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Inspectors slate vital PE classes in schools

09-06-2008


Inspectors slate vital PE classes in schools
09/06/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Vital physical education classes for children are being ruined by poor quality lessons and substandard facilities, in-spectors have found.

Pupils are being taught PE in halls in urgent need of refurbishment and teaching is considered 'good' in only half of secondary schools.

In a succession of reports over 10 years, obtained by The Irish News, inspectors found numerous faults and concluded that many schools required "substantial improvements".

The shortcomings have come to light amid concerns about an un-precedented surge in childhood obesity. One in five boys and one in four girls in P1 are already overweight or obese.

A charity also warns today that obesity could drive the number of people with diabetes in Northern Ireland up by nearly 50 per cent by 2025.

PE is a statutory element of the revised curriculum with the government saying it helps children develop positive relationships and respect for the differing capabilities of others as well as contributing to a healthier lifestyle.

According to the Education and Training Inspectorate, survey inspections and routine visits showed that PE provision was worse in post-primary schools than in primary schools it saw.

Accommodation was sufficient to implement fully the requirements of the curriculum in just a quarter of secondary schools.

In more than a third it was deemed adequate but "in urgent need of refurbishment" and in the same number there was inadequate accommodation.

In primary schools inspectors often found a lack of storage space in halls due to chairs, pianos and other large items, which also caused health and safety hazards.

Accommodation in 29 per cent was deemed poor, while more than a third of indoor facilities were multi-purpose spaces and unavailable for PE for a significant part of the day.

While most schools had a play or grass area, some were in such poor condition they could not be used for much of the year.

A lack of changing facilities for older children required attention.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane last night said PE was vital to the curriculum and an enjoyable way for children to engage in a healthier lifestyle.

"As well as sport, physical activity including walking and dance have the benefit of helping motivate children and young people and build their confidence," she said.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Many children are not as physically active as they should be and this is contributing to our levels of obesity.

"Being obese as a child can store up problems for the future and can lead to a reduction in life expectancy."

 

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