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Irish Times Article – 7 Feb 2017

Are heavy schoolbags really damaging children’s backs?

While many parents fear injuries, experts back benefits of carrying schoolbags

The hardback books, sports equipment and copybooks amounted to a grand total of 15 kilos.“I was horrified,” she says. “That’s the equivalent of two large Tesco bags of potatoes . . . would anyone be happy for their daughter to carry around that weight?”Her daughter – a Junior Cert student at the time – had 13 subjects, with books, copybooks and folders to match.

“I couldn’t watch her with struggling with this heavy bag, so I ended up driving her to school,” Fleming says.

If figures compiled last week are anything to go by, many other parents are doing the same.

Almost a third of parents of primary school pupils said their children could not walk to school because of the weight of their schoolbags, according to a survey by the National Parents Council – Primary.

The council, which gathered more than 3,000 responses in just four days, says it is emerging as the single biggest issue among primary-school parents.

Áine Lynch, the council’s chief executive, said almost 70 per cent of parents reported a significant concern about the weight of bags, while 31 per cent said their children couldn’t walk to school because of the weight.

The issue is of even greater concern among parents of junior secondary school students, who often face a sudden increase in the loads they are forced to carry.

Much of this concern focuses on the impact on the spine, which is at a critical stage of development in children aged between 12 and 14 years.

“The matter is of such as serious nature,” warned Paul Beddy, a director of  the National Parents Council – PostPrimary, “that at some point in the future the implications for this State could be comparable to the claims for Army deafness disability payments.”

An Oireachtas committee chaired by Fine Gael TD Jim Daly heard calls last month for urgent legislation to tackle the issue and for mandatory weight guidelines for schools.But does the evidence for widespread back pain linked to heavy loads among young pupils really stack up?

Dr Sara Dockrell, an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin and physiotherapist, has over 20 years’ experience of research in this area and has published widely in clinical and ergonomics journals.

Despite the siren warnings, she says children should be encouraged to carry schoolbags to and from school.

She notes there is considerable inconsistency in research linking back pain among children to carrying schoolbags.

By contrast, there is far greater evidence showing a link between sedentary lifestyles and obesity among children.

“Walking to and from school while carrying a schoolbag could count as moderate activity and therefore it should be encouraged, and not discouraged,” she told the Oireachtas committee.

“Not carrying a schoolbag could be seen to be a barrier to physical activity and may deny children the benefits of daily resistance exercise as they travel to and from school.”

She carried out the first national study into the issue , published in 2015, which involved examining the impact of carrying schoolbags on more than 500 children.

More than half of these children were driven to school, while just over a third walked.

The majority carried their schoolbag for 10 minutes or less on the way to school. The average schoolbag weight was five kilos.

International research

While some international research shows the weight of a bag should be no more than 10 per cent of a child’s weight, there is a similar volume of research showing the contrary, according to Dr Dockrell.“I’m not suggesting for a minute that we should expect children to carry excessively heavy loads,” she said, “but carrying a weight on your back is not necessarily a problem.”

While the reported level of back pain or shoulder pain among children surveyed in the study was high, she said pain in children was complex and the relationship with carrying a schoolbag was not simple.

For example, her research found that “psychosocial factors” – perception of schoolbag weight and emotional wellbeing – and a history of pain were linked to shoulder pain.

Her research also found non-physical factors – such as the weight of a schoolbag, the duration it was carried or the method of travel to school – were associated with schoolbag-related pain.

Latest international research also does not prove a link between heavy bags and back pain in adolescents; it just shows an association.

Back pain is also caused by sedentary lifestyles: being slumped in front of the TV, for example, leads to weaker back muscles and an increased likelihood of back pain.

And while carrying a heavy bag affects how you walk, there is no evidence that it causes any lasting issues such as scoliosis, which is curvature of the spine.

Notwithstanding the complexities of the issue, politicians feel there is a real public health issue that needs to be tackled urgently.

Jim Daly, chairman of the Oireachtas committee on children, is a former school principal and father-of-four.

He says he was prompted to seek action when he saw that policymakers in his wife’s home country of Estonia were looking at introducing legislation to limit schoolbag weights.

Daly said that, while concerns over schoolbags have been debated over the years, there has been little serious action to minimise potential harm.

Expert group guidelines

The last time these issues were seriously examined in Ireland was 18 years ago, when a Department of Education expert group produced guidelines for schools.The Department responded by sending out a circular letter to both primary and secondary schools advising them of the report’s recommendations and saying that it was “incumbent on school authorities from a health and safety viewpoint to identify the problem where it exists and take whatever steps are appropriate to deal with it”.

“We’ve heard that young students who are carrying unnecessarily heavy schoolbags may develop acute back and shoulder pain, and that the previously proposed guidelines are now complicated by the growing levels of childhood obesity,” he said.

“This is an issue that has been discussed at length down through the years without serious, enforceable action being taken in bringing about effective change.”

He said the committee planned to meet again shortly with the aim of “identifying how best to bring about this change, be it regulation or legislation perhaps, and set out our plan to agree positive action on the matter”.

Parents such as Margo Fleming haven’t waited around for official action.

After watching her children struggle with heavy schoolbags, the Wicklow mother-of-four came up with the idea of “booksplits”, cut-and-paste packs that allow students to leave at home the section of textbooks not being used in class.

“It came out of pure frustration,” she says. “No one seems to take it seriously, so I came up with a way of splitting books into sections using special covers.”

She says the business is going from strength to strength, with parents seeing an added resale value in the split books.

iPads

With the advent of technology and iPads, there is every chance the issue of heavy schoolbags may well become redundant in the future.Early research, though, shows this hasn’t significantly reduced the weight of bags given that children continue to do book-based homework.

In addition, many schools that switched to using iPads are – anecdotally, at least – switching back to books, due to a perception that they result in better learning outcomes.

For Áine Lynch, the solution lies in simply reducing the volume of books required.

“It’s very hard to look at weight without looking at other issues as well. It’s been mentioned a few times already around the homework issue,” she said.

“We are clearly stating that we are looking for a review of how much text books are needed and relied on.

“If we muddy the waters with weights, or costs, or what homework should look like around this particular issue, we keep missing the point.”

So, given the contrasting and often confusing research on the topic, what on earth should parents do?

Dr Dockrell says carrying a well-designed and correctly fitted backpack over both shoulders has been accepted as the safest way to carry a schoolbag.

Any adverse effects could be minimised by using a bag with a padded back and hip strap, if possible, with the heaviest items placed close to a child’s back.

HOW TO CARRY A SCHOOLBAG SAFELY

1. Buy a backpack-style bag with adjustable padded shoulder straps to fit the size.

2. Look for a padded back and hip strap if possible.

3. Put the heaviest items in the backpack close to your back.

4. Wear the bag on the back with the straps on both shoulders.

5. Carry only what is needed. Think ahead and only carry books and other items as required. If there is a locker available in school, make good use of it.

6. Carry only when you have to.

7. Avoid swinging the schoolbag around and lifting it on the back.

8. Involve children, parents and teachers in finding solutions to schoolbag carriage.

Source: Dr Sara Dockrell, assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin and physiotherapist

IN NUMBERS

The first national study of more than 500 children’s schoolbags in Ireland revealed the following:

70%

The proportion of pupils carrying a schoolbag

The average weight of a schoolbag

13%

The mean bodyweight a schoolbag represented

10 minutes

The average duration a child carried a schoolbag

94%

The proportion of children using backpacks as schoolbags

90%

The proportion of children using both straps

63%

The prevalence of “musculoskeletal discomfort” – such as back or shoulder pain – experienced by children before the carried their bag

10 Reasons why handheld devices should be banned for under 12 year olds

  • Chris Rowan – Pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, speaker, author 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics state infants aged 0-2 years should not have any exposure to technology, 3-5 years be restricted to one hour per day, and 6-18 years restricted to 2 hours per day (AAP 2001/13, CPS 2010). Children and youth use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology, with serious and often life threatening consequences (Kaiser Foundation 2010, Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012). Handheld devices (cell phones, tablets, electronic games) have dramatically increased the accessibility and usage of technology, especially by very young children (Common Sense Media, 2013). As a pediatric occupational therapist, I’m calling on parents, teachers and governments to ban the use of all handheld devices for children under the age of 12 years. Following are 10 research-based reasons for this ban. Please visit zonein.ca to view the Zone’in Fact Sheet for referenced research.

1. Rapid brain growth
Between 0 and 2 years, infant’s brains triple in size, and continue in a state of rapid development to 21 years of age (Christakis 2011). Early brain development is determined by environmental stimuli, or lack thereof. Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies (cell phones, internet, iPads, TV), has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).

2. Delayed Development
Technology use restricts movement, which can result in delayed development. One in three children now enter school developmentally delayed, negatively impacting literacy and academic achievement (HELP EDI Maps 2013). Movement enhances attention and learning ability (Ratey 2008). Use of technology under the age of 12 years is detrimental to child development and learning (Rowan 2010).

3. Epidemic Obesity
TV and video game use correlates with increased obesity (Tremblay 2005). Children who are allowed a device in their bedrooms have 30% increased incidence of obesity (Feng 2011). One in four Canadian, and one in three U.S. children are obese (Tremblay 2011). 30% of children with obesity will develop diabetes, and obese individuals are at higher risk for early stroke and heart attack, gravely shortening life expectancy (Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2010). Largely due to obesity, 21st century children may be the first generation many of whom will not outlive their parents (Professor Andrew Prentice, BBC News 2002).

4. Sleep Deprivation
60% of parents do not supervise their child’s technology usage, and 75% of children are allowed technology in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation 2010). 75% of children aged 9 and 10 years are sleep deprived to the extent that their grades are detrimentally impacted (Boston College 2012).

5. Mental Illness 
Technology overuse is implicated as a causal factor in rising rates of child depression, anxiety, attachment disorder, attention deficit, autism, bipolar disorder, psychosis and problematic child behavior (Bristol University 2010Mentzoni 2011,Shin 2011Liberatore 2011, Robinson 2008). One in six Canadian children have a diagnosed mental illness, many of whom are on dangerous psychotropic medication (Waddell 2007).

6. Aggression 
Violent media content can cause child aggression (Anderson, 2007). Young children are increasingly exposed to rising incidence of physical and sexual violence in today’s media. “Grand Theft Auto V” portrays explicit sex, murder, rape, torture and mutilation, as do many movies and TV shows. The U.S. has categorized media violence as a Public Health Risk due to causal impact on child aggression (Huesmann 2007). Media reports increased use of restraints and seclusion rooms with children who exhibit uncontrolled aggression.

7. Digital dementia
High speed media content can contribute to attention deficit, as well as decreased concentration and memory, due to the brain pruning neuronal tracks to the frontal cortex (Christakis 2004, Small 2008). Children who can’t pay attention can’t learn.

8. Addictions
As parents attach more and more to technology, they are detaching from their children. In the absence of parental attachment, detached children can attach to devices, which can result in addiction (Rowan 2010). One in 11 children aged 8-18 years are addicted to technology (Gentile 2009).

9. Radiation emission
In May of 2011, the World Health Organization classified cell phones (and other wireless devices) as a category 2B risk (possible carcinogen) due to radiation emission (WHO 2011). James McNamee with Health Canada in October of 2011 issued a cautionary warning stating “Children are more sensitive to a variety of agents than adults as their brains and immune systems are still developing, so you can’t say the risk would be equal for a small adult as for a child.” (Globe and Mail2011). In December, 2013 Dr. Anthony Miller from the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health recommend that based on new research, radio frequency exposure should be reclassified as a 2A (probable carcinogen), not a 2B (possible carcinogen). American Academy of Pediatrics requested review of EMF radiation emissions from technology devices, citing three reasons regarding impact on children (AAP 2013).

10. Unsustainable
The ways in which children are raised and educated with technology are no longer sustainable (Rowan 2010). Children are our future, but there is no future for children who overuse technology. A team-based approach is necessary and urgent in order to reduce the use of technology by children. Please reference below slide shows on www.zonein.ca under “videos” to share with others who are concerned about technology overuse by children.

Problems - Suffer the Children – 4 minutes
Solutions - Balanced Technology Management – 7 minutes

The following Technology Use Guidelines for children and youth were developed by Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist and author of Virtual Child; Dr. Andrew Doan, neuroscientist and author of Hooked on Games; and Dr. Hilarie Cash, Director of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program and author of Video Games and Your Kids, with contribution from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society in an effort to ensure sustainable futures for all children.

Technology Use Guidelines for Children and Youth

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The Impact of Technology on the Developing Brain

  • Chris Rowan - Pediatric occupational therapist, biologist, speaker, author

Reminiscing about the good old days when we were growing up is a memory trip well worth taking when trying to understand the issues facing the children of today. A mere 20 years ago, children used to play outside all day, riding bikes, playing sports and building forts. Masters of imaginary games, children of the past created their own form of play that didn’t require costly equipment or parental supervision. Children of the past moved… a lot, and their sensory world was nature based and simple. In the past, family time was often spent doing chores, and children had expectations to meet on a daily basis. The dining room table was a central place where families came together to eat and talk about their day, and after dinner became the center for baking, crafts and homework.

Today’s families are different. Technology’s impact on the 21st century family is fracturing its very foundation, and causing a disintegration of core values that long ago were the fabric that held families together. Juggling school, work, home, and community lives, parents now rely heavily on communication, information, and transportation technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. Entertainment technology (TV, Internet, video games, iPads, cell phones) has advanced so rapidly, that families have scarcely noticed the significant impact and changes to their family structure and lifestyles. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary aged children use on average 7.5 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75 percent of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms, and 50 percent of North American homes have the TV on all day. Gone is dining room table conversation, replaced by the “big screen” and take out.

Children now rely on technology for the majority of their play, grossly limiting challenges to their creativity and imaginations, as well as limiting necessary challenges to their bodies to achieve optimal sensory and motor development. Sedentary bodies bombarded with chaotic sensory stimulation are resulting in delays in attaining child developmental milestones, with subsequent negative impact on basic foundation skills for achieving literacy. Hard-wired for high speed, today’s young are entering school struggling with self regulation and attention skills necessary for learning, eventually becoming significant behavior management problems for teachers in the classroom.

So what is the impact of technology on the developing child? Children’s developing sensory, motor, and attachment systems have biologically not evolved to accommodate this sedentary, yet frenzied and chaotic nature of today’s technology. The impact of rapidly advancing technology on the developing child has seen an increase of physical, psychological and behavior disorders that the health and education systems are just beginning to detect, much less understand. Child obesity and diabetes are now national epidemics in both Canada and the U.S., causally related to technology overuse. Diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are associated with technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate. An urgent closer look at the critical factors for meeting developmental milestones, and the subsequent impact of technology on those factors, would assist parents, teachers and health professionals to better understand the complexities of this issue, and help create effective strategies to reduce technology use.

Four critical factors necessary to achieve healthy child development are movement, touch, human connection, and exposure to nature. These types of sensory inputs ensure normal development of posture, bilateral coordination, optimal arousal states and self-regulation necessary for achieving foundation skills for eventual school entry. Young children require 2-3 hours per day of active rough and tumble play to achieve adequate sensory stimulation to their vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems. Tactile stimulation received through touching, hugging and play is critical for the development of praxis, or planned movement patterns. Touch also activates the parasympathetic system lowering cortisol, adrenalin and anxiety. Nature and “green space” has not only a calming influence on children, but also is attention restorative and promotes learning.

 

 

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Further analysis of the impact of technology on the developing child indicates that while the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and attachment systems are under stimulated, the visual and auditory sensory systems are in “overload.” This sensory imbalance creates huge problems in overall neurological development, as the brain’s anatomy, chemistry and pathways become permanently altered and impaired. Young children who are exposed to violence through TV and video games are in a high state of adrenalin and stress, as the body does not know that what they are watching is not real. Children who overuse technology report persistent body sensations of overall “shaking”, increased breathing and heart rate, and a general state of “unease.” This can best be described as a persistent hypervigalent sensory system, still “on alert” for the oncoming assault. While the long term effects of this chronic state of stress in the developing child are unknown, we do know that chronic stress in adults results in a weakened immune system and a variety of serious diseases and disorders.

 

 

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It’s important to come together as parents, teachers and therapists to help society “wake up” and see the devastating effects technology is having not only on our child’s physical, psychological and behavioral health, but also on their ability to learn and sustain personal and family relationships. While technology is a train that will continually move forward, knowledge regarding its detrimental effects, and action taken toward balancing the use of technology with critical factors for development, will work toward sustaining our children. While no one can argue the benefits of advanced technology in today’s world, connection to these devices may have resulted in a disconnection from what society should value most, children. Rather than hugging, playing, rough housing, and conversing with children, parents are increasingly resorting to providing their children with more TV, video games, and the latest iPads and cell phone devices, creating a deep and irreversible chasm between parent and child.

BookSplits interview with VlogbyKate – August 2015 – showing how easy it is to split a school book in two parts and to rebind, cover & protect each part separately using BookSplits DIY Pack.

Delighted to be interviewed by VlogbyKate and to demonstrate how easy it is to split a school book in two and to rebind, cover and protect each half separately using BookSplits Covers DIY pack.

By carrying out this simple DIY solution it is possible to HALVE the weight of schoolbooks, INSTANTLY. Each secondary schoolbook weighs approx. 1KG! Splitting just 5/6 books can reduce the weight of the schoolbag by 3kg/HALF A STONE instantly.  

Why would you not want to do that?

BookSplits mentioned in Seanad debate on Heavy Schoolbags Issue – July 2015

BookSplits mentioned in Seanad by Senator Gerard Craughwell in debate on Heavy Schoolbags Issue – still nothing changes all these years later……

Weight of Schoolbags An Cathaoirleach: I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy English, to the House. Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for being here. While schools might be out for summer, parents and students will soon be preparing to return in September. The issue of the weight of schoolbags remains unresolved not for another year, but for another decade. The issue was raised in the Dáil as far back as 1996, and the then Minister, Ms Breathnach, gave the exact same reply as the Minister, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, gave in 2014. Both said it was a matter for local school management and that circular letters to this effect, incorporating the recommendations of the working group on the issue, were sent to schools in 1998 and 2005. The time lag is notable. The 1998 report generated two circular letters, both with the same content and both deferring to local school management. In the meantime, an entire generation of schoolchildren have struggled to and from school with schoolbags weighing up to two stone in some cases. The Minister of State can correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that since the working group reported in 1998 there has been no follow-up, no examination on if and how its recommendations are being implemented, and 17 years later there is still no comprehensive current research. Osteopaths, physiotherapists and doctors report an ever-increasing number of incidents of schoolchildren presenting with serious neck, shoulder and back strain due entirely to the weight of schoolbags. A school principal who survey pupils found the junior students carry the heaviest weight as they have 13 subjects. In that case, the first year students were carrying in excess of 15 kg in textbooks and copybooks. The recommended weight for children of 12 years is 12% of their body mass, which would average at 3.5 kg of textbooks for 13 year olds and 6.3 kg for 17 year old male students. The detrimental and long-term effects on the still developing spine of a 12 year old carrying five times the recommended weight is of serious concern to many parents and an issue of national importance requiring a national and co-ordinated response. Mr. Liam Moloney, a Naas-based health care solicitor, is on record as saying that the failure of many school managers to deal with it was one of the most serious issues of our time and “the State could face thousands of future compensation claims from school children who suffer back injuries if their School Managers have not complied with the recommendations made by the Department of Education.” This issue could leave the Army deafness and other compensation claims in the ha’penny place. More important, in letting this situation run on without proper checks and balances and systematic review by the Department of Education and Skills, we are damaging the health of the most precious asset the State possesses, namely, the health and welfare of our young people. If employees in any sector were presenting with such symptoms on so large a scale, a major health and safety investigation would be put in place. There have been successful and ingenious commercial initiatives, such as Booksplits, the brainwave of mother of four Ms Margo Fleming from Wicklow, which is now a commercially available alternative that reduces the weight of text books by half. Alternatively, some schools are replacing books with tablets, some have lockers and some do not, with some allowing children to leave books in school while others do not. Will the Minister of State revisit this issue as a matter of urgency, commission research on every aspect of it and put in place a system that would guarantee a uniform application of unequivocal regulations? Issuing guidelines to schools has manifestly failed and it is now time for another approach. Senator David Cullinane: Hear, hear. Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Damien English): I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the position on the matter of the weight of schoolbags. It is an issue that most of us present have an interest in, but certainly we all have memories of carrying bags on our shoulders on the way to school. The Senator has good shoulders, so I am sure that he was able to carry his. There have been some improvements and weights have been reduced, but he is right about it still being an issue. Perhaps someone will invent a schoolbag that is cooler when not being carried on a shoulder, as the design of schoolbags is part of the solution, too. The Department and I are well aware of the potential problems caused by the weight of schoolbags. In this regard, some years ago the Department set up a working group to examine the issue. The group’s terms of reference were to consider the issue of heavy schoolbags, the extent of the problem, the factors that contributed to the problem and possible implications of the problem, particularly for the health of pupils. The report of the working group, which was presented in July 1998, recognised that many of the solutions to this issue belonged at local school level and made various recommendations, such as the provision of lockers, active liaison with parents and, in the case of second level schools, coordination of homework by subject teachers and the arrangement of the timetable into double class periods. The working group also found that there was a need to heighten awareness of the potential health hazards posed by excessively heavy schoolbags. In this regard, my Department initiated an awareness-raising campaign by disseminating the working group’s report with an accompanying circular to all primary and post-primary schools. My Department issued further circulars to all primary and post-primary schools in 2005 to highlight the potential health hazard of overweight schoolbags and to outline a range of local measures that could be put in place to help alleviate the problem. Ultimately, it is a matter for each school to choose those measures that would be most suited to its individual needs and that fit with how the school organises teaching and learning. The parents also have a role in this decision-making process. Not all of them feel empowered to play it, but they should be involved in decision making in every school. There are decisions that can be made at local school level. The use of digital resources by teachers and students in schools is increasing. While conventional textbooks are still widely used, a number of schools have introduced or are considering introducing e-books and other digital resources to enhance students’ work in school and at home. Schools can use the book grant scheme to purchase a range of digital resources relevant to the curriculum. These may include student subscriptions to online maths or reading programmes, school site licences or app downloads. The Department’s “Guidelines for Developing Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools” provide practical advice to primary and post-primary schools on how rental schemes can be established and operated. These guidelines highlight the advantages of the use of digital media, including e-books, to enhance teaching and learning in schools. Among these advantages is reducing the weight of schoolbags. However, the decision to use personal digital devices such as laptops or tablets is a matter for the board of management of a school. Where the introduction of new technology is planned, it is advisable that there should be consultation with members of the school community, including parents. The cost and other implications must be fully considered by the board of management before a decision is made. In some cases, the cost can be quite high. Some schools are proactive in meeting costs. I hope to see an increase on that front in the years to come. We all agree that we need to see more such work. I thank the Senator for the opportunity to outline to the House the position on the matter of the weight of school bags. It is improving, but most people are still concerned about it. Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I am concerned that we are pushing things down to boards of management. A recent high-profile case regarding the abuse of a lady while she was a student in a primary school in Cork came back to bite the Department and the Government. As the Legislature, we have a responsibility. We cannot shed it to boards of management. We cannot offload it to subject teachers or parents. We must put directives in place. An Cathaoirleach: A question, please, Senator. Deputy Damien English: I understand the Senator’s point, but schools are run by boards of management and are separate from the Department. This is a fact of life. If we were to remove all of that power, a different discussion would be held. The best thing that the Department can do is work with the schools and give guidelines, advice and support. We could probably fight for more resources to increase the offering to schools, but their boards of management are in charge of what happens in them. We provide circulars, directions and so on. Parents need to realise that they have as much power as anyone else involved in the school in terms of making decisions. They need to become fully involved in that process. When I visit some schools, I see where parents who have worked in certain companies have had an influence in terms of the schools’ equipment. However, other offerings are available to schools, and it is for each to decide what it wants. Naturally, as more resources become available in the years ahead, the Department will increase what we can do, but the decision in question is a local one. While I recognise and share the Senator’s concerns, we are all involved in the solution. Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: I thank the Minister of State.

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