People are being forced to drive their children to school even if they are within walking distance due to the excessive weight of school bags, a Cork forum has heard.
Councillors in Cork and further afield are to write to the Minister for Education and Skills to request immediate action to address the weight of school bags for students across Ireland.
Cork county councillor Audrey Buckley (FF) raised the issue at a Regional Health Forum in Cork County Hall.
Cllr Buckley brought a school bag to the meeting which weighed around eight kilograms, the same average weight of bags for students in Junior or Leaving Cert years.
The average bag weight for students not facing state exams is around 6.2kg.
“Having to give a child a hot water bottle because they’re back is sore from the weight of their school bag is not right,” said Cllr Buckley.
“This is an annual issue and it needs to be addressed.
“I live half a kilometre from my daughters’ school which means she should be able to walk there,” she added.
“However, because of the weight of her bag, she can’t.”
Fellow Cork councillor Susan McCarthy (FG) added that she always encouraged her children to walk to school and that was possible during primary school years.
“However, they started secondary school and this practise couldn’t continue because of the weight of the bags,” she said.
Councillor for Kanturk-Mallow, Gearoid Murphy (FF) also weighed in saying it was a matter of urgency in terms of a child’s future health and possible implications for that.
The forum agreed to write to the Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, to highlight the issue.
Cllr Buckley advocated for a book rental scheme within schools to ensure children are not forced to carry books back and forth - and to avoid unnecessary costs in terms of ‘taster’ classes in first year.
She also said a binder system could be implemented allowing children to leave pages they do not need in school and take those they do need home.
Cllr McCarthy added that an information campaign for schools to make everyone aware of the issue would also be useful.