Homework in primary schools – do we need it?

By Danielle Galvin

In a changing digitised world, one education expert believes it’s time to shake-up the traditional approach to homework and get with the times.

Dr Ian Lillico has been working as a teacher, deputy principal and principal for 31 years in Western Australia.

He believes there’s a different approach to learning, homework and after hours activities that many schools have adopted, and parents should consider.

It’s called the homework grid.

Dr Lillico spells out the approach by way of example.

He believes sending children to their rooms to study, revise and complete daily projects or tasks isn’t doing our kids any favours.

Different “cells” represent a different task – so daily tasks, which could be counted as homework, doing a chore around the house, discussing bills or helping a parent with the shopping, taking part in an activity outside, or even meditation.

He believes a major factor in children leading sedentary lifestyles is the fact that they spend hours of a night time locked up in their rooms, either completing homework tasks for the next day at school, or in front of a screen.

“I suppose we as teachers and parents expect kids to do the old analogue form of learning, which is copying things out and so on,” he said.

“The other reason for a change in homework is that kids are already very sedentary and we’ve got to make sure we keep them moving and active because they are sitting down at home, they are being driven to school, and then they sit down at school and then they come home and sit down again.

While he doesn’t believe in ditching homework all together, he says there are ways that it can be redefined.

Some ideas include getting kids to read to their parents, playing a game with an adult, or doing something creative.

“Traditional homework still has some role in areas where you’ve got this assignment due in in a week’s time,” he said.

“When that happens they can that fit that in with sporting connections, family things, it allows kids to manage their time within that week or within that fortnight.

“When we’ve got this traditional homework – which is – you have to have this done by tomorrow, we don’t know what the home situation is like.

“There been a massive change in our society, in technology and a massive reduction in children being active, in climbing trees and all those types things.

“We have to be aware they already spend a fair amount of time sitting down when they are at home, we have got to get them moving, get them active, and get them talking with adults and with other people.”

He says the idea of the homework grid is to marry up the school’s approach to homework, as well as family life.

It’s about getting kids to contribute in a small and meaningful way at home, get talking to their parents again, as well as revising and learning some key principles like learning to read and times tables.

“The types of jobs they will be doing are very different – we have to give them those skills to think on their feet and be interpersonal with other people, to know how to provide themselves some leisure some physical activity and communicate with adults.

“Writing things in a book or memorising things doesn’t do that.”