On Monday 11th of December, the Department of Education announced that PE will become a Leaving Cert exam subject, with the first exam to take place in 2020. This means that students starting 5th year in September, will have the option to choose PE as one of their exam subjects. The Department has sent out invitations to all schools around the country, and when they answer the invitation, the department will choose which 50-60 schools will offer the subject.
The examination will be split into three parts: the written exam (worth 50%), a physical activity project (worth 20%) and a performance assessment (worth 30%). Students will no longer just practise sport, but they will also learn about technology and media in sport, business and enterprise. Issues surrounding physical activity and gender, inclusion, ethics, and fair play will also be covered in the two-year course. Diet and drugs will be included in the course as well. These topics will be half of the exam. The other half will teach students how to improve their skills and techniques, the demands of performance, strategies, and planning for optimum performance. Students will partake in three different physical activities which can be chosen from the following six areas: athletics, personal exercise and fitness, artistic and aesthetic activities, adventure activities, games, and aquatics.
The project will be completed in digital form. This means that students will be recorded as they apply their learning to develop their personal performance in one of their three activities, either as a performer, coach, or choreographer for a period of eight to 10 weeks. This video will then be graded by an examiner. The performance should “demonstrate the learner’s best personal performance in fully competitive and/or conditioned practices or performance settings,” according to the curriculum specification.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar supports PE becoming an exam subject, saying that the benefits would be far-reaching, including improved health and fitness among young people, raising awareness of physical health and a further increase in the choice of school subjects, accommodating to more students abilities and wishes.
Many schools don’t have the gym facilities or equipment to offer PE as an exam subject, principals have warned. The Government will have to provide funding to ensure access to the subject for all pupils, according to National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) director Clive Byrne. “We need to ensure that PE doesn’t become a Leaving Certificate subject available only to the best funded schools in Ireland,” he said.
A programme of training for teachers to deliver the new course will begin early next year. After the two years in which first-phase schools teach the new PE subject, it is expected to be rolled out to all schools which choose to offer it.