JUNIOR Cert students will soon have the opportunity to study Physical Education alongside Maths and English.
In response to a parliamentary question posed by Deputy Patrick O’Donovan, the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn confirmed that PE will contribute to Junior Cert results in the future.
Mr O’Donovan has made tackling the issue of childhood obesity one of his main goals, and the subsequent risk to the nation’s health and finances posed by the increase in diabetes.
He has proposed a number of initiatives including putting a health levy on video games and appointing an anti-obesity ambassador.
Mr O’Donovan pointed to a study carried out by UL in March, which found that teenage girls spend almost 19 hours a day either sitting or lying down. The study also found that participants spent longer periods sitting still during school than at the weekend.
“The findings were particularly worrying but unfortunately not all that surprising when one looks at the trend of increasing levels of diabetes amongst children in Ireland and the rise in the rate of childhood obesity. One of the ways which we can tackle these trends is by ensuring that schools are encouraged to emphasise the importance of PE as well as traditional academic subjects,” said Mr O’Donovan, who asked Minister Quinn if he would “consider introducing physical education as an exam subject for the Junior Cert”.
The Minister said he appreciated the importance of PE in promoting “positive well-being, and mental and physical health in schools, and the role this plays in supporting student achievement.
“As part of the revised Junior Cycle framework, there are 24 statements of learning which set out what students should learn. One of the statements provides that, at the end of Junior Cycle, students should be able to participate in physical activity confidently and competently,” wrote Minister Quinn.
“As part of the Junior Cycle review there will be an opportunity for schools to provide short courses which can be assessed as part of the Junior Cert. Short courses will generally be locally developed, of 100 hours duration and will be assessed by means of a portfolio. There will be scope under these arrangements for schools to extend the provision for sports and PE, including as part of the Junior Cert qualification, should they wish to do so,” added Minister Quinn. Mr O’Donovan said: “A change such as this could offer the gentle nudge that is required to help our youth get outside a little more and spend that bit more time on their feet as opposed to on a couch. Having more exercise in children’s routines, coupled with a good diet, will have many benefits for each individual and for the country as a whole in the long run.”