'Highly worrying' government report finds just one in seven kids active enough

The Department of Sport is “urgently examining” the findings of the Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study
'Highly worrying' government report finds just one in seven kids active enough

5 December 2022; In attendance at the launch of Sport Ireland’s new “It’s My Time” campaign, are, from left, Fiona Mansergh, Healthy Ireland, Una May, Sport Ireland Chief Executive, Sis Edith, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, Jack Chambers TD, Patrice Dockery, Anne Adedoyin, Republic of Ireland Manager, Vera Pauw, Mary McCarthy, Women’s Health Taskforce and Nora Stapleton, Women in Sport Lead, Sport Ireland. The new initiative from Sport Ireland and Healthy Ireland looks to encourage women who are over 40 to make time for themselves and increase their activity levels through sport and exercise. For more information on It’s My Time, visit www.sportireland.ie/itsmytime. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

A SHOCKING new report has revealed that only one in seven young people are sufficiently physically active with much of the blame placed on inadequate physical education standards in schools.

The Department of Sport is “urgently examining” the findings of the Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study which were described by Minister for Sport Jack Chambers as “a highly worrying and concerning situation that clearly requires a robust and considered response”.

Many of the issues blamed - for only 13% of children participating in a healthy amount of sport – will focus on the poor quality of physical education standards in schools, where students were frustrated by the quality and delivery of services.

“The current situation where only one in seven young people are sufficiently physically active to benefit their long-term health is not an acceptable state of affairs,” said Minister Chambers.

“No matter what the reasons, we simply have to achieve improvements in this area. We now have a menu of potential remedies and actions which my Department are now urgently examining.”

Such a low sport participation number amongst young people was blamed on a range of nine shortfalls including access to facilities and coaching.

The issue of physical education in schools is one which the Department of Education has repeatedly failed to correct through successive administrations, but with numbers now at such low levels the report requires immediate action.

Students say they are frustrated with the insufficient time dedicated to PE, and the scope of limited activities that they said were available in their schools, with too much emphasis on team sports and not enough on individual disciplines.

The report found: “Students said that often only a handful of sports, especially major field sports, would be focused on. There was too much emphasis on team sports, more attention should be given to individual or less popular sports. Students also said that they wanted to see a greater focus in PE about the science and facts around physical activity.” 

Other findings in the study – delayed from 2018 – concluded a need for “more sports facilities to address the current gaps”, greater cross-cooperation to “share existing facilities more, especially between schools and local communities” and the need to “prioritise the development of multi-sport facilities”.

The survey also found that school uniforms were unsuitable for physical activities and there was a greater need for improvements in coaching standards.

The report was compiled in response to a research document which had three main aims:

• To understand participation levels in sport, physical activity, physical education and active transport for Irish and Northern Irish children.

• To understand the impact of sport and physical activity on physical, mental and social health for Irish and Northern Irish children.

• Provide policy insight on physical activity initiatives aimed at children.

It was based on a survey of 6,651 children aged 10-18 from the island of Ireland, with data collected from six areas: physical activity, community sport, school sport, physical education, active travel and sedentary behaviour.

The report said that “whilst the findings showed some positives such as an increase in post primary students meeting the Department of Education guidelines of 120 minutes a week (10% in 2010 vs 23% in 2018), they also highlighted some challenging issues such as only 13% of children being sufficiently active to meet the recommended national guideline of 60 minutes physical activity a day”.

The findings acknowledged that “increasing the number of young people taking part in sport and physical activity is consequently considered a policy priority.” 

The reasons for the four-year delay in the report being compiled was blamed on Covid, which prevented “a wide representation of views from across Irish society”.

Those views were gathered at a forum hosted by the Department of Sport - with support from the Department of Education - last May, attended by 100 children and boxer Kellie Harrington.

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