Physical Education as a Leaving Certificate Subject

September 2019 sees the introduction of Physical Education as an examinable subject in the Leaving Certificate. With so little known about how and where it will be taught, here is a brief overview of how PE will work.


As stated in the curriculum, “The general aim of physical education in the senior cycle is to develop the learner’s capacity to participate in physical education and physical activity in a confident and informed way”. Therefore participation in physical activity will be the central focus of the course. Students will be given the option to choose three different activities from six core categories:

Athletics: Running: sprints, middle distance, long distance, hurdles; Throwing: shot-put, discus, javelin, hammer; Jumping: High, long, triple
Artistic and aesthetic activities: Gymnastics: artistic, rhythmic; Dance: contemporary, folk, modern, ballet, jazz, tap, ethnic; traditional personal exercise and fitness
Aerobic: continuous, interval, fartlek, aerobics/step aerobics, spinning, indoor rowing; Other: weights, core stability, circuits
Aquatics: Lifesaving, survival swimming, swimming strokes, water-polo, synchronised swimming
Games: Gaelic football, hurling/camogie, soccer, rugby, basketball, hockey, netball, Olympic handball, badminton, tennis, volleyball, table-tennis, handball, squash, cricket, softball, rounders
Adventure activities: Orienteering, canoeing/ kayaking, rock-climbing, sailing, rowing/sculling
The three activities chosen will then become the focus of the learning in the Leaving Certificate. Students will learn about the importance of physical activity as part of a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle. They examine the factors which influence, impact and improve their own and others’ participation in physical activity.

All of this is central to the assessment task in Leaving Cert PE. Learners will also choose one of their three selected physical activities for a performance-based assessment.


The curriculum states that “The emphasis is on providing learners with integrated learning experiences where there is a balance between developing personal performance in selected physical activities and deepening their understanding of the theoretical perspectives that impact on performance and participation in physical activity”.

There is an obvious focus for students’ to develop their abilities and become skilled, informed and self-directed in the performance of their given activity.


Leaving Certificate PE will be taught and assessed through two strands comprising of the following topics:

Strand 1 (20% of overall marks)
1. Learning and improving skill and technique
2. 2. Physical and psychological demands of performance
3. 3. Structures, strategies, roles, and conventions
4. 4. Planning for optimum performance.

Strand 2 (30% of overall marks)
5. Promoting physical activity
6. Ethics and fair play
7. Physical activity and inclusion
8. Technology, media, and sport
9. Gender and physical activity
10. Business and enterprise in physical activity and sport

In addition to these two strands, the final written examination will be worth 50% of the overall marks.


The course will be available for Leaving Certificate students as an examinable course in September 2019.