An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Mount Anville Secondary School
Mount Anville Road, Dublin 14
Roll number: 60140F
Date of inspection: 11 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Mount Anville Secondary School, Dublin 14. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over one day during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector also reviewed teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and teachers of Physical Education. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Mount Anville Secondary School is a Catholic fee-paying school for girls with a current enrolment of 634 students. Physical Education is highly valued in the school for its role in the balanced and holistic development of students and is provided as a core subject on the curriculum. To support this provision the school employs seven qualified Physical Education teachers. Some of these teachers are also employed for coaching duties as part of the co-curricular sports programme, which is funded directly by the school. These teachers possess a wealth of knowledge and skills, as well as a diverse range of expertise, and have successfully developed and implemented a comprehensive Physical Education programme. Mount Anville is to be highly commended for developing such a strong subject department.
The school was one of five national finalists in the most sporting schools in Ireland competition held in 2004. This European wide competition was held as part of the European Year of Education through Sport (EYES). The competition aimed to develop an awareness of physical activity as an integral component of human growth and development and Mount Anville epitomizes this philosophy.
The school has implemented the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus and has hosted inservice courses for this programme. Continued professional development is supported by the school and all Physical Education teachers have received inservice training in the new junior cycle syllabus. Membership of the Physical Education Association of Ireland is common amongst the staff. Such commitment to the subject is to be commended as it informs and enhances the professionalism of teachers in the teaching and learning of Physical Education.
Presently, all students receive three periods of Physical Education per week with a time allocation in accordance with Department of Education and Science recommendations. Junior cycle and Transition Year allocation is composed of three single periods timetabled throughout the week. Fifth and sixth-year students receive one double and one single period per week. The Physical Education teachers have reviewed the junior and senior cycle timetable allocation and have a clear rationale for the advantages of such timetabling. The benefits of three single periods per week include frequent contact with Physical Education for younger students which the teachers feel develops a culture of participation. The senior cycle allocation provides for more in-depth practical experience. This analysis and rationale is to be commended. The duration of the single period is quite short for students to have a full and active engagement with the subject matter. However, it works well in this school due to effective student and resource management.
Following the recommendations of a recent Whole-School Evaluation, a review of the school curriculum has taken place. In order to facilitate greater subject provision and student choice the school is switching from an eight-period day to a nine-period day, resulting in class time being reduced from forty-five minutes to forty minutes in duration. This will have consequences for Physical Education, as time is required for changing, preparation and warm-up. The proposed reduction in the duration of class time would therefore affect the developmental stage of each lesson. Following deliberations by the Physical Education department, and through discussion with management, changes are to be made to the third-year time allocation for Physical Education next year. Each class in this year group will be allocated one double and one single period of Physical Education per week, similar to senior cycle students. This analysis and evaluation, along with the proposed solution, is commended. An adequate amount of time is required to practise and develop the competencies and understanding in certain skills and activities in Physical Education. Longer class time is also more suitable for teaching and learning strategies such as self and peer assessment and the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into class. To maintain the high standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education it is recommended that the school monitors and evaluates the impact of the proposed reduction of five minutes per class on the first and second-year groups. Similarly, changes to the third-year Physical Education allocation should be evaluated to determine the effectiveness of a double period on the teaching and learning of the subject.
A member of the Physical Education department holds a special duties post as coordinator of the sports facilities and of Physical Education. This role includes the convening of department meetings and the coordination of subject planning and resources. Provision for purchasing equipment and resources is provided by the school on a needs basis. The present level of equipment and resources is of a very high standard and provides each student with access to every item necessary for a comprehensive Physical Education. A health and safety audit of the facilities and resources is conducted regularly and the Physical Education department has the necessary first-aid equipment and incident reporting systems in place, which is in keeping with good practice.
Mount Anville has a range of well-maintained and utilised facilities. These include a large sports-hall, an Astroturf pitch, two all-weather pitches and a hard court area that doubles as either six tennis or four netball courts. The existing Astroturf pitch converts into eight tennis courts at the end of the hockey season. In addition, a large grass area is used for cricket or invasion games such as camogie. Access to off-campus facilities is also arranged by the school to provide experience in health-related fitness activities at a local health-club. Plans are at an advanced stage for the conversion of the existing all-weather pitches to an Astroturf surface. Funding for this project is being raised by the parents’ council and such a commitment to high standard sports facilities is highly commended.
Teachers, as well as some external coaches, are involved in the coaching, organisation and management of extra-curricular sports in the school. The coordination of this sports programme is a major logistical accomplishment as the school fields no less than twenty-one hockey teams in local and regional leagues, as well as numerous other teams including netball, basketball, tennis, cricket, athletics and golf. The number of activities, the demand on resources and the number of participants involved in the extra-curricular sports’ programme is testament to the standard of excellence achieved by the school. A school newsletter is printed several times per year. It includes sports results, the advertisement of upcoming events and notification of training for the variety of sports activities. This mode of communication is to be commended as it informs all members of the school community on aspects of school life, and promotes a sense of unity and pride in the achievements of the school.
Management supports time for formal subject department planning at the commencement of the academic year. Subject department planning is of a very high standard in this school. The school has incorporated subject planning into the School Development Planning (SDP) process. formal subject department meetings are facilitated at the commencement of the school year and the Physical Education department meets on several occasions throughout the year. These meetings are convened by the subject coordinator and are usually held after school hours. An agenda and minutes are kept of these meetings and items such as health and safety, equipment, activity blocks and student progress are discussed. Such commitment to planning and preparation is to be commended.
There is an atmosphere of good collaborative planning and a sense of collegiality amongst the Physical Education department. The Physical Education team has developed a comprehensive junior cycle, Transition Year and senior cycle plan. These plans are viewed as work in progress and subject to change and development. Reflective practice forms part of the planning process in this school. An audit of the Physical Education department was conducted in the 2004/2005 school year and several areas for development were identified and documented. This is in keeping with good planning practice. It is recommended that, in order to expand on the good work achieved so far, the Physical Education department would, for the coming year, focus on extending the planning documents to include teaching and learning methodologies and assessment strategies.
A compulsory Transition Year programme in the school includes a range of diverse physical activities in keeping with the philosophy of the programme. Self-development and leadership skills form a major part of the Transition Year programme. Options are planned and provided for the students to acquire umpiring and coaching qualifications, as well as undertaking the President’s Gaisce awards programme. Other activities include a week-long residential course at an Outdoor Education Centre. This course is planned to integrate Science and Geography field trips with adventure activities. These cross-curricular links are to be commended as they clearly educate students through human interaction with the physical environment.
At senior cycle, the Physical Education department plans a range of activity modules whereby students are given a choice of which module they wish to study. Planning includes coordination of groups and facilities for the provision of these option choices for students. Student choice is encouraged, valued and accommodated by the teachers within the framework of the planned learning outcomes for each activity module. This is commendable practice as it empowers the students with decision making which increases responsibility for their own learning.
Teachers prepared a curriculum content plan for each class group. These plans were well structured and there was strong evidence of good progression. There was also clear evidence of considered short-term planning for each lesson visited. Advanced preparation yielded positive outcomes in terms of participation, improved skill competency and understanding. These included advanced delineation of activity areas, set-up of courts, layout of all equipment and activity worksheets. The sportshall is broadband enabled for access to the internet and there is access to digital cameras and camcorders in the school. It is recommended that the Physical Education department plan to incorporate aspects of multi-media applications into the teaching and learning of Physical Education. These tools may be used to supplement the existing practice of self-assessment, further enabling students to become self-analytical learners with the aid of visual feedback.
There is a very high standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education in this school. A clear system of roll call, assignment of equipment and preparatory instructions takes place at the commencement of lessons. Venues were set up expediently and this preparation was beneficial to the smooth running of the lessons observed. This effective organisation settles and focuses students on the purpose of the lesson while optimising the time for engagement in activities.
Students were thoroughly warmed-up through a variety of activities that had clear links to the purpose of the lesson. In all cases, stretching activities were conducted and students were asked questions to establish the relationship between each exercise and the specific muscles and joints involved in the movement. In most cases, correct posture was highlighted for each exercise and associated with the appropriate biomechanical techniques. This is very good practice as it familiarises students with specific health-related knowledge of human functionality and the associated technical terminology.
Lesson progression was well paced and there was a clear structure and purpose to each task. Students were set tasks that were more challenging as their competency improved. Effective student management strategies were used to good effect in all cases. Teachers ensured that students were assembled in a position to hear and see the instructions and demonstrations when setting a new task or making key teaching points. When required, technical points were given to individual students and there was obvious progression in student acquisition of the focused skills. In all cases, students had a very good understanding of the application of the acquired skills in the performance of the full activity. Students of all abilities were facilitated in each lesson and teachers, in many cases, skilfully mastered differentiation for individuals of varying degrees of competency. Some excellent provision of equipment of varying size or positioning on court increased less able students’ potential for success. This is highly commended and the high level of participation and success experienced by the students is testament to this good practice.
A range of teaching methodologies was used to good effect to promote learning. In one case, peer analysis was used as a learning strategy. Students were assigned to small groups with one student in each group charged with determining the cause of errors, whether forced or unforced. Students were given clear performance guidelines in undertaking this task. This had the effect of engaging students in analytical thinking. Performing students were required to combine technical and tactical knowledge in decision-making. Peer related feedback was of a very high standard and students used this analytical information as a motivation factor for improvement. This exemplary practice promotes higher-order educational objectives through engagement in physical activity and is highly commended.
Teachers regularly affirmed students throughout lessons and students encouraged and praised each other for efforts made during the activities. This created a positive and secure learning environment. There was excellent student-teacher rapport and students eagerly assisted teachers in all aspects of preparation and equipment management. This positive atmosphere contributed to the excellent work ethic observed during this inspection and is to be commended.
The Physical Education department in this school maintains extensive records of attendance, participation and attainment. A comprehensive assessment process is in place in the school. Parents receive a monthly progress report for all subjects. This comment-based report reflects the effort and progress of the student in each subject. In addition to this monthly report, formal grading and reporting to parents takes place twice a year at Christmas and summer. The Physical Education department meet to discuss student progress prior to each monthly report. Grades are awarded at Christmas and summer based on criteria established by the Physical Education department. This level of reporting is very good practice and provides parents and students with consistent feedback on their progress in the subject.
Transition Year students sit a written examination on health-related fitness. This examination is challenging and has a good mix of factual recall, open-ended and applied questions. At the end of term, Transition Year students also submit a project on adventure activities and the skills acquired. This forms part of their overall grade for the year. The combination of formative and summative assessment is commendable. It is recommended that consideration be given to expanding this assessment practice to other year groups.
Records are maintained of each student’s performance on a series of physical fitness tests. These tests are implemented twice a year for most class groups. It is intended that the results will be used by students to identify areas of development for their own physical well-being. This is commendable practice and one that addresses many of the issues related to the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
As part of the new junior cycle syllabus, teachers have begun to use self-assessment and peer-assessment in some classes. Such an approach values each student not only as a performer of physical activities but also as a cognitive participant, through informed reflection on their own performance. This is a good system of monitoring student engagement, challenge and progression in set tasks. Expansion of these methodologies is encouraged as it can also enhance the formal assessment process.
The performance of students in lessons observed as well as responses to questioning indicate that they are achieving to a very high standard in Physical Education in this school.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· Physical Education is highly regarded in Mount Anville Secondary School. An extensive range of facilities and resources are available for the teaching and learning of Physical Education.
· The new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus has been implemented in the school and there is a strong commitment to continuous professional development within the Physical Education department.
· There is a high level of planning and preparation evident for all aspects of Physical Education and the Physical Education department conducts regular audits as part of the planning process.
· Students are educated in a positive, caring environment where an atmosphere of mutual respect exists and where the quality of teaching and learning is of a very high standard.
· Students are assessed regularly in Physical Education and there is a comprehensive system of reporting to parents.
· The school has an extensive and successful co-curricular sports programme that encourages maximum participation, and offers a wide variety of team and individual based activities.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The school should monitor and evaluate the impact of the proposed timetable changes on the junior cycle Physical Education classes.
· The Physical Education department should expand the existing planning documents to include a variety of teaching and learning methodologies and modes of assessment.
· The Physical Education department should explore the potential of ICT as an additional teaching and learning tool in Physical Education.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Physical Education and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.