An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Tullow Community School
The Mullawn, Tullow, County Carlow
Roll number: 91356F
Date of inspection: 8 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Tullow 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, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy 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.
Tullow Community School is a co-educational school with a current enrolment of 637 students. The school provides a full range of educational programmes to cater for the needs of its second-level student cohort, including the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Transition Year (TY) programme, the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). In addition, the school also provides Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses to provide for the educational needs of the wider community.
The physical education programme is delivered by two teachers who are graduates of the subject. Due to unforeseen circumstances, management has had to source a substitute teacher to act as a temporary replacement for one of the physical education teachers. Efforts to employ a substitute teacher with recognised physical education qualifications were unsuccessful. However, short-term arrangements have been made to continue the physical education programme with a substitute teacher, who holds several coaching qualifications, to work under the direction of the qualified physical education teacher. Whilst this is not ideal, it ensures that students affected by this situation continue to be provided with timetabled classes and experience a range of structured physical activities and sports. It is commendable that only activities that do not present a high health and safety risk are taught by the substitute teacher. In addition, concurrent timetabling for some classes ensures that these students also receive tuition from the qualified physical education teacher as classes are rotated between teachers. This arrangement ensures that most students are exposed to the full physical education programme.
The board of management has facilitated staff to undertake a first-aid course, which is of great benefit to all teachers, especially those involved in the provision of practical subjects. Whilst some continuing professional development (CPD) is provided for teachers, it is regrettable that the school has not engaged in the in-service courses provided by the Department of Education and Science for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus, or the new Action for Life health-related activity programme. It is recommended that the Physical Education department consult the support service website, www.jcpe.ie, with a view to determining what level of support is available to implement the revised syllabus in the school. Access to the range of services available will help to enhance teachersí knowledge of the most up-to-date approaches to planning, teaching and learning and assessment in Physical Education.
Physical Education is a core subject for all year groups in the school, although not all students are provided with timetabled access for the subject. All classes, with the exception of one JCSP class and the sixth-year class groups, receive one double period of Physical Education per week. The arrangement of one double period per week is in line with circular M15/05 as the minimum requirement for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus. Whilst this time allocation is adequate for the implementation of a comprehensive physical education programme, it falls short of the two hours per week recommended in the Department of Education and Science, Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. The absence of timetabled Physical Education for students who follow the JCSP is of concern. This situation is currently being addressed by management and it is welcomed that students following the JCSP will be timetabled for Physical Education in the future. Many schools that provide the JCSP have expressed positive comments regarding the role Physical Education plays in enhancing studentsí active participation in their learning, as well as developing a sense of cooperation, confidence and attainment amongst these students. The most successful physical education programmes are those that are designed to meet the interests and needs of the students and that promote confidence and success through participation in stimulating, inclusive and challenging activities, as outlined in the syllabus. It is recommended that the support service website www.jcsp.ie be consulted with a view to the physical education teachers attending in-service in the methodologies best suited for appropriately engaging this cohort of students.
Sixth-year students following the established Leaving Certificate are timetabled for a single period per week, whilst sixth-year LCVP students are not timetabled for Physical Education. It is disappointing that these LCVP students do not have access to the subject. The present allocation of a single period of Physical Education per week to sixth-year students following the established Leaving Certificate must also be viewed as being restrictive of the full implementation of a comprehensive physical education programme. Students in their examination years may inadvertently perceive that physical activity is a low priority for them, as this message is reinforced by the current timetabling arrangements. There is a responsibility on all schools to promote positive attitudes towards Physical Education and participation in physical activity among all age groups for the variety of health-related, psychological and social benefits that may accrue as a result of a physically active lifestyle. Therefore, it is recommended that the school review its 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 & Programmes for Secondary Schools.
The range of resources and facilities is very good for supporting a comprehensive physical education programme. These consist of a large sports hall, an outdoor hard court area and four pitches that are used for Gaelic games, rugby and soccer. These facilities are well maintained and presented. It is commendable that the physical education department has documented many aspects of the health and safety procedures that are in place including guidelines for studentsí participation and ensuring a safe learning environment. The surface of the outdoor hard court area has also been identified as requiring resurfacing in the near future due to unravelling of the tarmac. On inspection, it was found that the padding around the indoor soccer goals was badly worn and it is recommended that the physical education department address this to ensure that no sharp or jagged edges are exposed. †
The storeroom is fully equipped with a good range of equipment to support most strands of the syllabus. Additional or replacement items of equipment or resources are purchased on a needs basis through a requisition system and it was reported that management is very supportive of all requests. The physical education department has access to televisions, DVD and video players, as well as access to a data projector and the computer room upon request. Some consideration should be given to providing internet access to the sports hall, as there are many relevant online resources available to support teaching and learning in each of the strands of the syllabus. The ready availability of such resources can provide useful criterion references for students and support them in their learning. †
Sport plays a central role in Tullow Community School and there is a variety of extra-curricular sports provided. These sports include athletics, basketball, Gaelic football, hurling, rugby and soccer. Participation in golf and equestrian events is also facilitated by the school. An annual outdoor pursuits weekend for fifth-year students is also organised and this provides opportunities to participate in a range of adventure activities. The range of extra-curricular activities ensures that the programme is attractive to most students and the reported levels of participation are high. The extra-curricular sports programme encourages participation of boys and girls at all ages and levels of ability and has clearly defined aims which include the development of physical fitness, sports performance and student enjoyment. The establishment of close relationships with local coaches and sports development officers has proven to be beneficial to the success of some school teams. Of particular note is the recent achievement of the school in winning the Leinster junior rugby development shield. Parents are also actively involved in the organisation and provision of equestrian events. Students participating in the equestrian programme have been very successful and have won national honours in recent All-Ireland schools hunter trials. The links established with local coaches and clubs, the involvement of parents and the promotion of sport and physical activity to all students in the school is highly commended. Furthermore, the involvement of a large number of teachers in the organisation and coaching of these activities is equally commended.
The systems in place to support subject department planning are commendable. Management facilitates formal meeting time for the purpose of subject department planning twice per year. The physical education teachers also meet informally and support each other in the planning and preparation of resources and facilities for their physical education lessons. The system of rotating responsibility for the co-ordination of the subject every two years is good practice. There are clearly defined duties for the subject co-ordinator, which include liaison with senior management, organisation of subject department meetings and ordering of new equipment and resources. Proceedings of formal meetings are documented using a standard template and are retained in the subject file. The teachers are supportive of each other and there is a collaborative approach to the organisation and delivery of the planned physical education programme.
There has been good engagement in the subject planning process to date. The subject plan documents the arrangements, organisation and resources for the subject in the school and includes an outline of the programme of work for each year group. The plan is quite detailed, outlining schemes of work that identify aims, content and progression for each of the planned activity modules. The planned programme for both junior and senior cycle has a strong emphasis on games, with some modules provided in athletics, health-related activity and gymnastics. The TY physical education plan provides students with a broader range of physical activities and experiences, which include courses in taekwondo, swimming and dance. TY students also complete a certified foundation level coaching course in Gaelic games which is appropriate to this age group and the TY programme. It is recommended that the physical education department consult and adopt the planning framework promoted by the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS) and expand the junior cycle programme to include the remaining strands of the syllabus, within the limitations of the resources at the schoolís disposal. For example, the school is ideally placed to provide orienteering, camp-craft and a variety of team challenges as part of the adventure activities strand of the syllabus. It is also recommended that the senior cycle plan be revised to consider some of the principles underpinning engagement in physical activity and how these may be applied in a variety of contexts such as health and wellness, leisure and recreation as well as performance in a variety of individual and team-based sports. Planning should be extended to consider the teaching and learning and assessment strategies most appropriate for each module. This will help to further develop studentsí knowledge, skills and understanding of the factors underpinning their functionality and engagement in physical activity and sport. The inclusion of some student review of the physical education programme at senior cycle would also help to inform the content, organisation and delivery of the programme.
It is good practice that some cross-curricular links have been identified with other subject departments such as Home Economics and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) to promote balanced nutrition and physical wellbeing. The organisation of an annual sports day for first-year students is highly commendable. The involvement of TY students in the organisation and management of this event is praiseworthy. This is a worthwhile endeavour as these students experience the many aspects involved in the running of a sports event including the preparation of facilities and resources, officiating, measuring and recording, collation of results and prize-giving ceremonies, as well as the clean-up operation that follows such an event. It also provides these students with a positive experience of engagement in physical activity as a community, whilst promoting management, organisation, communication and social skills. †
Lessons began promptly with the teacher recording attendance and participation and introducing the topic of the lesson. In the lessons visited, the topics covered were Olympic handball, soccer and athletics. Warm-up activities consisted of jogging, mobility and stretching exercises and questioning was effectively used to identify the key points of good technique and to link each exercise with their corresponding muscle groups and joints. This is good practice as it promotes knowledge and understanding of basic anatomy and helps students to establish associations between joint range of motion, posture and orthopaedic health. Senior students began jogging immediately on entering the sports hall and maintained a continuous low-intensity pace until all students in the class were present and active. Where this practice occurred, the teacher observed students until they had been active for an appropriate duration and then assembled the group to participate in their stretching activities. The establishment of this practice is highly commendable as it promotes independent engagement in physical activity and allows students to apply the principles of warming-up in a self-directed manner. Once the warm-up activities were completed, students were introduced to the main topics of the lesson. This good practice should be extended to also identify the intended learning outcomes. This will help ensure that students are aware of where their focus should lie during the lesson and provide attainable targets for their learning. To assist with this practice, it is recommended that a white-board be placed in the sports hall.
Questioning was effectively used to challenge students to think about the activity they were studying. A range of lower-order and higher-order questions was used to include all students in the lesson. In addition, demonstration was also effectively used to help students identify the key technical points on which to base their own performance.
In most cases, lessons promoted a high level of physical activity and active engagement in the focused activity. The emphasis on optimising physical activity for sixth-year students during single period lessons was appropriate for this cohort of students at this stage of their physical education programme. In such cases, students were organised into groups and engaged in playing competitive games of their choice. Giving senior students a choice of activity, where it can be accommodated, is good practice as it increases participation levels and acknowledges their maturity as young adults. The level of engagement and the movement vocabulary of most of these students were of a good standard.
In some cases, the focused activity would have benefitted from additional equipment and more structured tasks, such as peer-review. In such cases, students spent long periods queuing to practise their throwing events, which resulted in some becoming disengaged. Those who were performing the event were given technical assistance by the teacher, which helped them remain on task and to improve their performance. Additional or improvised equipment would have reduced the size of each group and resulted in a greater number of practice opportunities and less time spent queuing. It is recommended that teachers consider the work-to-rest ratio when designing practice drills or activities to ensure that all students have sufficient time on task. An appropriate ratio will ensure that students have adequate opportunities to improve their performance and to develop their understanding of the focused activity. The rest periods could be effectively used by students to apply a set of key performance criteria to analyse the performance of another student. Students could then exchange feedback to help improve their performances. In this way, all students remain fully engaged both cognitively and physically in their learning.
There was very good adherence to safe practice in all lessons observed. Health and safety considerations were effectively stressed by teachers, and students were fully aware of the guidelines to ensure their safe participation. The establishment and enforcement of clear safety procedures is good practice as this promotes responsible behaviour in physical education lessons.
Participation levels in the lessons observed were generally good. Where students were unable to participate in the physical activities of the lessons, efforts were made to include some of these students through assisting in the setting up and storing of equipment and through umpiring. There is scope for the further development of strategies and resources to engage those students who are unable to participate in the practical activities of the lesson. These may include videoing, assisting in group work and peer-teaching and also the use of resources such as worksheets, task cards and peer-review forms. These resources may also be used by participating students as a means of reinforcing and recording their learning. †In this way, all students in the class will be fully included in their physical education lessons.
Good inter-personal relationships were evident between teachers and their students. Students were regularly affirmed and cared for in all lessons and answered questions openly and confidently. Teachers offered students individual assistance in a caring and sensitive manner and where such assistance was given, noticeable improvements were observed in performance. †
The prominent display of posters in the sports hall to promote physical activity and balanced nutrition is commendable and enhances studentsí understanding of the components of a healthy lifestyle. However, the school should ensure that the content of the vending machine in the lobby of the sports hall is changed to support the key nutritional messages.
Teachers maintain good records of studentsí attendance and participation in their physical education lessons. Teachers assess studentsí learning informally through observation of their engagement and progress in class activities and through oral questioning to determine their understanding of the focused topics. Students following the LCA Leisure and Recreation programme complete key assignments for each activity module.
There is scope for the further development of the assessment process in Physical Education. It is recommended that assessment for learning practices be introduced to provide a basis to guide studentsí learning. This process will help to complement other modes of assessment already in use by the physical education department and ensure that the focus of learning is on the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that inform studentsí understanding and engagement in physical activity, exercise and sport. Further information and advice on assessment is available on the NCCA website www.ncca.ie as well as www.jcpe.ie.
Written reports on studentsí participation and progress in Physical Education are sent home at Christmas and summer. The physical education teachers also attend parent-teacher meetings, which are held annually for each year group. The student journal is also used as an effective form of communication with parents.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
Physical Education is well established on the school curriculum and is a core subject for all year groups.
The school has a range of well maintained facilities and equipment to support a comprehensive physical education programme.
Systems are in place to support the physical education department in the planning and organisation of the programme.
There has been good engagement with the subject department planning process and programmes of work have been developed for each year group. †
Physical Education lessons were well organised and students demonstrated good movement vocabulary and application of learning in the lessons observed.
A respectful and friendly atmosphere was in evidence in the lessons observed and students were positively encouraged and affirmed.
Students responded positively to clear guidelines and procedures to ensure their safe participation in their physical education lessons.
Physical Education is included in formal reports sent to parents twice per year.
Sport is highly valued by the school and a good range of extra-curricular sports activities are organised and delivered by a large number of teachers, coaches and parents.
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, the principal and the deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published October 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1†† Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the many positive and affirming findings in the reports†††
Area 2†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection †††††
In response to the recommendations made in the report the following actions have already been taken:
1. In-service has been arranged for members of the PE Department on the implementation of the revised syllabus
2. New indoor goal posts have been purchased
3. A whiteboard has been purchased for installation in the gym
4. JCSP pupils have been timetabled for P.E for the 2008/2009 academic year
The other recommendations made are being carefully considered in the context of Whole School Planning †††