Principals tell govt to give kids a break

South Australian Primary Principals Association (SAPPA) president, Pam Kent, said her state should consider adopting the Finnish system where students have four 15-minute recesses and a 30-minute lunch each day.

Under state regulations, SA students must have a lunch of at least 40 minutes and allow for shorter morning and afternoon recesses. However, most schools opt for just a morning break.

Kent said students were much more focused and better engaged with their learning when given more play time.

“They become refreshed and this makes them ready for learning,” Kent told The Daily Telegraph.

Kent attended the International Confederation of Principals in Helsinki this month where she gained an insight into some of the strategies used by Finnish schools to improve student learning.

In a report during her trip, Kent cited world-renowned Finnish education expert, Pasi Sahlberg, who told the conference: “In Finland we call ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) childhood”.

Kent said Australia’s leaders should take note that countries where children begin school older have better educational outcomes.

She suggested their success was related to the support parents received – including paternity leave arrangements – to become play-based educators of their own children.

In contrast, many Australian parents expected schools to teach everything from bike riding to safety around dogs.

“We are encouraging this crazy work ethic and what that means is there is less quality family time with children,” Kent said.

Other advantages observed by Kent included “a society-wide focus” on gender equity – including at the highest level of politics – and “a bipartisan, non-political approach to education”.

Finland’s principals also appeared to have it better, working 45 hours a week, compared with 60 hours in Australia. Finnish principals also had fewer budgeting and administration responsibilities.

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