PE teachers oppose exercise plan for schools


THE IRISH Primary PE Association has said it is “alarmed” at Senator Eamonn Coghlan’s proposal for a daily, 15-minute, monitored exercise programme for primary school children.

It has also warned of the dangers, “from an ethical, moral and emotional perspective”, of public health teams coming into schools to check children’s fitness levels, as was recommended by the independent senator and former athletics world champion.

While welcoming Mr Coghlan’s highlighting of the issue of children’s physical activity, the association argued that reverting to what it said sounded like “old-fashioned drills” was not the answer – as research showed that approach was counter-productive, putting children off physical activity.

“We would have serious concerns because of the narrow focus he has taken,” the association’s chairwoman, Caitriona Cosgrave, told The Irish Times.

“We would instead be promoting a whole school community approach, which includes PE, physical activity opportunities during the school day and, more importantly, engaging parents in after-school physical activity opportunities.”

In moving a motion in the Seanad last month, Mr Coghlan said the physical education system was “too sophisticated, passive and broad to tackle the serious health problems we face as a nation”.

But Ms Cosgrave suggested that there was a general misunderstanding about the remit of PE and that physical fitness is only one component of it.

“The breadth is the beauty of it because it allows children to try various different types of activities, so that they can choose what they are going to pursue,” she said.

Objectives of PE also include emotional and social development for young children – turn-taking, teamwork and fair play – as well as aesthetic and creative development through activities such as gymnastics and dance, she said.

The association, which comprises primary teachers who are interested in promoting PE and physical activity for children, did not support Mr Coghlan’s motion.

He had consulted schools and teachers around the State, Ms Cosgrave acknowledged, “but ultimately he came back to his one area, which is physical fitness”.