An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
East Glendalough School
Wicklow, County Wicklow
Roll number: 81016V
Date of inspection: 19 September 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in East Glendalough School, Wicklow. 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
East Glendalough School, Wicklow, is a co-educational comprehensive school catering for the educational needs of 361 students. The school provides the Junior Certificate, Transition Year Programme (TY), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the established Leaving Certificate. Physical Education enjoys a valued status as a core subject on the curriculum for all students and there is a strong commitment to a physical activity culture in the school. There is clear evidence that every effort is made by management and staff to support the provision of a broad and cohesive Physical Education, games and physical activity programme in the school.
The Physical Education department consists of one qualified teacher who has extensive experience of teaching the subject and facilitating all aspects related to school sport and physical activity. Continuing professional development is encouraged by management and is facilitated whenever opportunities for inservice or attendance at courses and conferences arise. The school is involved in the implementation of the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus.
There is very good provision for Physical Education, sport and physical activity in this school. All class groups are timetabled for one double period of Physical Education per week and an additional double period is timetabled for games for each year group. Participation in the games periods is optional for fifth and sixth-year students and it was reported that uptake is very high. The total time allocation for Physical Education and games for each student amounts to two hours and forty minutes per week which is exemplary. The games programme is organised by the Physical Education department and aims to support the concepts promoted by the Physical Education syllabus. Additional staff is deployed, under the guidance of the Physical Education department, to support the running of the games programme. Whilst it is best practice that teachers be deployed to curricular areas for which they hold recognised qualifications, it is acknowledged that the school is working within the constraints of its current allocation. It is commendable that staff members who are involved in the games programme hold coaching qualifications relevant to their activity of provision. It is also commendable that all aspects related to the organisation and delivery of the programme, including health and safety, have been considered. The current provision and its organisation are underpinned by a clear philosophy and belief in the value of physical activity as part of the holistic education of the students. It is noteworthy that statistics gathered by the school indicate that those students who are actively involved in all aspects of the Physical Education, games and extra-curricular sports programmes achieved significantly higher results in the state examinations. The organisation of the Physical Education, games and extra-curricular sports programme provides clear pathways for students to identify and develop their talents in a school climate that strongly supports the participation of its students.
The facilities available for the subject are adequate, yet may be restrictive at times given the expansive nature of the programmes on offer. There is a small hall, two undersized pitches and an outdoor basketball court. As a result of the restrictions imposed by the current facilities, school teams must play all home matches at local venues, which imposes considerable expense on the school for the hire and travel to these facilities. Management and the Physical Education department are highly commended for their proactive approach to developing a full sized sports hall and Astroturf facilities for the school. A formal application to the Department of Education and Science has been unsuccessful, but the school has decided to continue to pursue the provision of these facilities.
A clear and effective system is in place for the purchase of additional and replacement items and the school is well resourced with equipment to support a comprehensive Physical Education programme. Of particular note is the installation of a rock climbing zone on one of the internal walls of the sports hall. The Physical Education department, together with a member of staff who possesses advanced qualifications in mountaineering and rock climbing, supported the provision of this facility to enhance the diversity of activities available to accommodate students’ interests. An office used by the Physical Education department contains a computer, which is broadband enabled and supports preparation and planning for the subject. In addition, access to digital video cameras, the school’s computer room and audio-visual equipment are available to the Physical Education department upon request. Greater use of these electronic resources is encouraged to enhance the range of teaching and learning strategies.
There is a well developed and extensive extra-curricular sports programme in the school. Activities organised as part of this programme include archery, soccer, rugby, basketball, hockey, croquet and athletics. The school also enters equestrian teams in various competitions. In addition, there is a dance club in the school that practises once per week. Training for the various sports and physical activities takes place after school and during some lunchtimes and it was reported that participation rates in these activities are very high. The success of the school in various schools’ competitions reflects significant achievements at regional and provincial level, which is highly commendable especially given the size of the school. The selection of several students on the national croquet squad, a sport that is well established in the school, is particularly noteworthy.
It is highly progressive that the school operates a students’ sports committee, which is comprised of senior students. These students play a significant role in all aspects of the promotion, organisation, administration and coaching of the variety of sports provided by the school’s extra-curricular sports programme.
Formal meeting time is allocated to subject departments to facilitate the planning process. Subject planning is well advanced in this school and the Physical Education department has developed a comprehensive plan for the subject. In addition to the development of the Physical Education plan, regular meetings are held to facilitate the planning and co-ordination of the games programme. These meetings are well documented and the range of topics and decisions taken are recorded in the minutes of these meetings. It was reported that there is good collaboration between all staff members who are involved in the games programme and a considerable level of planning has taken place to develop the current programme. This is highly commendable.
There is exemplary practice in that the Physical Education department invites students to evaluate the content and organisation of the programme on an annual basis. The results of this valuable reflective practice inform the content of the Physical Education programme. This is highly commendable as it empowers students to feel part of the decision-making process within the framework of the stated aims of the Physical Education syllabuses.
The Physical Education plan is well structured and includes many of the elements of effective planning. The plan includes the aims and learning outcomes of the programme, some methodologies, modes of assessment, programme evaluation as well as the development of cross-curricular links and the range of co-curricular and extra-curricular physical activities. In addition, the content plan for each year group is well structured. The planning framework for the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus is used to structure the activities for each year group in junior cycle and it is commendable that the syllabus is now being implemented in the school. There is some scope for the inclusion of rich tasks, assessment for learning, information and communication technology (ICT) and the role of digital media into the planning framework to support teaching and learning.
The TY programme is well developed in the school and there is a range of interesting and challenging activity modules planned for this year group, including salsa dancing, modern dance, Pilates, croquet, canoeing, archery, aquatics and fitness training. Adventure activities are well promoted within the TY programme and students participate in a four-day residential adventure training course in Killary outdoor education centre. The addition of the climbing wall in the sports hall has proven to be very popular amongst TY students. This is highly commendable as this facility enhances students’ experience of adventure activities whilst learning the physical, psychological and social attributes required to participate in hill walking, mountaineering and rock climbing.
Personal development, leadership and communication skills are also enhanced through the TY Physical Education programme. Students complete the Gaisce Awards and have a choice of several introductory coaching and umpiring certificates from national governing bodies such as the Football Association of Ireland, Basketball Ireland and the Hockey Union of Ireland. The school participates in the Young Social Innovators project and has been highly successful in recent awards. “Sports for All” is an example of one such project that aimed to develop a greater awareness of the inclusion of persons with a disability into Physical Education, sport and physical activities. The project team designed and adapted games that may be included in both primary and post-primary Physical Education programmes. This is exemplary practice as students demonstrated a high level of knowledge, skill and positive attitudes in applying their learning in Physical Education to problem solving for the greater good of all students.
The senior cycle programme is also well organised and developed around students’ interests within the aims of the programme. Students participate in a range of core activities that serve to further develop their understanding of the concepts learned in junior cycle. It is particularly praiseworthy that senior students may choose from a range of activity modules in addition to the core elements of the programme. The level of organisation and planning to provide for the diversity of activities and the accommodation of students’ interests and inputs into the development of the Physical Education programme is highly commended.
The school has developed a comprehensive sports policy and a supporting policy on school trips, which addresses all aspects related to the provision and participation in the school’s Physical Education, games and extra-curricular sports programme. These policies have been ratified by the Parents Association and the Board of Management and have been recently reviewed, which is good practice.
It is highly commendable that the Physical Education department has developed very strong links with some of the local sports and physical activity providers in the community. These links include the use of facilities and the involvement of some local coaches to support the school’s extra-curricular sports programme. Of particular note is the relationship that has developed between the school and the Blue Dolphin Special Olympics club. This involves some students and members of staff volunteering to coach and assist with the running of this club, which has proven to be very rewarding for everyone involved. The planning, organisation and strengthening of all these links with the wider community are highly commended and a testament to the ethos of the school.
There was some evidence of planning for students with special education needs (SEN). It is commendable that special needs assistants (SNA’s) attend Physical Education lessons with their assigned students and have a clear role in assisting with the activities of the lesson.
A range of worksheets and information sheets related to the various activities have been developed to support teaching and learning. Lists of items of equipment requiring replacement and the purchase of additional resources are compiled and purchased on a needs basis. It is recommended that additional resources and strategies be developed to fully include students who are unable to participate in the physical activities of the lessons. Such strategies include peer-review, umpiring, task analysis worksheets and video recording. These strategies and supporting resources should be included in the teaching and learning sections of the relevant schemes of work.
Health and safety issues have been afforded careful attention by the Physical Education department. Regular audits are conducted on all items of fixed equipment and any remediation work is conducted as efficiently as possible. A good system of recording and reporting of all accidents is also in place. It is commendable that the planning documents reflect health and safety issues related to organisational procedures and some reference to the quality of instruction in physical activities to ensure the safety of all participants.
There is a very good standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education in this school. All lessons observed during the inspection were well prepared and this ensured that lessons commenced without delay. At the commencement of lessons, students assembled at a designated area in the sports hall and demonstrated familiarity with the effective system of recording attendance and participation. During this time the teacher outlined the content of the lesson and indicated the learning goals for the students. This good practice ensured that students remained on task throughout their lessons.
All lessons began with a comprehensive warm-up that included both a dynamic and static range of movement exercises as part of the mobility phase. Continuous references were made to key technical points to ensure the efficient execution of each exercise and students worked hard to develop good technique. Students were constantly questioned regarding the purpose and benefits of a proper warm-up, which is especially good practice with first years as they learn to be systematic and purposeful in their participation in Physical Education lessons.
All lessons observed were well structured and well paced to build learning in a progressive manner. Tasks set in gymnastics were open-ended and challenging of students of all abilities which is very good practice. Students’ responses to the tasks were such that they could create and choreograph sequences of movement at a level of difficulty commensurate with their ability and confidence to execute their selection of movements. The introduction of key concepts related to travelling, pathways and muscular resilience to control impact during movement, flight and landing was particularly welcome. Students demonstrated considerable advances in their understanding and movement vocabulary as the lessons progressed. Students may have benefited from some visual stimulus to further enhance their learning and from a means of recording their learning. It is recommended that a whiteboard be placed in the sports-hall to help identify key concepts and record student responses to tasks and questions.
There was exemplary use of questioning during the lessons to build on students’ knowledge and to determine their level of understanding. Questions were skilfully distributed to include as many students as possible and to encourage them to apply their knowledge and analyse movement using correct technical references. Demonstrations, both by the teacher and by students were effectively used to identify the requirements of tasks and to illustrate key technical and safety points. Teacher mobility was very effective and most students were afforded individual attention during the lesson to help them progress with their task completion. Students were often encouraged to analyse each others performance and to focus on key technical aspects underpinning their performance. This is good practice and its continued use is encouraged. In some cases, tasks were changed immediately after students had demonstrated their skill or movement sequences. These students may have benefited from additional opportunities to apply the corrective points identified during the peer-review feedback sessions. It is recommended that learners be afforded additional opportunities to reinforce the links between sensory and augmented feedback to enhance their performance.
There was good evidence of inclusive teaching, and students with identified special education needs were encouraged to participate in the lesson at their level. There was a high level of participation in the lessons observed and any student unable to participate presented with a medical reason. It is recommended that some strategies be developed to promote the greater inclusion of students who are unable to participate in the physical activities thereby increasing their involvement in the physical education process.
All lessons were conducted in a calm positive atmosphere where students were regularly affirmed for their efforts. Students demonstrated great enthusiasm and motivation in their participation and clearly enjoyed their Physical Education lessons.
Formal reporting to parents takes place twice per year at Christmas and summer. The Physical Education department attends all parent-teacher meetings, which are held once per year for each year group. Learning in Physical Education is reported by means of a grade and comment, which reflects students’ participation and effort made over the course of the term. In some modules students are awarded a grade for their efforts to complete a task or demonstrate a skilled performance. In addition, written tests related to the rules and regulations of the focused activities are sometimes used as part of the assessment process. It is commendable that the Physical Education department has begun to use self and peer-assessment strategies as promoted by the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service. This process will help students develop a more in-depth understanding of the key concepts for each module.
Whilst some work has taken place in the area of formal assessment in the subject, there is scope for the development of a systematic approach to assessment that will help to further inform students’ learning. It is recommended that the Physical Education department work towards implementing a system to develop student portfolios of learning, whereby students can retain a record of their work. This process will help provide a more informed platform from which to base students’ progress and attainment in the subject.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· A comprehensive and cohesive Physical Education, games and physical activity programme is well supported in the school and the subject enjoys a valued status as a core subject on the curriculum.
· The school is involved in the implementation of the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus.
· The school is actively pursuing the development of a full-sized sports hall and Astroturf pitch to enhance the facilities available for the subject.
· There is a high level of organisation and planning taking place to provide a wide diversity of activities within the Physical Education programme. Students’ opinions and interests are sought and used to inform the contents and organisation of the Physical Education programme.
· A comprehensive subject planning document has been developed for Physical Education and includes a range of approved policies for school sport and organised trips.
· There is a very good standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education, where students are educated in a safe, secure and affirming learning environment.
· Lessons are well structured and paced to suit the ability of students and a good range of effective teaching strategies was observed during the inspection that encouraged students to be both physically and cognitively involved in their learning.
· Students’ participation, effort and progress in Physical Education are reported to parents twice per year.
· Extensive links have been established and developed with a variety of physical activity and sports providers in the community.
· There is an extensive extra-curricular sports programme in the school that caters for a wide diversity of student interests and talents. This programme is well supported by a large staff involvement.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that a whiteboard be placed in the sports-hall to help identify key concepts and record student responses to tasks and questions.
· The Physical Education department is encouraged to plan and use the available ICT resources to support and enhance the range of teaching and learning strategies.
· It is recommended that a range of resources and strategies be developed to fully include students who may be unable to physically participate in their Physical Education lessons.
· Further expansion and development of the assessment process is recommended.
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.