An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science


Subject Inspection of Physical Education



Bridgetown Vocational College,

Bridgetown, County Wexford

Roll number: 71610E


Date of inspection: 23 January 2009





Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning


Summary of main findings and recommendations







Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Bridgetown Vocational College, 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 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.


Subject provision and whole school support


Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum of Bridgetown Vocational College. Students in first, second and the two lower-band third-year classes have recently had their timetable allocation for the subject increased from one single period to a double period per week. The four remaining third-year classes and all of the established Leaving Certificate classes receive one period per week of forty minutes duration. Whilst it is commendable that the school recognises the value of Physical Education as an integral part of all studentsí education, the time allocation and the timetable arrangements for the subject should be reviewed. It is acknowledged that the time allocation and timetabling arrangements for the subject have been given considerable attention and a curriculum review group is now actively exploring ways in which the time provision for the subject can be increased for all students. This is a particularly welcome development given the significant investment in providing high quality facilities to support studentsí Physical Education, physical activity and school sports experiences.


The recent increase in time provision for first and second-year class groups is reflective of the positive advancements in the timetable provision. However, the time allocation, with the exception of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) classes, is significantly below the two hours per week recommended in the Department of Education and Science (DES), Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. The evidence from observing single period lessons is that the time available is insufficient to allow for in-depth engagement with the practical activities and the learning of key concepts associated with each topic. Where double period lessons are provided for classes, it is preferable that they are not split across break times as this can disrupt the continuity of the lesson and the learning experiences of students. Furthermore, when timetabling two groups concurrently for the subject, it is preferable that these classes are from the same year group, as this will facilitate team-teaching and a modular approach to the delivery of the programme. It is recommended that management review the current provision for the subject to ensure that all students have access to quality Physical Education in accordance with the guidelines of the DES.

The timetable allocation of a treble period per week for LCA year one and year two students, who study the Leisure and Recreation course, is exemplary provision. The amount of time provided and the timetable arrangements allow for a broad range of on-site and off-site activities, which are particularly valuable and relevant to these studentsí programme of study.


There are three fully qualified Physical Education teachers on the staff, who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organisation and delivery of the subject. Continuing professional development (CPD) is an integral component of these teachersí annual programme. Attendance at Department of Education and Science organised in-service is actively encouraged and fully supported by school management. †All of the Physical Education teachers have been facilitated to participate in the full programme of courses related to the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and the LCA Leisure and Recreation course. In addition, a high level of attendance at relevant courses and conferences organised by the National Governing Bodies (NGB) of various sports and by the Physical Education Association of Ireland (PEAI) is indicative of teachersí motivation and commitment to engage in an ongoing process of professional learning.


The range of facilities and resources available to support the delivery of the physical education and extra-curricular programmes are of a high quality. A new extension and upgrade to the schoolís sports hall, a modern fitness suite, dressing rooms and a large storeroom have been provided as part of the schoolís recent extension. These indoor facilities are well maintained and brightly presented. The storeroom is well organised and fully equipped to deliver most strands of the syllabus. The requisition system for the purchase of additional and replacement items of equipment was reported to work well and management is fully supportive in this regard. The surface of the outdoor hard court area is quite worn and this is kept under review to ensure its safety for use. It is due to be relined as part of an LCA project and new basketball posts are also ordered which, along with its regular brushing, should improve its appearance. The school also has access to a small community playing pitch adjacent to its grounds. Regular health and safety audits are carried out on all the sports facilities and equipment, which is good practice. It is also commendable that teachers have engaged in first-aid training including the use of automated external defibrillators (AED), one of which is available in the school.†


Access to information and communication technology (ICT) equipment such as computers, digital video and still cameras is available to the physical education department and there is broadband connectivity in the physical education office and sports hall. A mobile television and DVD player, located in the office, is easily accessed for use during classes. The provision of these facilities and resources is commended, as they provide an important mechanism to augment the feedback system to support studentsí learning in Physical Education.


Extra-curricular sport is well supported and facilitated in the school. A range of competitive sports and recreational activities are provided for students including, athletics, basketball, Gaelic football, hurling, rugby and soccer. Studentsí involvement in other competitive activities, such as equestrian events and handball is also facilitated by the school. Due to its rural location and lack of substantial playing pitches, the school has established close links with neighbouring sports clubs, which have resulted in mutually beneficial relationships. This is most welcome as it situates studentsí involvement in sport within their own community and promotes the value of club membership to their sporting and personal development. A significant number of staff is involved in organising and coaching the variety of school teams and individuals. Some of these teachers have substantial coaching expertise and have experience of coaching to a very high standard at regional and national level in their respective sports. The experience that these teachers bring and the contribution they make to the students of the school is highly valued. The achievement of some individual students and of some of the schoolís teams, at both regional and national level reflects the dedication and commitment of the students and their teachers to the pursuit of success. During the course of the inspection, ten students from Bridgetown Vocational College represented Wexford Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) on the county Gaelic football team that won the Leinster Vocational Schools Senior Gaelic Football Championship. The public display of team and individual photographs and representative jerseys throughout the schoolís buildings provides tangible evidence of the achievements and enjoyment gained from involvement in these activities.


In addition to the competitive sporting activities, the whole-school promotion of physical activity through the organisation of the Active Schools Week, the use of the fitness suite at lunchtimes by senior students and the organisation of a series of sports days and events for the various year groups provide regular, positive physical activity opportunities for students. It is especially welcome that those students who may not feel competent or interested in team sports have opportunities to engage in purposeful physical activity and can reap the many benefits that accrue from such participation.


Planning and preparation


The quality of planning and preparation in Physical Education, both at a departmental level and with regards to individual lessons, is very good. This process is informed by the planning structures developed at a whole-school level. Subject department planning is facilitated by management through the provision of frequent formal meetings, which are supplemented by the physical education department with regular informal meetings. Minutes of all these meetings are recorded, which is good practice. †The role of the subject coordinator is clearly defined. Evidence that this role is excellently executed was seen in the frequency of meetings convened, the quality of the planning documents prepared, the range of resources developed to support teaching and learning and the commitment to promoting professional learning within the subject department. The practice of rotating this role helps to share the workload and expand the experience of all members of the physical education department. Given the distribution of classes amongst the three teachers involved, the schedule of rotation should be discussed to ensure that it is equitably distributed over an agreed timeframe.


The physical education subject plan is a detailed, comprehensive document and is presented in a clear and accessible format. The overarching aims, organisation, facilities and resources to support the subject are clearly presented, along with the programmes of work for each year group. The planned programmes of work are in line with the various syllabus guidelines. The range and number of planned activity modules ensures that the school optimises the facilities and resources at its disposal. Access to a swimming pool is not always possible to provide for the planned aquatics module, but efforts are made to provide some aspect of this course. It is good practice that each planned activity module is supported by a detailed scheme of work. These plans ensure that there is consistency of practice amongst all teachers in the delivery of the programme. The identification of learning outcomes for each module is progressive practice. To build on this good work, it is suggested that the general learning outcomes be more specific and linked to the series of lessons for each module. In this way, it will provide a clear focus on the knowledge and skills that students will be expected to acquire and perform in a progressive and incremental approach to their learning.


Very good links have been established between the physical education department and the schoolís learning-support team. Reference to the needs of students with additional and special educational needs is made in the physical education department documents, and a range of strategies for their inclusion and full participation is documented. Such a collaborative approach to supporting the inclusion of all students in their learning is highly commended. Additionally, detailed consideration is given to those students with specific medical conditions that may require adaptation or adjustment to the type or intensity of the physical activity to suit their physical abilities. †


Planning for resources is well developed. A range of texts, task cards, worksheets, videos and DVDs have been developed to support teaching and learning and these are centrally stored for easy access. The integration of ICT as an aid to quality teaching and learning is becoming established practice within the physical education department. Some high quality resources have been developed such as recording studentsí work to provide relevant exemplars of performance and to provide valuable formative feedback. The continued advancement of this process, whenever practical, is recommended.


There is a culture of self-reflection within the physical education department. This is commendable, as reflection on existing practice and the achievement of the programmeís intended learning outcomes will help to further strengthen the learning experiences of all students. To further advance this practice, it is recommended that some element of student review of their physical education programme should be considered for inclusion in the planning process. This will provide valuable feedback with regards to their engagement, learning and enjoyment.


Teaching and learning


There was a very good standard of teaching and learning observed in the Physical Education lessons visited. All lessons were well prepared with the necessary equipment and supporting resources set up prior to commencement. Students assembled in an orderly and systematic manner and were well versed in the procedures to ensure that the available time for their lessons was optimised. It was good to note that a system is in place for students to remove and safely store any jewellery. This good practice illustrated that students are aware of the precautions required to reduce the risk of potential injuries, such as puncture wounds, abrasions and lacerations that may be caused by wearing jewellery during physical activity. Once students were assembled, teachers promptly recorded attendance and introduced the content, direction and in many cases, the learning outcomes of the lesson. Questioning was used to good effect to recap and consolidate previous learning and to establish links with new material. The effective use of the whiteboard to record the lesson content and learning outcomes ensured that students had a clear reference for their learning throughout their lessons. To build on this very good practice and in keeping with the principles of assessment for learning, it is suggested that the criteria for success also be shared with students. These should arise from the learning outcomes and provide students with the expected standards for their performance and understanding of the key tasks and topics. †


In the lessons visited, the topics taught were spike-ball, basketball, gymnastics and health-related fitness. Lessons commenced with well-structured, gradual and progressive warm-up activities that were appropriate to the focused topics. A common feature of these warm-up activities was the effective integration of health-related fitness concepts. Students monitored and compared their resting and exercise heart-rates, their respiration rates and body temperature. In addition, good reference was made to the major muscle groups and joints of the body as part of the range of motion phase of the warm-ups. This good practice provided students with an understanding of the effects that the type and intensity of exercise imposed on their bodies and the benefits that accrue as a result of their efforts.


Lessons were very well structured and paced to ensure that the key concepts were learnt in the time available. Instructions and explanations were clear and precise, and when required, demonstrations by teachers and students were of a good quality. Tasks set were open-ended, progressive and provided sufficient challenge for students of all ability. This good practice ensured that all students were fully included in the practical activities and made good progress as a result of their engagement. All tasks were characterised by good organisation that promoted full student participation and high activity levels. This was facilitated in many instances by well prepared resources. In a gymnastics lesson, the use of task cards, exemplar illustrations and video provided students with concrete examples of the possible range of responses to the set task. In this way, both the higher-skilled and lower-skilled students could successfully complete the task at a degree of difficulty appropriate to their skill level and ability. Similarly, the use of video in a spike-ball lesson illustrated the steps in setting the ball, which provided a basis from which students could combine their skills to produce a comparable response. The whiteboard was effectively used to promote studentsí understanding of the decision-making process in retaining possession in basketball. All of this good practice ensured that students were cognitively as well as physically involved in their physical education lessons.


Of particular note in the gymnastics lesson observed was the use of a video of studentsí own performance from a previous lesson. This was effectively used to illustrate the key technical aspects of creating and performing a sequence using floor and low apparatus. This was an empowering strategy for the group of students involved in the video and also proved to be motivational for the whole class group.


Exemplary practice was observed in a senior health-related fitness lesson where opportunities were provided for students to work independently. These students demonstrated a high level of engagement, maturity and commitment to the technical use of all equipment, and in their application to the principles of training highlighted at the outset of the lesson. However, the duration of the single period lesson adversely impacted on the depth of their learning experiences, which was regrettable.


The display of anatomical posters, charts and motivational photographs on the walls of the sports hall and fitness suite, and indeed throughout the school, contributes to the creation of a positive learning environment. Some exemplars of studentsí work displayed in the sports hall is also highly commended, as these provide positive affirmation of their efforts and clearly illustrate that this work is valued by the physical education department. In addition, music was effectively used in some lessons to create a positive motivational atmosphere.


Teachers have established a good rapport with their students and all aspects of classroom leadership was approached in a respectful and affirming manner, whilst applying a positive code of behaviour. Whilst the participation levels were high in the lessons observed, strategies have been developed to include those students who are unable to participate in the physical activities of the lesson. These included assisting in the organisation of resources and equipment, umpiring and peer review as well as being fully included in observation of demonstrations and group discussions. It is recommended that these strategies be documented in the subject plan as a reference. Teachers regularly moved around the hall to provide individual students and small groups with assistance and clarification of their tasks or to stress a key technical point to help improve competency and understanding, which is commendable practice.


Time was taken at the end of lessons to recap on the purpose of the activities and tasks, to reinforce the key points and to introduce the content of the next lesson, thus consolidating learning and establishing continuity.




Assessment practices in Physical Education are well advanced in this school. It is clear that the variety of modes of assessment and their purpose to promote learning, and to determine the standard of learning, have been carefully considered by the physical education department. †


Assessment in Physical Education occurs in all lessons through question and answer sessions and observation of studentsí participation, application and progress in class activities. The physical education department has introduced self and peer-assessment as well as the completion of rich tasks as part of the formative assessment process. Student folders are maintained for all first and second years, with the intention of continuing this exemplary practice into third year. Standard assessment practices are also in place for students following the JCSP and the LCA programme. The planned introduction of a written summative assessment will also provide a valuable method of feedback on studentsí learning. The continued expansion and evolution of the range of assessment practices is encouraged.


Formal reporting to parents takes place twice per year, which contain comments regarding students participation, effort and progress in the subject. In addition, teachers are available to meet parents at annual parent-teacher meetings in line with standard practice. †


Students observed during the inspection demonstrated a good level of engagement and enjoyment of their physical education lessons.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

         Physical Education is a core subject for all students.

         Management is fully supportive of continuing professional development and the Physical Education teachers have been proactive in their own professional learning.

         The facilities available for the teaching of Physical Education are of a high quality and are very well maintained.

         The quality of planning and preparation in Physical Education is very good.

         Extensive planning documents have been developed to support the organisation and delivery of the subject to meet the needs of all students.

         There is a very good standard of teaching and learning in Bridgetown Vocational College, where students are educated in a positive and affirming learning environment.

         Lessons were well structured, purposeful and challenging and promoted studentsí physical and cognitive engagement.

         A range of appropriate assessment strategies in Physical Education has been developed and implemented to monitor studentsí engagement and progress.

         There is a good reporting system in place to inform parents of studentsí participation and progress in Physical Education.

         A good range of extra-curricular physical activities are provided by the school, which are organised and coached by a large number of dedicated staff members.

      The achievement of some students and teams at national and international level is a credit to themselves, their teachers and the school.


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 time provision for Physical Education to ensure that all students have access to the subject in accordance with the guidelines of the DES.

         It is preferable that the timetable arrangements for double period lessons avoid splitting the lesson across break times.

         Where possible, management should ensure that students are from the same year group when timetabling classes concurrently for Physical Education.

         Some element of student review of their physical education programme should be incorporated into the subject planning process.

         The range of effective strategies being used by teachers for the meaningful inclusion of students who are unable to participate in the practical activities of lessons should be d

      ocumented in the subject plan as a reference.


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 November 2009