A Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme Evaluation
Enniscorthy Vocational College
Roll Number: 71630K
Date of inspection: 19 November 2007
evaluation of leaving certificate vocational programme
Enniscorthy Vocational college, enniscorthy, Co. wexford
The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is an intervention designed to enhance the vocational dimension of the Leaving Certificate (established). The LCVP combines the academic strengths of the Leaving Certificate (established) with a new and dynamic focus on self-directed learning, innovation and enterprise. The primary goal of the LCVP is to prepare young people for adult life by ensuring that they are educated in the broadest sense, with an ability to cope and thrive in an environment of rapid change. Participants in the programme are encouraged to develop skills and competencies fundamental to both academic and vocational success. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCVP in Enniscorthy Vocational 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 LCVP 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, the LCVP programme coordinator, the programme coordinator and members of the core teaching team at the end of the evaluation period.
Enniscorthy Vocational College offers a wide range of subjects and programmes to its cohort of six hundred and eighty-one students: the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), Transition Year (TY), the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Currently, there are 416 girls and 265 boys on the college’s enrolment. The college draws its student intake in the main from the town of Enniscorthy itself as well as from surrounding primary schools in its rural hinterland. The LCVP has been in the college since its introduction as an option in senior cycle in 1994. The college also offers a programme of PLC courses.
1.1 Whole school support
The most important resource for the successful implementation of a programme is the team of professional teachers made available by school management to effectively put in place all aspects of the LCVP. It was evident in the course of the evaluation that senior management has ensured that deployment of teachers to the LCVP can ensure the successful implementation of the programme. The inclusion of the LCVP on the college curriculum also makes a significant contribution to the fulfillment of the objectives of the college’s mission statement, “to draw forth the positive potential of each student to empower them to become fully participant members of their local community”.
There has been an increase in uptake of the LCVP in recent years. At present, there are two class groups for LCVP in both fifth year and sixth year. The numbers have grown from twenty-one in 2005, to thirty-five in 2006 and to fifty-six in 2007. The increase in numbers has obviously raised the profile of the programme in the school with two thirds of the student cohort participating in the programme. A strength of the programme in the college is the awareness and appreciation demonstrated by both students and staff of the value of the LCVP in developing students’ learning and skills.
The commendable practice of subject teachers assisting in creating cross-curricular links, an important aspect of LCVP, was very much in evidence in the school. Subject departments have contributed assistance to enterprise activities, such as the creation and selling of Christmas cards and staff has also been supportive in relation to the organisation and attendance at the soccer blitz, another enterprise activity organised by LCVP students. The Materials Technology, Home Economics and Art departments have collaborated in assisting in the preparation of products for enterprise activities, such as the protective aprons for the metalwork room. In the current year, the school is fundraising for “Bothar” and teachers have been supportive in accommodating LCVP students in their fundraising ventures.
The guidance service, the programme coordinator, the LCVP core team of links modules teachers, the Vocational Subject Grouping (VSG) teachers all contribute to the implementation of the programme. The success of the LCVP relies on the effective teamwork of the individual contributions of teachers within the school.
In the first place, the allocation of teachers to participate in programme delivery depends on allocation from County Wexford VEC, secondly on the decisions of school management in relation to its deployment of teachers and thirdly on student numbers opting for LCVP and their subject choices. In the current year, the LCVP coordinator has to fulfill a number of teaching hours in another VEC college to ensure maintaining a subject on the curriculum. This is an understandable VEC management priority. Nevertheless, it puts a burden of co-location on the coordinator who is commended for effective time management in fulfilling duties in two colleges.
In making decisions in relation to the allocation of time to programme delivery, it is important for school management to ensure in the first place adherence to programme objectives. Links modules classes are currently allocated two single periods in fifth year and a double period in sixth year. This is one period less than the syllabus guidelines, however, the stand alone LCVP group in the current sixth year has been allocated four periods for the completion of the links modules syllabus, which is higher than recommended. In this way, the school has tailored the time allocation to the programme to best meet the needs of its present student cohort.
Some LCVP students are taking a modern language to Leaving Certificate. Those students not taking a Leaving Certificate language follow a LCVP language module in Spanish. There is an allocation of one period in fifth year and one period in sixth year. The current sixth years have received a lesson period for their language module in each year, while due to an anomaly in the current fifth year timetable, fifth years have their language module every second week. School management is aware of this and will be addressing the allocation of the additional time required in the coming year. School management is strongly urged to address this and to ensure this does not re-occur. Presently, links modules lessons are timetabled concurrently with Computer Studies, which is provided for non-LCVP students.
Factors identified by the LCVP coordination as influencing the timetabling of the links modules classes include: the need to provide double periods; to allow for access to ICT; the necessity for lesson periods to be blocked together to facilitate enterprise activities. All these factors have been taken into account by school management in devising the most appropriate timetable. Double periods have been provided and time is available for enterprise activities. The additional teacher allocation for LCVP is also deployed to facilitate adequate coordination time, to create smaller class groups and to be of benefit to senior cycle students overall. The coordination of LCVP has an allocation of four hours and twelve minutes coordination time. This is necessary to effectively carry out the myriad of responsibilities associated with the programme.
1.3 Student selection
Generally, students who have the required VSGs avail of the programme, and the variety of the VSG combinations which obtain goes some way to explaining the balance across male and female participation. It was interesting to note that two-thirds of the LCVP cohort of students is boys. Generally, LCVP students form part of the mainstream established Leaving Certificate groups and come together as a distinct group for links modules lessons and associated activities. When appropriate, as was the case for one current 6th year group, a stand-alone class can be formed. This demonstrates that both models can be accommodated by the school and is a further example of the school tailoring the programme delivery to students’ needs. Students acknowledged that belonging to a dedicated LCVP class group to have been a positive experience for them. Students are strongly encouraged and supported in completing the programme and the drop-out rate is very low. The school is commended for this.
The requirements dictated by the VSGs may restrict access to the programme for some students, who may otherwise be interested. The reasons cited by students themselves for opting for the LCVP included: the possibility of gaining extra points; the involvement in projects and enterprise activities; the focus on careers investigations and work experience. Teachers reported that those students who pursue the LCVP language module in Spanish dislike the fact that they have to study a language without a final certification being awarded. Although students complete a portfolio of language work completed, the school is encouraged to explore the possibility of the provision of certification in the form of a FETAC foundation or level one certification in Spanish. This would address the concern of students, as well as providing students with a foundation certificate in a language, on which they can build through further study, if desired.
1.4 Home, school and community links
Parents are fully briefed on senior cycle options for students and are involved in the process of subject and programme selection. The student journal is regularly used as a means of communication between parents and teachers in relation to students. Parent-teacher meetings are also held in the usual manner to inform parents of students’ progress. Teachers also use progress report sheets to record student progress in different aspects of the programme. For example, parents are requested to complete an evaluation sheet when students return from work experience. Parents are notified of LCVP events and the LCVP coordinator is available to parents to discuss any aspect of the programme. The school and the coordinators operate an open door policy to parents in relation to any aspect of students’ progress and education. The school also holds coffee mornings for parents.
The school has developed excellent links with a number of outside community and voluntary enterprises and businesses. The effective implementation of the programme from year to year would not be possible without the personnel and agencies external to the school. These links continue to be fostered and developed. The value of the support for the programme provided by local enterprises is acknowledged and the school has expressed its appreciation to these agencies and businesses. The school has had and continues to have close links with the Xcel Student Enterprise Programme in County Wexford and will be involved in a review of the programme being undertaken.
1.5 Supports for students
The guidance service arranges individual interviews with LCVP students at relevant times of the school year, for example, in preparation for CAO applications, to advise on career investigations and career aspirations. The guidance service also keeps the LCVP coordinator informed on career information days.
Students with special educational needs (SEN) are integrated into the normal class groups. The LCVP curriculum is designed to be delivered through learning by doing. Teachers use a wide range of teaching methodologies associated with enterprise, such as questioning, case studies, brainstorming, group work, mind maps and ICT. Such approaches help all students but in particular students with learning difficulties. At present, there are no students who have English as an additional language in the LCVP but it was reported that those students are coming on stream.
The present LCVP coordinator has been in the position for the past four years. The position of LCVP coordinator is not assigned as a post of responsibility, but as mentioned earlier time has been allocated for coordination. The LCVP coordinator has engaged in in-service training in the area and has completed a post-graduate certificate in teaching enterprise. Overall responsibility for the coordination of work experience across the three programmes, TY, LCA and LCVP, in the school has been assigned to the recently appointed programme coordination post. This arrangement, when firmly embedded in practice, should be of benefit to all programmes.
The coordination of the LCVP involves engagement in an extensive number of activities. These include a range of administrational, educational and organisational duties: co-ordination of time-tabling; liaising with the wider school community; liaising with external agencies; organising information nights for parents; keeping staff members and staff notice board up-to-date on LCVP activities and targets; contributing to the staff newsletter; liaising with students, teachers and employers regarding work experience; coordinating cross-curricular links; contributing to the coordination of Xcel enterprise workshops. Effective coordination has brought an organisational cohesion and efficiency to the programme. More importantly, the motivation and enthusiasm of both teachers and students for the programme was clearly in evidence. This is due, in part, to the quality of the coordination. The quality of the presentation prepared by the LCVP coordinator to inform both parents and students about the programme is exemplary.
One of the priorities identified by the LCVP coordination is the further development of the LCVP core team. Maintaining the same core team from year to year has contributed to consistency in delivering the programme content and objectives from year to year. It has also helped to build on the skill base and expertise of the core team in relation to the programme. This is a commendable.
Central to the role of the LCVP and programme coordinator is liaising with students, teachers and employers regarding work experience. The student makes the initial contact, and the programme coordinator follows up to explain the LCVP programme, what the school’s expectations are in relation to the work placement and the employer’s role in meeting these expectations. Letters are then sent out to each student’s chosen work placement employer by the school. On conclusion of the work experience, the school issues a thank you letter to the employer. Monitoring visits are also paid to work placements, if possible, otherwise contact is made by phone call. If a placement proves unsuitable, that employer is removed from the data base. It is commendable that an employer data base has been developed. A template is provided by the school for the employer to write a report on the student’s completion of the work experience. The process as outlined is thorough, professional and systematic, which is all the more necessary to retain good relationships with community businesses and voluntary agencies.
Meetings of the LCVP team are facilitated by school management twice a year; at the beginning of the year to complete a draft plan for that academic year for the relevant LCVP groups and towards the end of the year, to review the plan as implemented. It is commendable that an annual system of review is built into the programme. Examples of improvements which have been brought about as a result of review include the switch from French to Spanish for the school-based language module and the timing of work experience. An agenda is set and minutes are kept of such meetings. The minutes, in fact, can often form the basis for the next agenda. LCVP links modules teachers meet at least once a term and all teachers involved in the programme liaise informally on a regular basis and more formally, if required.
The LCVP coordinator retains a number of important records in relation to the programme for the current year groups and in relation to the participating students. These include such documents as student enrolment forms, class lists, learning support student records, VSG timetables, as well as planning files and records of visits-in and visits-out. Crucial documents for ongoing planning, review and development of the programme include: the data base of student work experience; the records of network meetings held in the local Education centre; enterprise links with the school; records of in-service attended and training documents for dissemination and year planners. Details and dates for the completion for portfolio items are also carefully recorded and checklists are provided for students. School management is encouraged to examine the possibility of the provision of an LCVP office or work station, to facilitate the storage, sharing and integration of a range of resources, as well as the display and storage of student projects and portfolios.
Curriculum review forms part of the focus of time allocated to school development planning. In this way, all teachers can contribute to the development of the LCVP. The most effective aspects of the programme, as identified by the LCVP coordinator and the students, are the skills developed by students: ICT skills, presentation skills, interview skills, interpersonal skills. What has been particularly effective in developing such skills have been the enterprise activities, the work experience and the links with the community. The links the school has established with local businesses and enterprises are also central to the quality of the case studies of enterprises and career investigations. The range is commendable. The ongoing development of the school’s LCVP and curriculum is the responsibility of LCVP teaching team, in cooperation with VSG and subject teachers, as the cross-curricular work is an integral part of the school’s LCVP programme. The most common VSGs chosen by students are Engineering and Construction, and Home Economics and Art. Home Economics and Biology is another popular grouping.
This is the first year where the organisation of work experience placements has been devolved to the programme coordinator post and the role was still in the process of being established at the time of the evaluation. One LCVP group does work experience before Christmas and the second group before March. In advance of work experience, students are prepared in job search skills, contacting prospective employers by telephone and by letter and preparing a curriculum vitae. Students are also given information in relation to employees’ rights and employment legislation, as well as health and safety regulations at work. This is commendable.
Students carry out a range of enterprise activities as part of their programme of study. Examples of such activities include the planning and running of a soccer blitz; fundraising for charity; involvement in enterprise competitions. As well as providing students with opportunities for teamwork, these activities provide the basis for preparing reports, diaries and other material for their personal portfolio. Students highlighted the freedom to choose your own group as an attractive feature of the LCVP for them.
3.1 Planning and preparation for teaching
Both the LCVP coordinator and LCVP teachers are encouraged and facilitated in attending available in-service. The benefits to teachers attending in-service have been to provide them with a greater understanding of the programme, increase awareness of cross-curricular activities and contributes to the development of a team approach. As a consequence, teachers are better placed to highlight for students the benefits of their involvement in enterprise. Teachers can show students how team work skills and entrepreneurial skills can be used in relevant Leaving Certificate subjects. In the lessons observed, there was an appropriate theme running through each lesson and the necessary resource material had been well prepared in advance of lessons.
3.2 Teaching and learning
In all lessons observed, an effective learning environment was created and sustained. Student-teacher rapport was very good and classroom management was effective at all times. Teacher preparation contributed to good lesson pace and structure. Teachers shared the objective of the lesson with students, which kept students focused and on task. The clarity of definitions and appropriacy of terminology presented to students also contributed to student learning and understanding. Students were responsive to questioning and showed good understanding of concepts and lesson content. Teachers were diligent in monitoring of student understanding and were sensitive to student answering.
A variety of well-chosen active methodologies were observed in use, which accommodated a range of learning styles and abilities. This is good practice. When required to work in pairs or small groups, students were cooperative, participative in their learning and demonstrated application to task completion. Activity sheets were provided for the work in pairs. There was a good balance between student-centred activity and teacher input. Students were appropriately challenged by lesson content, responded well and were asked to clarify their responses, when required. The use of examples of local entrepreneurs provided an additional familiar dimension which facilitated student interest and learning. The approach adopted by teachers, where they directed the learning initially, then followed this with the effective integration of learning activities ensured both student engagement and development of knowledge and skills.
Formative assessment of students is carried out on a continuous basis by questioning in class, through correction of homework and portfolio work, and also through the excellent level of teacher movement and observation of students during class that was noted by the inspector. When a draft of a portfolio item is presented, it is corrected and returned to the student for follow up. In this manner, portfolio preparation is carried out under the direct supervision of teachers. All students have been provided with copies of the portfolio marking scheme to assist them in this work. This is excellent practice. Examination of student portfolios showed a good standard of student work.
4.1 Programme evaluation and review
The programme is evaluated once a year at the end of April involving the senior management team, programme coordination personnel, links modules teachers and the guidance service. The school’s indicators of successful attainment of programme objectives include: state examination results; the quality of portfolio items completed; the performance of enterprise teams in competitions, as well as successful programme completion by participating students. Teachers’ views on what is working well and what is not working well are also taken into account. In reviewing the programme, improvements for the coming year groups are proposed and discussed. This is commendable. Sometimes the programme is viewed by students as points-driven.
4.2 Attainment of programme objectives
Teachers reported that students have gained from the LCVP through the increased level of individual attention that can be given to participants, and in raising their awareness of the world of work and the career options open to them. The manner in which different learning styles are addressed in the programme enhances the academic progress of many students. Teachers are also satisfied that students develop a range of skills directly as a result of participation in the programme, for example research, time-management and teamwork skills. Experiences such as work experience, carrying out a career investigation and business and community enterprise visits, have helped the school build-up valuable links with outside agencies. In addition, the LCVP has been beneficial to students who required an extra subject for the Leaving Certificate.
The increased profile of the LCVP in the school has also had a reported positive effect on the profile of the school in the town. This could be attributed to the college’s successful participation and cooperation with the Xcel Enterprise Project, an enterprise competition involving all other second-level schools in County Wexford. The school’s success has been such that the college has gone on to represent the county at national level. The links established through LCVP with the community has raised an awareness of the college, its students and therefore its profile. In conjunction with the New Era programme, the college has an increased student attendance at third level. Also through participation in the LCVP, students can develop a wider range of skills. Employers have approached the school when seeking apprentices. The main qualities and intrinsic value of the links modules were acknowledged and appreciated by the students interviewed during the course of the evaluation.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The LCVP coordination, the guidance service, the programme coordination, the LCVP core team of links modules teachers and the VSG teachers all contribute to the successful implementation of the programme.
· A strength of the programme in the college is the awareness and appreciation demonstrated by both students and staff of the value of the LCVP in developing students’ learning and skills.
· Effective LCVP coordination has brought an organisational cohesion and efficiency to the programme.
· The school has developed excellent links with a number of outside community and voluntary enterprises and businesses.
· It is commendable that an annual system of review is built into the LCVP.
· The approach adopted by teachers in the lessons observed, where they directed the learning initially, then followed this with the effective integration of learning activities, ensured both student engagement and development of knowledge and skills.
· Indicators of successful attainment of programme objectives include: state examination results; the quality of portfolio items completed; the performance of enterprise teams in competitions, as well as successful programme completion by participating students.
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
· The current fifth year group has their language module every second week. School management is strongly urged to address and to ensure the allocation of the additional time required for completion of the Spanish module content in the coming year.
· School management is encouraged to examine the possibility of the provision of an LCVP office or work station, to facilitate the storage, sharing and integration of a range of resources, as well as the display and storage of student projects and portfolios.
· Although students complete a portfolio of language work completed, the school is encouraged to explore the possibility of the provision of certification in the form of a FETAC foundation or level one certification in Spanish for those students taking the ab-initio language module.
Published June 2008