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Children’s School Lives Study: Report 7

Children’s School Lives Study: Report 7

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Introduction to Physical Education

Physical education is an integral part of young people's education in senior cycle.  As a result of their learning in physical education, young people can increase their enjoyment, confidence and competence in a range of physical activities. They can learn about health-related fitness and to take responsibility for being physically active now and in the future. Overall, they can develop positive attitudes to physical activity and its importance in a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.

As part of senior cycle education, it is envisaged that physical education will be available in two forms. Leaving Certificate Physical Education as a subject which will be assessed as part of the Leaving Certificate examinations is under development. The senior cycle physical education (SCPE) framework has a different purpose and focus. It provides a flexible planning tool for physical education for all students in senior cycle and will not be assessed as part of the Leaving Certificate examination. 

Young people in this group bring a wide variety of skills, talents and levels of motivation to their learning in physical education. They are represented at all points of the physical activity continuum. Some young people are regularly active and/or participate at a very high level of performance. However, there are others who are not meeting the physical activity recommendations for young people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015). 

Students’ learning in physical education supports the overall vision of senior cycle education which is to develop students as resourceful, confident, engaged and active learners. Learners grow in confidence and competence as they acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to enjoy and succeed in a variety of physical activities while in senior cycle and in their future lives. Physical activity, in its many forms, provides the medium through which students learn in, through and about physical education. 
Learners can experience success in different ways in physical education. For some, the pursuit of excellence and the achievement of sporting goals will be the focus. For some, organising, leading and facilitating others to be physically active will be the measure of success. For others, including regular physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle will represent a successful outcome. 

The use of different curriculum models in conjunction with those physical activities selected by a class group and their teacher is at the heart of teaching and learning in SCPE. By using different curriculum models, learners can be encouraged not only to improve their performance in different physical activities but also to develop their understanding of the factors which impact on their personal performance and participation in physical activity.  

Learners can be encouraged to undertake different roles and responsibilities, including leadership, coaching and officiating roles. They can learn to plan, organise, participate in and reflect on their experiences in physical activity. Students can learn about fair play, team work and how to relate to one another respectfully. As a result, they learn to be effective in the different competitive, creative and challenging situations that participation in physical activity continually offers them.

SCPE and wellbeing

In this course, students can learn about the importance of being physically active as part of a healthy lifestyle. Learners in senior cycle are at an important stage in their lives where they make their own decisions on whether or how they will include physical activity as part of their lifestyle. Learning in senior cycle physical education is designed to ensure that students appreciate the importance of physical activity not only for their physical wellbeing but also their social and psychological wellbeing. Regular physical activity is universally accepted as being central to overall health and wellbeing. The recommended level of physical activity for young people is at least sixty minutes of moderate intensity activity each day of the week (CDC, 2010). The school is a key setting and young people a major target in strategies to promote health-enhancing levels of physical activity for all. Physical education has an important contribution to make in supporting young people to discover ways in which they can enjoy and commit to regular physical activity. As a result of their learning in senior cycle physical education, students should have a greater sense of their own agency and commitment to regular health-enhancing physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle. This can be achieved where students are engaged in collaborative planning with their teacher about which activities they will participate in and what learning outcomes they will focus on.

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