Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Questions (108)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

108. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the policy of not including general purpose and physical education rooms in existing schools in the capital plan; his views on whether physical education is an essential part of the school curriculum; his further views on whether the challenge of childhood obesity is one of the most significant health challenges being faced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50437/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

As the Deputy is aware, under the National Development Plan (NDP), increased funding has been provided for the school sector capital investment programme. This funding allows for a continued focus on the provision of new permanent school places to keep pace with demographic demand and also provides for an additional focus on the refurbishment of existing school buildings, to include the building and modernisation of PE facilities.

Under Project Ireland 2040, we will invest €8.4 billion in primary and post primary school buildings. The government is committed to a PE Hall build and modernisation programme, starting in the second half of the Project Ireland 2040 period.

The provision of general purpose rooms and PE Halls form part of the accommodation brief for all newly established schools. These facilities may also form part of the overall accommodation brief for major capital extensions to existing schools.

These measures will ensure that students in all post-primary schools can have access to state of the art facilities to support PE provision, particularly also in the context of the roll-out of PE as a Leaving Certificate subject.

A new specification for examinable Leaving Certificate Physical Education (LCPE) subject and a new non-examinable Framework for Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) were introduced on a phased basis from September 2018.

The examinable LCPE specification is currently being delivered in 64 schools and will be examined for the first time in 2020. The national rollout of Leaving Certificate Physical Education will commence from September 2020.

40 schools are participating in Phase 1 rollout of the Framework during the 2018/19 and 2019/20 school years. The Framework is available now to all schools for their consideration in planning for Senior Cycle Physical Education. From September 2020, the new Framework will replace the existing guidelines set out in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools, which currently form the basis for Physical Education at Senior Cycle.

The Framework is designed to support teachers in planning quality learning in Physical Education for all students in Senior Cycle and will not be assessed as part of the Leaving Certificate examination. It will assist schools to design a physical education programme for senior cycle students, including students who do or do not elect to take Physical Education as a subject for their Leaving Certificate examination. The Framework is structured around six curriculum models and is designed to be taught over two or three years of Senior Cycle.

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 early 2020. 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.