Homework (Primary)


Low impact for very low or no cost, based on moderate evidence.

Cost Per Pupil Cost estimate: Less than £80 per pupil per year. cost per pupil
Evidence Rating Evidence estimate: Two or more rigorous meta-analyses. evidence rating Average impact: + 1 additional month. Impact +1 month

What is it?

Homework refers to tasks given to pupils by their teachers to be completed outside of usual lessons. Common homework activities may be reading or preparing for work to be done in class, or practising and completing tasks or activities already taught or started in lessons, but it may include more extended activities to develop inquiry skills or more directed and focused work such as revision for exams.

How effective is it?

It is certainly the case that schools whose pupils do homework tend to be successful schools. However it is less clear that the homework is the reason why they are successful. A number of reviews and meta-analyses have explored this issue. There is some evidence that when homework is used as a short and focused intervention it can be effective in improving students’ attainment (with some studies showing up to eight months positive impact on attainment). Overall the general benefits are likely to be modest if homework is more routinely set. There is clear evidence that it is helpful at secondary level, but there is much less evidence of benefit at primary level. 

The research strongly suggests that it is more valuable at secondary school level and much less effective for children of primary school age. 

How secure is the evidence?

Homework has been extensively studied. However studies have mainly looked at the correlation between homework and how well schools perform. There is a relatively consistent picture that there is a positive association, but there are a smaller number of studies which have investigated what happens when homework is introduced and compared with classes where homework is not given. These studies tend to show that homework is beneficial, though the evidence is less secure.

What are the costs?

There are few costs associated with homework, though there are implications for staff time for preparation and marking. With younger children there may be additional resources required (such as reading books or games for children to take home). Overall costs are estimated as very low.

What should I consider?

  • Overall, homework in primary schools does not appear to lead to large increases in learning.

  • Effective homework is associated with greater parental involvement and support and can be developed to increase parental engagement.

  • Short focused tasks or activities which relate directly to what is being taught, and which are built upon in school are likely to be more effective than regular daily homework.

  • Have you made the purpose of homework clear to children?