second: further, the Selective Central School will generally select its pupils only from the Borough in which it is situated, while the secondary school draws from both Borough and County. The degree of selection, therefore, represented by a Selective Central School is not always very high: and it is hardly surprising if the results in examination successes are not always proportionate to the time and labour expended on them both in schoolwork and in homework. Thus one report says:

"At the ... Selective Boys' School, the boys without distinction were working 80 minutes per night five nights per week: two subjects a night in winter and one in summer. Royal Society of Arts and School Certificates are taken. Only about 4 out of 80 in an age group reach this standard. It appears as if the entire effort of this school in recent years has been devoted to securing 4 School Certificates."
The number of Selective Central Schools is comparatively small. The relation of their aims and standards to the aims and standards of the secondary school or the Junior Technical School or the Junior Commercial School is a question which it would be out of place to discuss here. In this connection, however, two points may be mentioned which the inquiry brings out: the


[page 20]

homework set in many of these schools approximates in amount and in kind to that set in secondary schools: and many of the reports express a doubt whether such a programme is in the best educational interests of the children selected to enter these schools.

Homework in Senior Schools and among senior children in all-age Schools

It is in these schools that the great majority of children between 11 and 14+ are educated. Their normal school course does not make homework necessary: nor in fact is homework set, or asked for, except in the case of a small minority, estimated at between 5 per cent and 10 per cent, who are working for some examination: e.g., for the Dockyard Examination, for one of the Post Office Examinations, for the Royal Society of Arts Examination, or for entry into a Junior Technical or a Junior Commercial School - or where such late entry exists, for entry at 13 into a secondary school.

Sometimes, in such cases, the work of the whole school would be found to be directed towards the examination, and large numbers of the children were doing homework: in other instances, homework was confined to the small group of children in a class who happened to be taking the examination.

In these, as in other types of school, homework appeared as a symptom of the pressure of a competitive examination.

The following quotation is typical:

"The examinations for Junior Technical School Scholarships have some effect, the Dockyard scholarships and entrance examinations to the Services, R.N. and R.A.F., have a more serious effect. The homework done covers all subjects of the examinations; English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, and sometimes Drawing. The times taken are about 2 hours a night, or 6 to 7 hours a week. In one Senior Boys' School, 30 boys, between 11 and 15, were doing 90 minutes English and Arithmetic per night: in another Senior Boys' School 270 boys did 30 minutes per night in English, Mathematics, Geography, History."
It is noted in several of the reports that the senior children besides doing their homework sometimes attend evening classes where they can receive further tuition in the subjects of their examination. It should also be noticed that these children spend more time on the practical subjects, Arts and Crafts, Woodwork, Metalwork, Domestic Science and the like, than do the children in secondary schools, and consequently they have less time to


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spend on the academic subjects for which they are supposed to be less gifted. Any homework, therefore, that is done by* children attending Senior and Central Schools is liable to be more of a burden for them than for the highly selected secondary children. Another factor that should not be forgotten is that girls, who in any case are liable to take homework more seriously than boys, frequently have home duties from which boys† are exempt.

In many of these schools a new and valuable development is taking place. Many of the new Senior Schools are showing keen realisation of the increasing importance of a proper training for leisure. The school work accordingly leaves the children leisure after school hours, and the school itself provides some opportunity and encouragement for out-of-school occupations. The inquiry has revealed many interesting examples of what schools are now doing in this direction.

The children are encouraged to pursue out of school hours arts, crafts, activities and interests which often have had their origin in something taught in school, and children are urged to enlist the advice and co-operation both of each other and of their. teachers. Much of this work goes on at home, where sometimes the interest of the parents is as great as that of the children, and thus school and home are brought together. In other cases the children learn how to use the local library - a lesson of great value. In the poorer districts, where there is not much room at home, and in not a few of the new housing estates, where not much organised community life has yet developed, some schools have made themselves into real social centres where these activities and interests are pursued by the children on a genuinely voluntary basis with the help and leadership of the teachers.

The new Senior Schools, with their well-equipped modern buildings, are proving particularly well qualified to become the centres of such activities: the children, in returning to these school buildings after school, seem to recognise that they can provide amenities and resources beyond the scope of their homes. Such activities often take the form of clubs, managed partly by the children themselves. "In reorganised schools" says one report, "Clubs have developed rapidly; among the more interesting are noted a Puppetry Club, Skipping Club, String Orchestra and a Cycling Club." The same report after giving

*Incidentally, several Inspectors have stated that these children spend at least as much time as secondary children do over their homework.

†But boys may spend up to two hours a day in paid work during term-time.


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an instance of a Senior Boys' School which runs no less than 14 of such societies, records that "Many of the clubs admit old scholars and in two districts the Authority is experimenting with a view to forming regular non-vocational evening schools from the nucleus of the existing school clubs." Clubs for chess, wireless and other hobbies are common; so, too, are dramatic societies and clubs for folk dancing and for athletic activities of many kinds. Mention is made among others of a Surveying Club, a Meteorological Club, and a First Aid Club.

This development is not, however, confined to the new Senior Schools. Instances can be quoted from every type of school. The following quotation from another report illustrates a similar development of out-of-school interests in a village school:

"The headmaster and his wife, the latter not on the staff, have a large roomy house and they invited the older scholars to attend craft guilds to be held in the house. ... Crafts undertaken are Weaving, Bookcrafts, Leatherwork, Upholstery and Needlework. The parents and the Managers of the school are co-operating with the headmaster. The village joiner allows the boys the use of his workshop and equipment one night per week ... twenty home-made looms are in operation.

The adults in the village asked for craft classes and these are now instituted ... most of the scholars who left the school in the summer or autumn have joined the classes."

In other country schools, Young Farmers' Clubs, Fur and Feather Clubs, and systematic outdoor observation under the Bird and Tree Scheme may be quoted among the examples found of out-of-school activities encouraged by the school.

One report, from a county area, makes special mention of Music as a form of recreative homework. "Judging from the returns sent in recently by all the head teachers of elementary schools in the administrative county, local choral and orchestral societies have shown unmistakable signs of renewed energy in recent years. Is it too much to assume that this healthy outlook on leisure has come from the schools as a direct result of this musical homework?" There are nearly 400 classes in Folk Dancing, Morris Dancing, Country Dancing and Sword Dancing held in the elementary schools in this county.

Nearly half the reports from rural areas refer to leisure activity of one kind or another, encouraged among children by the school. Activities of this more general type, directed mainly to


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the use of leisure, were stated in 80 per cent of the reports to be increasing in Senior Schools. They were not found as a rule in Selective Central Schools.

"Homework classes"

Between such experiments as these, free, informal and personal, and the traditional conception of homework, the distance is wide. Somewhere between the two, perhaps, should be placed the "homework classes" established by one Local Education Authority in certain of its poor districts. These meet after school in the evening, and are under the paid supervision of an assistant teacher. They last for one or two hours, and in the regulations governing them it is stipulated that at least half of the duration of the class "must be devoted to homework in the accepted sense". Normally there will be two meetings of two hours each per week, but by special permission classes may meet for one hour 3 or 4 times per week. No classes are to be held during summer time, or when the school does not meet for the afternoon. The head teachers are in general control of the arrangements. It is intended to produce "the atmosphere of a quiet and well-ordered home". Definite teaching and the coaching of pupils for examination are specifically forbidden by the Authority's regulations: but it was not easy to distinguish the work seen at some homework classes from ordinary school classwork.

Such classes, it may be held, are designed to meet social as much as educational needs: on the one hand to provide quiet rooms for supervised study for children who have no such opportunity at home, and on the other hand to include some facilities such as those which a play centre offers for indoor games and recreation.

To combine these functions effectively in practice is not easy, particularly when the attendance includes children of all ages. "Homework classes" in elementary schools are in effect apt to be something more than classes for homework: and it may well prove, if they spread, that the recreational need is the more vital need for classes of this kind to meet.



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CHAPTER III
SECONDARY SCHOOLS

Scope of the inquiry

The survey which forms the substance of the present chapter is confined to grant-earning secondary schools. Though these schools are far from covering the whole field of secondary education, they do contain the great majority of pupils who are following secondary courses.

It is probably more difficult to arrive at the significant facts about homework and its effects than almost any other aspect of school life. For, firstly, each of the nearly half million children is a separate unit working away by himself, and children are most reluctant to admit that they have any difficulties and when they do make the admission, they cannot easily explain the nature of the difficulty. Secondly, the evidence afforded by the correspondence columns of the daily press, impressive though it is, by no means covers the whole ground. The distinctive feature of the present inquiry designed to meet this special difficulty of arriving at the facts is that it is based upon the experience of the Board's Inspectors whose acquaintance with the conditions ruling in the schools, including schools which have adopted schemes of unusual interest in connection with the present inquiry, was supplemented by a series of special visits in each area. The schools to which these visits were paid were selected with a view to obtaining a representative picture of the conditions existing in the country as a whole. This special investigation covered one in every six of the boys' schools, one in every five of the girls' schools, and approximately one in every six of the mixed schools. The majority were urban schools, but schools in small towns and rural areas were also included. Nearly all were schools which are wholly or primarily for day pupils, but in a few instances there was an appreciable number of boarders. The returns made as a result of inquiry at these schools form the chief basis of such statistical statements as occur in this chapter.

The attitude of the school and of the home towards homework

Homework is demanded of the pupils in far the largest number of grant-earning secondary schools. The prevailing practice is no doubt ruled largely by custom, but this is not to say that it is maintained unreflectingly; indeed, there is wide recognition that homework has its problems, and in many quarters thought has been bestowed upon the provision of reasonable safeguards.


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Such safeguards, it is true, are usually conservative in character, but in a small minority of schools there has been a readiness to experiment boldly, in the belief that a drastic curtailment of homework, in the interests of health and with a view to the encouragement of desirable leisure-time pursuits, need not prejudice a proper standard of attainment.

Views of Head Masters and Head Mistresses

The prevailing opinion among Head Masters (the Head Mistresses do not appear to have expressed themselves collectively on the subject) is indicated by a resolution passed in January, 1936, at the Annual General Meeting of the Incorporated Association of Head Masters: "That this Association regards homework as an essential part of the education of the secondary school boy."

Naturally, a resolution so general in character is capable of a variety of interpretations in practice, and the grounds for assent to it may also vary. During the present inquiry a large number of Head Masters and Head Mistresses expressed their own personal views on homework as an institution. Three types of opinion were distinguishable. There are among the heads of schools those who consider that the system of individual study by pupils in their homes is for educational reasons intrinsically valuable, and they are accordingly in favour of continuing the present practice with few, if any, changes. Secondly, there are those who, whether they are convinced or not that the system possesses the virtues claimed for it on educational grounds, feel that its retention is necessitated by the scope of the curriculum in their Schools. Thirdly, there are those who are so far from being convinced that the present practice is based on any sound educational principles that they are prepared, in spite of the appeal of expediency, either to introduce radical changes in the way of reduction and regulation or to give up homework altogether and replace it by some other alternative.

Two quotations will illustrate this diversity of opinion:

(i) "I think the dangers from too much homework are grossly exaggerated. Boys and girls as a rule are not conscientious to the point of ruining their health by excessive homework. Teachers as a rule are not such heavy slave drivers as not to realise that there are definite limits to the amount of work they set. Parents as a rule don't think they are getting full value for their money if a reasonable amount of work is not set. Teachers who set little or none are regarded as slack and lazy.

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As things are at present it is quite impossible to cover the requirements of the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate syllabuses without some homework. ... A certain amount of homework is really necessary in the interests of the pupils themselves. It not only fosters independent application, but, as many parents have pointed out to me, it keeps the boys, particularly, out of mischief. I honestly believe more harm than good would result from its abolition."

(ii) "For many years during my experience I have held the view that the importance of homework was overrated. It seemed an undue tax on both pupils and staff. For the pupils, two points in particular stand out: (1) The varying conditions under which homework is done. For some the conditions are excellent, parents doing everything possible to give solitude, or at least silence, during a definite time in which the homework is done, but in the great majority of cases the conditions are so hopeless that no genuine work is done, the only result of the homework being to render the children irritable and discontented. (2) It is often overlooked that a large percentage of .the pupils have a long journey to and from school. Many of them leave home at 7.30 a.m. and do not return till 6 or 6.30 p.m. It is, in my opinion, grossly unfair to ask these children to do any further work.

For the staff also, there are two points which need stress: (1) The majority of teachers, even the best, talk too much in the classroom and do not give the children sufficient opportunity to learn to work by themselves. (2) The correction of homework exercises, or of exercises set in class on prepared homework, takes up far too much of the teacher's time."

Views of Assistant Masters and Mistresses

The attitude of Assistant Masters and Mistresses towards homework probably differs little from that of the Heads. The professional associations, so far as they have enunciated any general policy in this matter, have pressed for the regulation rather than for the abolition of homework. Thus, the Council of the Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools advocated (January, 1937) that all homework should be regulated by staff arrangement and timetable, that it should not be set more than five evenings per week, and that the maximum


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homework times per evening should be 30 minutes for pupils under twelve years of age, 60 minutes for those between twelve and fourteen, and 90 minutes for those between fourteen and sixteen. For older pupils, no rigid timetable was recommended; such pupils should be encouraged to direct their own home studies.

Three resolutions of the Association of Assistant Mistresses call for mention. The first, passed in 1929, laid down "that the hours of homework, on the basis of a five-hour day, should be on the following scale:

From 11 to 12 years not to exceed ½ hour per day.
From 12 to 14 years not to exceed 1 hour per day.
From 14 to 15 years not to exceed 1½ hours per day.
and that in considering the scale of homework attention should be paid to local conditions." The second, passed at the Annual General Meeting in January, 1933, was based upon a Memorandum of the Education Committee of the Association. It runs as follows: "The Association of Assistant Mistresses believes (1) That a definite moral and intellectual value is attached to a reasonable amount of independent work done away from the school premises by children attending secondary schools. (2) That in order that homework should be fully effective it is essential that there should be co-operation between the school and the home. (3) That homework is especially valuable when it stimulates voluntary effort. (4) That there is room for experiment with a view to discovering the most effective way of using time allotted to homework." The third resolution, adopted in January, 1936, records: "That this Association considers that during the first year of a secondary school course children should be given definite training in the correct methods of working before they are expected to work alone at home."

Among Assistant Masters and Mistresses individually, as among Head Masters and Head Mistresses, all shades of opinion are represented. It is of interest to note that there are clear indications that teachers who are also parents show a pronounced scepticism as to the value of the tasks commonly set to their children and appear to be less convinced than are the majority of their colleagues that homework, as at present understood, is a desirable institution.

Two quotations from Inspectors' reports will illustrate the trend of opinion in certain quarters: (1) "The staff met to consider the homework question and discussed first the necessity for homework. They unanimously decided that except in examination forms, homework considered as extra schooling was


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unnecessary, and, were it to be abolished, the syllabus would not suffer. An equally unanimous decision was reached on the question whether homework was desirable. They considered that in most cases work connected with the school represented the only valuable or 'worthwhile' activity undertaken by the children at home, and that, therefore, homework was performing a really useful function. They came to no decision on precisely what form homework should take, but they felt that existing ideas of it were inadequate and that some form of 'creative work' was what should be aimed at." (2) "The Head Master called a staff meeting and the question of homework was discussed at length. Masters speaking as parents condemned homework utterly. When the question was put to them as teachers, there was almost unanimous agreement that, with two provisos, they would readily dispense with homework. The provisos were (a) that there should be a five years' course instead of the present four years' course; (b) that there should be 30 minutes' homework a night in the School Certificate year."

How widespread may be the type of opinion represented in the second of these quotations it would be hazardous to judge. At present it is, doubtless, a minority opinion, but it may be gaining ground.

The burden of correcting the written exercises that the present system of homework involves is an aspect of homework which attracts little attention in the press and upon which teachers are not in the habit of voicing their views. The inquiry has, however, produced plenty of evidence that large numbers of teachers feel a considerable amount of strain as a result of having so much correction to do at home in the evenings. There is little doubt as to the deadening effect of spending long hours every week in correcting scripts. The time might often be more advantageously spent in the preparation of new work.

Views of parents

The views of parents are perhaps even more divergent than those of masters and mistresses, and extremes of opinion are frequently encountered. Readers of the correspondence columns of the newspapers are familiar with the view that the school should impose no homework of any kind, and apart from the parents who are moved to write letters to the papers there are many others who hold similar opinions but refrain from bringing them forward because they do not believe that they could bring effective pressure to bear. At the opposite end of the scale are those parents who wish their children to take every advantage of the chances of obtaining the type of post for which a secondary


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school education crowned with a School Certificate, Higher Certificate, or University Scholarship, is a passport, who believe that "hard work never killed anybody" and that leisure is likely to be misused. Cases are by no means wanting where parents have desired that more homework should be set.

Probably the majority of parents fall into a middle group. They are prepared to accept homework as a concomitant of life at a secondary school, particularly when they are assured by the Head Master or Head Mistress that a certain amount of home study is desirable in itself, and necessary if their children are to make proper progress. At the same time, they do not wish their children to be over-taxed or to have no leisure for pursuits not immediately connected with school.

There exists at present a welcome tendency for school and home to be brought into closer contact, especially through the Parents' Associations, which have been organised in connection with a considerable number of secondary schools. By this means, and by circulars and questionnaires addressed to parents, Head Masters and Head Mistresses have got into closer touch with opinion in the pupils' homes - and it will be borne in mind that opinion in the home is, in some measure, created by the pupils themselves.

In Appendix I are given questionnaires of the kind referred to, with a summary of the answers received. These documents are of considerable interest; to what extent they are representative of the opinions of parents in general could only be judged in the light of evidence far fuller than is at present available.

THE ORGANISATION OF HOMEWORK

The character of the control exercised by heads of schools

Within the somewhat limited field of the investigations in detail there were found schools in which no definite allocation of homework was made and no machinery for effective control existed. Little or nothing can be said in favour of such haphazard arrangement. In the very great majority of the schools a homework timetable for each form is drawn up by the Head Master or Mistress in consultation with those members of the staff who are responsible for the subjects and for the forms. It is a common practice to embody in the prospectus or school rules a statement of the time allocated to homework in the various forms of the school, and to require that the parents shall inform the school if the homework takes, or could take, appreciably more or less than


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the time specified. This is an arrangement which is often a safeguard to the school in cases of parents' complaints, but in practice may be an insufficient safeguard for the child.*

The schools, however, by no means universally rely on the complaints of parents as a sole check. It is fairly common for the Head Master or Head Mistress to delegate to the form master or mistress some responsibility for oversight. In about one-third of the schools where conditions were investigated a fairly complete check on the homework set was found to be in operation. In some, but not all, of these schools there was also a check on the work actually done.

A fairly common method of keeping track of the homework is to require the pupils to enter in record-books, supplied for the purpose, the tasks which are set. These books are taken home each night, and the parents may be asked to sign them from time to time.

The time-demands of homework

There is no difficulty in ascertaining, at any rate in the great majority of instances, how much time the schools expect their pupils to devote to homework. It is far less easy to determine how much time the pupils actually spend over their tasks, except in boarding schools, or other schools where the pupils' preparation is, in whole or in great part, done under supervision in the school building. Nevertheless in a number of schools pains are taken to arrive at a trustworthy estimate, with a view to making the necessary adjustments when the time actually taken is excessive.

In the "main school" - i.e., from the beginning of the secondary course up to, and including, the School Certificate stage - it is usual to require pupils who are following a four years' course to give more time to homework than is expected of those who are taking five years to cover the ground. But considerable variations are seen in the demands of schools which otherwise appear to be comparable. In the case of four years' courses, homework is set for five nights in the week and the commonest allocation is - in the first year 60 minutes, in the second and third years 90 minutes, and in the final year 120 minutes. In the case of five years' courses - and these occur more frequently than courses of four years - the allocation, again for each of five nights, is usually within the following limits: 30-60 minutes in the first year, 60-90 minutes in the second and third years, 60-120 minutes in the fourth year, and 90-120 minutes in the fifth year. The number of subjects in which

*The point is further developed in Chapter V; see page 65.


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homework is set each night also varies with the year of the course. As a rule one or two subjects are set to first year pupils, two or three to second and third year pupils, three or four to the fourth year, and four to fifth year pupils. In a small proportion of the schools a reduction in homework is made at weekends, and the practice of making the work on one night of the week lighter than on other nights is not uncommon, but it appears to be a widespread custom to set more homework at the weekend than at other times.

As an example of an unusual scheme of allocation may be mentioned the case of a well-established girls' school situated in a large industrial town in the North of England. Here homework is set for three nights a week in the first three years of the course, the time allocation ranging from 1 hour a night in the first year to 1½ hours a night in the third year. In the fourth and fifth years 1½ to 2 hours is expected for each of the five nights of the school week. The total demand in the course of a pupil's career is not much lighter than obtains at many other schools, but the freedom from homework on at least three nights a week in the case of the younger pupils has especial interest.

The demands which have come to be considered normal have been stated above. The following examples, not drawn from the extreme cases, may serve to indicate the extent of the divergence which exists in practice among schools which have apparently the same ends in view.

The figures show the number of hours of homework each night prescribed in each year of the four or five years' course leading to the School Certificate examination.

Broadly speaking, the schools showing heavy homework assignments during the school week are also those which make the greatest additional demands at the weekend. Of one school which requires 2½ hours' homework of pupils in the School Certificate year, it is said that double the normal amount of work is required at the weekend, and that in some forms as many as ten subjects are set. Apparently, the amount of written


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work set (which represents about four-fifths of the whole) would require for its proper performance much more than double the time allotted, and many of the children do homework on Sundays in addition to the other six days of the week. On a night in the middle of the week, taken as a sample, the pupils at the top of the main school spent from 1½ to 2½ hours more than the allotted time.

Fortunately, this state of things is found in only a few schools, but it serves to show that the demands of a secondary school upon the pupils' time can be unreasonably heavy. As a rule the maximum nightly demand in anyone form of the main school is two hours, spread over three or four subjects, with an additional homework period of 30 or 40 minutes at the weekend. In rather more than 28 per cent of the schools under review the demand exceeded two hours.

In the sixth form - The amount demanded by the school varies not only from school to school but also according to the course undertaken by the pupil and the stage reached in the subjects of study. Where the course taken is not of an exacting nature a time allocation is commonly made, since a continuance of the homework system of the main school appears to be suitable. For pupils in these courses the schools usually prescribe rather less homework than is set to the School Certificate form.

In the sixth form, especially in the first year, there are usually opportunities that do not exist in forms of the main school for lightening the burden in homework in school hours. Where the pupils are following courses leading to the Higher School Certificate examination, the average allocation, where any is made by the school, is 2½ hours a night. Again, it is expected that additional time will be given to homework at the weekends. In about 30 per cent of the cases where an allocation is made, the prescribed time is not less than 3½ hours, and in not a few cases 7½ hours is expected at the weekends. But as a rule there is no allotment made officially by the school, either in regard to time or in respect of the subjects in which work is to be done. In practice, this freedom appears often to be well used and seldom abused.

The proportion of "written homework" to "learning homework"

(a) In the "main school" - The general impression that much more "written" work is set than other work is fully confirmed by the detailed enquiries. The averages of the homework set on one particular night in the schools under review suggest that in boys' schools and mixed schools the proportion of written work


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to other work set is about 1.8 to 1.0, and in girls' schools about 1.5 to 1.0. The components of these averages are the averages of the ratios for the individual schools considered as separate units. These school averages showed considerable variation. In 7 per cent of the boys' schools, 22 per cent of the girls' schools, and 25 per cent of the mixed schools, the allocation of time to the written work set to the school as a whole on the night investigated was less than one-half of the total allocation: in 24 per cent of the boys' schools, 22 per cent of the girls' schools and 40 per cent of the mixed schools, written work was set to take not less than two-thirds of the total time. The proportion of time allocated to written work in particular classes was, of course, often in excess of the above averages. In some forms, for example, all the homework on the night in question was "written" work, in other forms no written work had been set.

In by far the greater number of schools the proportion of written work to be set is left to the discretion of each teacher who may, and sometimes does, act in the matter without taking any account of what colleagues may be claiming. Moreover, the proportion appears to vary more between school and school than between the forms of the same school. The ratio is usually highest in the School Certificate forms, and it is noticeable that, where more than one School Certificate form exists, the form with the less able pupils has the higher percentage of written homework to do.

(b) In the sixth form - Here, in general, the proportion of written homework tends to be rather below the corresponding proportion for School Certificate forms in the same school. Much depends on the subjects studied. The available information does not suggest that the proportion of written work is disquietingly large - or small - in the case of these more mature pupils. Further, at this stage, the pupils often know some time in advance what their tasks will be, and can plan their home studies so as to avoid too much writing on any one night.

Time actually devoted by the pupil to homework

A method adopted for the purposes of this inquiry was to investigate, at each of the schools visited, the kind and amount of homework which had been set for the night previous to the day of visit, and to ascertain from the pupils themselves the time which they had given to the particular pieces of work which had been set. Admittedly the returns for any one school might be very misleading, but it is believed that they are sufficiently numerous, accurate and complete to give a fairly true picture.


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When this detailed information was summarised, it was found that the number of schools in which the time actually taken over homework exceeded the time allowed was almost balanced by the number where less than the prescribed time was taken. Broadly speaking, the excess time which is given to written work is taken from the time allocated to work which consists of learning or preparing. In one school alone was it found that the pupils as a whole had spent more than the prescribed time at their learning work but less than the prescribed time at their written work.

There is a common impression that the girls are more willing than the boys to spend more time over their home studies than the schools actually require. This impression is confirmed by the inquiry, though figures obtained by a method of sampling must be interpreted cautiously. Nevertheless, taking those schools in which the average homework set on the night investigated was 100 minutes or more, the boys' schools almost invariably showed averages of time actually taken which were less than the averages of the prescribed times, while in 73 per cent of the girls' schools the average time actually taken was more than the allotted time. In neither case did the average differ widely from the prescribed time: 10 minutes less in the case of the boys, and 5½ minutes more in the case of the girls. A good many of the boys do not give the full amount of time that is prescribed for their learning work, and a considerable number of the girls spend on the written work much more than the allotted time.

The method of taking averages necessarily obscures wide individual variations. Some light is thrown on this by the following table, compiled from the returns relating to a group of schools in one area:

The facts summarised in this table, and information gained at other schools visited during the inquiry, make it quite clear that


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a substantial proportion of pupils, especially of girls, spend appreciably more time on their home studies than the tasks are scheduled to take.

Schools showing high averages of time spent on homework are fairly evenly spread over the whole country, though it would appear that their frequency is somewhat greater in the areas suffering most from industrial depression. In a considerable proportion of schools in Wales the demands made on the pupils, in regard both to time and to the number of subjects set each night, are above the general average. In 60 per cent of the Welsh schools for which details are available the average time spent over homework was 2 hours or more.

Homework at the weekend

In a very high proportion of schools the work set for Friday night is heavier than that assigned to other evenings. This applies specially to girls' schools; in about one in every four of these, the girls work on Saturday or Sunday or both. Admittedly, some of the cases where work is done on Sundays are due to habits of procrastination and a wish to have the Saturday night free. There is a danger lest the weekend should be regarded by both teachers and pupils as a convenient opportunity to work off arrears.

Homework time in relation to school subjects

As far as boys' schools are concerned, no one subject is consistently productive of the heaviest homework. Any of the main subjects of the curriculum may, in a given school, be found the most exacting. The deciding factor is in many cases the personality and driving power of the teacher. In girls' schools, there is a tendency for Mathematics, and to a lesser extent Geography, to make the heaviest demands. For both girls and boys alike, Science subjects, especially Chemistry, are apt to give rise to lengthy homework.

REDUCTION OF HOMEWORK REQUIREMENTS:
SOME TYPICAL EXPERIMENTS

There is undoubtedly a growing tendency for schools to experiment with a view to reducing homework requirements. In a number of instances the changes made are limited in scope. They provide, no doubt, welcome relief, but they do not constitute a challenge to the prevalent system. Other experiments are bolder and have proceeded as far as the total abolition of homework. Some of them have been carried on now for more than five years and the Heads of the schools concerned are


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convinced of their success. Nevertheless the evidence they afford must be treated with extreme caution and does not afford a sufficient basis for broad generalisations. It is, for instance, too early to say confidently whether they are altogether consistent with the maintenance of a good standard of attainment - or whether the undoubted gains in other directions will prove to be of such importance as to convince public opinion that the change is to be welcomed even at the price of some slight decline in the standard reached in so-called "academic" subjects.

The experiments take so many forms that they elude any general description. What follows is, therefore, an enumeration of various ways in which the problem has been tackled. In Group A are placed methods where the general principle is the reduction of the amount of work to be done at home without alteration of the regular timetable of class lessons. Group B comprises schemes which make provision for the pupil to do in school hours some, or even all, of the tasks commonly set to be done at home.

Group A

(i) Reduction of time required each night for homework in one or more forms - In the two examples which follow it will be seen that the pruning has been vigorous. School A is a boys' school in a large industrial centre. It was felt that home conditions did not always lend themselves to satisfactory private work, that the boys had little opportunity of joining in the social life of the family, that homework frequently interfered with Music and other pursuits, and that there was insufficient provision made for hobbies and for cultural occupations in and out of school. Homework was accordingly restricted to four nights a week in the second, third and fourth forms, one hour per night being required of boys in the second and third, and an hour and a half of boys in the fourth form. The allotment in the School Certificate forms is two hours on five nights a week. In addition there is a weekend composition every third week throughout the school. In the sixth form, work is normally set a week ahead and boys may do it at their own convenience. The Head Master says "Five or six years' experience has shown that the progress of the boys has not been retarded by a reduction in the amount of time-spent on homework, although this reduction amounted to about 50 per cent in the first and second years and 25 per cent in the third year." School B is situated in a rural area; there is no other secondary school in the immediate neighbourhood, and the competition for posts is not so keen as in the towns. Conditions were, therefore, favourable for a bold


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experiment. The Head Master abolished homework in forms I to IV, and in form V limited it to three hours a week - an hour to each of three subjects. Homework in form VI was left to the discretion of the staff and the pupils concerned. A passage from a report on this school, following a Full Inspection, runs as follows: "So far as can be judged by the standard of work seen in the classrooms and by the results so far obtained in the School Certificate examination, the experiment may be continued without misgivings. The sum total of achievement does not appear to fall short of what is usually found in comparable schools where a normal assignment of homework prevails throughout."

Owing to the absence of homework it is possible to hold evening classes in Dramatic work, Art and Crafts, Natural Science, Shorthand, Dancing, etc., and this work is held to be of the utmost value to the children. It should be added that children in the lower forms often ask to be allowed to complete a piece of work at home. At a meeting of the Parents' Association, with about fifty parents present, a debate on homework was held and only two parents voted for homework.

(ii) A reduction of the number of subjects in which homework is expected each night - Two examples may be given of this method. School C is a large mixed school in the North of England. Homework has been reduced to 40, 60, 75 and 90 minutes a night in the successive years of the course leading to the School Certificate examination. In the sixth form, two hours are allocated each night. The work is set two clear days ahead, only one subject is prescribed for each night, and the pupils are encouraged not to exceed the specified time. Examination results are stated to be satisfactory. There appears to be no intention further to reduce the homework, which is regarded as a desirable way of occupying a part of the evening and as necessary to the maintenance of the standard expected of the school.

School D provides an illustration of a school seeking the active co-operation of the parents in an experiment. In forms II and III, the number of subjects set daily for homework was reduced from three to two, representing about an hour's work each night, Saturday night being left free. In a circular letter addressed to parents when the change was adopted the Head Master said:

"Of the several considerations which have led us to make this experiment I need mention only two. First is

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the following: that the setting of three subjects to be done each evening perhaps defeats the end proposed, by inducing in the boy a condition of fatigue which might not only prevent him from doing his best work in all three, but also making him less fresh and eager for the next day's work in the school. It is not supposed that all boys suffer this presumed fatigue or that those who do are necessarily aware of it; or again that it is the same amount of fatigue for all. The second motive is our feeling that a boy should have some time for out-of-school interests, e.g. his hobbies, games, reading, and other worthwhile recreations, as well as for sharing in family life.

The result of the experiment must be decided jointly by school and parents. We here will have to assure ourselves that the work and progress of the forms concerned have at least not suffered. You on your part will be asked at the end of the term to tell us how the experiment has struck you: for example, whether your son has tackled his homework with greater vigour and keenness, whether his health and his sleep have improved, and in general whether there has been less evidence of strain than in the past. It will, therefore, be the greatest help to us if you will watch these and other points as carefully as possible, in order that you may be in a position to answer accurately the questions which we shall ask you at the end of the term."

The response made by the parents can be seen from the figures given in the questionnaire, Appendix II.

(iii) Homework lightened (on some evenings) by setting it on a "weekly assignment" plan - This method does not necessarily involve a reduction in the total amount of homework, but gives the pupil the chance of planning his work so that he has one or more nights free. It is adopted in School E, a country secondary school. The total time required for homework, per week, is 5 hours in forms I to III, and 9 hours in the higher forms (including form VI). The plan is reported to be working satisfactorily. In School F one very good result has been noticed as a consequence of the introduction of a similar scheme: the school library is used more by the girls, owing in part to the greater freedom in the arrangement of their own work. Certain difficulties are, however, experienced in connection with the work in foreign languages. It is also found that if the work is done a long time ahead it may lose its interest by the time the next lesson comes. There is also, of course, the tendency for some pupils to put off their work until the last moment.


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The Head Mistress, in a letter in which she sought to enlist the help of the parents in making the scheme a success, spoke of the relation which homework should bear to lessons in school and of the close association which each should have with each. She went on to say:

"Our idea is that we shall in the junior and middle school have practically no prescribed work to be done at home and that in the upper school the total amount prescribed will be reduced and will not be put down for stated days or periods. The responsibility is thrown on the girls, not for sitting a certain time on a certain night but for giving in certain work on a certain day - a difference of outlook which, I hope, may be appreciated. We want them to feel that good work is the first necessity and that leisure should be used well for health and recreation and proper rest. We hope that they may begin to realise the unity of their school work and to recognise that the ultimate responsibility for success lies upon them. If they are more unhurried, they should be fresher and more alert to concentrate on the work at school and will have time to deal with their own private difficulties as they come along. I also hope they will feel encouraged to pursue, beyond a minimum standard, work in which they are specially interested."
(iv) Reduction or abolition of homework in the summer term - School G is a mixed school, in which homework had already been considerably reduced when it was decided further to lighten the tasks during the summer term. In this term, homework was reduced to 20 or 30 minutes a night in all forms except the Vth and VIth. The Head Master appeared to be satisfied that there was no appreciable difference in the progress made or in the content of work covered, and decided to adopt a similar programme in the following summer. School H: after a meeting of the Parents' Association held in the spring of 1935, at which 400 parents were present, it was decided at a staff meeting to make the experiment of abolishing compulsory homework throughout the summer term. Previous to this, homework had been set on every night of the week, with about three subjects a night in the upper forms of the main school. It was noted that in the School Certificate form the homework done voluntarily did not show a great diminution as compared with the compulsory work of previous terms. This experiment was followed up by a questionnaire addressed to the parents. Definite replies were received in 322 cases, and in addition a good many


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parents of boys at the top of the school wrote to say that they did not reply to the questions as their boys were leaving and they did not want to influence the decision. The questionnaire and a summary of the replies will be found in Appendix III.

After consideration of the replies and discussion with the staff the Head Master modified the homework scheme for the whole year. Homework was to be limited to 4 hours a week during the first year of the School Certificate course, to 6 hours a week in the three middle years, and to 8 hours in the fifth (or examination) year. No work was to be set on half-holidays.

School J is a girls' school which tried the experiment of setting no homework in forms below the School Certificate stage during a summer term. The object was to allow the girls to have more time for games and an open-air life. It was said that English, History, and Modern Languages all gained. The staff found the girls fresher in class and the parents said that the girls slept better.

Group B: Schools which reduce homework by arranging for some, or all, of it to be done in school

In what follows, the reference is not so much to "study periods" for sixth form pupils - a widespread if not a universally recognised institution - as to "preparation periods" for pupils in the main portion of the school. Such periods occur in a fair number of schools, more particularly girls' schools. They are commonly for the benefit of the younger pupils, or for pupils following a somewhat lightened curriculum, and, as ordinarily found, amount to two or three a week. The examples now to be quoted are of schools which have carried this idea further, with a view to making a substantial reduction in the time demanded for home studies.

School K - In this school, situated in a small town in a manufacturing area, the last period of the school day is given to (i) "house" and out-of-school activities, (ii) repetition of unsatisfactory work, immediately under the guidance of the teacher concerned, (iii) "homework" or "preparation" in school. This last is the normal use of the period. "Learning" work, which, it is believed, often received insufficient attention, takes priority over written work. The amount of work which is left to be done at home is not inconsiderable, but the form masters and mistresses, and the Head Master, are in constant touch with what is going on.

School L - As an example of an interesting scheme of another type may be mentioned that in operation in a boys' school in a


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residential area, whereby most of the afternoon periods are given to independent study under supervision. Here the boys have access to the school library and may ask the master for help in case of difficulty. The amount of work set is varied so that as a boy goes up the school the time he will have to spend on study at home grows steadily from one hour a week in the first year to 8½ hours a week in the School Certificate year. The total times devoted to independent study, including the periods spent on the work in school hours, rise from 7 hours in the first year to 14½ in the fifth year. The maximum time given to homework may rise to 10 hours a week in the School Certificate year. Each boy keeps careful account of the work given him to do and of his progress with the tasks set, and the record books form a useful link between the boy and the form master and the parents, who are required to sign the record books each week.

School M - The experiment in operation here has three underlying principles: (i) the abolition of all homework that can be at all difficult or puzzling for the average or backward boy, and of penalties for failure to produce set tasks, (ii) a large amount of supervised individual work in schooltime, and (iii) the encouragement of voluntary work in school subjects.

The normal school period has been lengthened to one hour. For practical work in Science, one and a half hours are allowed; to balance this, other subjects sometimes have half-hour periods. In the lower school also, when the same master takes two subjects, he sometimes assigns half an hour to each, and languages are generally given half-hours instead of hours. No homework is set in the first two years. In the third and fourth years boys are generally expected to finish at home any work they have been unable to complete at school and, occasionally, to do a certain amount of reading in preparation for lessons. In the fifth year the planning of their work is left to the boys, and definite exercises are done in the hour periods in school, but it is clearly understood that the boys are expected to do a substantial amount of private study at home.

The Head Master claims that the staff are freed from a large proportion of their corrections, and are correspondingly fresher; that the boys are learning to concentrate, as they are doing individual work under good conditions, and that their attitude to their work is healthier. Also they have more time for their hobbies. Additional money is being allowed each year for the purchase of library books, and special collections have been formed of books for general reading, and for use in connection with History and Geography.


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School N - In this school, by an extension of the afternoon session on the four "whole school" days, it was found possible to allot eight periods a week for preparation while keeping thirty-two periods for teaching. Two of these preparation periods occur on each whole school day; they come at the end of the afternoon, and are preceded by a break. Any written work that has been set is collected before the boys leave, and except at the top of the school no prescribed work remains to be done at home. The Certificate form have one hour's homework set during the Easter term. The freedom thus secured has facilitated the activities of the various school societies, one or other of which functions every night except Saturday, and has led to a greater amount of home reading. A considerable number of suitable books are available for lending, and suggestions are made for the guidance of boys who have not already developed preferences of their own.

After eighteen months' trial, the Head Master was convinced that under this system the boys worked harder whilst they were "at it", and were fresher in the mornings. The lazy boy could more easily be detected, and the boy who was naturally slow could be distinguished from one who was merely averse from making an effort; the boy who lived at a distance, or whose home conditions were not ideal, was no longer handicapped.*

Homework classes after school hours

No mention has thus far been made of schools which, while preserving the normal number of teaching periods and continuing to set the usual tasks to be completed by the pupils individually, arrange for these tasks to be done in the school building, under supervision, but after regular school hours. Such preparation classes may be compulsory, but are more often voluntary. Where they are held, the conditions would approximate to those in which preparation is done in boarding schools, were it not for the fact that the study periods commonly follow immediately or almost immediately after afternoon school. This tends to make the school day a long one, and no doubt accounts for the method being seldom adopted, although facilities for preparation in the school building have been found particularly useful in the case of pupils who live at a distance and have to wait some time for their train or bus. Where this practice is adopted, it is often possible for pupils to obtain a cup of tea and a biscuit before starting on their preparation.

*The successor of the Head Master who introduced this plan has now, as a precaution, modified it by requiring one hour's homework on six nights a week in the case of boys who are in the fourth and fifth years of the School Certificate course.


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That there is need for homework classes at secondary schools in certain areas is generally recognised by the Local Education Authorities concerned. In this connection it may be noted that the programme of the London County Council for 1935-38 contains provision for the setting up of such classes "to meet the needs of pupils whose home circumstances are adverse to private study". The problem, however, is not confined to the London area.

The relation of homework to lessons in class

When the problem of homework comes up for discussion, attention is apt to be focussed rather upon the time which the work occupies than upon the character it should have. Yet, if the tasks set are to have the beneficial effect which they are supposed to produce, it is of vital importance that they should be selected carefully and have definite value in relation to one or other of the purposes which homework may serve. In many instances a closer adherence to this principle would permit of a drastic cut in the time which the pupil is required to spend upon home studies without any falling-off in the quality of the work. There is evidence that not infrequently the work is set on the spur of the moment - largely because the timetable prescribes homework for that night - and does not necessarily arise out of the lesson just taken or lead up to the one that will follow.

The inquiry showed that many heads of schools are alive to the fact that over-pressure may result not only from the amount of homework required but also from the character of the exercises set. They have perhaps been chiefly concerned to ensure that pupils shall not be confronted at home with tasks with which they are unable to deal properly owing to lack of previous elucidation in class, Occasionally a close control is exercised, as, e.g. in a girls' school in Wales, where in the early part of each school year every subject mistress submits to the head mistress a retrospect of her first month's work, showing the relationship of class-work and homework. In another school each assistant makes a daily return of homework to the Headmaster showing exactly what tasks have been set by him. But in general there is little evidence that sufficient attention has been given to the need for eliminating types of exercise which are unsuitable or unremunerative and for formulating principles which would be of help to the experienced teachers.


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CHAPTER IV
VOCATIONAL SCHOOLS

A. HOMEWORK IN JUNIOR TECHNICAL SCHOOLS

Some general considerations

Introductory - Junior Technical Schools have certain characteristics of their own which have a bearing on the problem of homework. They are designed to give a broad preparation for employment; the duration of the school course is either two or three years; the age range of the pupils is from 13 to 16; and the school week is usually longer than that in other types of schools, being normally about thirty hours.

In the course of this inquiry the conditions in fifty-seven Junior Technical Schools have been investigated. Forty-four of these schools are industrial in character, ten commercial, and three domestic. In all except two, regular and systematic homework is required as a normal complement of the instruction provided. In the remaining two schools a certain amount of work is, in fact, done at home, since pupils are expected to complete in their own time tasks which they have not finished in class.

The attitude of the parents - The evidence collected during the course of the inquiry shows that whilst there are a few isolated instances of excessive demands, in a great majority of Junior Technical Schools the demands made are reasonable and leave pupils some time to pursue interests of their own. Very few complaints from parents are recorded from these schools, and sometimes parents are reported as protesting that their children have too little homework. Nor is this attitude difficult to appreciate. Children are usually sent to Junior Technical Schools with the definite purpose of improving their chances of satisfactory employment. It is natural that parents should expect them to make the most of the opportunities that these schools afford, and find some assurance in witnessing for themselves obvious manifestations of the toil that they believe to be necessary to success.

Present homework requirements

Homework schedules - The amount of homework required is regulated in nearly all these schools by a time table, which is intended to secure a reasonable distribution of the pupil's time amongst the various subjects of the curriculum and to control the


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total amount of time demanded. These timetables show that 1 hour and 1½ hours each night for five nights of the week are the amounts usually prescribed. Seventy per cent of the classes under review fall into these two groups and are divided almost equally between them. Of the remaining thirty per cent, about one half have a time allocation of less than 1 hour, and a half of more than 1½ hours. In view of the restricted age range in Junior Technical Schools it is usually considered unnecessary to differentiate between the different forms, but in a number of schools the amount of homework is increased as the pupils reach the highest forms. In most cases where more than 1½ hours is expected it is only in the top form that this heavier demand is made, and only in three schools does the demand exceed 2 hours.

The homework timetables provide, in general, for a fairly even distribution of homework throughout the school week. Only in five of the schools surveyed is it a recognised practice to give a heavier dose on Fridays, in view of the time available at the weekend. It is often found, however, that pupils do homework on Saturday or Sunday, not because there is too much to do on Friday evening, but because they prefer to have that evening free.

In a fair number of schools teachers are required to leave an interval of several days, and even a week, between the setting and the collection of homework, and this arrangement gives to the homework timetable a certain degree of flexibility of which the pupils are not slow to take advantage. A free evening is compensated by a longer period of work on another evening or at the weekend. There is, of course, the danger in this system that the pupil may leave too much to be done at one time, but this is likely to be reflected in the poor quality of his work and so to attract the disciplinary attentions of his teachers. On the other hand, there are substantial advantages to be gained not only from the opportunities which are afforded for the pupil to enter into social activities, but also from the exercise of his initiative and self control in disposing his time profitably. These advantages presuppose that the amount of homework given leave a reasonable margin of free time. The natural desire of the adolescent child for contact with other social organisations than the school is recognised in one or two instances by leaving one mid-week evening free from homework, whilst in several other schools the claims of homework are adjusted in favour of outdoor exercise, by reducing the amount required in the summer term.

Control of homework by head teachers - Although it is the normal practice for head teachers to lay down, in terms of hours,


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the amount of homework to be demanded by his staff, few of them exercise any systematic continuous control over it. This does not mean that they have no regard to the homework that is done. Indeed, most head teachers scrutinise the pupils' homework from time to time in the normal course of their supervision. But such scrutiny is primarily directed to educational considerations; and rarely does machinery exist for checking the time that homework actually consumes. In a few schools, however, pupils are required to enter at the foot of their written homework, or on forms provided for the purpose, the amount of time spent on their several tasks, and in two or three instances these records are signed by the parents. In one school a strict supervision is maintained at the source, and teachers are required to submit each week to the head, details of the homework that they propose to set during the ensuing week. For the most part, however, it is left to the discretion of teachers, within the general framework of the timetable provided, to set their own homework in their own way.

Amount of homework actually done - With homework left so much in the hands of individual teachers, and of teachers who, in Junior Technical Schools, are mainly specialists responsible for only a part of the instruction given to any one class, it might be expected that there would be considerable variations from the homework schedule. Inquiries made from the pupils themselves go to show that in most schools the variations are not great and that they fall below the standard requirements almost as frequently as they rise above them. And slight increases over scheduled requirements do not prove onerous where, as is usual, these requirements normally leave pupils a substantial margin of free time. Only in six of the fifty-seven schools is there evidence of serious discrepancy between the standard laid down and the total amount of homework given, and it appears to be mainly in particular classes or on particular days that the excess is notable. The exceptions are so few that they can be very shortly detailed.

In one school the homework of the "A" forms amounts to about twice as much as the nominal quantity, but the nominal quantity is only six hours a week; and it is reported that, except in the first year Physics, the boys do not find the work really heavy. In another school, where the nominal requirement is from 7½ to 10 hours a week, the third form is given work that occupies 14 or 15 hours a week. In a third school one of the lower forms, which is supposed to have 5 hours a week for homework, is given work which occupies an average of 11¼


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hours. A sample evening in still another school showed an average of about 2¼ hours as against a nominal demand of 1½ hours. In two other schools Friday night's assignments far exceed the nominal amounts and are a real burden on the pupils.

Why the normal time allowance is exceeded - Whilst there are very few instances of the homework demands as a whole being excessive, it is not infrequent to find that one or two subjects take up more than their allotted time. The "heavy" subjects vary from school to school and even from class to class, and it is clear that, in the main, the cause is to be traced to the individual teachers concerned, who either deliberately exercise a little extra pressure on their pupils or habitually underestimate the magnitude of the tasks they set.

There are two types of homework, however, which seem to be affected by a common tendency to exceed the normal time allowance: (i) Book-keeping and (ii) the subjects into which drawing enters, whether it be the sketching of apparatus in Science, or the illustration of note books in History, or the drawing of maps in Geography, or, as in two or three schools, the drawing of tools and other objects in connection with Woodwork. But it is generally agreed that the drawing, though it may take up additional time, is the least onerous kind of homework. Most pupils take a special interest in it, and often give more time to it than is strictly necessary for the purposes of their school work. To that extent their homework merges into a free leisure occupation which provides a healthy outlet for their creative impulses and, if it is free from inordinate pressure in other subjects, can have nothing but a wholesome influence on their development.

It is of interest to note that only in one school are essays mentioned as a source of overtime, and this is possibly because the essay does not play such a prominent part in the Junior Technical School as in the secondary school.

Even where the demands in individual subjects go beyond the nominal requirements, the evidence indicates that, generally speaking, they are not grossly excessive. And often they are counterbalanced by lighter demands in other subjects. The real danger arises when two comparatively heavy doses of homework fall on one night, and though such a coincidence appears to be rare, this happy result, in the absence of any systematic control, is fortuitous rather than deliberate. It is mainly due to the fact that the number of teachers who make excessive demands is comparatively small.


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Individual variations as between pupil and pupil - The actual homework requirements in any class have been measured by the average time spent on such work by the members of that class. There are, of course, many individual variations: and this is inevitable under any system of setting homework to a whole class, in the form of tasks of a given magnitude. In some schools the variations are comparatively small: in others they cover a wide range, the slowest pupils needing two or three times as long as the quickest pupils to complete their work. Thus it may happen that demands which are reasonable for the majority of pupils may be excessive for a few individuals, and one of the problems which merits careful attention is that of easing the burden of homework for the slower pupil without at the same time increasing the gap between him and his quicker comrades. There is no evidence that this problem has been tackled in the Junior Technical Schools, but the investigations which have been made suggest two points which may have significance in this connection. The widest time variations appear to be found where (a) the tasks set for homework involve the breaking of new ground, or (b) homework is a carry-over of tasks not completed in school. On the other hand, homework time tends to vary within comparatively narrow limits where the work is mainly in the nature of recording subject matter, or of practising processes, which have been taught in class. The greater part of the homework in the schools examined is of these latter types.

Apart from differences in the capacity of individual pupils, some variation arises from the sex of the pupil. It is generally found in mixed Junior Commercial Schools that girls give rather more time to homework than boys.

The character of the homework in Junior Technical Schools - In all the schools where inquiries have been made, written homework, including drawing, predominates. It rarely falls below 75 per cent of the total and sometimes represents virtually the whole of the homework given. This practice rests mainly on tradition, and where definite reasons are adduced for it they are usually that written work provides objective evidence that homework has been done, or that written work is susceptible to numerical assessment and can, therefore, be taken into account in the terminal or annual appraisement of the pupils' work, or in one or two instances simply that head teachers and inspectors expect to see the pupils' homework.

The written homework falls into three main categories:

(i) making fair copies of notes taken in class, and expanding them;

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(ii) exercises demanding mainly repetition of work taught in class: these may be either -
(a) practice in processes and operations,
(b) reproduction of subject matter;
(iii) exercises requiring original constructive effort -
(a) application of principles to new problems,
(b) essays, and exercises requiring reconstruction of subject matter.
The "learning" homework usually takes the form of either
(i) verbal memorising, e.g. passages of poetry, French conjugations; or

(ii) memorising the content of set portions of textbooks.

Most of the homework falls into the first two categories of written work, and its purpose may be said to be that of consolidating the results of the instruction given in class.

How homework is dealt with by the teachers

Correction by teachers in their own time - It is the usual practice for written homework to be corrected by the teachers, either in "free" periods which are allowed for this and other school purposes, or in the teachers' own time. In a majority of schools the process of correcting does not encroach seriously on the teachers' time out of school hours. This is due mainly to the fact that the amount of homework itself is kept within reasonable limits, but sometimes also partly to the fact that teachers are required to take evening classes and are thereby compelled to get most of their day school homework corrected in school. Where the volume of homework is above the average, however, a good deal of correcting often remains to be done out of school hours, especially by teachers of English subjects, who, generally speaking, get a heavier share of correcting than teachers of other subjects.

Class correction - In some schools it is customary to mark certain types of written homework in class, the pupils either marking their own work or that of their neighbours. Exercises requiring short, precise answers which are unambiguously right or wrong, lend themselves to this treatment: and it is mainly in Mathematics and, less frequently, Shorthand and French, that this method is adopted. It usually occupies only a few minutes of class time, and it has the advantage of reducing to a minimum the time lag between the working and the correction of the exercises. On the other hand, the mere information that an answer is wrong contributes little to the pupils' knowledge, and this method needs, therefore, to be supplemented by a more


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adequate treatment. It is generally found that common mistakes disclosed by class marking are at once taken up by the teacher, and made the subject of further elucidation: and that the class-marked exercises are subsequently inspected by the teacher, either immediately or at intervals. This subsequent scrutiny is of great importance, not so much as a means of checking the original marking as for the purpose of watching the methods employed, the nature of the mistakes that are made, the style of the pupils' work and, in Shorthand, for example, the quality of the outlines.

Correction by teachers in class - Class time is used occasionally for homework correcting of a different type and one that has little justification. The teacher corrects the homework of each pupil in turn, while the class carries out independently some allotted task. It may be claimed for this method that it affords opportunity to deal in the most effective manner with each pupil's mistakes. But it tends to lead to the practice of setting long exercises in class mainly to keep pupils occupied, and this at the expense of class teaching. It involves a waste of time in explaining individually to a number of different pupils common difficulties that could be elucidated as effectively and more economically to the class as a whole. The class work that the pupils may be doing suffers from arbitrary interruptions. The discussion of homework mistakes with individual pupils is, of course, a valuable part of teaching and essential to the proper fulfilment of the purpose of homework, and it is quite appropriate that for this purpose advantage should be taken of opportunities which arise in the normal course of class activities. But this implies that the homework should have been previously examined by the teacher, that common errors should be treated collectively, and that only the residuum of "personal" difficulties should be reserved for the more extravagant method of individual tuition.

Testing of "learning" homework - Homework that consists of learning or memorising is almost invariably tested subsequently in class. In some instances verbal memorising is tested orally, but a written test is the normal method employed for the greater part of that homework which does not itself bear objective evidence of performance. The test usually occupies not more than ten minutes or so of the class time and often consists of a series of short questions which can be answered by single words, or phrases, or by numbers. This technique has undoubted value, but its limitations are not always appreciated. Though it may test satisfactorily a knowledge of facts and of words, it does


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not necessarily test the pupils' comprehension of the subject to which the facts relate. The type of questions and answers on which pupils know they are to be judged, tends to direct their reading too narrowly to the accumulation of crude information. This method of testing, then, needs to be supplemented by others, designed to probe thoroughly the understanding of relationships and ideas, and which will serve to correct the balance between mere information and a fuller knowledge.

Undue importance attached to giving "marks" for homework - The tradition that the results of homework must always be assessed and given a mark lies at the root of a good deal of current practice in the schools: and in some cases the "marking" overshadows the correcting, or the correcting is concerned with computable errors rather than with ascertaining and supplying deficiencies in the pupils' knowledge and technique. It is also responsible for determining, in a large measure, the type of homework set, and for the fact that rarely are pupils given tasks that cannot readily be assessed. If more thought were given to the part that homework can play in the educational process, and particularly in the process of transforming the pupil into an independent student - if it were envisaged as an opportunity of enlarging the scope of education and of linking the restricted activities of school with the resources of knowledge available in the world outside - it would then be seen that a greater variety of tasks could be found, greater freedom in their performance could be given, and a certain amount of routine correction could be eliminated, to the benefit of pupils and teachers alike.

Facilities for homework

Special facilities at school not required - In the Junior Technical Schools surveyed homework is almost invariably done at home. In two schools only is provision made for doing homework in school. In one of these it amounts to nothing more than the reservation of a quiet room during the lunch period for pupils who take their mid-day meal at school: at the other a daily period of about 45 minutes is given to "preparation", during which pupils are expected to do about a half of the homework set, leaving the remaining half to be completed at home.

There is very little evidence of homework being seriously affected by poor home conditions. In one or two schools teachers are evidently aware of and take account of the difficulties experienced by individual pupils, but it seems to be generally agreed that, for the most part, reasonable opportunities for homework can be found. The fact that the parents have


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elected to send their children to these schools when they were approaching the age at which they might have become wage earners, and the fact that the amount of homework given is usually not such as to occupy the whole evening, have both no doubt a bearing on this question, and tend to make it easier to secure reasonable conditions. In any case, there appears to be no widely felt need to provide special homework facilities in school.

The provision of such facilities in Junior Technical Schools would, in most cases, present serious difficulties, if it were not to be made at the expense of the existing curriculum. The school day is already rather long, the school building is often used for evening classes, and the teachers are often engaged in evening teaching.

Some comments and criticisms relating to the types of homework set

Pupils' notes of lessons - The copying of notes is one of the commonest forms of homework, and two advantages are claimed for it: first, that it helps to impress on the pupils' minds the matter with which it is concerned; and secondly that it provides neat and ordered statements in a form readily available for subsequent reference. From the point of view of the demands which homework makes on the pupils' energies, it is the easiest of the various types of homework. Nevertheless there is reason to believe that the desired results could be obtained just as well, and perhaps more effectively, with a smaller expenditure of time than is customary in many schools, if the real purpose of notes were kept clearly in mind, and they were not allowed to degenerate into school exercises designed for the aesthetic satisfaction of teachers and inspectors. It is unnecessary for notes to become replicas of textbooks, or to be treated as exercises in literary composition, or even to take the form of continuous narrative; or for illustrations to reach the high standard of draughtsmanship properly required in the drawing class. Indeed, the value of note books would be considerably enhanced, both intrinsically and as a medium of training, if pupils were taught to grasp the essential points of a lesson, to record them as far as possible by single significant words and short phrases, and to arrange them systematically in a manner that would suggest connections and would present, as it were, a bird's eye view of the ground that had been surveyed.

Independent practice based on classwork - Little need be said here of another type of written homework which, with the copying of notes, occupies the greater part of the homework time. Practice is necessary to gain facility in any operation,


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and in such subjects as Mathematics and Shorthand it can appropriately be carried out in the pupils' own time, leaving class time free for work which requires the skilled attention of the teacher. It is only desirable to remember that frequency of practice is more important than its long duration, and that each dose of practice homework need only be small.

The value of working independent exercises based on classwork is generally recognised, and this form of homework is peculiarly adapted to such subjects as Mathematics and Bookkeeping. It is often used also in Science, History, and Geography. If the subject matter has been well taught in class, there is little danger of the homework making excessive demands. It serves to increase the pupils' familiarity with the subject or his facility of manipulation, and it discloses both to teachers and to the pupils themselves any lack of comprehension that has escaped detection in class.

Essays - Essays do not generally occupy a large place in the homework of the schools under review. In several schools, indeed, they are written only in class hours. In others it is customary for essays to be started in class and only completed at home. Of one school only, a Junior Commercial School, it is reported that this type of homework makes excessive demands on the pupils' time. Variations in the time taken to complete a given piece of homework may be greater in essay work than in any other subject. The range of these variations depends largely on the nature of the topics set, and the preparation which the teacher makes in class. That this inquiry has not disclosed serious variations in these schools may well be associated with the fact that essays on abstract topics are rarely found, and that directly or indirectly the ground is usually prepared in school for the essays which may be set as homework.

Verbal memorising - There is very little verbal memorising given as homework outside the realm of foreign languages, which are a normal feature of the curriculum only in Junior Technical Schools of the commercial type. The learning of a foreign language involves a good deal of memorising and in a course which extends over only two or, in some cases, three years, it is inevitable that pupils should supplement their class-work by work at home, if reasonable progress in the language is to be made.

Study of a textbook - Close study of a textbook again is not a common form of homework, and it occurs most frequently in such subjects as History and Geography. This kind of homework deserves more attention, for it has an important bearing on the


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problem of training students. The reports available do not suggest that teachers look for more than a body of information as the result of their pupils' efforts: and experience shows that a good deal of effort may be wasted in unsystematic study. Considerable economy of time and energy could be effected in the long run, and pupils could be given greater power in the use of books, if a little time were spent in class in training pupils in efficient methods of study, and if the homework were directed to developing these methods rather than to the accumulation of a fixed quantity of information.

Some types of "informal" homework deserving of encouragement - There are occasional examples of homework of a less formal and rigid type than those already described, where no definite amount can be prescribed and a good deal of latitude is given to pupils. The culling from newspapers and other sources of information relating to specified topics, reading outside the range of school books, looking up references in public libraries, collecting information for debates, searching for and copying illustrations - these are types of informal homework that are met with, and invariably they appear to evoke a keen response from pupils and to stimulate their interest. They are hardly looked upon as homework, and though the time devoted to them often exceeds the standard homework requirements it is given voluntarily and with evident enjoyment. One of the valuable features of work of this type is that it helps to break down the barrier between school and the larger world outside, between school work and the free activities of leisure time. It is not every subject that offers opportunities for such activities, but they could appropriately be introduced more extensively than they are, and their introduction would be beneficial not only in its effect on the development of the pupils but also in its effect on the life of the school as a whole.

B. HOMEWORK IN PART-TIME COURSES

The present position

Homework generally recognised as an integral part of the students' work - Over the country as a whole homework may be said to be a normal requirement of part-time courses. Exceptions to this general rule exist, but they are not numerous and most of them refer only to certain types of courses. Thus in several areas little or no homework is demanded in Junior Evening Institutes, but this is usually when these Institutes form no part of an organised system of technical education. Again, in classes of a recreative or general cultural character,


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and in practical workshop courses and domestic courses, homework is often not required. But of only one large and well populated area is it reported in more general terms that "no homework is set in a great many - perhaps a majority - of the junior and senior classes". As far as organised technical education is concerned, and this represents the bulk and certainly the more stable body of part-time courses, homework is generally recognised as an integral element of the students' work. It is indeed an essential feature of all National Certificate courses, the requirements for which now dominate the greater part of the field of technical education: and the need for homework is patent to teachers and students alike in courses which are designed to prepare for professional and quasi-professional examinations.

The amount of homework set - The amount of homework given in these courses is not commonly subject to the control of time schedules, as it is in full-time day schools. Teachers discover by experience what they can reasonably expect and adjust their demands accordingly. It follows that there is a good deal of variation in practice, but this is more pronounced where there is no definite objective marked by an examination. For the most part, the standards set by external or assessed examinations impose a limit below which homework cannot safely be reduced. But the tendency of teachers to demand what they can get leads in some senior and in most advanced courses to the setting of tasks which far exceed this limit. The amount of homework, then, varies not so much from school to school as from stage to stage. In the lower stages the demands are comparatively light and they increase progressively as the standard of the work advances. Two returns which may be taken as typical of the amount of time normally required for homework will make this clear. The junior courses referred to are designed for students between the ages of 14 and 16, the senior courses for students between the ages of 16 and 19 or 20, and the advanced courses for still older students.


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The third year of the senior course is the final year of the ordinary National Certificate course, and many of the weaker and less persistent students have already dropped out before this stage is reached. The advanced course represents a still finer selection of students, whose toughness of fibre and seriousness of purpose have stood prolonged and rigorous test, and whose readiness to respond to the demands made upon them offers scope for pressing those demands to a point where they become a very serious burden.

Factors which tend to restrict the amount of homework - In estimating the significance of the figures given above it is necessary to remember that the courses to which they apply occupy already three evenings a week during the winter session, and this in itself makes a serious inroad on the leisure time of students who are working all day in factories and offices. Even in the earlier stages their homework demands the sacrifice of little less than a further evening's leisure, whilst in the highest stages it absorbs the greater part of their spare time.

It is not to be supposed, however, that every student does every week the full amount of homework that it set. It is not possible, under a system of voluntary evening classes, to insist upon homework with the same rigidity that is applied in day schools. In most classes it is found, that, whilst a certain number of students do homework with great regularity, others do it only intermittently and a few hardly at all. The proportion of those who do it regularly is often affected by the personal influence of teachers, but in general it is found to be lowest in the junior classes and highest in advanced courses. It is usually the best students who give most time to homework, and the less able students who neglect it. The latter rarely survive the earlier years of a senior course, and by the time that the third year is reached, and still more beyond that, in advanced courses, the character and quality of the students ensure a high percentage of regular and consistent homework. Then the omissions are mainly clue to causes over which the students have no control, and most frequently to the demands of employers for overtime.

The smaller proportion of homework found in junior courses may be attributed to two main causes: first, that the classes contain a more heterogeneous group of students, many of whom have no clear objective to give meaning and purpose to their work; and second, that most of the students have not, from the very fact of their age, yet formed the habit of voluntary, independent work: resistances both of mind and often of environment have to be overcome. Yet over a large part of the country homework has become a well-established practice in


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junior courses, and it is common to find that the weekly tally maintains a steady average of 50 per cent and more of the total possible contributions. The influence of teachers on their students plays a great part at this stage, and accounts for many of the variations that are found. Some teachers succeed in getting homework from a very high proportion of their students whilst a few find difficulty in getting any at all.

That homework is often a serious burden to evening students is generally recognised, and in several schools means have been devised to lighten it. Homework in anyone week is restricted to one or two subjects according to a rota, each subject being allotted a homework period once in two or in three weeks. There is no suggestion that the standard of work suffers under this system.

The type of homework set - The homework set in part-time courses is almost invariably written work or drawing. It consists mainly of exercises based on the instruction already given in class, and the laborious copying of notes, though still found as a form of homework in some schools, is much less common than formerly. It is taken for granted, especially in the higher courses, that students will read their textbooks at home; but the time needed for this is often forgotten in determining the amount of written work.

Summary and suggestions

The influence of external examinations - The position of homework in part-time courses and technical education for students aged 16 or 17 and upwards has been deliberately established in recent years. And it is desirable to examine the bases on which current practice has been built up and to reach a clearer conception of the place of homework in this department of education. The bulk of part-time education, at any rate that in which the problem of homework assumes importance, is vocational in purpose and in character. It is designed partly to give knowledge and skill which is of direct utility and partly to provide a broad scientific basis for the understanding of technical processes or of commercial activities. For many students it leads to some recognised qualification which may help them to attain higher or more stable positions in industry or commerce. Examinations, therefore, play an important part in this branch of education, and most part-time technical courses are now largely determined either by examinations which are controlled by professional bodies, sometimes, as in National Certificates, in association with the Board of Education, or by examinations which are conducted by examining bodies of repute whose certificates are widely recognised.


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Under the influence of these examinations there has been a general development of part-time courses which demand not the study of one subject only, but the study of a group of related subjects. These grouped courses are normally organised on a basis of attendance at classes on three evenings a week from September to April or the end of March. In each subject of the course students normally receive only one lesson a week: and if substantial progress is to be made the instruction then received must be consolidated by private study. Moreover, to develop the habit and the power of independent inquiry and thought is one of the main ends to which the training should be directed. For the serious part-time student, then, homework is essential.

Part-time evening students have little time for recreation and social activities - Though three evenings a week is but a meagre allowance of time for the study of any branch of technology with its ancillary subjects, it constitutes a large part of the leisure time of students who are already working all day for their livelihood. The amount of time that remains for homework, for recreation and for all the other demands of social life is not considerable: and homework cannot claim it all. The present inquiry has shown that, whilst over the greater part of the field of technical education homework requirements are limited to the equivalent of one or two additional evening's work, in some of the senior and advanced courses they amount to much more than this, and in some cases leave very little time for any other activities. There will always be keen students who will devote practically all their spare time to study whatever the amount of homework that is actually set. For courses attended by older students it is not necessary to prescribe strictly and in detail the amount that should be set. But it is desirable at all times to have machinery for co-ordinating the demands made by the different teachers of a course, and to relate their total requirements to a standard which leaves a reasonable margin of time for physical and social recreation.

The need for a more rational system - Under the most favourable conditions, however, it has to be admitted that the pursuit of a technical education in the students' spare time involves a sacrifice of leisure that seriously restricts the possibilities not merely of legitimate recreation but also of development in other directions. Nor is evening study at the end of a full day's work a really efficient method of acquiring a technical education. For most people it is the only method available at present, and it is necessary to make the best of it with all its limitations and its


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drawbacks. But both the interests of efficiency and the legitimate claims of young people to a fuller life point to the desirability of a more rational system, which will permit the greater part of the instruction to be given in the day time. The need for this is already recognised by a number of employers, who release apprentices and other junior employees for a day or a half-day a week to enable them to attend day classes. The full contribution of technical education to industry is largely bound up with the extension of this enlightened practice.

The fact that homework inevitably demands a real and often considerable sacrifice of leisure makes it all the more important to use it to the best advantage. A good deal of thought needs yet to be given to the kinds of activity which can most appropriately and economically be pursued at home, and to the purposes which different types of homework can properly serve. Too often the nature of the task that is set is determined by custom and tradition, and by tradition that grew up in circumstances very different from those now obtaining in technical schools. Every piece of homework should be given with a definite and well-considered purpose.

Too much time spent at home in copying notes made in class - Without attempting to discuss all the problems that the thoughtful teacher will meet in planning the homework of his students, it may be useful to offer a few observations on some of the more important of them. In the first place, it seems clear that a certain amount of the written homework often set is of little educational value, and certainly does not justify the time spent on it. Such is the copying of notes, and such are the questions which require nothing more than a repetition of notes written in class. It may be quite appropriate for homework time to be used for making notes on class work; for example, where the exigencies of experiment in the laboratory or of practical training in the workshop leave little opportunity for making adequate notes at the time. The process of recalling what has been done, of turning it over in the mind, and of arranging it all in ordered sequence, has considerable value in establishing the knowledge more firmly in the students' mind and leading to a fuller understanding. Of a very different order is the work involved in making a fair copy of notes already taken down in class, elaborating them and even illustrating them with careful drawings. These are tasks which consume valuable time while calling for little mental activity; and they reach the point of absurdity when the note books become, as sometimes they do, virtual replicas of textbooks which the students have already bought.


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The purpose of notes is not sufficiently understood. In the form which they frequently take, and which some teachers actually require, they lose much of their value through over-elaboration, and overloading with detail, and the essential points are obscured by the unnecessary verbiage of continuous description. A little thought given to the true purpose of notes and a little time spent, in the early stages, in training students in a suitable technique would, in the long run, lead to more effective notes, and to a saving of valuable time.

Inadequate preparation of the teacher leads to an excessive expenditure of time on some forms of written homework - Of the other types of written homework, the two commonest are (a) exercises which provide practice in processes or operations taught in class, and (b) exercises which involve the application to new problems of principles taught in class. Both types of exercises play an important part in education; and both require some independent work on the part of the student and are suitable for homework. In each case the effectiveness of students' efforts depends largely on the thoroughness with which the ground has been prepared by the teacher in class; and, in the second type of exercise especially, inadequate preparation leads to an excessive expenditure of time on a given task, often enough to no purpose. Adequate preparation is primarily a matter of efficient teaching and, as such, does not enter into this inquiry. But it is perhaps not irrelevant to suggest that exposition should be interwoven with exercises worked by the class under careful supervision, not only that students may lay firmer hold of the subject, but also that teachers may discover and correct errors and explain points which have been imperfectly understood. The adoption of this procedure, and the elucidation of difficulties that it implies, would often save a good deal of the students' time at home, and increase the effectiveness of their independent labours. It might then be possible to set fewer exercises for homework, though keen students would, no doubt, voluntarily exceed the minimum requirements. The essay type of exercise needs equally careful preparation. The planning of the essay and the marshalling of ideas are usually more important and provide more valuable training than the actual writing. They should undoubtedly be the result of the students' own efforts. It is in these early stages, however, that the teacher can be of greatest use; and it is, therefore, appropriate that the preliminary planning should be done in class where it can be discussed with the teacher. Or if this part of the work is done at home it is often enough to require only an outline to be brought to school, and not a complete essay.


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More reading and less writing should be done at home by part-time students - The overwhelming predominance of written homework can hardly be justified by educational considerations, and the claims of study which is based on reading rather than on writing merit wider recognition. The reading of textbooks and, in more advanced courses, of technical journals, the consultation of works of reference, and the prosecution of inquiries, these are all activities which have a considerable value in the training of students. They possess this merit, which most written homework lacks, that they are types of activities which, if developed, may reasonably be expected to continue beyond the termination of a student's formal education. If written homework claims so much of the students' time that these other activities are impossible the ultimate effect will be harmful. It is unreasonable to take for granted that students will read seriously of their own accord, if no account is taken of the time that such reading demands, when determining the amount of written homework that is set. Reading and learning, and visiting public libraries for the purpose, should have a recognised place in every homework scheme.

The relation between classwork and the homework set requires to be determined in every case - The main difficulty in the way of such self-instruction is that most students do not know how to read profitably. This in itself is a further reason for making reading a definite part of the homework scheme. But it is also a reason for giving time in class to developing an effective and economical technique of study. Again, training in class should prepare the way for independent study outside.

It will be clear from what has been said that the relation between classwork and homework needs much more careful consideration than has hitherto been given to it. This relation will not be identical in all subjects, or in one subject at all times; and each teacher is called upon to think out his own problem. In some instances homework may well be used to prepare the ground for independent study, and subsequently to elucidate, correct and enlarge the results of such study. It will not always be possible to assess numerically the results of homework, nor is this necessarily to be deplored. The educational purpose is what matters: the part that each task plays in the whole scheme of instruction. When this is fully understood, homework will be characterised by greater variety, the students' time will not be wasted on mere routine tasks, or on tasks that are too difficult, and the formal homework demanded will leave some time for the freer activities of the mind that ultimately mean so much to the intellectual development of the student.


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CHAPTER V
GENERAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

General

The inquiry carried out in three separate types of school - elementary, secondary and technical - has revealed some difference among the three types in their views, and their practice, of homework. Such difference is natural. The work of each type of School is directed to a different objective. Conditions in each type are different. The age-range of the pupils is not the same: the school hours are not the same: the principle of attendance - compulsory, voluntary, whole-time, part-time - differs among the three.

These differences are reflected - as they are bound to be where facts are under review - in the accounts given in the preceding three chapters. They serve to explain what might otherwise seem inconsistency of practice between one type of school and another. They explain also, to a large extent, why different aspects of homework are emphasised in the different chapters. One instance may suffice. In the chapters on secondary and technical schools the point is at least implied that these are schools with a special aim, implying a standard of attainment: and homework - apart from any question of its possible excess - is on this ground represented as forming an accepted part of the school process.

In the chapter on elementary schools this emphasis on attainment is not found. The elementary schools, with some five million children of all degrees of capacity to educate, cannot usefully direct their teaching to one type, or one standard, of attainment. They have, in fact, had experience of that attempt: and the effects of the system of payment by results are hardly yet forgotten. The emphasis in this chapter is rather on the need for variety of activity to suit variety of capacity: the out-of-school activities described in the chapter - interesting alternatives to homework - represent one attempt to meet that need.

More significant, however, than the differences in point of view are the points in which the question of homework touches common ground in all three types of school. In all three types it connotes - however it may be defended on other grounds - some degree of pressure. In all three types this pressure is apt to be felt most during years when for many reasons pressure is


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least desirable - during childhood and during adolescence. That their school day should allow due time for leisure after work, for recreation and for fresh air, without shortening the proper hours of sleep, is the need of all pupils in each type of school.

The fact that in many cases homework is so organised as to interfere with this need may by itself be held to justify this inquiry. The conclusion suggested as the result of the inquiry, that homework should be reduced, is based not only on physical needs for which the school course in each type of school must allow: it is based also on the educational consideration - which applies equally to all three types of school - that successful taskwork is not the only form of training, and that education is deeply concerned to develop qualities of resource, individuality and self-direction for which some leisure, and some experience of the independent management of leisure, are essential.

Elementary schools

The inquiry has shown that although homework is "voluntary", that is, although it is not part of the normal school course, it is in fact being done by many children, both seniors and juniors - and especially by juniors. Its incidence reflects the pressure of external competitive examinations and there is ground for believing that in recent years both this pressure and the amount of homework done by juniors, have increased.

There is no evidence that the increasing amount of homework set in the public elementary schools has been a natural development of the work done in the schools. Teachers have not, as a rule, imposed it as a means of consolidating what they have taught, nor is it defended on the ground that more ought to be taught in a day than can be taught in school hours. Recent developments in the curriculum of elementary schools, in laying more stress on physical and practical activity, have added variety and interest to school work. The inquiry gives no ground for thinking that these modifications and developments in the curriculum have so added to the burden of the school child that homework has become an inevitable extension of the day's labours. Nor do the reports suggest any ground for the opposite view, that homework in the "three Rs" is necessary because more school time is now given to practical activities. Indeed this view, which is not held in any responsible quarter, misses much of the significance of the practical work. The function of practical work in the school is not to oust the "three Rs" but, by the opportunities it gives of using them for real purposes, to help children to appreciate them.


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It is clear from the inquiry that homework in the elementary schools, "voluntary" though it is, can, and not infrequently does, prove an excessive addition to school work for some children even of Junior School age.

The effect on the children, it may be said, is too little considered by the schools or the parents. Yet it appeared during the inquiry that many of the schools which set it are opposed to it: and many parents, to judge from correspondence in the press, deplore it though they ask for it. The truth is that the highly competitive nature of most examinations confronts both schools and parents with a dilemma. Either special efforts must be made - whether by means of homework, or coaching, or intensive work in school - to secure that their children are among the few who reach the standard of selection required by the examination; or the chances of success in the examination may be jeopardised.

For the schools themselves this issue is of capital importance. The choice it represents is the choice between framing their course of work themselves or having it framed for them from outside. The valuable developments in the way of recreative out-of-school activities in senior and other elementary schools - examples of which have been quoted - are the work of schools free to work out their own syllabus at their own pace, not tied to the syllabus of an examination, and it is significant that in schools where homework was being regularly set such leisure activities were seldom found. There was not time for them. Homework for examinations is proving an effective bar to the free development of education in the use of leisure.

Control of a practice which, though it is found to carry some obvious dangers for both children and schools is yet voluntary, cannot be easy. The real remedy, no doubt, is to lighten the pressure of examinations. This could be done in some degree by reducing the examination-value of special preparation in the subjects of examination. Experiments in the technique of examining, with this object in view, are at present being carried out, and it may prove possible to devise a method of selection for higher education which will lessen and perhaps abolish the value of cramming and of special coaching. A good deal of further experimental work, however, is still needed in this direction. The inquiry points clearly to some need in the meantime for more control of homework, as it is usually understood, viz. school lessons set to be done at home.

Tasks there must be, in the lives of children as in the lives of their elders: and every good school in its own practice recognises


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this. But school homework is not the only, nor always perhaps the best, task for children at home; and they need leisure as well as tasks.

It is, therefore, recommended that no homework should be set to children under 12: if it is set to children in the elementary schools at all it should be limited to four nights a week. In amount it should not exceed one hour a night between the ages of 12 and 14, nor take more than 1½ hours a night after that.

Secondary schools

It is fitting to refer once more at the opening of this section of the Report to the inquiries which have been conducted and the resolutions which have been passed by the different Associations of Teachers in Secondary Schools.* Part of the evidence for the value of certain of the opinions and recommendations presently to be put forward lies in the fact that they are, broadly speaking, in harmony with those to which the Associations have already given expression. At this point in particular it may be remarked that the main lesson of the present inquiry has been anticipated in one sentence of the Memorandum of the Education Committee of the Association of Assistant Mistresses: "In the first place there is call for a much more definite idea of the educational ends to be achieved and the soundness of the methods used for their achievement in this more independent part of the pupils' work."

Perhaps on account of the special manner in which the present inquiry was conducted one feature of the situation with regard to homework came into greater prominence than in previous reports or memoranda on the subject, and that was the excessive demand which it makes upon certain children. In fact it is not an exaggeration to say that up and down the country there are a substantial number of children who suffer from a sense of oppression which makes itself most evident in their attitude towards this part of their work.

In order to guard against misunderstandings it is necessary to say explicitly that this is not a general charge against all schools. That it is not a charge against all teachers is evident from references made above to the resolutions and memoranda of their Associations.

From the account of the situation given in Chapter III it is easy to discern the main defects. They may be classified as follows:

(1) Insufficient control by the staff. Not all heads of schools have set up suitable machinery for an effective
*See Chapter III pages 25-28.


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control. As a result, firstly, unsuitable tasks may be set for homework; secondly, the length of time required for any particular task is underestimated; thirdly, the total amount of time demanded is excessive.

(2) Faulty organisation. For example, a pupil for whom it would be profitable to complete the main school course in five years is only allowed four years.

(3) Failure to secure the co-operation of parents.

(4) Unsuitable home conditions.

The most drastic remedy which could be applied is obviously the total abolition of homework. Abolition has been tried in some schools and is supported in the press and elsewhere by those who claim that classwork in school takes sufficient toll of the child's energies. As against this it is held that the experiments in abolition are few in number and the evidence from them is inconclusive. Moreover, in the present state of our knowledge too much weight cannot be attached to arguments based on the fatigue of the children. No one has yet offered conclusive proof of so general a statement as that for the secondary pupil of normal health, strength and intelligence working under reasonably good conditions some twenty-five hours a week of schooling takes a full toll of his energies. Moreover, where fatigue is evident, it may be - and frequently is - attributable to other causes than homework, for instance, to an insufficient allowance of sleep. It must indeed be conceded that when to the twenty-five hours of schooling is added a long journey between home and school, the further addition of an hour or an hour and a half of homework may well make an excessive burden. Here special arrangements are called for. From some children in this category it might well be that no homework at all should be exacted.

The first argument here advanced for the retention of homework is not based upon educational grounds. The fact has to be faced that we live in a competitive world. In the competition for this or that economic advantage certain distinctions or hallmarks, so to call them, are of importance. The most obvious example of this is the possession of certificates of various kinds and the winning of scholarships. Even if examinations, certificates and scholarships were either modified or abolished, still the keener and better trained intelligence will - other things being equal - carry off the world's prizes. It is clearly established that for training the intelligence, homework, judiciously regulated, is a most powerful instrument.


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The indisputable fact that many children, under the economic urge, are striving for distinctions which they cannot hope to gain for lack of the necessary ability, cannot be used as an argument against homework as such. The fault here lies on the side either of the head of the school, or of the parents, or of both, who have not been wise enough to restrain the child, or have wrongly gauged his ability, or have been carried away by ambition.

Arguments of a properly educational kind are not wanting - that is to say, arguments which rest upon a belief that the main function of education is to discover the best that is in the child and to help him to develop it. Perhaps the most important gain to be won from homework is the development of self-reliance and initiative, where the pupil is left to face unaided a problem suited to his abilities; or to follow up for himself a subject which appeals to his interests. Another gain, one of a more purely moral order, results from the pupil having to "settle down to his work" and resist distractions. All these advantages naturally accrue in a higher degree where the homework is done in home surroundings - it being postulated that the surroundings are in themselves not unsuitable - than at school under supervision, with the teacher close at hand to give help when called upon. A further advantage of home surroundings does not always appear to be appreciated. It is an aim of secondary education to help the pupil so to develop his interests and aptitudes that after leaving school he may be able, if he so wishes, to pursue this or that line of study by himself. Homework helps here: it accustoms the pupil to the idea that school surroundings are not the only ones in which he can work profitably.

Lastly it is not easy to see how a pupil can attain to anything which could properly be called mastery of this or that subject without independent or unsupervised study. It is not only that certain tasks such as the memorising of facts must be done by him alone, but that revision and consolidation are necessary parts of the process leading to the desired end.

It remains then to consider the changes necessary in order that homework may not be, as it now too often is, an unnecessarily heavy burden, and that the time given to it may yield the fullest advantage. To some extent the mere recital of the defects, given above, suggests the appropriate remedies. These fall under two heads - regulation and reduction.

Regulation must be based upon a clear understanding of the function of homework. It is clear that that function can only be properly discharged when the right kind of control is exercised by the staff. It falls to the head of the school to see that the


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assistants collaborate loyally with each other and with him, and that, for example, the specialist or the strong-minded teacher does not annex more than his fair share of the time to be allowed. In large schools especially, form-masters or housemasters may have delegated to them some responsibility for seeing that the pupils are not overworked, and for helping to secure the help and understanding of parents. Subject-teachers are responsible for setting suitable tasks. It is here indeed that the most fruitful field of discussion will open out, since the technique, so to call it, of homework differs from subject to subject. Clearly no detailed consideration of the matter can be attempted here, but perhaps the following general points will give some useful guidance. First, the various kinds of task can be classified as follows: (a) Work designed to give the pupil such practice as may be necessary in particular processes or operations, or in the application to new problems of rules which have been dealt with in class. (b) Verbal memorising, as of poems, facts, principles or illustrative examples. (c) Revision of previous work. (d) Preparation for a coming lesson. Next, since, as has already been noted, the most important gain to be won from homework is the development of self-reliance and initiative, independent work must be fostered and excessive stress must not be allowed, as is now too often the case, to fall upon tasks designed solely to consolidate the instruction received in school. Incidentally it may be remarked that the excessive stress in this direction is due in many cases to the failure of teachers in their classroom practice to "drive the lesson home", for instance, by a few minutes of rapid questioning or a short spell of individual study. Thirdly, the bulk of the evidence of this, as of other inquiries, suggests that far too large a proportion of the homework time is occupied in writing. Those teachers who are parents know well how heavy the labour of writing may be.

In this matter of the regulation of homework the importance of securing the co-operation of parents can hardly be exaggerated. Co-operation here implies that parents will in a general way understand the main purpose of homework. It is true that at present most schools do invite parents to inform the Head Master or Head Mistress if a pupil is overburdened, but this safeguard is by no means complete. The parent may be diffident or may not understand, and frequently the pupil himself (or more often herself) prevents the parent from taking the obvious and necessary steps. There exist, then, a variety of subtle influences which prevent some parents from being quite frank with the head of the school or his assistants. It is the aim of the school to combat


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these influences, and it is worthwhile to go to very great trouble to overcome them. In this Parents' Associations can be valuable allies, and where they exist their fullest co-operation should be secured.

Here it is in order to pass on to a hint which has already been given and may now be made more explicit, that careful consideration must be given to the home circumstances of the pupils. Two points in particular call for mention. Firstly, when the home is far distant, so that the pupil spends a long time in travelling to and from school, the homework to be attempted by him - if any - will differ not only in amount but sometimes too in character from that attempted by his classmates. If, indeed, the homework properly so called is abolished, then, wherever possible, time for independent (i.e. unaided) study may well be made in school hours. Secondly, such "homework at school" can profitably be arranged, but after school hours, for boys living not too far from school but in homes where the circumstances are unsuitable for homework. When this is done there should be an interval between lessons and homework with perhaps an opportunity for light refreshment.

The problems of regulation and of reduction are interdependent. On the one hand a more careful regulation will in many cases lead to a reduction in the amount of time prescribed for homework: on the other hand, a reduction in the amount of time would of itself in most schools compel a reconsideration of the nature and scope of homework. It is abundantly clear from this and other inquiries that in a considerable number of secondary schools the amount of time expected to be given is excessive. Nevertheless any pronouncement as to the right amount of time must be made cautiously and with due reservations.

For in the first place circumstances differ widely in different schools. Thus in boarding schools the problem of travel to and from school does not arise, and supervision of pupils is very much closer than in day schools, so that the danger that a pupil gives too much time to homework is materially lessened. In some day schools in thickly populated areas the journey to and from school is short, whereas in some country districts it may occupy two hours a day or more. Then again the length of the school day varies: some schools return 30 lesson-periods a week, others as many as 40. In some schools the main school course extends over four years, in others over five. Even if all the differences in external conditions were extinguished, there would remain the difference in capacity between one pupil and another.


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All these reservations being borne in mind, it may be suggested that the following table affords some kind of guidance. It would most nearly apply in a day school in a thickly populated area in which the school hours amounted to 25 or 26 a week and the main school course was of five years.

(1) Preparation on not more than five nights a week: preferably on four nights only,

(2) Number of hours a night -

Up to 14 years of age, 1 hour.
Between 14 and 16 years, 1½ hours.
By comparison with the state of things known to exist in certain schools this very tentative suggestion may seem to involve a very drastic cut in the amount of time demanded. Nevertheless it does not represent a very great reduction in the time given to homework in some schools in which inquiries were made for the purposes of this Report, and it conforms fairly closely with recommendations contained in the resolutions of some of the Teachers' Associations. Something falls to be said as to the proposal that homework should be done on only four nights in the week. It is urged that no homework should be done on a Saturday.* The other free night might fall in the middle of the week. The time thus gained would give the pupil an opportunity of developing aesthetic pursuits, such as Art and Music, which not infrequently receive less attention than they deserve in school, and of playing a fuller part in the family and social life of the community. There is a very real danger lest children of secondary school age, spending their days at school and their evenings over homework should be brought up in an atmosphere of aloofness from much of the social life of their neighbourhood. Evidence of this danger is not wanting; in Wales, for instance, comment is made on the threat which arises from the excessive demands of the schools on their pupils, to the local culture, literary and musical, which has in the past been linked with church, chapel and other organisations. The training in citizenship is not all to be given in school and the practice of it should be largely exercised outside it. The danger that some abuse may be made of the new freedom is a danger to be faced whenever the bounds of freedom are enlarged. Further, those who argue that Satan finds mischief for idle hands to do may be

*The further restriction might be made "and still less on a Sunday", were it not that some parents may desire that the children should give up twenty minutes or half an hour to Scripture homework ("learning" not "written").


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reminded that they are in effect pronouncing a serious indictment against both school and home.

Among other advantages which might be looked for from a reduction in the time required would be increased freshness and fitness in the pupils, and for the teachers a reduction in the often far too heavy burden of correction. Again, it is by no means beyond expectation that some children - especially the more intelligent and active - would in fact voluntarily, without the slightest suggestion from outside, extend their efforts beyond what was required on the timetable. Than this there could hardly be a better way of developing initiative.

One further matter deserves consideration which it appears all too rarely to receive - and that is the "holiday task". This institution has fallen into undeserved decay simply because it was not attended by due regard to the situation presented. The "task" nearly always consisted in reading a book not necessarily uninteresting in itself but to be read with an examination and all its attendant penalties in view. If the holiday task is to be revived - and in principle there is much to be said in its favour - the first step to be taken is to abolish the examination, the second to vary its nature to suit the individual's tastes and abilities. Books are not the only suitable material: the field must be extended to include such things as music, art, the various crafts, Natural History and possibly practical science or observations of an elementary kind and so on. If the task, whatever it is, involves some help from other members of the family, so much the better. Anything that will bring the older and the younger generation to work together and to find common interests and difficulties is to be welcomed.

This section of the Report opened with the suggestion that the problems of homework call for yet further investigation and for careful thought. Here it may be observed that those who are concerned with the training of teachers for secondary schools, especially in the University Training Departments, might well give to these problems - both generally and in particular relation to the several subjects of the curriculum - a prominent place in their scheme of training: furthermore, teachers who are working for a higher degree in Education could find in homework and in experiments in homework a theme capable of yielding fruitful results.

Technical schools

The picture in schools of the Junior Technical School type is brighter. Homework is set, but it does not constitute so excessively heavy a burden as in schools conducted under the


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secondary school regulations. This is, at first sight, curious, for the time spent in school is longer. The explanation almost certainly lies in the freedom of these schools from external examinations with the uncertainties and fears which these engender. The aim of the pupils is to enter industry or commerce, and the fear of not securing a post is not present in the minds of pupils or of parents of pupils of reasonable industry. The only point of any importance is concerned with the kind of homework which is set. As is pointed out in Chapter IV, some teachers in these schools, as indeed in other types of schools also, do not exercise the wisest discretion in the type of work which they set. Some advice is given on the point in that chapter.

Older students, aged 16 upwards in senior institutes, are engaged in industry in the day time and they attend evening classes in order to fit themselves for more responsible posts. Their life is hard and those who survive the course, which invariably and necessarily includes home preparation, are individuals of tough fibre. That the road to success should be such heavy going is a matter which all generous-minded people must deplore. The remedy does not lie in any changes in the educational system but in the outlook of industry and of employers. Many employers do realise their obligations, and they assist the ambitious apprentice or workman by releasing him for part of the day time, a half or even a whole day. Successive Presidents of the Board of Education have often appealed to industry for extension of this practice and will doubtless continue to do so, till it becomes more general.




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APPENDIX I

A

Dear Sir, or Madam,

Will you please answer the following questions, and return the form to school on or before MONDAY, 11th FEBRUARY, 1935?

(1) How much time (on an average night) does your boy spend on homework?

(2) Does this appear to you too much or too much too little? (about right 271; too much 119)

(3) Does homework prevent your boy indulging in his hobbies? (yes 117; no 273)

(4) How would your boy spend his time if there were no homework?

(5) Would you prefer homework on certain nights only, so that two or three nights a week might be free? (yes 228; no 162)

(6) Bearing in mind that homework is at present forced upon schools by outside competition and examination standards, do you think that your boy would be able to reach as high a standard if his evening work were planned by himself? (yes 42; no 348)

Any further remarks.

Signed _____________ (Parent or Guardian).

Name of Boy __________ Form ____

B

(1) Do you find that your son/daughter shows signs of fatigue as a result of school life? (Parents seem to be fairly evenly divided though a small majority of 44 to 38 answer in the negative.)

(2) Do you prefer evening preparation to be done at home or at school as it is done at present? (Only 22 out of 80 would prefer prep. to be done at home.)


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(3) Is work brought home in the evenings, and how long is spent on it? (In Vths and above practically everyone takes work home. Time varies from ½ - 4 hours.)

(4) Do you consider there is too much preparation set? (Parents well divided. 44 to 37 do not.)

(5) Do you think the present holidays too long? (46 against 37 are quite satisfied with the present holidays.)

(6) Would you welcome an attempt to spread the year's work by (a) reducing working hours in term time and demanding some work in the holidays, or (b) by altering the school year to four shorter terms and four shorter holidays? (Strong opposition to reducing working hours in term time, but opinions as to four terms are fairly evenly divided.)

(7) Have you any suggestions for the improvement of school hours or organisation? (Free Saturdays was a popular suggestion. A number felt that there was too much spare time in the afternoons. Among other suggestions were some to the effect that the afternoon period should continue till 4.30, and then no more work at all.)

APPENDIX II
QUESTIONNAIRE

Boy's Name ________ Form ____

Has he tackled his homework with greater vigour and keenness? "Yes" (81 per cent).

Has he worried less about his homework? "Yes" (72 per cent).

Has he slept better as a result of reduced homework? "Yes" (62 per cent).

Has the reduction of homework had a beneficial effect on his physical health? "Yes" (73 per cent).

Has he in general devoted the extra time to worthwhile things, such as hobbies, reading, open-air recreation, etc. Or has he wasted it? "Yes" (95 per cent).

Would you regret a return to the former amount of homework? If not, please state your reasons, "Yes" (87 per cent).


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APPENDIX III

Dear Sir (or Madam),

"No Prep." Experiment

Before the beginning of next term I am anxious to collect all available opinions in order to assess the results of the experiment and to decide on future arrangements in regard to school preparation. I hope that all parents without exception will be good enough to help me by answering the following questions to the best of their knowledge and ability, and by returning the replies to me before the end of August.

Name of boy __________

(1) Physical Health. Reply.

Has the absence of compulsory "prep" been -

(a) beneficial? Yes. 63 per cent.
(b) harmful? Yes. 2 per cent.
(c) without appreciable result? Yes. 35 per cent.
(2) The Use of Leisure.

Has the experiment led to the cultivation of -

(a) useful hobbies or interest? If so, please indicate. Yes. 43 per cent (sport) 29 per cent (cultural).
(b) hobbies or interests of doubtful value? If so, please indicate. Yes. 10 per cent (doubtful)
(c) unwise pursuits? Yes. 13 per cent (unwise).
(3) Future Policy.

Do you prefer -

(a) that the experiment should continue? For continuing, 25 per cent.
(b) that arrangements previously in force should be resumed? For reverting, 7 per cent.
(c) that "prep" should be carried on as before during the Winter terms, but not in the Summer? For no summer "prep", 33 per cent.
(d) that "prep" should be excused on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but not on other evenings, throughout the year? For no "prep" on half holidays, 35 per cent.
(4) Any other Observations

If there are any you wish to make, please add them in the space opposite, or in a covering letter.


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