A new way of delivering PE classes in Irish secondary schools has been developed, in an attempt to make the subject more enjoyable for everyone, including those with little or no interest in sport.
Y-PATH PE 4 ME has been developed by the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) and Dublin City University (DCU). It aims to help PE teachers make the subject less competitive and more child-centred, so that students of all abilities will enjoy taking part.
It is aimed at Junior Cycle students.
The IHF noted that PE classes are often criticised for placing a greater emphasis on competitive activities and mandatory participation in team sports that not everyone enjoys. This approach can end up alienating inactive young people, making them less likely to enjoy the subject in school.
The new programme was also developed to respond to the low levels of physical activity and skills found among some young people. Research suggests that some children are reaching secondary school having never learned fundamental movement skills (FMS), such as throwing, catching or kicking a ball.
Y-PATH PE 4 ME aims to develop physical activity levels and FMS proficiency, but it also aims to improve young people's attitudes and motivation in relation to physical activities.
It wants to encourage children of all abilities to take part in and enjoy PE, and central to this approach is the idea that students are given a choice and a say in the activities they would like to do.
The goal is to ensure that all young people can find an activity that they like, can take part in, and ultimately enjoy.
"Y-PATH PE 4 ME is a completely free, Irish programme for physical activity designed by PE teachers for PE teachers. Delivered through the PE module in the school curriculum, it is backed by eight years of Irish research.
"Delivered through a method of blended learning using a mixture of online and face-to-face training, Y-PATH PE 4 ME provides PE teachers with access to a range of resources such as the Y-PATH pack, which includes lesson plans, digital materials, posters, student journals and assessments," the IHF explained.
The programme will also provide nutritional information and materials to teachers, as well information for parents, to help them to help their children to get more active.
Y-PATH PE 4 ME was developed in response to research by Dr Sarah Jane Belton in DCU, which found that just one in five children aged between 12 and 15 in Ireland was getting enough physical activity.
It also found that one in every four was overweight or obese and fewer than one in 100 had mastered basic FMS, such as running, jumping, catching, throwing and kicking a ball. These are skills which children should usually master around the age of six or seven.
The research also found that young people who were not active did not understand the importance of regular physical activity for their health. Low levels of physical activity can increase the risk of a number of serious conditions, including heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
"Only 12% of children and young people are meeting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day. The consequences for their future health are grave. At the IHF, we are already seeing the early signs of heart disease in children as young as eight years old," warned Laura Hickey of the IHF.
She said that the IHF is committed to tackling childhood obesity through a range of measures, including Y-PATH PE 4 ME.
"This is a unique new programme which supports teenagers to become physically active at their own pace, find what they like and what they're good at, all while increasing their movement skills, confidence and understanding of physical activity and how this relates to their health.
"By doing this, the programme has been shown to increase physical activity levels with the hope of developing lifelong healthy behaviours. We're very excited to start rolling this out in the coming months. We'll be holding training sessions for teachers around the country starting this week and we're encouraging PE teachers to visit our website, find out more and sign up to get involved," Ms Hickey added.
For more information on Y-PATH PE 4 ME, click here