Helping with homework means children do worse at school

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Children whose parents help them to do homework are likely to do worse at school, according to a study.

The finding surprised researchers as almost every other form of parental engagement with their child’s education, such as reading at home or attending parents’ evenings, is associated with higher achievement.


The study for the Social Market Foundation think-tank used data from the millennium cohort study, which looked at the primary test scores of children at 11 and cross-referred these to their answers to questions about their family background and support for their education.

The research was for a cross-party commission on educational inequality chaired by Nick Clegg, the former Lib Dem leader. Other members include Suella Fernandes, Conservative MP for Fareham, and Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon.

Researchers were able to chart the effect of different forms of parental engagement: reading with a child at the age of five was associated on average with test scores about 1.5 points higher, and attending parents’ evenings correlated with scores that were 1.26 higher than those of children whose parents did not attend.

Pupils who said their families never took any interest in their work had test scores that were 2.3 points lower.

Making sure that children did homework before other activities was associated with test scores almost 2 points higher than those of children who did not prioritise it. It was important for pupils to do their own homework, however. “We find that parental help with homework is negatively associated with age 11 test scores: in other words, children whose parents help frequently with homework have lower test scores, and also make poorer progress between ages five and 11,” the authors said.

They concluded that the most probable explanation was that parents were likely to provide help if the child needed or asked for assistance, making this an indicator that their child was having difficulties with their schoolwork.

Extra-curricular activities and after-school clubs were also associated with higher achievement among children.

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