*Students in Ennis. Photograph: Gary Collins
Incidents of injuries and pain suffered by second level students in Co Clare due to the weight of their school bags has prompted Ennis councillors to seek a solution to the issue from the Minister for Education.
Cllr Ann Norton (IND) at a recent meeting of the Ennis Municipal District tabled a motion asking that students be invited before the MD to highlight their experiences and identify a way to reduce the weight of their bags.
As she appealed to the MD to highlight the issue to the Department of Education and Minister Norma Foley (FF), Cllr Norton stated there was “a body of international medical and academic research that supports the correlation between weight of school bags and lower back pain in adolescents”.
“Long-term damage” has already been caused, the Barefield representative flagged. “There has been an enormous amount of students already suffer injuries and pains due to this issue”. Norton believed TY students would be a worthwhile group to engage with the Ennis MD on the matter and noted that iPads have not proven to be the answer “because kids want to be able to feel and write on books when learning”.
Additional resources from Minister Foley would be worthwhile, Cllr Mark Nestor (FF) felt. “As a secondary school teacher many years ago, first year students would have had difficulty with the size of their bags”.
School day memories were evoked for Cllr Mary Howard (FG) during the discussion. “I remember walking to school everyday with a big bag of books, we hadn’t a locker then and with COVID students don’t have access to a locker”. An amount of paper is being used through photocopying, she highlighted. “Something needs to be done, this problem has been there forever and it is a wonder we haven’t come up with a solution.
Although he questioned how Ennis councillors would go about implementing an improvement, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) agreed that it was “a big issue”. He added, “I recall cycling to school with a big heavy bag”.
Concluding the discussion, Cllr Norton revealed that she is sending her fifteen year old son to weekly physio sessions due to back complaints. “It is time that we go and approach the TYs to get them involved in projects like this. The younger generation are our future”.