Do parents believe that homework is useful, adding value to classroom learning and will they support the school’s homework program?
These are two of the questions that influence Independent schools when they are deciding on a homework policy.
The Victorian Parliament’s Education and Training Committee is inquiring into approaches to homework in Victoria’s schools, focusing on the impact on student learning.
We told the committee that some of our Member Schools have highly structured homework programs. Daily tasks are set and feedback on the work is provided to parents and students. For other schools it’s less formal.
It also depends on the year level. At junior primary school, students might be expected to read at home to, and with their family every day. But in senior secondary, particularly in year 12, they could find themselves working for two to three hours each evening.
How do you move Grade 2 students (and their parents) from just reading to three hours of intensive study a night in Year 12? Generally, schools take students through a more structured homework program in Years 5 to 8 to develop study habits for senior secondary years.
Structured or informal, homework must add value to classroom learning and be followed-up by the teacher. It needs to be successfully completed so students realise they can learn by themselves. Homework from upper primary onwards has to be designed to be completed by the student and not their parents, who should provide support and guidance.
What’s happening at home is another issue teachers must think about. Some students have part time jobs, sporting or community commitments. Can the family provide a quiet study area?
Independent schools are spread across the socioeconomic spectrum. Many students are from families that have recently arrived in Australia and their first language might not be English. If both parents are working, possibly in the evening and on weekends, are they around to provide support?
Our membership of 209 schools educating more than 132,000 students on over 300 campuses across metropolitan Melbourne and in regional and rural Victoria is incredibly diverse. They are guided by different religious faiths, cultures, and educational philosophies. Many teach students with learning difficulties and special needs.
Whatever the challenges, the homework policies of Victoria’s Independent schools support their particular philosophy to enable them to meet the educational aspirations of all students and their parents.