Dáil Éireann - Volume 568 - 17 June, 2003

Written Answers. - Weight of Schoolbags.

  276. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures his Department has introduced, and plans to introduce to deal with the increasing weight of school books, particularly for younger students, and the potential health implications of this. [16720/03]

  Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): A working group was set up in autumn 1997 to examine the potential problems caused by the weight of heavy schoolbags. The terms of reference of the working group were to consider the issue of heavy schoolbags and in particular: (i) the extent of the problem; (ii) the factors which contribute to the problem; and (iii) possible implications of the problem, particularly for the health of pupils. The group was also asked to formulate proposals to alleviate problems associated with the weight of schoolbags. The group presented its report in July 1998. The group's report outlined a number of recommendations that had implications not only for my Department but also for schools, parents and publishers. I have asked my officials to forward a copy of the report to the Deputy.

  The report acknowledged that many of the solutions belong at local school level and one of the main recommendations related to the need to heighten the awareness of the potential health hazards posed by excessively heavy schoolbags. In this regard my Department, at primary and post-primary levels, initiated an awareness raising campaign by disseminating the report, with an accompanying circular, to all primary and post-primary schools. Furthermore, information leaflets and posters were also distributed to all schools, highlighting the potential health hazard of heavy schoolbags and outlining a range of local measures that could be adopted to alleviate the problem. It is a matter for each individual school to choose those measures that would be most suited to its individual needs.

  Positive action has been taken by many schools. At second level, actions taken by some schools consist of a range of measures, including the provision of lockers, the arrangement of the timetable into double class periods, active liaison with parents and the co-ordination of homework by subject teachers.