An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Transition Year Programme Evaluation
Holy Family Community School
Kilteel Road, Rathcoole, County Dublin
Roll Number 91301D
Date of inspection: 1 and 2 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 January 2008
Evaluation of ty
The Transition Year (TY) programme is a one year programme for students who have completed the Junior Certificate. The TY provides a bridge to enable them to make the transition from the more dependant type of learning associated with the Junior Certificate to the more independent learning environment of the senior cycle. The programme promotes the personal, social, vocational and educational development of students and prepares them for their role as autonomous, participative and responsible members of society. Transition Year fosters academic achievement as students prepare for a Leaving Certificate programme, further study and adult and working life. It encourages the development of a wide range of transferable critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills. 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.
This report has been written following an evaluation of the TY in Holy Family Community School, Rathcoole. It presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for the further development of the programme in the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held meetings with the school principal and deputy principal, the co-ordinator, a core group of teachers and with a small group of students. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector liaised extensively with the programme coordinator and visited classrooms to observe teaching and learning. The inspector provided oral feedback to teachers on lessons observed. The inspector also examined students’ work and reviewed relevant documentation pertaining to the programme, as well as teachers’ written preparation. The outcomes of the evaluation were discussed with the school principal, deputy principal, the programme coordinator and members of the core team at the end of the evaluation period.
Holy Family Community School has been providing TY to its students for the past thirteen years. The school’s recently revised admissions policy clearly outlines the internal application criteria for TY. The written plan outlines the school’s TY mission and objectives which are clearly in line with national guidelines as outlined in Transition Year Programmes, Guidelines for Schools. The school endeavours to give students the opportunity to develop a broad range of skills and to make more informed career and education choices. It is commendable that one of the school’s key objectives of TY is that students take responsibility for their own learning.
1.1 Whole school support
Transition Year is an optional programme in Holy Family Community School. The school’s vision of developing the whole person is promoted and education provision is enhanced by provision of TY. Thirty-one teaching staff are involved directly in delivering the programme. There is a very good whole school approach to developing and implementing TY and staff are kept well informed of developments regarding TY.
The core-team consists of the deputy principal and TY coordinator. It is recommended that the core-team be expanded to four or five members with regular minuted meetings to aid ongoing planning and evaluation of the programme. TY tutors and all staff pay close attention to pastoral and personal needs of students together with their academic needs. Communication structures are commendable with effective feedback to senior management, staff and parents.
Senior management is well informed regarding issues of provision and implementation of the programme. Staff are well deployed with their various skills being utilised to provide a diverse programme.
Staff have availed of TY in-service provision. The coordinator has participated in various in-service courses including those provided by the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) and has attended the recent National Transition Year Conference in Naas. TY science teachers have availed of a modular course on practical approaches to TY science. The school’s commitment and support for ongoing in-service is commended.
There is clear evidence of students’ work and activities on display around the school. This demonstrates strong affirmation by the school community for students and their many activities and achievements.
Teaching resources are readily available, are well organized by the TY coordinator and well-utilised by the TY teachers. IT and audio visual facilities have been upgraded to meet the increasing demands of the TY programme. It is recommended that an inventory of TY resource material be drawn up and circulated to teachers. This list should be updated regularly and included in the relevant section of the TY plan.
The coordinator has a well-resourced office with good information and communications technology (ICT) facilities. ICT is used extensively in all aspects of the TY programme including its planning and organisation.
The TY capitation grant is well utilised on general and subject resources as requested by subject departments and individual teachers. Each TY student is required to pay a contribution in order to cover the expenses involved in a variety of activities including PAL Day, FAI Skills Coaching, European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), trips associated with various subjects, and modules and materials required for some subjects.
Very good use is made of the school’s many specialist rooms in providing a well-balanced TY programme. Teachers have created a stimulating and positive learning environment in all subject-relevant rooms.
1.3 Student selection
The school’s admissions policy clearly states the criteria for acceptance into the TY programme at Holy Family Community School. Applicants may be interviewed with their parents and consideration is given to the student’s attendance record and disciplinary record in the school.
TY is an optional programme in the school. The school has increased its intake this year to two class groups, each of twenty two students, and intends to accept two class groups again in the coming year. Students reported that the strengths of taking TY in the school were that it provides time for reflection on subject choice for Leaving Certificate and time to take part in a range of activities and events. They deemed TY as successful in fulfilling its aims regarding their confidence, maturity and skills acquired; in particular they considered work experience to be very beneficial in achieving this goal.
1.4 Home, school and community links
There is good ongoing contact with parents at information evenings and by other means. Parents are well informed of student progress by means of assessment reports and are invited to awards night where students display their yearly work. The student journal offers a further communication mechanism between home and school.
The colourful school prospectus and website provide the wider community with general school information including specific information on TY.
Work experience is organised on a two-week block release basis which takes place normally in March. It is commendable that students are required to find their own work experience placements. This process is supervised and assisted when necessary by the guidance counsellor. Students are well prepared in advance of taking up this placement. They are provided with extensive information and training including job search skills, curriculum vitae preparation and strategies for coping in the workplace. There is good contact with employers in advance, during and after the work experience placement. Students are well supported, for example placements are arranged for those experiencing difficulties arranging their own work experience. Finding suitable placements is reported to be the major difficulty with work experience. At the end of the process the employer is requested to furnish a report to the school. In addition, it is commendable that students complete a self-assessment form.
Strong links have been forged with local businesses, enterprises and organisations through the many TY activities promoted by the school. It is recommended that the school gives consideration to extending the time students spend on work experience or voluntary /community work on a block release basis.
1.5 Supports for students
It is commendable that the school supports students with timetabled guidance provision and has a good TY Guidance plan in place. The students are well prepared for work-experience. Expert advice is given when choosing their subjects for Leaving Certificate and students reported that they can make an informed choice having taken the TY programme. The Guidance plan places strong emphasis on many aspects of career planning including student career projects, work experience support, curriculum vitae preparation and interview skills, career talks aptitude testing and individual counselling. Such planning and provision shows strong support for TY students.
The level of support given to students with special needs in TY is highly commended. The school provides extra support classes in English and Mathematics and an additional class group is formed when these subjects are timetabled. There is an English support class provided for students who are exempt from Irish. Students who have not studied French or German or who have special needs are provided with an additional information technology (IT) class. There are currently two TY students with first language other than English and they are well supported by the school within the TY programme provision with extra language support classes.
The current TY coordinator has an assistant principal post which carries the duties of TY and LCA programmes coordinator and year head. The duties are clearly documented and evidence collected in the course of the evaluation shows that these duties are carried out very effectively. The post carries a time allowance of four hours, two of which are assigned to TY duties. It is acknowledged that many co-ordination tasks are carried out beyond this time frame. The commitment and dedication to coordination is highly commended.
There is good communication with staff. A dedicated TY staff meeting takes place in September where some programmes are reviewed. TY provision is discussed at subject department meetings and there are ongoing informal meetings between relevant staff.
Students are kept well informed regarding programme activities. In order to enhance this provision it is recommended that the school should consider provision of a dedicated student TY notice board.
The school uses a combination of mixed ability and streaming, depending on the subject, to group TY classes. The current TY written plan contains detailed information on the TY subjects and modules. In addition there is some information on the TY mission, aims, objectives and the current TY credit system for reports. It is recommended that the TY written plan be reviewed. This plan should include material on evaluation procedures and TY organisational details. Some relevant material has already been prepared by the school.
Subject plans are also in need of review in line with DES recommendations. It is important that Leaving Certificate material does not form the major part of any subject. When this material is included it should be taught in an innovative way in line with Transition Year Programmes, Guidelines for Schools. Circular M1/00 should be referenced for further advice.
The TY timetable includes core subjects, subject sampling, various calendar events and TY specific subjects which are integrated into the subject timetable. There is generally good balance across the range of subjects. Time is allocated and blocked as per subject requirements. The core subjects taken by students on the TY curriculum include Irish, English, Mathematics, French or German, Science, Physical Education, Spirituality, Social, Economic, Environmental and Political Studies (SEEP), Guidance, Social Studies, Business Studies and ECDL. In addition students take half-year modules in Technology, Home Economics, Music and Art. It is commendable that the school has introduced Technology into the TY programme as recommended in a whole school evaluation report. A number of TY specific modules are included in the subjects listed above and these include Film Studies, Mini-Company, Soccer Skills Coaching, Dublin Fire Brigade fire safety and first-aid course and Cooking and Serving a Meal. The various calendar events include Work Experience, Outdoor Pursuits, field studies and trips, Public Access to Law Workshop and Forensics Workshop. Many calendar events are also incorporated into subjects.
Time provision to subjects is generally good. The school should give consideration to introducing further modules and activities depending on staff expertise and resources available. In an effort to avoid disruption of lesson time consideration should be given to timetabling a specific time for activities.
3.1 Planning and preparation for teaching
Planning and preparation for the lessons observed was good. ICT, audio visual and practical equipment were set up and ready in advance and handouts and worksheets had been prepared and ready for distribution. Many teachers had carried out research in advance of presentations. The work of the teachers in this regard is commended. As a consequence lessons generally had a good structure and teaching and learning were enhanced.
A written plan was available for each subject in the TY programme. However, most of these plans are outdated and are in need of review. Areas for development include subject evaluation procedures, development of cross curricular links and in some cases, as in the case of Science, subjects need to be balanced to reflect all aspects of the subject so that students can sample aspects of Physics together with Biology and Chemistry.
3.2 Teaching and learning
A variety of subjects was observed during the course of the inspection: Science, Social Studies, Learning Support English, Information Technology (ECDL), Guidance, English, Social, Economic, Environmental and Political Studies and Mathematics.
Lessons progressed well and were generally presented with enthusiasm and confidence. This helped to create a good rapport. Students’ positive responses and work completed were frequently affirmed. Students were generally enthusiastic regarding their work and activities and a good sense of enjoyment and motivation permeated the vast majority of lessons observed and this enhanced the learning experience. Participation was generally strong and lively discussions around various issues took place. However, in a small number of cases participation in learning of some students could improve and action needs to be taken to fully encompass these students into the lesson. Therefore, it is recommended that teachers devise strategies to make it possible for all students to participate as fully as possible in lessons.
Students were exposed to a variety of effective learning experiences. For example students discussed a recent field trip to Glendalough, answered probing questions successfully, examined rocks collected, made a sketch map of the area and completed a worksheet on the experience. In another lesson students recalled their experiences having completed the ‘Baby Think It Over Action Project’. Biology books were used as a research aid and a research lesson in the school library/ICT room was planned for later in the week. A model of a developing foetus was demonstrated. It was evident from the feedback that students learned real life skills during this impressive project. The various learning experiences and the innovative teaching methods contribute greatly to a successful TY and are in accordance with TY guidelines.
Students were made aware of the various types of disability and in particular the difficulties faced by visually impaired people. ‘Role play’ played an effective part in learning with students volunteering to be blindfolded and then invited to relate to the class the difficulties that a visually impaired person may encounter, for example when finding a seat or pouring a glass of water. The discussion was consolidated by reading a newspaper article regarding a visually impaired student who has received an award for outstanding achievement in education. Effective learning took place. The various learning experiences are commended and are in accordance with the aims of the TY programme. Students in need of learning support are well catered for in Holy Family Community School. Language support is good with students being assigned various and relevant tasks and individual support being given when needed. There is good emphasis on reading, pronunciation and vocabulary.
Some subjects incorporate innovative modules. Film Studies provides a good discussion forum and an opportunity for teachers to incorporate alternative methodologies like team teaching into the TY programme. This is commended. There were short clear inputs and focused questions for the class group during imposed pauses in the film ‘Inside I’m Dancing’. Students responded very well and a worksheet provided focus for discussion and reinforcement of lesson material. Learning objectives were clearly achieved.
Students prepared for completion of ECDL with very good guidance and support. They completed an assigned exercise successfully with the aid of a worksheet and with expert guidance from a presentation made with the aid of a data projector. Guidance provision was also enhanced with the use of the ICT facilities.
Some subjects are more traditional in nature and are used to consolidate prior learning and to sample future learning. It is important that in addition, students are taught applications of the material taught and some new methodologies and resources are engaged in this provision.
Worksheets were distributed in the majority of lessons and served as a means of focusing students’ attention and consolidating presented material. It is recommended that this practice be extended. Group work should be introduced into some lessons with provision for students to present their experiences to the entire class. In general, students were active in learning.
Very good use was made of questioning to stimulate interest and motivation. There was affirmation of students’ positive responses. It is recommended that greater use be made of individual questioning in some lessons in an effort to involve all students in the lesson.
Methodologies were generally varied and were appropriately used. The whiteboard was often used as a focus for learning, to summarise key words so that learning was reinforced. There was very effective use made of ICT in many lessons which enhanced the learning experience and reinforced learning for students. However, the use of ICT should be expanded and its relevant use promoted. Training in ICT should be considered by some members of staff. Commendable differentiated teaching methods were in evidence and were generally innovative in line with the Transition Year Programmes, Guidelines for Schools.
Many lessons focused on students’ social and personal development. Students learned about themselves as individuals, their attitudes, feelings and emotions. They responded to questions and carried out various tasks with confidence. The emphasis on student’s personal development and maturity in the TY programme is highly commended.
A good credit system is in place by which students receive marks for attitude, skills and knowledge in each subject or module. A ‘statement of credits’ certificate is awarded to each student with a pass, merit or distinction grade as appropriate. The twice-yearly reports to parents reflect this credit system and also include a comment on each subject and an overall class tutor report. This is commended.
Parents have an opportunity to meet TY teachers at the parent teacher meeting held in October. The TY ‘End-of-Year Celebration’ is attended by parents, students and teachers. At this event students display their year’s work and certificates are presented. This level of support and affirmation of students is highly commended.
The school has introduced portfolio assessment in the current year. It is recommended that this important mode of assessment be expanded and promoted across the programme. In addition, self-assessment and critical analysis should be promoted by means of a student logbook where students record their weekly reflections on the work they have completed and activities they have undertaken.
4.1 Programme evaluation and review
Aspects of the school’s TY programme are evaluated annually. There is input from school management, the board of management, students, parents and subject teachers. Evaluation of the TY programme is currently under review and the results will be used to update next year’s programme.
Subject teachers are requested to update their programmes annually following the initial TY meeting in September. Teachers are given a pro-forma sheet which is completed following consultation with other relevant teaching staff and relevant outside agencies. This practice is commended. However, many subject programmes are in need of urgent review. Parental input is currently under review by the school.
4.2 Attainment of programme objectives
It is reported that teachers’ involvement in the TY programme has a positive influence on other programmes and subjects. Continuous professional development gained in TY impacts on the school’s development planning. Students reported that they gained more confidence and maturity, being better able to make informed subject choices for Leaving Certificate and developing an enhanced relation with other students and teaching staff. TY activities help to make the school a vibrant positive environment for all. School management reported that the principal benefits of TY in Holy Family Community School include greater variety in teaching opportunities, greater work ethic in senior cycle due to the influence of TY students and the increased teacher allocation enables the school to offer a comprehensive curriculum. The main difficulties reported by management include facilitating whole TY team meetings, development of block modules in the timetable for TY as the programme is optional and collecting money to fund activities and seeking activities that are cost efficient.
The Transition Year programme at Holy Family Community School fulfils all the major TY programme objectives. There is a strong emphasis on social and personal development as evidenced by including Social Studies and Social, Environmental, Economics and Political Studies on the TY curriculum. The TY curriculum provides for all major aspects of education from Science and Technology to Business and Home Economics, from traditional subjects to Music, Drama, Craft and Aesthetics. In addition Physical Education and Spirituality are included. Students with special needs are commendably supported and this is one of the obvious strengths of the school as evidenced during the evaluation. Students achieved various key skills over the course of the year. They enhanced their experience of TY by securing good quality work experience and involvement in community service.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The TY programme at Holy Family Community School promotes the school’s vision.
· There is a good balance of subjects, activities and events in the TY programme.
· Staff are well deployed across the TY programme.
· TY coordinator duties are carried out very effectively.
· Parents are well informed of student progress.
· There is good contact with the wider community.
· A current TY written plan is in place.
· Teaching methodologies were generally innovative in line with the Transition Year Programmes, Guidelines for Schools.
· The school provides very good support to students.
· There is a good credit system in place and TY culminates each year with a presentation of certificates and prizes and an exhibition of students’ work.
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
· The TY written plan should be reviewed and subject plans are also in need of review in line with Department recommendations in Circular M1/00.
· The school should give consideration to timetabling and introducing further TY modules and activities.
· The use of ICT should be expanded and its relevant use promoted.
· The TY core team should be expanded in numbers with regular minuted meetings.
· The recently introduced portfolio assessment should be expanded and promoted across the programme.
· Consideration should be given to providing students with some additional time for work experience or voluntary work on a block release basis.
· Group work should be introduced into some lessons with provision for students to present their experiences to the entire class.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the very positive Transition Year Inspection Report. The Board is very happy with the manner in which the inspection was carried out. However the Board is concerned that the inspection, which involved thirty one teachers, was carried out on the 1st and 2nd of May cutting across the State Examinations
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
All of the recommendations are welcome and are being addressed. The school is continuing its ongoing review of the Transition Year written plan and subject plans.
The report acknowledges the school’s commitment and support for ongoing inservice training. The school has had difficulty accessing the SLSS Transition Year Support Team in September for school based inservice training due to shortages in personnel.
With reference to the recommendation that the use of ICT be expanded, the school is fully stretched trying to support three ICT rooms and the Board hopes that the Department will address the issue of technical support for schools