Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Sport, Kevin O’Keeffe is calling for a bigger, and more unified response as evidence points to a reduction in physical activity, among Irish youth, especially young girls.

Deputy O’Keeffe was commenting after research from Irish Life Health which showed that secondary school boys are 42% fitter than girls of the same age.

“I’ve written to the Minister for Sport, and officials in Sport Ireland have been in touch with me outlining their efforts to improve the physical health and wellbeing of young Irish people.

“There are some excellent projects being rolled out across the country targeting girls, and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, to get involved in physical activity and sport.

“However, there isn’t a programme in every county, and I would be concerned that without a unified response, too many young people will fall through the gaps, and be lost to the benefits of physical activity for life.

“One issue which I feel needs addressing is the roll out of the Junior and Senior Cycle Physical Education courses in secondary schools, and also the provision of Physical Education at primary level.

“At primary level, Fianna Fáil supports the employment of PE teachers, on a shared basis, to increase the level and quality of physical education on offer to children.

“A quality experience of PE at primary level has been shown to increase the numbers of young people continuing to partake in physical activity and sport, during school and outside of school.

“Equally, at second level, we need to ensure that the full range of physical education is taught, and not just what are traditionally known as invasion games, such as football, hurling, rugby and soccer.

“While of interest to many, and in particular boys, these activities have a tendency to put off girls from taking part.

“The Department of Education must work with the Department of Sport, and local authorities, to ensure that as many schools can avail of community sporting facilities so that the full range of activities is taught.

“Swimming, gymnastics, dance and athletics are all full components of both the Junior and Senior Cycle PE syllabi; however, due to the requirement for additional facilities and equipment are often not taught in schools.

“By increasing the breadth and scope of PE in schools, I believe we can ensure that more girls get involved, and stay involved, and eventually ensure that all our young people are as fit as they should be,” concluded O’Keeffe.