St Aidan’s NS launch exciting new school active programme with Minister Majella Corcoran Kennedy and Minister Pat Breen.

December 8th, 2016 - Pat Breen

20161209_121042St Aidan’s School in Shannon was flying high this today (Friday) as it launched its pioneering new school active programme “Project Young Eagles – Soaring to the Sky” and also unveiled plans for its new all-weather pitch.

Minister for State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion, Majella Corcoran Kennedy, and Minister for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen were in attendance to hear first-hand how this project has the potential not only to benefit the health of children now but into their adult lives.

Minister Breen said, “I met with members of St Aidan’s National School just last week and I was impressed with not only the dedication they have shown for the health and wellbeing of their students, but the hours of research and work they have put into this pioneering programme. I believe it has great potential as a national programme and therefore was delighted when Minister Corcoran Kennedy accepted my invitation to visit the school today and see the work first hand.”

“I know the staff at St Aidan’s have ambitions to see “Project Young Eagles” rolled out as a National Physical Education Plan to other schools if it proves successful, and I wish them every success in their endeavours.
“We know only too well the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle on our health and indeed health services. This programme not only ensures children are active while in school, but it gives them the foundations to continue with an active lifestyle into adulthood, benefiting their health both mentally and physically through all stages of life,” added Minister Breen.

School Principal Patrice Hayes said St Aidan’s National School has a proven record when it comes to the children’s wellbeing but the staff are determined to take this further.

“With first-hand experience of the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on our young population the staff of St. Aidan’s N.S have committed to taking action and together have formulated a plan of action entitled “Project Young Eagles – Soaring to the Sky”,” she said.

“However none of us would be here today speaking about this event if it wasn’t for Paddy Purcell, founder of Mincon. ‘Project Young Eagles’ is essentially the brainchild of Paddy, a successful businessman who is astutely aware of the benefits of physical activity and its direct link to brain function/ cognitive development,” she added.

“Having read ‘Spark’ by John. J. Ratey he approached the school with a view to gauging interest and enthusiasm in piloting a Physical Activity Project similar to that in John Ratey’s book ‘Spark’
“And Paddy did not just leave his commitment to this programme there, he is also very generously funding a running track and all weather pitch for the school. This selfless commitment and generosity will benefit the future of all of the children going to the school and those yet to start,” said Ms Hayes.

“Board of Management chairperson Pat O’Connell has also generously volunteered his services as Project Manager for this huge undertaking,” she added.

“Project Young Eagles’ represents a will and desire to maximize brain functionality through daily physical activity whilst also seeking to empower and educate children to lead healthy and active lives now and into the future.

“Whilst there are many initiates already which support and encourage participation in physical activity, this new programme is committed to invoking a change of lifestyle with the concept of Fitness not sport to the fore,” said Ms Hayes.

“Behaviour change is complex and takes time but as educators and indeed role-models we have a role to play in facilitating and environment that encourages children to be active,” explained John Conlon, Senior Clare Hurler and Class Teacher in St. Aidan’s N.S. who formulated the project.

Mr. Conlon, was not alone in developing the programme. Camogie player Jane Scanlon (Sports Instructor), Fintan McEvoy (Sports Co-Ordinator) and Catriona Collins (Post of Responsibility for Well-being) are all part of the enthusiastic and passionate team committed to piloting the fitness programme in the school.

“We believe that by incorporating this fitness program into the school day we are much more likely to make strides in invoking a change of lifestyle rather than leaving it up to individuals themselves, particularly given that children are at school or in a child care setting for most of their day. That said, staff at St. Aidan’s believe a cross-sectoral partnership involving Government, national and local state agencies, business community, wider community in general, parents and Board of Management is key to achieving long-term success in this area. All are part of the solution,” said Mr Conlon.

Meanwhile St. Aidan’s Parents Association are taking an active role in fundraising for the construction of a school hall. Through the fundraising event “Who wants to be a Thousandaire” the Parents Association hope to generate enough funds to allow for construction of a hall which will allow for ‘’Project Young Eagles’ to be implemented to its full potential.


For further information contact School Principal Patrice Hayes on XXX or Minister Pat Breen on 087 242 2136.

Note to Editor:

Outline of Project Young Eagle.

– Class teachers provide access to continuous movement (cardiovascular activities) to all pupils for at least 30 minutes daily. This represents a significant increase on the mandatory requirement as set out by the Department of Education for 60 mins of physical activity weekly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that school- aged children engage in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity Daily. Staff at St. Aidan’s believe increased Physical Activity is achievable by redistribution of discretionary time allowable in any school context.
– Given the much documented positive effects on physical activity on academic success teachers at St. Aidan’s plan on timetabling some of the more difficult subjects directly after children have engaged in Physical Activity . Staff of St. Aidan’s believe that by engaging in Physical Activity prior to class pupils will be at a heightened state of awareness thereby making them prepared to learn
– Class teachers will continue to actively encourage active transport to school e.g. walking, cycling, scooting etc – all of which are currently promoted by the Green Schools committee and its Co-Ordinator Ms. Anne Falvey
– Pre and Post fitness tests will be conducted
– A cohort of pupils will be selected and evaluated on academic successes in Maths and English having engaged in the fitness programme
– The effort of activity of children in two class groupings initially will be monitored using heart rate monitors with an expected average heart rate of 150bpm. Heart rates will be monitored using a heart rate designed app which will allow for all data to be fed into a central location to analyse and track progress
– Before school opportunities for engagement in physical activity will be made available
– Teacher observation will determine link between increased fitness and attention, concentration, discipline, social skills, self-esteem, mood
– Parental involvement and education around nutrition and diet will also be incorporated as part of the overall program with the Parents Association taking a defined role in this regard
– Class teachers will place an increased focus on lesson around nutrition, diet, healthy living in each class and will use GPA initiative as a guide