An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Subject Inspection of Physical Education



Coláiste Bhríde,

Carnew, County Wicklow

Roll number: 70790E


Date of inspection: 28 November 2007





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 Coláiste Bhríde, Carnew, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation.  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 two days 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 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.


Subject provision and whole school support


Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum in Coláiste Bhríde. The timetable provision of one double period per week of Physical Education for all students who follow the junior cycle, the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is adequate to implement a comprehensive Physical Education programme. However, the overall time provision for Physical Education falls short of the two hours per week recommended in the Department of Education and Science (DES) Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools 2004/2005. Management is encouraged to work towards increasing the time provision as per these guidelines. Students who follow the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme receive one double period and two single periods in year one and one double period in year two to study the Leisure and Recreation Course. This is very good provision as it provides students with ample time to study both the practical and theoretical aspects of their chosen modules.


Physical Education is not timetabled as part of the Transition Year programme in the school.  However, one afternoon per week is timetabled for activities, which is in line with recommended practice. It is commendable that many of these activities are physical in nature and lead to valuable accreditation and awards. It is important that the Physical Education department continue to be involved in the design and implementation of this programme, to ensure that the valuable Physical Education lessons arising from these activities are not lost.


The Physical Education department consists of three teachers, two of whom are qualified in the subject. With the exception of one fifth-year group, all of the Physical Education lessons are taken by the qualified Physical Education teachers. The Physical Education department operates an options programme for the three classes in the fifth-year group as they are timetabled concurrently. This enables a broad range of activities to be offered that are suited to the interests of the students. One of the options offered is delivered by a teacher who does not possess a qualification in Physical Education but who has experience in the area of coaching for the provided activity. It is acknowledged that teachers who do not possess recognised qualifications in Physical Education make a very valuable contribution to the promotion of physical activity and involvement in sport amongst students in the school. However, it is important for the continuity and quality of delivery of the planned programme, as well as to avoid any health and safety issues, that all timetabled lessons in Physical Education be taken by the fully qualified Physical Education teachers. Therefore, it is recommended that the practice of timetabling non-qualified Physical Education teachers to deliver Physical Education lessons should be re-examined.


Management fully supports the continuing professional development of teachers and it is commendable that the Physical Education teachers have attended in-service for the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus, the LCA Leisure and Recreation Course and the recent Action for Life programme. Some sports specific courses such as basketball coaching, Olympic handball and leader courses in adventure activities have also been undertaken, which is commendable. The knowledge and skills acquired through participation in these in-service and sports specific courses enhance the expertise of teachers which also benefits the experience of the Physical Education students.


There are very good facilities and resources to support teaching and learning in Physical Education in this school. These facilities include a recently constructed sports hall, a multi-purpose outdoor hard-court area and access to a nearby pitch. The storeroom is well equipped to provide for most of the strands of the syllabus. The facilities are well maintained and detailed attention is paid to practical health and safety matters. The regular risk analysis and safety audit is good practice and is commended. It is commendable that the Physical Education department is investigating the possibility of converting the viewing area over the sports hall into a health and fitness centre. If established, this centre will prove a very valuable teaching and learning facility for students of Physical Education, as well as providing a training venue for students to improve their involvement in physical activity or sports specific fitness.


The Physical Education department has access to a camcorder and digital camera as well as limited access to the school’s computer room. It is recommended that broadband access be extended to the sports hall and viewing area. In addition, a whiteboard should be placed in the sports hall. This would be a valuable resource to identify the key learning intentions and content of lessons, and to record students’ responses to set tasks.  


Extra-curricular sport plays an important role in the life of the school and is very well supported by a large number of teaching staff. The role that these teachers play in developing a sense of school identity and achievement cannot be underestimated and is highly commended. It was reported that in excess of fifty-percent of students participate in the extra-curricular physical activities. A range of activities is provided and facilitated by the school including both boys and girls Gaelic football, hurling, camógie, basketball, athletics, rugby and badminton. Of particular note is the school’s support for students interested in activities that may not be possible for the school to provide for directly such as handball, equestrian activities, golf and swimming. The school supports equestrian activities through the provision of coaching one evening per week, entries to competitions and assisting students who may not have their own horse. Additionally, golf and swimming teams are organised and entered into their respective competitions to represent the school. Even though the school does not directly provide coaching, nor does it take credit for the development of the individual’s talents in these activities, it does provide a platform for these students to develop their competitive instincts and identify in a very positive way with the school, which is highly commended. The school takes great pride in the achievements of its students and publicly displays an array of photographs and trophies from their involvement in the wide variety of activities.

Planning and preparation


Subject department planning for Physical Education is well developed in the school. The Physical Education department has established the role of subject convenor, which is rotated annually. This is good practice as it helps to share the responsibility and workload as well as providing good experience of this important role for all members of the department. Management facilitates three formal planning meetings per year and, in addition, members of the Physical Education department meet regularly to discuss all matters related to the organisation and delivery of the Physical Education programme. The documenting of formal meetings is good practice as the retention of these records will help to identify the evolution of the subject provision, the planned programme and the rationale underpinning its development. The continued expansion of this good practice is encouraged.


There is a detailed subject plan developed for Physical Education, which documents the overall aims and objectives for the subject in the school, the staffing and the timetabling arrangements, as well as addressing issues such as the inclusion of students with special educational needs. Additionally, the Physical Education department has identified some cross-curricular links with subject departments such as Science, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Home Economics. It is commended that the Physical Education department has adopted the planning framework recommended by the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS) to provide an overview of the modules covered and their placement throughout the year. The planned modules are of good duration to allow for in-depth study of the selected activity and cover all of the strands of the syllabus, with the exception of aquatics. There are some very detailed units of work outlined in the subject plan to support each of the activity modules. These units of work are clearly presented and include the intended learning outcomes and the learning experiences of students. They also identify the appropriate range of teaching and learning strategies and some modes of assessment for each activity block. This level of detail is commendable. To further enhance this good planning practice, it is suggested that the Physical Education department identify opportunities for the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as part of the teaching and learning process for suitable activity modules. Engagement with ICT in Physical Education has proven to be a valuable teaching and learning tool to promote students’ movement analysis skills. To this end, the Physical Education department should consult with the DVD “Digital Video in Physical Education”, as well as consulting the website of the National Centre for Technology in Education ( for information on the use of ICT as an aid to effective teaching and learning.


The planned Transition Year physical activities programme provides for a variety of activities, many of which include certification upon completion. Students participate in a ten-week adventure activities module that includes hill-walking and orienteering, a ten-week swimming and water-safety module, a five-week Tae-kwon-do and tennis module as well as a five-day trip to an outdoor education centre. Participation and successful completion of many of these modules contributes to the achievement of the Gaisce bronze medal award. The Physical Education department liaises with the TY coordinator in planning this programme, which is commendable as it maintains continuity and builds upon the learning experiences students have acquired at junior cycle.  


The Physical Education department engages in a consultative process with senior cycle students to identify the module options for each year group. This is good practice as it allows students to assume some ownership of their Physical Education programme and should result in improved participation and attainment. The planned modules include salsa dance, self-defence, tennis, soccer and athletics. It is important that the selected activity blocks have clearly identified learning outcomes that engage students in learning and develop their understanding of the factors that influence human movement, including the benefits of regular physical activity as part of a healthy balanced lifestyle. It is recommended that the Physical Education department analyse their records of senior cycle students’ participation, together with a student evaluation of the programme at the end of the year. This will further inform and enhance the content and quality of delivery of the senior cycle Physical Education programme.


The planned Leisure and Recreation programme follows the modules outlined in the syllabus documents and teachers’ guidelines. Students’ progress is well planned, with a phased approach to the completion of key assignments.


There was good evidence that the acquisition of additional and replacement items is well planned. Some useful texts, videos and resources are available and have been developed to support teaching and learning in the subject.


Teaching and learning


In the lessons visited, the focused activities were gymnastics, circuit-training, rugby and soccer. Students demonstrated familiarity and compliance with the procedures for assembly and changing into their sports kit prior to the commencement of their Physical Education lessons. Attendance and participation records were taken for all lessons and, in most cases, students who were unable to participate in the physical activities of the lessons were assigned topic-specific worksheets. In some lessons, these students were also included in observing demonstrations and in some question and answer sessions. This is good practice as it ensures that these students are engaged in the cognitive aspects of the Physical Education process. The development and inclusion of further strategies such as umpiring, videoing, peer-review and teaching assistant roles is recommended to ensure that all students continue to be stimulated and engaged in their Physical Education lessons.


All lessons began with warm-up activities and students were quick to task. In most cases, these activities were well structured and planned to ensure that students were adequately prepared to participate in the more vigorous activities of their lesson. In some cases, students led the warm-up exercises, which is good practice as it allows them to demonstrate and apply their learning. In such cases, it is important that students apply the correct techniques and the appropriate structures and principles to benefit fully from the warm-up. To this end, a few simple routines should be designed to encompass the three phases of a warm-up: general mobility; range of motion (either dynamic or static exercises) and skill-based preparatory activities. This will ensure that students are in a state of physiological readiness and have practised the patterns of movement related to the focused activity. Once students have learned these routines, can execute the correct techniques for each exercise and understand the underlying principles, they could then be given the opportunity to lead their peers in some or all phases of the warm-up as appropriate.


Most lessons were well structured and organised and the content was appropriate to the age and ability of the students. In some cases, teachers shared the intended learning outcomes with their students at the beginning of the lesson and the extension of this good practice to all lessons is recommended. This will help ensure that students remain focused throughout the lesson and can gauge their progress against the established criteria for success. The availability of a whiteboard in the sports hall would also be beneficial to assist in the learning process. Teachers could display the key tasks and relevant teaching points on the board, which students could easily refer to throughout the lesson to guide their learning. The whiteboard may also be used to record students’ responses to the key tasks.


There was good commitment to oral questioning in most lessons and this practice engaged students cognitively in their tasks. This is important as it helps to assess and reinforce students’ understanding of the key concepts. In some cases, global questions were posed that resulted in blanket responses from the class, some of which were indiscernible. It is best practice to identify and name students when directing questions as this will allow students to learn the correct response and also allows for differentiation to ensure that all students are included in the learning process. There was some good use of subject-specific terminology and it is recommended that teachers extend this use to immerse students in all aspects of human movement.


There were some good examples of teacher and student-led demonstrations that illustrated the appropriate techniques and safety points and provided good exemplars to inform learning, which is commendable. In some cases, an excessive amount of time was spent on demonstration at the expense of student participation and engagement. To ensure that lessons are optimally paced, it is important that there is an appropriate balance between time spent on demonstration and instruction and student engagement with the tasks. It is recommended that some strategies be developed to optimise this balance. In some cases, when closed tasks were set that involved practising a single skill repeatedly, a small number of students disengaged with the focused activity for short periods. It is recommended that open-ended tasks are set, when appropriate, to allow for differentiation of students of all abilities and to maintain students’ full engagement. In some cases, small-sided games were played and provided valuable opportunities for students to apply their learning in the game context. However, additional conditions on the rules of play would have ensured that all students had an opportunity to apply their skills and play a role as a team member.  For example, one condition may be that each player must receive a set number of passes before the team can score, thus ensuring that all team members are more actively involved in the applied aspects of their lessons. It is recommended that teachers reflect on practice and strategies to ensure that students’ opportunities for success are optimised.


Good practice was observed when students were given the opportunity to present their work to their peers. In this case, each student designed one exercise to fit into a circuit-training routine. Students explained the reason for selecting their exercise, correctly identified the targeted component of fitness and illustrated progressions of complexity to include beginner, intermediate and advanced participants. Students orally presented their exercise, accompanied in many cases by a diagram and explanation of the key teaching points, identified benefits of the exercise in developing the targeted component of fitness, and then demonstrated its correct execution. This is highly commendable practice as it ensures that students must acquire both the knowledge and skill necessary to justify, explain and demonstrate their chosen exercise.


Teachers have developed a good rapport with their students and all lessons were conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect.  Good firm classroom management was in evidence in all lessons and there was a warm and supportive atmosphere, where students were encouraged and affirmed at times for their efforts.




Teachers maintain good records of students’ attendance, participation and engagement for each class group in Physical Education. Comments regarding student progress and attainment in Physical Education are included in reports to parents twice per year, at Christmas and summer, in line with standard practice. In addition, the Physical Education teachers attend parent-teacher meetings, which are held for each year group once per year. This is good practice as it highlights the importance of the subject to parents and firmly establishes its status on the curriculum.


It is commendable that the Physical Education department has begun to use some of the assessment strategies developed by the JCPESS. Self assessment has been introduced for first-year students as part of an assessment for learning strategy. Other strategies, which are outlined in the subject plan, include the completion of rich tasks and the completion of a progress wheel to assist students’ self-evaluation of their learning for each module. Engagement with these tools and modes of assessment is commendable. Students also retain a physical fitness profile which is sensitively used to promote goal-setting for self improvement. It is important that students focus on their own functionality and physical wellbeing and avoid comparisons with others, as the differences between biological and chronological maturity among adolescents may lead to gross misinterpretations of results, which could have a negative impact on some students.


It is commendable that the Physical Education department has developed a system of retaining the work completed by students in each module so that it can be used to formulate a portfolio of learning. This is good practice. The development of student portfolios of learning will help to illustrate students’ progress in the acquisition of knowledge and understanding as well as their progress in the technical and tactical aspects associated with the focused activities. There was good evidence that issues related to the retention and storage of the materials produced by students have been carefully considered.


Assessment in LCA is based on the completion of key assignments as well as a written exam at the end of term. It is commendable that a common paper is to be set for both LCA year one class groups this term as this promotes consistency of practice.


There was a good participation rate and work ethic observed during the inspection. Students were confident in their responses to questions and were able to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the focused topics.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


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.





Published October 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          


1.       Management is encouraged to work towards providing Physical Education for all students in line with recommendations of the Department of Education & Science.


Management will take cognizance of the two-hour physical education recommendation as per Department of Education & Science guidelines.



2.       The practice of timetabling non-qualified physical education teachers to deliver physical education lessons should be re-examined.


The addition of a third fully qualified physical education teacher has helped alleviate this and we are striving to eradicate this completely in the coming years.



3.       It is important that the Physical Education Department continue to be involved in the design and implementation of Transition Year activities programme.


This continues to be the case and a member of the Physical Education Department is also a member of the transition year core team and therefore has a significant input into the overall transition year programme delivered in the school.



4.       It is recommended that broadband access be extended to the sports hall and viewing area and that a whiteboard be installed in the sports hall.


The sports hall and viewing area is now broadband enabled and a whiteboard has been installed in the sports hall.



5.       The Physical Education Department should identify opportunities for the inclusion of ICT

as an additional tool in the teaching and learning process for suitable activity modules.


As part of a review of our Physical Education Programme we have identified some new

areas which could accommodate the inclusion of ICT in reviewing performance. 


    6. It is recommended that teachers ensure tasks set are open ended and conditions be

imposed on modified games to include students of all abilities and to maintain all students’ interest.


We are endeavouring to incorporate this into all our teaching methodologies and we will continue as a department to use AfL in all our teaching and learning strategies.