Meet the principal who threw away homework

MANY doors have been slammed and voices raised in the family home since homework was invented.

Boyne Island State School has decided to give afternoons and evenings back to the families --- for good.

The school won't say categorically that homework has been entirely scrapped but compared to homework of years gone by that's exactly what the school has done.

Eleven-year-old Alissa Jenkinson said with her old homework sheets, her parents would get frustrated when they couldn't clearly explain how to solve maths problems that she hadn't covered in class.

Alissa Jenkinson, 11, and Liarna Dare, 11, don't have to worry about homework anyway because they don't find reading a chore. Photo Campbell Gellie / The Observer
Alissa Jenkinson, 11, and Liarna Dare, 11, don't have to worry about homework anyway because they don't find reading a chore. Photo Campbell Gellie / The Observer Campbell Gellie

Based on research principal Michael Hurst found the traditional homework was letting the primary students down.

His research showed that homework had to be relevant to the students' needs.

In a New South Wales report, most researchers concluded that primary students' academic performance was not raised by homework.

With this in his quiver Mr Hurst put the idea to the school council - made up of staff, parents and outside advocates - and they decided to go with a new approach.

It was trialled last year and put fully into place this year; Mr Hurst said he has been thanked by parents for giving them their lives back.

 

Mr Hurst - the Boyne principal that has done away with the traditional homework model.
Mr Hurst - the Boyne principal that has done away with the traditional homework model. Christopher Chan GLA150312BISS

 

The school now has three levels of homework with reading the only non-negotiable one.

Alissa says she finds that fun and can manage on her own when she wants to.

An online program in literacy, numeracy and reading, is the secend element, individualised for each student.

The teacher programs what the students are learning and as the student passes stages online they can develop at the speed suited to them. This element isn't compulsory but Mr Hurst said because it was at a student's academic level they were more engaged because the tasks were challenging but still achievable.

Mum of five Anita McNamara sits down with her children as they do the online program.

"It's what they're learning at the moment and easy for them to comprehend," she said.

"What we're doing here (at Boyne Island State School) is letting parents parent and teachers teach. It's a busy week and the school acknowledges children are learning when they are playing sport, piano and other activities."

The last element of homework is richer tasks like reading a recipe and cooking at home.

"I do them because they're fun. Once we do them they get put up on the wall," eleven-year-old Liarna Dare said.

Mr Hurst said the new program was giving the children a skill of independent learning, mainly through the new technologies offered by the online program.

"Before if the homework was too easy then it was pointless but if it was too hard the students wouldn't be able to do it," he said.

"Now the students are more engaged at school and they can take that engaged learning home if they want to."



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