An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Coláiste Éamann Rís
Callan, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 61510R
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Éamann Rís. 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 teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Coláiste Éamann Rís is a voluntary secondary school for boys with a current enrolment of 206 students. The school offers the Junior Certificate, an optional Transition Year programme (TY), the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum for all students.
There is no qualified Physical Education teacher on the staff in Coláiste Éamann Rís and this has resulted in limitations to the physical education programme being provided. At present, five teachers are timetabled to oversee the delivery of the physical education programme. Many of these teachers possess basic coaching qualifications in specific sports and some have experience of coaching these sports at a high level. These teachers make a very valuable contribution towards developing a positive physical activity culture in the school. They also bring a high level of commitment and enthusiasm to the extra-curricular sport’s programme. It is important that the school continue to support the involvement of these teachers in the provision of the extra-curricular physical activities. However, in the absence of a qualified physical education teacher, the current programme is quite restricted and cannot be seen as an appropriate substitute for a quality physical education programme. Such a programme must have breadth, depth, relevance and coherence and must be structured in a logical, progressive manner. Quality Physical Education affords students the opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to lead physically active lifestyles. There may also be a health and safety risk associated with the timetabling of non-physical education teachers to take lessons in Physical Education. It is commendable that these teachers do not attempt to teach any activity with which they are unfamiliar or that may present a health and safety risk to students. Whilst to some extent this may offset a number of health and safety concerns, it does not reduce the school’s obligation to provide an appropriately qualified teacher for the curricular subject. It is therefore recommended that the school seek to employ a qualified Physical Education teacher to deliver a comprehensive physical education programme.
The timetable provision of one double period per week for all year groups, with the exception of TY students who receive three periods per week, is adequate to provide a comprehensive physical education programme. By providing Physical Education on all students’ timetables, the school is supporting the development of positive attitudes towards a physically active lifestyle. Although the current provision is commendable, it is below the recommended allocation specified in the Department of Education and Science (DES) Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. Management is encouraged to explore the possibility of increasing the current time allocation for the subject in accordance with the Department’s guidelines. Each year group is timetabled separately for Physical Education one afternoon per week for the last two periods of the day. This arrangement is suitable to provide for a variety of activities and student preferences.
The timetable provision for TY students of three periods per week, timetabled consecutively one afternoon per week, is exemplary. Many schools are now moving towards this arrangement for TY students, as it provides opportunities for a broader range of activities and experiences to be organised both within the school and the local community. In addition to their timetabled lessons, a number of additional physical activity and sports-related modules are organised throughout the year for TY students. These modules are provided at times during the week to suit the availability of external facilitators or instructors. Whilst the addition of these very relevant modules is welcomed, care should be taken to ensure that this provision and organisation does not adversely impact on the delivery of other subjects.
The school does not have an indoor hall, which impacts on the type of activities that can be provided. An application has been made to the DES for the provision of a sports hall and the school continues to pursue this resource. The external facilities boast extensive playing pitches, which include a full-size pitch for Gaelic games and a regulation size soccer pitch. There is also a large hard-court area. Great credit is due to the school and the teachers who have established significant relationships with the Kilkenny GAA county board and the Kilkenny district soccer leagues. As a result of these links, the Kilkenny county board has invested heavily in the school by upgrading the pitches and the building of two large dressing rooms. In addition, coaching support is offered to the school’s soccer teams. The arrangements with these sporting organisations to improve the level of provision of sport and physical activity in the school are commended.
There is adequate equipment available to support the delivery of the various activities. An annual sponsored walk is organised to raise money to support the physical education and extra-curricular sports programmes in the school.
Practices to promote health and safety in the organisation and delivery of the physical education programme are included in the school plan, which is good practice. However, the health and safety statement should be informed by a regular audit of the facilities, including the playing surfaces and goalposts. It is recommended that the school’s soccer goalposts be checked for structural integrity to ensure that they meet I.S. 356 and I.S. 357 safety standards. Information on the inspection of goalposts can be obtained from the National Standards Association of Ireland or by visiting their website at www.nsai.ie.
Sport is central to life in Coláiste Éamann Rís. Hurling, soccer and, to a lesser extent, Gaelic football are the main extra-curricular activities provided by the school. In addition, students are accommodated to represent the school in a number of sports including handball, badminton and golf. Hurling is valued as an integral part of the sporting culture and ethos of this school and students have experienced success at all levels. It is highly commendable that a significant number of teachers support the organisation and coaching of the extra-curricular games for students. The links established with the various local clubs and coaches ensure that students are afforded the opportunities to further develop their sporting interests. It is acknowledged that many students will develop a lifelong interest in sport and physical activity as a result of this provision. The priority given to extra-curricular sport in the school is reflected in the fact that a post of responsibility at an assistant principal level has been assigned for the co-ordination of the games programme.
A formal planning meeting of all the teachers involved in the delivery of the timetabled physical education classes and the extra-curricular games programme is organised at the beginning of the year. The main purpose of this meeting is to organise facilities and equipment, establish training structures and to sort out the allocation of coaches to school teams. There is a good sense of collegiality amongst the teachers of the subject and planning is viewed as an ongoing arrangement of activities from term to term. However, it is regrettable that the purpose, structure, organisation and content of the existing programmes are undocumented. It is recommended that the teachers involved in the physical education programme develop a subject plan. The process should begin with the appointment of a co-ordinator to oversee the development of the subject plan. The document should identify the aims and content of the current programme offered to each year group. The content plan should identify the key skills and knowledge that students will acquire and develop as they progress through the programme. A number of additional activities should be included that focus on individual development as well as team games. Finally, teachers should identify strategies that motivate and include all students, especially those who are unable or unwilling to engage in team sports. This will provide a basis from which future planning can evolve and ensure that the programme is cognisant of students of all abilities.
The main activities organised for students during Physical Education lessons are hurling, soccer and Gaelic football. Rugby was introduced for TY students in 2005. Table-tennis is also provided for students and is a popular activity in the event of inclement weather. Trips are organised to a nearby sports complex on occasion for some year groups. Planning includes the identification of external coaches, who are available and competent to assist with the organisation and delivery of specific sports.
A yearly scheme of work has been developed for the Transition Year programme and this is commended. The plan clearly identifies the aims, objectives, progression in learning and the organisation and delivery of a yearly programme of activities. The Transition Year physical education programme is based on providing a variety of different games modules. Students may choose from a number of activities and can also recommend additional games that may be included in the programme. Students also review the programme of activities at the end of the year and this process helps to inform the choice of activities for the subsequent year, which is good practice. In addition, opportunities are provided for students to participate in a range of activities which would not normally be possible in Physical Education lessons. Among the additional activities offered are self defence and first aid and students receive certification on completion of these courses. Furthermore, a series of guest speakers are planned for the current year that will introduce students to the areas of sports-injury prevention and treatment, nutrition for an active lifestyle, and motivation, with a series of presentations from elite sports stars. This approach is to be commended and is in keeping with the spirit and ethos of Transition Year.
Teachers’ individual curricular planning varied from well organised and methodical to less structured planning focusing on the organisation of activities and external coaches.
In the lessons observed, the focused activities were rugby and soccer. Lessons began with a roll call to record students’ attendance and participation. In one lesson observed, students, who were unable to participate in the physical activities, were assigned organisation and officiating duties and attempts were made to include these students in the content of the lesson, which is good practice.
There was a contrast of approaches to the delivery of the lessons observed. Purposeful instruction was provided in one case, whilst the other involved the organisation and officiating of a game. In the former case, there was a brief recap on previous learning and the content and purpose of the current lesson were outlined. Through questioning and the use of the board, students developed an understanding of the technical and tactical aspects related to the focused activities of their lesson. This is good practice as it ensures that students are cognitively as well as physically involved in the learning process. It is recommended that all lessons have a clear purpose and that this be shared with students at the outset to provide them with a clear focus for their learning.
When warm-up procedures were executed, it was commendable that students took ownership of the process. Some good practice was observed whereby students led the stretching exercises, correctly identifying the major muscle groups and the corresponding stretch to improve the range of motion around the focused joints. In many instances, the technical execution of the exercises was correctly performed. It is commendable that students were encouraged to adhere to the correct technique by being offered constructive feedback by their teacher. However, in one instance, warm-up practices were not executed and this should be addressed. It is considered best practice that a warm-up be conducted prior to engagement in any vigorous physical activity, as specified in the school’s health and safety statement. The purpose of a warm-up includes: a gradual raising of the body temperature to ensure a state of physiological readiness to engage in activities that demand the rapid production of energy; a reduction in the risk of sustaining an injury and the neurological and psychological preparation for engagement in the focused activity. A general warm-up usually consists of three phases; light mobility exercises that raise the body temperature and promote efficient movement techniques; a range of motion phase and a skill rehearsal phase that progresses to higher levels of intensity. It is recommended that a number of general warm-up routines be developed that can be applied to each activity. In this way, students will become familiar with the routines and undertake a warm-up as a matter of course prior to engagement in all vigorous physical activities.
All activities were well organised and teachers were involved in coaching and refereeing activities that were enjoyable and stimulating for students. Best practice was observed when students were involved in learning new skills and were challenged to apply these skills in conditioned settings. The development of skills was broken down into unopposed settings, conditioned small-sided activities and full application to the game. Through this process students learned the technical execution of the skills and the rules and regulations governing their use in the game. This is good practice and should be extended to all lessons. It is recommended that a systematic approach be taken to the delivery of each lesson including the setting of learning goals and warm-up procedures, the development of key skills, knowledge and abilities through purposeful activities, and a recap phase to assess and consolidate learning. In this way the standard of learning and engagement in the focused activities will be improved in a logical and progressive manner.
There was a good work ethic displayed by students in the lessons observed and teachers affirmed students’ efforts at every opportunity. Students demonstrated a mature approach to their lessons and were purposeful in their application in the various drills and games. In most cases, the level of physical activity was high and the intensity of the activities was admirable. However, a definite split in the students was observed in one instance, where the more skilful students were coached, whilst a group of eight students participated in a self-regulated game at their own level. Whilst these students were supervised and obviously enjoyed their game, it is important that all students are afforded some level of instruction and are included rather than segregated as a result of ability. Although the games and coaching sessions observed during the inspection were well organised and ran smoothly, a distinction has to be made between coaching, in which there is a relatively narrow, performance-related emphasis and Physical Education which emphasises the holistic development of each individual student.
Questioning and teacher observation are mostly used as a means of assessment in Physical Education. Verbal feedback is often provided to students to promote improvement in skill development and to encourage and affirm students’ efforts. Some recording of student learning takes place in Transition Year, whereby students’ level of skill is determined at the beginning and the end of each activity module. In this way student improvements are noted and affirmed, which is commendable. A similar approach could be adopted for all class groups and this should be included for discussion as part of the subject planning process.
Physical Education does not form part of formal reports to parents. It is recommended that the subject be included in all written reports to parents. It is important that students are given recognition for their engagement and progress in each of the organised activities. It is suggested that a brief comment on the level of engagement, progress and attitude of each student should be included in written reports. This process will provide useful feedback to students as a means of formative assessment in Physical Education.
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:
· It is recommended that the school seek to employ a qualified Physical Education teacher to the deliver a comprehensive physical education programme.
· Management is encouraged to explore the possibility of increasing the current time allocation for the subject in accordance with the Department’s guidelines.
· The school’s soccer goalposts should be checked for structural integrity to ensure that they meet I.S. 356 and I.S. 357 safety standards.
· It is recommended that the teachers involved in the physical education programme document the current programme and develop a subject plan.
· A systematic approach should be taken by teachers to the delivery of each lesson.
· It is recommended that all lessons have a clear purpose and that this be shared with students at the outset to provide them with a clear focus for their learning.
· It is important that all students are afforded some level of instruction and are fully included in their Physical Education lessons.
· It is recommended that the subject be included in all written reports to parents
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Physical Education and with the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published April 2009