An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Killina Presentation Secondary School
Rahan, Tullamore, County Offaly
Roll number: 65630B
Date of inspection: 26 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Killina Presentation Secondary 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 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.
Physical Education was introduced onto the curriculum of Killina Presentation Secondary School in 2001. Since this time, significant developments have been made to provide for the subject and it is now a core subject for all year groups in the school. The school provides two single periods of Physical Education per week for all junior cycle and Leaving Certificate students. The evidence from observing single-period lessons indicated that this timetable arrangement was too restrictive to allow for any in-depth study of the topics. It is therefore recommended that the timetable arrangements for Physical Education be reviewed to provide for a minimum of one double period per week for all students, with management working towards increasing the provision for the subject in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science, as outlined in the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004/05. This will facilitate the full implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus, as outlined in Circular M15/05, and afford all students sufficient time to engage fully with the subject matter relevant to their course of study. It is also regrettable that some fifth-year students who follow the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) only receive one period of Physical Education per week as they may be timetabled for an additional module in computers concurrently with Physical Education. This matter should also be reviewed.
Transition Year students receive three periods of Physical Education, timetabled consecutively, one afternoon per week. This is good practice as it ensures that both on-site and off-site activities as well as in-depth activity sessions, such as coaching courses, may be accommodated. The school also has two class groups for students with moderate general learning disabilities and these students receive one double period of Physical Education per week. It was reported that the duration of a double period for this group may be too long as some of these students may find the physical demands of the activities and the level of attention required too taxing. Whilst a double period of Physical Education is recommended for mainstream students, it is suggested that these students may gain more benefit from two single periods per week. This situation should also be discussed during the next curriculum review.
The physical education department consists of two teachers, one of whom is fully qualified in the subject and one who holds a qualification in the leisure and recreation area. Both teachers have worked hard to establish the subject and to provide a quality physical education programme for students in the school. The strong commitment within the subject department and the school to providing Physical Education as part of the educational experience for the students and for recognising the very valuable contribution that the subject makes to their physical, social and cognitive development is commended. However, it is best practice that the school deploy teachers with the appropriate qualifications in Physical Education as recognised by the Department of Education and Science and it is recommended that the school address this situation. Management is fully supportive of continuing professional development (CPD) and it is commendable that the physical education department has engaged in the in-service programme for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus, as well as the recent Action for Life courses. The school is commended for its proactive approach towards the implementation of the revised syllabus.
The facilities in the school are adequate to implement a comprehensive physical education programme. They consist of a small multi-purpose hall, a refurbished outdoor hard-court area, a grass area and small playing pitch. All of these facilities are well maintained. Due to space restrictions, the hall is used as a canteen and social area during the lunch break. Every effort is made by the staff and students to ensure that the hall is expediently restored and rendered safe for participation immediately after lunch breaks.
The storeroom is well equipped with a very good range of equipment and resources to support the delivery of most strands of the syllabus. The school has received the recent equipment grant allocation from the Department and has used this money for the purposes for which it was intended. It is highly commendable that the physical education department, together with their students and in collaboration with the parents’ association, organise a series of annual fundraising drives, such as sponsored walks and bowling competitions, to raise funds to support the extra-curricular sports and physical education programme. Monies raised go towards providing equipment, and funding the hire of buses used in transporting students to various sports fixtures and events. The local community is reportedly very supportive of the school and all efforts to enhance the services available for students are fully supported.
The physical education department has access to televisions, video and DVD players, as well as limited access to a data projector and the computer room. Whilst information and communication technology (ICT) is used in the planning and some of the delivery of the syllabus, there is scope for the introduction of digital video and still cameras to further enhance students’ learning in Physical Education. Further information regarding the use of this technology and its application may be found on www.ncte.ie or through the DVD resource “Digital Video in Physical Education”.
Support for extra-curricular sports is high in the school. It is good practice that participation in these activities is appropriately coordinated to reduce their impact on tuition time. A schedule of training times has been organised to optimise the use of the available facilities and to ensure that students can access more than one activity. The range of activities includes track and field athletics, cross-country running, boys and girls soccer, basketball, hurling and Gaelic football. The school also facilitates students to compete in regional and national equestrian events. In addition, a series of lunchtime basketball, Gaelic football, hurling and soccer leagues is organised to increase the provision for all students, some of whom may not be interested in training for school teams. This is commendable practice. However, it is important that supervising teachers are vigilant to ensure that students participating in lunch time leagues return to class on time to avoid disruption and any loss in their tuition time.
There is a very strong commitment to Gaelic games and the achievements of the school in their grades at both county and provincial level are very significant. Students’ achievements in extra-curricular sports are prominently displayed throughout the school in the form of team photographs and newspaper articles, which is highly commendable as this practice ensures that students are recognised and affirmed for their contribution to this important aspect of school life. A significant number of staff members contribute to the organisation and coaching of the extra-curricular programme and their valuable contribution is highly commended. Additionally, good relationships have been established with local sports clubs which provide the school with access to their club pitches for training and matches when required.
A collaborative approach is taken to the planning and coordination of Physical Education in the school. Formal meeting times are given to subject planning, which take place once per term. Minutes of these meetings are recorded and documents indicated that a range of issues is discussed, mostly around the organisation of time, facilities and resources. The physical education teachers also meet informally on a daily basis, and have developed a good working relationship to ensure the effective delivery of the physical education programme.
The initial introduction of the subject in the school has focused on establishing a participation culture in physical activity and most planning has been centred on the achievement of this objective. Considerable progress has been made in ensuring that participation rates in class activities are optimised amongst all groups and there was good evidence of this in the classes observed during the inspection. This progress is highly commended, as national trends suggest that participation in physical activity is declining amongst children and adolescents in particular. The work of the physical education department is very important in developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable students to establish regular patterns of participation in physical activities, which have many health-related, social and psychological benefits. It is also commendable that both physical education teachers are also teaching Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) to first-year students. Some good cross-curricular links have been established between the subjects to help students address some of the issues affecting their physical health and wellbeing.
There was good evidence that the physical education teachers are reflective practitioners and are aware of the issues and challenges facing the advancement of the subject in the school. Significant progress has been made in planning for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus, which has been phased in over the past two years. There has been some good use of the subject planning framework promoted by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) to provide the guiding structure for the subject plan. The overall structure of the plan identifies the general aims for the subject in the school as well as the provision, organisation and facilities to support teaching and learning. A broad scheme of work is planned for each year group identifying the activities and their placement during the year. It is commendable that most of the activity strands of the syllabus are included in the junior cycle plan which provides some depth and balance to the programme. However, there is a need to expand the subject plan to include more detailed schemes of work to support each of the activity modules planned for all year groups. Schemes of work for each activity module should identify the intended learning outcomes to guide students’ progress, define the content and learning experiences, identify the most suitable learning and teaching strategies, specify the resources required to support learning and also outline any assessment strategies that will be used. This will provide a guiding framework to direct students’ learning experiences, progress and achievements. It will also ensure that the Physical Education programme is coherent and relevant to meet the needs of all students. Further information and exemplar schemes of work may be found on www.jcpe.ie.
The Transition Year plan provides for a variety of activity modules including aquatics, a health and fitness course at a local gym, a foundation level coaching course, invasion games as well as a residential outdoor education trip and a variety of challenging physical activities as part of the Gaisce awards. Participation in these activities and courses provides students with valuable knowledge of communication and organisation skills and develops social and leadership qualities, which is commendable.
The senior cycle programme is predominantly games-orientated. However, there is a good range of contrasting games varying from net and fielding games to invasion games. It is commendable that in some cases, senior cycle students are provided with a choice of activities. This is good practice as it empowers students to make decisions based on their competence and preference while allowing them to take some ownership of their Physical Education programme. It is recommended that the senior cycle plan be revised to consider some of the kinesiological, psychological and sociological 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. Furthermore, some student review should be planned to help inform the content, organisation and delivery of the programme.
There was evidence of good links between the physical education department and the learning- support team. Planning for the inclusion of students with special educational needs is highly commendable. There are some good examples whereby students with moderate general learning disabilities may be included in some of the mainstream physical education classes when appropriate. It is recommended that the physical education department explore the possibility of including some of the Special Olympics training programmes as part of the Physical Education programme for these students. Teachers are fully aware of the health status, physical working capacity and specific learning requirements of their students. It is also commendable that students with ambulatory disabilities are fully included in their physical education classes.
Health and safety aspects specific to Physical Education are appropriately addressed. There is very good planning for the provision of equipment to support the various activity strands. Some additional resources have been accessed from a variety of sources including music CDs, videos and DVDs as well as some texts and worksheets from relevant websites. The continued development and expansion of these resources is recommended.
In all lessons observed, there was a strong commitment by teachers to optimise the time available for physical activities. Good systems have been established to avoid unnecessary delays. These include students changing quickly into their physical education kit, roll-call and the organisation of working groups and the prior preparation of equipment. This is commendable practice.
In some cases, the learning intentions were shared with students at the beginning of the lesson and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all lessons. The sharing of clear learning outcomes will help students remain focused on the important aspects of their performance, and also enables them to assess their own level of attainment when they are aware of the criteria for success from the outset.
The topics covered in the lessons observed were folk dance, invasion games and net games. All lessons began with warm-up activities that improved students’ mobility and physiological readiness to participate in more vigorous activities. It is commendable that some of the warm-up activities were directed by students, as this practice affords them the opportunity to display their knowledge, skills and understanding of the exercises and their purpose. Good practice was observed when the warm-up activities were mostly skill-based and concentrated on gradually developing the required patterns of movement for the focused activity, whilst incrementally increasing intensity. It is recommended that this practice be extended to all classes to optimise the time available for the developmental phase of lessons.
Lessons developed effectively and there were some good examples of incremental sequencing of learning from unopposed skill acquisition and patterning to application of the focused skill in modified and full contextualised settings. However, in one case, more skilful students dominated the full game activities. When applying skills in full game settings it is recommended that students be given clear roles and responsibilities, as this will ensure that all students are more fully involved in the game. In some cases, additional stimulus material such as video clips or posters would have benefitted students’ understanding of the required learning outcomes. Visual resource materials are particularly useful when introducing a new physical activity that students may not have any knowledge or experience of, as it provides them with a criterion reference on which to base their learning and performance. Questioning was effectively used at times to determine students’ understanding and decision-making skills and the expansion of this good practice is recommended. It is commendable that teachers ensured that the time spent in discussion and explanation was brief and tasks were changed quickly to gain most benefit from the available class time.
Teachers displayed a very good awareness of students’ abilities and in some cases tasks were modified to accommodate students with physical disabilities or those experiencing difficulty with hand-eye coordination. This is highly commended. Students were actively and enthusiastically engaged in the physical activities of their lessons. To build on this good practice, it is recommended that teachers expand the use of specific terminology such as concepts of play in defence and offence, spatial awareness and skill-specific teaching points to further develop students’ cognitive involvement in their lessons.
The management and organisation of the class activities and of the available space and resources were very effective. Teacher mobility was very helpful as students were afforded individual or small-group attention during the lesson to help them progress with their activities. Teachers have developed a good rapport with their students and all interactions observed were caring and respectful. Whilst some strategies have been developed to include students who are unable to participate in the physical activities, it is recommended that these be expanded to ensure that all students are engaged in the physical education process. Most lessons concluded with a recap on the activities covered, which is good practice.
Records of attendance and participation are maintained in a clear and systematic manner for each physical education class. Assessment in Physical Education takes place informally through observation of students’ engagement in class activities and through some use of questioning to determine students’ understanding of the focused topics. Involvement in the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus has seen the introduction of self and peer-assessment methods and the completion of rich-tasks for some classes, which is commendable. However, there is scope for the development of a systematic approach to assessment that will help to further inform students’ learning. It is recommended that the physical education department work towards implementing a system to develop student portfolios of learning, whereby students can retain a record of their work. This process will help provide a more informed platform from which to base students’ progress and attainment in the subject.
The physical education department attends all parent-teacher meetings which is commendable. However, student attainment in Physical Education is not included in the formal report to parents at Christmas and summer. It is recommended that the subject be included in the school’s formal reporting process in line with other curricular subjects. Students should be provided with a comment and/or grade to inform parents of their learning in the subject.
Students were well behaved and respectful and were fully engaged in their class activities. Teachers are commended for their strong commitment to providing for the physical activity needs of their students.
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