19 August, 2021 | Posted by Cian Fahey

I'm an Undergraduate: How Do I Qualify to Teach PE?

PE teacher qualification

Physical Education has been a Leaving Certificate subject in Ireland since 2018. It was initially only brought in for a limited number of schools but the phased release stage ends in 2021 as every school in the nation will have the option to add PE to its curriculum.

Many schools still won't be able to as there is a dearth of qualified PE teachers available to fill the nationwide need.

Becoming a fully qualified PE teacher when starting from scratch takes years. But graduates from sports degrees and graduates from non-sports degrees can become qualified quicker by adding to their current qualifications.


Leaving Certificate PE

Incoming fifth years should all now have the opportunity to study PE properly during their final years in secondary school. But of course, that hinges on the availability of qualified teachers.

The Leaving Certificate exam consists of three components:

  • Physical Activity Project worth 20% of final mark.
  • Performance Assessment worth 30% of final mark.
  • Written paper worth 50% of final mark.

While the Performance Assessment is common regardless of what level you study, both the Physical Activity Project and Written Paper come in Higher and Ordinary levels. The written examination takes place as part of the broader Leaving Certificate timetable while the performance assessment and activity project take place during term in sixth year.

It’s a comprehensive examination structure that follows a clearly-outlined, academic process through fifth and sixth year. This subject can’t be taught by your traditional PE teachers.


How Do Teachers Qualify?

Leaving Certificate PE Teachers must have a relevant qualification that is recognised by the Teaching Council. The Teaching Council assesses each student’s qualifications individually on a case-by-case basis. Portobello Institute’s Certificate in Higher Education for PE does not guarantee recognition from the Teaching Council.

However, our course was specifically designed with consideration of the Teaching Council’s criteria for undergraduate modules that qualified PE teachers require. You may need to supplement this certificate with additional modules after graduation.


Undergraduate PE Courses

Portobello Institute's two courses for undergraduates who want to add PE teaching are very similar with distinct differences.

Both courses last the same time and offer the same qualification. The only difference is one course is designed for sports graduates and the other is designed for non-sports graduates. If you have a Level 8 sports degree, you can drop two of the modules. If you have a Level 8 degree in an unrelated subject, you need all of the modules to graduate.

These are the modules on the course and the purpose that they serve:

  • Introduction to Athletics & Games for Physical Education

Students will develop an understanding of coaching techniques and improve their personal competency in the skills involved in athletics. This module involves theoretical knowledge and practical teaching ability centred around athletics and games.

It instils a fundamental knowledge of physical, psychological and behavioural development through fundamental movement skills, locomotion, object manipulation, interceptive timing, speed, agility and coordination.

  • Introduction to Gymnastics & Dance for Physical Education

Enabling students to perform, choreograph, disseminate and criticize contemporary and folk dance, this module is directed towards these aspects of the Physical Education Syllabi at Junior and Senior Level. This module also provides students with knowledge and instructional/demonstrational skills required in the delivery of Educational and Olympic gymnastics curricula for school and club environments.

  • Applied Principles and Teaching for Adventure Activities

This module covers different adventure activities and the role adventure activities can play in developing confidence, communication, team building, reflection and planning, coping and problem-solving skills for students.

  • Applied Principles and Teaching for Aquatics

Students will develop life-saving, water safety and aquatics theoretical and practical knowledge through small group practical’s and lecture delivery. This module will provide in-depth theory of biomechanics, anatomy and physiology of swimming for speed and endurance.

  • Advanced Pedagogy for Disability PE

This module will focus on advanced pedagogical considerations for adapting and implementing physical education theory and curricular content to practice for a range of learning needs. Theoretical knowledge on learning, physical and mental disabilities will be gained, while in-depth content of standards and policies for disability and integrative education will be provided.

As part of this module, students will complete a school-based placement under the supervision of qualified second level Physical Education teachers.

  • Advanced Pedagogy for Health Promotion PE

Developing critical problem-solving skills for the promotion of physical and mental health through physical education, this module provides in-depth information about the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity.

  • Human Anatomy & Biomechanics

The specific focus of this module is the musculoskeletal system, movement analysis and the isolation of specific muscle groups. You do not need to undertake this module if you have graduated from a sports-related degree previously.

  • Human Physiology and Training Principles

Exercise related physiology is the sub-discipline of sport and exercise science. You will study that in this module alongside the principles of training and athletic preparation. This module provides a fundamental grounding in exercise physiology. You do not need to undertake this module if you have graduated from a sports-related degree previously.


Becoming a qualified PE teacher could be the key to job security for young teachers entering the profession. Having a broader skill set to fill different roles is always attractive to employers. Being able to add that additional skill in 12 months or less while working full time means it’s also an attainable ambition.

If you have already graduated with a Level 8 degree, you can read more about how to become a qualified PE teacher here. If you are not yet a holder of a Level 8 degree, then we have a range of different sports courses available including the BSc (Hons) Physical Education & Coaching.

If you’re unsure of where you fit, then you can contact our Sports Course Advisor Johanna Shaw directly. Johanna is available on 01-892-0024 or you can email her at jo.shaw@portobelloinstitute.com.


Featured in this article:
Johanna Shaw has a 2:1 in BSc (Hons) in Sports and Exercise Science from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. She completed an MPhil Studentship in Physical Activity for Health alongside an Exercise Development role. She then went onto a Tackling Inactivity in Students role funded by Sport England within a Further Education College in London before moving back to Dublin to Portobello Institute.

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