Montreal elementary nixes homework, encourages parents to read with kids instead

Hours of homework are now a thing of the past for some elementary school students in Montreal. Teachers at Elizabeth Ballantyne School recently stopped assigning large amounts of homework, but the move has received mixed reactions from parents.

Elizabeth Ballantyne School in Montreal West says students are expected to get their work done during the day

Principal Michael Brown said the school's standards haven't changed and students must finish their work in class. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Students at an elementary school in Montreal West are getting more time to be kids, as Elizabeth Ballantyne School has stopped giving them hours of homework to take home at the end of the day.

Michael Brown, the principal, said assigning students large amounts of homework doesn't help with their learning.

"The best kind of homework is eating healthy, getting a good night's sleep and being ready for the next day of school," Brown told CBC News.

He said the elementary school's standards haven't changed and students are still expected to get their work done in class. Parents are also encouraged to read with their children at home.

It's still too early to assess the impact of the no-homework directive, which went out in November, he said, but staff have noticed a calmer vibe in the school.

A directive to stop assigning large amounts of homework went out at Elizabeth Ballantyne School in Montreal West in November. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Brown said, so far, the reaction has largely been positive among parents and students.

"There have been parents who felt that it's coddling the kids. My answer to that is our standards haven't changed — they're still the same," he said.

The decision also comes at a time when elementary students are juggling six hours of school per day, daycare and extracurricular activities, said Brown.

"So where is the time? When does a child get to be a child? When does a child just get to shut down and go play?" he said.

"I hear the term 'student burnout' and those are two words, in my mind, that should not be together."

Parents have mixed reaction

Lori Press's son, Riley Wise, is in Grade 2 at Elizabeth Ballantyne.

She said she is "on the fence" about the school's decision, mainly because she thinks children need some homework to learn good study skills.

"Once they get into high school, it's not the same thing. They're going to have homework; they're going to have to learn to study. They're going to have to get that routine going," Press said.

She said her son's teacher still sends some work home and she gets him to do it after school.

Lori Press, whose son is in Grade 2, said she thinks students need a bit of homework to develop their study skills. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Srinivas Chintaginjalu, whose daughter, Anvika, attends the school, said he also had a mixed reaction.

But he said the teachers have recommended websites where students can do practice exercises at home.

"So we make sure she spends some time on those websites, [to] do some math and do some English, French," Chintaginjalu said.

"There is always something to do at home," he added.

For her part, Anvika said she enjoys reading books after school and was "happy" to have less homework.

Homework debate ongoing

Elizabeth Ballantyne isn't the only school in Quebec to get rid of homework.

Golden Valley School in Val-d'Or, Que., cut out homework in the 2016 school year, as did École De La Primerose elementary in Quebec City.

After nixing homework, Elizabeth Ballantyne School in Montreal West is encouraging parents to read with their children at home. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

Proponents of the measure say excessive homework can lead to arguments between children and parents and cause anxiety and stress for the students.

Others caution, however, that students need to learn effective work habits — and homework is a key part of that.

With files from Kate McKenna and CBC Montreal's Daybreak