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01st Feb 2020

New report with alarming finds about Irish children’s health, fitness and development

Trine Jensen-Burke

According to new research by Dublin City University, a quarter of Irish primary school pupils can’t run properly and half don’t know how to kick a ball.

The alarming results, which were presented earlier this week by health and fitness expert Professor Niall Moyna of the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University (DCU), comes after researchers worked with more than 2,000 youngsters aged five to 12 from all over Ireland.

Participants for the study were recruited from 44 schools across 12 counties, but the results shocked the researchers, who say mastering these skills is a significant milestone and is achievable by the age of eight.

What this means, essentially, is that by the time they are 10, one in four Irish children cannot run properly, half cannot kick a ball properly, and fewer than one in five can throw a ball.

By the age of 12, the Dublin-based researchers found, only 53 percent of the children had mastered locomotor skills, 55 percent scored in object control skills and 61 percent of children achieved mastery or near mastery in balance.

This is worrying, says DCU’s Dr Stephen Behan to the Irish Independent, who expressed concern about the results of the study, which he said were the most comprehensive of its kind ever produced in Ireland.

“Pupils need more exercise in school to reduce anxiety.”

And Professor Barbara Dooley of UCD’s School of Psychology, who the lead investigator in the MyWorld survey, agrees, explaining that depression and anxiety are two of the major problems affecting students in Ireland.

Previous statistics have shown that children’s participation in sports drops significantly by the time they reach their teen years, and this study can go a long way in explaining why says Behan, who expressed concerns over “the poor levels of basic skills in Irish children.”

“If children don’t have a solid foundation of basic movement skills, how can we expect them to do more complex skills as part of organised sport?”