Schools fail to meet PE targets for their pupils
SCHOOLS are finding it difficult to provide the recommended amount of physical education for pupils because of a lack of facilities and teachers, it has been claimed.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) warned: "With post-primary pupil numbers expected to increase by 15pc by 2020, it is difficult to see how this shortfall can be addressed. All the while our national obesity problem continues to grow."
The comments came as Health Minister James Reilly and Transport, Tourism and Sport Minister Leo Varadkar launched Active School Week 2014.
Dr Reilly said: "Active School Week is an ideal opportunity for schools, children, parents and the wider community to work together to commit to becoming more physically active.
"Under Healthy Ireland we want the healthier choice to be the easier choice. We want to create an environment where everyone can take responsibility and play their part in improving the health and wellbeing of themselves, their families and their communities."
However, Clive Byrne of the NAPD said if the Government was serious about tackling obesity levels among Irish schoolchildren, an audit of PE facilities in our schools was a crucial first step. "We can't fix the problem if we don't understand the extent of it," he said.
Dr Reilly said: "My department is developing a National Physical Activity Plan with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport under the Healthy Ireland framework and with input from other key departments and stakeholders.
"It will promote and encourage greater levels of participation in physical activity by everybody. The aim is to create a shared understanding that more can be done together to address the high rates of physical inactivity in Ireland and the health, economic and social costs related to it."
The NAPD has called on the Department of Education and Skills to undertake an audit of all schools' PE facilities and fitness programmes.
However, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has already ruled out the idea, saying: "My department has not conducted an audit of PE facilities or resources in post-primary schools, nor are there plans for such an audit.
"New post-primary schools that are constructed as part of my department's school building programme include provision for facilities such as PE halls, general purpose rooms and outdoor hard play areas," he said.