An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Kinsale Community School
Kinsale, County Cork
Roll number: 91499E
Date of inspection: 12 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Kinsale Community 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 teachers 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 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.
Kinsale Community School is a co-educational school with a total student enrolment of 643 students, 314 of whom are male and 329 of whom are female. There are two, fully qualified, teachers of Physical Education in the school who are responsible for the teaching of the subject and a number of other teachers involved in providing extra-curricular physical activities. Physical Education is well organised and resourced in the school, with a significant amount of money being allocated annually to the physical education department for the purchase of required materials and resources. It is regarded as good practice that the manner in which this money is spent is at the discretion of the physical education department as this enables the physical education teachers to allocate resources to the areas of greatest curricular need within the subject area. The facilities available for the teaching of Physical Education are good and are well utilised. These consist of a physical education hall, an outdoor hardcourt area and a pitch. The changing rooms are smaller than ideal, however, and this can lead to difficulties if two class groups are timetabled for Physical Education at the same time. It was reported that the school has reached agreement with the Department of Education and Science for the building of an extension and it is recommended that, if possible, additional changing rooms or an extension of the existing changing rooms be provided as part of this project.
The timetabled provision for Physical Education has to be regarded as inadequate as, in many years, it falls well short of the two hours per week recommended in the Department of Education and Science Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools 2004-2005 (pages 7, 141). Although first-year, second-year, Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Transition Year classes have eighty minutes of Physical Education and Transition Year classes have an additional 120 minutes of GAA coaching for part of the year, it is of particular concern that no Physical Education is provided for students in sixth year and that students in fifth year and third year have only one period of Physical Education per week. Although overload of the school timetable, particularly in junior cycle, is among the reasons cited for this decision, it has to be accepted that timetabling decisions that are made at school level reflect the school’s priorities. There is an onus on all schools to promote a positive attitude to Physical Education and participation in physical activity among all age groups in the hope of producing a physically educated population and so as to help combat many of the health problems which can result from living a sedentary lifestyle. The high drop-our rates from physical activity nationally, particularly among students in their late teens, commented on in reports such as the National Task Force on Obesity Report 2005, Consultations with Teenage Girls On Being and Getting Active” – Health Promotion Department, North Western Health Board 2004, and School Children and Sport in Ireland, ESRI 2005, make it important that all schools provide appropriate levels of Physical Education for students and that there is no reduction in Physical Education as students progress from junior to senior cycle. By not having Physical Education timetabled in sixth year there is a danger that the perception may inadvertently be created among these students that physical activity is not a priority for them and that it is something that can be discarded when they are preparing for State examinations. The reduced allocation to Physical Education in third year and fifth year may also create the impression that it is acceptable for students to have less physical activity as they become older. It is therefore recommended that the school work towards providing Physical Education for all students in accordance with Department of Education and Science recommendations and that, as a matter of priority, students in sixth year are provided with some timetabled Physical Education. Should parental or student resistance to this idea be encountered, the school should seek to elicit support through the parents’ association and students’ council. These bodies should be informed of the benefits of Physical Education for all students.
Timetabling difficulties have also resulted in physical education lessons for one first-year class being split into two single periods on two separate days. The inability of teachers and students to explore a topic in any great depth in a lesson of forty minutes is one of the main shortcomings of having single periods of Physical Education as the time needed for students to change and shower leaves very little time for actual physical activity in the lesson. It is recommended that, timetabling difficulties notwithstanding, this situation be avoided if at all possible.
The level of planning and preparation for Physical Education is excellent. Management facilitates planning by allocating a half day to subject planning at the start of the school year. Thirty minutes per week are also allocated to a staff meeting and this time is used for subject department meetings on occasions when staff meetings do not take place. There is a very detailed subject plan in place, which is in line with the overall school plan. It is commendable that planning which has taken place includes provision for the use of outside coaches who assist in the delivery of some aspects of the physical education curriculum. The physical education plan contains details of the junior cycle and senior cycle programme in Physical Education and planning in junior cycle is in line with the requirements of the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education syllabus. The school’s involvement in the implementation of this syllabus is commended as it has the capacity to greatly enhance the quality of Physical Education experienced by students by providing a clear structure to learning at junior cycle.
The physical education department subject plan includes information on cross curricular planning involving the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) department and co-operation with the Irish and French departments with regard to the inclusion of Irish and French folk dances on the physical education curriculum. This is commended as it helps students view learning in an interdisciplinary manner and to extend learning in Physical Education outside physical education lessons. A detailed inventory of resources and materials used in the teaching of Physical Education is maintained and the subject plan also includes the rules for the use of the school physical education hall by students, detailed lesson plans for each year group, a specific plan for the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme as well as class lists and details of in-service taken by teachers. This detailed, comprehensive planning is highly commended, demonstrates a clear vision for the subject on behalf of the physical education teachers and is invaluable as resource and reference material for the teaching of the subject.
There is a very healthy involvement in co-curricular and extra-curricular physical activity in the school. The main areas of activity are athletics, badminton, basketball, rugby, Gaelic football, hurling, camógie, golf, soccer and some sailing. The physical education teachers are very involved in planning and providing many of these activities and there are a significant number of other staff members also involved. The provision of a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, such as those listed, is to be commended as involvement in these activities can be highly rewarding for staff and students alike and can provide the basis for a lifelong interest in sport and physical activity among many students. The ESRI report, School Children and Sport in Ireland (2005), mentioned earlier, highlights, inter alia, the contribution that teachers are making to the health and welfare of students through the provision of physical activity and school sports. The positive impact of such commitment in this school is noted and it is recommended that the school continues to acknowledge this commitment by highlighting staff and student involvements whenever possible. It is commendable that management has seen fit to allocate part of the post duties of a teacher with a special duties post of responsibility to the area of co-ordination of games and extra-curricular sporting activities. This is indicative of the high priority that these activities have within the school and the support that is forthcoming from management. As part of the duties of this role, the teacher gives a report to the board of management for every board meeting, detailing co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that have taken place. The school newsletter, which is sent to parents twice-yearly, also contains information regarding these activities. Other activities which take place aimed at promoting physical activity and informing parents as to the range of activities on offer include the school’s awards night, at which there is an award for the outstanding sportsperson in both junior and senior cycle, the Transition Year and first-year presentation nights, as well as the school’s open night. Demonstrations by students in self defence and Gaelic games also take place and these all help to promote the school’s extensive programme of co-curricular and extra-curricular physical activity and are to be commended.
The quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education at this school was generally very good with a good level of student engagement observed in the majority of lessons. All lessons started promptly and teachers attended to routine safety matters, such as the removal of jewellery, before any activity began. Students were informed at the start of the lesson as to the aims of the lesson and the teacher linked these aims to previous learning. This is considered good practice and is commended as it helps students to conceptualise learning and can be very motivational.
During the warm-up phase of each lesson the teacher questioned students as to the reasons for performing a warm-up and the level of student responses indicated a familiarity with the practice and a good level of understanding of the physiological basis for warming up. A variety of interesting and varied activities were performed with an increasing level of intensity and these had the effect of preparing students mentally and physically for the remainder of the lesson. Stretching exercises were performed conscientiously by all students and, in some lessons, the teacher questioned students as to the names of the various muscle groups being stretched and provided opportunities for students to lead the class in performing some exercises. It is recommended that this good practice be extended to all lessons as providing opportunities for student-led learning can be motivational, particularly for older students.
The tasks set for students during the development phase of each lesson provided evidence of thorough planning on the part of the teacher and this facilitated the smooth running of the lesson. During games lessons, the tasks chosen were sufficiently open-ended to allow for a variety of performances and thus enable student to perform in accordance with their own ability. Thus the more capable students were sufficiently challenged and the less skilful students still had a sense of achievement through being able to complete tasks, albeit at a more basic level.
Teacher demonstrations were concise and accurate and focused on the key technical points of the skills being taught. When students were performing these skills, the teacher was attentive to student difficulties and made modifications to the practices, as required, if the level of difficulty needed to be altered. This usually involved adding an extra element to the practices in order to sufficiently challenge students who had achieved success at the current practice. This progression in difficulty was extremely successful in maintaining student interest and engagement with the lesson. A hurling lesson being taught to senior cycle students by an outside coach, was particularly successful in this regard and, as its focus was on teaching students how to coach younger players, it challenged students not only to master a particular skill, but to think how they would teach this skill to younger students. This is highly commendable as it engages students at both a cognitive and psycho-motor level in skill acquisition and, through challenging them to learn how to present a skill to younger students, encourages them to be more reflective learners. The quality of instruction being delivered was monitored by the class teacher and was of a very high standard, with excellent safety standards being observed throughout. It is considered good practice that the regular class teacher stayed in attendance with the class while the lesson was being taken by the outside coach and both teacher and coach co-operated effortlessly in a team-teaching exercise that worked very well. It is also commendable that ethical values such as sportsmanship and fair play were regularly stressed throughout the lesson as emphasising these qualities can have a very positive effect on students’ attitudes, not just in physical education lessons, but in their overall outlook on life and their interactions with others.
When emphasising key skills during a soccer lesson, students were encouraged to reflect on an international soccer match that had taken place the previous evening. This is good practice as it can help students to identify strengths and weaknesses in their own performance by referencing it to a high quality performance. It also can help students to identify opportunities for learning in Physical Education outside formal lessons in the subject and can help them to see learning as a life-long activity and not something that stops once the school day ends.
A lesson dealing with team challenges as part of the Junior Cycle Physical Education syllabus adventure activities programme was well organised with a range of class materials prepared and arranged throughout the hall in advance of the lesson. Challenges were set that required students to co-operate with each other in pairs and small groups to devise strategies to complete a range of interesting physical tasks. However, while opportunities were provided for students to plan how they would approach a task, it is essential that they are provided with sufficient opportunities to reflect on the tasks both during and at the end of the task, and that the mental challenge being posed by team challenge activities is constantly reinforced. As such, a group can be invited to attempt a challenge a second or even a third time, to see if strategies which they have developed from previous attempts are effective. Such opportunities for reflection and additional practice are essential to team challenge activities. It must also be stressed, to younger students in particular, that completing the challenge successfully involves adhering to all the rules of the challenge. In this regard, it is desirable that students who are not physically able to participate in the lesson are involved through officiating, for example, so as to make sure that all of the rules are observed. This will lead to a more fulfilling learning experience for all students, as it will force students who are not inclined to follow the rules to do so. It will also eliminate any sense of frustration which groups who are observing the rules might feel through seeing those who do not do so complete the challenge much faster.
Students thoroughly enjoyed all physical education lessons and all lessons took place in a positive, friendly atmosphere. Students were responsive when questioned and questioning by both teachers and the inspector revealed a good understanding among students of the key concepts and principles of the activities in which they were involved.
A very good system of reporting is in place in the school where a mark and a comment on the performance of students in physical education lessons is sent home twice per year. The criteria that are used to inform reporting in Physical Education are student participation, involvement and improvement during the term. Comments regarding the personal sporting interests of students and their individual strengths and weaknesses also feature in the reports. This is commended as it demonstrates a genuine interest on the part of teachers in students as individuals and can be highly effective in maintaining student motivation and engagement with the subject. The physical education teachers also attend all parent-teacher meetings, where detailed information is provided to parents on the progress of students 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
Inspection Report School Response Form
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The report gives a comprehensive overview of the quality of teaching and learning in the Physical Education Department of this school. The Board welcomes the recognition of the “very good” quality of teaching and learning taking place in Physical Education classes and “the very healthy involvement in curricular and co-curricular physical activity in the school”. The report also affirms “the excellent quality of planning and preparation” and recognises that the subject Physical Education “is well organised and resourced”. The Board congratulates the Physical Education teachers on their excellent work and thanks them for their enormous contribution to physical activity in the school.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
The Board of Management is proud of the excellent quality of Physical Education in Kinsale Community School and the high level of participation in sporting activities. All Physical Education classes are timetabled to take place in the Gym and the Gym is fully utilized. Increased provision of Physical Education at present would necessitate that some classes would take place on the outdoor courts or pitch. It is the Board’s view that such an arrangement would present health and safety issues for students. This is particularly so considering weather conditions, the open and windswept aspect of the courts and the slippery condition of tarmac in damp weather. In addition this arrangement may result in such classes no longer being a positive experience of Physical Education for students.
Though it is school policy to timetable Physical Education in double classes the Board of Management understands that one double class out of 16 such classes had to be split due to timetable constraints this year.
The Board of Management is delighted that the Building Unit of the Department of Education & Science has decided on a projected increased enrolment of 850 students for Kinsale Community School. A schedule of accommodation for a new large extension which will include a full size Gym is being prepared. When this extension is completed by the Department of Education & Science all the recommendations will then be considered for implementation