An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta


Department of Education and Science



Subject Inspection of Physical Education




Ballinteer Community School

Ballinteer, Dublin 16

Roll number: 91305L


Date of inspection: 26 October 2006

Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007




Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning


Summary of main findings and recommendations







Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education


Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Ballinteer 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 the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and the subject teacher.


Subject provision and whole school support


Ballinteer Community School caters for 331 students, 191 boys and 140 girls. The school was established in 1974 and the present school building has been in existence since 1976. This building is due to be replaced by a new school, which is scheduled to open in September 2007. The school operates a streaming system whereby students are placed in classes according to academic ability. 


School management has facilitated attendance at inservice for the Leaving Certificate Applied Leisure and Recreation programme. In addition, the school has applied for inclusion in the present round of inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus. Management has indicated its support and encouragement for attendance at inservice and this commitment to continuing professional development is commended.


Junior cycle students are timetabled for one double period of Physical Education per week. Whilst this provision is adequate for the implementation of the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus, it is below the two hours per week recommended by the Department of Education and Science, Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004/05, (P 7, 141). There are three classes in each year group at junior cycle. In each year group, the two lower stream classes are timetabled concurrently for Physical Education. This practice results in an increased student-teacher ratio, which may diminish the effectiveness of the delivery of the programme and place additional organisation and classroom management responsibilities on the teacher. The effect is a reduced quality of learning experience for the students because the amount of individual attention that can be afforded to students, especially those who may have special educational needs, is greatly diminished. Students with specific learning disabilities or with perceived lower ability would receive greater benefit from a reduced student-teacher ratio. It is recommended that the practice of timetabling the two lower stream classes concurrently be reviewed, to ensure that each class group receives quality Physical Education appropriate to their needs.


There are two class groups undertaking the Transition Year programme (TY) in the school. The practice for this year group is that one class group is timetabled for Physical Education for half of the academic year, whilst the other group study computers. The classes rotate halfway through the year. This practice reduces the breadth of activities that these students may experience in an otherwise comprehensive Physical Education programme. The general aims of a quality TY programme are to encourage students’ personal and social development, whilst promoting independence through critical and creative thinking. Physical Education provides a great opportunity for students to experience a variety of activities that serve to promote independence and leadership skills. It is strongly recommended that Transition Year students receive regular quality Physical Education throughout the entire year.


The timetabling of all senior cycle classes in each year group concurrently imposes severe restrictions on the access and depth of experience in Physical Education possible for these students. In fifth year, students who study Applied Mathematics do not have any access to Physical Education. The remaining students in this year group are divided into two groups with each group alternating access to Physical Education every other week. This practice may inadvertently create the perception amongst students that Physical Education and engagement in physical activity is a low priority. Physical activity is essential for this age cohort, especially at such an important stage in their biological maturation. It is recommended that management review the provision of Physical Education for all classes in line with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools (p7, 141).


Physical Education is well resourced with sufficient equipment to implement a broad and balanced programme. Budget provision for the replacement and purchase of materials is on a needs basis and it is reported that this system is working well. The school has a large sports hall with changing facilities, a balcony area and a large porch area, which is appropriately used for table tennis. The facilities are in need of some repair and there are some issues relating to health and safety that should be addressed immediately. These issues include an exposed electrical cable arising from broken lights in the changing rooms and a broken window resulting in leaks, which may create a trip hazard in the sports hall. It is recommended that essential repairs be conducted to ensure that the sports hall and changing rooms remain safe until the transfer to the new facilities. 


The provision and participation by students in extra-curricular sports activities is to be commended. This programme is well supported by the school, especially through the provision of a qualified soccer coach who trains the school teams. The school has been quite successful in soccer at provincial schools level. This success is well publicised throughout the school, which serves to raise the profile of the extra-curricular sports programme. The range of activities offered caters for the interests of both male and female students. Activities are provided at both lunchtime and after school and include basketball, soccer, aerobics, dance, table-tennis, Olympic handball, badminton, Gaelic football and athletics. This access increases the opportunities for all students to participate, which serves to establish a positive physical-activity culture in the school. The school has a number of students who have physical disabilities that require the use of a wheelchair. Some of these students participate in “wheelchair hurling” during lunchtime activities. A member of staff has been proactive in accessing advice and assistance from the sports section of the Irish Wheelchair Association. It is highly commendable that all students are encouraged to engage in purposeful and enjoyable physical activity in accordance with their interests and abilities.


Planning and Preparation


The Physical Education department is highly commended for developing a subject plan appropriate to the resources and context within which the school operates. The programme has breadth of activities, is relevant to the interests and needs of the students and is structured in a coherent way. Involvement in inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus will provide some useful suggestions to help build on this comprehensive subject plan. It is recommended that the number of activities planned for each year group be reduced. A greater amount of time may then be devoted to the remaining activities, thus affording students further opportunities to develop competence in these activities through more in-depth study.


The Physical Education department has incorporated some significant research into the subject-planning document. This research identifies successful teaching and learning strategies in Physical Education. Some of the documentation refers to the organisation of purposeful demonstrations, methods of addressing groups, and provides a clear rationale for differentiation. This is exemplary practice as it supports the teaching and learning strategies identified in the planned units of work.


Short-term planning includes units of work for each activity appropriate to the age and level of ability of the students. Each unit of work contains key words related to the activity and an outline of the breadth of study. This laudable approach helps to orientate students towards key concepts and their application to the focused activity. In addition, each unit of work contains a list of the intended learning outcomes, identification of appropriate teaching and learning strategies and possible modes of assessment. Some considerable thought has been invested into planning for assessment and a guide to this aspect has been included in the subject plan. Especially noteworthy is the inclusion of planning for differentiation. The units of work identify strategies that will optimise success for students who may experience difficulty with any of the planned skills or tasks.


There is a good guide to safe practice included in the subject plan. This guide identifies an acceptable code of conduct to ensure that students can participate in a safe learning environment. In addition, procedures for treating any injuries that may occur during participation are identified and supported by a well-designed injury reporting form. This is commendable practice.


The Physical Education department has planned to develop a range of resources to support teaching and learning. The Physical Education department and the students are to be commended for their efforts to engage in the Sports for Schools scheme sponsored by a commercial enterprise. The recent purchase of a remote control stereo system has also added greatly to the atmosphere of the teaching and learning environment. Such initiatives illustrate a commitment to supplement the provision of resources to support the Physical Education programme. The Physical Education department has collected some additional resources such as videos and textbooks, as well as using the internet to develop resources such as worksheets. It is recommended that planning be expanded to include some Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the future, especially with the new school opening next year. It is also recommended that the new sports hall be broadband and wireless enabled to facilitate student access to online topic-specific websites and technical demonstrations.


Teaching and Learning


There is a good standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education in the school. Lessons observed began with recording attendance and general administration in keeping with good practice in classroom management. Students were familiar with the procedures in preparation for class and adhered to these in an orderly and respectful manner. On completion of record keeping, students were introduced to the topic of study.  In classes visited, topics covered were gymnastics, basketball and aerobics. Prior to engaging in physical activities, some detailed questioning led students to establish links between previously covered material and the focused topic of study.


All lessons commenced with a range of warm-up activities. These activities were dynamic, purposeful, enjoyable and related to the topic of study. In some cases, students’ responses were used to good effect to highlight adherence to the set tasks. This proved very worthwhile and students participated fully in the activities. Tasks set were of a sufficient level of difficulty to challenge the more skilfully competent students, whilst ensuring that students with lower movement ability could still experience success. This level of differentiation, especially during the warm-up activities, is highly commendable as students who experience initial success are more likely to continue to engage fully in the lesson. When stretching exercises were performed, students related each exercise to the appropriate muscle group and mobilised joint. Students were questioned to develop their understanding of the health-related benefits of good joint range of motion. This is commendable practice as it relates flexibility training to its application in promoting lifelong physical wellbeing.


There was good pace and structure to the lessons observed. All activities presented logical progression from previous learned skills, whilst challenging students to apply these skills in more increasingly complex tasks. In one case, students were required to apply a series of learned skills in the composition of a sequence of movement. Peer review was used very effectively to ensure that students had the opportunity to apply their knowledge in critically evaluating their partner’s performance. This good practice ensures that students are both physically and cognitively involved in all tasks. At times students may have benefited from some additional key performance indictors to assist them in having a clearer focus for their observations.


When demonstrations were conducted, students were brought to a central focal point and this proved to be very successful. Demonstrations were well explained and technically executed. The key teaching points were illustrated and students were questioned to determine their level of understanding. Some good technical points were made with reference to biomechanical principles. At times when new tasks were being set, students remained at their workstations throughout the sports hall. Instructions given were clear and precise. However, the acoustics of the large hall may have interfered with some students’ understanding of these instructions. This was especially evident where there was a large group of junior cycle students. To overcome this problem it is recommended that students be brought into a central focal point for the purpose of questioning and setting of new tasks. This will avoid interference from rebounding echoes and clarify the tasks for students. 


The approach to classroom management was both positive and affirming. Individual attention was afforded to students requiring technical assistance and was conducted sensitively to students needs. As a result, students were confident and secure in the learning environment. Students were empowered to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning, which is very commendable. Students assisted the teacher in the preparation for lessons, were respectful and enthusiastic during their participation and stored equipment after lessons. There was a positive work ethic evident amongst all students. The task of umpiring and recording was assigned to students who were unable to participate physically in the lesson. This is good practice as all students were involved in the Physical Education process, through both physical participation and cognitive engagement. There were some worksheets and strategies developed to help maintain all students’ engagement in the subject and this is highly commendable. 




Formal reporting to parents takes place twice per year at Christmas and summer in line with standard practice. The report contains both a comment and grade, which is very informative to parents and students regarding the level of participation, progress and achievement. The grade is determined through observation of competence, levels of participation and progress during the final lessons of each block of learning. Reports and comments are generated through the Pinnacle software system employed by the school.


The development of objective criteria, which can be applied to contribute to the formulation of a grade in Physical Education, is commendable. The Physical Education department has adopted a guide to assessment in Physical Education called the “Noddy’s Guide”. A similar assessment model is widely used in the United Kingdom. This system accounts for students’ progression in the knowledge, skills and understanding related to the Physical Education programme of study. The process of assessment involves determining students’ initial level of knowledge, skills and understanding before and after undertaking each topic of study. This determines the level of improvement attained by students.


To complement this comprehensive assessment process, involvement in the inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus will help to expand the range of formative assessment possibilities. Some of these modes of assessment will complement the “Noddy’s Guide” by including peer and self-assessment, engaging students in the completion of rich-tasks and assessment for learning. 


Availability at parent-teacher meetings is commendable as it firmly establishes Physical Education as a core component of each student’s education.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:


·         There is good support for continuing professional development in the school. The school plans to participate in inservice for the new Junior Cycle Physical Education Syllabus during the current year.

·         Physical Education is well resourced with sufficient equipment to implement a broad and balanced programme.

·         There is a comprehensive subject-planning document for the teaching and learning of Physical Education in the school. Units of work are planned for each activity in line with the syllabus.

·         There is a good standard of teaching and learning in Physical Education in the school. Students are educated in a positive secure learning environment and are encouraged and affirmed to achieve to their potential in Physical Education.

·         There is a positive work ethic evident amongst students participating in Physical Education.

·         Criteria for assessment in Physical Education have been developed, which contribute to the formulation of students’ grades in the subject. Progress in Physical Education is also discussed at parent-teacher meetings.

·         The school has developed a positive extra-curricular programme, which is popular amongst the students. Activities take place at lunchtime and after school and include a good mixture of recreational and competitive sports. Students with physical disabilities are also catered for through the extra-curricular sport’s programme.


As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:


·         It is recommended that management review the current curricular arrangements for Physical Education, especially where there are classes timetabled concurrently at junior and senior cycle.

·         It is recommended that all Transition Year students be timetabled for regular Physical Education for the entire year.

·         Management should endeavour to implement the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science to provide two hours of quality Physical Education for each student, as outlined in the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools 2004/05, (P 7, 141). 

·         Management should make immediate arrangements to conduct essential repairs to ensure that the sports hall and changing rooms remain safe for participation in Physical Education until the transfer to the new facilities.

·         The Physical Education department should plan to reduce the number of activities planned for each year group in order to promote more in-depth study of each activity.

·         It is recommended that planning be expanded to include some Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the future, especially with the new school opening next year.

·         It is recommended that the new sports hall be broadband and wireless enabled to facilitate the incorporation of ICT into the teaching and learning of Physical Education.


Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teacher of Physical Education, the principal and deputy principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.