Call for religion class to give way for more physical education in Irish schools

The Irish Primary Principals Network says depression and obesity are up in pupils

IPPN, physical education, religion, drama, survey, get children moving, annual conference, Maria Doyle

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The provision of physical education for Irish schools is totally inadequate, at just one hour per week.

That is according to the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN). The annual conference of the organisation is taking place today.

They are calling for a more concentrated focus on physical education and emotional well-being in schools.

More than 1,100 primary school principals, 125 exhibiting companies and a number of invited guests will attend the conference - entitled '100 Years of Leadership'.

According to a survey of IPPN membership conducted earlier this month, more than nine out of ten 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 religion could be reduced.

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It comes as figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show close to 350,000 Irish children are either overweight or obese.

While ESRI research states that one-quarter of 9-year-old children here are overweight.

The IPPN survey also showed that depression amongst primary school children has increased five-fold since 2009 - from 1.2% to 5.9%.

Well-being issues, directly linked to obesity, have almost doubled from 3.3% to 6.1% in the same period.

President of the IPPN is Maria Doyle. She told Newstalk Breakfast children would be in a better place if they get more physical exercise.