Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Questions (234)

Kathleen Funchion


234. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on whether the rushed nature of lunch breaks and snack breaks in primary and post-primary schools is conducive to combating the rise in obesity and other health issues in children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5169/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

At primary level, circular 11/95 “Time in School” paragraph 3 states that a typical school day for Junior classes is 4 hours and 40 minutes and Senior classes 5 hours and 40 minutes with appropriate recreation i.e. 30 minutes. Under the Rules for National Schools, forenoon and afternoon breaks of five minutes each are allowed.

Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the Board of Management is responsible for the day to day running of a school. The arrangement within the recreation interval for pupils to eat their lunch is a matter for each Board of Management to determine. My Department has not issued guidelines to schools in this regard.

My Department works closely with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive on the Healthy Ireland agenda. My Department is represented on a number of groups including the National Physical Activity Plan Implementation Group and on the Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group.

Healthy Lifestyles guidance issued to post primary schools in 2015 and primary schools in 2016. This guidance was drafted in consultation with the Department of Health.

My Department acknowledges the commitment of schools in promoting healthy lifestyle choices for students in a number of ways - the curriculum – for example Physical Education and Social Personal Health Education (SPHE); through schools policy including healthy lunch policies and by the use of resources and programmes chosen by the school. The Active School Flag (ASF) is one such programme. Work by my Department in this area aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge to enable them to make the right choices for healthy lifestyles throughout their lives.

The primary curriculum is currently undergoing a process of review and redevelopment, which includes SPHE and the time allocated. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) will publish a draft overview of a redeveloped primary curriculum in autumn 2019. This draft will be the basis for an extensive consultation which will feed into the overall shape and direction of a redeveloped curriculum.

At Post primary, SPHE is compulsory at Junior Cycle and Physical Health is an element of SPHE. In year one, the module focuses on life-style patterns that support good physical health.