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Dublin: 7°C Monday 26 October 2020

Ireland bottom of European table for PE time in primary schools

The EU’s physical health body reveals that every other EU state spends more time on primary physical education than we do.

Image: Pan Xunbin via Shutterstock

PUPILS IN IRELAND’S primary schools spend less time in Physical Education classes than those of any other European member state, a new report has found.

The European Union’s education information network Eurydice says that in both absolute and proportionate terms, Ireland has fewer hours of compulsory PE classes than any other EU member, and of other developed European countries.

Irish primary pupils have about 37 hours of PE classes throughout a school year – with every other country demanding at least 45 hours a year.

In France, by comparison, primary pupils will typically have PE classes for a total of 108 hours over the year – nearly three times as much as their Irish counterparts.

In proportionate terms, Irish pupils spend only 4 per cent of their schooltime in PE class – while students in Croatia, which will join the EU in four months, spent 15 per cent of their primary school time being physically exerted.

The figures are marginally better at second level, where Irish pupils spend an average of 45 hours a year in physical activity – putting Ireland third from bottom, behind only Malta (31 hours) and Spain (35 hours).

France again leads the way at second level, at 108 hours per year, ahead of Austria (102 hours) and Portugal (90 hours).

The report says the time spent by Irish pupils in PE class is “consistently low”, and remarks that Ireland is the only EU member state not to have some sort of national PE grading system at either primary or second level.

It recommends that Ireland adopt a system similar to those used in other countries, where a specialised teacher is appointed to take PE classes at either primary or second level. This could be someone who is already on staff at a school.

The Eurydice report has some praise for Ireland, however, as one of only three European countries to have a mandatory class on health education in its curriculum. Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory subject for the Junior Certificate.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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