An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Coláiste na Trócaire, Rathkeale

County Limerick

Roll number: 76061W

 

Date of inspection: 24 October 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Coláiste na Trócaire was undertaken in October, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in four subjects was evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section 7 for details). The board of management 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.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Coláiste na Trócaire is a co-educational, multi-denominational Model Agreement Community College under the joined trusteeship of Co. Limerick Vocational Education Committee and the Sisters of Mercy. The school which resulted from the amalgamation of Rathkeale Vocational School and Scoil Bhanríon na hEagna opened in 1995. It is situated on land adjoining the old Vocational school and incorporates some of its buildings thus the sprawling design of the campus. Current enrolment in the school is 429 students which marks an increase in enrolment over the past five years. The school’s catchment area is large extending to Knockaderry, Ballingarry, Granagh, Kilfinny, Croagh and Cappagh. The student population is drawn from the primary schools in the town and from seventeen feeder schools in surrounding parishes.

 

The school is an integral part of the life of the local community and active partnership in a spirit of mutual support characterises the school’s relationship with the wider community. The provision of adult education classes, the school’s work experience programme, local sponsorship and support for school events and the school’s involvement in community projects are indicative of this positive relationship.   

 

Believing that there is strength in diversity the school has an open, non-selective enrolment policy that strives to cater for all its students who come from a variety of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds with a diverse range of academic abilities. The school with the active support of the VEC has commendably attempted to address these challenges through its broad curricular provision, its learning support service and extensive pastoral care system. School management and staff repeatedly articulated the ongoing challenges faced in seeking to engage and retain its present cohort of Traveller students as well as the anticipated increase in Traveller enrolment following the return of transient Traveller families to Rathkeale from the end of October. Thirty-eight Traveller students are enrolled in the school however only a small number of these are actually in attendance. The school is proactively developing strategies to assist with the successful retention, integration and inclusion of these students. The intervention strategies employed to bring about these developments will require a multi-faceted approach that takes cognisance of the academic, social, pastoral, disciplinary and cultural needs of all students in this school. The work of the school and the collaborative efforts of the recently established inter-agency forum the Rathkeale Attendance Tracking and Monitoring Committee are commended for their efforts in seeking to tackle some of the main issues. The school also embraces diversity through the number of student exchanges with European schools and through its supports for students for whom English is an additional language.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The characteristic spirit enshrined in the school’s mission statement is ‘committed to fostering the development of the whole person, in partnership with parents and guided by Christian values and principles, in an environment that is happy, caring and enriching’. Student care is of paramount importance in the school. The many pastoral structures available to support students bear testimony to its strong pastoral ethic. The parents’ association commented very favourably on the caring nature of the school, the very good relationships between teachers and students and the high levels of partnership and co-operation between home and school. The students’ council described the school as a friendly and welcoming place and described their teachers as being most supportive and approachable. The chaplain promotes the spiritual ethos of the school through various liturgical celebrations throughout the year. The spiritual care of students is also catered for through the school’s RE programme.

 

The mission statement informs the work of the school and guides the development of school policies, practices and day-to-day activities. The broad range of subjects and curricular programmes on offer are indicative of the school’s vision in seeking to cater for the needs of students of diverse backgrounds, cultures and abilities. The school has a strong sense of pride in the extensive range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities which promotes a broad spectrum of learning experiences and welcomes students from abroad into the school. The voluntary participation of staff in many of these activities reflects the school’s commitment to promoting students’ holistic development and celebrating their many and varied talents. A supportive and positive relationship characterises the school’s communication with the local community.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

The board of management is properly constituted and consists of three nominees of the Vocational Education Committee, three nominees of the religious trustees, two teachers and two parent representatives. The principal acts as secretary to the board. Strong links are maintained with the trustees by their presence on the board and by ongoing communication with senior management in relation to school matters.

 

The board is in its second year of three year tenure. Considerable continuity and expertise is evident on the board as all members apart from the two parents representatives have served on previous boards. The board is well informed of its role, functions and statutory obligations through the provision of A Handbook for Vocational Education Committees and Boards of Management of Schools and Community Colleges. Most of the members have undergone training organised by County Limerick VEC. It is recommended that board members who are new to the role should access relevant training to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities more effectively.

 

The board meets at least five times a year and other meetings are arranged as deemed necessary. These meetings are well attended and are minuted. Whilst the staff and parents’ association receive an oral report of board meetings from the principal it is recommended that an agreed written report be provided for the teacher and parent nominees which should then be disseminated to their respective nominating bodies. The board has established procedures for the production of an annual report on the operation and performance of the school. It is recommended that this report be developed in line with the comprehensive template provided by the VEC in August 2008.

 

The board regards itself as a vital partner in education and is committed to the further development of the school. The board has a very good working relationship with in-school management and displays strong support for teachers and the programme of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities carried out in the school. Board members attend major school events. Matters presented to the board are discussed at length and decisions at board level are reached by consensus and taken in the best interests of the welfare of students. Whilst policy development is initiated at staff level the board has a role in examining such polices prior to ratification to ensure that they comply with relevant legislation. The board has identified a number of priorities for school development which include the successful introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme, the further development of school planning, teaching and learning, enhancement of school facilities in particular the school gymnasium, the development of the role of middle management and the successful transfer, engagement and retention of Traveller students. It is recommended that the board produce a written statement of their vision for school development in each of these areas. The board in consultation with senior management and middle management should select over the short, medium and long-term priority areas for school development. This will provide a focus and a framework for more strategic school planning within specific timeframes. In relation to each developmental area the key objectives should be outlined in tandem with appropriate timeframes for their attainment. Such objectives will also provide a vehicle for review and evaluation of progress as well as identifying obstacles to success in areas prioritised. This work should then dictate the agenda for future school development planning.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The senior management team members work in a collaborative manner and displays commitment and dedication in their work. They both share a common vision for the school. At the heart of this vision is their commitment to the holistic development of students in a caring and supportive environment. The enhancement of the school as a learning community and improved learning outcomes for students is integral to this vision. This focus is evident in the schools ongoing practice of curricular review resulting in the introduction of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) in 2005 and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme in 2008. The principal and deputy principal carry out their management roles effectively and have accessed training for their respective roles. Whilst both have defined areas of responsibility they also share a number of common duties. They have a visible presence around the school which enables them to stay in touch with all aspects of school life. As part of the current review of the post structure it is an opportune time to review the duties assigned to the senior management team. This review should provide for the reduced involvement of the principal in the day-to-day running of the school so that more time and action can be invested in the leadership dimension of the role to oversee the progression and achievement of school development objectives.  This provision will assist senior management in driving forward the vision and developmental priorities of the school in a strategic manner. The senior management team meets at the end of the day to discuss school matters. It is suggested that they meet each morning to plan and assign the individual work for the day ahead.

 

The work of the senior management team is complemented and supported by the range of responsibilities undertaken by middle management. Significant areas of responsibility have been distributed to post holders who are making a pivotal contribution to the management structure of the school. It is good to note that staff members feel empowered in their roles and that concerted efforts are made to assign duties on the basis of individual interest and expertise. The school has six assistant principals who have year head responsibilities, are members of the disciplinary committee and also serve as task group planning facilitators. It is recommended that the outstanding work on the brief of the year head be finalised immediately. A programme co-ordinator has also been appointed. Ten other teachers take responsibility for a wide range of special duties. The valuable and significant contribution of non-post holders is also acknowledged.

 

A whole staff review of post holders’ responsibilities is ongoing for some time now with the planned completion of this process within the next few months. Senior management is commended for taking the initiative to review the posts and for involving all staff in the identification of the school’s future needs in this area. The review has identified within the special duties posts a number of areas of responsibility that are no longer meeting the current needs of the school. It is recommended that a realignment of duties with the identified needs of the school be implemented in the immediate future. The co-ordination of information and communication technologies (ICT) and the coordination of special educational needs as identified by school staff should be given consideration within the post structure as soon as is practicable. Given the current planning context of the school it is advised that a planning co-ordinator be appointed and that this position be reflected in the post structure as a single central area of responsibility. This should ensure that planning for the strategic development of the school is always a priority over the short, medium and long term. Teachers reported that in almost all cases the workload attaching to posts was in the main fair and equitable and commensurate with the level of responsibility. It is recommended that any identified imbalances be addressed as part of the review.

 

In Coláiste na Trócaire there is a strong culture of promoting the professional development of a learning community within the school. The staff is actively encouraged and facilitated to attend in-service courses. Where it is not possible for all teachers to attend continuing professional development (CPD) courses it is suggested that in-school in-service takes place to share the learning with the rest of the staff.  Whole-staff development days have been organised to inform practice across a range of areas including the JCSP, assessment for learning (AfL), whole school and subject department planning and classroom management. These provisions are commended as staff and students alike benefit. The VEC has developed a CPD policy whereby teachers are encouraged to develop a career plan in consultation with the school principal which may then be supported and facilitated within the VEC.

 

There are a number of appropriate mechanisms in place to facilitate regular and effective communication with the staff. There are two staff notice boards which are updated each morning to reflect daily activities and planned events over the course of the week. Staff meetings are held on a regular basis throughout the year and all staff members have the opportunity to input into the agenda. In addition, announcements and briefings also occur during break times as the need arises.

 

Good communication procedures have been established with the parent body. The Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) teacher plays a vital role in developing relationships and maintaining contact with parents through home visits and phone calls. The school diary is an important avenue of ongoing communication with parents and its effectiveness is highly regarded by all teaching staff. It is commendable that the school has designed the school diary appropriate to its own context. The school keeps parents informed about a range of issues through regular letters home, school reports, parent-teacher meetings and open nights. A school newsletter is issued about three times a year and keeps parents and the wider community updated on school news. School events also regularly feature in the local newspapers. To further facilitate communication with parents and the wider community consideration is being given to the development of a school web site in consultation with County Limerick VEC. This development is encouraged.

 

The management of students is facilitated through the school’s code of behaviour, the class referral system and the various pastoral care structures in place to support students. The discipline referral system commences with the class teacher and proceeds via the class tutor to the year head and ultimately to senior management. The year heads have responsibility for the welfare of a year group of students and act as links with the school and home, the students, class teachers and senior management. They are effectively supported by the class tutor system which is an integral layer of the class referral system. The discipline referral system is colour coded in line with the seriousness of the offence. This approach is pre-emptive in nature and at each layer of the system students are afforded further chances to improve their behaviour and are positively encouraged to do so.  For students presenting with more challenging behaviour it is recommended that ways of building self-esteem and developing self-management skills are explored. It was reported that the code of behaviour is due for review in line with Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools (2008 National Educational Welfare Board publication). As part of this review it is recommended that the code of behaviour be shortened and presented in a more user friendly format to enhance its accessibility for all. It is also recommended that the code be streamlined to reflect the specific disciplinary procedures operational in the school. The code should also outline the student supports that parallel the class referral system and should also encompass a more positive approach to discipline through the acknowledgement of good behaviour. In this regard it is encouraged that the school give consideration to the introduction of a merit award system or other rewards to promote and affirm good behaviour.

 

School attendance is recorded and monitored in a systematic manner by class teachers and year heads. Returns made to the NEWB were provided to the evaluation team. It is evident from this documentation that almost 24 per cent of students are absent for twenty or more days which is above the national average as set out in the Analysis of School Attendance Data 2004/05 published by the NEWB. The school has an attendance strategy to respond to school non-attendance which provides a focus on informing parents and the NEWB as the number of days absent increases. This practice is commended. As school non attendance is an issue for some students whole school strategies should be developed to address this problem. The development of a school attendance policy as an articulated priority area for school planning in the current academic year should give consideration to pastoral involvement in supporting student attendance. It is recommended that a reward system acknowledging improved and good attendance be also included in the measures adopted to enhance attendance. The engagement of Traveller students poses a significant challenge for management and staff and a focus group has been established to address this issue. There are forty Traveller students enrolled in the school, however only thirteen of these are currently attending. The Visiting Teacher for Travellers (VTT) works closely with the school in supporting and promoting Traveller student attendance and is commended for her commitment. The Rathkeale Tracking and Monitoring Committee is developing targeted strategies to deal with non-attendance and their work will be of further support to the school community. The Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) was introduced to support students at risk of early school leaving including Traveller students and has a crucial role to play in enabling students of all ability levels to experience success and achievement in school. It is thus recommended that the delivery of the JCSP be carefully planned and appropriately tailored to effectively engage students in their learning according to their abilities. This provision should positively impact on student attendance.

 

The students’ council was initially established in Coláiste na Trócaire in 2003. Since its inception the students’ council has been an effective voice for students and has made a positive contribution to the life of the school. There is currently a junior council consisting of first year and second year students and an executive council comprising third year and senior cycle students. An executive council member serves as a liaison person between the two councils and thus junior issues are appropriately communicated and highlighted. The current executive council has advanced many issues in consultation with senior management and implemented positive change in the school such as the introduction of computers in first year and the establishment of the Green Schools’ Committee which culminated in the awarding of the Green Flag in 2008. Some members of the council were elected to national organisations including the Youth Advisory Panel and the Union of Secondary Students (USS) of Ireland thus ensuring that the voice of students in Coláiste na Trócaire was represented locally and nationally. All members of the council have attended an anti-bullying workshop in conjunction with the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and are currently developing a short policy on bullying for inclusion in the school diary. This is encouraged and commended. It is suggested that a concise outline of the key aspects of the code of behaviour should also be developed for this purpose. In the current year the council is considering the possibility of introducing a buddy system to support first-year students. This is highly commended and the advancement of this initiative is strongly encouraged. It was evident from discussions with members of the executive council that they are diligent, committed and have effectively undertaken the challenges of a partnership approach to school affairs. The support and enthusiasm of the designated liaison teacher is also acknowledged and commended and is evident in the very good relationships that exist at council level.

 

The parents’ association (PA) was established in 1997 and is affiliated to a national body. Meetings of the PA take place once a month and either the school principal or the HSCL teacher attends on invitation. The PA is highly valued by management and staff and has been involved in many projects to support the school and its students. In addition to supporting and participating in school activities such as the Leaving Certificate graduation mass the PA has an important fundraising role and has organised several events to this end including fashion shows and golf classics. The PA has also collaborated with school management on a number of school policies. This inclusive approach is commended.

 

The PA articulated a number of issues that were of concern, primarily the lack of a school canteen and the unavailability of hot food and drinks. It is recommended that senior management in consultation with the board and staff prepares an immediate action plan to provide facilities with appropriate seating arrangements for students at break times. This provision necessitates the reorganisation of existing available space within the school. The provision of hot drinks should also be actively explored. Other concerns raised included inadequate parking facilities and lighting in the school grounds and the cold conditions in Block B of the school. These issues should be addressed at the earliest opportunity.

 

Good communication links have been developed between the school and the broader community. The school’s programme co-ordinators have forged strong links with employers to support the work experience dimension of curricular programmes at senior cycle. Close contact is maintained with local feeder schools in relation to the transfer of students, taster provision in some subjects for sixth class year groups and a paired reading initiative undertaken by the TY students. Senior management acknowledged the support of the local community for school events.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

The school complies with Circular M29/95 which requires 28 hours of instruction time per week. Most teachers in the school are permanent whole time, some have contracts of indefinite duration and others are pro rata contract teachers. The school is in receipt of 1.5 whole-time teacher equivalents (WTEs) in lieu of disadvantaged status, 1.0 of which is allocated to the post of home school community liaison (HSCL) teacher.

 

In general the deployment of teaching staff is in line with Department of Education and Science requirements and is consistent with teachers’ qualifications, expertise and experience. Teachers are generally facilitated to rotate among subject levels within subject departments. This practice is commended as it creates a broad skills base among staff. In almost all cases the time allocation to subjects is appropriate and in accordance with syllabus requirements. Recommendations in the attached Chemistry report in relation to time allocation to first-year Science should be implemented.

 

There are good structures in place to support teachers new to the school including an induction day organised by the VEC and senior management. A staff handbook has been developed which provides a good overview of school practices and procedures. There is scope for the further development of this document in relation to containing abridged versions of core school polices, in particular the code of behaviour.  Subject teachers also inform new colleagues of plans and practices pertaining to their respective subject departments.

 

Ancillary staff in the school includes two secretaries who are job sharing, two caretakers and cleaning staff. The work of this personnel is highly valued and appreciated within the school community. It was clear from interviews with these staff members that they felt empowered in their work and are given the opportunity to develop their roles. It is recommended as a further support to administrative staff that the need for a more private working area be taken into account.

 

The school building and grounds are maintained to a very high standard. There is a noticeable absence of graffiti and litter and the cleanliness of corridors and rooms is indicative of the desire to have a visually pleasant and environmentally friendly school. A strong sense of environmental awareness and responsibility has been developed and cultivated among the student body and is enshrined in the Green Schools’ Committee’s motto “Cairde Glana Glasa – ag obair ar son na timpeallachta” This committee consisting of voluntary representatives from each year group meets on a weekly basis and has organised a number of projects and cross-curricular initiatives to promote and support its work. The school has been awarded the Green Flag by An Taisce and the Green Schools’ Committee and general student body are congratulated for the work in developing an effective system of recycling and waste management. An energy awareness and conservation campaign has now been initiated within the school and some ideas currently being considered by the Green Schools’ Committee include the use of energy saving devices and the installation of solar panels. These students are highly commended on their commitment and every success is extended to them in their future endeavours.

 

Coláiste na Trócaire is on the site of the old vocational school and is using some of its original classrooms. Classroom space is adequate and teachers are provided with their own base classrooms. This provision is commended as it facilitates the storage of teaching and learning aids and provides the opportunity to create motivational learning environments. The majority of teachers make beneficial use of this advantage and are commended for the development of stimulating subject-specific classroom environments. The extended use of this practice is encouraged. There is a good range of specialist classrooms in the school. A number of office spaces are available within the school to facilitate administrative work for school personnel and meetings with students. The staff room is bright and spacious. The school’s sanitary facilities are maintained to a high standard and it is important that this be complemented by the ongoing monitoring of hand dryers and soap dispensers. School accommodation is incrementally upgraded in a planned and systematic way. Recent refurbishments include the development of the Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) room and the enhancement of the school’s ICT facilities which now include two computer laboratories. Currently the school is providing Perspex covered walkways linking different areas of the school campus. At present there is no library facility in the school which necessitates students using the local library. It is suggested that the school explore the development of a library as a valuable and tailored resource to support teaching and learning in the school.

 

Sporting facilities within the school include a gym and a large adjacent playing pitch This latter facility is of great benefit to the school community and its planned drainage will further enhance its value. School management is in consultation with local sporting organisations with a view to acquiring a new state of the art school and community gym. It is hoped by the school that this gym would be built on the school grounds with students having full access to its facilities by day and the general public by night. A programme for fund raising is being planned at school level. This proactive approach is commended.  

 

 

The school has recently developed its ICT infrastructure and now has three computer laboratories equipped with 48 computers. There are also two mobile laptops and four data projectors available for use within the school. Wireless broadband will be available throughout the school from November 2008. It is commendable that an ICT co-ordinator has been assigned to oversee the implementation of an appropriate system to facilitate the efficient running of the computer rooms and to organise the maintenance of equipment. Teachers and class groups have access to the school’s ICT facilities via a booking schedule. It emerged during the course of the evaluation that this facility is not being maximised. A needs analysis recently conducted by an ICT task group has identified the training needs of staff at various levels of competency. It is recommended that these needs are addressed as a means of supporting and encouraging staff in the increased integration of ICT to enhance teaching and learning. It is also recommended that an ICT plan for the delivery of ICT in the future be developed. An acceptable use policy (AUP) in relation to internet access should be put in place for staff, students and adult education participants.

 

A health and safety statement, reviewed in January 2008 was made available during the evaluation. The statement is compliant with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005. A number of health and safety issues were identified during the course of the evaluation. These concerns were expressed in a Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies subject inspection report dated 21 November 2007. This report recommended that “a dust extraction system should be provided in the older MTW/CS room and that remedial measures to address the uneven floor should be undertaken.” The school has reported these concerns to the VEC and are awaiting a response. It is advised that there should be no further delay in pursuing this outstanding recommendation. It is also recommended that the slope of the step leading into the DCG room be modified to provide for safer access. Furthermore the concerns raised in the attached Home Economics subject inspection report should be addressed. Procedures for fire drills are clearly documented and practised. It is good to note that a number of staff have first aid skills.  

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

The school is engaged in an ongoing whole school planning process which commenced in

2004. At this time a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis was carried out which proved a useful starting point for school development planning. It identified the initial priority areas for development and shaped the development of the emerging school plan. In 2007 the school availed of the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) support service to provide whole staff in-service on subject planning and policy development within the school. This review process prioritised a number of key areas for development which included subject planning, curriculum review, the development of a homework policy and a review of the posts of responsibility structure. The school is commended for the progress that has been achieved to date and for the on-going work to enhance curriculum provision.

 

 

In the current academic year a further range of areas has been identified for development including Traveller education, ICT, fund raising for a school gymnasium, the development of a number of policies, the development of the school plan and internal and external communication networks. Work also has to be completed on the post of responsibility structure. Whilst the school is engaged in extensive review it is recommended that a more manageable and focused planning agenda be organised within the time frames of short, medium and long-term targets as recommended under Section 1.2 above.  To this end it is recommended that the staff identify priority areas to be targeted within these time frames.  Goals should be outlined in relation to each priority, clear action plans should be drawn up and those with responsibility for carrying out these plans should be identified. Appropriate time frames should be set for the completion of action plans and the achievement of short, medium and long-term goals. This documentation should be filed in the developmental section of the school plan. These plans should dovetail with the school’s vision and with the work of the board of management. There should be regular evaluation of the work in progress to ensure that incremental steps are being taken to achieve objectives and drive   the planning process forward.

 

The school planning process is conducted through a system of task groups representing a cross-section of staff. Each group has responsibility for working on a particular area. This year one group has been appointed to oversee and monitor the progress of all task groups. The establishment of this steering group is commended and it will have a pivotal role in drawing together the work of the various task groups. The appointment of a planning co-ordinator as recommended earlier will bolster the work of this steering group in leading and advancing the planning process at whole school level. School management promotes a partnership approach to policy development and in line with the provisions of the Education Act 1998 parents and students through their representative bodies have been appropriately consulted and included in the planning process.

 

A number of policies have been developed in line with statutory obligations. It is recommended that these are collated and filed as the permanent section of the school plan. All policies should be dated at the time of ratification and indicate a review date. There are a number of policies due for completion or for review including homework policy, social personal and health education (SPHE), relationships and sexuality education (RSE) and critical incident policies. Notwithstanding the importance of bringing work on the aforementioned policies to a speedy completion it is recommended that priority be given to updating the special educational needs policy and to the development of a comprehensive whole-school guidance plan. It is also advised that an appropriate time frame should be set for the completion of policies.  The task groups in place will provide a suitable forum for further policy development and review in the future.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Post-primary Circulars M45/05 and 0062/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

Formalised subject planning is ongoing since 2006 and commendably supported by the provision of formal time for meetings and a high level of collaboration among teachers. It was noted that subject departments are at different levels of development. It is recommended that teachers continue to build on the work achieved to date by further developing the subject planning process and practices in line with the recommendations outlined in the individual subject inspection reports appended to this report.  It is also recommended that particular attention be paid to planning for the JCSP and the extension of JCSP methodologies to subject and junior-cycle class cohorts where they are not currently in use. A JCSP plan has been developed for each year group. In building on this good practice it is recommended that this plan be more structured and detailed in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the programme’s organisation, practices and procedures. The JCSP plan should include its aims and objectives, criteria for student selection, the curriculum provided, procedures for the setting and monitoring of statements and learning targets and the evaluation and review of the programme.

 

Planning documentation was made available for the transition year (TY) programme in the school. The organisational details of the programme have been documented and it is encouraged that these be complied within the TY written plan. It is recommended that comprehensive plans be developed for all the subjects that make up the TY programme and they should be contained within the overall written programme. In carrying out this work it is recommended that the documents the Transition Year Programme, Guidelines for Schools and Writing the TY Programme should be consulted.

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The school is commended on the broad and balanced curriculum with a wide range of subjects and programmes offered at junior and senior level. Both the parents’ association and the students’ council expressed a high level of satisfaction with this provision. The development of new programmes including the JCSP and the LCA are indicative of the school’s commitment to curricular planning and review in order to effectively meet the current needs, interests and abilities of students in the school.

 

In junior cycle the core subjects offered are Irish, English, Maths, History, Geography, Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), Religious Education, Physical Education (PE), Social and Personal Health Education (SPHE) and computer studies. In addition students traditionally selected five options from a further range of subjects.  In response to the view that the large number of subjects studied at junior cycle was very challenging for students the current cohort of first year students were offered one option less and will therefore take eleven subjects in the Junior Certificate examination of 2011. It is evident from the school time-table that the option bands change from year-to-year thus reflecting that the interest of students is accommodated. This student-centred approach is commended.

 

Subject choices are made before entering first year but students who wish to change are facilitated to do so within a reasonable time-frame. It is recommended that school management should give consideration to the introduction of a taster programme so that students have the opportunity to experience first hand the range of optional subjects on offer in the school and thus make more informed subject choices.  This provision may also help to address the gender imbalance currently pertaining to some subject areas. Given that Science and modern languages are not part of the core curriculum it is also recommended that the implications for future career choice be clearly pointed out to students and parents or guardians. School management is currently considering the inclusion of Science within the core curriculum and this is encouraged within staffing constraints.

 

The JCSP is provided as part of the junior cycle curriculum to cater for students with additional educational needs, to support the needs of Traveller students and any students identified as at risk of early school leaving. The JCSP is focused on a number of students within the mixed ability class groups in each of the junior cycle years.  A number of JCSP teachers have attended in-service training and this is commended. Teachers involved in JCSP are encouraged to familiarise themselves with all aspects of the programme in order to stay informed and up skilled in this area. To this end team-teaching, the discussion and sharing of good practice and the collaborative development of a bank of resources is encouraged.

 

At senior cycle a broad range of subjects and programmes is offered including TY, Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), Established Leaving Certificate (ELC) and LCA. In addition to studying Irish, English, Maths, PE and RE students select four subjects from a wide optional subject range.

 

All subjects are taught in mixed-ability settings in first year and TY and in all other year groups apart from the core subjects. Students are streamed from second year through to Leaving Certificate for Irish, Mathematics and English. The concurrent timetabling arrangements in place for these subjects have enabled the creation of classes studying these subjects at different levels. This facilitates student change of level where necessary.  This provision is commended.

 

Following an analysis of the timetable it was found that the time allocation to subjects in the main was appropriate, however the following issues should be addressed. Whilst the guidance counsellor meets with all students individually and is facilitated in organising class contact with students through the borrowing and sharing of classes, formal timetabled guidance should be provided for fifth and sixth year students. Schools have an important role to play in promoting physical well-being activities and health. PE is part of the core curriculum in the school and current timetabling provides for only one class period per week for some year groups. In order to ensure that all students participate in PE in school in line with the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools and in light of reports such as the National Task Force on Obesity Report 2005 it is recommended that this allocation be reviewed.

 

The Transition Year programme is offered as an option at senior cycle. The programme is managed by a coordinator who is assisted by a small core team. There is ongoing informal meetings and contact between the coordinator and this team and also between the coordinator and TY teachers. It is recommended that provision be made for formal meetings of the TY teachers to take place. Attendance at in-service training is also encouraged as a means of keeping informed of current best practices and support materials available for teaching and learning. The TY curriculum consists of a number of core subjects in addition to a number of taster components. It is recommended within staffing resources that all optional subjects available at Leaving Certificate level should be incorporated into the TY subject sampling provision. Students have the opportunity to participate in a range of modules and calendar events which include among others, car safety and maintenance, the Junior Achievements programme, First Aid and Gaisce activities. These provisions are commended and are in line with the spirit and philosophy of TY. There are currently thirteen students participating in TY which marks a decline in uptake in comparison to previous years. It is recommended that a proactive approach be taken within the school to promoting the programme as a worthwhile curricular option. A dedicated space for displaying photographs and TY projects should be created in a central area within the school to increase the status of the programme. Formal procedures for the evaluation of the programme should be put in place to include the views of parents, students and staff. Templates of these evaluation tools are available on Second Level Support Service (SLSS) website at www.slss/transitionyear.ie . Such evaluation and review should strategically inform and enhance future curricular provision within the programme and could be a valuable marketing device.

 

The programme coordinator appointed by the school in line with Circular Letter PPT17/02 is responsible for the LCVP and the LCA programmes. For each of the programmes a core team has been established to assist with planning. Meetings with the LCA and LCVP team take place informally and it can be difficult for the coordinator to meet individually with all teachers involved in the programmes. It is commendable that the majority of teachers involved in LCVP and LCA have attended relevant in-service courses. This good practice is encouraged among all teachers.

 

In September 2008 the LCA programme was introduced in response to the perceived needs and talents of a cohort of students. Senior management and staff are commended for this provision which is an appropriate follow on from the JCSP. It is reported that the programme is having a positive impact on retention rates from junior to senior cycle. It is good practice that a number of appropriate criteria are employed in identifying students suitable for the programme and who will benefit from it.

 

Effective programme coordination is the hallmark of both the LCVP and the LCA programme. In line with best practice comprehensive plans have been developed for both programmes. As the LCA programme becomes more established all teachers involved should develop programmes of work in which the content, time-frames, methodologies and resources should be listed. These should be incorporated into the overall LCA programme plan. In the event of changes to the teachers involved in LCA it is suggested that the knowledge gained at in-service be shared through adequate handover arrangements.

 

The LCVP is a very popular option and the vast majority of students have the required vocational subject groupings to sit the LCVP examination. As a preparation for the world of work and third level education all students are obliged to complete one year of the programme and any other module that is considered beneficial to students. Although students follow an ab-initio course in Italian it does not comply with the rules as set out in Circular Letter 00018/06 which requires one class per week over the two years or equivalent. It is recommended that this shortfall be addressed.

 

The school caters for the educational interests of the local community through the provision of adult education night classes. Enrolment for evening classes was in progress at the time of the evaluation. The local community is consulted in relation to course preferences, timing and frequency. Computers, occupational First Aid, Spanish and organic gardening provide a flavour of some of the night classes on offer. Information on such courses is circulated among the local community via letters to parents, parish newsletters, advertising in the local media and community posters. The introduction of Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses is under consideration once the LCA programme is established. School management is encouraged to further explore and plan for this provision.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

At important points of transition there are a number of measures in place to advise and inform students and parents on subject and programme options. The school organises an information evening for parents of in-coming first years. Sixth class students are invited to visit the school, view facilities and have the opportunity to participate in a number of lessons as a means of sampling new subject areas. Post-primary students also visit some of the feeder primary schools and conduct experiments in practical subjects. Further interface with primary schools is achieved through the paired-reading initiative and language taster modules provided by TY students. These provisions are commended. An annual senior cycle options night is held for parents and students. The guidance counsellor arranges contact with third-year class groups and also meets with students individually to guide them in their subject choices. Subject teachers also provide advice on their subject as a senior cycle option. Parents are welcome to contact the school to discuss any concerns they may have. The implementation of a ‘buddy’ system for students new to the school may prove to be a beneficial strategy in supporting students’ integration into school life.

 

At both junior and senior cycle students are initially presented with an open choice of optional subjects from which subject bands are then created to cater for the choice of the maximum number of students. It is commendable that every effort is made to cater for the requests of all students.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

A broad range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities is available in the school which enhance the sporting, artistic, cultural, aesthetic and social development of students. Opportunities in sports include gaelic football, hurling, soccer, athletics, golf and camogie. Activities such as field trips, outings to outdoor pursuit centres, debating, European tours, participation in out-of-school competitions and trips to the Gaeltacht, concert halls and theatre are all part of the extended learning experiences on offer to students. The school has achieved much success in sporting competitions and events. At the annual sports’ day organised by the VEC the school won the shield for the best overall school in athletics for the eleventh time. The first year ladies football team was victorious amongst a total of thirty four teams in the Munster ‘Pat the Baker’ Gaelic football post-primary first year blitz. All successes are acknowledged and achievements are announced in the staffroom, throughout the school over the intercom system, in school newsletters and in the local media. The ‘Year in Pictures’ also celebrates student participation and achievement across a range of disciplines. It is recommended as a further recognition and celebration of all successes that an annual awards’ ceremony be organised. This will provide a forum for the school to foster increased engagement in targeted areas of school life. Music plays a very important part in the life of the school and the school has earned a reputation for its school choir and the production of musicals. Coláiste na Trocaire hosted a gala concert “Class Act” at the University Concert Hall Limerick in 2007. This concert, performed by past and present students of the school, was a celebration of Rathkeale’s musical heritage. The school choir formed the backdrop for many of the evening’s performances. The concert was a great success and reflected the wealth of talent within the school. The commitment and generosity of staff in organising and providing these activities is highly commended and reflects their dedication to holistic education.

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

In all of the subjects that were evaluated there were some structures in place to support subject planning. The planning process for all subjects was characterised by regular formal and informal meetings of subject teachers. In one subject area, some refinement of the arrangements to enable teachers to attend formal subject department meetings is needed. It was evident to the inspectors that planning in the subjects evaluated was supported by a high level of collaboration among the teachers.

 

Most subject areas had developed a satisfactory subject plan and in some instances the inspectors commented that the plans were of particularly high quality. The inspectors recommended that the teachers in all subject areas should focus on sharing and developing the range of active learning methodologies they use. All of the subjects that were evaluated at junior cycle contained the recommendation that particular attention be paid to planning for the JCSP. In one subject area, it was recommended that the teachers’ individual planning be used to create schemes of work for each term and this should be advanced as a priority. While planning for individual lessons was generally of a high quality it was clear that in some instances it needed considerable improvement.

 

Where the subjects that were evaluated were included in the school’s Transition Year programme it was evident from the inspectors’ reports that planning for TY was of varying quality, ranging from very good to needing further development. Where planning was of a high quality it was evident that the TY programme included learning experiences that prepared students for senior cycle without over-reliance on Leaving Certificate material.

 

 

4.2          Teaching and Learning

 

In most lessons, clear learning outcomes were shared with students at the outset. Most lessons were well-structured, utilised a variety of appropriate resources, and were presented at a pace that accommodated the individual abilities of students.

 

The chalkboard/whiteboard and relevant visual and tactile materials were frequently employed to support and consolidate learning and teaching. However, ICT was rarely used for this purpose in the lessons observed.

 

A range of appropriate methodologies was employed to engage students in most lessons, including effective questioning, teacher demonstration, pair work, peer learning, the performance of practical work by students, and the utilisation of students’ experiences and prior learning to introduce new concepts. In a small number of classes observed, a lack of planning and lack of focus on teaching methodologies and on student engagement resulted in students being passive with consequent uncertain learning outcomes. It is recommended that subject departments continue to further develop the range of teaching strategies currently in use. Specific areas to focus on should include developing more active learning and differentiation techniques and extending JCSP methodologies to subjects and junior-cycle class cohorts where they are not currently in use.

 

There were positive interactions between teachers and students in almost all lessons observed. Practical work was undertaken safely and there was appropriate attention given to safety. Oral questioning and observation of students showed that they had good levels of knowledge and of subject-specific skills. In most cases, students were challenged by the planned lesson, thus motivating their learning of the topic. Where students’ efforts were encouraged and affirmed, this contributed to a positive classroom atmosphere. Finally, the generation of print and visually-rich learning environments in most classrooms is commended.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes is used effectively to monitor students’ progress and competence. These modes include oral questioning, class tests, homework assignments, examination questions and continuous monitoring of students’ practical and project work. It was clear from lesson observation and subject planning documentation that ongoing informal assessment of students is also being carried out. Students sit a number of formal assessments throughout the year and some subject departments prepare and administer common assessments for classes following similar programmes in the different year groups. Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students also sit pre-certificate examinations in the spring. Assessment outcomes are recorded and used to identify trends in students' achievement. With regard to student achievement in State examinations some trends were discussed during the evaluation and these trends should inform future planning.

 

Homework was a regular feature of the students’ learning. Best practice was noted where homework was used frequently with appropriate correction and monitoring to consolidate and build on students’ learning. To assist in building on the important part played by homework in students’ learning it is recommended that, within the context of a whole-school homework policy, priority is given to devising guidelines for homework practices to include details of the practices around correction and monitoring. With regard to formative assessment, the good practice of annotation of students’ work was evident in some of the subjects evaluated. The continued application of assessment for learning principles is encouraged in all subject areas across all year groups. In addition, it is recommended that end-of-term progress grades assigned to students should take cognisance of a range of factors in addition to the written examination.

 

Parents are regularly informed of the nature of students’ progress. Comments written on homework, in the students’ journals and regular school reports are used for this purpose. Parents also have the opportunity to discuss students’ progress at annual parent-teacher meetings held for each year group or at individual appointments.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

There is a strong ethos of care and a commitment to provide for the needs of students with additional educational needs. A number of appropriate mechanisms are in place to identify students with additional educational needs.  Information on students is obtained through visits to feeder primary schools, in-school open evening for parents of prospective first years, a pre-entrance exam and diagnostic testing undertaken by the special educational needs co-ordinator. These measures enable a register of students with additional needs to be developed. Supports are then tailored to individuals’ identified needs. The effectiveness of learning support interventions are evaluated and analysed in order to measure improvements in students’ skills and to review methodologies used with students. Appropriate responses are taken accordingly. This is highly commended and in line with best practice.

 

In supporting students with additional learning needs the school has accessed all of the resources to which it is entitled. These additional resources are being used for their intended purposes. A special educational needs team has recently been established consisting of a qualified special educational needs teacher and two other members of staff. This team is committed and noticeably enthusiastic in its work. There are fifteen additional teachers involved in the provision of educational support and contact between these teachers and the co-ordinator occurs on an informal basis. It is recommended that the number of teachers involved in the provision of learning support be reduced to create a more cohesive model of delivery to support students. It is also recommended that arrangements be put in place for formal meeting times for the network of teachers providing learning support. This provision would more readily facilitate the transfer of information and enable more effective planning, monitoring and evaluation of supports for students with additional educational needs. The co-ordinator of special educational needs should be informed of the resource allocation to the school and should be actively involved with senior management in the planning, organisation and distribution of these resources. The learning support department is also encouraged to share expertise formally at a whole staff level to further assist mainstream teachers in meeting the wide range of learning needs within the classroom. 

 

The school has a combined literacy-numeracy and special educational needs policy which is in need of revision and updating. It is recommended that this policy be prioritised for immediate review and on this occasion be developed in line with the advice and guidance detailed in “Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines” 2007. The policy should outline a whole-school approach to the development of literacy and numeracy, define the roles and responsibilities of staff involved in learning support, and describe the utilisation of resources and current procedures and practices in relation to students with additional educational needs. The special educational needs department plan will be a useful reference document in developing this policy.

 

The schools provision consists of individual and small group withdrawal for additional tuition primarily in English and Mathematics. This practice applies to students following the JCSP and to all other students needing supplementary support. The school has initiated the practice of team-teaching to support these models of delivery and further expansion of this approach is planned. This good practice is highly commended and further encouraged.

 

Students following the JCSP programme are integrated into mainstream classes for the majority of subjects with focused withdrawal provision targeting literacy and numeracy skills. Small class groups are formed to enhance this practice. A number of cross-curricular statements are also completed which award certificates to students for their achievements at junior cycle in addition to certification for their academic success.  In some cases JCSP students concentrate on a reduced curriculum for the Junior Certificate. Whilst profiling is occurring across a number of subject areas it is strongly recommended that this practice be extended to all subject areas.

 

The school receives an allocation of 0.25 WTEs for the JCSP and co-ordination of the programme is currently undertaken by the HSCL teacher. It is recommended that the co-ordination of this programme be absorbed within the remit of the special educational needs co-ordinator so as to avoid duplication of roles. In view of the importance of the JCSP in supporting student retention in school and engagement with learning it is recommended that team meetings take place between the co-ordinator and the JCSP team of teachers. This will support the effective management of the programme into the future. These meetings should focus on the collaborative development of appropriate and tailored resource materials, the sharing of information and expertise on methodologies, behaviour management and the overall personal and social development of the students. These meetings would also provide an appropriate forum to plan and select subject and cross curricular profiling statements for students and facilitate the enhancement of the school’s current system of profiling.

 

There are two learning support rooms in close proximity to one another which have print rich and stimulating learning environments. One room has a computer and it is recommended that both rooms are further equipped with ICT facilities to include computers, printers and scanners.  School management is currently exploring the possibility of developing a new learning-support room adjacent to one of the existing computer laboratories to facilitate such increased ICT provision to the learning-support department. There are good storage facilities in both learning-support rooms and the department also has use of a separate room for storage of JCSP materials. These provisions are commended.

 

The school has a complement of four Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) who provide a committed and effective service to the students in their care. The practice of rotating the SNAs among allocated students has proved very beneficial to all involved. This team initiative is innovative in its approach and its practice is lauded.

 

The school liaises regularly with parents and appropriate external agencies in meeting the needs of students with additional educational needs.

  

The school has accessed all the available resources and supports to assist the full inclusion of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and from minority groups. There are currently thirteen Traveller students attending in the school. Their inclusion in the school community is well supported through the JCSP, the VTT, the fostering of home-school links by the HSCL teacher and by the participation of students in the active life of the school. However, concerns were expressed by the board and by parents concerning the impact of transient Traveller enrolment on the academic standards in the school. This issue requires careful and sensitive management to ensure that the newly enrolled students are appropriately catered for and that the existing student population is not compromised. It is essential that the learning objectives set to support the management and inclusion of these transient students are mindful of their academic level of performance. Other supports should focus on student needs in developing self management, self-esteem and positive behaviour.  

 

The school has a very small number of students for whom English is an additional language. Additional support in English is provided to these students by a teacher qualified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). These students are welcomed in the school and participate in all aspects of school life.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The guidance counsellor is enthusiastic in her work and is committed to the enhancement of the guidance service in the school. A guidance plan has been drafted by a task group which outlines the general work brief of the guidance counsellor. Whilst the work to date is acknowledged it is recommended that the further development of a comprehensive guidance plan incorporating a whole school approach to guidance provision needs to be prioritised for immediate attention. To this end the formation of a guidance team is suggested. This plan should clearly define the role of the guidance counsellor and the role of staff members in relation to guidance. It should outline the linkages among guidance and the school’s curricular programmes, student support structures and external agencies and bodies. It should also detail a programme of guidance activities for each year group. In  developing the guidance plan it is recommended that the following documents be consulted, Planning a School Guidance Programme, National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) 2004 and Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science. In addition the policy template for the development of a guidance plan available on www.education.ie may prove useful in further developing the guidance plan.

 

The school has an allocation of 0.77 WTEs for guidance. Use of this allocation includes one time-tabled class period per week for TY and LCA students. Class contact with other year groups is facilitated through a borrowing arrangement with mainstream teachers. In addition to this, guidance is delivered mainly on a one-to-one basis. The school should review the current use of this allocation and deploy the hours in a more formal and structured manner. To this end it is recommended that time-tabled lessons for guidance be provided in line with Circular Letter 12/05. This will enable optimal benefit to be derived from the guidance service and will more effectively meet the needs of all students. This provision will give a greater standing and visibility to guidance within the school and will empower and facilitate the guidance counsellor in carrying out her role.

 

The guidance counsellor gives a presentation on subject choices to prospective first year parents and meets with each of the first year students on an informal basis. It is recommended that the guidance counsellor be given a more active and pivotal role to support the induction and transfer programme in place for students making the transition from primary school. The guidance counsellor should have a central input into the assessment procedures of in-coming students and should be a member of the special educational needs team so as to be involved in the allocation of learning support as necessary. Whilst the guidance counsellor has established some links with the teachers of SPHE it is recommended that these links be formalised. In addition to borrowing classes in third year the guidance counsellor meets all students individually to support them in making subject choices for Leaving Certificate. At senior cycle the guidance counsellor has contact with senior cycle students through the borrowing of link module lessons from LCVP and one-to-one consultations. It is recommended that time-tabled provision for guidance be made available for fifth year and Leaving Certificate students. Students are supported in conducting career investigations and this work is supported through preparation for and participation in trial interviews, guest speakers on various careers and visits to third-level institutions and colleges of further education. In order to gain maximum benefit from visits to third level institutions it is recommended that the guidance counsellor accompany students on such outings.

 

Referrals to the guidance counselling service can be made from many sources within the school. At present external professional services are largely used for counselling. The student support team which includes the guidance counsellor is the first point of contact in relation to students counselling needs. 

 

The guidance counsellor has an office equipped with a phone, computer and some storage space. There is a very small room which contains a free standing display rack for guidance literature and it has two computers. It is recommended in line with the future provision of time-tabled classes for guidance that an appropriate sized guidance room be developed. The guidance counsellor expressed satisfaction with the level of access to the school’s ICT facilities.   

 

It is vital that guidance provision in the school is afforded the status and recognition that it deserves in assisting students to realise their full potential. In this regard it is essential that the recommendations in relation to guidance are treated as a priority.

 

Coláiste na Trócaire is committed to the care of all its students and has several structures in place to support this ethos. Pastoral care of students is considered a priority for all staff and this whole-staff approach is integral to the pastoral ethic of the school. In addition specific student support structures include the school/student support team, the school chaplain, the HSCL teacher, guidance counsellor, the year head and the class tutor system.

 

The role of the year head is pastoral as well as disciplinary in nature and involves responsibility for the welfare of a year group with particular emphasis on building relationships with students and monitoring their progress, attendance and behaviour. They also liaise with class tutors, senior management and parents/guardians. The year heads are bolstered by an effective class tutor system which aims to foster good rapport with students. The class tutor may act as a go-between within the disciplinary structures and has a vital role to play in encouraging and motivating students.

 

The school chaplain is nominated by the local bishop and is a full time member of staff outside the normal school staffing allocation. The chaplain has an integral role in the pastoral care system in the school. In addition to being a member of the school support team the chaplain is available to students in the course of the school year. Contact is also maintained with parents/guardians of students.

 

Financial assistance is provided as necessary, in a sensitive and discreet manner to students experiencing difficulties. A number of additional supports have been developed to support the inclusion of students from marginalised groups. The HSCL service has played a crucial role in developing open and trusting relationships with parents/guardians and is representative of the open-door policy of the school.

 

The school support team is pastoral in its essence and consists of the guidance counsellor, HSCL teacher, chaplain, deputy principal and another member of the teaching staff. This team strives to be proactive in its approach to identifying students at risk and implementing appropriate interventions to support students in need. The team meets once a week for a double class period to discuss issues as they arise. Students can self-refer or be referred by staff members to this service. Close contact is maintained with students’ parents and guardians and the HSCL teacher plays a vital role in this area.

 

It is evident that a spirit of care permeates the entire school community and enriches the educational and social experience of students attending Cólaiste na Trócaire.

 

 

 

6.         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.

 

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

 Published April 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

8.         School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of Management of Coláiste na Trócaire appreciates the supportive value of the Whole School Evaluation report.  We feel affirmed by the report which acknowledges the excellent practice and the high level of commitment of all staff, their embracing of change and diversity, and their achievements and those of the students in both the curricular and extra-curricular areas.

 

A key thread running through the report is the highlighting of the holistic/pastoral approach which infuses all aspects of school life.  Both the parents’ association and student council commented very favourably on the caring nature of the school and the very good relationships between students and staff.  The WSE team added its own comment on page 20:  “It is evident that a spirit of care permeates the entire school community and enriches the educational and social experience of students attending Coláiste na Trócaire.”  We are delighted with this recognition that the school community is honouring the Mission Statement.

 

The student council was rightly commended for its diligence, commitment and partnership approach in school affairs.  The council has made a positive contribution in promoting computers as a subject, winning the Green Flag and developing school policy.  Its voice has also been heard nationally through its representatives on the Youth Advisory Panel and the Union of Secondary Students.

 

The parents’ association is highly valued by the staff for supporting and participating in school events, for organising fundraisers and working in partnership with school management on policies.  The Board looks forward to working again with both the parents’ association and student council on the review of the Code of Behaviour.

 

We welcome the WSE team’s comments regarding the Board’s commitment, expertise and support for students and staff.  We also welcome the remarks concerning the dedication, vision and collaborative style of senior management.  The Board recognises that the WSE report provides a template for future development and is confident in senior management’s ability to incorporate the recommendations into future actions.

 

The report commends the school for embracing diversity and proactively developing strategies to enhance the integration, inclusion and retention of Traveller students.  The Board welcomes this commendation.

 

The Board notes the real evidence of ongoing professional development, curriculum review, subject planning, individual planning, engagement of students, the variety of teaching methodologies (including AfL and active learning strategies), and the monitoring of homework in all classes.  Subject meeting time will focus on sharing teaching expertise and strategies, enabling a common approach to assessment, facilitating co-planning by the SEN core team and Learning Support teachers, and extending JCSP methodologies throughout the junior cycle. 

 

The Board wishes to make the following points:

§         Chemistry is included as a double period in the Transition Year timetable to encourage take-up in senior cycle.

§         Substantial personal writing samples are produced by students of English and are available for inspection.

§         Our senior management team meets at the end of each day to review school matters and to plan for the following day.  They meet briefly each morning to assign work for the day ahead.

§         Attendance figures are distorted by the high absentee rate of Traveller students.

§         AfL will be used in all subjects in first year.

 

 

.

 

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

 

§         Coláiste na Trócaire has been selected by Co. Limerick VEC to pilot an audit and review of its Code of Behaviour in the context of the NEWB Guidelines.  The school is using the opportunity to undertake a root and branch examination of all our structures, referral system, and rewards and sanctions.

 

§         In-service dealing with record-keeping and report-writing is scheduled for April, and the role of the class tutor for August 2009.

 

§         The school plan has been streamlined into priorities with short, medium and long-term goals.

 

§         The whole school guidance plan is currently being broadened to improve the links with SPHE, SEN and student support.  Planned changes will also extend timetabled provision and include the assessment and induction of incoming students.

 

§         Science has been introduced as a core subject in first year.

 

§         The DES has allocated a grant to Coláiste na Trócaire for the installation of a dust extraction system.  It will be installed during the Easter holidays.