An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science




Subject Inspection of Physical Education


CBS James Street

Jamesís Street, Dublin 8

Roll number: 60410I


Date of inspection: 28 November 2008




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 CBS James Street, 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 teachers, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teachers.


Subject provision and whole school support


The school views the provision of Physical Education as an important component of the curriculum to support studentsí physical wellbeing and to provide them with opportunities to mix socially in a supervised and purposeful setting. However, a combination of circumstances has militated against the optimum provision for the subject in the school which include the absence of a suitable indoor hall or facility to support physical activity, and the failure to attract and retain the services of a qualified teacher. Nonetheless, there is a positive attitude and a willingness to provide the subject for students within the current limitations.


Physical Education is provided as a core subject on the timetables for all junior cycle and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students. Most junior cycle class groups are timetabled for two single periods of Physical Education per week, with two groups receiving one double period per week each. It is acknowledged that the provision of two single periods per week increases studentsí exposure to organised physical activity, however it is preferable that the time allocation for Physical Education include at least one double period per week. A double period allows sufficient time for students to change into their sports kit, to undertake warm-up and cool-down practices and ensures a greater in-depth engagement with the focused activity. LCA students receive three periods in year 1 and two periods in year 2, which is in line with the recommended time requirements for the delivery of the Leisure and Recreation syllabus. It is regrettable that Leaving Certificate students are not timetabled for Physical Education. It is recommended that the school review its current provision for Physical Education and work towards providing the subject for all students in accordance with the Department of Education and Science (DES) recommendations outlined in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.†


The school does not have a qualified physical education teacher on staff and this has resulted in limitations to the physical education programme being provided. The subject is delivered by seven teachers who have an interest in sport and are willing to take physical education sessions with their class groups. These teachers are positive and enthusiastic towards providing for the physical activity needs of their students and the interest and commitment shown to their students is exemplary. Many of these teachers are also involved in the organisation and provision of the extra-curricular sports programme for their students. Teachers and management are fully aware of their limitations with regards to the provision for a wide diversity of activities and it is highly commendable that they have sought the help and expertise of several coaches and sports development officers working in the community. These coaches and trainers from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), the school completion programme (SCP) and Inchicore College of Further Education assist with the delivery of activities for some class groups. However, in the absence of a qualified physical education teacher, the current programme is significantly more limited than what would be expected from a comprehensive physical education programme. There may also be a health and safety risk associated with the timetabling of non-physical education teachers to take lessons in Physical Education. Quality Physical Education affords students the opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to lead physically active lifestyles. It is therefore recommended that the school incorporate the recruitment of a qualified physical education teacher into their projected staffing needs.


The school does not have an indoor hall, which adversely impacts on the range of activities that can be provided. An application has been made to the DES for the provision of a sports hall and representations to the Department have been made by the school without success. A number of initiatives have been taken by the school to ensure that students experience participation in an appropriate environment. It is highly commendable that the school has established collaborative links with a local community sports centre and has arranged access to these sports facilities for some class groups. This facility includes a large sports hall, a fitness suite, an aerobics room and a small multipurpose all-weather pitch. However, access times to this facility and the costs involved are often restrictive. The schoolís external facilities are very limited for Physical Education and school sport and only include two open yard spaces. Whilst one area has recently been resurfaced, the other yard is in need of repair as the surface is unravelling and may soon be unsafe for participation. In addition, there is very little storage space available and most of the sports equipment is stored in several locations within the school. To help develop the existing facilities, it is recommended that the resurfaced yard be marked and lined for a number of sports that may include basketball, Olympic handball, tennis and volleyball. These surface markings will help to create a dedicated space for physical activity. A secure container could also be acquired to overcome the lack of central storage space. This would allow for basketball, volleyball and soccer goalposts to be easily moved and expediently set-up and stored as required. The container would also serve as a central store for a range of sports equipment and school jerseys. †


All relevant issues and procedures related to health and safety in Physical Education should be included in the schoolís health and safety policy. This should include a regular risk assessment of the facilities, steps taken to ensure safe participation in the various activities and the precautions taken when students are walking from the school to the local sports facilities.


Sport is viewed as a positive contributor to active citizenship by the teachers involved in the delivery of the extra-curricular programme. A significant number of students represent the school in hurling, soccer and Gaelic football. Some students, both past and present, have achieved to a very high standard in their respective sports. A number of appropriate links have been established with local clubs and coaches to ensure that students are afforded the opportunities to further develop their sporting interests. These clubs also provide the school with access to their facilities for training and school matches. However, availability of these facilities is not always guaranteed, which is a difficulty the school continues to deal with to support the provision of sport for their students. Many students will develop a lifelong interest in sport and physical activity as a result of the schools provision of extra-curricular sports. The school is justifiably proud of the significant achievements of the school teams in their local and district competitions. Great credit is due to all involved in identifying, supporting and nurturing studentsí talents and interests. It is highly commendable that a number of teachers support the organisation and coaching of these extra-curricular games for students.


Planning and preparation


A significant amount of time is invested in organising external coaches and sports development officers to give courses or to provide structured activity for some class groups. A yearly scheme of work which follows the guidelines for the LCA Leisure and Recreation programme has been developed, which is commended. The plan identifies the modules and the organisation and delivery of the programme of activities for each year group. Students choose the two modules they wish to study and complete an agreed number of tasks and key assignments for each module, as appropriate. A student preference survey is included in the planning documentation. Determining and accommodating students interests is good practice as it affirms their maturity as responsible decision makers and gives them a sense of ownership of their programme. A number of studies have shown that this approach improves studentsí attendance and participation in their programme, and its application in this school is commended. It is also particularly commendable that LCA students complete a certified FETAC (Further Education and Training Awards Council) Level 1 course in football coaching. It was reported that some students have secured summer employment as a result of participation in this course, which provides a tangible reward for their learning. Furthermore, the design and delivery of the physical activity for health and fitness module is well planned. This module provides students with the knowledge, skills and understanding to purposefully engage in self-directed physical activity that promotes physical health and wellbeing.


As yet, no formal subject department for Physical Education has been established in the school and planning for Physical Education is conducted at an individual teacher level. This has resulted in a lack of formal collaboration or the development of a common structured physical education programme. However, teachers do discuss the organisation of activities for their class groups on an informal basis. Teachers also collaborate in situations where class groups are timetabled concurrently and often arrange for a choice of activity to accommodate for the diversity of student abilities.


It is regrettable that the purpose, structure, organisation and content of the existing junior cycle programme are undocumented. It is recommended that the teachers involved in the physical education programme develop a common subject plan. This process should begin with the appointment of a co-ordinator to oversee its development. The document should identify the aims and content of the current programme offered to each year group. It is suggested that a number of activity blocks be provided for each year group, with each lasting for six to eight weeks. The programme should include a number of additional activities that focus on individual development and co-operative activities. In this way students will experience a wider range of activities and develop a more comprehensive set of skill competencies and understanding. The content plan should identify the key skills and knowledge that students will acquire and develop as they progress through the programme of activities. Consulting with the websites of the relevant national governing bodies for each activity will provide teachers with some useful resources to promote the development of studentsí technical and tactical competencies and understanding of the activities. In addition, teachers are directed to the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) statements for Physical Education, which will provide good exemplars of learning tasks related to each of the activity strands of the physical education syllabus. These statements are available on Subject department planning should also identify strategies that help to motivate and include all students, especially those who are unable or unwilling to engage in the planned activities programme. This planning work should be completed in stages and once achieved will provide a basis from which future planning can evolve.


Teaching and learning


Given that none of the teachers involved in teaching the subject are qualified physical education teachers, the quality of teaching and learning observed was satisfactory. All lessons began with a roll call to record studentsí attendance and participation, which is good practice. In the lessons observed, the focused activities were soccer, badminton and health-related fitness. Students gathered quickly and were eager to engage in the physical activities and to make full use of the time available. Students attending the sports centre were compliant to a good standard of behaviour when walking to and from the centre and were well supervised by their teacher.


Students that used the sports centre were afforded the opportunity to change into appropriate sports kit. However in most lessons, students participated in their school uniform. This should be addressed in the interests of personal hygiene and also to establish good practice with regards to wearing appropriate clothing for physical activity. Collaboration with the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) department, as well as with the student council, would help to address this issue. A system that allows students to change quickly into an appropriate sports kit and that encourages students to wash after intense exercise would greatly enhance studentsí awareness and adherence to good personal hygiene.


Some lessons commenced with warm-up activities and in some cases these were conducted by students themselves. Providing students with opportunities to apply their learning is good practice. However, it is important that all physical education lessons commence with a progressive, topic-specific warm-up of structured and purposeful low intensity physical activities and gradually progress to higher intensity activity. To assist the teachers in organising their lessons, it is recommended that a number of general warm-up routines be developed that can be applied to each planned activity. In this way, students will become familiar with the routines and undertake a warm-up as a matter of course prior to engagement in all vigorous physical activities.


Teachers were involved in organising, coaching and refereeing activities that facilitated student engagement and enjoyment. Best practice was observed when students were involved in learning new skills and were challenged to apply these skills in co-operating with and competing against a partner. Students following the LCA programme participated in a self-directed general fitness programme at the local sports centre. This programme was developed through consultation between the gym supervisor and the students and each student had an individual programme to work through. Observation and discussion with these students indicated that they understood the purpose of the programme and could demonstrate the correct technical execution of each exercise. These students also expressed a high level of enjoyment of their fitness programme and valued their learning experiences in developing lifelong skills.


Whilst students were adequately supervised and obviously enjoyed their games and activities, it is important that all students are afforded some level of instruction that promotes learning. A common approach to the delivery of physical education lessons would help teachers to promote consistency of experience and learning across all class groups. Lessons should follow a similar structure that includes an introductory phase where learning goals are set and warm-up procedures are undertaken, a development phase where key skills, knowledge and abilities are developed through purposeful activities, and a recap phase to assess and consolidate learning. In this way the standard of learning and engagement in the focused activities will be improved in a logical and progressive manner. The development activities should include progressions that improve competency and understanding of one or two key aspects of the focused activity. It would also be beneficial if teachers address and agree on a common approach to the organisation of students into working groups for skill development or game-related practices. Teachers should consider the amount of time each student will have to practice the focused skills, the level of activity and the amount of time spent recovering or observing. This is known as the work-to-rest ratio. Ideally, students should be provided with an opportunity to practice skills individually before doing so in small groups and then in small-sided games. In this way all students are fully engaged in the development of their individual skill as well as their game-related understanding and application. It is also recommended that the teacher places students into teams or groups and avoid situations where students pick teams. This will ensure an equitable division of students according to ability and help to avoid the negative experiences associated with being selected last. These aspects of teaching and learning should also be discussed as part of the collaborative subject planning process.


Playing boundaries should be set away from perimeter walls to ensure the health and safety of students. It is recommended that plastic cones or markers be used to clearly delineate the playing boundaries. Furthermore bibs should be used to help students and their teacher to identify members of each team and to promote playing roles and responsibilities.


In all lessons observed students were regularly affirmed, supported and encouraged to remain focused on their application and to improve their achievement in the various activities. This is highly commended and such praise was gratefully received by students. Teachers were knowledgeable, caring and respectful of their students in all instances. There was a high participation level in the class activities and students clearly enjoy their physical education lessons.




Oral feedback is provided to students during lessons to affirm studentsí efforts and to promote improvement in skill development. Teachers are available to meet with parents during scheduled parent-teacher meetings. Physical Education does not form part of formal school reports to parents. It is recommended that the subject be included in the written reports to parents.  It is important that students are given recognition for their engagement and progress in each of the organised activities. It is suggested that a brief comment on the level of engagement, progress and attitude of students should be included in the written reports. This process will provide useful feedback to students as a means of formative assessment in Physical Education. 


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:

     Physical Education should be provided for all students and management is encouraged to provide the subject in accordance with the Departmentís guidelines.

     It is recommended that the school seek to employ a qualified Physical Education teacher to the deliver a comprehensive physical education programme.

     It is recommended that the resurfaced yard be marked and lined for a number of sports and a secure container be acquired to provide suitable storage facilities for portable

    goalposts and equipment.

     All relevant issues and procedures related to health and safety in Physical Education should be included in the schoolís health and safety policy and reflected in practice.

     A system that allows students to change quickly into an appropriate sports kit should be implemented to promote studentsí awareness and adherence to good personal hygiene.

     It is recommended that the teachers involved in the physical education programme document the current programme and develop a common subject plan.

    A systematic approach to the structure and organisation of each physical education lesson should be taken by teachers to promote consistency of practice and support student

    engagement and learning.

     It is recommended that a comment on the level of student engagement and progress in the subject be included in written reports to parents.


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





Published November 2009