Limerick U21 coach Mikey Kiely and St Clement’s Mike Lynch embracing the introduction of PE to the LC.

It was announced earlier this month that PE is set to become a Leaving Certificate subject from next year.

Schools have been asked to apply to the Department of Education and Skills to take Physical Education as a full, examinable Leaving Certificate subject.

PE teacher at St. Clement’s College Mike Lynch did not hesitate to submit his application, and sees the addition of the subject to the Leaving Certificate curriculum as a major positive for teachers who will see their role redefined, and participating students, who will be given a chance to delve deeper into the subject.

“I applied ten minutes after we got the email. I am on board as is St. Clement’s management team. This is the most important thing to happen in PE since the electric pump! This will redefine the role of the PE teacher and what can be achieved. The fundamental concept of PE informing an active lifestyle for our students will now be given a conduit to flourish through further study, career choices and experiences.”

The new subject will have three assessment components: a performance assessment (30 per cent), a physical activity project (20 per cent) and a written exam (50 per cent). Limerick under 21 strength and conditioning coach Mikey Kiely, who studied PE teaching at third level believes that giving the lion’s share of marks for the written exam is the correct decision.

“Looking at second and third level academia the majority of subjects and modules still require a large written element.  For that reason, I think it’s a clever move to ensure alignment and prepare LC students for third level.”

While Lynch believes that breaking the curriculum into three components is the right choice and that the percentages allowed for each component may change over time.

“I’m delighted that there are three components because this approach allows for the different talents of our students to be developed and showcased. Perhaps in time the percentages allowed for each component will be modified but as a starting point it is ideal.”

As part of the performance assessment students are required to apply their learning in a systematic way to improve their own performance in three selected physical activities. Obviously, the athletic capabilities of students will vary, for example a pupil who is a more naturally talented athlete as he/she begins the assessment will have a different starting off point to that of someone who may not be as naturally gifted.

Lynch says that teachers will play a major role in ensuring that the student reaches levels beyond their initial abilities, despite what their starting point may have been.

“I think that a student who is physically literate will have an advantage initially but must then be challenged to perform at a level commensurate with his/her starting point. This will be the teacher’s responsibility to help the student to go beyond current ability levels and to reach for and surpass limits.

“This must be the same for all students, starting ability and experiences should not be the sole indicator of final grades or achievements. The student with broad physical ability, strong work ethic and inquisitive intellect will emerge with an appropriate grade. I believe these three attributes are essential.”

While Kiely agrees that it could be a factor but that there are plenty of marks to made up on the theoretical side of the assessment.

“Potentially someone that has a low physical literacy level may have greater scope for improvement in a skill. I haven’t yet seen a document from the education department that states clearly whether the skill assessment be based on percentage improvement longitudinally or a one-off performance.

“However additionally students must also show a tactical understanding of games and a deep understanding of rules and code of conduct, so you could argue that two thirds of the physical assessment are theoretical.”

The performance assessment will have to be filmed and submit it to the examiner, it is at this moment unclear if there will be any sort of a generic template to go on or whether the student will have a creative licence over editing ect. Lynch believes that some students will always have advantages over others.

“I have no doubt that some students will have advantages over others but that is life. One student’s advantage may be in IT skills or physical literacy or another facet. I believe the PE teacher/school must acknowledge perceived advantages/disadvantages for students and address them over time.”

There were concerns raised by NAPD Director Clive Byrne regarding some schools not having appropriate facilities to sufficiently complete the course, while he pointed out that a shortage of teachers may also be an issue. Lynch agrees that these are valid points but are not simply confined to the subject of Physical Education.

“Mr. Byrne is correct in saying that some schools will have better facilities and funding available, but this cannot be allowed to stop students engaging this worthwhile endeavour. Is it not the case that schools all over Ireland have Maths teachers of different abilities? Conditions will not be the same for all – that is diversity. The training and/or retraining of teachers is a matter of urgency and should be afforded the utmost importance!”

Overall, both Lynch and Kiely are excited about the recent news and both agree that the country’s youth will benefit from the experience.

“Its fantastic! Regardless of sport, physical activity levels across Ireland are decreasing with obesity on the rise. The potential this subject must increase awareness around general health and personal autonomy is limitless.” Says Kiely.

Lynch says, “An absolute boon for PE programmes in Ireland. It will take time to develop but must be embraced fully. The long-term benefits for the country are incalculable.”