Questions on value of homework

By Elesha Edmonds

Julie Denby sees little benefit in her 9-year-old son Matthew's after-school study. Photo / Natalie Slade
Julie Denby sees little benefit in her 9-year-old son Matthew's after-school study. Photo / Natalie Slade

Primary school students spend nearly an hour each night doing homework, a national survey says, but some parents and teachers question the value of after-school study.

The CensusAtSchool survey found that 77 per cent of students aged 6 to 12 had done some homework on the night before the survey.

The average time spent on the homework was 53 minutes.

Seven per cent said they spent two or more hours on their homework.

Mother Julie Denby spent the past week helping her 9-year-old son Matthew with his after-school project.

"It's like getting blood out of a stone, to be honest," she said.

"I'm not convinced that it is of any benefit."

Matthew, who attends Hillsborough Primary School, spends about 20 minutes a day on his homework.

"I think an hour or so a week is absolutely ample for a primary school child," said Mrs Denby.

Balmoral School associate principal Mary Rea said she saw little value in homework but was pressured by parents to set it.

"We know it's a wasted exercise. But a number of our children will do an hour of learning a night," she said.

Ms Rea said homework should be about learning through participation rather than worksheets.

"We don't call it homework, we call it home learning. What we are wanting is authentic learning situations ... when they help Mum cook dinner they're learning and participating in the process of cooking."

Philip Harding, national president of the Principals' Federation, said there were no national guidelines on homework and many schools were changing their approach.

"Some schools have turned the homework dilemma into child-centred stuff which might involve cooking and a whole range of activities managed by parents, and yet still clearly provide learning opportunities."

Mr Harding said parents should move their focus away from requesting homework and towards encouraging their children to read.

The CensusAtSchool survey found that 69 per cent of teenage students who did homework spent an average of one hour and 13 minutes on it.

Of the teenagers surveyed, 74 per cent of the girls did their homework in contrast to 61 per cent of boys.

Mt Roskill Intermediate principal Mike O'Reilly said homework was a valuable tool to support students' class work.

"Students learn best when they practise what they learn in school and it helps to develop good study habits."

Homework time

Students who did homework the night before

77% aged 6 to 12

69% aged 13-18

Average time on homework

53min: aged 6 to 12

1hr 13min: aged 13 to 18

- NZ Herald

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