Bags 'too heavy' for children walking to school
New moves to tackle the burden of heavy schoolbags are promised after one in three parents of primary aged pupils said their children could not walk to school because of the weight.
A survey was conducted by the National Parents' Council Primary (NPC-Primary) in preparation for a hearing of the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs yesterday.
The Oireachtas committee is concerned about implications for children's back health of carrying heavy loads to and from school.
There are also the knock-on consequences for childhood obesity if children cannot walk to school as a result.
NPC-Primary chief executive Áine Lynch said the survey, which gathered more than 3,000 responses in four days last week, showed nearly 70pc of parents had a significant concern about schoolbag weight, including 38pc who were extremely concerned.
She said at primary level, the issue to be considered was whether there was an over-reliance on textbooks in teaching.
The curriculum implemented in 1999 suggested that fewer were needed for children at these ages.
Ms Lynch said this "should be further explored rather than accepting the necessity of text books and then continually trying to find ways of dealing with cost and weight issues".
Fine Gael TD Lisa Chambers supported the idea of legislation, but Dr Sara Dockrell, of Trinity College Dublin, who has carried out research, felt there was no need to be "heavy handed".
Dr Dockrell agreed there was research showing the weight of a bag should be no more than 10pc of a child's weight, but there was the same amount of research showing this need not be the case. "It is a difficult one to call," she said, adding that "it is not to say that we should expect children to carry excessively heavy loads, but carrying weight on their back is not necessarily a problem".
Paul Beddy, of the National Parents Council-Post Primary, said all stake-holders should discuss the issue.
Committee chair, Fine Gael TD Jim Daly, said since an expert working group on the Weight of Children's Schoolbags reported in 1998, guidelines were "not achieving the desired result".
"We will meet again on the matter next month with the aim of identifying how best to bring about change.