Micheál Martin on the Need for Qualified PE Teachers in Ireland
“You’re going to need that.”
Micheál Martin joined Joe Molloy on Off The Ball this week to discuss the state of PE in Ireland. He emphasized the need to improve at the primary school level and stated that Ireland needed designated PE teachers in primary schools to get consistency on a year-to-year basis.
Although falling short of a commitment to change, Martin acknowledged the desperate need for the Irish structure of PE to change when Molloy confronted him with the facts.
Molloy noted that Irish students receive just 37 hours of physical education in a given year. Some European counterparts receive more than 100 hours each year, meaning Ireland was the fourth-worst country in Europe by that measure in 2013.
“Structured PE at primary level has been historically problematic…One of our great negatives of performance has been our focus on the sports side of PE and the games aspects to the neglect of the wider aspects of PE.”
Martin acknowledged that the current system is nothing more than just throwing a ball at students and letting them do whatever they pleased. He highlighted how fitness, nutrition and the well-being aspects of physical health should be emphasized and used as a foundation for primary students who could then go on to study sports science at second and third levels.
Portobello Institute Head of Sport Dr Susan Giblin has written at length about the failings of Irish physical education.
Dr Giblin has noted that the approach to developing motor skills for children in Ireland has been completely unstandardized, “It’s like expecting children to gain literacy skills by simply telling them to spend an hour reading.”
Children need fundamental building blocks to learn how to read. They need the same in physical education to develop motor skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
“Structured primary level physical education delivered by appropriately qualified PE teachers is necessary for developing foundational movement skills. This is particularly true for children aged between four and eight. Foundational movement skills in childhood have been strongly linked with physical activity level later in life.”
Dr Giblin has spent her career in this area. Michael Martin has spent his career in politics. When Molloy asked Martin how things will change over the coming years, he pointed to educating PE teachers:
“If this is something you want to do, you have to work with the education training colleges to say we want a certain cohort of teachers coming out of your colleges that are qualified to teach primary children. That’s a big difference from post-primary and it would be a degree qualification.
Physical education is not an extra. It’s a core part of our everyday lives. It’s who we should be.
It needs to be integrated in terms of teacher allocation.”
When Martin talks about PE teachers who understand how to work with primary school children, he is referring to graduates who have gone through that specific training. Portobello Institute offers degrees for PE teachers that give our students an understanding of motor development, physical literacy, and holistic physical education at both primary and secondary levels.
We prepare graduates to meet the needs of the positive changes in primary education that the Taoiseach speaks of.
If you'd like to read more about the sports degrees and qualifications we carry, you can visit the department page here.
If you are interested in any of our sports courses or have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert sports advisor Sharde Sebastianhere, email@example.com or call 01 892 0029.
Featured in this article: Dr Susan Giblin holds a BSc in Health and Performance Science and an MSc in Performance Psychology. She pursued her PhD and post-doctoral research on the use of technology to assess physical and psychological parameters of development. She is the current Head of Sport at Portobello Institute having previously served as the Head of Research at Kitman Labs. Dr Giblin has been lecturing at Portobello since 2016.