Australian primary school Allambie Heights’ decision to do away with homework recently caused debate around the topic in New Zealand – Whangaparaoa Primary adopted a similar philosophy, which was put into practice at the start of this year.
Principal Kevin Cronin says that they have banished the very word ‘homework’. “Because who likes going home to work?” he says. “There is no research that shows any academic benefit from doing homework in the Year 1–6 group.”
Instead, students have the option of sharing learning with parents, and preparing for learning. This could be talking about what they are doing at school, reading a book with their parents or putting their togs in their bag for the next day’s swimming session.
Mr Cronin says feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from staff, parents and children alike. “We don’t think learning is confined to school. Children have lots of extra-curricular activities and they play with mates and climb trees – it’s all part of being well rounded students,” he says. “We want kids to be kids.”
He says as well as taking the pressure off students, it helps parents and teachers. “Parents have enough to do, and not one teacher is unhappy at not having to hand out and mark worksheets.”
“There are plenty of websites we can recommend, like Maths Online, so if kids want more, they can have more. We leave it up to them and they like having a choice. My experience is that when they get to intermediate and college, if homework is something new, they approach it more positively.”
It seems Whangaparaoa Primary could be out on its own in this respect – other local primary schools canvassed by Hibiscus Matters all provide homework in some form.
Mel Crosbie, principal of Gulf Harbour School says they are currently reviewing their home learning policy. “We believe that the basics of extra reading, spelling and number practice is still of value, especially for the juniors,” she says. “We try to set challenges that engage with our children’s passions and make home learning purposeful. The main thing is encouraging parents to interact with their children by reading with them, playing games and so on.”
Silverdale School provides a small amount of homework and also offers an optional programme called PEAKS that provides challenges for each year level; trophies are awarded for completion.
Dairy Flat School also gives homework and rewards those who complete it. Principal Debbie Marshall says that the value of homework includes reinforcing skills learnt and practiced at school, developing study habits and provide a link between home and school which gives parents a chance to be involved in their child’s learning.
Wainui School principal Gillian Bray says that she believes many families like to spend time at the end of the day talking about what the child has learned and together practicing new skills at home.
“Homework should not take over family time, be too hard or cause undue stress,” she says.
At Stanmore Bay School principal Carol Abley says there is no fixed policy around homework, but that teachers give it out at their discretion. “In most cases teachers ask students to complete homework in a week so that if they have other commitments, like sports, they can fit the homework around this,” she says. She says feedback from parents about project work completed at home has been positive.
“Parents say it is an opportunity for them to work together with their children. In addition homework prepares our senior students for college.”
What do you think about homework?