An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Ballyhale, Co. Kilkenny
Roll number: 70570N
Date of inspection: 19 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Scoil Aireagail. 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, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teacher. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Scoil Aireagail caters for 309 students, 208 boys and 101 girls. The school is run under the auspices of Co. Kilkenny Vocational Educational Committee (VEC). Classes are organised into mixed-ability settings. The Physical Education department consists of one teacher who has extensive experience in teaching the subject. This teacher is shared between two other schools within the Co. Kilkenny VEC scheme. This situation has resulted in some difficulties in terms of arranging the time allocation for Physical Education for all students.
Physical Education is a core subject for all junior cycle students. In the past, the allocation for Physical Education was one double period per week, but due to timetabling restrictions, it is now two single periods. The duration of single period lessons is quite short for students to have a full and active involvement with the subject matter. Additionally, the current time provision falls short of the two hours per student per week recommended by the Department of Education and Science (DES) in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools (pages 7 & 141). Sufficient time is required for students to change, participate, observe and evaluate the topic of study in order to develop the range of physical, cognitive and social learning outcomes identified in the syllabus. It is recommended that management endeavour to re-introduce at least double periods for Physical Education, whilst working towards increasing the time provision in line with the DES recommendations. This will ensure that the Physical Education department can fully implement the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. This new syllabus has introduced a range of new methodologies that require at least one double period per week to be most effective.
Fifth and sixth-year students do not receive any Physical Education. As a result, these students may mistakenly form the perception that physical activity is a low priority in their development. Commitment to a physically active lifestyle is recommended by several health promoting agencies. Education for involvement in lifelong physical activity is essential for all students but especially for older teenagers given the fact that this age-group are showing the highest drop-out rates from engagement in physical activity both nationally and internationally. This trend has serious long-term implications for the health and physical well-being of these young people. Schools, through quality Physical Education, can make a significant contribution in providing students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop lifelong positive physical activity habits. It is acknowledged that a sizeable number of senior students in Scoil Aireagail engage in extra-curricular physical activities. However, the majority of these activities have a performance and competitive emphasis, which is quite narrow and does not aim to expand the depth of knowledge and understanding that would be provided by a quality Physical Education programme. It is recommended that the school introduce Physical Education for fifth and sixth-year students in line with the DES recommendations highlighted previously.
Transition Year students receive two periods of Physical Education per week. In addition to this provision, Transition Year students are provided with two additional hours per week to allow participation in a broad range of activities. These hours are blocked into one afternoon to facilitate transport to and from off-site venues. This level of provision is commendable and ensures that students receive sufficient time to develop an understanding and competency in a range of physical activities. It would be most beneficial to these students if there were continuity in their Physical Education throughout the remaining senior cycle years.
The school supports continuing professional development and the Physical Education department has participated in inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. This is to be commended as inservice provides a great forum for teachers to discuss issues of relevance to their own teaching context, and for sharing resources and information related to teaching and learning of the subject. Additionally, Physical Education has been at the forefront of some new and innovative projects to develop methodologies for assessment, such as assessment for learning and use of digital media as a tool in teaching and learning. Exposure to and upskilling in these methodologies will be of benefit to both the school and its students.
The school has a small sized sport’s hall and a large, well-maintained hard-court area. There is also access to a nearby pitch, which is a short walk from the school. The sport’s hall also serves as a canteen during lunchtime. However, strategies are in place after break times to ensure that this area is safe and clean as a Physical Education facility, which is commendable. A small room adjacent to the sports hall is used for storing the Physical Education equipment. Unfortunately, this room is also used for the storage of chairs and other items. It is recommended that the storeroom be kept sufficiently clear to ensure that all items may be stored tidily, and that there is safe and easy access to all Physical Education equipment. The outdoor hard-court area is a good facility for a range of games and activities, including various ball games such as basketball, soccer and tag-rugby and also for tennis and rounders. Students are permitted to use the outdoor facilities for games during break times. Arrangements are made for students to engage in these physical activities under the supervision of assigned members of staff. A supervision rota is in place amongst the staff to ensure the safety of students during break-times. This is highly commendable as additional opportunities to engage in physical activity are both enjoyable and beneficial to the students’ development.
The school provides its own bus for transporting students to and from various educational events. This is an excellent resource and eases the organisational issues around transport for curricular and extra-curricular excursions. The school is highly commended for its management of this resource.
Students participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including soccer, Gaelic football, hurling, camógie, basketball, athletics and handball. There is a large involvement of staff in these extra-curricular activities, which is highly commended. The interest and enthusiasm of the staff has helped to develop a strong culture of participation amongst the students. The school has forged close links with the local soccer club and Ballyhale Shamrocks GAA club and avails of their facilities to help prepare teams for various events. The level of attainment and achievement in some of these extra-curricular activities is highly commended. Activities such as volleyball and badminton are organised for students on a participation and recreational basis. It is commendable that these activities are organised for students who may not be competitively orientated but who wish to participate in some physical activity with their peers. This type of arrangement fosters participation in physical activity for its intrinsic and enjoyable nature, thus promoting the concept of lifelong involvement in physical activity.
The Physical Education department has undertaken some planning for the subject, which is mostly in the form of content for each year group. Much of this content has a strong games emphasis with some athletics being incorporated into the plan. It is recommended that the Physical Education department expand the subject plan to include as many of the strands of the syllabus as appropriate to the circumstances and resources available in the school. For example, it may be possible to introduce orienteering and team-challenges. A map of the school would further facilitate the teaching of orienteering and familiarise students with the concepts involved in this activity, whilst also developing their map-reading skills. This activity may culminate in a rich-task such as taking part in an organised orienteering event within the region. Also planning for health-related physical activity may help to introduce students to the concepts and rationale underpinning a physically active lifestyle. Other strands such as gymnastics and dance may be introduced gradually over the three-year junior cycle. At present there is no gymnastics equipment available in the school. It is recommended that the Physical Education department source an appropriate amount of equipment to introduce this strand of the syllabus. Planning may include the selective purchasing of items on a phased basis so as to disperse the costs involved over a few terms. The website www.jcpe.ie provides a range of useful resources to assist with the planning of a comprehensive Physical Education programme in line with the syllabus at junior cycle.
The first-year plan includes a module introducing students to basic motor-skills, which provides a valuable initiation to Physical Education appropriate to this age group. This is commendable practice as it helps students to focus on their own competency in the range of fundamental skills. Skills are progressed through a series of activities whereby students learn their application in modified games settings. The Physical Education department has also planned and introduced new activities, such as tag-rugby. Planning for the introduction of these activities includes the purchase of equipment, familiarisation with the rules and regulations and the construction of progressive drills for the development of the key skills of the game. To build on these good practices, it is recommended that the Physical Education department take some time to develop a bank of resources to support the content plan. These resources may include age and ability appropriate worksheets, task-cards and explanatory notes. These may be used as reference, activity or supplementary materials for each module of activity.
The Transition Year planning team has designed an activity-based programme to complement the school-based Physical Education plan. This activity programme includes travelling to a nearby leisure and recreational centre for eleven weeks where students participate in swimming lessons and are also instructed in the use of the fitness equipment in the gymnasium. Transition Year students also receive instruction in a “street-wise” self-defence module for eight weeks and participate in an eight-week dance workshop. In addition, a number of trips are arranged to outdoor education centres including a three-day residential tour. The Physical Education department assists in organising some of the activities related to the Gaisce Presidential Awards, which includes a two-day twenty kilometre hike in the Comeragh mountains. All of these activities provide valuable educational experiences through participation in physical activity that contributes to the physical, social and cognitive development of students. This is highly commended.
Students who were unable to participate in the planned physical activities were given assignments to complete during the lesson. This is good practice. However, it is suggested that assignments should relate to the topic of study and should involve these students more productively in the lesson, either through officiating, organising or engaging in observation and reporting on key performance indicators. It is also recommended that attendance and participation records be maintained for all lessons. This process will determine the participation rates and patterns of each student in Physical Education, and may also contribute to the formulation of a comment or grade for reporting on student progress to parents.
In classes visited the topics of study included tag-rugby and a variety of co-ordination and agility based multi-skills and games. Initial warm-up activities were related to the topic of study with students fully engaged from the outset. Tasks were well structured and progressive in intensity. Students were guided through activities covered in previous lessons prior to being introduced to new activities. This is good practice as it provides for continuity to develop students’ competency and understanding. A calm and firm approach to classroom management ensured that a code of conduct appropriate to the Physical Education setting was implemented. Students were praised and affirmed for their efforts in a supportive and sensitive manner and this helped to establish a respectful atmosphere in lessons observed.
Teaching points were well used at the appropriate times to help students develop their skills and understanding in each of the activities. Students worked in pairs, small groups or teams and were afforded sufficient time to engage fully in each task. The tasks set were structured to include and challenge students of all abilities. However, in some cases talented students played a more dominant role in games, sometimes at the expense of students who are less skilful. It is suggested that strategies such as modifying the rules for these students in competitive games may prove more beneficial for all students. Such strategies will reduce the influence of the dominant players and ensure that all students have the opportunity to contribute to the team performance. At times, talented students may make a valuable contribution in using their experience to help develop their peers’ progression and understanding of the focused task. Such strategies would also help to develop their knowledge and understanding, by enabling them to communicate the key technical aspects of the activity and thus empower and give them ownership of the Physical Education process.
The pace and structure of lessons was well organised, controlled and suitable to the topic of each lesson. In single period lessons, student activity was fully optimised to take advantage of the limited amount of time. Games were modified and purposeful to ensure that students were gradually introduced to rules and regulations, particularly in tag-rugby. Students were compliant in adhering to these rules and this good practice led to a respectful and safe playing environment. At times games were interrupted to practise key skills in isolation, without the pressure of the game. This is good practice as it develops students’ competency and confidence to execute skills with more composure when re-applied to the game setting. Additionally, having been exposed to the game situation, students were more aware of the application of these skills to the games context. Students displayed high levels of enjoyment, achievement and satisfaction at the conclusion of the lessons observed.
Assessment in Physical Education takes place informally through some use of oral questioning to assess students’ understanding of topics and also through classroom observation. It is recommended that formal written records of student participation, progress and achievement be maintained for each lesson and after each block of learning. It is also recommended that the Physical Education department adopt some modes of assessment that will facilitate assessment in the subject. These may include regular use of higher-order questioning, gauging progression in skill or activity-based competency, self and peer assessment and engagement in the completion of rich tasks. Students’ interest and enjoyment of the subject has been shown to be enhanced with these methodologies.
Physical Education is not included in the formal report to parents at Christmas and summer. It is recommended that the subject be included in the formal reporting process and students be provided with a comment and/or grade to inform parents of progress in the subject. The availability of the teacher at parent-teacher meetings is commended in line with standard practice.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher 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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The report is an accurate account of the P.E. provision in the school
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
The 2007/8 timetable will, where possible, restore periods for P.E. It will not be possible, in the short term to alter the store provision due to lack of space overall. The principal will receive periodic reports re-class methodologies from P.E. teacher. P.E. reports will be included in the reports to house each term.