An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme
Moyle Park College
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Roll Number: 60121B
Date of inspection: 2 December 2009
EVALUATION OF THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE VOCATIONAL PROGRAMME (LCVP)
This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCVP in Moyle Park College. 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, 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 co-ordinator 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, the programme co-ordinator and the core team following the evaluation. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
1.1 Whole school support
The LCVP has been available to students in Moyle Park College since 2003. At present there is one class group in each of fifth year and sixth year following the programme. LCVP students are fully integrated into their year groups and only come together as a discrete group for link module classes.
The programme is managed and implemented by a hard-working team consisting of the LCVP co-ordinator, the two link module teachers and the co-ordinators of information and communication technology (ICT), Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and Transition Year (TY). Members of this team also have expertise as teachers of Guidance, Business subjects, English, Irish and History and consequently bring a diversity of knowledge and experience to implementing the LCVP. The members of the LCVP team are enthusiastic and committed to both improving the implementation of the LCVP in the school and to meeting the needs of their students. A very good level of communication, collegiality and mutual support among the LCVP team members was clearly apparent in the course of the evaluation.
The co-ordinating team, which also manages the JCSP and TY programmes, is timetabled to meet each week. Minutes of meetings are recorded. House-keeping issues, upcoming events, examinations and a variety of other issues are considered at these meetings. It is very encouraging that all programmes are managed in such an integrated manner, maximizing the benefits of the experience of the co-ordinating team and all concerned are applauded for their efforts.
Professional development opportunities have been availed of by the LCVP team. The co-ordinator, who has taught the link modules programme in prior years, and both current link module teachers, with the support and encouragement of school management, have attended relevant in-service training. It is commendable that the co-ordinator, who has the greatest level of experience of the programme, remains available to support newer members of the team at all times.
The school has been successful in teaching the link modules aspect of the programme as a discrete entity. Awareness of LCVP among teachers generally is only fair, however, and while the vocational subject grouping (VSG) teachers are aware of LCVP students in their classrooms, there is insufficient planned execution of the LCVP as an integrated cross-curricular programme. It is recommended that the LCVP team works towards raising awareness, at whole-school level, of the nature of the LCVP as an integrated programme. The use of LCVP-specific notice boards in the staffroom, announcing upcoming LCVP events and the provision, by management, of opportunities for the LCVP co-ordinator and team to brief teaching staff regarding the aims and objectives of the LCVP and the centrality of cross-curricular work to the success of the LCVP, are all means by which awareness may be raised. This will facilitate the exploration, with all subject teachers, of the links between their subjects and the link modules curriculum. Subject teachers can then be encouraged to emphasise these elements of their subjects with students.
It is worth noting that the website of the LCVP support service at http://www.lcvp.slss.ie/ contains much useful information and advice. Regular checking of this site will help to keep teachers and students up to date with recent developments, in addition to providing a variety of useful resources.
Link module classes are allocated a double period each week, in both fifth and sixth year. Classes are timetabled to begin immediately following the morning break. This is to allow for the possibility of starting earlier where it is anticipated that extra time is required to complete an activity. It is recommended that the school consider a means of allocating an additional period to link module classes in fifth year, in line with LCVP syllabus recommendations.
Link module classes are held both in classrooms and in the ICT rooms. This has the advantage of allowing students to use computer facilities and the internet as required. Appropriate displays of LCVP-related material were evident on the classroom and ICT room walls. The career guidance room, which is appropriately equipped with ICT facilities, is also available at link module class times.
There is not a specific budget allocated to LCVP activities. However, funding is provided by management as required, at the request of the co-ordinator and in consultation with the LCVP team. There are no extra costs to students participating in the programme. Extra teaching hours accruing from the programme are deployed to support the provision of a broad curriculum and to keep class sizes as small as reasonably possible.
1.3 Student selection and support
Students in Moyle Park College, and their parents, are given timely and accurate information regarding available senior cycle programmes and are given good support in order that they may make informed programme and subject choices. An awareness of the LCVP among students, prior to their entry to the programme, was evident during the evaluation and there is evidence to suggest that some students proactively target participation in LCVP because of the benefits associated with its completion.
A number of specific criteria are used in Moyle Park College to select students for the LCVP. Programme requirements must be satisfied by students in the first instance: they must be following the appropriate VSGs and a modern European language to Leaving Certificate level. Students avail of a variety of subject combinations and the sciences and business subjects are prominent among these. Students are also required to have demonstrated an ability to learn in a self-directed manner. It is reported that target students are, for the most part, availing of the programme. Students who do not follow the LCVP are provided with a course in life skills and classes are held simultaneously with link module lessons.
In order to open up the LCVP to a greater number of students, should the school decide to, it is recommended that the requirement for students to study a language to Leaving Certificate level be abandoned and that provision be made for a modern European language module. The school is encouraged to examine the feasibility of taking this course of action in order to maximize appropriate curriculum provision for students. The provision of a module in a modern European language will have to be planned for, both in curricular terms and also in terms of where it will fit into the timetable. It is suggested that the school consult with the LCVP support service for advice and to source examples of good practice for consideration.
1.4 Home-school links
Parents are made aware of the nature and purpose of the LCVP by the guidance counsellor at an annual information evening. Parents are also involved in the programme and subject selection process and are required to sign-off on students' final programme and subject choices. Parent-teacher meetings are used in the usual manner to inform parents of students' progress and additional contact is as regular and frequent as circumstance demands. Parents are contacted by letter to inform them of specific LCVP-related events and activities, for example when making arrangements for work experience placements and visits out of school.
Moyle Park College has developed a number of excellent links with outside community and voluntary enterprises and businesses. The value of the support provided by local enterprises is acknowledged and the school has expressed its appreciation to these agencies and businesses. A number of local businesses and employers are of great assistance to the school in providing work experience placements for students. Such links are used to source expert speakers on enterprise-related topics, for case studies of local enterprise, to provide opportunities for site visits and for general support and information in relation to careers and enterprise in general. The difficulty of maintaining some of these links in the current economic climate was expressed and the LCVP team is highly commended for its efforts to sustain such a variety of quality links.
The LCVP co-ordinator and the link module teachers maintain folders that contain all relevant programme documentation. These folders are an excellent resource for the LCVP team as they contain very detailed information on the implementation of the LCVP and on the students currently enrolled in the programme. The following documents are indicative: work experience and business links; student induction details; VSG and other subject links; communications with parents and others; work experience resources; examination resources and statistics; health and safety information; and information in relation to contacts with the LCVP support service. The LCVP team are highly commended for their extensive planning.
Good planning work in relation to curriculum delivery has been carried out by the LCVP team and a common schedule for the delivery of the link modules course content over the two years of the programme has been prepared. The LCVP team are commended for this planning work. Individual link module teachers have adapted this schedule to meet their own specific needs. In one instance, a very comprehensive weekly schedule for the delivery of the course has been prepared and is being implemented. This document provides a high level of detail on work completed to date and of the work yet to be completed. It is an excellent resource for facilitating the ongoing monitoring of teaching and learning in the classroom.
In a positive development, review and evaluation of the LCVP, as a part of the cycle of planning, has come into greater prominence following the establishment of the co-ordinating team. The outcomes of ongoing review have been fed back into the planning process and improvements have taken place directly as a result. For example, a qualified guidance counsellor has been included on the LCVP team this year. In keeping with good practice, recent reviews have included an analysis of the results obtained by LCVP students in the state examinations and a comparison of these with national averages. It is recommended that the review process be enhanced further through the development of specific success criteria against which improvement can be measured. These should be based on clear and realistic objectives for student attainment and for the implementation of the programme. The views of all stakeholders, including students and parents, should be sought and included in the review process.
The current co-ordinator was responsible for introducing the LCVP into Moyle Park College in 2003, was one of the original link module teachers in the school and has built up a high level of expertise over time. The LCVP co-ordinator is also the school’s programme co-ordinator, under the terms of circular ppt 17/02.
Effective and efficient co-ordinating structures have been put in place which have led to a high level of communication between all those responsible for co-ordinating and implementing programmes in the school. The co-ordinator has worked hard to support a strong team approach. This is praiseworthy. The activities of the co-ordinator in relation to the LCVP include the following: supporting and co-ordinating the link modules teaching team; liaising with the principal on LCVP-related issues such as timetabling and staffing; promoting the LCVP among parents and students; student enrolment; facilitating programme review and ongoing development; programme planning; arranging continuing professional development for teachers; working with teachers and students to ensure portfolio items are completed as planned; liaising with the school’s examinations secretary to ensure examination requirements are met; and monitoring ongoing issues and activities.
A programme of activities and learning opportunities is provided for students that leads to the preparation of the portfolio items and concurrently covers much of the theoretical content of the course. In general, it is noted positively that theory and practice are well integrated. A number of visiting speakers address students each year and students are given an opportunity to visit an enterprise. Students also carry out an enterprise activity. When considering enterprise activities, it is recommended that activities that link in to the students’ VSG subjects are chosen and that all possible opportunities to explore and highlight the vocational aspects of the subjects are availed of. In addition to providing them with opportunities for teamwork and with hands-on experience, such activities can provide students with additional material for an enterprise report for their portfolios.
All core portfolio items are addressed as part of the curriculum. Two optional items, a diary of work experience and a recorded interview, are also addressed within class. It should be noted, however, that the recorded interview is an option that may not suit all students. It is recommended that the school place more emphasis on teaching the My Own Place unit of work. Doing so will facilitate students to cover many aspects of both link modules in a more integrated manner and will lead to the generation of the My Own Place report as an alternative to the recorded interview for those students who choose to submit it. It is important that a sufficient body of work should be covered, including My Own Place, to give students a wide range of learning experiences, to address the entire syllabus, to allow students to have a choice of portfolio items to submit and afford them more choice on the final examination paper.
In combination, the enhanced focus on students’ VSG subjects and the completion of the My Own Place unit of work will give greater breadth and balance to the LCVP curriculum as currently implemented in Moyle Park College.
Appropriate guidance support is provided, both generic and LCVP-specific. The guidance counsellor liaises with the link module teachers when specific sections of the course, such as preparing a curriculum vitae and carrying out a career investigation, are being covered. In addition, the inclusion in the LCVP team of a qualified guidance counsellor this year is an excellent development.
Work experience is an integrated part of the programme. Students are encouraged to seek work experience in the career area of their choice and are encouraged to make their own individual arrangements with employers. Preparation of students for work experience is very thorough, and this is commendable. Students carry out a career investigation and prepare curriculum vitae in advance, and topics such as health and safety in the workplace, employment legislation, insurance, key skills and procedures for recording and reporting on their experiences are covered during lessons. The school implements good practice in relation to contacting employers in advance, explaining the function of work experience as part of the LCVP curriculum and providing details of insurance cover.
Currently, there is no set time during which students may carry out their work experience. Placements may take place during school breaks, in fifth year or in sixth year, or during term time. This makes it almost impossible to monitor students during their placements and to provide support to both students and employers in cases of difficulty. In addition, scheduling a timely whole-class approach to preparing and debriefing students is difficult. It is recommended that all students’ work experience placements are carried out over a defined short period during term time. For example, if placements were carried out during the school’s mock examination period, additional disturbance would be minimal, greater flexibility would be afforded teachers to visit students in their workplaces and time might also be available to hold additional planning meetings.
3.1 Planning and preparation
Section 2.1 of this report referred to the long-term planning related to the implementation of the LCVP in Moyle Park College. The work undertaken in lessons observed during the evaluation was in keeping with planning documents and reflected very good short-term planning in line with the requirements of the programme. In one instance, a detailed lesson plan was presented. Teachers were familiar with the subject matter of lessons and their planning and preparation provided for differentiated approaches to teaching and learning in accordance with the range of students’ abilities and needs. Teachers' effective planning and preparation for lessons contributed significantly to the quality of students' learning.
3.2 Learning and teaching
A disciplined atmosphere that supported an effective learning environment was created in all the lessons observed. Teachers were warm, patient and considerate to students. Their approach to their work was professional and business-like. A very good level of student engagement and two-way interaction was evident in all classes visited. A high expectation for students’ achievement was apparent and an atmosphere of affirmation and support of their efforts was evident. Classroom management was effective at all times and there was a good rapport between teachers and students.
The activities observed in the classes visited included preparing an enterprise plan for the portfolio, reviewing a case study in preparation for an upcoming assessment and a detailed analysis of interview skills. Lessons were well structured and were taught in a well-paced, lively and student-centred manner. The subject matter of each lesson was well related to the students’ experiences, built on work that had already been completed and anticipated the direction of subsequent lessons. This is effective practice. Appropriate and topic-specific language was well used throughout the lessons observed.
Students were well challenged by their teachers and they responded positively. Their ability to respond was supported by a good level of individual attention. There was evidence of differentiation in the manner in which lessons were conducted and students were given opportunities to achieve according to their abilities. They engaged enthusiastically in the lessons and good learning was evident from their responses in class and the progression that was apparent in their written work.
Teachers used a variety of appropriate active-learning methodologies to engage students. These methodologies included role play, student writing, questioning of students, handouts and worksheets and discussion. ICT was well used by teachers as a teaching tool and by students in preparing items for their portfolios. There was a good balance between teacher-led and student-centred phases in lessons. Good progress was made in all lessons.
The use of questioning was very well managed in one lesson where students were given an opportunity to contribute to a discussion on interview skills, following an excellent example of the use of role play in which examples of good and poor interview techniques were demonstrated. The teacher’s skilful use of questions led students into developing the topic for themselves and to a high level of ownership of the information uncovered. This is very effective practice. It is important, however, to ensure that all students are included in such interactions and not only those who are willing and anxious to contribute.
Homework appropriate to the lesson was given in all instances. This homework was designed to reinforce learning and to give students an opportunity to put their learning into practice.
A range of assessment modes is used regularly to assess students’ learning and progress. These modes include questioning in class, examination of homework and assessment of portfolio items. Formal examinations are held at Christmas and prior to the summer for fifth-year students. Sixth-year students are assessed by means of Christmas examinations and a mock examination in the spring. Progress reports are sent to students homes following each of these assessments.
Formative assessment of students is carried out on a continuous basis by questioning in class, through correction of homework and also through the level of teacher movement and observation of students during class that was noted by the inspector.
Draft material that students have prepared for their portfolios is regularly checked and returned to students for further work. When a draft portfolio item is presented, it is corrected and returned to the student for follow up. This process is repeated until a final agreed version is reached. There may be a number of drafts completed before a final version is accepted. In this manner, portfolio preparation is carried out under the direct supervision of teachers. This is excellent practice.
A very good level of progression, supported by positive and instructive teacher comment, was noted in draft portfolio items viewed during the evaluation. It is also noted, positively, that all students are provided with copies of the specific learning outcomes of the link modules and of the portfolio marking schemes, enabling them to monitor their own progress and to assist in directing their own learning. This is good practice.
The quality of record keeping by teachers, and by the co-ordinator, is good. Records are kept of coursework items being worked on or completed, attendance, homework, syllabus material covered and assessment. Consent forms for the activities carried out by students and records in relation to work experience are also kept. Using the recorded information, a profile of each student can be built up and used as evidence when giving advice to students or when communicating with parents.
Students expressed an appreciation for the programme and the benefits they gain from following it. These benefits included the potential to gain additional points for third-level courses, an enhanced opportunity to examine a variety of careers, participating in work experience, the opportunity to partake in a different type of learning than is normal in other subjects and the opportunity to participate in teamwork.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Good links are maintained with local voluntary and community enterprises and with local businesses.
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
Published, June 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Moyle Park College is extremely pleased to welcome this very positive evaluation. We are delighted to see that the very professional approach taken by our teachers in the core activity of all schools of teaching and learning has been clearly recognised and affirmed. We would also like to comment positively on the professional and supportive manner in which the evaluation was carried out by the Inspectorate.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
Efforts have already been undertaken to increase awareness of the programme amongst the wider school community through
· presentations to the general body of staff
· a presentation to parents at a specially organised parents evening
The following recommendations are being examined with the context of the current resources available:
· The allocation of an additional period in Fifth Year
· The development of an ‘Ab Initio’ language module
The core team has begun the process of
· Improving awareness of the Vocational aspects of the subjects availed of
· Reviewing further the school’s work experience process
· Developing further strategies for ongoing review of the programme.