19 August, 2021 | Posted by Cian Fahey

The Value of a Certificate in Higher Education for PE Teaching

PE teaching qualification

When Niall Moyna spoke to Anna Geary on RTE's documentary 'Why Girls Quit Sport' in July, he said that this generation was predicted to be the first in history to not outlive its predecessor.

Moyna linked the cause back to sedentary lifestyles and chronic illnesses that are developed over a life of inactivity.

His comments were paired with startling statistics about girls dropping out of sports:

  • 50% of young women drop out of sport by the age of 13.
  • Only 7% of girls aged 14-15 meet the recommended daily activity levels.
  • Girls are three times more likely to give up sport than boys.
  • Ireland spends 85-90% of its healthcare budget treating chronic diseases, many of which can be traced back to childhood and lifestyle developed during childhood.

In Geary's documentary, one of the children said she used to swim but was no longer allowed to attend once she left primary school. In secondary school, she had no access to swimming and was led to believe that she didn't need to do it anymore because she understood how to swim.

While that specific example is anecdotal evidence, it is reflective of the attitude that Ireland's education system has previously had to PE.

It was the class that students could skip more easily than any other.

It was the class where even the teachers weren't taking it seriously, often themselves using it to take a break from the stresses of their actual jobs.

But the government recognized these problems and set about changing our collective approach to physical education and health.

Any student entering fifth year this year should have the option to study PE as a Leaving Cert student.

It was initially phased into some schools in 2018 and now it is supposed to be available to every school. The challenge for schools is finding qualified PE teachers.

PE is now being treated with the seriousness of other Leaving Cert subjects which means treating PE teachers with the same seriousness. Which means incorporating an academic structure at exam time and creating a consistent syllabus.

There is now a seated exam, a physical activity project and a performance assessment. And it's not just common sense where anyone could turn up and pass.

These are examples of questions that appeared on the 2020 exam:

  • Identify a test that can measure flexibility.
  • Discuss the importance of hydration on a long-distance runner’s performance.
  • Identify what class of lever operates at the elbow when throwing the javelin as shown in Figure 3.

These aren't questions where you can just turn up and know the answers, which is a good measure of what is and isn't a good test.

More importantly, these aren't questions that will be answered by unqualified teachers, the school soccer coach or the school GAA coach. Especially since most of the soccer or GAA coaches across the country are just unqualified teachers who happened to play soccer or GAA at one point in their lives.

For the students to answer these questions correctly, the teachers have to be experts in the area of Physical Education.

Portobello Institute offers current teachers the opportunity to educate themselves on this knowledge with a Higher Certificate in Education.


Portobello Institute's Courses To Become A Qualified PE Teacher

Degree holders can apply for the Higher Certificate in PE. Sports degree holders can apply to the Certificate in Higher Education for Sports Graduates and all other degree holders can apply to the Certificate in Higher Education for Non-Sports Graduates.

Those who graduate from both courses have the same qualification at the end and each course takes eight months after starting in October 2021.

It's also important to note that you don't need to be a teacher to apply for either course.

Non-Sports students have two modules that sports students would have already studied. By separating the course into two, we make the education process more efficient for everyone involved.

The shared modules are:

  • Introduction to Athletics & Games for Physical Education
  • Introduction to Gymnastics & Dance for Physical Education
  • Applied Principles and Teaching for Adventure Activities
  • Applied Principles and Teaching for Aquatics
  • Advanced Pedagogy for Disability
  • Advanced Pedagogy for Health Promotion PE

The added modules for Non-Sports Graduates are:

  • Human Anatomy & Biomechanics
  • Human Physiology and Training Principles

Each student on both courses is assigned a personal academic tutor and Blended Learning offers students the flexibility to continue in full-time employment while studying.

This course was designed with our incoming students in mind. We adapt to your needs so that the only challenge of completing your course is the subject matter on the course. The course material itself is diverse so that our graduates are set up to be adaptable workplace practitioners who can be effective in different school environments.


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.

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


Portobello Institute values the one in everyone and understands that education is only a part of your life. We don’t want to take up all of your time and create stress for you. You should go to college to improve your life outside of college and after college.

We are training the sports professionals of the future. If you would like to work in sport in a professional capacity, you can find a course that will provide you with the requisite education to do so.

Our sports courses are listed here.

To read more articles like this one, you can visit the Sports section of the Knowledge Zone.

If you would prefer to have a direct conversation with Johanna, you can contact her on 01-892-0024 or you can email her at jo.shaw@portobelloinstitute.com. Meetings with Johanna can be booked through this link.


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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