Monday 10 December 2018

Exhibition an ideal boost for PE students

Students take part in a PE lesson. Photo: James Flynn/APX
Students take part in a PE lesson. Photo: James Flynn/APX Sportsdesk

With Physical Education (PE) now on the Leaving Cert horizon by way of becoming an examinable subject, an event in March is the ideal way for schools to start preparing for the new curriculum, writes John Greene.

The fourth annual physical education exhibition - or PE XPO for short - will be held at DCU on March 7. It's a one-day showcase for students to display their knowledge and awareness of the importance of PE. Even more importantly, it will tie in nicely with PE now being an examinable subject at Junior and Leaving Cert level as it will help to prepare students who are keen to take this new subject.

The announcement last month that it would be added to the Leaving Cert was a big step forward for our education system. At primary and secondary level, Ireland consistently rates among the worst in the developed world when it comes to PE. By giving it exam status, that will at least elevate PE by firstly allowing a new batch of students to take it as a subject, and secondly by creating added awareness among their peers and in schools in general about the importance of being active, good nutrition, and so on.

"Teachers will see real long-term benefits by getting involved," says Paddy O'Reilly, a PE teacher and one of the organisers. "It's a great way to get pupils inspired about the vital aspects of physical education. It's a brilliant way to showcase your school. PE XPO helps to reinforce the scientific principles of PE."

The XPO is seen among teachers and schools as the physical education version of the young scientists competition and was set up to fill the enormous void left by the fact that PE had been so badly catered for in Irish schools. The role of the XPO will change now, in that it will be an ideal way for students, teachers and indeed parents to get a feel for PE and to prepare for exams.

Projects at the XPO will require students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of one of the following areas: ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and Sports Photography; Power of Sport (Inclusion and Cultural); Wellbeing (Physical, Mental and Social); Components of fitness and the science behind sport; Nutrition; Games Development and Teaching Games for Understanding; and Sports Psychology.

"The main thing is that there's a theoretical aspect to PE," says O'Reilly about the projects. "It's not just about being active. You have to engage mentally with this too or it's just not going to work. And that goes for tackling obesity, getting people active, and so on."

Last year, 152 projects from 45 schools entered, but that number is expected to rise this year given PE's new heightened profile. The competition is open to all year groups from second level schools, divided into sections, namely Junior (first, second, third years) and Senior (transition year, fifth and sixth years).

The projects will be judged on the day and winners announced in each category. Among the judges are lecturers from DCU, UL and UCC - universities involved in training PE teachers, while Paul Kimmage from the Sunday Independent and Darragh Maloney of RTÉ will also join the judging panel. One project will be chosen as the overall winner and that winning project will be featured in the Sunday Independent.

The closing date for entries is Friday, February 16 and the cost per student is €15. Details on how to enter are on

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