Tuesday, 3 February 2015
Department of Education and Skills
533. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the initiatives to deal with obesity that have been taken in the past ten years; the programmes or proposed programmes to deal with this problem being currently rolled out; and if a specific budget is being set aside for this purpose. [4789/15]
My Department is involved in a number of measures to promote student well being as part of the overall government 'Healthy Ireland' agenda that is being led by the Department of Health. This encompasses measures to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and overall healthy lifestyles.
Schools are required to deliver a minimum of 1 hour per week Physical Education at primary level and 2 hours per week at post primary level. In 2012, this Department carried out a Lifeskills Survey in primary and post primary schools. The data indicated that, in addition to this formal PE provision, over 80% of schools encourage not only physical activity and regular exercise during school breaks, but they also facilitate young people's participation in sport outside school time.
My Department's Professional Development Support Service for Teachers (PDST) is currently developing a CPD programme for primary and post primary teachers in P.E.. The initial focus of this professional support will be on developing fundamental movement skills and building the knowledge, skills and capacity of teachers to meet the physical literacy needs of learners through the P.E. curriculum.
The Department also supports the Active Schools Flag. This initiative, which was launched in 2009, recognises schools that provide a quality programme for all students and promote physical activity across the whole school community. A total of 434 primary and 33 post primary schools have achieved an Active Schools Flag to date. More schools are registering to participate each year.
Physical activity by pupils is not the sole remit of schools. PE in schools is designed to complement activity and other lifestyle habits outside of school. In fact, this "whole of life" approach is being adopted in the National Physical Activity Plan, which is currently being finalised by a cross-sectoral working group co-chaired by the Department of Health and the Department of Tourism and Sport. The Department of Education and Skills is a member of this group.
Supporting our young people to acquire the knowledge and develop the skills to make healthier choices in life is also very important to overall student well-being. The issue of promoting healthy eating is addressed in schools through subjects such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Home Economics as well as in PE. With such skills and knowledge it is hoped that our young people will make appropriate choices so that this informed approach will help to reduce the incidence of obesity in our young people.
In my November 2014 proposal on junior cycle, Well-being is included as a compulsory element of a school's junior cycle programme. It would include Physical Education; Social, Personal and Health Education; and Civic Social and Personal Education.
In addition, I will shortly be issuing guidance to all schools about measures to promote healthy lifestyles. This guidance encompasses measures to promote healthy eating, healthy vending, as well as the promotion of P.E. and Physical Activity. The guidance has been drafted in consultation with the Department of Health and the HSE.