An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Ardscoil Rís

Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9

Roll number: 60420L

 

 

Date of inspection: 26 January 2007

Date of issue of report: 4 October 2007

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

1. Introduction

2. The quality of school management

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of curriculum provision

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

6. Quality of support for students

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

8. Related subject inspection reports

School Response to the Report

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Ardscoil Rís, Griffith Avenue Dublin 9. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ council. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

 

1.         Introduction

 

Ardscoil Rís is a Catholic voluntary secondary school for boys under the trusteeship of the Christian Brothers and subscribes fully to the religious and educational philosophy of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice. The school was founded in 1972 to cater for the educational needs of boys living in the parish of Marino.

 

The current school population of 507 students is drawn from those living in the parish of Marino, brothers of current and past pupils, and sons of past pupils. Enrolment over the past fifteen years has remained steady and often the demand for places has exceeded the annual quota set by the board of management. The school is justifiably proud of its history and tradition as a main education provider for Marino and enjoys the loyalty and support of the families, both past and present, which are associated with the school.

 

Ardscoil Rís has undergone a period of change as a result of the decision by the Christian Brothers to hand on responsibility for their schools to a lay group, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST). This decision has involved a process of reflection and sharing among the school partners in reaching a consensus on the key characteristics that underpin the characteristic spirit of an Edmund Rice School. The ERST charter outlines a vision for an Edmund Rice school that is underpinned by five key elements; nurturing faith, promoting partnership, excelling in teaching and learning, creating a caring school community and inspiring transformational leadership.

 

 

 

2.         The quality of school management

 

2.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The characteristic spirit of Ardscoil Rís reflects the religious and educational philosophy of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice. This is borne out in the mission statement by the focus placed on the academic and personal development of students in a caring and disciplined environment and by the emphasis placed on partnership among the school community. The school prides itself on its Christian and caring ethos that is underpinned by a sense of mutual respect and justice for all.

 

The values and ideals expressed in the mission statement and ethos are lived out through the daily interactions between staff and students, and in the implementation of school policies such as the code of behaviour, anti-bullying and substance use and misuse policies. The wide range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities is an inherent part of the educational programme offered and is instrumental in generating an inclusive community spirit. Excellent collaboration and partnership among the school partners are much in evidence in the daily life of the school.

 

As the ERST charter outlines a clear vision for an Edmund Rice school, it is suggested that the mission statement of Ardscoil Rís be reviewed to encompass all the ideals underpinning the charter. This review should involve collaboration among all members of the school community to cultivate a collective ownership of the re-defined mission statement of Ardscoil Rís. This mission statement should act as a reference point for the school community in the development of school policies and procedures and be included in school documents such as the students’ journal and on the school website.

 

 

2.2          School ownership and management

 

The board of management is constituted in accordance with the Articles of Management for Catholic Secondary Schools. The principal acts as secretary to the board. The current board was established in October 2006. Only three members are newly appointed. This balance of experience and expertise is a valuable asset to the school. The board meets every six to seven weeks. An agenda, a list of correspondence and draft minutes are circulated two weeks prior to each meeting to facilitate effective continuity and preparation between meetings. Decisions are consensus based and there is a good level of co-operation between the trustees and the board in the governance of the school.

 

The board supports the principal in the management of the school. The principal advises the board on matters relating to the operation of the school. These issues are discussed openly at board meetings and expertise is sought when necessary. The role of the board in relation to school development planning is largely confined to discussing school policies when documents are presented at first draft stage before ratification and to reviewing policies when the need arises. The board is committed to and supportive of all that is going on in the school. Board members attend school functions and organise social events for staff as an appreciation of all the very good work that goes on in the school. The key priorities identified by the board are to maintain the Catholic ethos and to continue to improve the physical environment of the school.

 

The board sanctions the appointment of staff to teaching posts and to posts of responsibility. It is commendable that the board, with the support of the school’s senior management team, actively facilitates and encourages staff to participate in appropriate continuous professional development (CPD) courses. Members of staff are released to attend relevant CPD and that the cost of post-graduate courses and membership of professional bodies is subsidised.

 

All members have received some initial training since taking up their role and each member has a copy of the Joint Managerial Body for Secondary School’s (JMB) handbook for boards of management. The board displays an awareness of its roles and responsibilities and statutory obligations. In order to support the board in leading and managing the future development of the school, it is recommended that the board identify their future training needs and plan how to meet these needs.

 

The board has a good working relationship with the senior management team and there is frequent contact between the principal and chair of the board. An agreed report is issued to staff and to the parents’ council after each meeting. There is good communication between the board and the trustees via the education office of the Christian Brothers. In order to improve the effectiveness of communication between the board and the general parent body, the board should establish procedures for informing parents of students on matters in relation to the work of the school. This could be done through the school newsletter Nuacht Ardscoil Rís.

 

The parents’ council of Ardscoil Rís is the oldest parents’ council in the Christian Brothers’ network of schools. The council is a strong and effective partner in the school community and its active involvement in supporting a wide range of school activities is a fine example of effective partnership in the school community. The monthly meetings are very well attended and the presence of the principal at each meeting ensures that there is good communication between two key elements of the school community. A recently appointed post-holder also has a role in liaising with the parents’ council. The parents’ council sees its role as supporting the school in providing a quality education programme for the students. To date its contribution to school life has included raising funds to build and equip a new information and communication technologies (ICT) room and the part funding of a school gymnasium. In order to support students further, the parents’ council, in conjunction with the teaching staff, organise a study skills course and supervises Saturday morning study for exam classes in the third term. Their on-going commitment and support makes a valuable contribution to the quality of educational provision in Ardscoil Rís, a fact that is acknowledged by the board of management, senior management and staff. The parents’ council could consider reviving the practice of contributing to the school newsletter to outline their activities to the general parent body. The school website could be an additional means of communication.

 

The parents’ council was involved in the development of some school policies, usually at first draft stage, and are eager to carve out a more active role in future whole-school development planning. Therefore, it is suggested that a formal arrangement be put in place for the board of management to meet with the parents’ council to provide a forum to discuss issues of common concern.

 

 

2.3          In-school management

 

The fulltime principal of Ardscoil Rís is on secondment to another educational employer since 1998 and as a result the senior management team comprises at present an acting principal and acting deputy principal. Both members of the team were on the staff of Ardscoil Rís prior to their appointments.

 

The principal and deputy principal are committed and dedicated to the school and to maintaining its ethos. They share a common vision for the operation and future development of Ardscoil Rís which is in keeping with the vision of an Edmund Rice school as detailed in the ERST charter. A highly collaborative approach underpins the daily management of the school. The senior management team works closely together in a mutually supportive and efficient manner. The respective roles of principal and deputy are clearly defined in relation to the board, staff, students, parents and the wider community and they devote great time and effort to ensuring that their administrative and managerial duties are carried out to a high standard. The principal attends an annual training day for principals organised by the JMB and cluster meetings for principals from the northern province of Christian Brothers’ schools. In order to support the CPD needs of both the principal and the deputy principal and enhance the sharing and development of leadership roles, it is recommended that the senior management team avail of the Forbairt initiative for established principals and deputy principals organised by the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) programme. Further details are available on the LDS website at www.lds21.ie.

 

The senior management team is very supportive of all staff. The team operates an open-door policy for everyone in the school community and maintains a visible presence both within and around the school grounds. It is obvious that the senior management team is a key influence in cultivating the calm and friendly atmosphere that is very evident in the school.

 

Good communications, both formal and informal, exist between senior management and the rest of the teaching staff. There are regular staff meetings where members of staff can submit items for the agenda. In addition, personal mail boxes, a variety of dedicated staff-room notice boards and announcements at break time ensure that staff is kept informed of relevant issues. Senior management could consider compiling the general information distributed at the beginning of year into a staff handbook. Information such as a copy of the mission statement, school routines and school planning issues, together with a list of the names of post-holders and their respective duties, could be included.

 

The senior management team is supported in the management of the school by a team of nine assistant principals and twelve special-duties teachers. Post-holders are involved in a range of duties that support administration, curriculum development and the pastoral care of students. It is admirable that each post-holder has a job description and there was evidence that the post-holders demonstrate a high level of commitment to the school. The current schedule of post duties has, for the most part, been in place since 1998. Efforts were made to initiate a whole-staff review of the post structure in 2004 but staff voted to allow the senior management team to carry out the review. The appraisal of the continued appropriateness of posts appears largely confined to times when a vacancy arises or is carried out on an ad hoc basis following consultation with individual post-holders. It is praiseworthy that some recent amendments to post duties took cognisance of the skills and aptitudes of existing post-holders, a move that was welcomed by the post-holders who met with the inspectors during the course of the evaluation.

 

On reviewing the duties of the senior management and middle management teams, it appears that consideration needs to be given to the delegation and refinement of some responsibilities to allow time for the further development of sustainable leadership roles that are shared among the whole-school community. In light of the fact that it has been some time since there has been a complete review of post duties, it is recommended that a comprehensive review of the present schedule and operation of posts be carried out. This review could function as a response to the changing needs and key objectives of the school as well as to the priorities identified in the completion of a school plan. The review should be led and monitored by the board of management. In establishing a revised schedule of post duties, particular cognisance must be taken of Department circulars PPT 29/02 and PPT 17/02. Procedures should also be put in place to review systematically the duties attached to each post to ensure that the workload of the post is commensurate with the level of responsibility and to provide an opportunity for each post-holder to have a role in the continued development of their post. This would ensure that the schedule of posts continues to respond effectively to the needs of the school. It is worth noting that the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) can provide expert advice and practical assistance to schools in facilitating this review. Information and other relevant links are available on the SDPI website at www.sdpi.ie.

 

At present the team of assistant principals meets with the principal once or twice a year and it is commendable that an agenda and minutes are provided. No such arrangement exists for special-duties teachers, though the principal meets special-duties teachers on an individual basis. As a means of distributing responsibility and ownership for leading and managing whole-school issues, and of developing a teamwork dimension to the work of post-holders, it is recommended that the senior management team meet in plenary session with the team of assistant principals and team of special-duties teachers at agreed intervals and that a definite agenda is provided.

 

Ardscoil Rís prides itself on being a non-selective school which, in keeping with the vision of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, welcomes, respects and accommodates students from all backgrounds and abilities. The school has an admissions policy that is currently being reviewed. As part of this process, it is recommended that the board of management reviews and amends those aspects of the admissions policy referring to applicants with special education needs, to ensure that all existing legislative requirements have been fully taken into account and to avoid any potential ambiguous interpretation of the policy.

 

School management and staff are committed to ensuring that students work in a safe and respectful environment. This fact is evidenced by comments made at a meeting with the students’ council at which the school was described as being a happy place where a high level of mutual respect characterises all student-teacher interactions. The implementation of policies such as the code of behaviour, anti-bullying and the child protection guidelines support effectively the management and care of students in the school. The student-centred approach adopted in the implementation of these policies makes an important contribution in maintaining positive staff-student relationships. All partners in the school community expressed satisfaction with the code of behaviour which has a clear ladder of referral in-built into the policy. It is suggested that the code of behaviour be included in the student journal.

 

Priority is given to ensuring the regular attendance at school of all students and in accordance with the Education Welfare Act 2000 student attendance is tracked in a number of ways. Form teachers, year heads, the deputy principal and secretarial staff have roles in this regard. The practice of taking a roll call at the beginning of each lesson is particularly commendable as an up-to-date attendance register is vital in the event of an emergency evacuation. Part of a special-duties post has been allocated to the position of attendance officer to monitor the attendance records and make the quarterly reports to the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB).

 

Senior management see good communication between school and parents as a pre-requisite to the effective operation of a school. The open-door policy operated by the senior management team was highly praised by the representatives of the parents’ council who met with the inspectors during the course of the evaluation. General information is communicated through letters, the school newsletter Nuacht Ardscoil Rís and the annual year book. The student journal is another means of communication with parents and its potential should be maximised. Reports on students’ progress are given at parent-teacher meetings and through reports which are issued twice-yearly. There are also additional information evenings for parents of specific year groups. These commendable practices cultivate an active partnership between parents and the school in providing for the education of students in the school.

 

Partnerships with local secondary schools, employers, sports clubs and other organisations have been established and contribute positively to the quality of educational provision. The school is very appreciative of contributions made by parents and past pupils to support the work of the school, provide work experience and participate in school events.

 

 

 

2.4          Management of resources

 

The staffing allocation from the Department of Education and Science for the current year including concessions and ex-quota positions is 34.34 whole-time teacher equivalents. All permanent whole-time teachers are timetabled for at least eighteen hours although few teach the maximum of twenty-two hours. It is commendable that teachers are deployed in line with their subject specialism. However, where members of staff are given a time allocation for co-ordination of programmes or departments, this should be clearly specified on individual timetables. New members of staff are well supported in settling into their new environment. The efforts of the senior management team and individual subject department teams in this regard are commended.

 

Members of staff attend in-service training programmes to support the implementation of revised syllabuses. Relevant personnel are actively participating in the in-service programmes to support the introduction of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and there is on-going interaction with the Transition Year programme (TY) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) support services. Such good practices are commended and encouraged. The fact that a number of staff have completed or are in the process of completing post-graduate courses is another significant asset to the school.

 

Ardscoil Rís has been granted supplementary teacher hours from the Department to cater for the changing needs of the student body. At the time of the evaluation a considerable proportion of these additional hours were not being used for the purposes for which they were allocated to the school. School management needs to address this issue as a matter of urgency to ensure that these additional hours are used effectively and efficiently to benefit the students for whom they were intended.

 

Higher Diploma in Education students are an integral part of the staff in Ardscoil Rís. The deputy principal organises a mentoring programme for the Higher Diploma students to support them as they complete their initial training in teacher education. It is praiseworthy that this programme includes advice and support on classroom management techniques and emphasises the importance of linking with the relevant subject department teaching teams. At present Higher Diploma students are deployed as the subject teacher for the first-year classes to which they are assigned. It is recommended that this practice be reviewed. Best practice indicates that Higher Diploma students should be assigned to a master subject-teacher and should work in close tandem with this teacher throughout the year. This facilitates better continuity for first-year classes as they progress into second year and ensures that there is a subject teacher available to take the classes when the student teacher is unavailable due to college commitments such as end-of-year examinations.

 

Ancillary staff comprises two secretaries, one caretaker and four cleaning staff. Members of the ancillary staff are very positive about their position in the school and acknowledge that their work is recognised by the school community. All members of the ancillary staff are provided with the appropriate resources to enable them to carry out their duties effectively. Their work makes a valuable contribution to the smooth running of the school.

 

The school buildings and grounds are very well maintained. The board of management, parents’ council and students’ council have played key roles in the continued development and upgrading of the school buildings and facilities. Their commitment, efforts and dedication are acknowledged and commended. The original school was built in 1972. A number of building projects have taken place since that time. In the 1980s, dressings rooms, mainly funded by the parents’ council were added. In 1998 an extension consisting of six classrooms, a general purpose area and library was built and in 1999 a state of the art sports hall, which was funded by the Department and the parents’ council, was opened and is an excellent resource for the school.

 

Subject departments do not have fixed budgets but management is committed to maintaining and updating resources, as monies permit, a fact that was acknowledged at the various meetings held with the inspectors during the course of the evaluation. Because of some physical constraints teachers are not allocated base classrooms. This presents certain difficulties with regard to the transport of subject-specific and audio-visual equipment, and in the creation of a stimulating subject-related learning environment for students. While recognising that management and staff have made laudable efforts to address this issue, it may be worthwhile for management to consider, within the context of a full audit of room allocation, the feasibility, within the existing resources and available space, of allocating base classrooms to members of staff to facilitate the creation of some subject-specific rooms. If this is not possible, storage areas for audio-visual equipment should be located at key points on each corridor.

 

During the course of the evaluation the further development of the school library was identified as a priority. School management should consider, where resources permit, expanding the library to include information and communication technologies (ICT) and become a centre of self-directed learning for staff and students. Responsibility for the library could be considered in the context of a review of the schedule of posts.

 

There are three specialist rooms for Science. All the science labs were completely refurbished in 2002 and are maintained to a very high standard. The dust extraction system in the woodwork room was upgraded as per the terms of Department circular M45/01 and the electrics were upgraded to accommodate new machinery. However, during the course of the evaluation the lack of physical space in the Woodwork room was highlighted as a cause of concern. It is recommended that a review of health and safety be carried out in the woodwork room in line with the guidelines provided in the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary schools (2005). An action plan to address the concerns raised needs to be devised by the board of management in consultation with the woodwork teachers, senior management team and the trustees.

 

An ICT room, which was funded by the parents’ council, was built in 2003 and contains is equipped with twenty-six networked computers. In addition, thirty-six laptops were donated to the school. There are some data-projectors also available for staff use. As evidence of the school’s ongoing commitment to the future development of ICT, an ICT co-ordinator has been appointed from the schedule of posts. A draft ICT policy has been drawn up in association with the local ICT co-ordinator and all rooms are being wired for internet access on a phased basis. It is laudable that there is an internet acceptable usage policy in operation for all users of the internet in the school.

 

The health and safety of the school community is a priority for school management. The school’s commitment to health and safety is shown by the appointment of a special-duties teacher to the post of health and safety co-ordinator. The excellent procedures in relation to fire safety are particularly commendable. The whole-school health and safety policy was initially drafted by an external consultant eight to ten years ago and is reviewed internally every year. In light of the refurbishments that have taken place since that time, it is recommended that the board of management make arrangements for an external health and safety consultant to update the existing policy and provide advice on annual risk assessment audits for each area of the school.

 

 

3.         Quality of school planning

 

The principal, in the main, has led the development of the vast majority of whole-school policies that have been ratified since 2000. This process has involved the use of policy templates provided by the Education Centre attached to the Marino Institute of Education which provides advice and support to Christian Brothers’ schools. Some other templates provided by the Department and external support services have also been used. The planning process to date has included the involvement of school partners, normally when the policy is at first draft stage. It is commendable that parents and staff are given a copy of all ratified polices. A special-duties teacher has recently been assigned responsibility for the development of further policies as determined by the Department and there is precedent for using sub-committee structures for drafting some policies. The further use of sub-committees is advocated. To date there has been no formal engagement with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) to facilitate or support the planning process in the school.

 

In order to promote a collaborative and proactive approach among all the school partners to school development planning, it is recommended that the process underpinning the development of school policies be reviewed. A more discreet and identifiable planning team should be appointed to distribute the leadership of school planning and encourage collective ownership of the school development planning. This team should work under the supervision of a school planning co-ordinator. In light of the principal’s already onerous workload, the position of school planning co-ordinator should be part of the schedule of posts of responsibility. Given the size of the school, this position is probably more suitable for the duties of a senior post-holder rather than part of a special-duties post. This could be discussed in the context of the review of posts as recommended in section 2.3.

 

School development planning is a continuous process which provides schools with opportunities to review their achievements and development needs. Future policy development should not be solely determined by the Department or by legislative requirements, but should also arise from a school’s on-going self-evaluative process. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that school management initiates contact with SDPI to facilitate and support future school development planning in Ardscoil Rís.

 

While there is no overarching school plan, good progress has been made in the ratification of whole-school policies, as evidenced by the fact that a total of fifteen policies have been ratified by the board of management since 2000. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

To determine future avenues for school development planning, it is recommended that the board make arrangements for the development of an overarching school plan which clearly states the educational philosophy, aims and priorities of Ardscoil Rís. The first step in this process would be for the board, in consultation with staff and representatives of the parents’ council and students’ council, to carry out an analysis of the school to identify its strengths, challenges and opportunities. This would lead to agreement on the present and future needs of the school and prioritise areas for future development.

From a review of a number of policies during the course of the evaluation some lack of cohesion between policies became evident. In addition, while some policies have been reviewed, this review is carried out on an ad hoc basis as the need arises. Therefore, it is recommended that as policies are being reviewed or developed they are dated and clearly linked to the agreed mission statement of the school. Policy content should be equality proofed and clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in developing and implementing the policy. A specific timeframe for the systematic review of policy content should also be included. Consideration could be given to communicating information on school planning to all parents, perhaps through a school development planning corner in Nuacht Ardscoil Rís.

 

Formal subject department planning began in 2006 and this process is at an early stage of development in Ardscoil Rís. The willingness, generosity and commitment of staff through their engagement with this process are acknowledged. At the time of the evaluation some subject co-ordinators had been appointed as part of a post of responsibility while others were acting in a voluntary capacity. It advocated that the methods of appointment and duties of subject co-ordinators be reviewed and defined. Consideration should be given to extending the system of rotating the co-ordinator to allow each member of subject teams to assume a leadership role in the continued development of their particular subject area. Recommendations for the next phase of subject department planning are outlined in section 5 of this report.

 

 

4.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

4.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Ardscoil Rís offers a broad curriculum with a range of subject options that caters for the current student cohort. Four curricular programmes; Junior Certificate, Transition Year programme (TY), established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) are available in the school. The provision of a number of modern languages and subjects such as Woodwork, Technical Graphics, Construction Studies and Music, as well as a number of science-related and business-related subjects in senior cycle, adds considerably to the breadth of the curriculum offered.

 

Whole-school support for the provision of all subjects is good. Management makes a conscious effort to ensure that there is a good distribution of class contact throughout the week. This laudable practice facilitates effective continuity in teaching and learning. A review of the school timetable indicated that the total weekly instruction time is thirty minutes below the Department’s minimum recommended time of twenty-eight hours. There is an additional shortfall in the instruction time allocated to senior cycle students who are taking the established Leaving Certificate programme. Therefore, a review of the weekly timetable is recommended to address the shortfalls and ensure that the school is fully compliant with the Department’s regulations in respect of the provision of tuition time as outlined in Department circular M29/95.

 

The school operates a system of mixed-ability classes in first year. This commendable practice allows students to develop over the course of the year. Mixed-ability groupings can also help students to become more confident learners. Students are streamed into three discrete ability groups in second and third year. Placement in a particular class for all core subjects is based on a statistical analysis of the results achieved in the summer examinations at the end of first year. While students who perform particularly well in the lower streams may be reassigned at the end of the first term of second year to a higher stream, there was evidence during the evaluation that some students who had been placed in lower streams were very able. In addition, there was no evidence of substantial numbers of students with serious literacy difficulties who might benefit from a banding system. In this context, in order to ensure that all students are challenged at the highest possible level and have the opportunity to develop their skills in a stimulating and supportive mixed-ability environment, it is recommended that the current system of streaming be once again reviewed and discussed in depth at a staff meeting. Consideration should be given to extending mixed-ability classes into second year and to discontinuing the current system of streaming. As an alternative, the practice of concurrent timetabling, that already exists in relation to Junior Certificate Maths could be extended to other subjects. The basis for assigning students into the streamed classes also needs be re-examined, as student attainment in one particular subject area may not necessarily be a reliable indicator of potential achievement in another. In advance of making any decisions, staff may wish to avail of the advice and support on mixed-ability teaching provided by the Second Level Support Service who can be contacted at www.slss.ie.

 

Department guidelines outlined in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools recommend that Physical Education (PE) should be an integral part of junior and senior cycle curricular programmes. It is commendable that all junior-cycle students in Ardscoil Rís have one double period of PE per week. A PE and games programme is offered in senior cycle but there is a significant variation in provision within the various senior-cycle curricular programmes. It is praiseworthy that PE is an integral part of the TY programme. However, while there is good access to Games and coaching as part of the school’s extensive extra-curricular programme, there is no provision for a structured PE programme at Leaving Certificate level. Therefore, it is recommended that the strategies to provide PE at Leaving Certificate level be explored by the board of management, in consultation with the senior management team and relevant staff.

 

The optional TY programme is extremely popular and each year has more applicants than class places available. Management and staff are currently investigating possible solutions to this problem in an effort to provide more places on the TY programme. This commendable initiative is one that is worth pursuing. The TY programme is specifically adapted to meet students’ needs. Extensive planning documentation is in place to support the programme. This documentation is reviewed and amended on an on-going basis. This is good practice. There is a wide variety of modules and activities in the programme and the subject sampling layer serves to inform subject choice in senior cycle. In an effort to provide a broad and balanced holistic education programme for students in transition year, there is very good co-operation with local organisations and other educational establishments. The commitment, enthusiasm and dedication of the TY co-ordinator and the TY teaching team in ensuring the success of this programme are highly commended.

 

Both Leaving Certificate programmes contain a very good range of subjects. Every effort is made to accommodate all students in the optional subjects offered for Leaving Certificate, though on occasion, as exemplified with by Music and Spanish, a subject will not be offered if there is insufficient student demand. The concurrent timetabling of Leaving Certificate Maths, English and Irish is particularly noteworthy. This arrangement recognises and accommodates differing student abilities and talents, and supports students in reaching their full potential in different subject areas.

 

LCVP is becoming an increasingly popular senior-cycle programme in Ardscoil Rís. The programme co-ordinator actively promotes the benefits of the programme to students and makes a presentation at the third-year parents’ evening. Systems are in place to advise students in relation to work experience and their progress is monitored. Some issues regarding the operation of LCVP were highlighted in the course of the evaluation. It was noted by the inspectors that there had been a significant student transfer rate from the LCVP to the established Leaving Certificate programme as evidenced by the variation in the participation rates in the Links Modules at the beginning and end of the LCVP. It is laudable that steps have already being taken to resolve this issue. The LCVP co-ordinator and the senior management team are highly commended for their efforts in this regard. It is important that cognisance is taken of Department circular M 0018/06 in planning all aspects of the LCVP programme. As the timetabling of the Links Module is not fully within the school day, it is further recommended that this be addressed to ensure compliance with circular M0018/06. This timetabling arrangement may also militate against students entering or remaining in LCVP.

 

There is recognition that the potential of ICT to enhance the quality of learning and teaching should be exploited. It is praiseworthy that the ICT co-ordinator intends to carry out a needs analysis of staff to devise an action plan that would address training needs in this area. In order to complement the draft ICT plan already developed, strategies should be explored to maximise the potential of ICT in learning and teaching. It is recommended that the draft ICT plan be developed further by a sub-committee of interested staff to include a strategic plan that demonstrates concrete actions and strategies for utilising and embedding ICT in teaching and learning practice in the school. Expected outcomes and achievements for students in the area of ICT, along with indications as to how these outcomes will be achieved, should be included. This process should inform priorities for future spending in this area as funding becomes available. Further advice and support is available from the National Centre for Technology in Education at www.ncte.ie.

 

 

4.2           Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

A number of measures is are in place to support and advise parents and students in relation to first-year subject choice. The principal and a special-duties teacher visit the feeder schools to meet with sixth-class pupils and teachers. In addition, members of staff and representatives of the students’ council of Ardscoil Rís participate in an information evening held in one of the feeder schools. An information evening is held in the school for the parents or guardians of incoming first years. These good practices provide opportunities to provide information on the curriculum programme offered in the school.

 

All students take eleven examination subjects for the Junior Certificate examination. French, Science and Religious Education are included among the core subjects taken. All junior classes have one class period per week of SPHE which is in line with the provision outlined in Department circular M11/03. Students select two optional subjects at pre-entry stage. The optional subjects are offered on two pre-set bands, (a) Business or Spanish or Woodwork and (b) Business or Music or Technical Graphics. A taster programme was offered in the past but was discontinued for a number of reasons. One reason was that the demand for subjects such as Woodwork exceeded the number of places, given the current level of resources and specialist teaching capacity available. While recognising the contextual factors that exist, a periodic review of first-year bands should be considered and the feasibility of running a taster programme should be investigated. It is good practice that student demand for subjects informs on-going curriculum review in the school. Therefore, if a persistent strong demand for a subject exists, this should be borne in mind when planning capital projects and in the future deployment of staff when a teaching vacancy arises.

 

Third-year students and parents are supported and advised on senior cycle options as part of the guidance programme in the school. It is laudable that an information evening is held for parents to provide information on the various senior cycle curricular programmes. A very student-centred approach to senior cycle options is adopted in the school. Option bands are generated from students’ preferences and every effort is made to facilitate all students in their subject selection and ensure that they have selected subjects suited to their needs. Consideration could be given to the organisation of a subject options seminar for third-year students where presentations are made by each subject department on the content, assessment and career paths of the senior cycle optional subjects.

 

Apart from a module in TY, Art is not on the schedule of subjects studied during the timetabled school day. However, due to local demand, a double class is offered to students who have an interest in Art. Some students have sat the certificate examinations in Art in the Leaving Certificate and in Art, Craft and Design in the Junior Certificate. This class occurs outside normal timetabled hours and there is an additional charge for this service. Management is concerned that it has not to date been able to offer more extensive art and design education to students due to constraints with teacher allocations provided by the Department. The desire to introduce Art as part of all curricular programmes was expressed at meetings held with inspectors. It is seen as a subject that would considerably enhance the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of the curriculum offered in the school. Therefore, all possible avenues should be explored by school management in an effort to establish an art department which can deliver the mainstream post-primary programmes in Art.

 

 

4.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

There is a very extensive range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in Ardscoil Rís. These activities are considered a vital part of the holistic education programme offered in the school and it is obvious that they enrich considerably the programme of education experienced by students. Photographs and mementoes illustrating various extra-curricular activities decorate school corridors. As a further indication of their importance in school life, articles on these events feature prominently in school publications.

 

There is a strong tradition of sport in the school. Students participate in a number of sports such as hurling, gaelic football, basketball, badminton, athletics and golf and have enjoyed participating successfully in local and national competitions. It is laudable that the school encourages all students to become involved in physical activity as evidenced by the creative planning of the annual school sports day. The involvement of staff and parents in leading, coaching and supporting teams is indicative of the inclusive spirit evident in the school and their commitment to the students is acknowledged and commended.

 

Highlights in the extra-curricular programme include the very successful Cadenza talent competition and an annual performance by the drama group. These activities allow many students to showcase their talents. School trips are an integral of school life and it is commendable that there are effective procedures in place for the supervision and organisation of such trips.

 

Co-curricular activities are offered in a wide range of areas such as: English and Irish debating, public speaking, Gaisce awards, drama club, science club and participation in subject-specific field trips and competitions. Of particular note is the fact that a variety of activities are organised to cater for the needs of students who have a particular talent or interest in an area, as evidenced by student participation in the Young Scientist Competition and the Maths Olympiad in Dublin City University. Students are also involved in producing high quality school magazines such as the annual Ardscoil Rís Yearbook. These activities are highly commended as they broaden students’ knowledge, skills, experience and ultimate enjoyment of learning. The efforts, commitment, generosity of time and innovation displayed by staff in providing such a wide range of activities are highly laudable. The efforts of parents in supporting this work is also acknowledged and commended. This work is recognised and highly valued by the board of management, parents’ council and students of Ardscoil Rís.

 

Management and staff actively encourage all students to participate in the extra-curricular and co-curricular programme and there is recognition that these activities generate an inclusive school community, enrich student learning experiences, foster student leadership skills and reinforce positive relationships among students and staff. Positive links with outside agencies such as the local GAA club and local businesses are cultivated through the programme of activities. Of particular note is the co-operation that exists between the local all-girls secondary schools in the hosting of events as exemplified in this year’s production by the drama club. This good practice is encouraged.

 

 

5.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

5.1          Planning and preparation

 

Formal subject department planning is in the initial stages of development in Ardscoil Rís. Good progress has been achieved to date and teachers are keen to build on the spirit of collegiality and collaboration that has been established.

 

A review of the planning documentation presented during the evaluation demonstrated that the various subject plans were at different stages of advancement. Some subject departments had devised and documented quite detailed plans, designed to guide and inform the teaching and learning of all year groups. In other departments, the work had focused on agreeing and providing a common programme for first-year students. It is recommended that, in the future, collaborative planning documents used in a particular year group would serve as a good model for planning for all other year groups. Subject plans should be reviewed regularly and updated and should address matters of skills acquisition and learning outcomes in addition to referring to syllabus content.

 

Scheduled meeting time needs to be provided to facilitate formal departmental meetings. All teachers should have a copy of the relevant subject plan or ready access to an electronic folder in which such documents could be stored and updated as appropriate. It is recommended that, in seeking to further the planning process, the various subject departments should obtain advice and support from the SDPI. Information on the assistance offered by this body may be accessed, in the first instance, at www.sdpi.ie. It is worth noting that the subject-specific support services that form part of the Second Level Support Service and of professional teacher associations may also prove useful points of contact for subject departments.

 

A high level of individual short-term planning and preparation was in evidence in all subject areas evaluated.

 

 

5.2          Teaching and learning

 

The overall standard of teaching and learning in the lessons observed was high. The commitment of the teachers to teaching their students well was much in evidence. This was exemplified in the first instance by the effective classroom management skills of the teachers which ensured that the pace and structure of the lessons progressed as planned. In keeping with good teaching practice a variety of methodologies was employed during the course of the lessons to help consolidate student learning. There was a good rapport between teachers and students. The engagement of the students with the lesson material was demonstrated by their active participation in the class lessons. It is recommended that the practice of informing students of the aims and the expected learning outcomes of the lesson be stated at the outset in order to provide them with a clear understanding of the purpose of the lesson. This recommended practice was observed in a number of lessons but should be universally adopted. Consideration might also be given to setting aside time at the end of the lesson to enable the students to reflect on what they have learned.

 

The advance readiness of the lessons enabled the teachers to engage the students in the ways intended. The teachers guided their students towards a greater understanding of the lesson material and the enhancement of their skills. The teachers spoke knowledgeably about the lesson topics and there was sustained use of the target language in the designated, language-specific lessons. Good use was made of teaching aids such as photocopied handouts, audio-visual equipment, overhead transparencies, the students’ textbooks, art materials and food ingredients to provide stimulating foci for the students’ study of the lesson topics. It is advocated that teachers continue to explore the use of audiotapes of plays in the students’ study of dramatic texts and recorded materials of current interest from the broadcast media in developing the students’ aural skills and in augmenting their vocabulary. 

 

The integration of active learning methodologies into the structure of the class lessons is commended. The questioning techniques of the teachers helped to consolidate students’ knowledge of the lesson material including linkage, where it was deemed relevant, with material studied in previous lessons. In addition, the addressing of questions to the class and to named individuals was used to encourage students to express their opinions in the language of the lesson. The classroom board was used effectively to highlight key points and words that emerged during the course of the lessons observed but there were some opportunities to impact on student learning in this way that were overlooked. The teachers should also ensure that the sequence of points recorded on the classroom board remains clear to the students as the volume of displayed information increases.

 

Good use was made of group work in a number of lessons, where the students worked together in pairs or small groups on particular tasks. Again, the development of the students’ oral skills was often a central purpose of this activity. Individual teachers included time for the student groups to report back to the entire class and this practice is encouraged. It can give a greater sense of completion to the task and clearly helps to encourage students to develop their oral skills. It is important too, that clear instructions and a timeframe be given before group work begins. The setting of sketching, written and reading tasks for students was also used effectively to impact on student learning and develop their skills. It is recommended that strategies continue to be explored in addressing the concern expressed by some teachers regarding the best means of reinforcing accuracy in students’ written work.

 

The teachers constantly sought to support and enhance student learning. Among the innovative approaches adopted was role play which enabled the students to link the task to their own experiences and to express their everyday speech in the target language of the lesson. In another instance, the preparation of the food ingredients was conducted in the target language of the lesson and the activity ensured that the students’ interest in the lesson was maintained. The combined use of the classroom board and pictorial aids was observed being used effectively to help students acquire and apply the vocabulary necessary to discuss poetic themes and emotions. In a number of cases the teaching of grammar was interwoven into the work of the students in order to achieve the desired learning outcome. Such creative thinking is always to be encouraged and in turn offers encouragement that ways can always be found to ensure the participation of all students in the class lesson. Where such challenges exist it is strongly recommended that a wide range of classroom methodologies and resources be continually explored until the situation is resolved.

 

The setting of homework helped to ensure that the students’ knowledge of the lesson material was consolidated and served to demonstrate the importance of homework in the students’ study of the coursework. The thought given to setting the students’ tasks that required them to reflect on how they were to apply their knowledge of the lesson in completing the homework task is laudable. The extent to which the display of posters and print-rich materials in the classroom has been undertaken is further encouraged in order to stimulate the students’ interest.  

 

 

5.3          Assessment

 

Assessment is an inherent part of teaching and learning in Ardscoil Rís. Students sit house examinations at Christmas and summer. Third-year and sixth-year students take mock examinations in the spring. Teachers maintain records of students’ achievement and parents are kept informed of their sons’ progress through the school reports, the school journal and annual parent-teacher meetings.

 

Some very good examples of incorporating a variety of assessment modes into summative assessment procedures were evident. The provision of orals in the house examinations for all relevant subjects would enhance the excellent work being done in the written areas. This could be done informally during class time.

 

Homework policy varies across different subject areas but some very good practice was evident with regard to the setting and monitoring of homework assignments. Very good teacher feedback was given to students in many of the classes inspected. This feedback informed students on their progress and affirmed work well done. This practice is encouraged as it enhances learning by informing students about their own individual progress, highlights areas for improvement and ultimately challenges and assists students to reach their full potential. Further information on Assessment for Learning (AfL) is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website at www.ncca.ie.

 

In the next phase of subject department planning, it is recommended that each subject department develop and implement an agreed homework and assessment policy. This policy should focus on the variety of assessment modes used in summative examinations and the development of assessment criteria. The criteria used in the State examinations should inform these procedures. State examinations marking schemes, chief advising examiner reports and other subject-specific guidelines issued by the State Examinations Commissions can inform this work and are useful sources of advice for teachers and students. This information is available at www.examinations.ie. Discussions should also centre on the type and regularity of homework given and the role of the teacher and student in the production and subsequent monitoring of assigned work. In subjects where homework is regularly assigned, a small minority of students are careless about doing it. A consistently applied policy on homework is necessary to deal with this issue in order to emphasise to students and their parents that homework is a valuable part of the learning process across all subjects, at all levels, for all students.

 

 

 

6.         Quality of support for students

 

6.1          Students with special educational needs

 

The learning-support department was established two years ago. This is a commendable and important initiative in expanding the school’s capacity to meet the needs of students.

 

Ardscoil Rís has a learning-support teacher allocation of eleven hours. In the context of Department circular PPT 01/05 an additional allocation of 19.6 resource hours has been granted to the school for the current academic year. The learning-support programme in junior and senior cycle is delivered by a committed teaching team which comprises one qualified learning-support teacher, who is the co-ordinator, and two teachers.

 

Good progress has been made in setting up the learning-support department. There is one designated learning-support room. Classes also have use of the library and the computer room. School management is very supportive of the continued development and resourcing of this department. The learning-support team is currently building up a bank of specialist resources and to date some good progress has been made. To build on this work, four dedicated computers will be installed in the learning-support room in the near future, as resources become available. This is a commendable initiative as ICT and the associated specialist software can be an effective tool in supporting students with particular learning needs.

 

Students in receipt of learning support are identified and selected by means of in-house testing as well as consultation with parents and with other members of staff. First-year students are assessed prior to entry for potential learning difficulties using diagnostic tests for learning. This good practice allows for advance planning for resources to meet the needs of students who may require additional support. In addition, in October of their first year, students are assessed further to ensure the identification of students in need of learning support and plan accordingly. Good systems are in place to store records of tests results in accordance with Department circular M23/05.

 

It was reported during the evaluation that there can be occasional difficulties in obtaining information to support students’ applications for additional support as they transfer into secondary school. It is vital the school has access to all of the relevant information and professional documentation to assess how student needs can be met and, where necessary, apply to the Department for additional resources. The precedent set for the learning-support co-ordinator to liaise with feeder schools in consultation with parents is a worthwhile venture that should be explored.

 

There are a small number of students currently in receipt of learning support. The learning-support programme focuses on the development of literacy and numeracy skills. The programme is delivered through the establishment of small class groups, as exemplified in senior cycle Maths, as well as one-to-one or group withdrawal. It was reported that some students and their parents did not support the practice of withdrawal from mainstream classes to participate in a learning-support programme. To overcome this difficulty, the learning-support department would like to extend the modes of delivery of the learning-support programme. This initiative is encouraged as a means of embedding learning support further into the educational profile of the school. Team teaching or in-class support could be considered as alternative modes of delivery. As learning support is at a formative period of development in the school, any changes should be initially evaluated on a pilot basis.

 

At the time of the evaluation the resource hours allocated to the school were not deployed for the purposes for which they were intended. While it is acknowledged that some contact has been made with parents in this regard, it is recommended that the deployment of resource hours be urgently reviewed. School management, in consultation with the parents of students who have resource hours, the Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO) and the learning-support co-ordinator must explore a means to ensure that all students who are allocated resource hours derive benefit from them.

 

The progress of individual students is tracked through monitoring the in-house examination results, feedback from individual teachers and the on-going observations of the learning-support team. This information is used to refine student support and maximise their inclusion with regular class groups. This is commendable as good practice dictates that students in receipt of learning support be re-assessed on an on-going basis to refine support needs as appropriate. As part of the systems that are being established by the learning-support co-ordinator, it was noted positively that a referral system was introduced this year, 2006/2007, as a means of formalising communication with other staff. This system allows staff to express concerns about individual student progress and highlight cases where additional support may be required.

 

There is a draft policy for learning support which is in the very early stages of development. It is recommended that this policy is reviewed and finalised by a sub-committee of relevant staff. The Department is at the final stages of preparing guidelines for post-primary schools on the inclusion of students with special education needs. This document will be a useful support in informing the future development of a learning-support policy. The draft policy for learning support should be circulated to management, staff and representatives of parents and students for consultation and ratified as soon as it practicable. This policy should be up-dated regularly, and amended to allow for necessary changes.

 

Programme plans for students are generally based on the content of the syllabuses in English and Maths. It is essential that close contact is maintained between the relevant subject departments and the learning-support team to co-ordinate and plan this work. The learning-support team keep individual records in relation to the work they cover. The learning-support department recognises the need to develop and implement individual learning plans for students. This should be a priority as the learning-support department moves forward. Good practice suggests that students in receipt of additional support have individual learning plans. The assessment of the individual student learning outcomes identified in the learning plans will further refine the additional support necessary. The meeting time allocated to the learning-support team should be used each week to progress this work and review student progress. There should be an agenda and records kept of each meeting. As individual education plans (IEPs) are due to become a mandatory as part of the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act 2004, the development of individual learning plans for students with special education needs is an important precursor to this event. Further advice and information on the IEP process is available in Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process. This publication is available from the National Council for Special Education Needs, 1-2 Mill Street, Trim, Co. Meath.

 

Contact is maintained with relevant external agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the SENO, and the relevant sections of the Department. It is commendable that whole-staff CPD on differentiation was provided by personnel from the St. Mary’s College of Education, Rathmines. In order to facilitate further a whole-school approach to supporting students with special education needs. It is recommended that CPD in the general area of special needs education, learning and literacy support be made available to all staff. Further information and advice is available from the Special Education Support Service (www.sess.ie) and the Second Level Support Service (www.slss.ie).

 

 

6.2          Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

 

School management and staff support the effective participation of students who are socially disadvantaged. There is discreet handling of cases where students are in need of extra support. Practical assistance towards the cost of school books, trips and other fees charged is given on a confidential basis. Management and staff are commended for the sensitive manner in which all cases are handled. As the admissions policy is currently under review, it is recommended that the section in relation to the charging of administration and annual registration fees is reviewed. While it is acknowledged that in cases of financial hardship the school applies a waiver for these fees, the current wording of this section of the admissions policy is not fully reflective of the spirit of inclusiveness that is evident in the school.

 

The school has enrolled a number of international students, most of whom are confident in English and do not require additional language support. However, in cases where additional support is required, the learning-support co-ordinator, who has a qualification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) organises a programme of support. 

 

 

6.3          Guidance

 

Ardscoil Rís has an ex-quota guidance allocation of .77 of a whole-time teacher equivalent. This allocation will be increased next year in accordance with the Department circular PPT 12/05.

 

Good facilities are available for Guidance. A large classroom provides a designated space to facilitate Guidance classes, one-to-one sessions with students or parents and also to display and store guidance materials. A section of this room is suitably equipped as an office space for the guidance counsellor. This room has recently been equipped with a computer that has internet access and sixth-year students have weekly access to the ICT room. Notice boards are also provided on corridors to display information for students

 

The guidance programme provides personal and career counselling and the timetable for guidance reflects a good balance between the provision of group and one-to-one sessions with students. There is a clearly established referral system in operation and students can also self-refer. Where appropriate, referrals to outside agencies are arranged by the school.

 

Every effort is made to provide a guidance and counselling service for all students and this is indicative of the caring ethos of the school. However, the balance of guidance provision is weighted in favour of senior cycle students. The guidance department and management recognise this fact and plan to address this imbalance in the context of the increased allocation for Guidance next year. First-year students complete a study skills course as part of the SPHE programme. The cross-curricular approach adopted in this instance is commended and could be explored further to assist junior cycle students with career exploration. Third-year students complete the DATS, a fact that was commended by the parents’ council representatives who met with the inspectors. Students are also advised on the senior cycle programmes and subject options and are provided with practical advice on summer courses that could be useful to them.

 

The guidance counsellor has no active role in the assessment of incoming first-year students. It is recommended that this be reviewed within the context of the increased guidance allocation. Consideration could also be given to organising a schedule of meetings with parents of incoming first-year students prior to their transfer to the school to assist the new entrants in their transition to secondary school and obtain information regarding the specific educational needs of the students. The role of the guidance programme in identifying and meeting the needs of exceptionally able students as they progress through the school should also be considered.

 

It is commendable that Guidance is an integral part of the TY programme. Leaving Certificate students are very well supported in the area of career guidance and there are good links with third-level colleges. All sixth-year classes are timetabled for one guidance period per week but there is some imbalance in the class contact time for fifth-year students. This should be kept under review. The guidance counsellor should have an active role in the delivery of related areas of the Links Module of the LCVP.

 

The need to develop a whole-school guidance plan as recommended in Department circular PPT 12/05 is recognised by management and the guidance department. This plan is at a very early stage of development. It is recommended that the guidance department with the assistance of other relevant staff should develop a draft plan. Further advice on this area of school planning is available in Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004), and Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act 1998. The draft plan should be circulated to management, staff and representatives of parents and students for consultation and ratified as soon as it practicable. This plan should be updated regularly and amended to allow for necessary changes.

 

Parents are assisted to understand the range of supports provided by the school through presentations at the various information nights and the guidance counsellor meets by appointment with any parents who may wish to discuss any aspects of careers or the personal concerns of their children.

 

 

6.4          Pastoral care

 

The pastoral care of students is seen as being the responsibility of all staff in Ardscoil Rís. Key policies that relate to the care of students are being implemented. These include the code of behaviour, anti-bullying, substance misuse and a number of student protection policies. As a further support to students, it is recommended that a critical incidents policy be drafted by a sub-committee of relevant personnel, circulated for consultation with the school community and ratified by the board as soon as is practical. The publication Responding to Critical Incidents which is available from NEPS provides useful advice in this area.

 

A network of support structures is in place to manage the care of students in the school and there is good informal communication between all staff involved. A desire to develop a more formalised and integrated pastoral care structure was expressed at meetings held with the inspectors. This would be very much in keeping with the vision and characteristic spirit of the school. Therefore, it is recommended that an overarching pastoral care policy be documented in order to formalise the good work already being done and ensure that a systematic approach is taken to the care of students in the school. The formation of a core pastoral care team is advocated to provide a forum where the year heads, guidance counsellor and learning-support co-ordinator could meet with senior management to identify and plan a co-ordinated and integrated approach to meeting the needs of the students in their care.

Year heads and form teachers are an important tier of the pastoral care system. It is praiseworthy that year heads and form teachers move with their groups as they progress through the school. Form teachers have a pastoral role and are appointed to classes on a voluntary basis. The invaluable contribution and commitment of form teachers in supporting students and year heads was acknowledged by senior management and year heads, and is commended. All year heads hold assistant principal posts. The job description for this post includes a combination of administrative, disciplinary and pastoral duties, though it was reported that in practice the administrative tasks take up considerable time. The commitment displayed by year heads in carrying out this work is acknowledged. Year heads meet with senior management once or twice a year and an agenda and minutes are provided for these occasions. To build on the good work already evident, senior management should meet on a more regular basis with the team of year heads to discuss issues and consider recommendations for the future development of the key role of year head. In-service training on the role of year head, which is available from a variety of sources, can make a valuable contribution in enabling a school community to meet the challenges and responsibilities of this key position. This could be planned as part of a school planning day.

 

Year heads remain in close contact with students on a daily basis yet there is no tradition of regular assemblies. In order to cultivate and nurture a sense of year-group identity, the scheduling of dedicated year-group assemblies should be considered. Other initiatives to promote a year-group identity could include the provision of dedicated year-group notice boards to celebrate and acknowledge year-group activities.

 

The spiritual development of students is supported effectively by a comprehensive calendar of liturgical services, school retreats and the provision of religious education lessons. This work is supported effectively by a local curate, who acts as a part-time chaplain to the school. The oratory is a great asset to the school and acts as a focal point for the whole-school community. In order to promote a caring community, students are involved in a range of local and international charity work. The efforts of management, staff, students and parents in this work are recognised.

 

A caring, supportive and positive approach is taken to supporting students in Ardscoil Rís. This manifests itself in many ways. Members of staff give generously of their time in supporting a wide range of curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities outside class time. While the school does not have the resources of a full-time chaplain, a member of staff, with a post-graduate qualification in chaplaincy works with students in on a voluntary basis. It was noted positively that the school promotes positive behaviour and co-operation of students through the annual award ceremonies.

 

A students’ council was established eight years ago and is advised and supported effectively by a designated liaison teacher. There is a constitution in place that is reviewed and refined on a regular basis. At present membership of the students’ council is confined to senior cycle students. The teaching staff selects the final membership, though sixth-year students will be included in the voting system next year. It is recommended that the constitution of the students’ council is reviewed in consultation with staff in an effort to make membership and the election of representatives to the council as inclusive as possible. The council is a dynamic and very active partner in the school community. Members have received training for their role and have met with other student councils in the area to exchange ideas and offer mutual support. The council aims to represent students’ concerns and support school activities. It has been instrumental in the promotion of healthy eating among students and has organised a number of fundraising activities. The council plans an impressive calendar of events and carries out all aspects of their business in a very professional and systematic manner, a fact that is recognised and commended by the management and staff of the school. From discussions held with the inspectors during the course of the evaluation it was evident that student representatives are well informed, articulate, mature and are committed to the continued development of Ardscoil Rís. All aspects of their work are highly commended.

 

Good relationships exist between the students and the ancillary staff who give help and support to students and contribute positively to the caring and friendly atmosphere that permeates the school.

 

 

7.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

8.         Related subject inspection reports

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

                                                    School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    

 

On behalf of the Board of Management of Árdscoil Rís I welcome the positive reports received in our recent Whole School Evaluation.  The WSE has been an enriching experience for our school.  I would like to thank the Inspectorate for their professionalism and the thorough nature of the evaluation. 

 

The recognition of the diligence and hard work of the staff is most welcome and deserving.  We appreciate that the report highlights the caring and friendly atmosphere that permeates our school.  The acknowledgement of the fact that so many teaching staff give willingly and generously of their time is an indication of the thorough nature of the evaluation.  The strong affirmation given to the management, teachers and staff at our school is most welcome and appreciated.

 

The WSE report confirms the striving for excellence in all the activities of our school.

 

 

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

 

The Board of Management is mindful of all its responsibilities and so in the coming months and years it will, in consultation with the whole school community of teachers, parents, students and non teaching staff, prioritise the various findings and recommendations of the report implementing what it sees as the most important and manageable issues immediately and working its way through others in time.