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Homework and Parent Information Night

For my first message, I am explaining in some detail about the school’s new policy around Homework.

This year St Jerome’s is changing the way we do Homework. Many of you may have been following the discussions on Homework that have been occurring over recent months in the newspapers and on social media. Last Sunday’s Sixty Minutes was around education in Finland and how that high performing country does not do formal testing nor do students receive hours of homework.

For many families right across Australia, the beginning of the school year marks the return of arguments, tears, tantrums and tension over their children having to complete traditional homework tasks.

The decision to take a different approach to homework is supported by worldwide evidence and many months of conversation and research undertaken by staff.

In this guide, I want to explain to parents the reasons for this decision.

For our students who are 21st Century Learners, learning doesn’t stop at 3pm every day.  In the connected world that children belong to these days, learning never stops and the idea that learning only happens at school or with a set homework sheet is a myth.

Some parents believe that having a child labour over a worksheet is somehow good for the soul.  We have been brainwashed into believing that the only way students learn is by having information shoved into them at pencil point!

There is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in primary school.  In particular, especially for young children, there is no correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do), and any meaningful measure of achievement.  (Alfie Kohn, The Homework Myth 2016).

Our own John Hattie, a world renowned education researcher, tells us that set homework for primary aged students has a zero to negative effect. His exact words were: “Certainly I think we get over obsessed with homework. Five to ten minutes has the same effect of one hour to two hours. The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects.”

Of the many academic studies conducted looking for a correlation between academic performance and the hours spent on homework, none managed to prove that homework was the cause of higher achievement for students.

Another rationale for the setting of traditional homework for young children is that it builds organizational skills and develops a sense of responsibility and obedience.  It is ironic that the very students who one would assume would gain the most from homework because they have the most to learn are often the ones for whom homework is the most damaging. St Jerome’s students work very hard every school day and they have ample opportunities each day to learn how to organise their belongings, work purposefully and respect the rights of others to learn alongside them.

Children need space, free time opportunities, a chance to simply relax and wind down and most importantly they need time to enjoy being with their parents and not to dread being involved in another battle over homework.  In a country such as Australia with increasing rates of obesity, children need to be active after school. I know many of our students have dance, drama, gymnastics, football, basketball and all types of sporting and cultural afterschool pursuits. These lifelong interests are vital to children developing a sense of competence and positive self- image.

Our learning at home partnership will continue but with a major emphasis upon reading. Study after study shows that reading with a committed parent shows up to a ten point increase in students’ test scores. https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/lit_interventions.pdf

What will still be expected in learning at home?

Reading is expected to be done Mondays to Thursdays. Obviously we love to think of students reading every single day but four nights a week is the minimum requirement.

Years PP – 1        5 – 10 minutes
Year 2                   10 – 15 minutes
Year 3                   15 – 20 minutes
Year 4                   20 – 25 minutes
Year 5                   30 – 35 minutes
Year 6                   40 minutes

In Pre Primary to Year 2, a child will be given an appropriately levelled text so that they are able to read with confidence.  Once a child has reached Level 28, they are regarded as independent readers and their own interests will determine their choice of book.  Pre Primary will begin this only when it is appropriate to the children’s readiness.

Class teachers will have more information about homework at the class meetings/information night on Wednesday 15 February (Session 1, 5.30 – 6.00pm | Session 2, 6.05 – 6.35pm | Session 3, 6.40 – 7.10pm). Teachers in Year 5 & 6 have agreed that there will often be times when work begun in class will be continued at home. However this will be entirely different from some generic worksheet given to all students. Years 3&4 students really do need to learn their tables and number facts and our teachers will give parents ideas on how best to reinforce the work we are doing at school to learn these facts.

It is so important that at least one parent attends the Parent Information sessions.

As is our usual practice for Year 1 parents, we will hold several workshops over the year on how to listen to your child read.  More details on these events will be sent home very soon.

Students who are in Reading Recovery or Extending Mathematical Understanding (EMU) sessions will still be expected to do the home practice tasks.  These tasks are an essential aspect of these intensive programs.

As a school, we are totally committed to ensuring the very finest learning experiences for each and every student.  We look forward to working with our families to give your child an excellent year of learning.