An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta


Department of Education and Science

Subject Inspection of Physical Education



Rockford Manor Secondary School

Stradbrook Road, Blackrock, County Dublin

Roll number: 60081P


Date of inspection: 10 December 2008





Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning


Summary of main findings and recommendations

School response to the report






Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Rockford Manor Secondary School . 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 their teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the 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.


Subject provision and whole school support


Rockford Manor Secondary School is an all-girls school with a current enrolment of 289 students. Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum for all students. The total time allocation for the subject for junior cycle students and for those following the established Leaving Certificate is two periods per week. Whilst two periods per week are adequate to implement a comprehensive physical education programme, it is preferable that this allocation be organised as a double period. Circular letter M15/05 recommends a minimum of one double period per week for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus. This arrangement will allow sufficient time for in-depth study of the focused topics and for full exploration of the practical activities. The time allocation of one afternoon per week for students following the optional Transition Year (TY) programme is exemplary. This allocation and arrangement allows for a greater range of on-site and off-site activities to be organised and ensures that students have sufficient time to gain fully from their learning experiences. The Leisure and Recreation Course is provided on the curriculum for students following the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. LCA year one students receive five periods per week, organised as two single periods and one treble period. This time allocation ensures that LCA students have regular exposure and engagement in physical activity. Whilst the time allocation for LCA year one students is exemplary, it is suggested that consideration be given to continuing some level of provision for LCA year two students. This would ensure that these students continue to participate in organised and meaningful physical activity throughout their time in school. Such practice helps students to view regular physical activity as an integral component of a balanced lifestyle. It is recommended that the school re-visit its timetabling arrangements for Physical Education with a view to providing the subject for all students in accordance with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science outlined in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.


The physical education department consists of one teacher who is a recent graduate of the subject and is who is new to the school. Management has recognised the need for a qualified physical education teacher and has afforded every support to the teacher in implementing a comprehensive physical education programme in the school. Attendance at inservice was arranged and facilitated by management for the planning and implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus and for the LCA Leisure and Recreation Course, in addition to the induction programme for new teachers run by the trustees, Catholic Education an Irish Schools Trust (CEIST). Participation in such courses is highly commendable as it ensures familiarity with best practice in the subject to meet the needs of the diversity of students in the school. Given the absence of PE teacher colleagues in the school, it is recommended that contacts be established with other teachers of Physical Education for the purpose of sharing good practice and ensuring ongoing professional developmentThis can be achieved through participation in the local Teacher Professional Network (TPN), which is facilitated by the Physical Education Association of Ireland ( In addition, regular contact with other professionals can be maintained through the website and discussion forum of the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS; and the Physical Education, Physical Activity and Youth Sport (PEPAYS; organisation.   


The range of facilities and resources in the school is of a good quality for supporting a comprehensive physical education programme. These facilities are very well maintained and include a small sports hall, two hard court areas and a small grass area. The hard courts are completed in colour tarmac which greatly adds to the definition of the playing zones and boundaries. Additional or replacement items of equipment or resources are purchased from the annual budget allocation. The storeroom is fully equipped with sufficient equipment to support the physical education programme. Extensive work has been devoted to accurately project the required expenditure to support the physical education and extra-curricular activities programmes. Management is proactive in ensuring that these programmes are well supported.  


The physical education facilities and equipment are subject to regular health and safety audits, which is good practice. There is good signage in the sports hall and students’ attention is drawn to procedures for their safe participation in all aspects of the physical education programme. Information and communications technology (ICT) equipment is available to support teaching and learning of the subject, which include a laptop, data-projector and digital video cameras. It is recommended that a whiteboard be placed in the hall as a facility to highlight key points of lessons and to record students’ responses to class tasks.


Attention has recently been focused on strengthening the extra-curricular sports and physical activity programmes. A range of activities is offered to students including athletics, badminton, basketball, Gaelic games, hockey, soccer and table-tennis. Students are also facilitated to represent the school in annual schools’ swimming galas. However, it was reported that the level of provision for the range of activities is restricted due to a limited number of people available to organise, coach and supervise students. In addition to the physical education teacher, a number of external coaches help to support the training of teams for schools competitions. Valuable collaborative links have also been established with local clubs to host training sessions and inter-schools competitions. Of particular note is the effort to engage students who may not be interested in competitive sport but who value and enjoy participating in exercise and physical activity. Aerobics, dance and kick-boxing classes are held on a weekly basis for these students; an initiative that has seen a significant increase in overall student participation in the after-school activities. In addition, a Students Sports Council has recently been established to promote and support participation in physical activity, exercise and sport. The efforts of all involved in providing for students physical activity and sporting interests are highly commended. The continued building of capacity, especially personnel, to support the delivery of the innovative, inclusive and progressive extra-curricular programme is encouraged. The school is also encouraged to conduct a whole school review of the provision, support and value of physical activity and sport as part of the culture of the school.


Planning and preparation


There is a high quality of subject department planning for Physical Education in this school. Management facilitates the subject department planning process through the allocation of formal meeting time once per term. Records are maintained of all issues requiring attention and these are presented to management for consultation. The structures in place to facilitate, record and advance planning are commended.


A comprehensive subject plan has been developed that documents all aspects relevant to the provision, organisation and delivery of the subject in the school. This plan is characterised by a clear vision for the long-term development of the subject and school sport. Part of this vision is that all students have access to quality extra-curricular physical activity and school sports programmes. This aims to supplement students’ physical education experiences by providing a platform from which to develop their interests and talents through competitive sport, or recreational activities that promote their physical well-being.


The planned programmes of work for each year group are in line with syllabus guidelines. Some of the planned modules are innovative and very well constructed to promote students’ learning. These include an adapted physical activity module for TY students who design and assist in the implementation of the physical activity programmes for students with learning disabilities attending a local primary school. Similarly, the design and detail of the LCA module in physical activity and health is well focused, thorough and progressive.


Schemes of work have been developed to inform the delivery of each activity module. These detailed plans account for all aspects related to the promotion of students’ learning and have clearly defined learning outcomes, progression in content and learning experiences and identify strategies to support teaching and optimise learning. Furthermore, planning for student assessment is well documented. The inclusion of end-of-module rich tasks and challenging goals to gauge student achievement is very good practice. Monitoring and review of programmes and plans takes place on an on-going basis. To build on this good practice, it is recommended that some element of student input be included to enhance the review and subsequent planning process.


In addition to the subject planning documents, a range of resource materials is available, including texts, videos, worksheets and websites, which are beneficial to planning individual lessons. An array of student-generated posters and charts is displayed in the sports hall and good use is made of the notice boards to display information relevant to Physical Education. The creation of a bright and engaging learning environment is highly commended.


Teaching and learning


The quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education observed in this school was of a high standard. All lessons were well planned and prepared. Prior organisation ensured that lessons had a clear focus and were efficiently and effectively delivered. A clear system for the commencement of lessons has been developed to ensure that attendance is recorded, the sports hall, equipment and resources are prepared and time for learning is optimised. Students demonstrated familiarity with this system, which resulted in an expedient commencement of lessons. In the lessons visited the topics covered were aerobic dance, orienteering and camp craft.


Effective questioning was used to recap on and consolidate previous learning and to establish links with new material. The content of the lesson was clearly explained to students at the outset and this was linked to the intended learning outcomes and the criteria for success. This good practice ensured that students understood the purpose and direction of their lesson and had clear targets for their participation and learning.


All lessons commenced with topic-specific warm-up activities. Explanations were clear and precise, and when required, demonstrations were of a high quality. Questioning was also used to good effect during this phase of the lessons to determine students understanding of the principles of warm-up and the purpose of the activities. Online video clips of movement sequences were used as part of the warm-up process in the aerobics lessons and this added greatly to students’ level of engagement, competency and enjoyment. The effective integration of ICT to support students’ learning experiences is commended.


Tasks set in the lessons observed were engaging, progressive and challenging for students of all abilities and were well constructed to promote students cognitive and physical development. All lessons contained valuable opportunities for independent and co-operative learning. In the lesson on camp craft, students worked in small groups to create the most suitable camp site based on the relative importance of several factors, such as access and proximity to water and firewood, topography and wind direction. The use of a range of props, including a tree, was both inventive and stimulating for students and helped to simulate the outdoor environment. To further develop this practice, consideration should be given to delivering this module during the autumn or summer term when tents and the grass area could be easily used. It was commendable that students were expected to observe the Country Code and were questioned regarding their understanding of this important environmental practice. Similar good practices were observed in the orienteering lesson where students worked in pairs or small groups to complete the set course. Very good links were established between the skills of map-reading in Geography and their application in orienteering, such as setting the map, scale and reading the legend. The prepared maps and photographic clues were of a high quality.


Exemplary practice was observed in the aerobics dance lessons where opportunities were provided for students to design and lead their peers and teacher in a short aerobics routine. This approach proved challenging and rewarding for students and is highly commended for promoting effective learning.


Students demonstrated a high level of maturity and responsibility for their learning and were actively and enthusiastically engaged in the physical activities of their lessons. The management and organisation of the class activities and of the available space and resources were very effective. Teacher mobility was very helpful as students were afforded individual or small-group attention during the lessons to help them progress with their activities. A good rapport was evidenced between students and their teacher and all classroom interactions observed were caring and respectful. Strategies have also been developed to include students who are unable to participate in the physical activities, which is good practice.


Time was taken at the end of lessons to recap on the purpose of the activities and tasks, to reinforce the key points and to introduce the content of the next lesson, thus consolidating learning and establishing continuity. This is good practice. The practice of ensuring that students complete a worksheet or task card during the lesson is commended as it provides them with a valuable record of their learning. 




Considerable attention has been devoted to establishing a comprehensive system of assessment in Physical Education in this school. Detailed records of students’ attendance and participation in their physical education lessons are maintained in the teacher’s journal. An assessment for learning approach is effectively used to promote and assess students’ progress and attainment in Physical Education. Assessment is successfully integrated into each lesson to help students establish learning goals set against clear performance criteria.


The range of formative and summative assessment strategies include self and peer assessment, completion of rich tasks, practical performance demonstrations as well as summative question papers at the end of some modules. Student folders are maintained and neatly stored in the physical education office. Many of the materials completed by students contain annotated feedback providing valuable direction to students on areas for further improvement. This approach and its continued development are highly commended.


A comment on the overall performance and progress of each student in Physical Education is included on school reports sent to parents twice per year for all junior cycle, TY and LCA students. It is recommended that the engagement, progress and achievement of the established Leaving Certificate students also be included in the reports to parents.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The facilities and resources in the school are of a good quality for supporting a comprehensive physical education programme.

·         Support for continuing professional development is exemplary.

·         There are good structures in place to facilitate subject department planning.

·         Engagement with the subject department planning process is well advanced. The subject plan and programmes of work developed for each year group are of a high standard.   

·         The school is implementing the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus.

·         The quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education is of a high standard.

·         All lessons were well planned and prepared and the time available is optimised to fully engage students in learning.

·         Lessons are conducted in a positive, affirming and engaging learning environment where students are supported and encouraged in their participation.

·         A comprehensive system of assessment in Physical Education has been developed.

·         Considerable effort has been directed towards developing the extra-curricular sports and physical activity programmes.


As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

·         It is recommended that the school re-visit its timetabling arrangements for Physical Education with a view to providing the subject for all students in accordance with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science.

·         Some element of student input should also be included to enhance the review and planning process for Physical Education.

·         It is recommended that a white-board be installed in the sports hall.

·         It is recommended that the engagement, progress and achievement of the established Leaving Certificate students also be included in the reports to parents.


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.




Published April 2009




School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management




Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     


We are very happy with the content of this report.  We consider it to be a very thorough and analytical observation of the P.E Department and of the whole school support of that department


Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection          


A white board has been installed in the P.E hall


We are creating a spot for P.E on the leaving cert students’ report cards