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Dublin: 1 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019

'My 12-year-old son's bag weighs 1.8 stone': How to tackle heavy school bags

“If you asked adults to go around their job carrying that amount of weight, they wouldn’t do it.”

Image: Shutterstock/bysora

LATER TODAY, A government committee is to hear submissions on the possible effects the weight of schoolbags have on children, and will be accepting submissions.

Representatives from the National Parents Council Primary, the National Parents Council Post Primary, and Dr Sara Dockrell, Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin will be sharing their experiences of school bag weights, and putting their suggestions forward about what can be done about it.

The issue of school bag weights is not something new – every September the national and local airwaves are full of parents shocked and concerned at the daily weight their children carry on the way to school.

Up until now, it’s been up to schools and parents to talk about the best way to tackle school bag weights – through what school books are chosen for the curriculum and considering facilities on school grounds to keep the books overnight.

But even lockers don’t solve the problem completely, as secondary school students would have to bring books home with them to do homework.

shutterstock_95757967 Source: Shutterstock/Zurijeta

On Monday, a father spoke to a local radio station about his 12-year-old son’s school bag weighing 1.8 stone (11.4kg).

“All the books he brought home he needs to bring home because it’s relevant to his work,” the man told OceanFM.

“It wasn’t that he was bringing books home needlessly without checking that he could leave them in lockers. And that’s the way it’s been since he started first year.”

The man said he was thinking back to his two older sons and it was the same with them: “it hasn’t changed at all, if anything it’s gone worse.”

If you asked adults to go around their job carrying that amount of weight, they wouldn’t do it.

Paul Beddy is one of 20 directors at the National Parents Council Post Primary, and helped draft their submission to the committee today.

He says that every September the issue of heavy school bags becomes their “single biggest complaint”.

In 1998, the government developed a working group to develop ways of tackling the issue. The recommendations were compiled and have been reissued twice since – the last time was in 2005.

“After 18 years since the review was published, it’s time to start an implementation.

“In fairness to the department they’ve been issuing reminders, but it’s gaining very little traction. One of the recommendations is that the school should discuss with parents and teachers within the school about reducing the weight, but that hasn’t happened in a lot of cases.”

Some of the worries around heavy school bags are chronic back problems later in life, which could have serious implications for the future health of these children.

“This could be a freight train coming down the tracks for the state. We’re talking here about duty of care, [which is the responsibility of] educators and parents, and we’re flagging this as being important to solve.”

The committee on Children and Youth Affairs will begin today at 10. You can watch a livestream from Committee Room 1 here.

Read: One part of the world is tackling heavy school bag problems by setting weight limits

Read: End of heavy schoolbags? Students welcome eBooks to classrooms

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