An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Programme Evaluation

Leaving Certificate Applied Programme

REPORT

 

Coláiste Chathail Naofa

Dungarvan, County Waterford

Roll Number: 72220T

 

Date of inspection: 20 May 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Quality of programme organisation

Quality of programme planning and coordination

Quality of learning and teaching

Summary of strengths and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

EVALUATION OF THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE APPLIED PROGRAMME

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme in Coláiste Chathail Naofa, Dungarvan. 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 deputy principal, the programme co-ordinator and the core team at the end of the evaluation period.

 

Coláiste Chathail Naofa is a vocational school under the trusteeship of County Waterford Vocational Education Committee (VEC). The school participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan for educational equality. The range of curricular programmes offered meets the diverse needs of students. The Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), LCA and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) are provided in addition to the Junior Certificate and established Leaving Certificate. This is very good provision. The school has provided the LCA programme for ten years. 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 Quality of programme organisation

 

1.1 Whole school support

 

The very effective leadership of the principal envisages LCA as indispensable in fulfilling the mission of the school. The principal facilitates effective implementation of LCA and successfully delegates the function of leadership of the programme team to the programme co-ordinator. The principal is an active participant in the LCA core team and attends its regular meetings. Regular review of various aspects of the programme is an integral part of core-team activity and it is recommended that a report based on such a structured review be forwarded to the board of management annually.

There is strong support for LCA among the whole staff who are well informed on its principles, aims and implementation. Over half of the staff members are involved in delivering the programme. LCA is considered and discussed appropriately at all general staff meetings. The staff share an appreciation of the importance of LCA in meeting the educational needs of students, in particular those towards whom it is directed.

The literacy-and-numeracy policy adopted and operated by the school is appropriate, admirably clear and focused. Its strategies are comprehensive and succinctly stated. Literacy and numeracy are recognised as core skills which underpin all areas of the curriculum. The implementation of this policy throughout the school provides very good support for achieving the aims of LCA.

Parents are made aware of the programme, its nature and purpose early in junior cycle. Information is provided in an integrated fashion in school literature, on the school’s website, at information evenings for parents, at parent-teacher meetings and through the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) service. The programme is fully and openly acknowledged as a central part of the educational provision in senior cycle. This is very good practice.

Students of LCA are fully involved in the awards system within the school and in Gaisce – The President’s Award. Awards gained by LCA students are appropriately celebrated by the whole school, parents and the board of management. This is good practice.

A structured induction process is in place for teachers new to LCA, in line with good practice. The co-ordinator is instrumental in this process. A written induction handout reproduces the notes on LCA from the teachers’ handbook. Induction is followed by continuing mentoring of new team members by the co-ordinator and by other experienced team members. A record is kept of the structured induction provided for each teacher. Teachers are encouraged and supported in availing of continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities. This is good practice. 

1.2 Resources

 

Systematic and effective procedures are in place for co-ordination of work experience. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for arranging their placements, supported by the guidance counsellor and the LCA co-ordinator who visit each of them in the course of the work experience.

The composition of the LCA teaching team is appropriate to the requirements of the programme and the needs of the students. Teachers are consulted prior to their assignment and most have been involved in LCA from its inception in the school. Additional educational needs of students are catered for in an integrated way through junior and senior cycle and the learning support department plays an active part in the implementation of the programme.

Adequate time is allocated to each of the LCA courses but this is not always spread equitably across the school week. Care should be taken to provide as much continuity of contact as possible in courses such as Mathematical Applications and Social Education by avoiding double-period and multiple classes on the same day. The sixth-year class was also short of the twenty-eight hours per week instruction time required under the terms of Circular Letter M29/95. It is imperative that this be rectified.

Appropriate levels of information and communication technology (ICT) are made available for completion of the Introduction to ICT course and the ICT specialism as well as for the study of computer-aided design (CAD). Supervised computer facilities are also made available in the school library for completion of key assignments and student tasks. This represents very good additional utilisation of the library provided, together with a school librarian, under the JCSP library project. The programme team is encouraged to continue to develop opportunities for the use of ICT for teaching in lessons outside of the computer room within existing resources. The programme co-ordinator and team make appropriate use of ICT for the production of planning documentation and teaching materials.

 

1.3 Student Selection and Support

 

Selection of students for LCA in the school is consistent with the aims of the programme and is informed by the clear vision of the principal, the LCA co-ordinator and the experienced programme team. This is good practice that aims to identify the most beneficial programme for the individual student. Students identified for inclusion are availing of the programme.

 

LCA is presented to students and parents as an integral part of the range of programmes available in Coláiste Chathail Naofa. Accurate information on the programme is presented appropriately and incrementally from the pre-enrolment open night,  to the stage when programme choices are made entering fifth year. Presentations are made to all third-year students to inform and clarify LCA and LCVP. The LCA core team undertakes the identification of students for whom LCA is the more suitable programme and its advantages are presented to these students to encourage their interest in opting for the programme. The support given to students in making their decisions is widely based and well timed. This support includes individual interviews with the guidance counsellor. The guidance course, delivered by the guidance counsellor to both LCA classes, facilitates guidance within the programme in line with requirements.

The integrated approach taken to the delivery of learning support for students in LCA is commendable. Provision is a continuation of the good practice in place through junior cycle. The special-educational-needs team, in consultation with the National Educational Psychology Service (NEPS), identifies individual students’ needs early and maintains close links with the whole staff and individual teachers. The special-educational-needs co-ordinator and team are actively engaged in tutoring and teaching the LCA classes. Students’ needs and progress are re-evaluated and recorded. Individual observation sheets are kept.

Due to the prominent and positive profile of the LCA programme in the school, students have an understanding of its features, aims and implementation from the outset. This understanding is valuable in supporting successful student introduction to LCA. Specific induction procedures should be adopted, in line with the recommendations on the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) website at http://lca.slss.ie/resource_category/view/233, to further enhance the induction of students. These induction procedures should be included in the programme documentation.

 

1.4 Home-school links

 

Coláiste Chathail Naofa is very effective in informing parents and the wider community of the features and purpose of LCA through its documentation and on its website at http://www.ccndungarvan.com/leavingcertapplied.shtml. Parents are invited to an evening information session each year at which the details of LCA and LCVP are presented in preparation for students’ choice of programmes. These information sessions provide parents with opportunities to meet the teachers and the guidance counsellor, learn about the programme and ask questions. Parents unable to attend are encouraged to arrange a meeting with the guidance counsellor at another time. The HSCL co-ordinator plays an active role in maintaining effective communication with parents. The well-defined role of HSCL provides ongoing contact which facilitates discussion and support as necessary in relation to attendance, completion of key assignments, examinations, deadlines for tasks and other areas of students’ involvement. Effective and valuable contact is maintained with employers who host students’ work experience. All opportunities are taken to reinforce contact with the wider community and to develop employers’ awareness of the features and aims of the programme.

 

Parents are encouraged, and facilitated through their knowledge of the programme, to be fully involved in the process of programme choice and they are encouraged to participate in LCA events. The measures being undertaken to strengthen involvement of parents in the implementation of the programme should be formally described and included in the LCA plan.

 

Parents are provided with meaningful, frequent and regular feedback on students’ progress. Parent-teacher meetings for LCA students are held in conjunction with the other fifth-year and sixth-year parent-teacher meetings. These take place twice per year.

 

 

2 Quality of programme planning and coordination

 

2.1 Planning

 

Written LCA planning has made good progress. It comprises a number of documents covering areas including programme policy, an attendance strategy, induction of staff new to LCA, cross-curricular links and descriptions of the roles of co-ordinator, guidance counsellor, learning-support staff and the HSCL co-ordinator. This plan should be further developed and integrated to provide a coherent two-year plan for each of the LCA classes including module plans for each course. These module plans should be based on a consistent template and clearly identify and schedule cross-curricular elements. The plan should also include a clear statement of the criteria used for selection of students. In integrating school policies with the plan, such as the policies on additional educational needs and student assessment, the specific context of the LCA should be addressed. It is recommended that this further development and integration of the LCA plan be undertaken collaboratively by the LCA team as part of the school’s overall school development planning programme.

 

The LCA core team is a very effective support to the programme co-ordinator and is representative of the programme team, including the guidance department, and senior management. The core team meets regularly, in the region of four times per year, and good practice is followed with regard to the preparation of agendas and the recording of minutes. The core-team meetings engage very effectively in planning, monitoring and evaluating the programme. Record keeping within the programme is of a high standard and is comprehensive. It is recommended that the evidence of students’ completion of key assignments, which is held securely by the teacher of the relevant module at present, be held in a central secure location following completion. The procedures adopted for monitoring, recording and storing students’ key assignment work should be included in the LCA plan.

 

In addition to the core-team meetings, approximately four whole-team LCA meetings are held each year facilitating planning for common areas of the curriculum, and organisation and planning of students’ tasks. A significant amount of collaborative planning also takes place in less formal settings as team members meet in small groups to make decisions with regard to short-term implementation of cross-curricular activities. This is very good practice.

 

Good practice is followed with regard to the review of aspects of the programme at meetings of the core team, whole-team meetings and at staff meetings as part of school development planning. This practice should be further developed to provide for an annual review of the whole programme. This annual review should be inclusive and provide for structured inputs from students, parents, employers who host students on work experience and the wider community, as well as the whole LCA team and the wider teaching staff. By adopting systematic review procedures annually, comparable information and evidence can be gathered that will clarify trends that may inform planning for the further development of the programme. The SLSS website, http://lca.slss.ie/resource_category/view/154, should be consulted regarding such a review.

 

Earlier review of the programme has led to modifications such as the introduction of courses in response to students’ preferences. This is good practice. The programme facilitates the preparation of students who enter post leaving certificate (PLC) courses in the college in areas allied to the vocational specialisms offered in LCA. The provision of this channel for students’ entry to further study has had an additional positive impact at a whole-school level that is commended.

 

2.2 Coordination

 

The programme is very effectively co-ordinated with appropriate care and attention to detail. The co-ordinating structures are well developed and are formally defined. The co-ordinator is well resourced and maintains a presence in an area accessible to students and staff. The school’s programme co-ordinator, appointed under the terms of Circular Letter PPT 19/02, is also a member of the core LCA team and has a planning and teaching role in relation to the LCA programme. The LCA co-ordinator maintains very good communications with senior management, the school’s programme co-ordinator, the LCA teaching team and the LCA students. The co-ordinator has significant timetabled teaching contact with both of the LCA classes. This is good practice.

 

2.3 Curriculum

 

All students take Information and Communications Technology as one vocational specialism while the other is a choice of either Engineering or Hotel Catering and Tourism. These provide a suitably wide range of vocational specialisms to meet students’ needs and preferences and to draw on a diverse range of skills and interests. The four elective modules studied are similarly diverse and are drawn from Religious Education, and Graphics and Construction Studies.

 

The views of the students have been considered in deciding which vocational specialisms are offered, within the constraints of staff availability and expertise. Continued recording of the students’ preferences as part of the annual programme review should be used to ensure that as far as possible the good practice of giving priority to these preferences is maintained. While students are currently given a choice of Engineering or Hotel Catering and Tourism, this choice could be further broadened by including the third vocational specialism, Information and Communications Technology, in an initial offer to students and deciding the option to be offered on the basis of meeting the preferences of the greatest number of students. This approach to devising options should be considered.

 

Good quality guidance and support are provided for students and their parents concerning subject choice. Choice is presented without reference to gender. However it is tacitly accepted by the school that it is a natural progression for students to follow choices made in junior cycle when choosing vocational specialisms in LCA. It is recommended that the support provided for choosing vocational specialisms include clear statements that address the open nature of the choice to be made regardless of gender.

 

 

3 Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Planning and preparation

 

On the evidence of the lessons observed it is clear that appropriate emphasis is placed on planning and preparation for the delivery of courses. Lesson content reflects the course descriptors. Appropriate planning facilitates the application of a range of teaching approaches to meet the variety of students’ learning styles, abilities, needs and interests. Teachers engage appropriately in cross-curricular planning and it is recommended that the outcomes of such planning be included in the programme and module plans. Careful preparation for individual lessons ensures that teaching resources are available. Further development of the very effective planning already in place should focus on increasing the range of teaching resources used, including the greater use of ICT and digital media within lessons. There is a very good level of collaboration between the special-educational-needs team and the LCA programme team with regard to planning. Such collaboration in particular provides good quality support in the completion of students’ tasks.

 

3.2 Learning and teaching

 

The expected learning outcomes were clear from the beginning of each of the lessons observed. In some instances, the learning outcomes were discussed and negotiated with the students and this approach is particularly good practice that should be expanded. The pace of the lessons was appropriate. Links were maintained with previous lessons, especially by means of well-structured introductions during which teachers typically engaged students on work completed previously. In the case of a lesson in Gaeilge Chumarsáideach, students referred to their written answers from the previous lesson and the teacher wrote their responses on the white board, while in a vocational preparation and guidance (VPG) lesson, students were presented with opportunities to discuss the visit of a speaker to the class, which had taken place in the previous lesson. In the latter case the teacher also recorded the students’ responses. These exercises provided good links with previous work and prepared students for undertaking a tape exercise in Gaeilge Chumarsáideach and producing written reports in VPG. This was good practice which was typical of the approaches adopted in each of the lessons observed. Strategies were successfully adopted in each of the lessons that sought to enhance students’ oral and written literacy and communications skills.

 

Good practice was seen in the application of a range of teaching methodologies, which included brain storming in an English and communications lesson, the use of objects, such as a mosquito net and photographs, as prompts to elicit students’ responses in a VPG lesson and work in pairs in a mathematical applications lesson as students planned a holiday. These students also worked in groups to write short notes prior to recombining to produce a report. The team is encouraged to continue to develop such appropriate methods and strategies to further enhance students’ direct involvement and active participation in their own learning.

 

Students showed an appropriate level of understanding and knowledge as they responded well to their teachers and engaged enthusiastically with the work being completed. The range of ICT skills displayed in students’ work was appropriate and the work was completed to a satisfactorily high standard. There was clear evidence of students developing learning and self-management skills across the curriculum which was particularly well represented in the presentation by a number of students of their class’s task work in producing and marketing home-made jam. It is clear that students achieve quality learning appropriate to their strengths and abilities.

 

A positive, stimulating and affirming atmosphere was nurtured and maintained. Students displayed pride in their achievements and a sense of belonging to their school and to the LCA programme.  Students expressed mature and reflective opinions, based on personal experience, on various aspects of the programme and were clearly making plans for their future career directions based on the preferences identified in the course of LCA.

 

Teachers carefully affirmed students’ efforts and generally provided them with a suitable level of challenge in the lessons observed. Discipline was maintained sensitively and the atmosphere was at all times conducive to learning. While group work and pair work are, on the evidence of this evaluation, commonly and appropriately adopted in lessons, it is suggested that a consistent approach to their use should be formulated collaboratively by the programme team and included in the programme and module plans.

 

3.3 Assessment

 

An appropriate range of assessment modes is used to track students’ progress. Formal modes include key assignments and tasks together with session examinations which are organised, assessed and recorded in line with requirements. Formative assessment is integrated into the teaching of all lessons and students are encouraged to play a full part in self assessment. The integration of personal reflection into each aspect of the students’ experience of LCA is used effectively to support such assessment for learning. Learning outcomes for individual students are determined appropriately to meet personal learning needs in line with good practice.

 

Very good practice is followed regarding record keeping and the provision of meaningful feedback to parents. Teachers of LCA maintain comprehensive records of students’ progress in the modules which they teach. Completion of key assignments is recorded formally and the records are forwarded to the co-ordinator. Session reports on LCA examinations are issued in addition to Christmas and summer tests results. Mock examinations are also set and reports on these are issued.

 

Very good provision is made for timely interventions when a student shows consistent lack of progress in a module. The teacher of the module consults with the school’s care team and the principal in such circumstances and an appropriate intervention is put in place. The success of such interventions is systematically reviewed, usually at the end of term. Students’ progress is discussed as appropriate with other professionals within the school or in outside professional agencies. Students are constantly reminded of the deadlines for completing work and of the danger of loss of credits due to non-completion of key assignments. The co-ordinator and module teachers play an active part in motivating students with regard to the completion of their work on time, in line with good practice.

 

Attendance at all lessons is closely monitored and appropriately taken into account when deciding on the award of credits. The process of notification to home of non-attendance is robust and is integrated with the whole-school approach to attendance. The HSCL co-ordinator provides very good immediate support in this area while the LCA co-ordinator follows up on all instances of non-attendance.

 

 

4 Summary of strengths and recommendations for further development

 

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, February 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    

 

The Board of Management of Coláiste Chathail Naofa would like to respond to the findings and recommendations of the Inspectorate issued on the 4th January 2010 (Option B).

 

The Board first and foremost would like to thank the Inspectorate for a very full, comprehensive and fair report which clearly showed that he (sic) observed very well all that was happening within LCA and associated with it. The Board found it to be a very positive report and indeed the whole school population felt very good about it.

 

The Inspector made recommendations regarding building on the existing strength of the LCA and the following are the Board’s responses:

The report recommended

  1. 28 hours a week instruction, this has been adopted and all LCA students now receive a minimum of 28 hours instruction.
  2. The LCA plan being integrated into the overall plan is done as follows

a)       The School is in the fourth year of a five year plan.

b)       Each May the College management and teachers review the priorities of the year in

                                                               i.      JCSP

                                                             ii.      LCVP

                                                            iii.      LCA to evaluate progress

 

The school priorities for this year in all 3 programmes are

a)       Discipline

b)       Quality of teaching and learning and

c)       Promoting a healthy lifestyle

 

At the end of May the co-ordinators of each programme will review progress with the core team and determine the next steps and these are put into the overall plan. This facilitates merging the LCA plan successfully into the overall school plan.

 

3) The Course co-ordinator has purchased a filing cabinet which is located near the Engineering room and centrally secures all project work.

 

4) The college management ensures specialisms are open to both boys and girls. When intending students come in for Open Nights they are informed by management and co-ordinators that subjects like Metalwork, Woodwork and Home Economics can be studied by both boys and girls. The College has, for example, many boys doing Home Economics this year in Third Year and they are likely to do Hotel and Catering in 5th year. The College management and teachers on several occasions each year remind students that all subjects are open to them, in all presentations and information booklets.

 

In conclusion, as a chairperson, I would like to thank the Inspectorate for a very fair and comprehensive report and find the recommendations helpful.