Minister tackled over lack of free drinking water for school children
A row has broken out over whether all schools are offering free drinking water to their pupils.
The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) has taken Education Minister Richard Bruton to task after he stated his officials were not aware of any school where pupils did not have access to a drinking water supply.
Mr Bruton made the comments in reply to a recent parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne. It triggered an immediate response from IHF policy manager Kathryn Reilly, who wrote to Mr Bruton challenging his assertion, and criticising what she sees as a lack of priority within his department to the issue.
Ms Reilly drew attention to research undertaken by the IHF among primary schools in 2015, which found water was not available free in 40pc of schools surveyed.
Meanwhile, some 47pc of schools had vending machines, where sugar-sweetened drinks were more freely available than free drinking water.
"This either means students are paying for bottled water or replacing water with less healthy options. We do not believe that this is an acceptable situation and, of even greater concern, there seems to be the lack of awareness in the department of this situation," she wrote to the minister.
Ms Reilly also pointed out that, under the national obesity plan 2016-2025, 'A Healthy Weight for Ireland', the Department of Education has responsibility for the provision of 'potable water', otherwise known as drinking water, in all learning centres.