The exam season is looming – prompting schoolchildren to stuff more books into their backpacks, leaving themselves at risk of both strain and pain.
The issue was recently raised in a parliamentary question by Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, who asked Education Minister Ruairi Quinn what efforts were being undertaken to reduce the weight of school bags.
He said they were having an adverse affect on the ability of children to walk or cycle to and from school.
The minister replied that a circular was issued to schools to highlight the potential health hazard of overweight schoolbags.
It outlined a range of local measures that could be put in place to help alleviate the problem. It is a matter for each individual school to decide which particular measures are most suited to its individual circumstances, and to how it organises teaching and learning.
• Backpacks should be worn high on the back. If a waist strap is available, it should be used, as it transfers the weight of the pack to the hips, rather than having all of the weight riding on the shoulders.
• The shoulder straps should be adjustable, and the rear of the backpack padded for comfort.
• The backpack should have a few separate compartments to help with packing.
• Pack the heaviest items closest to the child's back. If the heaviest items are packed further away, this throws out the child's centre of gravity and causes unnecessary back strain.