An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Saint Patrick’s Community College
Naas, Co. Kildare
Roll number: 70710 D
Date of inspection: 25 September 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Patrick’s Community College, Naas, Co. Kildare. 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 students’ work, 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 Physical Education teacher.
St. Patrick’s Community College, Naas, is a co-educational school run under the auspices of County Kildare Vocational Educational Committee (VEC), with an enrolment of 280 students. Classes are organised into mixed-ability groups in both junior and senior cycle for Physical Education. The school offers a full spectrum of curricular programmes to suit the educational needs of its students. These are the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP), Transition Year programme (TY), the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).
The Physical Education department is composed of one qualified Physical Education teacher who is fully deployed in the provision of a comprehensive Physical Education programme to all classes, with the exception of one first-year class. A Physical Education professional is best placed to facilitate students to develop a broad understanding and competency in the performance of a range of physical activities. This occurs through the creation of an environment whereby students can analyse the implications for performance within biomechanical, physiological and technical components inherent in the activity. It is recommended that all classes be provided with the opportunity to benefit from the quality of experience that a qualified Physical Education teacher would be expected to provide.
Continued professional development is well supported by the school. The Physical Education department has received inservice training in the Junior Certificate School Programme and the Leisure & Recreation Programme for LCA. Additionally, the school is in the process of implementing the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus and is enlisted in the next cohort of schools for inservice. Such support for continuing professional development and its relevance to the needs of both the department and the students is to be commended.
Physical Education is a core subject for all students at junior cycle and Transition Year, with each class receiving one double period of Physical Education per week. LCA students study the Leisure & Recreation syllabus during year one and year two of their course. Three periods per week are allocated to LCA year-one for this programme, whilst one double period is allocated to LCA year-two. Students in the established Leaving Certificate are not timetabled for Physical Education. The fact that these students do not receive any Physical Education may inadvertently create the perception that physical activity is a low priority in their development. Quality Physical Education can make a significant contribution in providing students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to lead a healthy active lifestyle. It is recommended that the school revise the current level of provision for the subject and aspire to providing two hours of quality Physical Education for all students, as recommended in the Department of Education and Science Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004/05, (Pages 7, 141).
Suitable resources are provided by the school to implement a comprehensive Physical Education programme. The school maintains a small sports-hall and a large outdoor pitch. In addition, a small stage area off the sports-hall is used to house two rowing machines that may be used for training and teaching the concepts of health-related fitness. A chalkboard is also provided in this area and is suitable for theory or task-based teaching. A range of additional equipment is available and these are suitable for the requirements of the Physical Education programme. Management supports the purchase or replacement of equipment, on a needs basis, on receipt of an application from the Physical Education department. This system works well for the department. In addition, management and the Physical Education department are to be commended for arranging a health and safety audit to ensure the suitability of the facilities and equipment for safe participation in the subject.
The school is fully broadband enabled and a range of computers and audio-visual equipment is available to support teaching and learning. Issues surrounding the acceptable use of these resources have been discussed and management has designed consent forms to ensure the appropriate deployment of these teaching and learning tools. This is commendable practice as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has many applications that may enhance the quality of the learning experience in Physical Education. These include analysis of movement performance and the recording of performance progression portfolios.
Whole-school involvement and support for extra-curricular sport and physical activity is to be commended. The school is involved in a range of extra-curricular physical activities including Athletics, Basketball, Badminton, Hurling, Soccer, Gaelic football, Table Tennis and Volleyball. Participation in sport can create the foundation for a lifelong interest in physical activity and the associated health related benefits. In addition to the Physical Education department, a substantial number of staff are involved in the planning and organisation of these activities and such support and involvement is to be highly commended.
Planning for Physical Education is well advanced in the school. A detailed subject plan has been developed in line with the format proposed by the School Development Planning Initiative. This is commendable practice as it provides a logical structure to the subject plan. Equally, it accounts for all factors influencing the long and short-term provision of the subject in the school. Opportunities provided by management to support subject planning have been used effectively to address issues affecting the subject, such as duration of lessons, the appropriate placement of each strand of the syllabus and details of students with special educational needs. Such thorough engagement and documentation of this process is commended.
It is commendable that the school has sought and secured a place in the final phase of inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. Involvement in this inservice will provide a wealth of ideas and information related to structured planning that will help the department to expand on the existing good practice.
The curriculum plan includes the schedule of activities for each year group and provides a broad range of experiences for students as they progress through school. Mirco-planning includes units of work and individual lesson plans and these are well structured to account for learning outcomes, content, resources, teaching methodologies and some assessment. Additionally, plans account for the needs of the variety of students present in each class group, such as students with special educational needs and international students. This is particularly highlighted in the Transition Year plan where strategies for the inclusion of international students are identified. This is highly commendable practice.
The Transition Year programme has been reinstated in the school after a period of twelve years. A diverse range of activities and courses are planned in keeping with the ethos of Transition Year. These activities include: Tae kwon-do, a first-aid course, pitch and putt, a coaching course, a health-related fitness module and visits to a local equestrian centre. All of these activities can contribute to the development of lifelong leisure and leadership skills that will be of use to students in developing and maintaining a healthy active lifestyle.
The Leaving Certificate Applied programme is well planned and in line with the requirements specified in the Leisure and Recreation modules for the completion of key assignments.
A health and safety statement is also included in the subject plan outlining the appropriate attire and code of conduct expected in Physical Education lessons. There is good planning for access to equipment and facilities to maximise opportunity for skill acquisition. Lessons observed were well planned and all the necessary equipment was available to support teaching and learning. Some students, who were unable to participate physically in lessons, may have benefited from additional resources, such as peer-review performance indicators or worksheets related to the topic of study. It is recommended that strategies to include these students be incorporated into the subject plan and a bank of resources developed to support such strategies. Support resources are available online or may be designed and developed by the department. This will serve to engage students at a cognitive level with the topic of study.
In some cases, ICT is used by students to prepare portfolios of work and to record key assignments. This is commendable practice. It is recommended that the subject plan be expanded to incorporate ICT into units of work, where appropriate, as an additional teaching and learning tool. The availability of these tools may encourage students to become more autonomous learners and promote the concept of self-analytical performers.
The quality of teaching and learning in the lessons observed was good with students actively engaged in purposeful, well-planned physical activities. Lessons commenced with a record of attendance in keeping with good practice. Equipment was effectively distributed and the students demonstrated good adherence to safety procedures whilst preparing the learning environment. This good practice is commendable as students develop an awareness of personal and group safety and it facilitates the efficient commencement of practical activities.
In classes visited, the topics taught were gymnastics and invasion games. Practical activities commenced with a warm-up that was appropriate to the topic of study and this proved motivating for the students. In one case, a game of “tag” was entered into with great enthusiasm and was clearly enjoyable. Warm-up activities moved appropriately from general mobility activities to skill-based activities related to the topic of study. Clear and precise instructions were given to students and relevant teaching points were given to improve the technical execution of each activity. This is commendable practice. In some cases, “knockout” activities were used as a competitive stimulus as part of the skill-development phase. It is recommended that some alternative activities be planned to ensure that all students remain fully involved throughout the initial phase of the lesson. These may include time-based competitive challenges or the successful completion of a set number of repetitions. In these situations, the competitive stimulus remains but avoids students sitting out for prolonged periods.
In general, the purpose of the lesson was shared with the students and it is recommended that this good practice be expanded to all lessons. Sharing the intended learning outcomes at the commencement of the lesson helps to focus students on the purpose of the activities and gives a sense of achievement once tasks have been completed. Lessons were developed through a variety of approaches depending on the activity being taught. There was appropriate use of individual, paired and group activities. Previously learned skills were reviewed prior to the introduction of new material. In some cases, direct command-style instructions were given to students in order to teach a particular motor-skill, such as a shoulder-stand. In other situations, a guided-discovery style was used to set tasks for students to apply their newly acquired skills. For example, students were set the task of constructing a specific movement sequence based on the concepts of travelling and balance. This diversity of approaches is commendable as it accounts for the variety of abilities, interests and needs of the students. When required, individual attention was given to students who were experiencing technical difficulties and these students were dealt with in a sensitive and positive manner. Students who received individual attention made definite progress in skill acquisition and this approach is highly commended.
Lesson pace and structure was good and tasks were changed appropriately to challenge and maintain the students’ interest. In one instance, the imposition of dribbling restrictions on a player in possession of the ball led to a marked improvement in students’ understanding of the concept of support. Awareness of these conditioning strategies is commended as this resulted in greater involvement of all team members and a more rewarding experience for all.
In some situations, students who were not participating in the lessons assisted in the setting up and storing of equipment, at the commencement and end of the lessons. This is commendable as it actively involves students, to some degree, in the lesson. However, it is recommended that strategies be developed to maintain the involvement of these students throughout the lesson. This can be achieved by developing work-sheets related to the topic of study, involving the student in questioning, analysis and review of peer performances or through officiating of games.
Posters related to some of the strands of the syllabus were on display in the sports-hall, such as an anatomical reference chart and a detailed account of the New-Zealand All-Blacks dance, the “Haka”. A graphic and print-rich environment helps to create a stimulating environment for learning and this approach is commendable. It is recommended that these posters be replaced at regular intervals to maintain this good practice.
Student participation and engagement with the tasks set were purposeful and to a good standard. There was a good working atmosphere in lessons observed with the majority of students appearing to enjoy their Physical Education lesson while engaging in vigorous physical activity. There was good student-teacher rapport and a clear understanding of the needs and abilities of each student was evident. This promoted a positive atmosphere and encouraged student participation. Most students were eager and interested in the activities and approached each task with enthusiasm. This is a compliment to the motivating learning environment created during the lessons and is commended.
Physical Education forms part of the formal reporting process to parents and takes place twice a year, at Christmas and summer. Students’ achievement and progress in Physical Education is also discussed at parent-teacher meetings. Reports to parents are comment-based. Records of attendance, participation and progress in Physical Education are maintained and these contribute to the formulation of the assessment comment.
Students in the Junior Certificate School Programme complete activity specific statements indicating their attainment of key learning targets. Student’s work through ten key learning targets related to specific activities. Three categories, (i) work begun, (ii) work in progress, and (iii) work completed indicate the level of attainment of the student for each of the learning targets. This system has proven to be very motivating for students and also provides a clear record of achievement and engagement in the subject. Assessment in Transition Year is based on attendance and participation, which accounts for 50% of the available marks, and completion of a portfolio account for the remaining 50%. Leaving Certificate Applied students study two out of three modules in the Leisure and Recreation Programme. Module one contains three units of work with module two containing four units of work. Students are required to complete a series of key assignments at the end of each module. The maintaining of records of all students progress within each curricular programme is commended.
Engagement with the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus will introduce a range of assessment methodologies, including assessment for learning, peer-assessment and rich-tasks. The comprehensive inservice will also help planning for assessment whilst providing opportunities to discuss the strategies employed by other Physical Education professionals in formulating an assessment grade for students in the subject.
The performance of students in lessons observed indicate that they are achieving well in Physical Education in this school, and are provided with good opportunities in a broad range of activities in keeping with the strands of the syllabus.
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 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.