Failure to provide adequate time for PE in schools impacting on Children’s Physical and Emotional Wellbeing

Failure to provide adequate time for PE in schools impacting on Children’s Physical and Emotional Wellbeing
The Annual Conference of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), which takes place this week in Citywest Conference Centre, Dublin will feature an impassioned plea from the President of the organisation, Maria Doyle, for a more concentrated focus on physical education and emotional wellbeing in our schools, which will complement the governments recently launched National Activity Plan. 
In excess of 1,100 primary school principals, 125 exhibiting companies for Education Expo and a number of nationally and internationally invited guests will attend the conference titled ‘100 Years of Leadership’. This conference is widely recognised as one of the largest gatherings of primary school leaders in Europe.
According to a survey of IPPN membership conducted earlier this month, more than 9 out of 10 principal teachers believe that the time allocation of one hour per week for physical education in schools is totally inadequate and should be increased. For this to happen, survey results show that principals suggested that the time given to Religious Instruction could be reduced.
This survey outcome is hardly surprising. IPPN has surveyed membership regularly over the last 8 years in relation to children’s physical wellbeing and has gathered a significant amount of data which indicates that an acceptable balance between learning and wellbeing is not being achieved.
Depression amongst primary school children has increased five fold since 2009 from 1.2% to 5.9%. Wellbeing issues directly linked to obesity have almost doubled from 3.3% to 6.1% in the same period.
IPPN President, Maria Doyle states, “we must provide additional time for the Arts and PE in the school curriculum as they contribute significantly to the physical and emotional wellbeing of our children. The scandal of schools being forced to use PE halls as classrooms belongs to a bygone era which must never be revisited”.
The IPPN President’s remarks come against the backdrop of figures from the World Health Organisation stating close to 350,000 Irish children are either overweight or obese. ESRI research states that a quarter of our 9 year old children are overweight.
The IPPN President advocates that schools develop the concept of ‘physical literacy’ where the holistic development of the child is promoted. This will support the development of physical and social skills and enable lifelong habits of physical activity to be formed. This will also require a renewed focus on other aspects of the school curriculum such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE).

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