7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
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Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, 2014-2020 aims to ensure that children and young people are active and healthy, with positive physical and mental wellbeing. Outcome one ‘Active and Healthy’ aims for all children and young people to be physically healthy and able to make positive health choices.
Due to Covid-19 the progression of a new framework, policy successor to Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures has been delayed until 2022.
Get Ireland Active! National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland complements Better Outcomes Brighter Futures. It was published in 2016 and updated in 2019. It aims to help children and young people gain knowledge about and positive experience of physical activity, to ensure that physical activity becomes part of their everyday life. The Get Active! Framework sets out to create a coordinated approach to physical education, physical activity and sport in school and community settings for children and young people. It recognises the need for a coordinated approach to the development and provision of high-quality physical education and the effective delivery of physical literacy programmes.
As of 2021 there are no updates to this Get Ireland Active! Plan.
The National Children's Strategy: Our Children: Their Lives, states that ‘children will have access to play, sport, recreation and cultural activities to enrich their experience of childhood’.
The National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland sets the target of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day for all children and young people aged 2-18 years. This should include muscle-strengthening, flexibility, and bone-strengthening exercises 3 times a week.
The National Sports Policy 2018-2027 sets out a vision for Irish Sport in 2027. It notes the drop-off in the numbers of youths engaged in sports after moving into secondary school and aims to reduce this change. Its high-level goals include:
- Increased participation
- More excellence
- Improved capacity.
Sport Ireland, the statutory agency for sport in Ireland will develop initiatives with the National Governing Body, Local Sports Partnerships, schools, third level institutions, the CARA Centre a national organisation providing a collaborative platform to enhance sport and physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities and other relevant parties to address participation in sport among adolescents and young adults, particularly females, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, persons with a disability, the LGBTI+ community, the Traveller community and other ethnic minorities.
Recognising the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the sports sector, it has been announced that Sport Ireland is to receive an increase of €36 million, bringing the overall budget for 2021 to €104.5 million.
Teenspace: National Recreation Policy for Young People’s action points included:
- Local Sports Partnerships will develop programmes to increase participation in physical activity, promote lifelong involvement and address key issues such as gender bias
- The Irish Sports Council will include in its Strategy on Lifelong Involvement a greater emphasis on recreational sport and non-traditional activities in order to promote physical activity.
Student Sport Ireland CLG is the governing body for third level sport on the island of Ireland. Working for Third Level Sport and Physical Activity is its Strategic Plan for period 2017-2020. It highlights the need for co-ordination between institutions and sectors to increase participation levels in Irish Third Level Sport.
The Sport Ireland Act 2015 established Sport Ireland as the Statutory Agency for sport in Ireland. It is tasked with the development of sport in Ireland. It has developed a network of 29 Local Sports Partnerships to promote sports participation. It targets:
- Young people
- Women and girls
- People with disabilities
- Ethnic minorities
- Disadvantaged areas
- Older adults.
The Local Sports Partnerships’ actions are grouped within four outcome areas:
- Working to develop clubs, coaches and volunteers and supporting partnerships between local sports clubs, community-based organisations, and sector agencies
- Creating opportunities for access to training and education in relation to sports and physical activity provision
- Provision of targeted programmes, events, and initiatives to increase physical activity and sport participation
- Providing information about sport and physical activity to create awareness and access.
- Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people.
The National Sports Policy 2018-2027 includes an action point for the Department of Tourism and Sport to increase their promotion of the positive relationship between sports participation and exam performance, to teachers and parents/guardians. Keeping Them in the Game: Taking Up and Dropping Out of Sport and Exercise in Ireland was a study of participation in sport and exercise. It found there is a significant drop off in engagement in sports during second-level school, especially for girls. The National Sports Policy aims to reduce the drop off that occurs in participation levels around exam years.
The Sports Capital Programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country. It is a Project Ireland 2040 initiative. The Sports Capital Programme’s objectives include assisting Education and Training Boards and schools to develop facilities and provide appropriate equipment to help maximise participation in sport and physical recreation. It also aims to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas and groups (such as people with disabilities) in the provision of sports facilities. All equipment and facilities funded by the Programme must be accessible to people with disabilities, and all capital projects must conform to the principles of universal design.
The 2020 Sports Capital Programme closed for applications in March, 2021. Over 3,100 applications were submitted and the assessment process will take several months.
The Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund aims to provide Exchequer support for larger sports facility projects, which may or may not relate to youth. It relates to projects where the Exchequer investment would be greater than the maximum amount available under the Sports Capital Programme. In some cases, these may be projects where the primary objective will be to increase active participation in sport. In other cases, these may be large scale venues/stadia where the focus is more related to social participation and high-performance sport. The Government has provided a capital allocation of at least €100m over 2018-2027 for the Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund. The first set of allocations were announced on the 10 January 2020, totalling €77.4 million with 25 individual projects benefitting.
The Sports to Impact Fund was created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland in partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development. The Department provides match funding for all philanthropic funds raised by Social Innovation Fund Ireland, via the Dormant Accounts Fund. The goal of the fund is to support the innovative use of sports to improve physical and mental health and to promote social inclusion for children, adolescents, and adults.
In 2017 DCEDIY announced the local youth club equipment scheme, under which €6.35 million was made available to volunteer-led clubs and groups that worked with young people in communities throughout the country. The scheme was designed to support youth work activities at a local level, with priority given to clubs/groups catering for young people aged 10-21 years. The scheme enabled these volunteer-led clubs to purchase equipment for sports, arts, adventure, and other much needed items. The fund is advertised and administered by the Education and Training Boards.
Sport Ireland is the Statutory Agency for sport in Ireland, tasked with the development of sport in Ireland. Sport Ireland Participation Unit works, with Local Sports Partnerships and other partners, to increase participation in sport nationwide. It promotes both local and European initiatives to increase sports participation. Sport Ireland runs an annual campaign to encourage more people to get active more often. This includes social media campaigns and a Physical Activity Week as part of the European Week of Sport. One method Sport Ireland uses to encourage teenage engagement is through its Coaching Children Programmes. These programmes aim to equip coaches with specific knowledge, skills, and competencies to cater for children’s needs. Their goal is to achieve a higher proportion of children gaining both movement skills and love of activity that will remain with them into their teenage years, and eventually adult years. Sport Ireland is committed to the development and implementation of evaluation systems. A mix of quantitative and qualitative tools are used to understand what works when trying to get people to be active, whom it works for and what conditions must exist for it to work. These overarching questions govern all evaluations undertaken across a breadth of Sport Ireland investments.
Local Sports Partnerships were established under Sport Ireland’s (previously the Irish Sports Council) strategy A New Era for Sport 2000-2002. They promote participation in sport at a local level, including giving out grants at a local level. For example, Waterford Sport Partnership has, under its Coaching and Development Funds, allocated 1,697 separate grants totalling €47,379 funding 25 new clubs and 716 coaches from new and established Clubs in Waterford.
The Youth Leadership Programme, which aligns with the National Physical Activity Plan Action Number 48 ‘Develop programmes to address transitions and drop out from physical activity and sport’, develops generic leadership skills that can be applied to a variety of sports and/or recreational situations as well as contributing to the personal development of the learner. The initiative provides training for young people, keeping them engaged, increasing their responsibility, and developing their confidence and self-esteem and supports an opportunity for lifelong volunteering. The programme also has the potential to impact on both early school dropout in disadvantaged areas and dropout rates from sport. It is funded by Sport Ireland through the Dormant Accounts Funds.
Cara is a national pan-disability sport organisation providing a collaborative and partnership platform to increase sport and physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities across Ireland. Cara is funded by Sport Ireland, Institute of Technology of Tralee, and Hyundai. Fit For All was a national initiative aimed at increasing awareness among people with disabilities, families/carers and disability services on the benefits of regular exercise, healthy lifestyles and opportunities to participate within the local community. It took place in October 2020. It was part of The Cara Xcessible Initiative, which aims to heighten participation opportunities for people with disabilities within their communities through the development of a national focused programme implemented at local level through the support of the Local Sports Partnerships’ Sport Inclusion Disability Programme.
Fit for All 2021 took place from the 11th to the 17th of October 2021.
Student Sport Ireland CLG is the governing body for third level sport on the island of Ireland. Its mission is to promote and develop sport and physical activity in third level colleges in Ireland. It is funded by European University Sports Association, Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland, and International University Sports Federation.
The President’s Award (Gaisce) is a self-development programme, targeted at all 15- to 25-year-olds in Ireland. To achieve a Gaisce award, a young person must complete a challenge in 4 different areas of activity:
- physical recreation
- community involvement
- personal skill
- adventure journey.
It is a registered charity funded by Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Central Bank of Ireland, The Ireland Funds, corporate sponsorship, and donations.
During 2020, the Irish government promoted staying active during COVID-19. This campaign included specific guidance for different age groups to stay active during the pandemic. National Active School Week took place in Ireland in April 2021.
Physical education is not a compulsory subject at secondary school. A new Physical Education for Senior Cycle programmes was introduced as part of a phased implementation from 2018 and rolled out as an optional subject to all schools in 2020. Under the programmes, physical education can take place within secondary schools as an optional examined Leaving Certificate Physical Education (LCPE) subject and/or as an unexamined Senior Cycle Physical Education Framework (SCPE). Prior to 2018, physical education had never been examined as part of the Leaving Certificate (the state examination for the senior cycle of second level).
LCPE is designed to be taught in approximately 180 hours. It has two strands. Strand 1 Topics are:
- Learning and improving skill and techniques
- Physical and psychological demands of performance
- Structures, strategies, roles and conventions
- Planning for optimum performance.
Strand 2 Topics are:
- Promoting physical activity
- Ethics and fair play
- Physical activity and inclusion
- Technology, media and sport.
There are three assessment components in LCPE:
- Physical activity project – 20%
- Performance assessment – 30%
- Written examination – 50%.
Typically, teachers need a relevant qualification recognised by the Teaching Council to teach physical education. A programme of continuing professional development became available to teachers who are timetabled to teach LCPE from September 2020.
According to the Physical Education Framework ‘Physical education is an integral part of young people’s education in senior cycle’. SCPE took effect from September 2020 and is guided by the Physical Education Framework. SCPE aims to encourage students to participate in physical activity in a confident, enjoyable and informed way, both during the senior cycle and in their future lives. The Framework is structured around six curriculum models. Each model provides a detailed map, including a rationale, planning, implementation and assessment guidance. The models are:
- Health-related physical activity
- Sport education
- Contemporary issues in physical activity
- Adventure education
- Personal and social responsibility
- Teaching games for understanding.
The National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland are aim at “everyone involved in promoting health and physical activity in Ireland including:
- teaching and non-teaching staff at pre-school, primary, secondary and third level;
- youth workers such as youth club leaders, children’s activity club leaders and after-school service leaders”.
Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport for Children and Young People A Guiding Framework. sets out the roles of different school stakeholders in promoting physical education, physical activity and sport (PEPAS). Each board of management should ensure that their school plan includes a PEPAS plan and that school partners (including the trustees/patron, parents and young people) are consulted about its content. It sets out a range of measures through which the principal can support the preparation and implementation of an effective PEPAS programme. Post-primary physical education teachers have the potential to act as a key reference point in the development and implementation of the PEPAS plan. All teachers and staff have a role in the promotion of a physical activity culture within the school. Young people should be encouraged to be active agents in their own learning when involved in physical education, co-curricular or community-based physical activities or sport.
The Active School Flag is awarded to schools that strive to achieve a physically educated and physically active school community. The process aims to get more schools, more active, more often. It is a Department of Children, Education, Disability, Integration and Youth initiative supported by Healthy Ireland.
The National Sports Policy 2018-2027 includes that ‘All entities in our sporting community will be highly regarded for the quality of their staff and volunteers, their standards of governance, ethics and accountability, and their spirit of collaboration including with partners beyond the sporting sector’.