Why do students fail to do their homework?

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The main reason students do not complete homework is a lack of confidence that they will get it right – however, this is not what they will tell their teachers when they fail to hand in their work on time.

A survey of 2,000 secondary school students has found that they would rather make up excuses – such as not knowing the deadline – than admit they are unsure about the topic.

The study suggests that one in three (31 per cent) students regularly make excuses about homework and that as many as one in four pieces of homework are handed in late every day.

Taking into account all UK schools, this would add up to one million late pieces of homework a day across the country.

An average secondary school student gets six pieces of homework a week and spends an hour on homework every night according to the research. However, more than a third of the students do not believe that the homework they are set adds to their learning experience.

The study also reveals that age 13 is the worst age for submitting homework on time, coinciding with a dip in attitudes towards homework.

This comes after students tend to hit a “homework peak” at age 12 and before age 14 when punctuality begins to increase once again ahead of GCSEs. The survey found that students aged 13, in years 8 or 9, are:

  • Least likely to complete their homework on time (67 per cent).
  • Most likely to get parents or guardians to complete homework for them (23 per cent).
  • Most likely to think homework shouldn’t be given to them (54 per cent categorically say no).
  • Least likely to think homework adds to their overall learning experience (45 per cent think it doesn’t).

Elsewhere, the research – which has been published by Firefly Learning – also warns that YouTube is the biggest distraction from homework (23 per cent) followed by television and Snapchat.

Joe Mathewson, co-founder at Firefly, said: “What’s really interesting here is what we call the ‘age 13 dip’ – you’re new to being a teenager, you’ve found your feet at secondary school and GCSEs aren’t quite in sight yet, and so deadlines suffer.

“But looking beyond this, most don’t complete homework simply because they don’t feel confident to get it right.”

Commenting on the research, Jon Barker, a science teacher at Highams Park School in east London, added: “The data highlights an interesting pressure point with homework. It’s clear there are a range of reasons for homework not being completed, which we try to address through support sessions, homework clubs as well as the traditional ‘come and see me if you are stuck’.”


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