An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science


Subject Inspection of Physical Education



Arklow C.B.S.

Arklow, County Wicklow

Roll number: 61770U


Date of inspection: 1 April 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




Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education


Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Arklow Christian Brothers School (CBS). 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 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


Arklow CBS is an all boysí school with a current enrolment of 184 students. The school offers the Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY), the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).


Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum and the timetabled provision is one double period per class group per week. Whilst this level of provision is common in many post-primary schools, it falls short of the two hours per week recommended in the Department of Education and Science, Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. In order to implement a comprehensive physical education programme, it is recommended that the school work towards providing this amount of Physical Education for all classes as part of the long-term development plan for the subject. It is commendable that additional time is provided for TY students to participate in a variety of physical activity modules. This additional provision provides TY students with opportunities for learning a diversity of activities which are not normally covered by the physical education programme.


It is commendable that the school has recently introduced Physical Education for students following the established Leaving Certificate and LCVP. Whilst a double period is timetabled once per week for these students, it is regrettable that participation in the subject is optional as students may choose to use this time to attend additional lessons in their practical subjects. It was reported that plans are in place to ensure that Physical Education is compulsory for all fifth-year students from next September, which will carry into sixth year the following year. This is a welcome development and it is recommended that this plan be implemented, as all students should be afforded the opportunity to avail of quality Physical Education. A broad and balanced physical education programme aims to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that promote lifelong engagement in physical activity, exercise and sport. This has many health-related, social and psychological benefits for students, most of which are widely advocated by a range of health promoting agencies.


The physical education department consists of one qualified teacher who has extensive experience in organising and delivering the physical education and extra-curricular physical activity and sports programmes in the school. Management is supportive of continuing professional development and attendance at in-service and relevant courses is facilitated whenever opportunities arise. The school also accommodates undergraduate students undertaking their initial teacher training and this provides a useful mechanism for reflection on current pedagogical best practice. The school is now actively implementing the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus.


The facilities available for the subject include a small sports hall and playing pitch and a large hard court area. The sports hall may be restrictive at times given its size, which imposes limitations on the organisation and delivery of some of the planned activity modules. A blackboard has been fitted in the sports hall, which provides a useful teaching and learning tool. The recent refurbishment of the hard court area and playing pitch is laudable as it provides a valuable and safe resource for teaching and learning in Physical Education lessons and extra-curricular activities. The school is commended for its ongoing work in improving the facilities available for Physical Education and school sport.


The physical education department is well resourced and there is a range of suitable equipment and resources available to support the delivery of the planned programme. A clear and effective system is in place for the purchase of additional and replacement items. All facilities inspected were very well maintained with items of equipment safely stored and all resources meticulously catalogued. The school has broadband access and the physical education department has access to a good range of information and communication technology (ICT) equipment if required. The work of the physical education department in ensuring that the subject is well resourced and provided for is highly commended.


The school has a good level of participation in extra-curricular physical activities. These activities include athletics, Gaelic football, rugby and soccer. In addition, it is commendable that students with an interest in golf are facilitated to represent the school in organised events. The current enrolment has imposed some restrictions on the ability of the school to prepare and field teams in some sports. However, the projected enrolment figures indicate that there will be a large number of incoming first-year students, which bodes well for the future of the school and its ability to develop the extra-curricular sports programme. The school sports programme is supported by external coaches who, along with dedicated teachers, take responsibility for the preparation of school teams. There are good links established between the school and community based sports clubs through the sharing of facilities and in supporting students to further develop their talents through the local club structures. The commitment of a number of teachers to organising and coaching the extra-curricular activities is highly commended. Studentsí interest in and motivation to participate and achieve in sport and physical activity is often fostered by schools and can form the basis for lifelong interest in these positive pursuits.


Planning and preparation


Formal meeting times are allocated by management to subject departments to facilitate the planning process over the course of the year. Subject planning for Physical Education is advancing well and a comprehensive plan has been developed for the subject.


The subject plan clearly outlines the overarching aims of the physical education programme in the school, along with an outline of the timetable provision and organisation, facilities, resources, health and safety procedures and curricular plans for each topic. A broad and balanced programme of activities is planned that is relevant to the interests and needs of students at each stage of their school career.


The planned programme of activities at junior cycle ensures that as many of the strands of the syllabus are studied within the limitations imposed by the facilities of the school. A diverse range of activities are planned for senior cycle students, some of which build upon the studentsí knowledge, skills and competencies acquired during the junior cycle. This is commended.


All yearly plans are supported by schemes of work that highlight the skills, rules and activities relevant to each module. Key concepts are identified and there is reference to the modes of assessment that may be used to evaluate studentsí learning. To further enhance the level of detailed planning, it is recommended that the schemes of work be expanded to align their content with the key learning outcomes for each module. In this way, each unit of work will have clear learning outcomes that build upon previously acquired knowledge, skills and understanding. The physical education department is aware of the possibility of increasing the integration of ICT into the teaching and learning process and the use of this strategy should be included in the subject plan where applicable. An extensive list of relevant websites has been documented in the subject plan, which acts as a reference source for additional information into specific sports and physical activities.


The approach to the planning of the TY programme is highly commended. A survey of studentsí interests at the beginning of the year provides a valuable means of empowering them to make informed choices about their own physical activity involvement and affirms their maturity as young adults. The range of planned activity modules includes a trip to an outdoor education centre, a GAA foundation level coaching module, teen gym and water-safety as well as modules in games, athletics and health-related activity. This broad range of diverse activities exposes students to the physical activity providers and facilities available in their own locality and promotes a culture of active participation. Through active participation in their physical education programme, TY students learn valuable leadership, communication and social skills. It is very good practice that TY students are also afforded the opportunity to review the programme at the end of the year as this process informs the quality of provision for the subsequent year group. The TY physical education programme is greatly enhanced through this process of planning, implementation and review.


Detailed attention is paid to health and safety and the development of guidelines to ensure studentsí safe participation in the physical education programme is considered good practice. Procedures are in place to identify a list of students with specific medical conditions that may present contraindications with certain physical activities. This has facilitated the physical education department to adapt activities and differentiate for students with specific medical conditions, which is exemplary practice. Clear procedures are in place to deal with and document any accidents that may occur in the physical education setting, which is commendable. †


Teaching and learning


There is a good standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education in this school. There was evidence of thorough, purposeful planning which included the preparation of a range of class materials in advance of the lessons observed. Students changed quickly and assembled in the sports hall in an orderly manner. An efficient system has been developed to record attendance and to set up the resources and equipment required for each lesson. Once students were assembled, the teacher briefly recapped on learning that had taken place in previous lessons, thereby creating a natural link between lessons and consolidating previous learning. The introduction and signposting of the lesson content and direction is good practice and the expansion of this strategy is recommended to include the intended learning outcomes. Some use of the blackboard could be made here, which will provide a reference for students and help them to remain focused on their learning during the lesson.


The topics taught in the lessons observed were volleyball and basketball. Lessons began with warm-up activities that were appropriate to the focused activity and the ability levels of the students. The structure of the warm-up activities included general mobility activities, followed by static stretching exercises and a recap on previously learned skills. All tasks were gradually increased in intensity as students adapted to the requirements of the activities. Students demonstrated good adherence to the principles of practice that ensured the warm-up activities achieved their desired outcomes. Stretching exercises were executed with good technique and it is commendable that students were given the opportunities to identify a suitable stretch for a named joint and muscle group. This good practice ensures that students have the knowledge, skills and understanding of how to prepare properly for engagement in physical activity, as well as specific skills to improve their joint mobility.


A range of effective teaching strategies was used to assist students in their learning. A mix of recall and higher-order questions were directed to named individuals and were effective in determining studentsí understanding and to establish links with their existing knowledge. Demonstration was effectively used by both the teacher and the students, where key teaching points were illustrated to ensure that students fully understood the correct techniques for each skill. All tasks were introduced and sequenced in a clear and logical order to ensure progression in skill acquisition and application. Students were given sufficient time to work independently to practise their skills and to work in pairs or small groups. Appropriate terminology was used to introduce skills and concepts of play. The structure of the lessons ensured that students were also afforded regular opportunities to apply their skills in the game context. This good practice assisted students in their understanding of the relevance of the skill in the overall performance of the game. Some good examples of modified games helped to develop this level of understanding, such as the application of the dig and volley in sequence to receive a serve and set for the spike return in volleyball. Additionally, modified half-court offensive/defensive games in basketball ensured that students understood the sequence of plays possible to provide a player with the time, space and opportunity to execute the set-shot. This approach helped students to develop their overall sense of the game, as they were both physically and cognitively involved in the activity through perceiving and decision-making, whilst simultaneously developing their techniques and actions.


It is commendable that a range of resources and strategies has been developed to ensure the full involvement of students who are unable to participate in the physical activities of the lesson. Good examples were observed when these students were assigned umpiring and officiating duties. In this way, these students remained cognitively engaged in the physical education process.


A positive learning environment was established through a good work ethic, clear instructions and a calm approach to classroom management. Teacher mobility ensured that students were given additional assistance when required and this helped to maintain full engagement and high activity levels in the lessons observed. Students co-operated fully with their teacher and with each other at all times and displayed a positive attitude to their participation in Physical Education.


Lessons concluded with a brief cool-down activity and time was used effectively to consolidate the key learning points and to indicate the content of the next lesson, which is good practice.




There is a good quality of assessment in Physical Education in this school. Detailed records are maintained of studentsí attendance and participation in their physical education lessons. Assessment strategies outlined in the subject plan include recording of participation, observation of studentsí engagement, application and progress in class activities. It is commendable that the physical education department has begun to use self and peer-assessment strategies for some units of work. The use of these assessment for learning approaches can increase studentsí understanding of the focused topic, encourage them to reflect on their learning and can increase their motivation for improvement. Completed task sheets are retained in a class folder for each class group and it is envisaged that this will lead to the compilation of a student portfolio of learning. The establishment of individual folders for each student is recommended to ensure that all materials produced are appropriately stored. This will also facilitate the teacherís analysis of studentsí work produced during each block of learning.


Comments regarding studentsí participation and progress in Physical Education are included in formal reports that are sent home to parents twice per year, at Christmas and summer. The basis for informing the comment is founded on several aspects of engagement with the subject including participation, completion of self and peer-assessment tasks, completion of class assignments and observation of performance and attainment in the activity modules.


The studentís journal provides a useful communication tool to keep parents informed of participation and achievement in Physical Education. The physical education department is also available at parent-teacher meetings.


Students observed during the inspection were actively engaged, well-behaved and enthusiastic in their approach to their physical education lessons. They were able to communicate effectively and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of their learning in Physical Education.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

         Physical Education is well organised and resourced in Arklow CBS.†

         There are a good range of well maintained facilities available for the teaching of Physical Education.

         Management is supportive of continuing professional development and the school is implementing the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus.

         A comprehensive subject plan has been developed for Physical Education that is in line with syllabus guidelines and provides a broad and balanced programme to meet the needs of the student cohort.

         The practice of providing opportunities for TY students to plan and review their physical education programme is exemplary.†

         There is a good range of activities planned for TY in keeping with the spirit and ethos of the programme.

         Detailed attention is paid to health and safety and the development of student guidelines ensures their safe participation in the physical education programme.

         The quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education is good and lessons are characterised by high levels of student engagement both physically and cognitively.†

         Lessons were well structured and appropriately paced whereby all tasks were sequenced in a clear and logical order to ensure progression in studentsí learning.

         The quality of assessment in Physical Education is good and studentsí engagement and progress in Physical Education are included in school reports to parents.

         A range of extra-curricular sports are provided by the school, which are supported by dedicated teachers and external coaches.


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

         It is recommended that management review the current provision for Physical Education and work towards providing the subject for all students in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science, Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.

         It is recommended that the planned schemes of work be expanded to align their content with the key learning outcomes for each module.

         The establishment of individual assessment folders for each student is recommended to facilitate the development of student portfolios and to ensure that all materials produced are appropriately stored.


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.




Published September 2008







School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management





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


Arklow CBS are introducing PE as a mandatory subject in senior cycle from September 2008.† We intend to timetable Physical Education as a compulsory subject for all fifth years and will follow through into sixth year the following year.


Likewise, we intend to introduce the concept of key Learning Outcomes into our subject/departmental planning.