Primary education is designed to cater for the intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical development of the child. Physical education is part of the prescribed curriculum for primary schools and is a very important element of every child's educational experience. In teaching physical education, schools can be influential in promoting a healthy lifestyle as well as teaching a wide range of physical skills.
Schools are required to teach physical education for at least one hour per week and have discretion to teach physical education for longer periods, if school authorities believe that physical education is an educational priority for their pupils.
Physical education is included in the programme for pre-service education for all teachers and a number of teachers also take additional elective courses in various aspects of physical education, such as aquatics and games. Additionally, in-service courses in physical education are provided by education centres and other agencies as part of the summer programme of professional development for primary teachers. All primary teachers are therefore fully qualified to teach the physical education curriculum in primary schools.
My immediate plan for physical education for primary schools will involve providing a comprehensive programme of in-service training for primary teachers to support the implementation of the revised physical education curriculum. To this end, a dedicated team of 26 specialist teachers has been recruited to the primary curriculum support programme where they will design a programme of in-service training. Training in the implementation of the revised physical education curriculum is planned for all primary teachers in 2003-04 and 2004-05.
There are 3,291 national primary schools in Ireland, including special schools. My Department does not have a comprehensive record of physical education facilities available to primary schools at present.