Homework: a help or a hindrance?

Are you a fan of homework or not? Sophie Rishworth discovers almost everyone has an opinion on this one.

Are you a fan of homework or not? Sophie Rishworth discovers almost everyone has an opinion on this one.

New Zealand primary schools all have different homework policies but it is guaranteed there will be some spelling, reading or maths sent home with your child.
Are primary school children better off doing homework or playing outside after school like Luke Stoltenberg and Jamieson Tapsell (above)?

ACCORDING to University of Melbourne Professor of Education John Hattie — who can safely be called an expert in this hotly-debated topic — homework in primary school has an effect of around zero.

But that does not mean we should get rid of it.

“If you try to get rid of homework in primary schools, many parents judge the quality of the school by the presence of homework. So, don’t get rid of it. Treat the zero as saying, ‘It’s probably not making much of a difference but let’s improve it’.”

In high school the effect of homework increases, he says, which is why it is important to open up the conversation to make sure we get it right by the time children get to Year 9.

“Five to ten minutes has the same effect as one hour to two hours. The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects. The best thing you can do is to reinforce something they have already learned.”

New Zealand primary schools all have different homework policies but it is guaranteed there will be some spelling, reading or maths sent home with your child before they reach high school, where homework is a given. Whether the school and the teacher enforces it is up to them.

Mum-of-three, and a deputy principal, Karen Hughes believes teachers who punish primary-aged kids for not doing homework are just looking for compliance.

“What about the kids who have after-school activities? I say ‘yes’ to parents reading to, or with, their kids every night and yes to lots of time spent talking with kids.”

But she says ‘no’ to timed basic facts tests for primary school children as she believes it creates anxiety and their brain shuts down.

Not enough?

Gisborne mum-of-three Lauren Muir believes her children, 10, 7 and 4 need homework to get into a good routine for later. She even goes as far as saying, “ours don’t get enough”.

“Maths should be every night as well as reading. My kids love doing projects and it gets me doing stuff with them. It’s a royal pain in the butt but that’s what I signed up for.”

Former Gisborne woman Maree Trafford now lives in Australia with her husband Tony and their eight-year-old daughter.

“They have homework Monday to Thursday and any kids who haven’t done their homework from the night before either have to complete it before school or at lunchtime.

“I feel sorry for the kids who don’t have parents who take an interest as it seems like a punishment to the kids.

“The idea is that it teaches the kids to be responsible for making sure they’ve done their homework themselves. But we’re talking 6-to-10-year-olds.”

The opinions merge as the children enter the high-school arena with almost everyone — students, parents and education professionals — believing it is an essential part of learning.

NCEA requirements

High school teacher Deb Brown says learners would not meet their NCEA requirements without it. There is, of course, no neat conclusion to tidy up this debate. It will rage on through the ages. Every child is different and there are those who love structured learning and enjoy homework sitting beside those who will learn more through play and social interaction.

Perhaps it is best summed up by harried parent of four, and mummy blogger Constance Hall. She has more than half a million followers on social media, uses swear words like commas and has a fierce opinion about homework for her primary-aged children, which she wrote about in March, re-igniting the debate.

“School gets my kid for six hours a day five days a week and then they give them homework. Clearly we are not an over-achieving household but we have ambitions to remain sane.”

She argues that after a whole day of school, her six-year-old’s time would be better spent climbing a tree, swimming at the beach, “or lying on her back imaging that she’s a flying snail”.

“Not a fan of homework.”

ACCORDING to University of Melbourne Professor of Education John Hattie — who can safely be called an expert in this hotly-debated topic — homework in primary school has an effect of around zero.

But that does not mean we should get rid of it.

“If you try to get rid of homework in primary schools, many parents judge the quality of the school by the presence of homework. So, don’t get rid of it. Treat the zero as saying, ‘It’s probably not making much of a difference but let’s improve it’.”

In high school the effect of homework increases, he says, which is why it is important to open up the conversation to make sure we get it right by the time children get to Year 9.

“Five to ten minutes has the same effect as one hour to two hours. The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects. The best thing you can do is to reinforce something they have already learned.”

New Zealand primary schools all have different homework policies but it is guaranteed there will be some spelling, reading or maths sent home with your child before they reach high school, where homework is a given. Whether the school and the teacher enforces it is up to them.

Mum-of-three, and a deputy principal, Karen Hughes believes teachers who punish primary-aged kids for not doing homework are just looking for compliance.

“What about the kids who have after-school activities? I say ‘yes’ to parents reading to, or with, their kids every night and yes to lots of time spent talking with kids.”

But she says ‘no’ to timed basic facts tests for primary school children as she believes it creates anxiety and their brain shuts down.

Not enough?

Gisborne mum-of-three Lauren Muir believes her children, 10, 7 and 4 need homework to get into a good routine for later. She even goes as far as saying, “ours don’t get enough”.

“Maths should be every night as well as reading. My kids love doing projects and it gets me doing stuff with them. It’s a royal pain in the butt but that’s what I signed up for.”

Former Gisborne woman Maree Trafford now lives in Australia with her husband Tony and their eight-year-old daughter.

“They have homework Monday to Thursday and any kids who haven’t done their homework from the night before either have to complete it before school or at lunchtime.

“I feel sorry for the kids who don’t have parents who take an interest as it seems like a punishment to the kids.

“The idea is that it teaches the kids to be responsible for making sure they’ve done their homework themselves. But we’re talking 6-to-10-year-olds.”

The opinions merge as the children enter the high-school arena with almost everyone — students, parents and education professionals — believing it is an essential part of learning.

NCEA requirements

High school teacher Deb Brown says learners would not meet their NCEA requirements without it. There is, of course, no neat conclusion to tidy up this debate. It will rage on through the ages. Every child is different and there are those who love structured learning and enjoy homework sitting beside those who will learn more through play and social interaction.

Perhaps it is best summed up by harried parent of four, and mummy blogger Constance Hall. She has more than half a million followers on social media, uses swear words like commas and has a fierce opinion about homework for her primary-aged children, which she wrote about in March, re-igniting the debate.

“School gets my kid for six hours a day five days a week and then they give them homework. Clearly we are not an over-achieving household but we have ambitions to remain sane.”

She argues that after a whole day of school, her six-year-old’s time would be better spent climbing a tree, swimming at the beach, “or lying on her back imaging that she’s a flying snail”.

“Not a fan of homework.”

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