Specialist PE teachers in schools can help children get more focused and effective fitness.
Today marks National Fitness Day in the UK and in Ireland, many parents are concerned about their own children’s fitness.
Assistant Professor in Physical Education (PE) Brendan O’Keefe told The Hard Shoulder Ireland doesn’t “have the facilities to support physical activities in the best way possible”.
“The average time allocated to PE in secondary schools has actually decreased over the past 10 years by about 10 minutes,” he said.
“And this is this is coming from a very, very low base in Ireland where we average about half of what many countries throughout Europe get.
Prof O’Keefe said about one in 10 schools in Ireland don’t have indoor facilities, either.
“We're all well aware of the weather conditions in Ireland,” he said.
“The reality is we don't have the facilities to support physical activity in the best way possible.”
Primary school teachers 'limited'
While recent reports show a “minor” increase in physical activity in teenagers and children, Prof O’Keefe believes the facilities available for PE needs to be improved.
He agreed with previous suggestions made by Tánasite Micheál Martin to introduce dedicated PE teacher in primary schools.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is great work being done in general PE by teachers in primary schools,” he said.
“But the training [teachers] receive at third-level is obviously limited in terms of how much time they need to devote to all the other subject areas.
“So, I would absolutely support the idea of specialist teachers – you could maybe even look at the idea of a regional officer [for PE] so you don’t just have one for each school.”
Prof O’Keefe also said there is “enough research” to show children need less homework.
“Less homework is giving opportunities to children to spend more time doing leisure time activities,” he said.
“That doesn't necessarily just mean physical activity, which obviously is a great focus, but also reading and other tasks as well.
“There are several schools throughout the country doing excellent work with children outside of school hours.”
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