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Aussie kids need less homework, more play

Natasha Bita, November 4, 2020 6:45PM News Corp Australia Network

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Australia’s new National Children’s Commissioner is calling for less homework and more play and relaxation for children. media_cameraAustralia’s new National Children’s Commissioner is calling for less homework and more play and relaxation for children.

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Homework headaches and “competitive parenting’’ are fuelling* kids’ high anxiety*, Australia’s new National Children’s Commissioner warned.

In her first interview, incoming Commissioner Anne Hollonds called for kids to be given more time to relax and play.

“In our very crammed lives, and with a crammed (school) curriculum, we have to ask if there’s enough time for kids to play,’’ Ms Hollonds said.

“We tend to load up their days, and expect schools to cram a lot into those days.’’

Ms Hollonds, who started in her new job this week, said teachers and parents might need to “reset expectations’’ about heavy homework loads, which can take students three hours every night.

“Play is very important for the development and wellbeing of children,’’ she said.

“Many people today would say kids are experiencing stress as a result of too much to do.’’

Australian teenagers are set hours of homework every night, with Education Victoria recommending one to three hours each weeknight, plus six hours on weekends, for students from Years 10 to 12.

Other state and territory education departments let individual schools set homework times – with many Queensland high schools telling senior students to study for at least 18 hours a week.

In South Australia, Gawler High School recommends an hour a night for Year 8 students, with up to three hours a night for Year 12 students.

The Hutchins School in Tasmania sets between 60 to 90 minutes of homework each weeknight for its middle school students.

Sydney Boys High requires between one and three hours a night, plus six hours on weekends, for students from years 10 to 12.

Confused student studying in a coffee shop media_cameraAustralian teenagers are set homework every night. For senior students, this is often one to three hours each weeknight and several hours each weekend. Picture: iStock

Ms Hollonds – a psychologist and former head of Relationships Australia, The Benevolent Society and the Australian Institute of Family Studies – also urged an end to “competitive parenting’’.

“The culture of criticism and judgment and competition (about parenting) doesn’t help any of us and ultimately is bad for our kids,’’ she said.

“Parents are all trying to do the best they can.

“We need a more supportive and compassionate* culture – then families who are struggling would feel able to reach out for help.’’

Ms Hollonds urged parents to switch off their phones and devices and “eyeball’’ their children, who crave attention.

“Have some time for everybody to eyeball each other and have a conversation,’’ she said.

“As parents we don’t realise how important we are, especially in the teenage years.’’

Ms Hollonds called on friends and family to offer hands-on help and encouragement to struggling parents.

“Asking, ‘Are you OK?’ is not enough,’’ she said.

“Ask, ‘How can I help you? Can I hang out the washing for you? Would it help if I minded the kids for a few hours?’’

Mature father with small son sitting at table indoors, doing homework. media_cameraWhile Commissioner Anne Hollonds suggested parents switch off their phones and give their children their full attention, she stressed that generally, parents are doing the best they can. Picture: iStock

GLOSSARY

  • fuelling: cause something to happen more intensely
  • anxiety: feeling of worry or nervousness
  • compassionate: feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is Anne Hollonds’ job title?
  2. How much homework are middle school students at the Hutchins School expected to do?
  3. In which state is Gawler High School?
  4. Does Ms Hollonds think parents are trying to do the right thing?
  5. What does it mean to say parents should “eyeball” their children? Why?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Homework
Does your school set homework?

Opinions about homework, how much you should get and what types of activities should be expected have been debated for many years. Nearly everyone has an opinion on it.

Do your own research …

Interview a teacher or principal, a parent or carer, and a fellow student to get a range of opinions about homework. (You can interview more people if you wish.)

Find out what each person thinks about the purpose of homework, what types of activities should be done, how long you should spend on homework tasks and the benefits and disadvantages of doing it.

After interviewing, look at all the responses and see if you can find any commonalities (things that are similar) in different people’s point of view. Write a paragraph of what you found out.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity (Some of this activity may need to be completed at home!)
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking, Personal and Social Capabilities

2. Extension
“Play is very important for the development and wellbeing of children,” Anne Hollands said.

Create a way to sell this idea — ‘Play is the new homework’ — to your teachers and parents/carers. You can write a persuasive text, write a speech for a debate or create a poster/flyer or write a song or jingle that highlights why play is important for children and that it should replace any formal homework activities for all students.

To convince them, you will need to think about how play improves your wellbeing and therefore your learning potential, what you can learn through play and how it can benefit people of all ages.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Home Work, Not School Work
Many children have chores they have to complete when they get home. Some have sports or hobbies to attend as well. So rather than more schoolwork being assigned to outside school hours, should children be assigned work/chores ways to help out at home?

Think of what help you can do to help out more at home, and also to learn important life skills that will help you in the future.

Make a list of all the skills you can learn from helping out at home, or participating in after school sports and hobbies instead.

Now compare this to the skills you learn from completed teacher assigned school work.

Which will benefit you more? Why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: How much homework is best for you?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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