Parents call for pause in homework
Exclusive: COVID-19 could sideline homework for students, with experts calling for a homework amnesty through the period of at-home learning.
Parents are pushing back at schools setting homework tasks, acknowledging that most distance learning tasks being conducted throughout the shutdown are already essentially homework.
They argue the expectation is unfair on both student and parent - especially those working - with experts agreeing schools and teachers need to be focusing on "core work" and not additional study in the climate.
The Secretary of the NSW Department of Education Mark Scott admits homework is likely to be sidelined through the period of remote learning.
"Education for students and families will be different this year in many ways, including teachers setting traditional homework," he told News Corp Australia
"Teachers are encouraging students to continue to read and engage in a range of recreational, creative and wellbeing activities whilst learning from home."
But a spokesperson for the Department of Education Queensland said "there is currently no plan to abolish or significantly change the approach to homework" and that "continuity of learning is an important consideration in response planning for COVID-19."
Susan Cameron, the Executive Director, Learning Improvement for the Department of Education South Australia said homework would both be part of online and face-to-face learning.
"Those students learning face-to-face will be expected to do independent learning as well as those learning at home. Teachers are using the four pupil-free days before school holidays to work on transitioning to flexible learning options so they can meet the needs of students learning in the classroom or from home in term two," she said.
Professor Deborah Corrigan from Monash University said particularly with primary-aged children it was unfair to expect parents to prompt them to study all day and then turn around in the afternoon to set more tasks.
She said homework has lost some of its value in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We definitely need to rethink homework," she said.
"Homework needs to have purpose and what we have at the moment probably doesn't have much purpose."
With parents expected to manage students distance learning, Owen Wareham from parent advocacy organisation Parenthood said now was a good time to reassess setting homework.
"This is a very new and testing time for parents as they get their heads around schooling at home, and what this might look like if school doesn't return next term," he said.
"Teaching is a full time job - and it's not easy, the idea that parents can simply incorporate it into their lives while many are working from home undervalues both teachers and parents.
"It's totally legitimate to take a homework amnesty given the times we're in."
All work during this time of school isolation should be pared down to core work only, according to President of the Australian Secondary Principals' Association Andrew Pierpoint.
He advises schools who are still handing out homework to make sure it is achievable.
"Homework when you don't understand and can't understand the work is worse than useless.
"The younger the student the more difficult that becomes however homework does provide a unique opportunity for senior students to practice that independent learning and self-motivation," he said.
Father Alex Ryvchin of Lilah Ryvchin, six, said adding homework to the at-home school load just extended the day of home learning for already stretched parents.
Like many parents he is finding distance learning a challenge.
"The first day I put on my suit and she put on her school uniform and we had the whole day broke up into segments. It ended in tears in 20 minutes.
"To have additional homework is too much. We need to be kind to the kids and understand they are going through a challenging time.
"We need to go easy on everybody."
Teacher Allan Dougan, Global Head of Education, Reading Eggs, agrees schools need to consider the purpose of homework.
"What learning needs to happen and how can we make it happen?" he said, suggesting that if parents want to help define valuable after-school activities they could set aside some time to play card or board games.
"Homework is all about home learning and at the moment everyone is doing home learning. "So I don't think that we can distinguish between what we used to traditionally call classwork and what we used to traditionally call homework."
Educator Brent Hughes, Head of School Product at Matific, said the shutdown had redefined what homework looks like.
"Homework normally is the kind of task where students are practising things they have learnt in classroom or going over concepts, but that doesn't work when you haven't had the initial classroom lesson."
Originally published as Parents call for pause in homework