An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Ramsgrange Community School
Ramsgrange, County Wexford
Roll number: 91431Q
Date of inspection: 23 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Ramsgrange Community School, 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 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 and subject teachers.
Ramsgrange Community School caters for 415 students, 226 boys and 189 girls. All students study Physical Education and each class receives one double period per week. It is commendable that all students are provided with weekly Physical Education. This provision, throughout studentsí second-level education, should help them form the perception that regular physical activity is important in their lifestyles. Quality Physical Education affords students the opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to lead physically active lifestyles. Although the current provision is commendable, it is below the recommended allocation specified in the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004/05, (pages 7, 141). Management is encouraged to explore the possibility of increasing the current time allocation for the subject.
The Physical Education department is composed of three qualified Physical Education teachers and three teachers who do not hold qualifications recognised by the Department of Education and Science for teaching Physical Education. From a physical education perspective, the range of experiences that can be offered by teachers who do not hold Physical Education teaching qualifications is quite limited.† A distinction has to be made between coaching, in which there is a relatively narrow, often performance-related emphasis and Physical Education, which emphasises the holistic development of each student. A qualified Physical Education professional is the most important resource that a school needs in order to deliver a quality Physical Education programme. Such a programme must have breadth, depth, relevance and coherence and be structured in a logical, progressive manner. Qualified Physical Education professionals exist in the school. It is essential that all students have the opportunity to benefit from the quality of experience that such professionals would be expected to provide. Additionally, there may also be a health and safety risk associated with the timetabling of non-Physical Education professionals to take timetabled lessons in Physical Education. It is strongly recommended that only teachers who possess recognised qualifications to teach Physical Education be timetabled to teach the subject. †
Teachers who do not hold recognised qualifications in Physical Education but who are timetabled to teach the subject, possess some experience in coaching and training in some areas of relevance to the subject, primarily games and leisure and recreation activities. These teachers make a very valuable contribution towards developing a positive physical activity culture in the school. They also bring a level of vibrancy and enthusiasm to the extra-curricular sportís programme. Therefore, it is recommended that the school endeavour to support the continued involvement of these teachers in the provision of extra-curricular physical activities.
Management is commended for its support for the continuing professional development of the Physical Education teachers. This support leads to new and innovative methodologies especially in the areas of planning and organisation of teaching and learning. All three qualified Physical Education teachers have attended inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. In addition, some teachers have also participated in inservice for the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) Leisure and Recreation programme.
There is an attractive environment within the school for the teaching and learning of Physical Education. There is a good range of facilities and resources available to support the teaching of the subject. These include a recently renovated sports hall, two large playing pitches with an additional grass area, a hard court area and a two-lane running track around the perimeter of the playing pitches. Management and the Physical Education department are to be highly commended for their proactive approach towards upgrading and improving these facilities. The addition of a running track provides an ideal resource for teaching athletics, promoting health-related fitness through walking and conditioning programmes and as a competitive facility. The hard court area is an ideal outdoor facility adjacent to the sports hall, but is in need of relining and minor renovation. Additional classroom space has been made available to the school through the acquisition of the Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre. A small hall in this building is now used as a gymnastics and health-related fitness centre. This facility provides the Physical Education department with a great opportunity to develop part of the building as a dedicated Physical Education centre of learning.†
Access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is available within the school building if required by the teachers or students. Whilst the main school building is broadband enabled, management is encouraged to expand access to multi-media and ICT to the sports hall and Shielbaggan building. The availability of the internet, digital video and still photography has many applications in the teaching and learning of skilled movement patterns.†
There is a good range of extra-curricular activities in the school including hurling, camogie, Gaelic football for both boys and girls, athletics and equestrian sports. The school supports a post of responsibility for the coordinator of extra-curricular activities and several staff members are involved in the organisation, coaching and preparation of students for these activities. Such involvement is to be highly praised as it makes a huge contribution to studentsí educational experiences. This year a student initiative led to the establishment of a sports society, which is highly innovative and a credit to the students and their teachers. The sports society was established by the fifth-year Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) students, under the direction of their teachers. Nine students administer this society as part of their end of year project for one of the LCVP link modules. The purpose of this society is to encourage students to support and participate in the physical activity culture of the school. The society organises and runs a variety of sports competitions in the school. Additionally it provides membership cards that entitle the holder to a reduction in entry fee to local sports fixtures.
There are some Physical Education subject department meetings taking place and these are documented in line with the School Development Planning Initiative. Most of these meetings take place informally although management supports formal meetings upon request. The role of subject coordinator is shared, on a rotating basis, amongst the teachers. This commendable system ensures that all teachers gain experience in planning and organising the direction of the subject.
The availability of a team of qualified Physical Education teachers presents an opportunity for the department to collaborate to develop an extensive, unified subject plan based on the junior and senior cycle syllabuses. Physical Education teachers who have attended inservice are aware of the components and structures of a successful subject plan. Additional information may be obtained by reviewing the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS) website www.jcpe.ie and following the links from pedagogy to planning. It is recommended that the Physical Education department aim to develop a Physical Education programme that has breadth of activities in line with the seven strands of the syllabus. The programme should also plan to develop in-depth knowledge, skills and attitudes; be relevant to the interests and needs of the students; and be coherent enough to provide logical and progressive conceptual development. The subject plan should identify the intended learning outcomes for each year group, including Transition Year. The Physical Education department is encouraged to expand the content plan through developing units of work in line with the syllabuses. Planning should also identify teaching and learning methodologies and modes of assessment appropriate to each unit of work. Once developed, this collaborative plan will ensure continuity of experiences for students as they progress through their second-level Physical Education.
At present, teachers prepare their own subject plan for their classes. There is some good short-term considered planning within these individual plans. In most cases, these plans identify the content and activities to be taught during each term and it is recommended that teachers build on this good practice to expand their plans. Individual preparation for lessons observed was good. Equipment and resources required was set up for efficient commencement of each lesson. This pre-lesson planning ensured that there was an optimisation of the learning time in each lesson observed.
Teachers are aware of the relatively high non-participation rates in some Physical Education classes. It is recommended that the Physical Education department develop a planned strategy to increase the current participation rates. Such strategies may include having additional Physical Education kits available for students, involving students in umpiring, completing relevant worksheets, recording of activities, or peer review of key performance indicators. Strategies should be focused to challenge and stimulate students to become involved in the planned activities. Additionally the Physical Education department is encouraged to develop a bank of resources to support each unit of work. This bank of resources will also help to include students who are unable or unwilling to participate in the Physical Education lesson. A collaborative approach to developing these resources provides an efficient and effective means of producing a substantial amount of useful material. The internet provides a wealth of relevant resources and practical activities that may provide assistance when developing materials.
It was reported that some alternative activities are planned for Transition Year students.† These include a trip to an Outdoor Education Centre, completion of a coaching certificate and experiencing some equestrian activities. This is good practice as the ethos of the Transition Year encourages personal and social development. The inclusion of activities that develop studentsí independence and leadership qualities is to be commended.†
In all cases, the necessary equipment and resources required for students were organised and set up prior to the commencement of lessons. This pre-lesson preparation helped to optimise the amount of time available for class activities. Lessons observed began with recording attendance and general administration in keeping with good practice in classroom management. In some classes, where there was a relatively high non-participation rate, teachers included some of these students by involving them in the recording of peer performance. This is good practice and it is recommended that strategies such as these are developed and applied in all classes, as it is essential that all students be engaged in the Physical Education process.
Students were familiar with the procedures for preparing and participating in their Physical Education lessons and were attentive to instructions for engaging in the practical activities. In classes visited, topics taught were basketball, assessment of components of fitness, and circuit-training. The purpose of each lesson was introduced and the sequence of activities for the lesson was clearly outlined to students. Teachers established links between previously learned material and the focus of the present lesson. This helped introduce students to new and more progressive activities. This commendable practice ensured that all lessons were well organised and students had a clear outline of the core activities for the lesson. This served to maintain studentsí concentration throughout.
Warm-up procedures in most cases were well constructed and appropriate to the focused activities. In one case, a well-constructed game-based warm-up progressed students through the mobility and skill-based phases by using a combination of discrete skills specific to the game. This good practice maximised studentsí time in developing their game-related competence. In addition, by progressively increasing the intensity of the warm-up tasks, studentsí physiological readiness for the proceeding high intensity games was optimised. In some cases, the relevance of stretching for improving joint range of movement was highlighted and students correctly related each exercise to the appropriate muscle groups and joints. This is commendable practice as it develops an understanding of important modes of exercise to promote physical well-being and involves students as reflective participants.
A range of teaching methodologies was used to develop and reinforce learning, including teacher-led demonstrations, student demonstration and questioning to determine understanding of the tasks set. In one case, there was an excellent technical demonstration by the teacher, which was further supported by relevant teaching points linking the skill to its application in a game. This is highly commendable practice as it provides students with technical cues that may be easily applied to effect improvement. Tasks set in lessons provided many opportunities for students to develop their skill-based competencies. Tasks were sufficiently challenging to maintain the interest of more physically able students whilst allowing students of poorer physical ability to also experience success. When physical fitness assessments are taking place teachers should ensure the testing procedures are set up to maximise reliability, accuracy and repeatability. This will avoid confusion amongst students, arising from poor measurement techniques. Teachers are also encouraged to expand the use of subject specific terminology. This will help to challenge students cognitively as well as physically. Expanding the range of higher-order questioning will stimulate students to engage in analysis to establish relationships between key components of physical activity including aesthetics, physiology and biomechanics.
An effective working atmosphere was created through good classroom leadership. Both the sports hall and the small gym in the Shielbaggan centre were well maintained, and this helped create an atmosphere conducive to learning. Teachers were encouraging and supportive of their students and there was good student-teacher rapport evidenced in classrooms visited. In some cases music added to the tempo and atmosphere of the class and students engaged in the activities with interest and enthusiasm. Students of all abilities were included in class activities and at times exercises were modified to suit students experiencing difficulty. This is good practice as it encourages students to view participation in physical activity for everyone and not just the gifted performer.
Teachers keep good records of student attendance and participation in Physical Education lessons.† Formal reporting to parents takes place twice a year at Christmas and summer. Each student is awarded a comment for Physical Education, which is based on observation of participation during the term. Teachers are encouraged to establish regular recording of student achievement and development of skill or knowledge-based competencies. Records may be based on criteria such as participation, physical competency, effort and progress, written assessment and task or project completion for each module of learning.
Student assessment may be enhanced as the Physical Education department continues to implement the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. New and innovative assessment methodologies have been piloted through Physical Education and some of these are available on the JCPESS website. It is recommended that the Physical Education department adopt some modes of assessment that will facilitate the awarding of a grade for the subject. These may include regular use of higher-order questioning, self and peer assessment and engagement in the completion of rich tasks. These methodologies have proven very successful in developing and maintaining studentsí interest and enjoyment of the subject.
Physical Education teachers are available at all parent-teacher meetings for discussion of student progress in the subject. Parent-teacher meetings are held once per year for each year group. The availability of the Physical Education teachers at these meetings is commendable as it firmly establishes the subject as a core component of each studentís 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:
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.