The summer holidays have begun and that means ditching the textbooks for buckets and spades and swapping school uniforms for swimming costumes. When you’re young, the summer holidays seem like an endless expanse of sunny days stretched out before you but for some children, summer means being bogged down by homework booklets, revision tasks, or studying for Autumn 11+ exams. For these children, summer is not so sweet when it means packing homework books in to the suitcase to go with them on holiday. We’ve asked parents their views and come up with some alternatives to summer homework that will keep kids brains in gear over the summer break.

Before we suggest doing away with summer homework altogether, many teachers and parents would agree that there are a number of benefits to giving out homework over the holidays. For one thing, it stops them from forgetting everything they’ve learned over the past year. One mum in County Durham, Claire, said that “I think homework should be given over the holidays because it keeps their brain focussed on school work, however I’m sure my son would disagree!” Holiday homework keeps the mind sharp and makes it easier to get back in to the swing of school life come September. However, age is an important factor when it comes to summer homework; while summer study is essential for older students beginning GCSEs in Key Stage 4 and up, is holiday homework necessary for younger pupils, particularly in primary education?

is holiday homework necessary for younger children in primary education?

For pupils in Key Stage 3 and below, school can be very tiring and the summer holiday is a much-needed break to the school routine. Summer is also valuable time to develop socially around peers outside of school and spend time with family. Family time is just as important as academic progress and for most families, the summer break is their biggest opportunity to have fun together. Homework can also be a great source of stress for parents who feel they cannot help their children with homework. A mum of three in London commented that there is also some pressure for parents to compete, with so many other parents paying for private tutors even early in primary school and paying for private lessons over summer.

There has been a lot of debate over whether holiday homework should be given at all. Ailish, a nanny working in London, said that, “Personally I don’t think children really need sheets of homework similar to what they do in class, because I know from experience as a nanny and also from when I was younger, it was often left to the last minute while the rest of the summer was spent blissfully ignoring it.” With so many kids rushing their homework and leaving it until the last minute, the point of holiday homework is being missed. One parent suggested that “summer homework for young children is not necessary, unless it’s things like active homework that encourages children to go outdoors.” Perhaps more schools could be open to the idea of holiday “homework” that’s a bit different. Make holiday homework more engaging and minimise homework excuses come the start of term. Here’s what we came up with:

Get Active and Go Outdoors

Two children piggy-backing in a field.

With concerns over children spending large amounts of their free time in front of TV and iPad screens, it could be far more beneficial to set homework that encourages going outdoors, rather than completing endless worksheets. It’s a great idea to encourage cultural activities that they can do with their families that will take them out of the house, like going to a museum, visiting the zoo, or watching a play. This doesn’t have to break the bank either, many museums and events are free.

Encourage Hobbies and Learning Life Skills

A baking tray of muffins being pulled from an oven.

Summer is a great time to allow children to devote time to their favourite hobbies or even start a new one. Set your pupils a summer goal of learning a life skill, such as cooking a meal, gardening or sewing. You can get each child to keep a record of what they’ve learnt, for example, a recipe book of things they’ve cooked or pictures of plants they’ve grown. These can be simple things that won’t cost parents a penny and will allow for more family time.

Summer Reading

A row of children's books.

We all know that reading is beneficial to both the imagination and cognitive development of children. It’s also no secret that a lot of children don’t like reading so getting them to find something they enjoy sometimes requires thinking creatively. You could encourage graphic novels or autobiographies of people they admire. One method that can work with older pupils is by making it practical: if they want to be a mechanic, get them to read a mechanics manual. Another way of getting pupils in to a regular habit of reading is through setting them the task of reading a news story every week; this is even easier to do now with so much news being readily available on your phone and through social media.

Get Creative and Don’t Call it Homework!

A yellow post-it note with a light-bulb drawn on it.

However you decide to combat homework reluctance over the holidays, make sure you keep it creative; if pupils don’t feel like they are being tested but instead get to experiment with something they enjoy then they will be more likely to take their time over it and not leave it until the last minute. If you can get them to think that it’s not really homework, you can get them engaged and give them the freedom to learn something new that a worksheet could never have taught them.

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