Physical education in senior-cycle schools

Minister for Education Richard Bruton and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of the new Leaving Cert PE exam. Also pictured are students Conal Kehoe, Emma Crumlish, Ciara Rooney, Bernard Brogan, Dublin GAA footballer; and Mark Winters. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

Minister for Education Richard Bruton and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of the new Leaving Cert PE exam. Also pictured are students Conal Kehoe, Emma Crumlish, Ciara Rooney, Bernard Brogan, Dublin GAA footballer; and Mark Winters. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

 

Sir, – The long-overdue decision to implement examinable physical education into the senior cycle will undoubtedly warm the hearts of many of the country’s young people and PE teachers during this cold spell (News, December 12th). For too long the lack of formal status has created an ambiguous discourse and disposition to physical education in our schools has made it one of the ugly ducklings of our education system. Now, after years of incredible work and persistent lobbying, our politicians and policymakers are really nailing their colours to the mast in terms of the promotion of physical literacy and autonomous wellbeing among young people.

The general aim of physical education in senior cycle is to develop the learner’s capacity to participate in physical education and physical activity in a confident and informed way. Today and in the weeks ahead, there will be young people up and down the country saying to themselves, “This is something I feel passionate about; something I am interested in; something I want to learn more about and experience.” This has nothing but positive implications for future generations – our next teachers, coaches and healthcare workers.

This decision is not only a watershed moment for our young people. It also challenges school managements and teachers to now strengthen implementation of formal physical education curriculums within schools, particularly the 90 per cent of schools which are not providing the recommended minimum of two hours of physical education per week. This decision will change the way we all look at physical education, physical activity and youth sport.

Emerging research has also shown a positive association between physical activity, physical fitness in children and adolescents, and academic achievement. Recent research by the ESRI has indicated that participation in activities such as sports can act as a “buffer to academic stress”. It makes perfect sense to marry young people’s love for physical education with the opportunity to seek formal educational recognition in the subject. Teachers and parents should never underestimate the potential and promise our young people can bring to schools and their subjects. If you build it, they will come.

– Yours, etc,

DONAL HOWLEY,

Clonkeen College,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.