Sporting success: PE in the Leaving Cert

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Government ministers and educators may not be on the best of terms at this point in time, but one proposal they seem to agree on is that physical activity (PE) should included as an examinable subject in the Leaving Certificate.

A survey conducted by Professor Niall Moyna of Dublin City University (DCU) showed that support among secondary school teachers for including PE on the Leaving Cert curriculum was overwhelming, with 80 per cent in favour of its inclusion. Also advocating PE as a Leaving Cert subject was Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar, who stipulates that the subject should also encompass the study of physiology and sports science.


But at a time when technology and science are been promoted at every turn as the most high-potential career routes, why put more emphasis on physical activity?

The typical response to such a question is obvious enough – though it is also true: PE promotes better health. More participation in physical activity will go a long way towards boosting the health of hearts, lungs, circulatory systems, bones and muscles.

But the benefits of physical activity go beyond the confines of our bodies; exercise has been shown to benefit our brains too.

Mental Health

The recent publication of an extensive survey from the ESRI, Keeping Them in the Game: Taking Up and Dropping Out of Sport and Exercise in Ireland,  suggested that students who participate in sport right through their exam years, including the Leaving Cert, post better exam results.

Surprising? It shouldn’t be. Countless studies have appeared in the last decade or so that highlight the role that regular exercise can play in the healthy functioning of a person’s brain. Not only does physical motion help reduce tension and anxiety (and what Leaving Cert student doesn’t feel those at some point?), it also helps release mood-enhancing endorphins, prevents cognitive decline as we age, and affects neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells – thus improving overall mental performance.

Post-Leaving Cert

While encouraging physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle would be a goal of any Leaving Cert PE programme, the subject also paves the way for further study in the area at third level.

As Irish people have become more health conscious in recent years, the sport and fitness industry here has grown impressively, which has in turn created an abundance of employment opportunities for fitness trainers, sports scientists, nutritionists and physiotherapists. Such roles are acquired after years of training and study. But as we have seen, a love of physical exercise need not be at odds with a love of learning; if anything, one should always provide support to the other.

Click the link to browse through some Sport & Exercise college courses in Ireland.


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