An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
De La Salle College
Roll number: 61850S
Date of inspection: 17 January 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in De La Salle College. 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 teachers. 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.
De La Salle College, Wicklow is an all boys’ secondary school catering for 335 students. The school offers a range of programmes that cater for the needs of its students including the Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the established Leaving Certificate. The school is presently planning for an amalgamation with a neighbouring co-educational school, which is scheduled to open in 2009.
There is one fully qualified teacher of Physical Education in the school and this teacher has overall responsibility for the coordination and delivery of the school’s Physical Education curriculum. Two other teachers, who do not hold qualifications to teach Physical Education, are also involved in teaching the subject to senior cycle students. Both of these teachers are also involved in the school’s extra-curricular games programme. The contribution of these teachers to the extra-curricular games programme and to establishing a positive culture of physical activity in the school is highly commended. However, the quality of Physical Education they can offer students is quite limited and there may also be a health and safety risk associated with deploying these teachers to take timetabled Physical Education lessons. A Physical Education teacher is expected to develop students’ knowledge, skills and understanding of the underlying principles of human movement through a broad range of physical activities and experiences. Additionally, a Physical Education professional is expected to have a high level of awareness of safe practice in all areas of physical activity. Therefore, it is recommended that only teachers who possess recognised qualifications to teach Physical Education be timetabled to teach the subject.
Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum for most students, with the exception of sixth-year students. All junior cycle classes receive one double period of Physical Education per week of eighty minutes duration. This provision has changed from two single periods to one double period and it is reported that this new arrangement has resulted in significant improvements in the management of classes and in the quality and depth of the programme being offered. Management and the Physical Education department are commended for their reflection, and their review of the previous provision and for implementing the new improved provision. Students in the TY programme are allocated one double period and one single period of Physical Education per week, in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science (DES). This time provision enables the Physical Education department to plan for a broad range of activities and experiences in keeping with the aims of the Transition Year programme. In addition, management has ensured that the qualified Physical Education teacher is fully deployed to teach all junior cycle and TY classes. This is commended.
Students in fifth year are timetabled for two single periods per week of forty minutes duration, whilst sixth-year students are given the option of participating in two single period Physical Education lessons or using the time to study. It was reported that the uptake in Physical Education in sixth-year is approximately fifty percent. It is unfortunate that this arrangement exists as it may create the impression amongst older students that Physical Education and engagement in physical activity is unimportant and only for younger students. Furthermore, the timetabling of two single period lessons results in very little time for in-depth study and practical involvement in the focused topic. It is recommended that the current senior cycle provision and arrangements for Physical Education be reviewed. Quality Physical Education has an important role to play in promoting behaviours conducive to positive engagement in lifelong physical activity. It is important that all students be timetabled for Physical Education in line with DES recommendations as outlined in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools 2004/2005.
Management supports the continued professional development of its staff and the Physical Education teacher has attended inservice for the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. The school is now in the process of implementing this new syllabus.
The facilities available for the teaching and learning of Physical Education are quite restrictive. A small hall measuring fifteen by eight metres is the only indoor facility and there is also an outdoor hard court area. The school has some access to local playing pitches for classes or extra-curricular games upon request to the relevant clubs. The school has recently installed two large containers to act as a storeroom and changing room for Physical Education. The storeroom capacity is adequate and there is a range of equipment to support many of the strands of the syllabuses. Much of the support for the Physical Education programme is in the form of providing transport to and from off-site venues. Buses are hired to transport classes to venues such as a local fitness studio or playing pitches. The school is to be highly commended for its support of the current programme especially given the significant costs involved. It is acknowledged that much progress is being made towards improving the provision for Physical Education in the school and continued development is encouraged to establish best practice prior to the forthcoming amalgamation.
The Physical Education department has been involved in the development of the school’s health and safety policy and has also developed a comprehensive statement specific to Physical Education. This is good practice and teachers are encouraged to remain aware of potential risks to students during physical activities.
There is a good range of extra-curricular activities in the school including soccer, Gaelic football, basketball, hurling, golf, rugby, athletics and Olympic handball. Several staff members are involved in the organisation, coaching and preparation of students for these activities. Such involvement is to be highly praised as it makes a huge contribution to students’ educational experiences. The school proudly displays photographs of the many student achievements in these activities and this serves to promote the traditions and sporting culture of the school, which is highly commended.
Subject planning has commenced on a formal basis in the school. There is a subject planning meeting held at the start of the school year. In addition, there are three formal meetings during the year, which take place when Transition Year students are on work experience. Informal meetings occur regularly throughout the year. The qualified Physical Education teacher acts as the subject coordinator and takes full responsibility for the organisation of subject planning and development of the Physical Education curriculum. The subject department collaborates on all aspects related to the senior cycle programme. All formal planning meetings are documented and the outcomes of these meetings are recorded, which is good practice.
There was evidence of reflective practice in the planning and design of a thorough plan for Physical Education in the school. A broad scheme of work is planned for each year group identifying the activities and their placement during the year. Additional schemes of work have been developed in more detail for most of these activities and are contained in the subject plan.
The school is involved in the implementation of the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus and plans to provide as many of the strands of the new syllabus as possible. However, some of the strands such as gymnastics are not offered due to limitations imposed by lack of space and suitable equipment, whilst the provision of aquatics is not considered due to prohibitive costs. As well as a strong emphasis on games, plans have been made for the introduction of adventure activities, athletics, gymnastics and health related activity across the junior cycle. This is commendable as the knowledge and skills developed through involvement in these activities ensures that students focus on their environment, greater body management and the contribution of lifelong involvement in physical activity to their physical health and wellbeing. The Physical Education department has also taken steps to source suitable gymnastics equipment, and it plans to introduce this activity in the near future.
The Transition Year plan is varied and comprehensive. The Physical Education department organises a number of certified courses such as first aid, FAI “young whistles” refereeing course, IRFU and GAA coaching courses. Participation in these courses provides students with valuable knowledge of communication and organisation skills as well as developing social and leadership qualities, which is commendable. TY students are required to apply these skills by organising a sports day for first-year students. In addition, TY students undertake a health and fitness course in a local gym and a lifesaving course in the local swimming pool. The organisation and provision of these courses as well as providing opportunities for students to apply their learned skills is highly commendable.
The senior cycle plan is dominated by games due to the limitations imposed by the deployment of teaching staff. However, there is a good range of contrasting games varying from invasion games to net and fielding games. It is recommended that this senior cycle plan be revised to consider some of the kinesiological, psychological and sociological principles underpinning engagement in physical activity and how these may be applied in a variety of contexts such as health and wellness, sports culture as well as performance in a variety of sports and physical activities. This will ensure that there is some continuity in learning between the junior cycle, TY and senior cycle plans.
The subject plan contains a range of resources to support teachers in developing effective teaching methods, which is very good practice. Such resources include reference to a variety of approaches to teaching new skills and references to relevant websites. The Physical Education department has embraced the planning framework advocated by the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service and has planned for the use of many of the recommended modes of assessment. This is commendable.
The Physical Education department has developed a large bank of resources to support each of the activity strands planned in the Physical Education programme, which is commendable. A range of files is available containing resources specific to each activity strand of the syllabus. These resources provide additional information regarding the topic of study, as well as providing tasks for students to apply their knowledge. Whilst there is availability of information and communication technology (ICT) facilities in the school, they are not frequently used in Physical Education. Where possible and practical, it is recommended that some engagement with ICT be incorporated into the subject plan to support active teaching and learning methods.
In all cases, students demonstrated a high level of maturity in their engagement with their Physical Education lessons. Students changed promptly and this helped to optimise time for practical activities, especially for single period lessons. All lessons began with a roll call and teachers introduced students to the focused activity. Best practice was observed when students were questioned on their knowledge and understanding of key concepts from previous learning and this was then developed to help introduce students to the topic of study. In some cases, students were given a workbook that was to be completed as they progressed through each phase of the lesson. This is very good practice.
In the classes visited, the topics taught were health related physical fitness and badminton. In all lessons observed, warm-up activities were conducted prior to engagement in more strenuous physical activities in keeping with good practice. In some cases, students were questioned regarding the effect and benefit of the warm-up activities and to identify the muscle groups, the joints and the techniques being used. This is very good practice as it focuses students’ attention on the physiological impact and biomechanical requirements of physical activity and develops a deeper understanding of these components of human movement. In other cases, students conducted their own warm-up following the instructions of a classmate. In such cases, students followed the appropriate phases of a structured warm-up and demonstrated a good level of leadership and maturity when responding to their peers. This is commendable practice as it affords students the opportunities to apply their knowledge and understanding and to take responsibility for their own learning. However, at times students may require direction to ensure that the pace and techniques being used are appropriate to the phase of the warm-up and that the exercises selected are not contraindicated.
Most lessons were well organised and structured and optimised the level of physical activity possible. In all cases, students demonstrated enthusiasm and enjoyment in their participation in the variety of activities. However, lessons were varied in their content and challenge for students to promote learning and there was obvious differentiation between lessons that were focused on the teaching and learning of key concepts and those structured to promote activity. Where best practice was observed, students were required to apply their knowledge and understanding to record their physiological response to three distinct modes of exercise. In other cases, teachers enthusiastically motivated students to participate and compete in a series of competitive matches, however students were rarely provided with any technical or tactical challenges nor provided with opportunities to analyse factors influencing performance. It is recommended that tasks be structured to consider the desired learning outcomes. These may focus on technical, tactical or physical components related to the topic of study. All learning experiences should focus on developing students’ knowledge, skills and understanding related to the principles of movement and factors underpinning participation in physical activities.
In some cases, students who were unable to participate in the physical activities of the lesson were provided with a task sheet and a peer-monitoring sheet. This good practice should be extended to all classes as it ensures that students are engaged at some level in the lesson, either cognitively, physically or both.
Teachers have established a good rapport with their students and this has resulted in a respectful learning environment. In most cases teachers moved around the hall or gym monitoring and motivating students. Good practice was observed when the teacher provided technical assistance to individual students to clarify key points or to help improve competency. Teachers were affirming and positive towards students at all times and students were appreciative of teachers’ efforts on their behalf.
All lessons ended in an orderly manner with students assisting in the storing of equipment. This good practice is indicative of a high level of cooperation and willingness of students to help in the organisation of lessons. In some cases, the teacher recapped briefly on key points of the lesson to consolidate learning. This is good practice as it helps students to establish links between lessons and to understand how they are progressing in their learning. Students responded well to questions put to them during the inspection.
The Physical Education department has developed a grading system for assessing students based on participation, effort and progress. Levels of attainment are presently determined through observation of students during lessons and analysis of teachers’ records. The development of an assessment system is commendable and the Physical Education department is encouraged to expand this system to include clear criteria in determining students learning. Involvement in the implementation of the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus has seen the introduction of self and peer-assessment methods. Student self-rating profiles are maintained for the present first years and it is intended to continue this process as students progress through junior cycle. Other modes, such as the completion of rich-tasks, will help provide a focused framework from which to base criteria for assessing student learning. The introduction of these methods will serve to further develop the assessment process and is highly commended.
Formal reports are sent to parents four times per year. This level of communication with parents is very good practice. Physical Education is included in all reports home and teachers are available at parent-teacher meetings to discuss individual student’s progress in the subject. Reports contain both a grade and a comment, which is informative to parents of their child’s progress in the subject.
Students observed during the inspection demonstrated a high level of maturity and enthusiasm in their participation in Physical Education lessons.
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 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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
We, the Board of Management of De La Salle College are very pleased with the PE inspection report. It was very positive and affirmed the great work carried out by the PE Department and by those involved in extracurricular activities. We would like to thank the inspector for his professionalism and for the recommendation made.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
We will examine the recommendations and use them as a guide to improve in the future