An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Terenure, Dublin 6W
Roll number: 76092K
Date of inspection: 14 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Physical Education
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Presentation College, Terenure. 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 their 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, the deputy principal and the subject teacher. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Presentation College Terenure is an all girls’ secondary school, which is run under the auspices of the City of Dublin Vocational Educational Committee (CDVEC) and has a current enrolment of 325 students. The school provides a range of educational programmes to cater for the needs of its students, including the Junior Certificate, an optional Transition Year (TY) programme, the established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Physical Education is a core subject on the curriculum for all students. First, third and sixth-year students receive one period of Physical Education per week of either thirty-five or forty minutes duration. Second, TY and fifth-year students receive two single periods of Physical Education per week. Whilst it is commendable that the school recognises the value of Physical Education as an integral part of students’ education, the time allocation and the timetable arrangements for the subject should be reviewed. The time allocation at junior cycle is below the minimum requirement for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus as per circular M15/05, which states that schools should provide a minimum of one double period of Physical Education per week. The time allocation for the subject in all year groups is also significantly below the two hours per week recommended in the Department of Education and Science, Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. Additionally, the timetable arrangements of single-period lessons impose considerable restrictions on any significant level of meaningful engagement with the subject matter. This is due to the short time available for teaching and learning as the time needed for students to change and shower leaves very little time for actual physical activity in the lesson. At least one double period per week is preferable to provide a comprehensive physical education programme that allows for in-depth study and experiential learning of the focused concepts. Therefore, it is recommended that management review the current provision and timetable arrangements for the subject in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Education and Science.
The physical education programme is delivered by one teacher, who is a graduate of the subject. Management is supportive of continuing professional development (CPD) and the school has been involved in the in-service programme for the implementation of the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus. In addition, the physical education department maintains active links with the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS) through its online discussion forum. The commitment to CPD is commendable and the links established with the support service provide a wealth of valuable resources and suggestions to assist teachers with the delivery of a quality physical education programme. The school also accommodates undergraduate students undertaking their initial teacher training, which is also commendable as it promotes reflection on the purpose and quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education.
The facilities for the subject in the school include a large sports hall and balcony area. The school also has access to the CDVEC playing pitches, which are a ten-minute walk away, but due to time restrictions this facility is rarely used. The floor and roof of the sports hall have received some remedial work to address broken floor boards and leaks respectively. Whilst these works have ensured that the facility remains functional, management has plans to undertake significant renovation work to upgrade the sports hall. The facility was well presented during the inspection and it is commendable that all the facilities are regularly audited to identify and remediate any health and safety issues. This regular health and safety audit ensures that the environment is safe for participation. It is recommended that records of these regular audits are documented and retained in the subject file along with the health and safety policy.
The school operates a requisition system for the purchase of replacement or additional materials and equipment. This is reported to work well. There is a large storeroom, which contains an adequate range of equipment to support the planned programme of activities. The physical education department has access to a data-projector, laptop computer and DVD/video player if required. There is no broadband access to the sports hall or balcony area and it is recommended that this be installed along with a white-board to support teaching and learning. Access to a range of online resources will enhance the learning experience of students and facilitate the development of appropriate teaching materials for each of the strands of the syllabus.
A range of extra-curricular sports and physical activities is provided for students, both during lunch-breaks and after school. These activities include athletics, badminton, basketball, cross-country running, Gaelic football, Olympic handball, table-tennis and volleyball. The provision of these activities is supported by the physical education teacher, several members of staff and some external coaches. The participation levels of students in the programme are reported to be good. There is a good balance between individual and team-based activities, many of which are provided at both recreational and competitive levels. The extra-curricular programme aims to emphasise the intrinsic value of sport and physical activity and to promote positive health-related behaviours. In addition, the value of participating in these activities is viewed as promoting a positive attitude to school and the creation of a positive school atmosphere. The aims of the extra-curricular programme, the support for its provision and promotion and the commitment of teachers and students is highly commended.
Management facilitates subject department planning through the provision of at least four formal meeting times annually. The frequency of these meetings ensures that opportunities exist to review and evaluate all aspects related to the provision and organisation of the physical education programme. The physical education department also maintains good records of the actions undertaken to plan and organise the physical education programme, which is good practice.
There has been good engagement with the subject planning process and the use of the planning framework promoted by the JCPESS is commendable. The subject plan contains an outline of the programme of work for each year group and schemes of work have been developed for most of the activity modules. The planned programme of work for junior cycle provides a broad and balanced programme of activities that include all strands of the syllabus, with the exception of aquatics. It is not possible for the school to offer aquatics due to the timetable constraints and restrictions with access to a swimming pool. It is recommended that the adventure activities module be expanded to include additional activities such as camp-craft and orienteering, which could take place on the small grass areas and within the school domain. These activities will consolidate previous learning in the team challenges module, whilst also extending students’ range of skills and experience of lifelong physical activities. It is commendable that some cross-curricular planning has taken place in collaboration with the science and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) departments. Further links with the geography department may help to enhance students’ learning in map-reading and orienteering.
There is a good balance of planned activities for TY and Leaving Certificate students, which is appropriate to the student cohort. However, the planned programmes for each year group should identify the progressions of the learning outcomes and skills to be developed within each of the activities from year to year. The planned programmes provide TY students and those following the established Leaving Certificate and LCVP with opportunities to teach their peers in some activity modules. This commendable practice promotes self-confidence as students are required to demonstrate and apply their learning, which ensures that they are both knowledgeable and competent in the focused activity.
The physical education programme also includes a range of activities such as an annual sports day for all students, a series of inter-class leagues and staff versus students friendly matches. These activities help to create a positive atmosphere within the school through the medium of sport and physical activity.
To build on the planning work developed to date, it is recommended that the subject plan be expanded. Firstly, the plan should provide an outline of the overarching aims of the physical education programme, its place on the school curriculum and how the subject links to the fulfilment of the school’s mission. Secondly, the plan should provide an overview of the subject provision and organisation and thirdly, the planned programmes of work should identify the specific learning outcomes, learning experiences, appropriate range of teaching and learning strategies, resources and modes of assessment. It is recommended that the JCPESS website www.jcpe.ie be consulted to review some of the exemplar materials to support this aspect of the planning process.
Long-term planning for the subject should also include the development of the storeroom to improve the storage arrangements for the range of available equipment and also for the acquisition of additional equipment such as gymnastics mats, indoor athletics equipment and the development of resources to support additional modules in adventure activities.
The quality of teaching and learning observed in physical education lessons during the inspection was good. There was evidence of thorough planning, which included the preparation of class materials in advance of the lessons observed. Students changed quickly and assembled in the sports hall in an orderly manner and an efficient system has been developed to record attendance. This good practice ensured that the time available for teaching and learning was maximised. The content and direction of the lesson were outlined to students at the outset and the teacher briefly recapped on learning that had taken place in previous lessons. This is commendable as it establishes continuity between lessons and consolidates previous learning. It is recommended that the intended learning outcomes also be identified at the beginning of the lesson as this will highlight the purpose of the activities and provide a focus for students when working through the range of set tasks.
The topics taught in the lessons observed were health-related fitness and athletics. Lessons began with warm-up activities that were mostly related to the focused topic. In one case, the warm-up activities were aimed at engaging students through a number of ice-breaker games. Whilst these activities were clearly enjoyable for some, the placement of these activities should be reconsidered, as the intensity of the initial activity was too high to be sustained for any period of time by the majority of students. It is recommended that anaerobic activities be placed towards the end of the warm-up phase of lessons, when students are more physiologically prepared for that level of intensity. This also ensures that students learn to apply the principles associated with preparation for engagement in vigorous physical activity, by working through the appropriate phases of the warm-up. In all cases, stretching exercises were executed by students with very good technique, which was aided by thorough explanation and demonstration by the teacher. It is commendable that students were given opportunities to identify a suitable stretch for a named joint and muscle group as this promotes good anatomical knowledge and an understanding of flexibility and the role of stretching in maintaining good joint mobility.
There was a high level of physical activity in all lessons and students’ learning benefited from good organisation and sequencing of tasks. A good variety of effective teaching and learning strategies was used including questioning, demonstration, pair and small-group work. Groups were appropriately sized to ensure that there was an optimum balance between time spent practising and time spent recovering and observing. A good example of the effective use of demonstration was observed when one student highlighted the key technical points of the four-point crouch sprint starting position, whilst her partner performed the skill. A similar approach was taken to identifying the key teaching points for each of the exercises of a muscular endurance circuit. This effective strategy provided students with further opportunities to apply their knowledge as well as develop their analytical skills. There was also good use of appropriate terminology, which ensured that students were able to establish links between the activities they were participating in and the benefits to either sports performance or general health and wellbeing. Engaging students physically and in higher-cognitive thinking such as analysis of performance and application of knowledge is exemplary practice in Physical Education. Some consideration should be given to developing posters or charts of the key terms for each module and displaying them in the sports hall, when appropriate.
The selection and placement of the exercises in the muscular endurance circuit were appropriate to promote symmetrical muscle development and ensure that each muscle group was afforded sufficient recovery time. Students were given autonomy over the number of repetitions and the level of intensity chosen for each exercise, which is good practice as this approach ensures that students work at a level commensurate with their ability. The key concepts of the lesson related to metabolic health and the principles of training related to frequency, intensity, time and type (F.I.T.T.) were appropriately identified. Resources were used effectively to enhance learning and the selection and use of music was appropriate for the activity and helped to create a positive and energetic atmosphere in the lesson. However, students would have benefited from additional equipment such as light dumbbells, aerobic steps, gym and medi-balls, all of which are relatively inexpensive or can be made using common materials.
There was a good level of competence and skill demonstrated in the lessons observed and students had a good understanding of the concepts covered in their lessons. Students’ participation in the activities was closely monitored and, when appropriate, individual instruction was given to assist those who may have been experiencing difficulty. Students who were unable to participate in the physical activities of the lessons were fully included. Students were regularly affirmed for their efforts and were well motivated, which resulted in a high level of attention, co-operation and engagement in all of the tasks set. Students were well behaved and pleasant in their interactions towards each other and their teacher.
The main points of the lesson were summarised through a series of question and answers and this good practice helped to consolidate students’ learning.
Records of attendance and participation are maintained for all physical education classes in keeping with good practice. Informal assessment is conducted through observation and regular questioning to determine students’ understanding. Additionally, involvement in the in-service programme for the revised junior cycle Physical Education syllabus has helped to inform the use of new and innovative approaches to assessment. Peer and self-assessment is used at times during some lessons, which is commendable. To build on the progress made in this area, it is recommended that the physical education department develop a system to retain records of students’ progress and achievement for each block of learning. The implementation of an increased range of assessment strategies will contribute to the development of a comprehensive portfolio of student achievement in the subject.
Formal reporting to parents takes place on three occasions per year and comments are included to inform parents of their daughter’s progress in Physical Education. Parent-teacher meetings are held once per year for each year group and the physical education teacher is available to meet parents during these times or upon request. The student journal is also used as a means of communicating with parents as the need arises.
Students were actively and purposefully engaged in their physical education lessons and demonstrated a good understanding of the concepts covered during the lessons observed and as part of their physical education programme.
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 November 2008