PEPAYS Ireland Forum 2018 ‘Enacting and researching Irish school physical education’. Professor Ann MacPhail

This was the first time that the PEPAYS Ireland Forum was held on a Saturday and the day proved successful given almost 80 attendees were present and that a significant number were practicing physical education teachers. As always, this year’s PEPAYS Ireland Forum provided an opportunity for those involved in research related to physical education, physical activity and youth sport to share their work with colleagues. Given the recent monumental changes in Irish school physical education, the focus of this year’s Forum was on the enactment of such changes. Across all related physical education curriculum developments, implementation (outcome, learning experiences and assessment) is a common area of interest for physical education teachers and teacher educators. This was discussed further during the Forum with an opportunity to engage with the realities of implementing the various curricula in schools and identifying how best they can be supported to maintain this work.

Before beginning the formal programme, Professor Mary O’Sullivan (recently retired from the University of Limerick) was acknowledged for her initiation, evolution and continued support for PEPAYS Ireland with an appreciation that had it not been for Mary we would perhaps not be in the position we are today as a PEPAYS Ireland research community. Ger Halbert, soon to retire from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, was also acknowledged for her investment and passion in improving students’ experiences of school physical education as well as her continued support in advocating for aligned research.

Suzanne Hargreaves, a Senior Education Officer with Education Scotland, opened the Forum programme in a keynote address where she heightened our awareness of the plights of physical education teachers as they negotiate unprecedented changes in school physical education provision.

This session was followed by Doireann Ní Mhuimhneacháin (a practicing physical education teacher) and Joao Costa (University College Cork) who presented on classroom-based assessment and principles of effective assessment.

Parallel research presentations provided an opportunity for those involved in research related to physical education, physical activity and youth sport to share their work with colleagues. Twenty-one presentations captured research conducted at Cork Institute of Technology, Dublin City University / St. Patrick’s College, KU Leuven, Mary Immaculate College, University College Cork, University of Limerick and University of Ulster.

The afternoon began with a panel session that provided an opportunity for attendees to hear from stakeholders involved in Irish physical education and to pose questions to panel members. This included the Irish Primary Physical Education Association (IPPEA), Junior Cycle Team (JCT), National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), Physical Education Association of Ireland (PEAI), Physical Education Teacher Education Ireland (PETE Ireland) and the Professional Development for Secondary Teachers (PDST).

The following session provided updates on current research and initial findings from primary physical education, junior cycle physical education, senior cycle physical education and Leaving Certificate physical education. This updated attendees on current research activity but also began to identify further research opportunities as we continue to understand and evaluate the reality of teaching Irish physical education curricula. The session also encouraged consideration of associated changes that need to be made in Irish physical education teacher education programmes.

The final session encouraged attendees to consider opportunities to undertake small-scale research projects aligned to their ongoing experiences with teaching physical education. Some examples of research by two practicing physical education teachers was shared with attendees. Consideration was also given to how teachers wishing to undertake such work could gain recognition for their work under the Cosán, the national framework for teachers’ learning. Conor Mellon from the Teaching Council was a welcome addition to the session given his knowledge of Cosán as well as opportunities for teachers to apply for funding to encourage research projects.

The PEPAYS Ireland team thoroughly enjoyed the day. Feedback from attendees was very positive with respect to having been successful in bringing together all the different agencies involved in enacting and supporting the recent monumental changes in Irish school physical education. There was a clear appetite to engage and support teachers in active research projects and this will be a focus of PEPAYS Ireland over the coming year.

You can keep up to date with PEPAYS Ireland activities at and on Twitter @PEPAYS_Ireland

Professor Ann MacPhail is an associate professor in Physical Education in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Ann’s current research interests focus on teacher education, young people in sport and curriculum development in physical education.  Ann is Co-Director of the Physical Education, Physical activity and Youth Sport Research Centre (PE-PAYS) Ireland at the University of Limerick.  You can contact Ann via email at or view her research profile on Researchgate                               Ann MacPhail round


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