Weighty problem in schools

Childhood obesity is an epidemic in Galway’s classrooms, a Dáil committe has been told.

Galway City primary school teacher Claire Heneghan, of Scoil Rois, Taylor’s Hill, revealed that larger uniform sizes are now the norm among Galway primary school children who are becoming more obese.

She blamed the increase on ‘cotton wool kids’, who spend most of their time indoors glued to TV and laptop screens.

“I see evidence of obesity every day in the classroom. One in five primary schoolchildren is now obese. In a junior infant classroom where children are four or five years old, uniform size can vary from size four to five all the way up to a much greater size.

“The larger size is now becoming the more uniform size. Obesity is a real problem,” said Ms Heneghan, who completed a master’s degree in science and exercise in 2013, specialising in childhood obesity.

She was speaking at Dáil Éireann at an Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills entitled, ‘Tackling Obesity and the Promotion of Healthy Eating in Schools’.

She told the committee how physical activity should be promoted throughout the school day in order to combat the root causes of the obesity crisis facing young people.

Having researched the practices in other countries, Ms Heneghan said break times are not fully being utilised in Ireland to fight the epidemic.

“My recommendation is clear,” she told Oireachtas members at the hearing.

“We need to utilise break times in a significant way to help raise children’s activity levels. In New Zealand, the United States, Australia and even in Scotland, activity co-ordinators have been employed in clusters of schools to promote physical activity in students. They are qualified PE and health promotion practitioners.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.