NHM Reader Comments: Homework in Infant and Junior School

Louise posted the following question on her Louise Nhm Smith profile “Good Afternoon Everyone. I’ve had a question from a NHM Reader that I’m intrigued to know the answer myself: “Has anyone advised their child’s school that their children won’t be doing homework in Infants school, and if yes, how did they go about doing this? My understanding is that homework isn’t mandatory until 8 years old…” TIA”

Thank you to all who contributed to this discussion, highlights are below and thank you to Juliet for putting this post together! 

NHM Readers comments on advising infant /junior schools their children wont be doing homework

Jaz said

“We’re clearly lucky as my school doesn’t believe in it so young. We just have to read each day- but I think that’s right! They do have a project over the summer which I think is fine. But also- if it’s making a project or something you don’t want them to be the only child that doesn’t do it and is left out…”

Mary said

“My son is y1 and his homework is a short writing exercise (often draw a picture and write a sentence); practice tricky words, read his book and number bonds. I let him chose to do it when he wants to. It takes no time at all. The teacher says it’s ok if not everything gets done. If I were you I would open the conversation with the school in an open and honest way. You might find they are open to your choice. Plus think about what aspects of homework you won’t do. Be prepared.”

Louise Nhm Smith said

“I have already had this response from a Primary school teacher who obviously wishes to remain anonymous: “I’m currently a Primary school teacher and when my little boy goes to school I will be doing the same and probably withdrawing him from KS1 SATs.

I would write a clear polite letter outlining why you do not want your child doing homework, inc references to official sources to support your view if you think the school will cause a fuss. I would also include what educational activities you will do i.e. read and discuss books, family meals, visits to places that engage your child (whatever is relevant to you). Speak to your child so they don’t rub it in to others and keep track that they are not doing it in break times.

I would however keep an eye on the projects because they can be fun for the family to share in and be aware they may miss out on rewards (merits, stickers). Good luck and I hope the school supports your plans.””

Louise Nhm Smith said

“Response from the same Primary school teacher: “After a very quick google search, there is no formal method to withdraw an able child from SATs that I can find. There is an option to simply not take them in during the week (and risk fines) or take them on an unauthorized holiday (less likely to get fines but as you will have seen in the press it is a hot topic).

From my personal perspective my boy is not due to take KS1 SATs until 2022 and a lot will change in that time. If they do not then I will have a conversation with my school about my concerns, and if not addressed, will consider not sending him in and taking the penalties/fines.

I have a lot of professional concerns about how schools are implementing the tests, especially at KS1 and the pressure that is put on very small minds, bodies and souls.

If you as a parent also have concerns your first port of call should be your child’s teacher. Understand how the school approaches the tests and discuss how your child can be supported so that they are not stressed. If this does not reassure you, I would go to the head as the ethos of a school can shape the exam experience. If you are still not happy you need to reflect on your options. The sad fact is that if you simply withdraw your child for the test week, they will still be taught as if they are sitting them and the stress that might bring. It’s a really hard thing to address and most schools have their hands tied and so (unfairly) pile the pressure on the children.

If you feel the pressure is affecting their mental health (scary at such a young age) or their love of learning/school, then I would bring that to the school’s attention asap. Always be polite and provide evidence: from language used at home (‘I hate school’, ‘I’m not doing well’, ‘I’m not good enough’), examples from work in school, sleep patterns etc. Explain that you are not happy that the year has become about a set of tests when they should be loving learning and see how the school respond.

If you have concerns you could always talk to the LEA to see what they’d expect in a year 2 class. Or consider changing school/home-schooling.

This is not in any way official, just the reflections of a mum who also teaches.””

Susan said

“My child is 5 (year 1) and has reading and maths and now spelling homework (10 words a week) and also “talking homework” but saying that the school is outstanding!!”

Emily said

“Yes. But it took my son’s paediatric consultant saying it three times before they listened…”

Louise Nhm Smith said

“A response from an assistant head at a local junior school who also wishes to remain anonymous: “Homework is not a statutory requirement in infant or junior schools in England. I am not sure it is statutory in KS3 but don’t quote me. However, parental involvement proven to be crucial in child development. There is no set definition of what parental involvement constitutes and it certainly isn’t restricted to ‘formalised homework’.

Many schools have project/topic related homework that is designed to encourage families to share in activities for those who wish to do it and many schools are more than happy to pinpoint parents to the right place to find suitable additional home learning tasks. However, this is again non-statutory.

Personally, as a teacher and a Mum, I do value reading at home (even if that comes in the simple form of a bedtime story). Spelling and multiplication tables/number facts are also areas that can make an impact.

The Sutton Trust report rated homework as having very little impact on children’s progress at school. However, parental involvement is paramount! Parents should feel confident in making a judgement about whether their child actually benefits from homework and schools will respect this if the child is generally supported by their parents in their learning.

By the way…homework is always a nightmare topic at parents evening because it generates such conflicting opinions. It’s very difficult for schools to please everyone on this one.””

Mata said

“Interesting it is not ‘statutory’ in Juniors. I wonder if that means the school does not have to set it or does it mean the child does not have to do it? My daughter’s school give them detention if it’s not done. Tried complaining but it’s hopeless.”

Karen said

“Only an education is statutory. How it is delivered is up to the parents. If you can’t find a school whose ethos you like or can negotiate with don’t forget home education is a perfectly allowable method of delivering education with no constraints on your curriculum or time.”

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HCC School Closure Website

Miss NHM’s school has sent a mail out to all parents saying that they have received a Cold Weather warning from Hampshire County Council today, with predictions of poor weather and possibly snow on its way.

This might be a VERY useful website as it is the list of School Closures and is updated regularly: www.hants.gov.uk/schoolclosures

I have mixed feelings about this. YAY to snow but Eeeekkk to the logistical nightmare of it with work and Miss NHM off school.

It’s about time we had some decent snow though. Snowballs, snow angels, igloos and snowmen. Yay!!!

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Looking back at 2017 on NHM

2017 has been a tough year. This year has challenged me more than I ever expected. I’ve learnt many, many lessons during this year.

I’d love to be doing a positive post about how awesome 2017 was, and it was in many, many ways but it was also one of the toughest years that I’ve been through since I started NHM. I thought 2016 was really tough but it was NOTHING compared to this year.

There is so much that I want to say about 2017 but it’s too personal to share. I’m still processing a lot of things that have happened this year and it feels like this is going to take a while longer.

But, I’m still here, so are you and so is NorthHantsMum and I’m very, very grateful for that.

2017 on NHM

January

“Joyful January”.  I’d love to try this again in January, so if you are interested, please let me know!

I was asked to be a sponsor again for Basingstoke Track Party, I finally got around to putting together an FAQ for the site, and this heartbreaking post was sent to me by a local Mum.

February

Miss NHM and I were verbally attacked by another parent on school property. It wasn’t a very nice experience but I’m very proud of myself for not swearing at her. Miss NHM was very shaken up after this for a long while after. I wanted to blog about this but we had too much going on at home.

March

With everything going on in my personal life it was a struggle to publish every week day. I am incredibly grateful to the AWESOME NHM Support Ladies who have really come into their own this year and helped me out immensely on NorthHantsMum.

April

I dealt with a Domestic Abuse situation via NorthHantsMum. This was waaaay beyond what I ever expected to be covering on NHM and I found it a very stressful situation, even when it wasn’t happening to me.

May

Miss NHM was diagnosed with a lifelong autoimmune disease. The floor fell out from under our family.

June

NorthHantsMum turned 6 years old.

Mr NHM was the best man at his best friends wedding and we had an awesome day!

July

We discovered that Miss NHM was being subject to abuse by one of her Teaching Assistants. The schools behaviour in response to this, particularly the Head teachers, was despicable.

My friend Sue took Miss NHM and I to see our first #SittingwithJane bench.

The school holidays started. NEVER have I needed the school holidays to start than I did this year.

August

Miss NHM started to heal and wasn’t quite as anxious or stressed as she had been, mainly because she wasn’t at school.

I came up with the inspired idea of keeping a #SittingwithJane bench in Basingstoke. The irony is, this was one of my goals at the start of 2016, to have a bench in a public place that Mum’s and their children could use to meet at.

Unfortunately, with everything going on in my personal life, I dropped the ball in 2016, so when it fell into my lap in August 2017 it just seemed so perfect.

The whole bloody project nearly broke me.

Next time I decide to take on a project of this size, with a seriously sick child, a full time job in part time hours and the summer holidays – will someone slap me please?

September

In the first week of September. we removed Miss NHM from her school as it was clear they weren’t going to listen to us or the medical profession, my Mother had what they now think was a mini-stroke, we moved Miss NHM to another local school, the washing machine, boiler and my car all broke and on the Friday I had the #SittingwithJane auction, which the Teaching Assistant who had been subjecting my daughter to abuse was also at.

It was a very, very, very stressful week.

But we got the bench. YAY! Congrats again to those winners of the competition.

Huge thanks again to everyone who donated. I’m still waiting for the Basingstoke Discovery Centre to put up the plaque…

October

I sent out the first NHM Survey in over a year and had some AMAZING feedback from you all. Thank you!

It meant even more after everything that’s happened in the past two years, to know that my time isn’t being wasted.

I started the “Inspirational Mum’s” programme.

November

Myself and a couple of the NHM Awesome Support Team were very kindly invited to review Absolutely Karting. Which reminds me, I really need to write that post up! Opps!

December

I FINALLY sorted out the “subscribe” option on the NorthHantsMum.co.uk website. I’m not technical so this was a huge step forward, to work it all out and get it all sorted. So you can now receive all of the posts published in your emails. Double YAY!

I published a post about Y2 Autumn Term.

Final Thoughts

Normally I’m so upbeat and positive on NHM but I’m not very well today which isn’t helping and it has been a really, really, really tough year.

But I’m very grateful and thankful that as a family we are coming out of it and that you are all still here supporting NorthHantsMum.

I have no idea what 2018 will bring for any of us, but I do wish you all an AWESOME 2018.

For those of you celebrating tonight, have a great one! For those of us who will be in bed long before midnight, sweet dreams :-D.

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Good Infant Schools vs. Bad Infant Schools

Before I start this post, I need to make it VERY clear that this post is a bit tongue in cheek, is based on my experience of only 2 schools (and therefore cannot be taken too seriously) and is entirely from my (a parents) perspective…

Mr NHM and I moved Miss NHM to a new school 5 days into the start of the September 2017 academic year.

I won’t go into the details on NHM, for obvious reasons, but we now refer to Miss NHM’s old school as “The Prison” and I will continue to refer to it as such, regardless of feedback from anyone. The way they treated my daughter and my family was despicable.

Needless to say, I’ve learnt a LOT about what a “good” infants school is like and what a “bad” infants school is like.

Several points below aren’t based on my actual experience, they are based on what I have seen and heard from other parents and children.

Good Infant schools vs. Bad Infant schools

A good infants school will have large, naturally lit classrooms.

A bad infants school will have tiny classrooms, the same size as my kitchen, which will be expected to seat 32 children in and will be very, very dark with barely any natural light. (Top tip, if visiting a new school for your child, ALWAYS go during day light hours so you can see what the natural light will be like for your child when they are imprisoned in the classroom for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.)

A good school will allow children to play on the field.

A bad school will have a field that is entirely for show and sports day. Children will NOT be allowed to play on it, for their own safety (!!!).

A good school will give a 5 year old in YR1 two pieces of homework a week and will realise that family time is more important than more work outside of school.

A bad school will give over 6 pieces of homework to a 5 year old in YR1 and when your child doesn’t do all of this homework they are punished.

A good school will give a child the chance to get off the “thundercloud” and the child will not be permanently punished.

A bad school will put the child on the “thundercloud” for the rest of the week and the child will miss the most exciting part of the school week, “golden time” if they don’t do ALL of their homework.

A good school will not have the “thundercloud”, “sun” or “rainbow”.

A bad school will use the “thundercloud” to inflict intimidation and fear into small children.

A good school will give children the opportunity to move around during their “free” time.

A bad school will play films during “golden time”.

A good school will send messages to parents about things like nits and harvest festival collections.

A bad school will send weekly emails about the attendance levels for each class, messages that if you park in the wrong place you will be arrested and about how several children are wearing the wrong coloured coat to school.

A good school will have teachers who send the children in their class Christmas cards.

A bad school will not have teachers send the children in their class Christmas cards because the “personal touch” is not encouraged.

A good school will care more about the welfare of the children than children wearing EXACTLY the correct uniform, including the colour of socks and outdoor coat.

A bad school will NOT care about the welfare of the children and will only care that the children are wearing the CORRECT uniform and god forbid those who don’t have logo’d uniform.

A good school will have a variety of different classes including music and arts for all years.

A bad school will have only english, maths and science classes, with one class per term of “fun” stuff from YR2 onwards.

A good school will allow children to have their classes outside when the weather is over 28 degrees.

A bad school will force children to remain in a classroom that has no air conditioning when the weather is over 28 degrees, including no playtime or lunchtime play outside, because it is for their own safety as it’s too hot to be outside (!!!!!).

A good school will realise that children of infants school age require a rounded experience of life.

A bad school will only concentrate on attendance at school and will send you a “delightful” red letter each half term if your child’s attendance is below their requirements, regardless of whether your child has a serious medical condition which means they are more sick than “normal” children.

A good school will have extra classes after school like “forest school”,  which are run by teachers and are free to attend.

A bad school will only have classes after school that cost an absolute arm and a leg for your child to attend.

A good school will have guitar lessons, Spanish lessons and rock steady lessons which will all take place during the school day.

A bad school will have NOTHING other than lessons for children to attend during the school day.

A good school will bend over backwards to ensure that your child is treated the same as other children in their class, regardless of their situation.

A bad school will single out a child if they have any extra requirements or special needs that don’t fit in with the schools vision of a “normal” child.

A good school will care greatly about a child’s emotional wellbeing.

A bad school won’t give a rat’s fig about a child’s emotional well being and will actually do everything they can to ensure that the child conforms to their expectations of what small children should be like, regardless of that child’s situation.

A good school won’t focus on the costs associated with supporting children with extra needs.

A bad school will ONLY focus on the costs associated with supporting children with extra needs.

A good school will have lovely receptionists that are also Mum’s who TOTALLY get it.

A bad school will have very grumpy receptionists who raise their eyebrows and grumble at you, for example, when you forget to bring paperwork back in on time and then proceed to make you feel like it’s you that’s back in infants school when you return said paperwork late.

A good school will have lots of pictures of happy smiley children on their website.

A bad school will have only have a picture of the head teacher on their website.

A good school will allow children to bring in anything they like for “Show and Tell”.

A bad school will ONLY allow your child to bring in something for “Show and Tell” that is related to the subject they are studying at that exact moment and if they try to bring in something else to show their classmates it will be confiscated.

What would you add to this list?

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My Experience: Y1 Phonics Screening Check

This may or may not be a controversial post…

Miss NHM has her Y1 Phonics test next week. Apparently it is a 5-10 minute check of words that is done with a teacher that is “known” to her.

We haven’t done any preparation for the test. I’ve read all sorts of horror stories about parents who are hiring experts to “coach” their children for these tests. The parent Y1 Facebook group was all of a flurry during half term, with parents spending a couple of HOURS going through the “phonics workbooks” that were sent home at the end of term. (Workbooks for 6 year olds. Phonics for HOURS during half term. Seriously???!!!)

(My favourite bit on the facebook group is when parents post up the list of spellings for the week, because there is invariably some child who didn’t get their spellings that week, with their children’s answers next to them. All written perfectly of course.)

In the past week I’ve read LOTS of stuff about the Phonics test, what it involves and why it’s being done. I really don’t understand why the Department of Education feels the need to test 6 year olds on anything and that ANY child, under the age of 13 can be listed as having “failed” at anything. A great way to make the parents AND child feel like failures.

Anyway, my understanding is the reason for the phonics test is to try to increase the number of children who read?

I’m sorry, but am I missing something here? It seems obvious to me that the best way to get children to read is to switch off the TV and technology!!

Just switch off the TV!

Why do we insist on making things so complicated? Why do we have these overly complicated tests that cost a fortune to run, when we should be trusting teachers to do their jobs and parents to invest in their children by switching off the TV and encouraging them to read or listen to audio books?

Personally, I had never heard of a digraph or trigraph before Miss NHM’s homework a few weeks ago. I understand that teaching techniques have changed considerably since I was a child but if I’ve managed to get through THE WHOLE OF MY LIFE without knowing what a “trigraph” is, then why is it so important that it be drummed into my daughter?

Honestly, the more I see and experience about our current education system in the UK, the more I slap my head repeatedly.

Er, so maybe a bit controversial and maybe a bit ranty too but that’s the perk of having your own blog! 😀 😀 :-D.

I know you won’t hold back but what are your thoughts on the Y1 Phonics test?

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My Experience: Homework in Y1

Before I start, I want to be clear that I am very well aware of how careful I need to be when posting my thoughts and comments to NorthHantsMum about schooling in this country. I’ve “held back” in several places, although it may not look like it reading this through! lol.

Homework in Y1

Homework “steps up” in Y1.

People warn you of it, but that doesn’t prepare you.

So far, in her first 8 weeks of Y1, Miss NHM has had at least six tasks every week. She’s 5.5 years old. Every week she has spellings, a topic homework which is often writing and/or maths, reading books, library books, an online maths task and extra tasks that need to be done.

Spellings

10 spellings to learn and write, per week. If these spellings are not written in cursive (that’s joined up writing to you and me) then she gets 0.

Yup, even if she has learnt to spell and write these words, if she doesn’t write them in joined up writing when she is tested, her teacher will mark them as zero. I’m not saying any more on this for fear of reprisal.

Weekly Homework 

This normally takes between 15-30 minutes to do. It often involves writing sentences (cursive – joined up, of course) or doing a written activity. You get a whole week to do this but we try to do it on the weekend to get it out of the way.

Mathelitics

Mathelitcs is an online programme to help children improve their maths. This is not something that a child can be left with. You need to sit with them to go through it.  We’ve only done 15 minutes so far this term, because by the time I finish work at 5pm, get dinner on and eat dinner, Miss NHM is too exhausted by the end of the day to focus. She literally lay on the floor next to me when I tried to get her to go through this yesterday.

Reading Books

Ahhh, those wonderful chip and biff books. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That have to be read every day and the reading booklet that has to be updated every day to say that you’ve listened to them reading. (God forbid you don’t update the reading booklet to say they’ve done it, or you will get a stroppy note from the teaching assistant telling you to update it!!!)

Honestly, these books are THE most soul destroying books in the universe. And have you seen that mother’s make up! Green eyeshadow! I mean, really! This is just the start of it, I daren’t write what I want too on the “chip and biff” books ;-).

img_7109

Thankfully for us Miss NHM loves reading so she can often be found following me round the house, whilst I’m tidying up or sorting the kitchen out, reading “at” me. Which doesn’t always help when I’m distracted doing something else!

Library Book 

Every week Miss NHM gets a library book that we have to read at home with her. I’ve actually been really impressed with several of the library books but I’ve also been quite horrified at some of them that have come home.

Some of the subjects that are covered are very inappropriate for young children, but I’m already labeled as “that Mum” at Miss NHM’s school and don’t want to be the old fuddy duddy who kicks up a stink about everything :-D.

My thoughts on homework

During the Autumn parents evening, I advised Miss NHM’s teacher that I understand that homework isn’t mandatory in primary school and that if we got to the homework we would do it, but if we didn’t, I don’t want Miss NHM being punished. They agreed and didn’t say much. I think there would have been a lot more fuss if Miss NHM was perceived as being “behind” in her work for Y1.

My “favourite” bit is when they “make” you sign a piece of paper at parents evening saying that you will “support” the school in their work to educate your child. So, does this mean that if you don’t do the homework with your child, they will wave it in your face at the end of term, telling you that’s why your child isn’t as advanced as they could be?

All in all I would say that Y1 homework for our family takes between 3-4 hours a week, if you include all of the time spent on reading library books, reading books, topic homework and maths activities that the school sends home. That’s for one child. Which sounds fine, but actually that’s nearly another half day of school! Time that could be spent playing or doing family stuff together.

Family time is sacred for us. We all miss each other enough during the week now that Miss NHM is at school that I don’t want her to miss anymore time with us as a family.

And oh boy is Miss NHM missing the playing. She gets home and is literally desperate to play with her toys. The other weekend she told me that she didn’t want to go to a birthday party and eat cake (I thought she was really ill!!!) because she never gets time to play with her toys and she’s really, really missed it!!!

I have also heard that several children in Y1 are being deprived of break time as they have to “stay in” and catch up. This is WRONG!!!!

Wrong, wrong, wrong!! Our children should be outside being children. Playing and learning. It’s been proven time and time again, that forcing young children to sit still for several hours on end affects their emotional wellbeing!!! So why are schools still doing it???

I don’t understand why the education system decides that they have to put our children under so much pressure?!!??? They are only tiny. Some of them have just turned 5 years old.

And yet, I’m part of the problem. I’m not doing anything about it. I’m not changing my child’s school (she’s been through enough trauma with school since she started!) and apart from saying that we will do her homework when we get to it, I’m not arguing further to change things.

To be fair, I wouldn’t know where to start. But something really needs to be done and soon. We cannot keep putting our young children through this level of stress and exhaustion and not expect there to be some fall out. It will be society, all of us, who will suffer in the long run…

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