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The importance of PE in school

Posted by SchoolDays Newshound on 31/07/2013. The importance of PE in schoolTags: Parenting Kids Health

A major talking point in Irish education at present is physical education (PE) and, more specifically, the amount of time that should be allocated to it. There are arguments that fewer hours spent in the sports hall or on the football pitch will free up more time for subjects such as maths, English and science, yet there is also the stance that more PE hours will help to improve health and fitness among young people in Ireland.

Improvements needed

The issue has been in the spotlight in Ireland in particular since a report earlier in the year placed the country at the bottom of a European table for PE time in primary schools.

According to the European Union's (EU) education information network Eurydice, pupils in Ireland's primary schools spend less time in PE classes than their peers in all other European member states, both in absolute and proportionate terms.

It was shown that youngsters in Irish primary schools spend around 37 hours every school year in PE classes, which is markedly lower than the 45 hours or more recorded for every other EU country.

Indeed, the number of hours French children spend in these classes -108 hours a year - is almost three times as many as an Irish child can expect.

At second-level, Ireland ranked third from bottom, with pupils likely to spend an average of 45 hours a year in physical activity. The only countries beneath it were Malta (31 hours) and Spain (35 hours).

The report recommended that to address the problem, Ireland should introduce a new PE grading system similar to those used in other countries, which see a specialised teacher appointed to take PE classes. 

Calls for PE to be compulsory at second-level schools

A report recently submitted to the National Activity Planning Group called for PE to be made a compulsory subject at second-level schools in Ireland, with the basic curriculum ensuring pupils are active for at least two hours every week, the Irish Independent reports.

It was suggested that if the suggestions of the report were not followed, PE as a subject would begin to erode over time.

Minutes from a meeting of a Department of Health body that focuses on the eating habits of children - entitled the Special Action Group on Obesity - also expressed fears that should the time allocated to PE in Irish schools be reduced rather than increased, teenagers in the country would continue to become less and less active.  

The other side of the coin

While increasing time allocation for PE would likely bring many health benefits for young people in Ireland, schools may argue that accommodating this would mean fewer hours spent teaching more academic subjects.

Schools only have so many hours to dedicate to each subject and it therefore means that one class may suffer if greater attention is paid to another. It is normal that some core subjects - such as maths, English and science, will be allocated plenty of time, as success in these classes is seen as vital with regard to not only a young person's academic progression, but also their achievements in life in general.

The question is whether or not PE is as important as these core subjects. While some will argue that it definitely is, with a child's health being more important than their academic achievements, others are focused on seeing young people performing well in the classroom, even if it meant them performing less well on the sportsfield. 

Getting the right balance

It is therefore a major challenge for the education system in Ireland to strike a balance that means children are being as active as they should be, while also making sure that other aspects of their learning do not suffer as a consequence. 

One way to achieve this could be to follow examples set in other European countries, where PE is an integral part of the curriculum and it is ensured that pupils are active for a certain number of hours every week.

It is a major talking point that is sure to come up again time and again over the next school year. ADNFCR-2163-ID-801618899-ADNFCR


Jamie Stafford

(19-12-2014 16:30)

This is not surprising. I'm always contacting schools about doing tennis either during PE or after school and I rarely get a reply. They are totally teacher & curricular based and have little time for abything outside this! Jamie Stafford (JSTA)

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