An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Leaving Certificate Applied
Raphoe, County Donegal
Roll Number: 71230R
Date of inspection: 06 October 2008
This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCA in Deele College, Raphoe. 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, with 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 studentsí work and reviewed relevant documentation pertaining to the programme, as well as teachersí written preparation. The outcomes of the evaluation were discussed with the school principal, the deputy principal and the programme coordinator following the evaluation.† The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Deele College, operating under the auspices of County Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC), is one of two post-primary schools in the town of Raphoe, which is in the east of the county. The school caters for students from diverse, mainly rural, backgrounds and currently there is an enrolment of 520 boys and girls. The school has offered the LCA since 1998. Currently, there are twelve students in year one of the LCA (LCA1) and eighteen students in year two (LCA2).
The school participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative, the Departmentís action plan for educational inclusion. Currently, the local coordinator of the School Completion Programme (SCP) is based in Deele College. As a participant in DEIS, the school is entitled to a total ex-quota allocation of twenty-two hours for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. The school also has the services of a home-school-community liaison (HSCL) coordinator.
1.1 Whole-school support
The LCA programme is well supported in the school. Commendably, LCA students are represented on the school prefect system and on the student council. In September 2006, the principal initiated a review of the LCA programme in the school. This included a presentation to the teaching staff by the national coordinator of the LCA support service. Many staff members indicated to the inspector that this was significant in raising the profile of LCA in the school. The coordinator of LCA is enthusiastic about, and committed to, the programme. She is in her second year in the position.
A team of seventeen teachers is involved in teaching the programme. All members of the LCA teaching team met with during the evaluation displayed interest and dedication to the programme. Many of these teachers have taught on the programme for a number of years while a smaller number of teachers are more transient depending on timetabling. It is recommended that a core team of LCA teachers be developed from the teachers who are currently teaching the LCA. This would help to build on the wealth of experience available to LCA and to form a solid base for the programme to progress in the school. This core team should consist of one teacher from each of the following areas: social education, vocational specialism, vocational preparation and guidance, and home-school-community liaison.
Teachers of LCA are encouraged and facilitated by management to avail of appropriate continuing professional development (CPD) on offer from the Second Level Support Service (SLSS). At the time of the inspection the coordinator had plans to attend CPD on improving literacy in LCA, at the end of the month.
Induction for teachers who are new to the LCA takes place at the beginning of the school year. The LCA coordinator manages this process and particular emphasis is placed on developing and maintaining positive student-teacher relationships. This is good practice. It is also noteworthy that the LCA teaching team meets at the beginning of the year to plan for the year ahead. Minutes were provided for these meetings. Given that there are some changes in personnel amongst the LCA teaching team from year to year, it is recommended that the coordinator delivers in-house training for the full team at the initial meeting each year. This training should focus on the underlying principles of LCA and the teaching and learning methodologies appropriate to the programme. †
The principal has a good knowledge of the programme and the issues around its implementation. It is good practice that timetabling of LCA is discussed with the coordinator and the teaching team on an annual basis. It is praiseworthy that choice of modules and electives is also reviewed annually and this involves the senior management team, the LCA coordinator, the LCA teaching team and the students.
The LCA coordinator is fully familiar with the programme and all its requirements. Timetabling is generally appropriate. The selection of teachers for the LCA programme is based on teacher interest, availability and subject expertise. It is recommended that, as staff numbers increase, a staff audit of interests and expertise be carried out. It would be useful to know of people skilled in other areas which could potentially be used to extend the range of electives that the school might offer in the future in the LCA programme.
The LCA team is in the process of building up a bank of resources for use in the delivery of various subject areas of the LCA programme. A number of resources are currently available to the LCA team including a television, camcorder, digital camera, CD ROMs and textbooks. A sign-out book is used to keep track of the resources. There are two computer rooms in the school. Students have timetabled access to the computer room for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Hotel, Catering and Tourism (HCT). Additional access to the computer room is organised on a needs basis.
Currently, there is no base classroom for the LCA. Resources specific to LCA are stored in a filing cabinet in the staff room. Due to restrictions on accommodation, some teachers have a base classroom for their subject while others do not. It is recommended that, as part of long-term planning, management explores the possibility of establishing a base classroom for LCA students. Some displays of LCA studentís work were displayed in subject classrooms and on notice boards around the school. Until a base classroom becomes available for the LCA, it is recommended that a senior cycle notice board be used to provide a focal point where LCA student notices, project work and tasks can be displayed.
1.3 Student selection and support
The arrangements in place for the selection of students for LCA are appropriate. The LCA coordinator visits all third-year classes to provide them with information on the programme. The guidance counsellor meets with third-year students on an individual basis to assist them in their decision-making. An open evening is organised for parents which provides them with information on all programmes including the LCA. The schoolís efforts in supporting prospective students and their parents to make informed choices are commended.
At the beginning of the first term the LCA coordinator holds a half-day induction seminar with the students who are beginning the LCA programme. The induction involves workshops, getting to know each other, icebreakers, goal setting and the establishment of a code of conduct. The coordinator collaborates with the learning support department and the studentsí third year teachers in order to ensure that each student is appropriately placed and that supports are in place for LCA students during both years of the programme.
1.4 Home, school and community links
The school maintains effective home-school links with parents of LCA students via, for example, telephone and parent-teacher meetings. The HSCL coordinator has provided support to the families of students in the LCA since the programme was introduced in the school. Appropriate contacts with outside agencies and employers are also maintained.
The school benefits from its inclusion in the School Completion Programme (SCP). Commendably, a number of activities are provided for students as part of that programme. These include pair work, after-school activities and activities in the summer holidays such as soccer camps. There is regular informal contact between the LCA coordinator and the SCP coordinator and this is good practice.
Work experience is an integral part of the LCA curriculum. Students are encouraged to set up their own work experience where possible. The school also retains a bank of potential employers which is drawn upon when students experience difficulty in attaining a suitable placement. There is a good level of interaction with employers both prior to, and after, work experience. Students also keep a diary of their work experience.
The LCA teaching team meets formally at the beginning and end of the school year. There is also regular informal contact on an ongoing basis. A comprehensive LCA programme overview has been developed. Input is provided from teachers within the teaching team with regard to timetabling issues and future development of specific courses. The development of a core team of LCA teachers, as recommended in section 1.1 of this report, would facilitate the development of short-term, medium-term and long-term plans for the LCA programme.†
Schemes of work have been developed for each subject area within LCA. Best practice was observed where these contained learning outcomes for the topics to be taught which were linked to appropriate methodologies, methods of assessment and appropriate timeframes. This good practice should be extended to all schemes of work. During the next review of planning for LCA, it is recommended that the schemes of work be further developed to include learning outcomes. There is also scope to include how liaison with the learning support department takes place; this is already ongoing and it is very important.
Communication with management occurs on a regular basis both formally and informally. The coordinator also teaches one year group on the programme. This is beneficial as subject-specific contact with the students facilitates the development of positive relationships between teacher and students. It is recommended that in future as far as possible, the LCA coordinator should be formally timetabled for class contact with both the LCA1 and LCA2 groups.
A broad and balanced curriculum is offered to LCA students in the school. The vocational specialisms provided are Hotel, Catering and Tourism, and Graphics and Construction Studies. These were chosen in an attempt to utilise staff strengths and to maximise the potential for students to avail of the further training and higher education opportunities available locally. Currently, two teachers are timetabled to teach ICT to both LCA1 and LCA2. In an attempt to improve cohesion and continuity, it is recommended that one ICT teacher be assigned to teach LCA1 and the second be assigned to teach LCA2.
All students take 4 elective modules over the two years of the programme. Elective modules can vary from year to year, but are generally taken from a choice of Childcare/community care, Agriculture/Horticulture and Active Leisure Studies. At present, students in year one LCA are studying two modules of Childcare/ Community care while those in year two LCA are studying two Modules of Active Leisure Studies. The modern language studied by all LCA students in year two is Spanish. There is scope to timetable one lesson per week for personal reflection. This would provide for the social and personal development of each student from the outset and facilitate the development of the skills of reflective practice required for the personal reflection task.
3.1 Planning and preparation
The planning documentation made available during the inspection was detailed. A comprehensive LCA planning folder contained a course overview, aims and objectives of the programme as well as details of teacher induction, student induction, cross-curricular links, work experience, special consideration in examinations, resources, record keeping and assessment. A number of templates for letters to parents and employers were also made available. Plans were also outlined for students with special educational needs. There is scope for individual teachers to improve liaison with the special educational needs department on an individual subject basis through the provision of key words or terms specific to the subject. It is good practice that the planning documentation also contained a student destination survey and the whole-school homework policy. Another good practice noted was the statistical analysis and comparison of the schools results with the national averages.†
3.2 Learning and teaching
There is a good structured approach to learning and teaching in the LCA in Deele College. In all classes visited, the aims of the lesson were outlined at the outset. This is in keeping with recommended practice.
Teachers made good use of a range of active learning methodologies. These included class discussion, writing, practical work, brainstorming, group work, peer teaching, and oral work which included spelling, reading aloud and the pronunciation of subject-specific terminology. Methodologies were varied throughout the lessons and this served to engage studentsí interest and keep them focused. Resources such as the overhead projector, data projector, worksheets, textbooks, newspaper clippings, whiteboard, CD player and student generated posters were used effectively to support the content of the lessons.
In the practical subjects, students displayed good routines for setting up and tidying away equipment and materials. Students co-operated in groups and demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively.
Good attention was given to the development of literacy in all lessons. Teachers encouraged the use of subject-specific terminology in both oral and written work. New terminology was noted on the whiteboard and students were encouraged to spell and pronounce words. In a language lesson the teacher encouraged use of the target language through peer teaching where students asked each other questions on a one-to-one basis and this work was also checked by the teacher when circulating the classroom.
Classroom management was effective and discipline was sensitively maintained. Good teacher-student and student-student rapport was evident. Students were affirmed and encouraged for their efforts and contributions. Students were enthusiastic, purposeful and co-operative in their work. Commendably, in all lessons, teachers circled the room and provided support and encouragement to students as they performed practical or written activities. It was observed that students were confident and capable as they worked on their practical tasks. Teachers went to great lengths to ensure that lesson content had practical applications and was made relevant to studentsí everyday lives. Appropriate links were established, where applicable, with existing understanding and studentsí experiences. There was good linkage to previous lessons through questioning, and continuity of learning was enhanced when a connection was also made with the next lesson.
In many instances, questioning was used effectively to gauge studentsí level of understanding, to probe their responses and to reinforce recently learnt subject matter in the lessons. Students responded well to questions and did not hesitate to ask questions themselves.
Many examples of good practice were observed with regard to the assessment of studentsí work. It is evident that a range of assessment modes is regularly used and these modes include questioning, observation, practical exercises, written assignments as well as the LCA key assignments and tasks. Studentsí progress is monitored through the completion of the key assignments related to individual modules in the programme and these results, as well as the outcomes of class tests, are recorded by each subject teacher. It is important that key assignments be retained with their completed cover sheets for the two years of the programme.
A range of tasks, key assignments and student notebooks was observed during the evaluation. These showed evidence of checking and monitoring by the teachers. This is in line with recommended practice. A number of student tasks were observed during the evaluation and they were of a good standard. Parental feedback takes the form of parent-teacher meetings and school reports sent out at appropriate intervals during the school year.
Cross-curricular integration, which is a key educational principle of the LCA programme, is facilitated through key assignments, tasks and work experience. Anchor subjects for the cross-curricular tasks are established at the planning meeting at the beginning of the year. All tasks afford the students the opportunity to display their competence in the use of ICT and this also enhances the presentation of the tasks. This is commended.
It is laudable that the school has begun the process of reviewing the programme. To date, this has been largely on an informal basis. Student feedback has been used to outline the strengths and weaknesses within the programme and the coordinator has taken these observations on board. Classroom teachers have also discussed any observations or recommendations on improvements with the coordinator. The coordinator has listed these. It is recommended that a formal review of the programme be carried out and this should involve all participants in LCA, including parents and final-year students. Further information on the review process is available on the website of the Second Level Support Service (www.slss.ie/lca).
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
Published April 2009