The Physical Education Association of Ireland (PEAI) welcomes the publication of the ‘COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe and sustainable reopening of Post Primary schools’. The guidelines provide a comprehensive roadmap for all stakeholders. In particular, we were heartened by the proposal that extra Physical Education time may be allocated in schools where possible to support our students’ physical and mental wellbeing.
However, we are extremely concerned with communications from the Department of Education advocating that our school leaders consider converting Physical Education halls into seated classrooms. We acknowledge that the Covid-19 pandemic has and will dramatically transform the way in which education systems function in Ireland for the foreseeable future. The new learning environments for pupils, teachers and school leaders will be unrecognisable to ensure everyone’s safety from the virus.
Notwithstanding these necessary changes, it is imperative that indoor activity hall spaces be reserved for Physical Education lessons during school hours. Our subject has made significant strides in recent years with the introduction of three new curriculums, one at Junior Cycle and two at Senior Cycle, Senior Cycle PE and Leaving Certificate examinable PE. The contribution of Physical Education to the cognitive, social and physical development of the child has been well documented in many research studies and should not be sacrificed. The conversion of Physical Education halls into seated classrooms would have far reaching negative consequences for our students cognitive, social and physical wellbeing, and undermine the historical progress made in recent years.
We will keep our members updated on any further correspondence from the Minister and the Department of Education and we will be in contact with our members again in August as we prepare for a return to school.
Le gach dea-ghuí,
Physical Education Association of Ireland Executive Committee