There's increasing doubt that some forms of homework for young children serve any real purpose.

One school in south Dublin is currently experimenting with a ban on written homework. How is it working out?  

"I'm very jealous that I’m stuck doing homework. My sister is in Loreto and it’s not fair that she gets none."

There's nothing like a dose of envy to spark a debate.

The boys of St Mary's National School in Rathfarnham have good reason to have strong feelings in relation to homework. 

Earlier this year the girls' school around the corner, Loreto Primary School, Grange Road, decided to ban written homework for all classes except 6th class. 

While the girls of Rathfarnham - many of whom have brothers in St Mary's - complete a short amount of reading and oral work when they get home from school, the boys are still set written homework which can take up to 45 minutes for older classes. 

For the Prime Time report on homework, the boys from 5th class held a debate on the issue.

"I don't like homework but it's something you have to do in life," reflected Tom Dowling as the pupils outlined pros and cons to their teacher, Mr Mac Réamoinn.

"You're going to have homework in secondary school and if you weren't used to it you wouldn't do very good," added Adam Doyle.

Resignation to the necessity of homework was also mixed with frustration as some complained about the length of time it takes to complete.

"It hurts my fingers after a while. I know you have to do it, but I don't like it," said Finlay Power.

While Sean O'Farrell sighed, "there are some parts I find tricky like fractions. My parents are a bit busy so it takes time to do homework."

Among the boys debating was Zac Boland. He shares lots of things in common with his twin sister, Ella, but at the moment, written homework isn't one of them. Ella is a 5th class pupil at Loreto and doesn't have written homework. 

Back at home in Rathfarnham the pair reflect on how things are different after school.

"I can go outside but he's still sitting there doing his homework," Ella grins beside her brother. 

"In school it takes an hour to correct homework but now we use that hour to do more work so we're not missing out," she adds. 

But Zac is disappointed a similar approach isn't being taken in his school. 

"I think home should be a home and school should be a school and that colliding the two is a bit harsh. Whoever invented it a couple of hundred years ago…"

The siblings' mum, Rhona Curran, says she can already see a difference at home.

"Ella seems more content, she's reading more, baking, calling into her grandparents. Mind you there's a lot more laundry because she's coming back mucky!"

Loreto Principal, Sr Maria Hyland, says removing written homework is intended to reduce the "tears and stress" it causes in some homes. 

"Parents were coming in late from work and children may have been at a creche or minder but they mightn't have all their homework done and there would be stress for everybody. There's no learning from that." 

Sr Maria says the trial will be reviewed in the new year. 

"We're all afraid of change, I'm afraid of change, but we wanted people to experience it and then be able to give an informed opinion.

"There are also obviously parents who don't agree and who would prefer to have the very structured, written homework going home every evening."

Dr Joan Kiely recently led a team of researchers studying written homework at the Marino Institute of Education.

"Homework has two purposes. One is reinforcement, that a child has learned something in school and then they revisit it at home. The other purpose of homework is that it helps parents to know what's going on in school."

For a pilot study five schools removed written homework for a two week period, replacing it with projects and other non-written work like nature walks and mindfulness.

"Students were excited about their homework and parents reported that they had actually bonded with their children during that period because even though they actually spent more time doing homework than they would normally do, it was a fun experience. It was family time rather than torture," says Dr Kiely.

"While homework is very good for children in post-primary, there is less evidence of the benefits for younger students," she adds.

The Department of Education doesn't issue schools with specific guidelines on homework, but does recommend having a published homework policy.

These generally include a time limit on homework. On average infant classes get between ten and 20 minutes of homework, increasing to up to an hour for sixth class students.

Family psychotherapist, Dr John Sharry says working parents and children with more and more extra curricular activities means homework can become a source of stress in the home. 

"Homework becomes a flashpoint because most parents want their children to succeed at school. If a child is struggling or a little bit demotivated then homework will be the battleground with that."

But, the push to remove written homework is being resisted by some parents. 

"One of the challenges is that there are good teachers who want to help children learn creatively, but then there is pressure from parents to set written homework. Parents may feel their child is not getting enough maths for example, and teachers may feel they have to give homework out," Dr Sharry adds.

Dr Joan Kiely agrees that any significant changes to homework will take time to implement. 

"Sometimes young teachers are so enthusiastic about helping and supporting their children that they think if they get them lots of homework that that will bring them on academically. And that's actually not the case.

"I think it's always hard to be breaking tradition and some of the teachers and parents that we interviewed were a little bit afraid. When you've been doing something and it's been working for the last 100 years or so, it's very hard to just throw it out the window."