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 and my Department has not issued guidelines to schools in this regard. Schools are required to supervise pupils during school time including during breaks and lunch breaks.
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.
Time allocated for hygiene at primary is covered within the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) Curriculum which is allocated a minimum of 30 minutes a week at all levels of primary school. SPHE provides specific opportunities to enable the child to understand himself or herself, to develop healthy relationships and to establish and maintain healthy patterns of behaviour. It is a particular concern of the curriculum to develop in the child respect and care for his or her body. It also enables the child to acquire the knowledge and attitudes that help to promote a healthy lifestyle. As part of this the child should be enabled to recognise and practise basic hygiene skills such as: personal hygiene practices, hygienic eating habits, developing basic skills in dressing himself/herself and caring for clothes, taking proper care of teeth.
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. Body care places emphasis on the importance of washing and body care, especially in adolescence and explores the links between personal hygiene and positive self-image. While in year two, this module revises basic hygiene practices and explores the link between good hygiene habits and self-esteem.