“Wait a minute are you telling me I don’t have to do this Home Learning, my Mum does it?”

The question above is what one of my Year 8s asked this term when I set their parents a Home Learning. The full story begins a few weeks before this though.

This year I am trying to increase the amount of formative assessment in the students’ books without it having a negative impact on teacher workload. We’ve been trying different peer and self assessment techniques and tried to establish a dialogue about learning between student and teacher.

Then during a KS3 coordinators meeting one of my colleagues  in the English department (who is also a parent of some kids in school) asked why Humanities never sent books home as she wanted to see what her child in Year 7 was doing. This was a fair comment. We keep the books in school so we can mark them easily and we can avoid the annoying “I forgot my book sir” scenarios. 

Then it dawned on me I could knock two birds on the head with one stone. I’d send the books home and get the parents to ‘mark’ them. Each student was given a bright yellow A5 form (so it would stand out in books) for their parent to fill in. On the top of the form we explained why we doing this and that this was about celebrating their child’s progress and giving advice on how to improve. Each parent was asked to give two stars and a wish (two things they were particularly impressed by and one development point). Students were then given a week to persuade their Mum or Dad to complete their Home Learning.

Initially we’ve rolled this out to Year 8 only as a pilot. We’ve sent 180 books home each from History, Geography and RE. So far the outcome of this has been amazing and we will certainly roll it out further. We’ve had a ton of positive comments from parents (and only one complaint from nearly 600 books!) In History we coincidentally sent the books home two weeks before parents evening and it made the appointments much more fruitful as parents had recently seen the work so pretty much knew the score. Plus as a major positive we’ve upped the amount of formative assessment.

Some points to consider:

  • You couldn’t do this very regularly as you would irritate parents. We’ve been discussing twice a year as an option
  • Sending out just before parents evening was a massive winner for us
  • Could you extend this idea at KS4 by asking parents to ‘grade’ work? One of my Geography colleagues is now considering this.
  • We were very scared by the potential for getting huge number of complaints due to possible unrealistic expectations about the amount of teacher marking. This has not been the case. Instead we’ve gained way more support from parents.
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