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If you had the power to move people, who would you target?

Youth on the MOVE change-maker Shane O’Donnell tells how the NowWeMOVE programme inspired him to make a difference in Ireland.


By Shane O’Donnell, extract from his original blog post ‘Active Future Programme: Using Physical Activity to Promote Education amongst Adolescents At Risk of Early School Leaving


At the beginning of the year I was lucky enough to be selected as a participant for the Youth on The MOVE programme – a platform for 30 young minds across Europe to explore ways of implementing grassroots campaigns and initiatives for promoting health and wellbeing. This comprehensive programme consisted of a 5 month online training course in physical activity promotion and a 5 days of offline training in Barcelona. The International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) identified the need for more training for youth in the field of sport and events, and designed the Youth on the MOVE (YOTM) project to help meet this need. Having the opportunity to be part of this programme and share a room with so many great young minds in Barcelona was one of the best experiences of my life. The overall aim of this project was for participants to plan physical activity events in their respective countries and get their nation moving. I came back to Ireland inspired, motivated and ready to make a change, but my question was – who do I target and what could have the widest impact?


As we know physical inactivity is a major problem of growing concern both globally and nationally (Ireland), specifically amongst the adolescent population.The rise in inactivity can be partially attributed to changes in our society. Advancements in technology has reduced the physical efforts in many of our daily tasks and increased our time spent sitting. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that fourth-fifths of European adolescents are insufficiently active. Indeed in Ireland, it is reported that only 19% of primary and 12% of post-primary children meet the recommended daily physical activity levels – that is moderate to vigorous activity for at least 60 minutes every day. Failure to meet these requirements can have serious health consequences including increased risk of developing cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome (The Economic Cost of Physical Inactivity in Europe, 2015). This report also found that those from lower socioeconomic groupings are less likely to engage in physical activity in comparison to their more affluent counterparts. Indeed, the CSPPA report in Ireland noted that lower socioeconomic groups were less likely to take part in after school activity, but there was no difference whilst in the school setting (CSPAA, 2010).


Physical activity not only benefits physical health but also mental, social and emotional health. Increasing your physical activity levels is associated with reductions in depression, anxiety, and emotional disturbances while providing opportunities to meet new people and increase social supports. Additionally, a report on school children and participation in sport found that “…at secondary school…students who played more sports in their final school years were more likely to continue a formal education after leaving school” suggesting a possible link between physical activity and educational progression (ERSI, 2005). Using physical activity as a hook or a carrot to engage people in programmes with an alternative focus has also been found to be very effective (Young Men and Suicide Report, 2012). I discovered the area in which I was working had the highest school drop-out rate in the country for both school cycles compared to the national average. Also, Ireland has the fourth highest suicide rate amongst young people aged 15-24 in the EU and sadly there has been an increase in suicides amongst this age group in the local community.


Considering this, I set about designing a programme aimed at young adolescents at risk of early school leaving and exploring how physical activity might play a role in supporting this cohort. A partnership was made with Michael Byrne from the Tullow School Completion Programme and we designed the Active Future Programme.


Active Future Programme

The Active Future Programme aims to promote and encourage physical activity and healthy living amongst adolescents and those at risk of early school leaving, and to encourage progression to third level education amongst this cohort.


Its objectives are to:

  • Explore and challenge attitudes and stereotypes with regard to third level education, physical fitness, body image and mental health.
  • To identify barriers that compound participants’ will for early school leaving and provide them personal motivation and problem solving training.
  • To introduce participants to a third level educational environment working closely with third level students to establish appropriate relationships and mentoring.


The programme will consist of 20 participants as identified by the School Completion Programme on the campus of the Institute of Technology Carlow. It has been integrated into the Sport Science year 3 curriculum where the Sport Science students will be working closely with the adolescents, delivering inputs, mentoring and providing support for the duration of the project. Mentor training will be provided to all Sport Science students prior to commencement of the programme. The programme starts next Friday, 7 October, and will run for an 8 week period.

Read the full story for more details


Stay tuned for more updates from this exciting new programme!

The Youth on the MOVE project is supported by the European Union under the Erasmus+ programme