Physical Education

What is the subject about? 

Leaving Certificate Physical Education provides students with an integrated approach to learning between theoretical lessons based in the classroom and practical classes’ outdoor/in sports hall. Approximately 1 lesson per week will be practical based and 2 per week will be theory/classroom based throughout the 2 year course. The emphasis in practical lessons is attaining the learning outcomes through physical activity. 

The Curriculum comprises of: 

Strand 1 (5th year) 

– Learning and improving skill and technique (skill acquisition, biomechanics, etc.) 

– Physical and psychological demands of performance (components of fitness, psychology, nutrition etc.) 

– Structures, strategies, roles and conventions (safe practice, role of the coach/official, etc.) 

– Planning for optimum performance (performance analysis, planning for optimum performance etc.) 

Strand 2 (6th year) 

– Promoting physical activity (pathways to excellence, physical activity promotion/participation, etc.) 

– Ethics and fair play (principles of ethical practice, drugs and sport, anti-doping rules, etc.) 

In addition, two of the following topics will be prescribed each year by SEC: 

– Physical activity and inclusion (addressing barriers to physical activity, adapted physical activity, etc.) 

– Technology, media and sport (impact of technology e.g. GPS pouch, impact of media on athletes, etc.) 

– Gender and physical activity (gender, media, body image, gender and drop out, etc.) 

– Business and enterprise in physical activity and sport (sponsorship in sport, sport and tourism, etc.) 


How is the subject assessed? 

The Physical Education course comprises of three components at Higher Level and Ordinary Level: 

I. Written Examination (50%) 

The examination is assessed at Higher and Ordinary levels. Both papers follow the same layout and structure. The written examination is the final examination of the leaving Certificate in June. It is a 2.5 hour exam. It comprises of: 

  • Section A – Short Questions – Answer all 10 (80 marks) 
  • Section B – Case Study (50 marks) 
  • Section C – Long Questions –Answer 3 out of 5 (80 marks) 


II. Performance Assessment (PA) (30%) 

This is completed between January and March in 6th year. It requires approximately 10 hours of in class time. 3 physical activities are chosen to be studied in depth by the class in 5th year. The 3 activities must be from 3 different physical activity strands. The strands are as follows, Games, Athletics, Adventure Activities, Dance and Gymnastics, Personal Exercise and Fitness, and Aquatics. Which 3 are chosen are decided as a whole class by vote, while keeping in mind the facilities available in our school. For example our current 5th years have chosen soccer from games, 100m sprint from athletics and personal exercise and fitness. The assessment is completed by submitting a video which is approximately 8 minutes in length where students showcase their ability in the physical activity. This requires a lot of footage to be recorded and edited into a well presented video by students. The assessment and grade rewarded is a direct reflection of the student’s ability in the chosen physical activity, not their effort. Effort in class and outside of school should improve student’s skill levels and ultimately help to improve their grade on the PA. However, effort alone will not automatically guarantee a good grade. 


III. Physical Activity Project (PAP) (20%) 

This is completed over 8-10 weeks between Halloween and Christmas in 6th year. It must be completed on a different activity strand to the one chosen for the Performance Assessment (e.g. a student could not pick a game like Gaelic Football for their performance assessment and choose another game like Soccer for the PAP). The student chooses the activity/sport themselves. 

The project is structured as follows 

– Performance Analysis 

– Identification of 4 performance goals (based on content learned in 5th year from strand 1) 

– Evidence of ongoing training/practice and reflection 

– Concluding Analysis 


Additional Comments 

– It is a new course and is not an entry requirement for any third level institution or college course including PE teaching in DCU and UL. It would however, be a beneficial foundation for many courses to study the subject. 

– The first year the exam took place was 2020, where due to C19 students were unable to complete all aspects of their assessments. As a result, the course still has aspects subject to change. 

– Students are not guaranteed they will be able to do the sport/activity of their choice for the performance assessment as it is a whole class decision which three sports/activities are chosen. 

– It is highly recommended students currently play at least one sport/activity competitively outside of school with a recognised club/sports team. 

– Students should have a general interest in several sports and physical activities as several will be studied throughout the course where full participation is a requirement. 

– Students must have an interest in performance, students must be motivated to complete physical training, circuit classes, aerobic fitness training, fitness testing etc. 

– Students who have not enjoyed PE or participated in PE at Junior Cycle level should not consider the subject. 

– Students who do not meet the above criteria regardless of effort are highly unlikely of achieving success in the Leaving Certificate assessments. 

– The following link leads to the NCCA website and contains 3 separate PDF’s which outline the specification of the course, PAP and PA assessments in further detail. 



Career Opportunities 

– Sports Scientist 

– Games Development Officer 

– Sports Administration 

– Physiotherapy 

– Athletic Therapy 

– Personal Training 

– Dietician/Sports Nutritionist 

– Sports Partnerships Careers (Sports Inclusion/Disability officer, etc.) 

– Sports Psychologist 

– High Performance Athlete 

– Physical Education Teacher