More than 25% of secondary school students get one session or less of sport outside class time each week, it emerged today.
The number of girls getting so little exercise is substantially higher than boys at 38% and 17% respectively.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Irish Sports Council study found teachers who give their time outside formal teaching hours to organise extra-curricular sporting activities are at the heart of the delivery of children’s sport in Ireland.
Adult volunteers in sports clubs outside school also make a significant contribution, the study revealed.
Almost half of secondary school students get four or more sessions of sport per week from these two sources combined, while a further 26% get two to three sessions of sport per week from these sources.
Sports Minister John O’Donoghue said the report highlighted the immense value of the voluntary input of teachers and adults in the community in encouraging kids to participate in sport.
“This is a phenomenon that should be applauded and supported,” he said.
“The information gathered from the research undertaken for this project and the report’s many recommendations will now be examined in the context of developing future policy for sport and physical activity.”
The study is based on surveys carried out by the ESRI of 7,300 school children in 217 primary and second-level schools across Ireland.
The samples included students from fifth class in primary school up to sixth year in second-level schools.
Ossie Kilkenny, Chairperson of the Irish Sports Council, said his organisation was determined to widen the evidence base for Irish sport policy.
“The research provides us with a much deeper understanding of the dynamics of sport in Ireland which in turn will allows the Council to plan essential participation initiatives which will sustain sport into the future,” he added.
Apart from extra-curricular school sport and non-school sport, physical education (PE) class is an important third pillar of children’s sport but it accounts for only a small proportion of children’s sporting activity.
The average student in secondary school gets 69 minutes of PE per week, compared to the two hours per week recommended in the syllabus.
However, PE is significant as the main source of professional expertise i the otherwise non-professional world of children’s sport.
The report found it has an important potential role to play in supporting the non-professionals who are the main providers of children’s sport, especially the non-PE teachers who run extra-curricular sport in schools.
John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, said the report will be an invaluable resource in developing sports policy.
“It highlights the enormous support that sport enjoys among young people and the positive role that it plays in their lives,” he said.
“However, it also raises important challenges such as the drop-off in participation as young people approach adulthood. This is especially marked among women and is something we need to address.”