Some of the issues which may need to be discussed as part of the school’s planning for physical education include the following:
The purpose and nature of physical education in the school
Exploring and discussing the purpose and nature of physical education in the school can form the starting point for planning the programme. The contribution of physical education to the harmonious development of the child should be examined, leading to an understanding of the role which physical education may play in the curriculum.
A broad and balanced physical education programme
As the curriculum provides considerable flexibility for the school, planning at school level will help teachers to ensure that the physical education programme
- meets the needs of the school. Where a school has a strong tradition in a particular activity, it should ensure that due emphasis is placed on other aspects of the physical education programme, thus ensuring that children experience a balanced programme of activities. The school that is situated in an area with a strong games tradition, for instance, while acknowledging the need for games in the programme should also emphasise other strands within the programme.
- includes all strands of the curriculum where possible. It is important to remember that where it may appear impossible to implement a complete strand, because of constraints of facilities or resources, it may be possible to implement a strand unit or indeed part of a strand unit.
- provides for progression and continuity between classes. Each level of physical education is dependent on the implementation of the previous level.
Progression involves children moving
- from simple tasks to more difficult tasks
- from natural movements to skilful, artistic ones
- from dependence to independence in learning
- from performing given tasks to being able to structure their own
- from using given criteria to judge performance to developing their own criteria to evaluate performance.
There are two elements of the progression: difficulty and quality. Progress in the level of difficulty of performance may be achieved in a variety of ways. For instance, the use of smaller targets at which to aim a ball when playing games, or combining movements to create increasingly complex sequences in gymnastics, increase the levels of difficulty. Progress in the quality of performance can be identified through a variety of activities, some requiring better poise, others requiring increased control of the body, better footwork in netball or basketball, or improved tension in gymnastics.
Continuity is ensured when regular lessons which are appropriately timed are built in to the whole school plan, with activities outlined for each class and implemented by teachers in accordance with the school plan.
- recommends some selection within strands. Where it is possible to include all strands of the curriculum in the school’s programme, some selection within strands may be necessary. For instance, within the Games strand it may be useful to offer advice on the selection of a number of small-sided (mini-) games while still ensuring a wide range of experiences. Within the Gymnastics strand it may be possible to achieve the objectives outlined in a relatively short unit of work by carefully selecting themes. The programme should advise teachers on such a selection.
The amount of time to be devoted to physical education
The allocation of time to the different strands of the physical education programme will have to be considered and agreed. Time-tabling requirements will have to be discussed, allowing for maximum time for activity in the physical education lesson. Arrangements could be agreed where classes share the responsibility for laying out and storing equipment.
While a timetable for use of facilities on a weekly basis is necessary, it may be helpful to consider the amount of time devoted to a subject over a period of two weeks or a month, when strands of the programme which may need to be ‘blocked’ are considered, e.g. Aquatics or Outdoor and adventure activities. Provision could also be made for ensuring that strands of the curriculum which need to be spread over the school year to ensure progress are given consideration.
Integration with other subjects
Many of the broad objectives of physical education, such as the development of self-esteem, confidence and initiative, are shared with other subjects. Within physical education it is through learning opportunities provided in the various aspects of movement that the achievement of these objectives can be enhanced. Physical education can be integrated with English, Gaeilge, geography, art, music, mathematics and especially social, personal and health education. The development of other curricular areas can be enriched through a programme of physical education which is broad and balanced. Planning for the transfer and reinforcement of learning from one area of the curriculum to another is essential to ensure success. It is important therefore for schools to consider the links that exist between physical education and other subjects at each class level.
Physical education and health
Health-related fitness emphasises the state of health of the body – a body which works efficiently – and a feeling of physical well-being. It is not specific to any particular sport and is not to be confused with physical fitness, which implies various levels of fitness as appropriate to particular stages of development and to particular sports.
From the earliest years the healthrelated fitness of the child is promoted by school and parent partnerships. Both should co-operate to ensure that the child pursues a healthy life-style and develops a positive attitude towards physical activity. Initially, this is promoted through experimenting with and exploring movement and developing the natural tendency to play. As the child progresses through the primary school, opportunities to develop further his/her awareness of the role of physical activity for health should be provided.
Promoting gender equity through physical education
In planning the physical education programme, consideration should be given, on an equitable basis, to the needs and interests of both girls and boys. Access to a balanced programme of physical education activities should be ensured for girls and boys.
Consideration should be given to
- the need for gender equity
- helping children to build positive attitudes towards all activities
- providing equal access for all children to the physical education equipment and facilities and to the play areas
- grouping children for physical education. While it may be necessary to group pupils occasionally for different activities, this should not be done solely on the basis of gender.
- the needs of girls and boys when promoting the health-related fitness of children.
Providing for differing abilities
Teachers need to consider planning to suit differing abilities. Guidelines on possible methods of providing for the range of abilities would be helpful when the teacher plans work for a particular class.
Planning for the child with special needs
As physical education is a necessary part of the curriculum for all children, the programme should offer each child the widest possible range of experiences. A safe and secure environment should be provided for physical education appropriate to the child with special needs.
A child who is especially gifted should be challenged by tasks appropriate to his/her level of ability. On the other hand, the child whose rate of progress is considerably slower may need to have skills, activities and equipment modified. Specialist advice may be sought to identify the appropriate activities. The suitability and modification of activities within the individual strands should be considered carefully to ensure the benefits to the child.
Safe practice in physical education
Physical education includes many activities which offer a challenge to the child’s initiative, determination and courage. Safety precautions cannot remove all risks but should eliminate unnecessary hazards. The following should be considered:
- the working relationship established between teacher and class is one of the most important factors in fostering a safe learning environment
- the medical condition of individual children, which may affect their safety during a physical education lesson, should be made known to the teacher
- the skill and knowledge of the teacher, combined with the sense of responsibility of the child, can help prevent accidents
- an awareness of the age, stage of development and any special needs of the child is essential in ensuring the child’s safety
- the safety statement within the school plan should contain procedures to be adopted should accidents occur in the physical education lesson.
Emphasis should be placed on the maintenance of good posture throughout all activities, which is especially important when lifting and carrying apparatus.
Children need to acquire a practical knowledge and understanding of warming-up and cooling-down in order to prepare the body safely and effectively for exercise and to recover afterwards. This process starts with their following consistent good practice and culminates in their designing their own relevant and appropriate procedures. Teachers need to present warming-up and cooling-down activities that are safe and enjoyable.
Each school should devise an appropriate practice for dress for physical education. Changing out of the clothes worn during the physical education class immediately afterwards is a desirable practice where possible. The clothes worn should allow mobility during all activities and should be appropriate for a variety of conditions.
Appropriate footwear is especially important. On no account should pupils work indoors in stockinged feet, which do not grip the floor, nor should they be allowed to work barefoot unless conditions are suitable. Jewellery should not be worn.
The equipment used for all activities should be suited in size, weight and design to the age, strength and ability of the child and should be of good quality and in good repair.
Great care is needed in the choice and use of apparatus; damaged apparatus should never be used. The condition of all equipment and working areas should be checked regularly to ensure that the children are working in a safe and clean environment.
Assessment in the curriculum
Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning process in physical education, as in other areas of the curriculum. While individual teachers have been forming judgements about progress in physical education, it has not always been approached by the school in a systematic way. As teachers discuss and plan for the implementation of the physical education curriculum, assessment issues should be considered at school level. Such discussion should lead to a shared understanding of how assessment can enhance teaching andlearning in physical education and culminate in the formulation of a school policy for assessment. The following considerations could inform such discussion.
Purposes of assessment
The curriculum identifies the roles of assessment in physical education on pp. 68-74. Assessment provides the teacher with information which helps to enhance the experiences of the child in physical education. It can help the teacher to discover what pupils can do and what they know and understand. It can indicate the different rates of progress that children are making and help to monitor the child’s achievements related to the objectives of the physical education programme. Assessment can help teachers in the planning of future work in physical education and identify difficulties which children may be experiencing, thus helping the teacher to adapt activities for the individual child. Communication with other teachers, with parents and with other professionals and transferring information to second-level schools is enhanced by the information gleaned from assessment. Assessment can help schools evaluate the development of the curriculum in physical education.
A range of assessment tools
The curriculum advises that a variety of forms of assessment be used to ensure that a full range of abilities in physical education is assessed and to allow for individual learning styles. The forms identified below are compatible with teaching and learning in physical education, as they can be undertaken as teaching and learning take place. The forms of assessment recommended are
- teacher observation: the monitoring of children’s progress as the actual learning takes place in physical education
- teacher-designed tasks: the wide range of tasks which the teacher sets for the child to complete and which can be assessed as the children are learning
- curriculum profiles: a way in which the child’s progress can be assessed and recorded using indicators. As curriculum profiles for physical education have not yet been developed at national level, schools might wish to devise profiles which meet their individual needs.
Manageability of assessment
If assessment is to complement theteaching of physical education it should provide useful information without impinging on valuable teaching time. The system introduced should be practical and should be quickly and easily implemented. The recording of information during a physical education lesson should be minimal to ensure that the children are active and safe throughout and that they continue to enjoy the lesson.
Building a common understanding of assessment
Discussing the progress and achievements of individual children and the curriculum profiles from different classes will facilitate discussion among teachers about assessment. A common understanding of the language used in the recording of assessment will be necessary to ensure consistency throughout the school. Moderation of assessment occurs as teachers share teaching experience in this way and come to a common understanding of what assessment of physical education represents.
Recording and communicating
The assessment tools recommended in the curriculum which are selected for use by the school will provide information on a child’s progress and achievement and will provide the basis for communication with other teachers, parents and others in the educational community.
The pupil profile card will be used to record this information and will facilitate communication. The profile will need to be adjusted and updated on a regular basis, thus helping to ensure continuity and progression between classes.
Any report of a child’s progress might contain information, gathered by the use of the assessment techniques outlined above, related to
- the attitude of the child to participation, which is indicated by factors such as
- acceptance of winning or losing
- understanding of fair play
- the appropriateness of dress for the physical education lesson
- the effort displayed by the child
- the application of safe practices
- the child’s achievement related to the strands of physical education which he/she engages in, which is indicated by factors such as
- physical competence
- knowledge and understanding of activities
- creative and aesthetic development
- development of health-related fitness.