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homework time guidelines ireland secondary school

Additional Homework Resources

What's the right amount of homework?

IS IT a bore for the kids, another layer of labour for frazzled mums — or a crucial route to academic success?

What's the right amount of homework?

Children’s homework and the time it takes are problems for parents — homework is described as the “thorniest issue” at primary school, by a representative of the Irish National Teachers’ organisation.

Most schools have a homework policy, because parents are puzzled. One primary school, in Kildare, runs homework information meetings for parents, at their request, while one second-level school clarifies what’s expected of first years. When Jen Maher’s eldest, Olive, started at second level, Jen joined the Parents’ Council to become familiar with the homework system. Olive is now in transition year at Colaiste na Toirbhirte in Bandon, and her youngest sister, Alice, is in first year. Jen says a responsible attitude to homework is crucial. Her children are expected to be conscientious.

“It’s a leap from primary school to first year, with all the extra subjects and teachers and that can be difficult,” Jen says. Alice spends one to one-and-a-half hours on her homework, while, in Junior Cert, Olive “did three or more hours a night. I’m happy with what they’re doing,” Jen says. “I never went rooting to see what homework they had, but they knew they were expected to be responsible about it.”

By second-level, many students are less open about their lives, so it’s a good idea to join a network of other parents. “I joined the Parents’ Council to see how things operated,” says Maher. “I found it was a great help, because there were parents there whose children were ahead of mine in the school system, and that was a godsend.”

Carolyn O’Flaherty, deputy principal at the 540-pupil school, holds special information meetings. “Sometimes, parents would have queries about how much homework their children should be doing and how they should be doing it. We tend to be very conscious that it’s very different for first years coming from the primary school system. They could have between 10 to 12 different teachers here, and there may be anxiety around what different teachers expect of homework,” she says.

For the first few weeks of term, the teachers start the homework in class to familiarise students: “After a while, the first years work independently. We would, generally, feel they should have between one and one-and-a-half hours per night at first year. We emphasise the use of the journal, in organising homework, and stress to parents how important it is that they go through the journal and check on the homework — this facilitates communication between parent and student on homework.”

Second-years are expected to do between one-and-a-half to two hours, and Junior Certs two to three hours. In fifth and sixth year, three to four hours a night is the norm, she says. The quality of the homework is more important than the length of time it takes.

Students should not do homework in front of the TV or with a mobile phone nearby. “Homework develops good habits of the mind, takes the stress out of exams, is very good discipline and facilitates independent learning,” Ms O’Flaherty says.

In the evenings, second level students should go back over material they covered in class that day — even if they have been allocated no homework, says Bernie Judge, education officer with the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland.

Parents should not accept the excuse that their child doesn’t need to study because they have no tests coming up. “Consistent application is necessary. Don’t accept that they’re not getting any homework. If they have no writing to do, they should be going over notes,” she says.

Children should leave phones downstairs while they are studying upstairs. But the bedroom is not always the best place for study — it’s private and they may not be doing the work they claim to be doing.

Last September, a homework journal was introduced for the 340 pupils of headmistress Breda Fay’s school, Scoil Choca Naofa, in Kilcock. The school now also runs ‘homework information mornings’ for parents. A homework club has also been established. The journal shows parents what homework has been allocated and how long the child is taking to do it — thus facilitating a conversation with the teacher should homework need to be adjusted.

Fay says the majority of parents were happy with the time their children spent on homework — 10 minutes of paired reading or colouring at junior infant and senior infant level, 20 minutes in first class, half an hour in third and fourth class, and under 45 minutes in fifth and sixth class.

Homework is not a major issue in the Fitzgerald household, in Killahin, near Tralee, in Co Kerry, where mum Geraldine expects her daughters Linda (12) and Shauna (7) to do their best, but is relaxed: “I’m very lucky, because the girls go to a country school with only 30 pupils and they get great attention. The majority of their work is done at school,” she says, though Linda does an hour’s homework every night and Shauna does half an hour.

“They sit in the kitchen doing their homework, while I make the dinner. I’m very relaxed, I don’t push them, I tell them to do their best, but that, at the end of the day, there’s more to life than homework.

“I know of parents in other schools who spend two hours, or more, doing homework with primary level students — I think that’s way too much.”

If you’re worried that your child is not doing his or her homework or is not able for it, says Peter Mullan, of the INTO, contact the school. “Homework is one of the thorniest issues at primary level — it’s added stress and can be time-sapping. It can be resented by children and parents, so it’s very worthwhile for people to understand the value of it,” he says. Research shows that children who get maths homework three or four times a week score higher than children who don’t.


Research has shown a positive relationship between homework and achievements, says Professor Kathy Hall, Professor of Education at UCC. “Time spent on homework yields results,” she says, cautioning homework should be relevant; ideally done independently and without parental support.

Hall believes the primary school years are a golden opportunity to help children develop good study habits. Regular homework is an excellent way to develop self-discipline, time management and a sense of responsibility towards work and study, she says.

If, however, homework takes away from personal time or family well-being, it generates a lot of anxiety, she warns: “Homework should be at a level of easy difficulty, it should not be about being stuck.”

Check your child’s homework journal and attend parent-teacher meetings, she counsels — but parents should avoid a rigid or regimented approach to homework or over-emphasis on perfection.

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Homework Policy

Homework is an essential part of a student’s education and therefore plays a vital role in the learning process in the school.  The staff of St. Mary’s Secondary School place great emphasis on the setting of purposeful, well planned homework, which is designed to assist each student in reaching her full potential.  This policy is rooted in the Mission statement/aims of the school.

A wide variety of homework assignments are set by teachers. Homework will be well structured and clearly defined and may consist of

The above list is not exhaustive.

Objectives of Homework

Rules and Responsibilities

Board of management.

Principal, Deputy and Year Heads


Pupils who are sitting for State Examinations/house exams will probably require more time as exam time approaches. LCA students must devote a satisfactory amount of time to the completion of project work.

In classes where homework is not completed, an appropriate and consistent sanction should be imposed by the teacher eg.

( - the above are in no particular order - )

Success Criteria

Monitoring Procedures

Review Procedures

The policy will be reviewed after two years.  The review team will comprise of the Principal, Deputy Principal and Year Heads.

This policy has been formulated following collaboration and consultation with staff, teachers, pupils, parents/guardians and Board of Management.

Ratified 02/06/2009

School Homework Policy

Killinarden Community School

Homework Policy 2007

 T his policy arises out of preliminary meetings with homework Policy Group and teachers; a consultation process with Board of Management , teachers, parents and students.  This policy will be subject to the usual regular review.


The ethos ofKillinardenCommunitySchoolis to put young people first and we see education as the key to their future.  This vision is supported by the Board of Management, Principal and staff.  As part of the learning process homework has wide educational value.  It reinforces work done and builds students self esteem.  Homework has the potential to strengthen the partnership in learning between parents and teachers



 it develops basic skills and extends classwork


The amount of homework that students are given and the time it will require, vary depending on age, ability and year group.  Students should also be encouraged to leave time for leisure and physical activities outside of school.  As students move into Senior Cycle homework demands will increase.  The following are suggested guidelines as to the amount of time that a student should spend on homework per day.

                                                  Research and Project work

 me should also be given to homework/study at weekends especially in third and sixth year.

The three main types of homework are:

PRACTISE EXERCISES:  these give students the opportunity to apply what is learnt in class, revise and reinforce new skills and information, including

Preparatory homework:  students prepare for a future lesson or topic by:

EXTENDED ASSIGNEMENTS: especially in exam classes students should pursue knowledge individually and take responsibility for their learning by:

Wherever possible students should be encouraged to be aware of how to access information and to make best use of Public Libraries and educational web sites.



Each of the partners in education has an important role in supporting the child’s learning:

Parents and caregivers can help by:

Teachers can help by 

Students can help by:

KillinardenCommunitySchoolprovides a number of supports to encourage good homework / study among students:

Sanctions:  where homework is not sanctions may be imposed.  These will vary according to the age of student and the severity of the situation.  The sanctions will include e.g. recording in Journal, note to parents, extra work, remaining after class at an arranged time to do the work, detention


Second level - When the going gets tough

At secondary school, particularly in exam years, homework can seem like a drag - for students, parents and teachers.

At secondary school, particularly in exam years, homework can seem like a drag - for students, parents and teachers. Louise Holden on how to get the most out of study time.

During the exam years, homework can become a battleground where the wills of parents, students and teachers clash.

Parents hear all the complaints; the Irish teacher is overloading the essay questions and there's no time for revision; maths is cutting into other subject areas; the geography teacher hasn't finished the course but she's giving exam questions for homework. Students are stressed and looking for scapegoats and parents just want to help.

According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, Irish students spend more time at their homework than most. Irish 15-year-olds do almost five-and-a-half hours of English, maths and science homework a week. They also spend more hours in grinds than the average student. On top of a seven-hour day, it's a lot of ask of anyone.

The recommended homework time in fifth and sixth year is somewhere between three and four hours a night. Perfectionists and procrastinators can drag this out indefinitely. Many complain that they can't get near revision because homework takes all night. Rory Mulvey of Student Enrichment Services maintains that after a certain point, homework becomes a plain waste of time. Spending hours at homework assignments to prepare for the Leaving Cert is like running marathons to train for the 100-metre dash.

"In as far as possible, every homework assignment should be regarded as exam practice," says Mulvey, who runs study skills seminars at the beginning of every term. "Students who complain that they are getting too much homework when they would rather be revising should look at how long they are spending at each assignment. If they are spending more time than they would in an exam setting, then they are not approaching homework properly."

Consider an essay question for Leaving Certificate English Paper 2. If you only get 40 minutes to answer on Shakespeare in the exam, then there's not much sense in spending two hours answering on Shakespeare for homework. It could, in fact, be counterproductive, as you will train yourself to spend two hours perfecting your theory on the Fatal Flaw and then find you can't express it on the day.

"Many students hate exams because they claim they can't work under pressure," says Mulvey. "They are perfectionists who want to produce the best work possible, no matter how long it takes. The fact is that the Leaving Cert papers are timed and the students who do best are those who have practised working against the clock." Once you start thinking about homework in this way, it goes some way to addressing the problem of homework time leaking into study time. If you can't get the assignment completed in the time it would take in an exam, you've learned to work faster next time. Close the book and move on, says Mulvey.

Getting into good homework habits starts with a good timetable, says Peter McLoughlin, Learning Support Teacher at St Mary's Secondary School in Ballina, Co Mayo. Peter provides structured study-skills support for both students and parents at St Mary's, starting in first year and continuing right through to Leaving Cert. It's an approach that is obviously working; St Mary's has topped the league tables for Mayo as a main feeder school for NUI Galway, UCD and TCD.

"Right from first year, we encourage students to keep a nightly homework timetable on the fridge or in a prominent place in the house," says McLoughlin. "If students work to the timetable and parents keep an eye on their progress, homework shouldn't drag on into the night. Each family finds different ways to manage homework, but parental involvement is very important." One parent from St Mary's takes three hours every night to sit at the kitchen table with her daughter and reads the newspaper while homework is being done. She doesn't interfere with the work itself, but her presence and the air of studiousness helps her daughter to get the work done, she says.

McLoughlin tailors his study support to the learning style of each student he deals with. He uses the multiple intelligence theory of Howard Gardner and believes that if students get to know themselves as learners they can harness their most productive skills. "Students who are not strong on linguistic intelligence will not find it easy to sit for long periods reading," says McLoughlin. "They may be spatial learners, who apply themselves better to actions such as drawing mind maps or creating diagrams. They may be kinaesthetic learners, who need to move about frequently and apply learning practically." No student can work well with phones ringing, televisions blaring or small children seeking attention, says McLoughlin. The importance of creating a quiet space cannot be overestimated.

When it comes to drawing a distinction between study and homework, St Mary's principal Patsy Sweeney is sympathetic to parents who complain that children are overworked. "We know that Leaving Cert students have a lot to deal with and sometimes the homework burden can seem onerous. That is why we have a policy of keeping homework light at this school. In homes where students are struggling, we ask parents to take a look at the bigger picture. Often if a student is overburdened with homework, grinds are causing the problem."

With up to 70 per cent of Leaving Cert students getting grinds, the extra workload is considerable. Getting to and from the weekly tuition is a waste of time in itself, but what many parents forget is the extra homework that comes with private lessons.

"This is a hugely contentious issue in schools," says Sweeney. "The hours don't exist for students to do their regular homework, go to grinds and do the extra homework as well.

The result is that students concentrate on getting their grinds homework done, to the detriment of their schoolwork. They're tired in class, they fall behind, they blame the teachers and get even more grinds. They're wall-walking with tiredness and getting nowhere. They'd be better off doing their classwork and regular homework properly and leaving it at that. But there's a panicky culture of grinds that is throwing everyone into confusion."

It hardly warrants mentioning that part-time work in sixth year puts an even greater squeeze on students. If your exam student is complaining of too much homework, it could be time to look at the bigger picture.


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Classroom Central

St. Patrick's Loreto Primary School

St. Patrick's Loreto Primary School

Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Homework Policy Context Homework provides the children with the opportunity of revisiting learning experiences encountered during the school day and of practising the skills and concepts associated with those learning experiences. In the senior classes some homework is designed to challenge the children’s ability and provide opportunities for creativity. The children are expected to do their homework to the best of their ability – no more, no less.

Why give homework?

How often is homework given?

What is the content of homework?

How much (time) homework? The following are guidelines for time spent at homework. Different children will complete the same homework in different lengths of time. Time spent will vary from day to day and also from the beginning to the end of the school year. It is important to remember that it is the quality and not the quantity of homework that matters. The following are general guidelines only: Junior Infants Maximum time homework should take: 10 mins. No formal written homework given in Junior Infants. Children are sometimes asked to bring in objects or pictures related to class topics. In the 2 and 3 terms parents are asked to do shared reading with their children. The children take home books to ‘read’ with parents. Parents are also asked to work with their children on basic sight vocabulary (lists provided by teacher ) Children are also given a name card to practise correct letter formation.

Senior Infants Maximum time homework should take : 10 – 15 mins. Reading to be completed nightly with parent’s assistance and supervision. Reading record to be signed by parents to indicate that homework has been done. Unfinished class work may be sent home to be completed. First Class Maximum time homework should take: 25 mins. September: Reading and spelling only. October – June: Reading Spellings Tables 1 piece of the following:

Second Class Maximum time homework should take : 30 mins. Tables: 4 tables e.g. 1 + 0 to 1 + 4 Maths: 5 approx. Reading: 2 – 4 pages Spelling: 3 – 5 per night Written work from time to time, mainly finishing off workbooks / stories. Third Class Maximum time homework should take: 40 mins. Tables: Revision or new Spelling: 5 or 6 ( English and Irish ) Maths: English: 3 – 5 sentences ( Skills Book, Spelling Workbook or equivalent ) Reading: 1 or 2 pages Research / project work from time to time. Fourth Class Maximum time homework should take: 50 mins. Spellings: English and Irish Maths: Tables 2 pieces of written work Reading Research / project work from time to time. Fifth Class Maximum time homework should take: 1 hour ( less at beginning of year ) Fifth class homework is viewed as a form of preparation for homework in Secondary School. We often give homework that will not be requested from the girls for a week or more. Pupils learn to organise homework time i.e . 20 / 20 / 20 rule applies 20 mins learning (sp. tables, poetry etc. ) 20 mins. Maths 20 mins. Written work Sixth Class Maximum time homework should take: 1 hr. 15 mins. 2 pieces of written work, which may include some reading. Spelling in English and Irish Maths and tables ( 20 mins. approx.) A piece of learning most nights ( poetry etc.) Occasionally homework time may also be spent working on their Reading Journal, Response Journal or Writing Portfolio From time to time projects and research may be assigned. This work will be spread over a number of nights / weeks. Corrections from previous work and tests do not constitute part of homework time. Unfinished work in school may be given in order for each child to keep up to date with class work. Learning Support Learning Support teachers will have a special programme of work for those children needing additional support. This programme can be arranged with parents to suit each child’s individual needs. Leisure Time Reading A recent survey by the DES (2005) highlights the importance of cultivating the habit of independent reading. Leisure time reading is essentially an out of school activity yet it does not easily fit into our homework model. How can we foster and develop this habit in our children?

Reading introduces us to diverse worlds and thoughts and gives children the opportunity to confront powerful emotional experiences in a safe environment. Reading allows us to share in the experiences of others and to learn from them. The cultivation of a regular reading habit privileges a child with a life enriching habit that will prove both pleasurable and valuable.

How much help should parents give? Parents should try to help their children with homework by:

How often do teachers monitor homework?

When should parents communicate with the teachers about homework?

When should homework be done? Ideally, homework should be done before any television is watched soon after school while your child is still fresh


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