An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Coláiste Abbain, Adamstown,
Enniscorthy, County Wexford
Roll number: 71600B
Date of inspection: 20 September 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 Coláiste Abbain. 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 the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s 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.
Coláiste Abbain is a co-educational school run under the auspices of Co. Wexford Vocational Educational Committee (VEC), with a total enrolment of 129 students, 69 boys and 60 girls. Classes are organised into mixed-ability settings. The Physical Education department is composed of one qualified Physical Education teacher who has extensive experience in teaching the subject. The teacher is shared by another school within the Co. Wexford VEC scheme. Management of both schools collaborate to help organise the provision of Physical Education within each school. Physical Education is a core subject for all junior cycle students with one double period provided per week. The time allocated to junior cycle students has recently increased from one single period to a double period per week. School management and the Physical Education department are to be commended for the priority given to the subject through increased curricular provision. This additional time provision will facilitate the development and implementation of a comprehensive Physical Education programme based on the new junior cycle syllabus.
Management supports continued professional development. Attendance at inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus took place last year and the school is progressing with the implementation of this new revised programme. Support for professional development is to be commended, as new and innovative ideas help to develop the subject and stimulate students’ interest. Management also supports the purchase and replacement of equipment and materials for Physical Education on a needs basis. This system works well for the school.
It is reported that fifth-year students are offered Physical Education as an optional subject opposite the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) link modules. Students, who opt to study Physical Education, receive one double period per week. Sixth-year students do not receive any Physical Education at present. Students, who do not receive any Physical Education, may inadvertently form the perception that physical activity is a low priority in their development. Commitment to a physically active lifestyle is recommended by several agencies promoting health and wellness. Schools, through quality Physical Education, can make a significant contribution in providing students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to achieve this aim. It is recommended that the school revise the current levels of provision for the subject and aspire to providing two hours of quality Physical Education for all students, as recommended by the Department of Education and Science Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004/05, (Pages 7, 141).
The facilities available to the school for the teaching of Physical Education are adequate, with two recently developed grass pitches and a large outdoor hard-court area on site. A senior member of staff, along with the Physical Education department, are highly commended for liaising with the Co. Wexford VEC in sourcing and arranging for the purchase of the land to develop the pitches. Because of these actions, the school now has a great teaching, training and competitive outdoor facility. However, the school does not have its own sport’s hall and this situation imposes restrictions on the breadth of the Physical Education programme. It was reported that the school has applied to the planning and building unit of the Department of Education and Science for an extension to its existing buildings, including plans for a sport’s hall. Plans are currently at the design phase. Management is to be highly commended for its proactive approach towards this development.
For a number of years the school has been using a local community hall to conduct Physical Education lessons, especially during the winter term. A recent health and safety audit was conducted on this facility at the request of the Physical Education department. Because of this audit, the Chief Executive Officer of the Co. Wexford VEC issued directions that the use of this hall for Physical Education classes should cease immediately. The hall is to be decommissioned until substantial remedial work can be conducted to rectify some significant health and safety issues. This directive arrived the day prior to the Physical Education inspection visit. Requesting such an audit is to be commended as this action illustrates due care and attention to the welfare of the students. It is also commendable that the school has supported the provision of Physical Education by hiring this facility at considerable expense from its own financial resources. However, the lack of a suitable indoor facility places constraints on the type of physical activities that may be offered, especially during the winter months. Management is proactive in trying to expedite the repair and refurbishment of the local community hall or source alternative accommodation within close proximity to the school. In the meantime, the Physical Education department is commended for the practical and adaptive approach to dealing with the current situation.
A large number of staff is involved in the preparation of teams and individuals for extra-curricular activities. The school has assigned a post of responsibility at an assistant principal level for the coordination of these activities. Students are provided with a broad range of physical activities including Gaelic football, hurling, camógie, soccer, girls’ football, basketball, volleyball, badminton and athletics. It is commendable that a range of individual and team activities is offered to suit both males and females. Involvement in these activities can greatly enhance student relationships and teacher-student rapport, as well as contributing to the overall sense of community within the school and general physical well-being.
Coláiste Abbain is advanced in the school development planning process. Planning is viewed as an ongoing systematic process that enables the school to enhance the quality of teaching and learning and to manage change. Management supports individual subject department planning through the provision of one and a half dedicated planning days during the year. It is commendable that subject planning is constantly under review and is viewed as an ongoing process.
Following participation in the inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus, planning has begun for Physical Education in line with the process promoted by the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS). Activity blocks are planned for each year group. These activities provide as broad a range of experiences as possible, given the resources at the school’s disposal. To build on the planning process undertaken in Physical Education, it is recommended that the subject plan be expanded to include specific learning outcomes, teaching and learning methodologies, planning for resources and planning for the implementation of a variety of modes of assessment.
There is sufficient equipment to support the planned activity blocks. Items requiring replacement are identified and new and replacement items are purchased as needs arise. To support each of the activity blocks of learning, it is recommended that a bank of topic specific resources be developed. These may include worksheets, peer-review performance indicators and a series of discussion questions. The development of these resources will provide further stimulus material for students to engage with the topic of study. These additional stimulus materials may be used to include students who are unable to physically participate in lessons or may be used during classroom-based lessons.
The school is fully broadband enabled and there is good access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities within the school. Access to these facilities and their use is encouraged by management. Planning for the integration of ICT and digital media as a teaching and learning tool should be included to expand the learning process within Physical Education. Movement analysis is enhanced through access to video recordings and observation of online video demonstrations. This promotes the concept of student as analytical performer, which may enrich the student experience and develop responsibility for self-directed learning.
There is good planning for health and safety in Physical Education, as illustrated by the initiative to conduct an audit on the rented accommodation. The Physical Education department is commended for ensuring that all facilities, equipment and procedures are suitable for safe and enjoyable participation in the subject.
Practical lessons were well prepared for the morning of the inspection. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, resulting in the condemnation of the community hall together with inclement weather, a theory lesson was conducted in a classroom. This situation necessitated a high level of improvisation and adaptability and this is commended.
Lessons observed began with recording attendance and general administration in keeping with good practice in classroom management. Positive teacher-student rapport was very evident in the class. Knowledge of students’ interests and participation in local clubs is commendable and through subtle questioning during roll call, many students reported their achievements in local sports’ events to their classmates. This is very admirable practice as it sets a relaxed and respectful atmosphere in the classroom. In addition, permitting students to identify and highlight their involvement in local sports’ clubs highlights the positive levels of participation in physical activities.
The topic of the lesson was the role of physical fitness and training for its development. This topic was appropriate to the age group and interests of the students. The topic and purpose of the lesson was introduced to the students on commencement. There was a strong commitment to oral questioning throughout the lesson. Students’ knowledge of the topic was determined through a range of well-directed questions. This good practice enabled students to relate to the topic from their own experiences of participating in physical activities and sports. Questions were tailored to suit the aptitude and ability of the students. When directing higher-order questions, a good awareness and sensitivity towards students was displayed and subtle prompting was used to encourage student success. Questioning was logical and meaningful and helped to lead the students towards further understanding of the subject matter. The whiteboard was used to very good effect to record student responses. Gradually, students were able to identify some of the key components of physical fitness and specific modes of training to stimulate development of each of these components. It is recommended that students should have a method of recording and retaining the valuable information discussed in the lesson, as this would enhance the learning of important key concepts.
Students displayed a good level of interest in the topic of study. Some good individual discussions took place and it is recommended that this interest could be further developed through using paired-work or small group discussion. This would help to develop student consensus on the role of physical fitness in the lives of the modern adolescent. Also, a bank or resources such as worksheets related to the topic of study should be developed and filed for use as additional stimulus material.
Students reacted positively, engaged well with the topic of study and appeared to be achieving well in the subject.
Attendance and participation is recorded for all classes. Formal reporting to parents takes place twice a year at Christmas and summer. Each student is awarded a comment for Physical Education, which is based on participation and observation of performance in the subject. It is recommended that a grade be provided for all students studying Physical Education. This grade may be determined using a set of criteria developed by the Physical Education department. Criteria may be based on attendance, levels of physical competency, effort and progress, written assessment, task or project completion. Student assessment may be enhanced as the Physical Education department continues to implement the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. Modes of assessment such as self and peer assessment may also form part of the assessment process.
Availability of the Physical Education department at all parent-teacher meetings for discussion of student progress in the subject is commended as this practice firmly establishes the subject as a core component of each student’s education.
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 Obsevations on the content of the inspection report
(1) This thorough, broad ranging report and covered all aspects on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education in Coláiste Abbain.
(2) The reason why two hours Physical Education instruction is not offered to students in the School is because we share our Physical Education teacher with another school, who have similar timetabling demands to ourselves. With regards to the introduction of Physical Education for sixth year, perhaps, this is an area which could be looked at when future timetables are being drawn up. Clearly, if such an option were to be introduced then some other subject area could/would be affected, e.g. Career Guidance and/or Religious Education. Notwithstanding the teacher allocation issue which this would present this is an area which Management will most definitely take into consideration.
(3) We in Coláiste Abbain always promote good student health and student wellness and we are committed to this development. Each year the school organises for students and parents a Health Awareness week.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection a
Implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
Since the inspection was carried out on 20th September 2006 Coláiste Abbain has, in
conjunction wth Co. Wexford VEC, negotiated and secured a 5 year lease on a suitable
premises directly across the street from the school. This is a management hall with
a floor area of 886 sq.yards. All Health and Safety regulations have been met and the
floor has been marked out for Badminton (2 courts), Basketball, Volleyball and Indoor
soccer. Two fully equipped dressing rooms with adjoining toilets have also been
refurbished. €10,000 has been secured for the purchase of equipment which will
the quality of learning and teaching of Physical Education in the school. To date some
of this equipment has been delivered and the provision of this extensive facility for
Physical Education has been a great boost to the school.