New school curriculum adds to pressure on remote families

27 February 2012


Families living in remote parts of Queensland are facing an enormous workload caused by the new school curriculum, which some parents say was introduced far too quickly.

Five weeks in, the workload is placing more strain on already stretched isolated families who deliver the curriculum at home using computers and radios to connect with distance education teachers.

Ellen Miller, who has a daughter in Year 2, said the workload in the new curriculum was enormous.

“It seems an awfully big step up,” she said. “There are a lot of new concepts all at once.”

Ms Miller, who lives 180km from Mt Isa, said her daughter was in the classroom from 9am in the morning until 4.30pm every day, at least an hour on top of what she had previously been doing.

“A lot of that is trying to cover the gaps (in the new curriculum) and keep your child up to speed so they are not going to struggle in the next unit. It’s a terrible lot for a little brain to take on.”

Central west Queensland mother Kristy Sparrow, who has twins in Year 5, said the new curriculum was “a big jump” from previous years.

“The lessons are very complex and, although written for the child, they are often difficult for the home teacher to understand. It is having a huge impact on the confidence levels of the students and home teachers. I fear we will have a generation of students who are so confused about learning they are set up to fail.” 

Both the mothers said the distance education schools had been extremely supportive of the parents but felt the changes were too sudden.

“I just think it was pushed out in too big of a hurry. The idea with distance education is to be flexible, but many of us work three different jobs and this new curriculum requires you to be more rigid with your hours,” Ms Miller said.

Natalie Pampling, who has a child in Prep this year, said despite a few hiccups and technical glitches, she was adapting well to the new curriculum.

“Starting school has been a huge change for us, as obviously it requires my full attention and organisation. Other things have definitely gone by the wayside and it puts more pressure on the rural home. However, it is what has to be done due to where we live and is a priority for me,” she said.

The Frontier Services Remote Family Care Service places short-term carers with isolated families who cannot access mainstream support, providing relief child care for up to three weeks.

Since the school year began, carers have been able to provide some valuable support for remote families as they adapt to the changes in the school room.

“It provides these families with a window of support and an opportunity to work out a pattern, get on their feet and make it happen,” said Frontier Services Regional Manager in QLD Karen Harvey.