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Department examining proposal to add driving & swimming lessons to curriculum

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*Shannon Leisure Centre. Photograph: John Mangan

Minister of Education, Joe McHugh (FG) has been requested by Clare County Council to incorporate swimming and driving lessons onto the curriculum in Irish schools.

Enquiries are being made within the Department of Education following on from a motion submitted to the local authority by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND), Cllr Mary Howard (FG) and Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF).

An amendment of the curriculum at primary and second level was sought by the trio “to incorporate the inclusion of swimming lessons at primary level and driving lessons at secondary level”. They also called on the Minister of Finance, Paschal Donohoe (FG) to make provisions in future budgets to allow for their inclusion.

148 people lost their lives on Irish roads in 2019 while an average of 124 drownings occur in the country each year. “Huge money is being spent on the roads campaign but the message is not getting through,” Cllr Lynch stated. The Kilrush representative commented that the cost of maintaining swimming pools was “a tough gig” and expressed his hope that such a change to the curriculum would result in the likes of Kilkee being opened all year round.

With no Government formed as of yet, Cllr Lynch quipped, “With Cathal Crowe’s education background, he could be the next Minister for Education, one of the other three could be Minister for Finance”.

“I grew up in an era where you didn’t learn to swim which developed a fear of the water,” Cllr Howard said in seconding the motion. “It is a no brainer in my book”.

School was the best setting to educate people on learning to drive and swim, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) believed. “We are very lucky in Ennis to have a leisure centre which caters for the majority of schools in Ennis and surrounding areas. It is important that adults also learn to swim. It would be fantastic to bring this into the schools”.

With a son currently in Transition Year, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) concurred that it was “a great year to learn a lot of skills”. The General Manager of Lahinch Seaworld stated that finances dictate whether schools promote swimming or not. “My own hands on experience is it’s down to money. When the recession hit we saw that schools doing terms cut them because of the cost of buses”.

Learning to drive is part of the TY programme for some Clare schools but not all. Similarly, a number of primary schools have swimming classes for older classes but it is not consistent across the county.

Subsequent correspondence issued to the County Council by a spokesperson for the Minister stated that “enquiries are being made” on the motion with a further response to be issued in the coming weeks.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, and A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to -

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