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Councillor Ann Norton

Ennis councillors tell students they have their backs

THE Ennis Municipal District are being urged to put its back into supporting local students. Councillor Ann Norton has proposed that the local authority meet with students to hear first-hand about their experiences of heavy school bags and the effect it has had on their backs.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of the council she stated, “There has been an enormous amount of students already suffer injuries and pains due to this issue and it is exactly this situation that will cause long term damage to our children’s backs. There is a body of international medical and academic research that supports the correlation between weight of school bags and lower back pain in adolescents. Can Ennis Municipal District look at supporting students to highlight this issue to the Department of Education and the Minister of Education? We should invite students in to tell us there experiences and look at the best way forward to look at reducing the weight of their school bags.”
She outlined that since schools re-opened she has heard a number of complaints about the heaviness of students’ bags. She said that this has the potential to cause back injuries resulting in long term issues. “This is something we as councillors can engage with students on and listen to their views and try and come up with some sort of resolution.”
She said that while some schools have started using tablets for learning, many still continue to use books. “I know a number of schools are going for the i-Pad, but they still want physical books to go with it, many people like the feel of the book and to be able to write in them. A lot of schools are even changing back to the books. It’s sad to think in a few years to come people will end up having difficulties with pain and issues with their backs.”
She added that while people working or volunteering in fields that require lifting would need to be trained in manual handling. “None of these students are trained in this. We need to listen to them and talk to them. The opportunity is there for us to work with them.”
Councillor Mark Nestor lent his support to what he described as a “great motion”, adding a balanced approach is needed going forward. He also voiced concern about the effects that screen use could be having on students’ eye sight.
Councillor Mary Howard commented that she supported the spirit of the motion, however she pointed out that many students do not have access to school lockers at the moment as a result of Covid-19.
She said that many schools are allowing students to leave their books at home, however this has resulted in an increase in photocopying which is having a negative environmental effect.
Speaking about the motion she said, “Something needs to be done, it’s a wonder nobody has come up with a solution at this stage.” Councillor Norton said that this would be an opportunity to support students while also engaging with them. She suggested transition year students could get involved through a project. “At the end of the day, these students are our future,” she said. Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Paul Murphy voiced his support for the proposal, however he cautioned that Covid-19 restrictions would need to be taken into consideration going forward. “I’m not sure how we would go about this, but it’s a big issue,” he stated.

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