DESSIE FARRELL HAS called for greater emphasis to be placed on physical education in schools in Ireland but has revealed that he also believes the subject is unlikely to be soon adopted as an exam subject despite significant research having taken place on the issue.
The chief executive officer of the Gaelic Player’s Association became aware of the significance of the topic during his spell as Dublin minor football manager last year and is adamant that reassessing the status of PE will provide immense societal benefits in the country.
“My understanding is that there has been a body of work find in relation to examining this issue of putting PE as an exam subject. Part of it would be theory, I presume, and part of it would be practical. But my understanding is it’s not going to come to anything. You may get a different view on that if you were to contact the powers-that-be. We have it from a good source that it’s sitting on a shelf and won’t see the light of day any time soon.
“It’s something I became aware of through my involvement with the (Dublin) minor team. You’re asking minor players playing on county squads to commit at a very difficult time of the year because obviously they’ve the Leaving Cert coming up. And it just doesn’t make sense to me that isn’t factored in. The state doesn’t recognise the contribution that these athletes are making in terms of the education curriculum.
“Up North, you can study PE for your A levels. Down here you can’t and I just feel it has a knock-on effect throughout the education system. You’re lucky if you get your half hour a week PE in primary schools. That shouldn’t be the case. I think we should be embracing sport more because it’s about the health and future well-being of society.”
Farrell was speaking yesterday in Dublin City University at the launch of the GPA’s first Community Camp. It is a pilot initiative which is aimed at children that do receive opportunities to engage in such activities and forms part of the organisation’s Social Responsibility Programme. The GPA official has consulted with other bodies on the subject and received their support.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the last six months in relation to this who would be much more knowledgeable. So we’ve kicked it off and there would be other athletes who we’ve spoken to – IRUPA and the PFAI – and they’re very keen. I think business would be interested as well. There are a lot of academics and experts in this field who feel that more could be done. Any investment you will make there will be a return on that in terms of the obesity issue or just general social problems.
“I had a particular example with one young fella on last year’s minor team who came from a very difficult background. It has been sport that has catapulted him out of that particular environment and taken him in a direction that many of his friends in his locality won’t be taking and will end up in trouble. That’s what this (GPA development camp) week is about. It’s a modest attempt but it’s about raising that awareness.”
Farrell also believes that despite Ireland being classed as ‘a sports mad nation’, the levels of participation in the country leave something to be desired. He also outlined his belief that the issue of obesity needs to be tackled and highlighted a simple initiative that was used in Finland as a method of addressing the problem.
“We see ourselves as a sports mad nation but when we strip it all away the participation numbers wouldn’t be as good as they should be. In Finland they had huge issues with obesity 10-12 years ago. They introduced a very simple initiative – after an hour of class or an hour and a half there was a 10-minute active break.
“The kids got up, stood at the sides of their desks and jogged on the spot or did jumping jacks in silence with their teacher leading the way at the top. They did a lot of work about nutrition and healthy eating and diets. They transformed that piece of their lives and that element of society without huge investment.”