An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Transition Year Programme Evaluation
Temple Road, Blackrock, County Dublin
Roll Number 60930L
Date of inspection: 6 and 7 February 2008
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 programme in Rosemont School, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. 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 three 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 and deputy principal, the programme coordinator and members of the core team at the end of the evaluation period.
The TY programme has been an integral part of the curriculum at Rosemont School for the past twenty years. One class group follows the programme. The school’s mission statement and the schools’ TY programme aims are closely aligned. The aims of TY in the school support the schools mission in helping each student to achieve her full potential including academic, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, moral, aesthetic and physical “in an atmosphere of joy, friendship and mutually supportive partnership between parents, staff and students.” Evidence was available in the course of the evaluation to confirm that the TY programme at Rosemont School is true to its aims.
1.1 Whole school support
Senior management fosters a whole-school approach to TY in accordance with Transition Year Programmes, Guidelines for Schools. The programme is very well supported by senior management. TY is seen by the whole school community as an essential part of Rosemont School’s holistic approach to education. The whole school community is kept fully informed regarding the TY programme in many ways, including regular newsletters, a dedicated notice board, whole school assembly and parent-teacher meetings. Teachers’ skills are well utilised in designing and implementing the TY programme. The majority of teachers are involved in the delivery of TY.
The whole staff has participated in continuing professional development (CPD) in recent years. Some teachers of TY have pursued additional relevant courses. This is highly commended and further consolidates a whole-school approach to TY. However, further focused in-service in support of new methodologies and innovation should be pursued to further enhance and support the teaching of TY. Reference should be made to the website of the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) (www.slss.ie).
Student achievement in TY is affirmed and celebrated by the school community. Upon completion of TY, all students receive a special ‘Certification Pack’ which is presented at the annual awards ceremony. In addition, parents are invited to presentations hosted by TY students on two occasions throughout the year. The whole school community is kept informed regarding student achievement through the school website and newsletter. The emphasis on celebration of student achievement is highly commended.
The TY students’ base classroom is commendably enhanced with evidence of students’ project work and provides a vibrant learning environment. This room is well resourced with computers, broadband internet access, data-projector and audio visual equipment. These resources are very well utilised in the delivery of the programme. The school intends to pursue upgrading ICT facilities with the purchase of additional laptop computers. It is recommended that this be pursued as it would further address students’ needs in the area of ICT on the TY curriculum. Specialist rooms including the science laboratory, art room and home economics room are well utilised by TY students.
TY materials are generally stored in the teachers’ workroom and the TY classroom. An inventory of all TY resources should be drawn up and distributed to all teachers in the school. This provision would further enhance the school’s cross-curricular approach to TY. A comprehensive TY management folder is maintained by the coordinator. It provides further evidence of the effective implementation of the programme in the school.
Physical Education facilities are mainly located outside the school campus. Activities outside the classroom are encouraged and supported by the school as these activities are seen as a vital element of the TY programme. On enrolment to the programme, parents agree to the payment of a contribution to cover expenses for most activities. Evidence was provided to show that these funds are spent appropriately across a wide range of activities.
1.3 Student selection
Third year parents are invited to a TY programme information evening in the third term of the academic year. This meeting coincides with the current TY group presenting their end-of-year achievements to parents. Parents, senior management and teaching staff agree that this coincidence of meetings works very well. The original idea emerged from a whole staff evaluation of TY and is highly commended.
The TY programme in Rosemont School is compulsory. However, the school admissions policy makes no reference to a six-year cycle incorporating TY as a compulsory programme for all students. Therefore, it is recommended that the school admissions policy be reviewed and updated accordingly.
1.4 Home, school and community links
Contact with parents is on-going throughout the year. Parents have the opportunity to meet with TY class tutors once per term and students may be present at this meeting. There is an open invitation to parents to contact the TY coordinator or any TY teacher with suggestions regarding the programme. This is commended. The annual mass and Christmas concert are well attended by parents. The programme has received full parental support and this is one of the key strengths of the programme.
Social Work, which is timetabled for Wednesday afternoons, provides a forum for students to actively participate in their local community. In the past, students spent a full week working in the community in a voluntary capacity. Following an evaluation involving feedback from the local centres, it was decided to change to the current arrangement of one afternoon a week. Evidence provided from student logbooks and personal reflections indicate that they extract important benefits from these experiences and that the aims of TY in this capacity are being fulfilled. Students’ social work experiences are currently focused on the Young Social Innovators project. This is highly commended.
Experiential learning is developed through undertaking tasks in an adult working environment. Work experience is organised in a block of two weeks in February and is very effectively organised and supported by the school. Students are well prepared in advance of the work placement. Students evaluate their work experience. Employers send an evaluative report to the school and this forms the basis of a discussion on the experience between the student and TY coordinator. Students find their own work placement with the aid of the coordinator, parents or school management, if necessary.
1.5 Supports for students
At the outset of the academic year a student induction programme for TY takes place. Students are made aware of the extent of the programme, its aims, objectives and the importance of assessment and evaluation. The first activity of the year, sailing on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, consolidates the induction process.
Rosemont School advocates a policy of mixed-ability teaching and grouping throughout TY which is good practice. Teachers are acutely aware of students’ needs and differentiated tasks are carried out by students. The TY programme aims to both challenge and affirm the full spectrum of abilities of students. Activities are created which foster a positive and meaningful learning experience for the full range of abilities. Teamwork has proved particularly useful for this purpose. Many existing modules including World Studies and Social Work prove to be particularly useful in building self-confidence among students, including those with special educational needs.
The guidance plan for TY has the main objective of facilitating students in self-awareness exercises and in research of further education and potential careers. The concept of transferable skills and their implications for personal and professional life is introduced. Life skills and career exploration play a key part in this programme. Differential aptitude tests (DATs) are completed so that students’ aptitudes, abilities and competencies are identified. This is commended. Students make informed decisions on subject choices, relevant open days in colleges are attended and individual discussions take place with the guidance service and relevant teachers.
TY coordination duties are clearly defined and include overseeing and organising events, liaising with the whole school community regarding the TY programme, implementing evaluation criteria, fostering the whole-school approach to TY, distribution of resources and attendance at relevant in-service courses. The TY coordinator carries the post of programme co-ordinator and this post carries a time allowance of two hours. TY coordination duties are carried out very effectively and this is one of the key strengths of the programme in the school. The coordinator has regular class contact with TY students. Communication with parents, senior management, teaching staff and the whole school community is very effective. Adequate resources are made available to support effective co-ordination.
The current TY written plan is comprehensive and is in compliance with Department guidelines. The well formulated TY calendar is included in the plan and this is distributed to parents at the outset of the academic year. This is commended. The TY plan outlines the various subjects on offer in the programme. A common template is widely used. It is recommended that this good practice be extended across all subjects.
A small TY core team drives the programme forward with vision and enthusiasm. Core-team members have very good contact with TY students through various subjects, modules and activities and through the class teacher and tutoring process. The team assists the coordinator in planning, organising and evaluating the programme. Team meetings take place regularly. Evidence gathered in the course of the evaluation shows that the core team plays a vital role in the implementation and evaluation of TY in the school. TY issues are frequently discussed at staff meetings as the majority of staff is involved in the delivery of the programme.
The school sees TY as an opportunity for students to build on their academic achievements and to prepare for senior cycle and their future role in society. The TY curriculum on offer has good breadth and balance. The core subjects offer continuity from junior cycle; some optional Leaving Certificate subjects are sampled; and modules such as Social Work, World Studies and law provide students with opportunities to learn to be responsible and participative citizens. Work experience provides a vocational element to the programme.
Subjects on the TY curriculum include Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Chemistry, Biology, Home Economics, Religious Education, Art/Craft/Design, Business, Accounting, World Studies, Social Work, Languages and Physical Education. Students study all subjects offered for the entire year. The languages offered are Spanish for all students and French to those who have chosen French for junior cycle. Music, Media Studies, Career Guidance and Law are offered, however, these modules are not timetabled. It is recommended that TY programme provision is strengthened by introducing timetabled modules, such as those above, into TY. These modules could be offered, for example on a ten-week basis. Some subjects that are currently not timetabled could be designed to fit into the TY timetable. The absence of computer skills development should be addressed together with the introduction of further subject samples. For example Physics could be introduced to complete the balance in TY science provision. It is commendable that Accounting and Business are offered as subject samples for Leaving Certificate regardless of Business not being offered at junior cycle.
Active learning, group and team work have been successfully integrated into many key aspects of the programme. The school endeavours to incorporate personal, vocational, recreational, social and academic programmes into the curriculum. It has been successful in this regard as evidenced in the course of the evaluation. Students’ personal and social development is catered through participation in many classroom activities including presentations, group and project work. The school complies well with Department guidelines regarding programme provision. The needs, interests and abilities of students are prioritised.
3.1 Planning and preparation for teaching
A written yearly current plan was available for all subjects evaluated in the course of the inspection. More detailed short-term plans were available for some subjects. Planning and preparation in advance of lessons observed was comprehensive. Handouts and materials were ready in advance of lessons. This is commended. This level of advance planning led to effective student learning. The varied methodologies observed in lessons worked very well due to pre-prepared materials, including ICT materials. Video clips and presentations had been researched and prepared in advance and as a result were seamlessly integrated into lessons. This is highly commended.
3.2 Teaching and learning
Learning objectives were generally shared with students at the beginning of each lesson and there was seamless integration of a wide variety of activities, interactions and teaching methodologies. Teacher inputs were clear and concise. Student-teacher and student-student rapport were generally very good. Students were supported and affirmed in their work, were motivated and enjoyed the variety of learning experiences from established subjects to subject sampling to innovative modules and activities. Irrespective of subject or lesson content, teachers consistently made the learning experience an innovative one for students. Feedback from students was used to modify teaching practice. This quality evaluative practice is highly commended.
There was a clear emphasis on a cross-curricular approach to learning in TY in line with Department guidelines. World Studies and Social Work were cross-curricular in nature and many links were made to other subjects and to students’ everyday experiences. In History and English lessons, it was evident that rigid subject boundaries had been dissolved and TY students were gaining a new experience. It is highly commendable that specially prepared booklets had been collated for some subjects.
Active learning was promoted and encouraged. There was commendable use of group and pair work. In one instance, students prepared materials, including worksheets, on different relevant topics and each took turns in presenting to the wider class group and in answering questions. This commendable activity not only served to support the lesson’s learning objectives but also helped to develop students’ confidence and analytical skills. In some cases, students acted as evaluators with clear marking criteria. It is very important that all students are afforded the opportunity to participate fully in these activities. Therefore, it is recommended that further efforts are made to involve all students in presenting their work. Students were engaged in team-building skills in some lessons and set a very good precedent for the group project work which followed. In some lessons evaluated, further whole-class discussion and collation of data on the board would have enhanced students’ focus on the work in hand.
Project work was developed in some lessons observed. For example, during Social Work students planned objectives for their entry into the Young Social Innovators competition. Students were given a worksheet and asked to research their project, propose solutions and to come up with ideas on sharing their work with others. This is highly commended.
A notable feature of lessons was the interaction between students themselves. In many cases, they assisted each other in groups with one or more adopting the role of instructor. Students’ enthusiasm for this approach was very evident and students were enabled to engage with the material being covered at an appropriate level. It is suggested that in some instances smaller groups be formed in an effort to involve all students in the activities.
There was a commendable effort to enable the personal development of TY students. Students had a good sense of themselves and of their role as responsible citizens in both the local and global sense. They spoke confidently and knowledgeably on social, environmental and school-based issues.
TY guidelines were clearly adhered to when core subjects which continued from junior cycle were being taught. In one lesson, students investigated the applications of number systems in the production of web pages. This innovative integration of ICT into Mathematics is commended.
Teaching methodologies varied from the traditional teacher-directed learning to those incorporating different active methodologies. The whiteboard was used as an aid to focus learning, to highlight key words and as an aid to set assignments. Further use of the board to focus and direct student engagement is recommended. Teachers were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and innovative. Worksheets and other teaching aids were used to reinforce learning and to engage students as active learners.
Good use was made of directed and global questioning. Some questions were designed to elicit specific responses but emphasis was also placed on higher-order questions, which encouraged students to hypothesise, to speculate and to explain their reasoning. The quality of students’ understanding was reflected in their excellent ability to ask and answer questions. Evidence was provided in the course of the evaluation to indicate that students’ understanding of material was of a high quality.
The school places clear emphasis on self-assessment in Rosemont School. Teachers encourage self-assessment in their subject areas through formal and informal dialogue, the benefit of which was evident. The school endeavours to include key aspects of student development into its TY assessment procedures including personal maturity, social awareness, creativity, co-operation, teamwork and innovation together with academic achievement. A comprehensive TY homework policy has been developed and included in the TY plan. It includes a recommended homework time allocation to each subject and outlines the key assignments expected of students. This is commended.
Written reports are sent to parents twice yearly following examinations at Christmas and summer. Attendance at TY parent-teacher meetings improved following a change of format of these meetings at the suggestion of parents. Consideration should be given to having students present at these meetings in future years.
Students maintain an on-going portfolio of work and key assignments. Much of this work is assessed within the individual subjects. However, it is recommended that a portfolio interview forms part of students’ overall end of year assessment. For example students may be allowed choose what they consider to be some of their best work for this interview and interview criteria and marking should be clearly set out. In addition, consideration should be given to students maintaining an electronic portfolio with, for example, photographs of activities undertaken during TY.
TY certificates are presented to all students who participate in TY. These certificates are not graded; however, graded certificates are presented for some individual modules including sailing and law. In addition many other certificates are awarded to students who complete individual modules and courses. TY students may receive individual awards at the end-of-year awards event. This is commended.
4.1 Programme evaluation and review
Evaluation of the TY programme is regularly on the agenda of staff meetings. The whole school is involved in the evaluation. Teachers, senior management and parents liaise with the TY coordinator. Students provide a written evaluation of their experiences at the end of the school year. Senior management and the coordinator carry out an end-of-year TY audit with a view to planning for the next academic year. Each subject offered has an internal evaluation process and changes are recommended following feedback from students. Through the tutoring system, students and teachers monitor the success and effectiveness of the current TY programme.
Evidence was provided in the course of the evaluation to show that the results of the evaluation are used to remodel the programme. This is highly commended as it enables a vibrant, meaningful and effective programme to be implemented. The DATs test is currently held earlier in the year to allow students the opportunity to use the results to make informed subject choices. Following evaluation of the student exchange trip to the Canary Islands, it was decided to change this arrangement and a new programme was initiated with a school in Madrid. It is clear that TY at Rosemont School is a dynamic and evolving programme which is carefully tuned into students’ needs.
4.2 Attainment of programme objectives
Students expressed satisfaction with the TY programme and stated that they enjoyed many aspects of the programme and particularly mentioned their involvement in activities such as sailing, work experience, social work and Physical Education. They made some suggestions for programme improvement and expansion, the possible inclusion of modules in Physics, Music, driving theory, and the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), and more class time devoted to guidance.
School management reported the main benefits of TY as developing student maturity, enhancing the classroom dynamic and improving social awareness. The main difficulties were seen as keeping parents fully aware of the uniqueness of the TY programme and the selective choice of suitable activities.
Rosemont School offers and implements a vibrant, dynamic and meaningful TY programme to its students. TY programme objectives are fulfilled. Student maturity and confidence are promoted and consolidated through many aspects of a well-designed curriculum. Students benefit greatly from their TY experience and evidence provided in the course of the evaluation shows this to be the case. The school’s self-evaluation process in relation to TY is exemplary.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The aims of TY in the school support the schools mission in helping each student to achieve her full potential.
· Senior management fosters a whole school approach to TY in accordance with Transition Year Programmes, Guidelines for Schools.
· TY coordination duties are carried out very effectively and this is one of the key strengths of the programme in the school. A small TY core team drives the programme forward with vision and enthusiasm.
· The current TY written plan is comprehensive and is fully in compliance with Department guidelines.
· Active learning, group and team work are promoted and this ambition has been successful in many key aspects of the programme. The school endeavours to incorporate personal, vocational, recreational, social and academic programmes into the curriculum.
· Students were motivated and enjoyed the variety of learning experiences from established subjects to subject sampling to innovative modules and activities.
· The school places great emphasis on student self-assessment.
· The school’s self-evaluation process in relation to TY is exemplary.
· TY programme objectives are fulfilled. Student maturity and confidence are promoted and consolidated through many aspects of a well-designed curriculum.
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
· Further focused in-service should be pursued to enhance and support the teaching of TY.
· The school’s intention to upgrade ICT facilities should be pursued.
· An inventory of all TY resources in the school should be drawn up and distributed to all teachers.
· The school admissions policy should be reviewed and updated to include reference to a six-year cycle incorporating TY as a compulsory programme for all students.
· TY programme provision should be strengthened by introducing timetabled modules into TY. These modules could be offered, for example on a ten-week basis.
· The absence of computer skills development should be addressed together with the introduction of further subject samples.
· Consideration should be given to introducing a portfolio interview as part of students’ overall end of year assessment.
Published December 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Following on the report’s recommendations, the school has introduced new elements to the TY Programme. There are new modules for the students; Lateral Thinking Skills; Music; Guitar and Computer Skills.
The school has launched Moodle, an open-source software programme, as an educational
resource for the students
The science teachers have attended an in-service specifically for the teaching of science in TY
Wireless Internet access is available in all the classrooms
The students have a set of laptops for classroom use
Data projectors have been installed in the classrooms