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Education advisers call for PE as Leaving Cert exam

RUGBY, rock-climbing and dance could be the next big things in the Leaving Certificate.

They are among the activities that government education advisers have suggested should form part of a new secondary school subject in Physical Education (PE).

It would see students notching up valuable CAO points for college entry by showing off their sport, adventure, dance or gym skills.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is proposing a twin-track approach to giving PE a more important place on the second-level curriculum.

The PE push is aimed at improving fitness levels and reducing obesity among teenagers, while also using physical activity as way of teaching broader life skills.

Obesity is on the rise and more than one-in-five children are now regarded as overweight.

However, while the Government is generally supportive of the idea, there is no commitment as to when the proposed changes would be implemented.

The proposals are contained in two confidential papers, seen by the Irish Independent, up for discussion at an NCCA meeting this week before going out for wider consultation.

One document details how PE would be a full exam subject earning CAO points, while the other gives a general framework for PE for all Leaving Cert students.

Under the proposals, students taking PE as an exam subject would pick three physical activities from a selection covering adventure, athletics, aquatics, games, artistic and personal exercise. The array of suggested activities covers interests as varied as kayaking, water polo, synchronised swimming, trampolining, modern, jazz and hip-hop dancing, running, cricket, hurling and Pilates.

Students would also learn about every aspect of modern sports, including psychology, diet and nutrition, ethics, drugs, sponsorship and the media.

For exam purposes, students would earn up to half the marks for a personal performance and the rest for a written exam.

In their proposals for a general PE framework, the NCCA stresses the importance of physical fitness as part of a healthy lifestyle.


The recommended level of physical activity, of moderate intensity, for young people is at least 60 minutes a day,

The NCCA notes research showing that by the age of 15 almost nine out of 10 girls and seven out of 10 boys do not reach the recommended levels.

They say that school is a key setting and young people are a key target in strategies to promote health-enhancing levels of physical activity for all.

The NCCA recommends that PE be taught at senior cycle for a minimum of a double class a week, typically 70-80 minutes.

The syllabus could cover health benefits of physical activity, an understanding of sporting culture and personal and social responsibility.

While it would not be an exam subject, the NCCA suggest that students could compile a portfolio of evidence of what they have learned.

Current Department of Education guidelines recommend a minimum of 120 minutes per week for PE, but many schools don't observe that.

Irish Independent