An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Rockbrook Park School
Edmondstown Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
Roll number: 60321J
Date of inspection: 4 March 2009
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Rockbrook Park 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 studentsí work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacherís 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Rockbrook Park School is a fee-paying, secondary school for boys with a current enrolment of 130 students. The school provides the Junior Certificate, an optional Transition Year (TY) programme and the established Leaving Certificate. Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum for all students, with the exception of a small number of sixth-year students. The timetable provision for the subject is broadly in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science (DES) as outlined in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. In the junior cycle, first-year students receive two double periods of Physical Education per week, whilst second and third-year students receive one double and one single period per week. This time allocation to the subject ensures that a broad and integrated physical education programme, which promotes a comprehensive understanding of the principles underpinning human movement, can be organised and implemented in the school.
TY students receive a double period of Physical Education per week. In addition, one day per week is devoted to the organisation of a range of short courses or modules, many of which involve physical activities. The total time allocation for Physical Education and learning through physical activities provides TY students with exemplary provision to enhance their personal development and their knowledge, skills and capacities to engage in physical activity, exercise and sport. Fifth and sixth-year students receive one double period per week, which is adequate to implement a comprehensive physical education programme. Due to a timetabling anomaly that has arisen this year, a small number of sixth-year students, who study Chemistry, are unable to participate in the physical education programme. Management is currently addressing this issue to ensure that all students have equitable access to the physical education programme in future. Overall, the time provision and the organisation of this allocation to support studentsí learning in Physical Education is commended.
The physical education department consists of two teachers, neither of whom holds recognised qualifications to teach the subject. With the exception of one group, all Physical Education classes are taught by one of these teachers who has gained extensive experience in the development, organisation and implementation of the programme in this school. This teacher also holds a third-level qualification in a related area. However, it is recommended that only teachers who hold recognised qualifications be timetabled to teach the subject. There may also be a health and safety risk associated with the timetabling of non-Physical Education professionals to take timetabled lessons in the subject. It is commendable that a number of coaching and sports-specific professional development courses has been undertaken to support the knowledge and skills required to implement the current programme of activities. It is also commended that management is supportive of the continuing professional development (CPD) of its staff.
Whilst the school does not possess a suitable indoor sports facility to accommodate the physical education programme, the level of investment and development of the external facilities is highly commended. The school has recently built a new changing pavilion, which comprises four changing rooms, a storeroom, toilets and an office. There are three Astroturf pitches measuring twenty-five by thirty metres approximately, with each pitch enclosed and floodlit. The school also has a large soccer pitch and is currently developing a full-sized GAA pitch and two small training pitches. In addition, there are plans to develop a full-sized sports hall as part of the next development phase for the school. The development of these facilities and resources to support studentsí Physical Education, physical activity and sporting interests is a credit to the foresight and commitment of management, staff and the trustees of the school.
The school has its own bus, which is extensively used to support the physical education programme. The use of a range of external facilities, such as the local woods and sports and leisure clubs, ensures that studentsí physical activity experiences are embedded within their own communities. This practice will serve to enhance studentsí learning and promote positive lifestyle behaviours conducive to physical health and wellbeing. †
The storeroom for Physical Education is equipped with sufficient equipment to support the planned physical activity modules. An annual budget is provided to support the procurement of additional or replacement items of equipment or resources as appropriate. There is good access to a range of information and communications technology (ICT) equipment, such as digital video cameras, data-projector, and DVD players, to support teaching and learning. In addition, broadband access is available throughout the school.
Sport and physical activity is valued as a core element of the schoolís culture and ethos. Despite the relatively small student population in the school, its achievements in the Football Association of Ireland Schools (FAIS) soccer competitions are remarkable, including recently winning a national title. This history of success is something which the school is justifiably proud of and one that can be expected to have a positive impact on the attitude of many students to sport and physical activity. In addition to soccer, a number of other extra-curricular physical activities are often provided for the students including athletics and cross-country running, golf, orienteering and table-tennis. The involvement of teachers in the provision, organisation and coaching of these activities is highly commended.
A short subject plan is in place for Physical Education, which outlines the activities to be covered with each year group. A good range of diverse activities is planned that provides a relatively broad and balanced physical education programme. The practice of listing a number of aims and reflections regarding studentsí abilities and needs for each year group provides a focus for studentsí development, and this practice is commended.
Significant time is devoted to planning the organisation of the physical education programme, especially in the area of booking facilities and securing resources to support the planned programme of activities. The level of organisation and planning invested in providing for student access to the range of activities and the logistics associated with managing class groups are commended. Many of the planned activities, such as adventure activities, aquatics and health-related physical fitness, provide students with opportunities to develop knowledge and a range of skills that contribute to their health and wellbeing. These activities are relatively inexpensive, can be enjoyed as lifelong pursuits and are easily accessed. The embedding of studentsí learning in these activities within their own community and hinterland increases their relevance to the development of positive physical activity behaviours.
It is recommended, to build on the good practice to date, that the subject plan be further developed to support the delivery of the subject in the school. This should include a brief rationale for the inclusion of the subject on the curriculum and its link to the ethos and mission of the school. The overarching aims and objectives for the programme should be documented, along with all aspects related to the organisation and delivery of the programme. Furthermore, a section of the plan should identify and address all health and safety considerations regarding studentsí participation in the planned physical activities. Particular reference should be made to studentsí welfare when using off-site venues, especially those that involve adventure activities or those where students are not always visible to the teacher. This section should also identify procedures in the event of an emergency or accident. This will ensure that procedures and guidelines are clearly documented to safeguard students and their teachers.
The impact that inclement weather may have on the continuity of the planned programme is acknowledged due to the absence of an appropriate indoor facility. As a result the programme may not always progress according to plan. Therefore, there is a need to identify how students will progress their knowledge and skills in each activity block in an incremental manner. It is recommended that each of the planned activity blocks has a clear educational focus and identifies the key learning outcomes in terms of the knowledge, skills and competencies that students will develop. It is also important that the appropriate teaching and learning and assessment methods, best suited to enable students to achieve the desired learning outcomes, are identified in these plans. Furthermore, planning for each activity block should incorporate the development of additional resources, such as task cards, worksheets and relevant video clips to provide a reference to support studentsí learning and to provide a record of their engagement.
There was evidence of good planning for the lessons observed with all items of equipment and the relevant supplementary material prepared in advance.†
Attendance and participation is recorded prior to the commencement of all lessons in an efficient and systematic manner. In the lessons visited, the topics taught were soccer and adventure activities. Participation levels were high and students were enthusiastic and actively engaged in their lessons. Students, who were unable to participate in the physical activities, were assigned organisational duties and attempts were made to include these students in the content of the lesson, which is good practice. The further development of additional strategies for the greater inclusion of these students is recommended and these should also be included in the subject plan.
Lessons began promptly with the teacher introducing the topic and outlining the content of the lesson to the students. To build on this practice, it is recommended that the learning intentions are also shared with students along with the criteria for success. These should be expressed as the particular knowledge and understanding that students should acquire and the associated physical competencies or skills that they are expected to develop and demonstrate as a result of their engagement.
The practical activities of the lessons began with well structured and progressive warm-up tasks that were appropriate to the focused activity and prepared students for participation in their lessons. Stretching was used as part of the warm-up and some useful references, which helped to develop studentsí anatomical knowledge, were made to various muscle groups.. The adventure activities lesson took place in the nearby woods and students were introduced to the basic skills of orientating a map to identify their location and to the country code. This practice is commended as it reinforces studentsí learning in other subjects and develops an appreciation for the natural environment. The presence of a teaching assistant and two TY students to assist in the organisation and running of the adventure activities lesson ensured that there was a good supervisory presence. Aspects of health and safety were stressed clearly by the teacher to ensure that students were aware of the terrain and the possible dangers it presented. However, additional strategies should be in place to support studentsí health and welfare during their participation in some of the class tasks. These may include a buddy system to ensure that students are never isolated or work alone, especially given the nature and physical challenges of the terrain.
Lessons developed in a progressive manner with some tasks that challenged studentsí skill level or physical fitness. In the soccer lesson, drills and activities, which aimed to incrementally develop studentsí skill level, were well organised and gradually increased in complexity. Demonstrations were well executed and accompanied by some good technical instruction, which helped to guide students in the patterns of movement required to execute the focused skill. It is recommended that additional opportunities be used to expand the range of questioning and methods to encourage studentsí analysis and decision-making skills. This will increase studentsí focus from participation into more informed learning and further enhance their appreciation and enjoyment of the various tasks and game-related activities.
The lessons observed were characterised by a high level of physical activity, student engagement and enjoyment. Students were regularly encouraged and affirmed for their efforts and have established a respectful rapport with their teacher.
Whilst lessons concluded with a cool-down activity, which is good practice, it is recommended that a recap of the key learning objectives be undertaken to consolidate studentsí learning. Various strategies such as questioning of students to determine their understanding, the completion of self-evaluation or learning reflection tasks or observing performance demonstrations may prove useful for this purpose.
Records of studentsí attendance and participation in all of their Physical Education lessons are well maintained. Some formative assessment of studentsí learning takes place through observation of their engagement and progress in class activities and feedback is provided on an ongoing basis to improve technical competence. However, there is scope for the development of the assessment process in Physical Education. This can be achieved through the use of a range of formative and summative strategies. The work conducted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) www.ncca.ie on assessment for learning, as well as the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS) www.jcpe.ie should be consulted for information on the development of student portfolios of learning. The compilation of these portfolios will help to illustrate studentsí progress in the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, as well as their progress in the development of the technical and applied aspects associated with the planned activity modules.
Communication with parents regarding their sonís engagement, progress and attainment in Physical Education is mainly through the annual parent-teacher meetings and comments in the student journal. The school has plans to include a comment on the formal reporting system to parents, once the electronic format is fully deployed. This is a welcome development as parents should be informed of their sonís engagement and development of knowledge and skills and positive attitudes and behaviours towards participation in regular physical activity.
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 physical education teacher and the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published January 2010