Some Wairarapa schools have no homework, some have plenty.
By Geoff Vause
Homework is dead.
Or it’s alive and well and firmly encouraged – it depends on where you go to school.
Students at Masterton’s Lakeview School don’t have to do homework if they don’t want to, and it could be a thing of the past for pupils there in the future.
“There’s evidence homework makes very little difference, so over time we’re trying to make decisions and where it may sit for us,” Lakeview principal Ed Hodgkinson said.
“We haven’t gone to the extent of dropping it completely but we are investigating that for our students in the future,” he said.
Right now homework is “fairly limited” at the 500-pupil school.
Up to Year 6, homework may be as simple as reading a book, spelling or simple maths.
“In Year 7 and 8 it’s more integrated across the curriculum, but all homework is optional with no recrimination if children don’t do it,” Mr Hodgkinson said.
“We understand in some homes it is unlikely to take place, they may not have the resources necessary to do it in those homes so we don’t make it compulsory.
“We encourage them to do it, but we are not insisting children do it.”
Homework was also a way of communicating with parents, he said.
“We have homework diaries based on reading, maths and a bit of spelling and the diaries are one of the ways we communicate with parents about a particular child . . . and where a parent says there could be an issue here or there.”
The Ministry of Education leaves homework up to schools to decide.
“Different schools and kura have different homework policies – some set homework for older students but not younger ones, some set homework for all students, while others set none at all,” the Ministry says on its website.
“If your child’s school doesn’t get homework at this stage in their learning, that’s ok – they will still be learning what they need to at school,” the Ministry says.
Ponatahi Christian School has Years 1 to 13 at Carterton and has a firmly conservative approach where “well-set formal homework is a powerful incentive to keep students focussed in class”, according to principal Peter Bertram.
“No one likes homework, so if they know they have to finish for homework what they don’t finish in class, we do expect them to work harder.
“We are blessed with parents who are an important part of our learning community and will almost always strongly support the school’s position towards homework and check it is done well, and not superficially, and will welcome communication from the school when there are issues.”
Mr Bertram said attitudes among Ponatahi’s 103 students varied from compliant to very good.
“Homework enhances parent and school relationships, especially for younger children when reading mileage is very important and parents have more opportunity for effective “one to one” time with a child than busy teachers in a classroom.
“At this school homework is compulsory and low level school discipline will be evoked for older students if homework is incomplete.
“We expect all formal homework set to be done, and we shouldn’t even have to check it.
“It’s only a fraction of what their parents would have had, and a fraction of what students in Asia or Europe have.”
Kevin Mackay, principal at Greytown’s 350-pupil primary school, said there was also a wide variation in homework expectation from parents.
“This ranges from a set time per night with set activities to those who prefer no homework at all.
“It’s important schools and teachers have a discussion with parents to ensure that expectations are clear,” Mr Mackay said.
Many of the senior students at his Year 1 to Year 8 school will devote a lot of time to homework, whereas others would do very little.
Mr Mackay said the children had already spent six hours at school and would benefit from playing outside or in cultural and sporting activities after school.
He said homework helped parents keep in touch with what was happening at school “but should not be an onerous task causing friction between parents and children or create a negative attitude to learning”.
Rebecca Stevens, principal at Mauriceville’s tiny 13-student school, said she called it “home learning” not homework.
Covering Year 5 to Year 8, “home learning” was regulated by the classroom teacher.
“Classroom reward points go to those who have completed their home learning and put it in the right place in the morning,” Ms Stevens said.
“Home learning shouldn’t take any more than 15 minutes. They understand home learning is important and helps them to reach their learning goals,” Ms Stevens said.
“Some are unable to do it at home so they do it in the morning when they get to school.”
Wairarapa College also uses the term ‘home learning’ rather than homework.
“We see the role of parents participating in their child’s learning as a key to success,” new principal Shelley Power said.
“Our recommendation is that Year 9 and 10 students should do one hour of study each night and Years 11, 12 and 13 should do two hours each night and around four on the weekend.”