Written Answers - Weight of Schoolbags.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 664 No. 1

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  149.  Deputy Deirdre Clune  Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune   asked the Minister for Education and Science  Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe   his views on introducing an ebook initiative to reduce the cost and weight of school books; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35278/08]

Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level (mainly in the case of language subjects) school textbooks are not approved or prescribed by my Department at first or second level. Decisions on which books to use are taken at school level.

[203]The publication and sale of school books are in the hands of independent commercial enterprises and it is not open to me to compel publishing companies to produce texts in a particular format.

The Report of a Working Group to examine potential problems caused by the weight of schoolbags, which was presented in July, 1998, acknowledged that many of the solutions belong at local school level.

One of the main recommendations of the report related to the need to heighten the awareness of the potential health hazards posed by excessively heavy schoolbags and in this regard, my Department initiated an awareness-raising campaign by disseminating the report, with an accompanying circular, to all primary and post-primary schools.

A further circular was issued in 2005, again highlighting the potential health hazard of heavy schoolbags and outlining a range of measures that could be adopted at school level in order to alleviate the problem. Ultimately it is a matter for each individual 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 Report of the Working Group makes various recommendations in this regard, such as optimum use of storage facilities, developing pupil organisation skills and timetabling.

My Department is aware that positive action has been taken by many schools on these issues. Actions taken consist of a range of measures including the provision of lockers and in the case of second level schools the arrangement of the timetable into double class periods, active liaison with parents and the co-ordination of homework by subject teachers.

A copy of the report of the Working Group on the Weight of School Bags and all current circulars in relation to this issue are available on my Department’s website at www.education.ie.

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