If students are to reap greater value from homework, parents must be involved, says a leading voice in education.
As discussion around the benefits and downfalls of homework intensifies, further advocates and critics of the practice have weighed into the debate.
Australian Primary Principals Association president, Dennis Yarrington, said that the decision to provide homework for students should be based on the school's approach and philosophy to learning.
“There is often greater value to tasks when parents are involved and encouraging,” Yarrington told The Educator, adding if homework is provided it should be “engaging, relevant and have interest” for the student.
“Schools make clear their expectations around homework and parents would be encouraged to talk with their child's teacher about the learning or activity to be undertaken should they have a question or concern.
Yarrington said “the other reality” is that each family will have different circumstances and arrangements and, with this in mind, homework needs to be considered and planned in light of such knowledge.
“This approach would allow each family to make the decision about the level of participation in home learning programs,” Yarrington said.
A recent OECD report revealed that private school students do two hours more homework each week than their public school peers, yet their results were no better once socio-economic advantage was taken into account.
In Victoria, homework practices are now under review, following a parliamentary inquiry which found strong evidence and “a general agreement" that homework had almost no academic benefit for primary-school students.
Parents have been able to negotiate with teachers as to the level of homework that their children do, prompting calls by some for the amount of students’ homework to be increased.
Elaine Crowle, spokeswoman for Parents Victoria, believes many parents are actually prepared to set more homework for their children, not less.
"If a child's struggling, and they need a bit of extra help I think that's fantastic. Children who are bored need a bit of extra stimulation," Crowle told The Age.
However, Noble Park Primary School principal, David Rothstadt, has a markedly different view from Crowle on homework.
"I'm very aware of the research about homework that says it's essentially a waste of kids' time," Rothstadt said.
"I don't have much faith in homework, because at the end of the day you never know the conditions in which the children do it."
Yarrington says that parental involvement in helping students do their homework with minimal support is the more “desirable” method.
“Parents play an important role in supporting their child to develop independent learning and organisational skills,” Yarrington said, suggesting parents explore ways to make homework more engaging for their children.
“Reading, playing board games, undertaking a hobby or being physically activity can be a part of the range of home learning activities.”