High performance education: Central Coast Sports College brings out the best in bodies and minds with unique program

Healthy bodies, healthy minds … Central Coast Sports College takes a holistic approach to education.

A little independent school near Gosford is making big waves with an active education model that sees students playing sport for two hours every day.

Founded by principal Paul Chapman in 2013, Central Coast Sports College (CCSC) in Kariong is a “proudly progressive” co-ed, K-12 school that emphasises physical activity and goal setting to help students achieve their dreams — on and off the field.

Mr Chapman says that many of the school’s former students are currently playing sport at “a high representative level”. He offers the example of recent graduate Trent Buhagiar who now plays A-league football with Sydney FC while another, Cooper Griffiths, is one of the top 100 tennis players in the country.


True grit … Central Coast Sports College principal seeks to build resilience in students.

Not all students at CCSC can or even want to become professional athletes but the school’s holistic approach to developing the body as well as the mind fosters deeper academic engagement and promotes better health and wellbeing, Mr Chapman says.

“Our goal is to inspire students to be the best they can be”, he says.

“One of the things we’re very proud of is the vast majority of our students end up in the workforce or higher education because they set a goal and they achieve it. Some of our students didn’t get the ATAR they wanted but got into their preferred course through alternative pathways,” Mr Chapman says.

Academic or athletic, success comes down to resilience, he says.

“I believe talent is a myth. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, [famed psychologist] Angela Duckworth says talent is just the speed at which we learn something.

“We know that every student learns at different rates and speeds. We’re trying to really hard to introduce mastery teaching, which means students don’t move on until they’ve mastered a topic. Some kids take two weeks to learn something, others take four weeks. We’re very much against rushing kids along just because they’re a certain age.

“We don’t promote competition in the classroom and we don’t believe in ranking students or external awards. We believe in developing grit in the students.

“They don’t need to be a star but they need to be keen to learn and play. If they give it a shot and work hard, they’ll be successful here. It doesn’t matter about their ability, we have a wide range of developmental levels and we manage it really well.

“A lot of kids come here at a very low level and I’ve seen them develop into high performers,” Mr Chapman says.

On target … CCSC teaches students to set goals and achieve them.

The active days at CCSC are good news for parents too. With sport integrated into the school day, there’s no need to ferry kids all over the city for games and training sessions.

This aspect of the school has proved so attractive that “a few families have moved interstate so they can send their kids here,” Mr Chapman says.

Easing the time pressure on young families is one of the school’s guiding principles and with three boys at the school he’s a beneficiary too.

“It’s very much about bringing balance back to family lives. As a parent, I haven’t had to do any extracurricular activities,” Mr Chapman says.

The school’s no homework policy is based on similar reasoning.

“I don’t think we have a right to inject ourselves into family time. We have plenty of students who get their work done in the classroom and want to go home and play. There’s no rush to grow up here; if a child wants to climb a tree, let them.”

Letting kids be kids … CCSC students are encouraged to play in their free time.

Some parents may wonder how CCSC students get through all their school work with so much sport and no homework. Mr Chapman attributes the school’s efficiency to streamlined days and a teacher/mentor model that uses technology to achieve time savings.

“Our days are a half hour longer than the average and we tend not to fluff around. We don’t have assemblies or chapel.

“We leverage technology. All the students’ work is online. Right now, we have a student in Spain training with a football talent agency who is keeping up with his school work online.”

Even more important is the investment teachers make in building long-term relationships with students, he says.

Explaining that students retain the same home room teacher from Kindergarten to Year 2, from Years 3-8 and from Years 9-12, Mr Chapman says: “The home room teacher is a mentor. They really get to know the children, spending time with them every day. They help to facilitate work experiences and formulate life goals.

“If the students are engaged in the classroom there’s no reason that they shouldn’t get through the curriculum during class time. When you move from control to engagement, you have more time to concentrate on teaching.”

“The biggest thing about us is we are really authentic, we do our best and it comes from the heart.”

For more information about Central Coast Sports College and to book a school tour see: www.ccsc.nsw.edu.au

How much homework is the right amount?

Many parents worry that their child is doing too much, or too little, school work at home.

While homework volumes vary considerably from school to school and even teacher to teacher; by secondary school, almost all students are expected to do some homework on a daily or weekly basis.

A 2014 OECD report found that Australian 15-year-olds spend an average of six hours a week on homework. This is slightly more than the international average of five hours per week and significantly less than the 13.8 hours Shanghai’s students allocate to homework every week.

The picture is quite different at Australia’s independent schools though, where 15-year-olds devote an average of nine hours a week to homework.

In NSW, the Department of Education offers guidelines but no set minimum homework requirements, leaving it up to schools to determine their own policies in consultation with parents and teachers.

Nonetheless, the department’s policy is that homework is a “valuable part of schooling” that “allows for practising, extending and consolidating work done in class. Additionally, it establishes habits of study, concentration and self-discipline.”

The Scots College in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs supports the department’s view, saying that its philosophy concerning home learning is premised on three principles:

* Home learning consolidates work in class without being new work.
* Home learning is showed off rather than being assessed.
* Home learning is driven by the student’s interests and needs.

As an example, Scots suggests this daily homework schedule for years 7 and 8:

* 20 minutes of Maths
* 10 minutes of language/instrument practice
* 10 minutes of reading
* Respond to the question “What else do I need to do?”

The last point allows students “an opportunity to expand on their studies, finish incomplete work or try to work through a problem in their studies,” Scots says. As well, the school expects students to dedicate home learning time to each of their subjects every week.

Similar guidelines are offered by Danebank Anglican School for Girls in Sydney’s South. The school’s policy states that, homework “should be appropriate to the student’s skill level and age; interesting, challenging, purposeful, and meaningful in helping students develop their knowledge and skills at all times.”

Taking these factors into account, Danebank outlines a daily homework schedule for years K-12:

Kinder and Year 1: No more than 20 mins
Year 2: No more than 30 mins
Year 3 and 4: 30–45 mins
Year 5 and 6: 1 hour
Year 7 and 8: 1½ hours
Year 9 and 10: 2 hours
Year 11: 3 hours
Year 12: 3½ hours

The emphasis on homework at independent schools is well-founded. OECD data shows that extra study at home is rewarded by better test scores, as evidenced by the results of its 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a series of standardised tests similar to NAPLAN.

Testing of more than 28 million 15-year-olds in 65 countries showed that among the highest achieving schools in the Maths component, “students saw an increase of 17 score points or more per extra hour of homework.”

International research shows that relevant homework in reasonable doses has positive benefits for students overall, particularly at the high school level.

In terms of how much time students should put into it, Duke University psychology professor and author of The Battle over Homework, Harris Cooper, endorses the “10-Minute Rule” – multiply the year level by 10 to get a rough estimate of how many minutes of homework students should be doing on a daily basis. Academically-focused and senior students should aim to do a bit more.

Most important though for Cooper is balance.

“My feeling is that the effect of homework depends on how well or poorly it is used. Teachers should avoid extremes. All children will benefit from homework but it is a rare child who will benefit from hours and hours of homework,” Cooper cautions.

Read more:

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Education at Glance report, 2014

NSW Department of Education and Communities Homework Policy document, May 2012

How much home learning should my son be doing? – Ryan Smartt, Coordinator of Studies and Academic Staffing, The Scots College

Danebank Anglican School for Girls Homework Policy K-12

Students in these countries spend the most time doing homework – Sonali Kohli, Quartz.com, December 12, 2014

Homework’s diminishing returns – Harris Cooper, New York Times, December 12, 2010