Written Answers. - Weight of Schoolbags.

Billy Timmins

Question:

41 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if the recommendations in the report on the weight of children's school bags have been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21683/02]

A working group was set up in autumn 1997 to examine the potential problems caused by the weight of heavy school bags. The terms of reference of the working group were to consider the issue of heavy school bags and in particular the extent of the problem; the factors which contribute to the problem; and possible implications of the problem, particularly for the health of pupils.

The group was also asked to formulate proposals to alleviate problems associated with the weight of schoolbags. The group presented its report in July 1998.

The group's report outlined a number of recommendations that had implications not only for my Department but for schools, parents and publishers. I have asked my officials to forward a copy of the report to the Deputy.

The report acknowledged that many of the solutions belong at local school level and one of the main recommendations related to the need to heighten the awareness of the potential health hazards posed by excessively heavy schoolbags.

In this regard my Department, at primary and post-primary levels, initiated an awareness raising campaign by disseminating the report, with an accompanying circular, to all primary and post-primary schools. Furthermore, information leaflets and posters were also distributed to all schools highlighting the potential health hazard of heavy schoolbags and outlining a range of local measures that could be adopted to alleviate the problem. It is a matter for each school to choose those measures that would be most suited to its needs.

The report acknowledges that many factors contribute to the problem and it therefore follows that any solution requires action not just from my Department and school authorities but from parents, publishers of educational books and from students themselves.

I am satisfied that my Department's campaign was a success in bringing about a heightened awareness of the potential problem of heavy schoolbags among all the parties concerned.

In light of the actions already taken by my Department, particularly the dissemination of the report of the working group to all schools as part of an awareness raising initiative, I consider that the recommendations of the working group in relation to my Department have been implemented.