I'm with Gary Lineker: Homework should be banned

Precisely when they should be playing games or relaxing after an often hard day's learning in school, children are spending hours doing homework, causing them unnecessary stress and anxiety. And to what end? There seems to be little or no benefit, writes Leona O'Neill

"I see him come home, get his books out and sit there for three hours working"
"I see him come home, get his books out and sit there for three hours working"

FOOTBALLING legend Gary Lineker caused a bit of a stir last week when he called for a ban on homework.

The 56-year-old Match of the Day host said homework was stressful and placed a massive wedge between parents and kids, and a whole host of celebrities, from Eamonn Holmes to Davina McCall, fell in behind him in the call to have it banned.

My older sons are both at post-primary schools. They both get homework. One gets substantially more homework than the other – far too much, in my opinion. He is 11 and last week dropped out of one of his football teams because he just didn't have the time or the energy to keep it up. Homework and training every night have worn him down and he feels burnt out.

I see him come home, get his books out and sit there for three hours working. When he's finished he's too exhausted to do anything except vegetate in front of the TV, get his books ready for the next day and go to bed.

And there's the strife that comes with it. If you happen to have a child who is very academic, breezes through his school day without a hassle and finds work really easy, that's fantastic. If you have a child who struggles in school with issues such as dyslexia, who already finds school a challenge and comes home to face another two or three hours of homework that they really don't want to do, that can be difficult. That kind of pressure can have a detrimental effect of any child.

I have four wilful children who come home tired and really don't want to do any more work. They feel they have worked enough at school and want to relax at home. But it is written in a big book of rules somewhere that homework must be done, regardless of how they feel or what they want to do.

That conversation rarely ends in a harmonious fashion, more with a load of slamming doors, declarations of things not being fair and advanced huffing, resulting in rushed homework that is not their best work.

I totally agree with Gary Lineker. I feel too much homework can have a detrimental effect on kids. They can easily burn out, spending the years that they really should be out playing and socialising hunched over books in the bedrooms instead. Kids who spend too much time working can experience stress, physical health problems, a lack of work/life balance in their lives and even alienation from society.

I know children who do not go out at all during the school term because of the sheer volume of homework they have to do. It seems to be the norm these days.

I would honestly rather see my kids out playing football, exercising, having fun and socialising with their friends and reading for enjoyment than slogging over homework.

Of course, at times around exams it is important to study, and there are experts who say homework reinforces discipline and reinforces what is learned at school, but there has to be a happy medium. Excessive homework will do no one any good. Stressed-out, exhausted kids cannot absorb and retain information.

Finland is a fine example of how less homework has worked very well. The country takes a holistic approach to education, with parents wanting a more family friendly way of doing things, and it has had absolutely zero negative impact on how well children are doing academically.

In Essex a school last year banned homework because they felt preparing homework was too time consuming and took them away from organising meaningful classroom lessons. It is working well for them so far. And in Cheltenham, a ladies college said they were banning homework and introducing university-style learning – as in reading up on subjects before class – instead. They said the move was a reaction to an epidemic of depression and anxiety.

Many teachers I have spoken to feel the same way – that homework is a waste of time that is usually rushed, begrudged and sometimes even done by the parents.

If there is a study done that will tell me that homework is crucial to children's academic and educational success, then I'll rethink things. I want my children to do well. I want them to get a good education. I do not want them to achieve this to the detriment of their health.

I genuinely think that children get a fantastic education in the six hours they attend school. When they are at home I'd much rather they could rest, relax and recharge so they can go into school the next day refreshed.

Until homework is officially banned, and in case my kid's teachers are reading this, we will continue the dreaded task.