Minister for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne today welcomed a delegation from a number of European countries to learn more about Ireland’s Active School Flag programme.
The Active School Flag is an initiative of the Department of Education and Skills, supported by Healthy Ireland, and is awarded to schools that aim to achieve a physically educated and physically active school community. It aims to get more schools, more active, more often.
The European delegation are part of the CHRODIS PLUS programme, which supports the transfer of good practice health promotion initiatives from one country to another. Experts from a number of countries, including Italy and Lithuania, are looking at Ireland’s Active School Flag initiative as a possible means to generate a more physically active school day in their own countries.
Speaking to the national and international public health and education experts in Dublin today, Minister Byrne said “Through Healthy Ireland, we’re aiming to increase activity levels across the nation. This is particularly important for children, not only for their physical health, but also for team building, to improve confidence and to improve mental health. The Active Schools Flag aims to get ‘more schools more active, more often’, and is a key element in implementing our National Physical Activity Plan. We are delighted that, through CHRODIS PLUS, other EU regions have the opportunity to implement similar programmes in other parts of Europe; we wish them every success in this regard”.
Following briefing from the Departments of Health and Education and Skills, the HSE and the Active School Flag team, the international visitors will visit five primary schools in the Dublin area. At these schools they will witness schoolchildren engaged in activities such as Wake Up, Shake Up; Active School Walkway; ‘Run Around Europe’, active playground initiatives, including playground leaders/active lines and classroom-based physical activity breaks such as the 10@10 and Go Noodle. They will meet with the pupil members of the Active School Flag committee in the schools as well as having discussions with the school principals, staff and parents.
Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, commenting on the visit, said: “I am delighted to welcome educators from European partners to Ireland to learn about the Active School Flag, which is helping schools to achieve a more physically educated and physically active school community. We know how important it is to be physically active, and I would encourage every school, primary and post-primary to consider applying and work towards an Active School flag. This is an important initiative of which we can be justifiably proud.”
All European countries are seeking to support children to reach the recommended guideline of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Integrating physical activity into the daily lives of children is a central goal of member state health and education strategies. Schools play an important role in growing children’s confidence and enjoyment of physical activity, laying the groundwork for active lives as teenagers and adults.
Around 800 schools currently hold Active School Flag status in Ireland and around 160,000 children in these schools are benefitting from enhanced delivery of the physical education curriculum, a more energised school day as well as opportunities for student voice and student leadership on physical activity. Over 1200 of our schools have held an Active School Flag since 2009.
Studies comparing physical activity levels Europe conclude that 11 year old children in Ireland are more active than children in most other European countries, with Ireland coming second behind Finland, with 31% of girls and 45% of boys reporting that they engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) Strategic Planning and Transformation Unit and the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) are representing the Department of Health in Ireland as one of the 21 European countries in the CHRODIS PLUS collaboration. Dr. Cate Hartigan, HSE Assistant National Director, Health Promotion and Improvement said:
“Initiatives such as CHRODIS PLUS provide a wide knowledge base in the area of prevention and management of chronic diseases. The HSE supports a number of programmes which focus on key risk factors including smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and physical activity. These programmes are aimed at consistently highlighting healthier lifestyle behaviour messages across all ages, social classes and geographic areas. Encouraging the early adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviour among children is also key to achieving this” added Dr Hartigan.
Dr Helen McAvoy, Director of Policy at IPH, and a member of the team hosting the CHRODIS PLUS visit, concluded by saying:
“In addition to showcasing Ireland’s Active School Flag initiative, today’s visit is an important opportunity to share learning about the challenges and opportunities we face across Europe in promoting active school days. This site visit is timely coming just days after the launch of the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 which recognises the importance of school-based programmes in supporting children of all abilities to get active in a way that is fun and inclusive”