One-in-eight primary pupils misses 20 school days a year
Minister voices concern at 7pc rate of obesity among children
ONE in every eight primary school children misses 20 school days or more each year, a report revealed yesterday.
Absenteeism is far worse among pupils in disadvantaged areas, where up to one in every four children misses 20 days annually, or almost one day in every 10 of the school year.
The 'State of the Nation's Children report: Ireland 2010' published yesterday provides a snapshot of Irish children's lives -- their relationships, habits, health and social status -- and compares them with their peers across OECD countries.
Positive trends include increases in immunisation rates and breastfeeding, particularly among middle-class mothers; while the negatives include the rise in obesity, consistent poverty and absenteeism in a country where maths and reading scores are already relatively poor.
The report, the third in a biennial series, was compiled by the Department of Health and Children, using figures from the Central Statistics Office and other sources.
An analysis of children's relationships with their parents found a significant decrease in the percentage of 15 year olds who say their parents discuss with them how well they are doing at school (43pc in 2009 compared with 48pc in 2006). Significantly more girls (71pc) than boys (49pc) report that their parents spend time just talking with them.
On a positive note, the percentage of children who report finding it easy to talk to their fathers has risen from 48pc in 1996 to 60pc in 2006. However, older children said they found it more difficult to talk to their mothers when something was really bothering them.
Other key findings are that:
- Children of immigrants, Travellers or those with a disability are more likely to suffer bullying at school, with almost one in three reporting an incident in the past couple of months compared with one-in-four children in general.
- In 2009, 21 children aged 10 to 17 took their own lives, accounting for almost one-in-four deaths in that age group.
- Children in Ireland have the highest levels of physical activity among 41 OECD countries.
- Children in the midlands are three times more likely to be at risk of poverty than children in the Dublin region (31pc compared with 11pc), although the overall Irish figures are lower than the EU average.
- There has been a significant increase (from 6.3pc in 2008 to 8.7pc last year) in the number of children experiencing consistent poverty, with the percentage in the south-east twice as high as the national average.
- There has been an increase in the number of children admitted to psychiatric hospitals, from 333 in 2005 to 406 in 2008.
Speaking at the publication of the report, Children's Minister Barry Andrews said the scale of absenteeism, from primary schools in particular, "clearly requires some attention".
And he said that the high rate of obesity revealed in the report -- 7pc of children -- "really gave me some concern".
He said that "one of his regrets as Minister for Children" was that he had not been able to do more during his tenure to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.