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A new national study has revealed that 42 per cent of parents in Ireland wrongly believe that their child gets enough physical activity during their school day.

With 90 per cent of secondary schools providing less than two hours of weekly physical education per student, few are receiving their recommended of seven hours a week of exercise from physical education alone. However, 98 per cent of school-age children have screen time every day.

In a survey involving over 70 PE teachers, a significant proportion (82 per cent) claimed that the curriculum must be changed. Over half of the respondents said that they are frustrated with the syllabus and a further 58 per cent stated that it isn’t fit for purpose.

Professor Niall Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance in DCU commented: “Physical education programmes in our schools have huge shortcomings, and the fact that so many of our children are overweight and unfit leaving school is clear proof of this.

“If our children were failing maths leaving school we would quickly look at why – and we need to do the same with PE as it’s simply not working the way it is taught in our schools.

“Physical education In Ireland needs to be made an examinable school subject, and a restructuring to focus on the lifelong health benefits is essential. The current PR curriculum is in crisis and failing our children”, he cautioned.

Girls, in particular, are not meeting the minimum exercise requirements; the national study found that almost two thirds (63 per cent) of parents say their daughters’ physical activity levels already started reducing by their first year of secondary school and almost half (47 per cent) of parents say their child does not participate in after-school sports.

Irish Life Health Schools Fitness Challenge, in collaboration with Professor Niall Moyna in the Centre for Preventive Medicine (DCU) aims to help secondary school students adopt a healthier lifestyle by becoming more physically active.

Last year alone, over a quarter of Irish secondary schools participated, and this year Irish Life Health is offering all schools that register the chance to win a training session with the Olympian track and field athlete, Thomas Barr, for their school.

The national obesity policy reported that one in four children in Ireland are overweight or obese, with the prevalence rate six to seven per cent higher among those attending school in an disadvantaged area.

The HSE has appointed Professor Donal O’Shea as National Clinical Lead for Obesity. Minister Simon Harris welcomed this move, stating: “Professor O’Shea is a leading expert on Obesity and a passionate advocate in this area. I’m delighted that he will now play a leading part in our national effort to tackle this growing problem.

“The appointment of a National Clinical Lead for Obesity is a key action under our national Obesity policy, A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan(OPAP). Professor O’Shea’s appointment will strengthen clinical leadership within the health service across prevention, early intervention and treatment of overweight and obesity. I very much look forward to working with him in his new role”.