Dublin City University and the Irish Heart Foundation are joining forces to roll out an ambitious new physical activity knowledge and movement programme to help over 200,000 teenagers at Junior Certificate cycle get moving.
The new initiative called Y-PATH PE 4 ME (Youth-Physical Activity Towards Health) is a 3-year evidence based programme which has proved effective for improving both physical activity levels and fundamental movement skills among Irish teens aged 12-15.
The programme was developed in response to extensive research led by Dr Sarahjane Belton, DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance, which found that only 1 in 5 Irish young people aged 12-15 are getting enough physical activity; 1 in every 4 are overweight or obese and fewer than 1 in every 100 have mastered basic fundamental movement skills. Fundamental movement skills are basic physical skills such as running, jumping, catching, throwing and kicking which children should master around the age of six or seven.
The research also found that youths who are not active don’t understand the importance and benefits of daily activity now and in their futures. Low levels of physical activity are a significant risk factor associated with heart disease and stroke.
Traditional PE class has at times been criticised for over-emphasising games and competitive activities, which can alienate inactive young people, and move them further away from a physically active lifestyle.
PE teachers in Ireland have long been moving away from this approach. Y-PATH PE 4 ME was developed to support PE professionals in helping every child to lead a sustained physically active life through PE.
Y-PATH PE 4 ME focuses on fostering a climate in PE that is inclusive, enjoyable and engaging; an environment that develops the knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviours needed for lifelong participation in healthful physical activity.
The overarching objective of Y-PATH PE 4 ME is to change how young people in Ireland perceive and experience PE class which is now a compulsory part of the wellbeing curriculum at schools. DCU and the Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with UCC, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and Sport Ireland will roll out a nationwide professional development programme and toolkits to PE (Physical Education) teachers in every school across the country with a target of reaching over 200,000 teens over the next three years.
The programme will focus on the delivery of PE in a way that is child centred and fosters positive attitudes and motivations for physical education class, and also encourages a healthy mindset around the benefits of physical activity and its impact on a person’s social, emotional and physical development.
Key Features of the Y-PATH PE 4 ME programme include:
● Comprehensive toolkit for PE teachers to help integrate health related activity and fundamental movement skills across their PE programmes at Junior Cycle.
● Resources for PE at Junior Cycle to help prepare students for engagement with Leaving Certificate PE when they progress.
● Sets of lesson plans, posters, and student activity journals to support learning in PE class.
● Resources to support engagement of all teachers in schools in the promotion of healthy active behaviour in young people beyond the PE class.
● Resources and strategies to engage parents and help develop an understanding of how they too can help their children to get more active more often and improve their health.
Dr Sarahjane Belton, Lecturer in Physical Education, Dublin City University School of Health and Human Performance said:
“All of the research we have carried out over the past ten years points clearly to one thing – as a nation we are failing our children in terms of their physical health and wellbeing.
We are all aware of the importance of literacy and numeracy for our young people, it is not disputed. Physical literacy is arguably far more important – it is about the health of our children now and into their adulthood, protecting them from the range of chronic diseases related to inactivity.
Y-PATH PE 4 ME is a whole school programme, developed with PE teachers, that has been proven to positively impact physical activity and the fundamental movement skill ability of young people. It is about helping all young people to realise that PE is for them.
We have a highly trained team of health professionals in our schools in Ireland – our PE teachers. Y-PATH PE 4 ME was developed with PE teachers for PE teachers – to help and address this epidemic of physical ‘illiteracy’ that we are facing, and teach PE for Wellbeing in a way that really changes the health of young people.
We all have a role to play in enabling our young people in Ireland to lead sustained active lives – to ensure their own health and Wellbeing. This includes schools and parents, all the way up to Government.
This does not sit at the door of the PE teacher, but PE class is a great place to set the foundations we need, while the rest of the child's environment continuously supports the message.”
Laura Hickey, Irish Heart Foundation Children and Young People Programme Manager, said:
"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 Irish Heart Foundation we are already seeing the early signs of heart disease in children as young as eight years old. Almost one third of children in Ireland are now overweight. One in ten boys and one in 11 girls are obese.
The Irish Heart Foundation is committed to tackling childhood obesity through a range of measures. Y-PATH PE 4 ME is an ideal opportunity to support children, their teachers and parents to reverse the declining rates of physical activity we see in our teenagers today.
Y-PATH PE 4 ME 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 programme 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. For more information, visit www.irishheart.ie.
Dr Johann Issartel, Dublin City University School of Health and Human Performance said;
“Y-PATH PE 4 ME aims to support PE teachers, on a daily basis, in integrating well-being principles in their classes. The integration of well-being is modelled around a motivational climate highlighting that PE is 4 all. We want each child to feel that “Yes , PE is 4 me".
After 10 years developing this grounded research programme, this new venture, in partnership with the Irish Heart Foundation, will bring Y-PATH PE 4 ME to the doorsteps of all schools in the country.”
Dr Wesley O’Brien, University College Cork said;
“Y-PATH PE 4 ME is a whole school programme targeting an improvement in the physical literacy of Irish young people. It’s strength is that it’s multicomponent – it focuses heavily on PE, but also involves whole school and parents in an effort to create the best climate possible for physical activity for young people.”
In PE class the Y-PATH PE 4 ME programme provides strategies, resources and supports to help teachers integrate core physical literacy principles throughout all of their lessons. It’s about motivating all children to be active to the best of their abilities, and to develop the skills and capacities they need for a lifetime of healthy physical activity.”