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.
Where a recreation interval or break of a longer duration than the foregoing are taken (for example when children are allowed to have lunch in the classroom prior to the official commencement of the recreation interval) the length of the school day must be extended correspondingly.
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.
Hygiene is one of the topics 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.
At Post primary, SPHE is compulsory up to Junior Cycle and Physical Health one element of personal health and well-being. 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.