An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Physical Education
Good Counsel College
New Ross, Wexford
Roll number: 63610I
Date of inspection: 6 November 2009
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Good Counsel College. 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 their teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with 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 representatives of the subject teachers. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Physical Education, sport and physical activity are central to life in Good Counsel College, whose students have established a successful tradition of competing at the highest level in many sporting endeavours, particularly Gaelic games. A significant level of resources is committed by the college to the provision and maintenance of the extensive sporting facilities, which provide the infrastructure to support the various physical education, sport and physical activity programmes. A culture of participation and engagement is fostered and promoted through various effective supports that include the curricular provision for Physical Education, and the extensive involvement of a large number of staff members in organising and coaching the extracurricular sports programme.
The timetable provision for Physical Education is exemplary. It must be noted that the school provides thirty hours tuition in the curriculum per week, which is highly commendable. All year groups receive a double period per week for Physical Education and all junior cycle and established Leaving Certificate students receive an additional double period for Physical Education Games. Transition Year (TY) students receive a treble period per week for Physical Education and a double period per week for Physical Education Games. Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) year one and year two follow the Active Leisure Studies programme and are appropriately timetabled for one double and one single period per week. In addition, LCA year-one students also receive a total of two double periods per week for Leisure and Recreation and Physical Education.
The timetable arrangements are also exemplary, with every effort made to organise concurrent timetabling for classes from the same year groups. This arrangement is commended, particularly at senior cycle, as it facilitates a modular and options-based approach to the delivery of the programmes. This helps teachers, through consultation with their students, to design and implement activity programmes which meet their interests and abilities. The placement of the treble period, one afternoon per week for TY students, is designed to facilitate a range of activities and opportunities for both on-site and off-site activities. This is also commended.
Seven teachers are currently deployed to teach the physical education programme and a further five teachers are also timetabled to support the delivery of the physical education games programme in the school. Only three of these teachers hold recognised qualifications in Physical Education. It is acknowledged that the teachers who do not hold physical education teaching qualifications make a significant contribution to the culture of sport and physical activity in the school. It is also acknowledged that many of these teachers have acquired a number of coaching qualifications and certificates. Nonetheless, it is important that all students benefit from the broader, education-based approach to the delivery of the subject as is provided by appropriately qualified physical education teachers. A physical education teacher is expected to develop students’ knowledge, skills and understanding of the underlying principles of human movement, which should be integrated and delivered through a broad range of physical activities and experiences. The quality of Physical Education that can be offered by teachers who do not possess the appropriate qualification may be quite limited and there may also be a health and safety risk associated with their deployment. Such a potential risk is mitigated somewhat by the fact that these teachers do not attempt to cover any activity with which they are unfamiliar and they supervise and coach activities in which they themselves have some background and expertise. It is recommended that the school optimise the deployment of its qualified physical education teachers and also plan to employ further graduates of the subject to meet its curricular requirements.
There is good facilitation and support by management of teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD). The physical education teachers have engaged with the in-service programme for the implementation of the revised Junior Cycle Physical Education (JCPE) syllabus and the school has also hosted one of the in-service events.
There are excellent facilities and resources to support teaching and learning in Physical Education and the provision for sport and physical activity in the college. The development of these facilities and resources is very much attributable to the innovative foresight and entrepreneurial skills of senior management, the physical education department and the support and investment of the trustees. There are four recently installed AstroTurf pitches, with each pitch fully enclosed and floodlit. The school also has several full-sized pitches for Gaelic games, soccer and rugby, in addition to two outdoor basketball courts, all of which are well maintained. The school has a large sports hall with an adjacent storeroom. It also has a glass-backed squash court. A fully equipped fitness suite with cardio-vascular machines, resistance machines and free weights is also available to support students’ learning and participation. Several collaborative arrangements have also been entered into with local sports clubs and organisers to ensure that the facilities are fully utilised to the betterment of the school and the community. Furthermore, the school accesses a number of local amenities and facilities such as a nearby outdoor education centre, the local swimming pool, the local golf club, the JF Kennedy Memorial Park and the local woods and hills. This expands and enhances students’ physical-activity experiences and embeds these in their own locality. This very good practice may help to facilitate students’ lifelong involvement in physical activity as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
Management has recently introduced a budget planning system for subject departments to support the purchase of additional and replacement resources and equipment. This system requires subject departments to carefully identify and plan for their annual resource needs to support the effective delivery of their programmes. A novel fundraising event is also held annually to raise funds to support the physical education programme. The physical education department is highly commended for its initiative and endeavours to ensure that the subject is well resourced.
Involvement in sport and physical activity is actively encouraged and promoted in Good Counsel College, which contributes to the very positive atmosphere in the school. The school takes great pride in its achievements in extracurricular sports. It has developed a formidable reputation as one of the leading Gaelic games schools both provincially and nationally, having won twenty-six provincial titles over the past fifteen years. It is the only school in over fifty years to have won both the Leinster schools senior hurling and Gaelic football titles in the same year. The school also provides a number of other sports and activities including athletics, badminton, basketball, rugby and soccer. Students who wish to represent the school in other events such as archery, equestrian events, golf and swimming competitions are also facilitated. Of particular note is the level of involvement of a large number of dedicated teachers in the organisation and coaching of the range of activities. The promotion, organisation and delivery of the extracurricular sport and physical activity programmes is highly commended and those involved, particularly the contribution made by the physical education department, deserve high praise for their commitment and dedication to providing for the sporting and physical activity interests of their students.
Significant progress has been made in the development of a comprehensive subject plan for Physical Education in Good Counsel College. Management supports formal subject department planning meetings and it is good practice that the many teachers involved are afforded opportunities to meet and discuss the content, organisation and delivery of the various programmes. Individual teachers also meet and collaborate on a daily basis to discuss the organisation of groups and the sharing of facilities, resources and equipment. The role of subject co-ordinator is rotated at agreed intervals and this role is effectively executed. A significant amount of time and effort has been devoted by the co-ordinator to the complex logistics of organising the physical education and games programmes for each year group and to arranging groups to facilitate students’ preferences and abilities.
The physical education teachers share the responsibility for programme organisation and the development of subject planning documentation. The subject plan is presented as a single, concise and informative reference document and details the overall aims and objectives of the physical education and games programmes, in addition to all aspects related to their organisation and delivery in the school. Planning for assessment of students’ progress and attainment has also begun and a range of appropriate approaches to assessment is identified, which is commendable.
Teachers work to a common plan and an outline of the programmes of work for each year group is included in the subject planning documentation. Each year group participates in a substantial number of activities, most of which are games, with many of these repeated annually. Whilst there is a strong emphasis on team games in all programmes of work, students will experience most of the activity strands of the syllabus as part of their physical education and games programmes. It is recommended that the time devoted to each activity strand be extended. Planning should provide for four to five blocks of learning per year, which will allow time for greater continuity and progression in learning. The physical education department should also plan for a greater balance between games and the other strands of the syllabus and a more in-depth approach should be taken to learning for each activity strand of the programme.
The physical education department engages in a consultative process with senior cycle students to identify the preferred activities for each year group. This is good practice as it allows these students to assume some ownership of their physical education programme, acknowledges their maturity and improves their level of engagement and participation in the programme. To build on this practice, it is recommended that some element of student evaluation of the programme be included at various intervals during the year. This would further inform the content and quality of delivery of the senior cycle physical education and games programmes.
Schemes of work have been developed for each of the planned activities, which outline the progression in content and complexity of tasks. To build on this good work, it is recommended that planning be expanded to identify the key learning outcomes for each year group and activity strand. Learning outcomes should be expressed as the specific knowledge, skills and attitudes that students are expected to attain as a result of their participation and learning. Each scheme of work should aim to integrate the key concepts that underpin students’ understanding of human movement, participation and performance. The schemes of work should also identify the teaching and learning strategies, resources and possible modes of assessment for each module and topic. This will help to provide an easy reference guide to support teaching and learning and ensure that students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes are developed in a coherent and incremental manner. Teachers should plan to develop students’ competencies to perform and participate in a diversity of physical activities and to develop their ability to analyse their own performance and that of their peers. In this way students become informed participants, performers and spectators. Teaching methods that involve students in problem-solving through analysis and evaluation will help to deepen their knowledge and understanding of human functionality and performance. Planning for the completion of rich tasks, such as that outlined in the TY orienteering module, will help provide students with tangible goals for their learning and criteria on which to measure their success.
To enhance the physical education department’s planning for teaching and learning, it is recommended that the department plan for the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as an additional strategy in the teaching and learning process. The inclusion of the school in a high speed broadband connectivity pilot project provides an ideal opportunity for the effective use of a range of digital media, including computer-based applications, to promote higher-order engagement in the subject.
Provision for health and safety is outlined in the subject plan in keeping with good practice. There was good adherence to the principles of health and safety in all aspects of participation and tuition in the lessons observed and the playing environments were found to be in very good condition.
The standard of teaching and learning in the physical education lessons observed varied from satisfactory to very good. All lessons were well organised and groups were effectively managed. Lessons were characterised by excellent student co-operation and high levels of participation. Students who, in a very limited number of instances, were unable to participate in the practical activities, were appropriately included in their lessons. Involving these students in a meaningful way through structured peer-review, officiating and focused observations ensured that they continued to progress their learning in Physical Education. Good procedures were observed that ensured students changed and assembled quickly for their lessons. Once attendance was recorded, teachers introduced the content and direction of the lessons. In some cases, teachers also gave students clear targets for their learning and linked the tasks and theme of the lesson to previous learning. This effective practice ensured students were focused on the specific requirements of each task in order to achieve the learning intentions. It is recommended that all teachers adopt this practice and share the learning intentions with their students at the outset.
In the lessons visited, the topics taught were invasion games and adventure activities. All lessons followed a common structure and students were guided through the warm-up, development and cool-down phases as appropriate. In some instances, students were given responsibility to lead the cool-down activities or to take responsibility for the completion of set tasks, which is good practice. Under the teachers’ direction, students should undertake more responsibility for both the warm-up and cool-down activities and for parts of the lessons, depending on their maturity and ability. This provides valuable opportunities for students to be responsible learners, show leadership qualities, apply their knowledge and demonstrate their competency in a range of exercises and activities.
Warm-up activities were appropriately structured with light mobility activities followed by skill rehearsal and topic-specific tasks. Teachers ensured that sufficient time and opportunities were given to students to rehearse previously learned skills and patterns of movement. The use of dynamic exercises to promote joint range of motion and mobility is commended, as these contribute to good body management through proper execution of fundamental motor skills.
In the instances of good practice, lessons progressed through skill rehearsal activities followed by situation-based application and conditioned games in appropriately sized groups, with this cycle repeated for each focused skill or principle of play. In this way, students gradually developed their competency to acquire and apply each focused skill in the game context. Additionally, excellent practice was observed when students were questioned about their understanding of the activity or principles of play and involved in analysis of both their own performance and that of their peers. Furthermore, effective use was made of teacher and student demonstration, coupled with effective questioning to identify the key performance indicators, all of which involved students in evaluating performance and making suggestions for improvement. In these lessons, students were afforded sufficient time and opportunities to practise and apply the focused skills, analyse performance and receive feedback, with subsequent opportunities for improvement.
In some lessons, the development phases progressed through a series of discrete skill drills followed by a game, with most technical instruction provided by the teachers. Students had little opportunity to practice the focused skills in the game context, either through situation-based or conditioned games, prior to participating in the full sided game. In addition, there was little involvement of students in analysing performance. It is recommended that the games-for-understanding approach be adopted to provide students with an appropriate context for their learning. Furthermore, teachers should try to avoid situations where students spend long periods queuing or observing. For example, using both basketball nets and zones or the available goal posts would have increased the number of opportunities students had to practise and apply the focused skills or principle of defence. All lessons should also involve students in some form of analysis and evaluation to improve their own performance or that of their peers.
Teachers have established a caring and positive rapport with their students and lessons were characterised by mutual respect and an excellent standard of behaviour. Teachers were actively engaged with their students, constantly offering assistance and affirmation when appropriate. Students demonstrated a good work ethic and were diligent in their application to all of the tasks and challenges set by their teachers. Students displayed a high level of enjoyment and enthusiasm for the subject and some have achieved a high degree of technical competence in the activities observed.
Teachers maintain detailed records of students’ attendance and participation in their lessons. Assessment in Physical Education occurs mainly through observation of students’ participation and engagement in class activities. The physical education department has recently developed a four-point scale to inform teachers’ observations and rate students’ attainment in each of the planned activity modules. This is good practice and the physical education department should ensure that this system is consistently used and applied in all cases. A range of additional assessment strategies should be identified and implemented over a period of time. In addition, strategies should be developed to compile and store records of students’ work and achievements. It is recommended that the physical education department refer to the work conducted by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) www.ncca.ie on assessment for learning, as well as the Junior Cycle Physical Education Support Service (JCPESS) www.jcpe.ie for information on the development of student portfolios of learning. The compilation of these portfolios will help to monitor students’ progress in the acquisition of knowledge, understanding and performance ability.
Reporting to parents regarding students’ progress and attainment in Physical Education occurs mostly through parent-teacher meetings and through the use of the student journal. Students’ achievements in sport and physical activity are also highlighted through the school’s very informative website. Students’ progress and attainment in Physical Education was previously included in the school’s formal reports to parents. It is planned that the subject would be reinstated in the school’s new electronic reporting system and the implementation of this plan is recommended. Reports to parents should include an evaluative comment on students’ engagement, progress and attainment.
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 representatives of the subject teachers and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Good Counsel College warmly welcomes the Report following the Subject Inspection of Physical Education. This area is central to the life and ethos of the College.
That there are “excellent facilities and resources to support teaching and learning in Physical education and the provision for sport and physical activity in the college.” is recognised by all. That the funding for these is entirely due to parental contributions, student and staff fundraising, partnership with outside bodies and generous contributions by the Trustees is recognised but fails to note that the College has failed to secure any funding from the Department of Education and Skills for same. This is very regrettable.
The College has a commitment to sport and physical activity which must be unparalleled in the country. This is due to the huge commitment of all staff, both those who hold recognised qualifications and those who have secured other qualifications in their specific areas of interest. The Board commends all staff involved.
The College is grateful to receive the guidance of the Inspector involved who involved all staff and management and provided us with insights and suggestions which will be followed up. It is unfortunate that over 6 months passed between the date of inspection and the date of issue of report and, regrettably in our view, lessens the potential of the report to guide and motivate the innovations suggested therein. The appropriate inclusion of all students, even those “unable to participate in (some) activities is essential for the promotion of “Sport for All” which is the key-stone of our policy in this area.
That the principles of health and safety in all aspects were observed is very important to the Board. Above all the Board welcomes the recognition by the inspector that “Teachers have established a caring and positive rapport with their students and lessons were characterised by mutual respect and an excellent standards of behaviour.” The Board thanks teachers and students very sincerely for this and is confident this is a reflection of the relationships enjoyed in all areas of the life of the College.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Board welcomes the constructive key recommendations of the Inspector.
Specifically, the Board is committed to maintaining the centrality of Physical Education, sport and physical activity to life in Good Counsel College. The exemplary provision for Physical Education and the exemplary timetable arrangements are only possible because of the huge generosity of the teachers involved. This is very sincerely appreciated by the Board. The Board, with the assistance of the Department of education and Skills, would strive to have all timetabled lessons in Physical Education, taught by the qualified physical education teachers. The Board would encourage the Department to take this recommendation very seriously on board by considering the allocations model in use un relation to such specific subject areas as PE.
The Board thanks the Inspector involved for his courtesy, professionalism and encouragement and looks forward to continuing this relationship into the future.