An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Programme Evaluation

REPORT

 

Coláiste Phobail Ros Cré

Corville  Rd, Roscrea, County Tipperary

Roll Number: 76069P

 

Date of inspection: 9 October 2007

Date of issue of report: 12 March 2008

 

Evaluation of LCA

Introduction

Quality of Programme Organisation

Quality of Programme Planning and Coordination

Quality of Learning and Teaching

Programme Evaluation and Outcomes

Summary of Strengths and Recommendations for Further Development

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Evaluation of LCA

 

The Leaving Certificate Applied programme is part of the expanded senior cycle provision designed to cater for the diversity of students’ needs. Its fundamental goal is to prepare students for the transition from education to the adult and working life, and to develop students’ literacy and numeracy skills. The underlying principle of the programme is the personal, social, vocational and educational development of students. In addition, students are afforded the opportunity to enhance their self-esteem, and to develop their communication and decision-making skills. Cross-curricular integration is central to the structure of the programme and to the students’ learning experiences. Assessment of students’ ongoing progress is a significant element of the programme and is facilitated through satisfactory completion of modules and students’ tasks. Final external examinations complete the assessment process.  The board of management 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.

 

 

introduction

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCA programme in Coláiste Phobail Ros Cré. It presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for the further development of the programme in the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors 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 inspectors liaised extensively with the programme co-ordinator and visited classrooms to observe teaching and learning. The inspectors provided oral feedback to teachers on lessons observed. The inspectors 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 the programme co-ordinator at the end of the evaluation period.

 

Coláiste Phobail Ros Cré was formed from the amalgamation of three schools, Sacred Heart Convent, Roscrea Vocational School and the Christian Brothers’ School. The traditions, values and experiences of the three schools contribute to the new school, which is managed by a Board of Management under the auspices of North Tipperary Vocational Education Committee. The school provides a wide-ranging curriculum: Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY), established Leaving Certificate, Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), thus catering for the needs of all its students. On completion of the Leaving Certificate programmes, students have the opportunity to progress to a number of Post Leaving Certificate courses within the school. Demonstrating a commitment to lifelong education, the school also offers an adult and community education programme. Roscrea Vocational School was one of the schools involved in piloting the LCA programme at the outset. LCA has been offered in the community college since its inception.

 

 

1 quality of programme Organisation

 

1.1 Whole school support

 

The LCA programme is well supported in the school. The principal has a good knowledge of the implementation of and issues surrounding the programme. On interaction with teachers, it was observed that they were enthusiastic and committed to the programme.

 

It is good to note that the co-ordinator makes other staff aware of issues surrounding LCA at staff meetings. A large number of staff are willingly involved in teaching LCA, thus actively demonstrating their support for the programme. Commendably, the whole staff had in-service on LCA a number of years ago. Consideration could be given to consolidating this knowledge and understanding through, for example, a short presentation at a future staff meeting.

 

Teachers of the programme are encouraged and facilitated to avail of appropriate continuing professional development on offer by the Second Level Support Service (SLSS). Teachers new to teaching LCA are initially directed to a teacher who had previously taught that specific subject for support. It is recommended that this support be enhanced by putting in place a formal in-school induction programme for new teachers.

 

1.2 Resources

 

Staff members who have agreed, are appropriately assigned to teach LCA. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are used effectively in organising the programme and students have good access to ICT. This is evidenced by the presentation of students’ reports on their tasks. During the course of the evaluation, the ICT equipment for the organisation of LCA was enhanced. This is commended. This equipment could be employed to store common records and facilitate the sharing of teaching and learning resources and good practice. It is understood that sufficient funds are generally available to the co-ordinator for LCA activities and subject specific resources which are not obtained through subject department budgets.

 

Management should explore the feasibility of providing an anchor classroom for LCA. In the first instance, this could be utilised as a central storage area for shared programme resources. More significantly, students’ work could be displayed more easily, thus providing a visually stimulating and motivating learning environment and allowing for celebration of students’ achievement.

 

1.3 Student selection

 

The LCA programme is well promoted amongst students and parents during the third year of junior cycle. Specific criteria that are in line with the objectives of the programme are employed for selecting students. Indicators of suitability for LCA include the completion of three foundation subjects for Junior Certificate and an exemption from the study of Irish. All teachers who teach third year recommend students for a specific programme in senior cycle. This is commended. This information is communicated to parents, thus facilitating them in helping their sons and daughters to make an informed choice of programme for senior cycle. Students are given accurate and appropriate information regarding LCA and are provided with timely support during the decision-making process. As a result, in almost all instances, target students avail of LCA. This is very good practice.

 

 

1.4 Home, school and community links

 

At open nights for prospective students, the co-ordinator operates an LCA stand in order that parents and their children develop an awareness of the programme. This is good practice. The parents of Junior Certificate students develop an insight into the nature and purpose of LCA at an information evening, and subsequently are involved in the programme selection. It is understood that with one student cohort an information meeting was held for the parents of fifth-year LCA students in late September. While acknowledging that this meeting had not been attended by a large number of parents on that occasion, its reintroduction should be re-examined as it would enhance the perception of the programme in the minds of the parents. It would also provide parents with an opportunity to ask questions and deal with uncertainties, and to reinforce the continuous assessment evaluation procedures, specifically the importance of attendance and the awards of credits.

 

There is regular and frequent contact between the school and parents. This is achieved via the school journal in the first instance and also through parent-teacher meetings. When required, contact is made by telephone and on occasion the school chaplain visits parents. This is commended. Parents are encouraged to contact the school if desired. Appropriate contacts are fostered and maintained with outside agencies and employers.

 

1.5 Supports for students

 

There is an effective students’ induction programme in place in Coláiste Phobail Ros Cré. Students spend their first day in fifth year with the co-ordinator who explains the programme in detail and answers any queries that they may have. The inclusion of induction activities such as ‘who is it’ and ‘the card tower’ could enhance this good practice. Information on these can be obtained on the website of the LCA support service, www.slss.ie. Generation of a sense of group identity is further facilitated by the ‘bonding session’ that takes place in Castletown in September. This is commended.

 

Timetabled Guidance is a pre-requisite provision for students in LCA. It is noted that the timetabled Guidance was not available during the month of September due to the lack of suitably qualified personnel. This however, had been rectified immediately prior to the inspection.

 

There are appropriate supports in place for all students with additional educational needs. For example it is noted that some students who have English as a additional language are currently withdrawn for extra language support, cognisance being taken of the pre-requisites for satisfactory completion of LCA. It is understood that all students with psychological assessments have access to resource teaching. The resource teachers monitor students’ progress and report findings to the special needs co-ordinator, who keeps files on all students with special needs.

 

Students who are exempt from studying Irish are also withdrawn for support in literacy. It is understood that team teaching takes place in some instances. For example, in Mathematics an additional teacher provides support within the regular classroom a number of times in the week. Informal communication between the two teachers in advance of the lessons facilitates effective employment of this strategy. It was stated that support from two teachers as students work independently is very beneficial due to increased teacher student contact. This excellent practice also provides an opportunity for cross-curricular linkage in this instance. In recent lessons route maps, which were obtained on the internet, were utilised to facilitate students’ learning of the calculation of speed.

 

 

2 quality of programme planning and coordination

 

2.1 Co-ordination

 

The programme co-ordinator appointed under the terms of Circular Letter PPT 19/02, co-ordinates LCA in this school and is also involved in the promotion of the other senior cycle programmes in the school. The LCA co-ordinator has a thorough knowledge of the programme and its implementation. Currently, the role is administrative and disciplinary in the main. Co-ordination incorporates wide-ranging activities such as liaison with the Department of Education and Science, linking with task examiners, co-ordination and monitoring of work experience, liaison with management, assisting with timetable construction and responsibility for promotion of LCA.

 

A specific notice board is maintained to disseminate programme information to teachers in the staff room. LCA relevant information is also disseminated to school staff by means of the ‘sky news’ facility. This is commended. Resources, including ICT and office facilities are available so that co-ordination duties can be carried out effectively.

 

The LCA co-ordinator maintains good communications with school management and students. Communication with management occurs informally, but is also facilitated through the formal middle management meetings. Interaction with students is facilitated via the morning assemblies. Students who are late for assembly must make contact with the co-ordinator before entering class. This structured approach is commended. However, best practice occurs when the co-ordinator also has subject specific contact with the students as this facilitates the development of a more complete relationship between teacher and student. Therefore, it is recommended that management explore the possibility of timetabling the co-ordinator for some aspect of the programme. Consideration could also be given to the provision of an LCA students’ notice board that could be utilised to give a profile of LCA activities to the general student body, in conjunction with informing LCA students of matters pertinent to their work.

 

2.2 Planning

 

Programme planning is part of the SDP process. The LCA planning team consists of the co-ordinator, the principal and the deputy principal. Since the beginning of this academic year, formal planning meetings have been put in place. To date three have been held, one of which was attended by the complete teaching team, while the other two consisted of the co-ordinator, the class tutors and the appropriate learning-support teacher. Issues discussed included the purchasing of class sets of workbooks, the anchoring of tasks that will be completed this term and issues pertaining to individual students. Minutes are kept and are relayed to school management. This is good practice. Prior to September 2007, communication between the co-ordinator and the LCA teaching team has been informal. Significantly, this informal communication effectively complements the formal meetings.

 

Commendably, the co-ordinator has compiled a planning folder to support the effective organisation and implementation of LCA. To further support its implementation, the development of a core team of teachers is recommended. This team, in conjunction with the co-ordinator could focus on areas such as the development of an overall written plan for LCA and the induction of new teachers. Planning for students with special education needs is an integral part of the programme planning process and is facilitated through communication with the learning-support department.

 

There was evidence of good and in some instances very good plans for individual subjects within the programme. Some of these plans contained weekly schemes in which content, teaching methodologies, resources to be employed and differentiation strategies were outlined. Records of students’ completion of key assignments were also in evidence. This good practice should be utilised by all members of the teaching team.

 

 

 

2.3 Curriculum

 

The school complies with Department guidelines and circulars regarding the programme. A broad and balanced curriculum is offered to LCA students in Coláiste Phobail Ros Cré. While the availability of teachers is considered in the timetabling of the vocational specialisms and the languages, the needs, interests and abilities of students are prioritised in curricular design and its implementation in the first instance. Students have a choice with regard to their vocational specialisms. This is good practice provided care is taken with regard to the selection of subjects for concurrent timetabling. French, German and Spanish are currently provided in LCA. It is understood that one class group of students had a choice of language due to the language competencies of the timetabled teacher. This student-driven subject choice is excellent. The different elements of the programme are appropriately timetabled. The inclusion of science elective modules is commended, especially in view of its acceptance as an entry requirement for some beauty therapy courses.

 

There is appropriate provision within the curriculum for students to develop their ICT skills. Guidance is timetabled for students in line with syllabus requirements, and as stated above, the recent employment of a guidance counsellor has remediated the issue of the lack of in-class Guidance for the initial few weeks of the school year. 

 

The timetabling of the personal reflection task is excellent as it provides for the social and personal development of each student from the outset and facilitates the development of the skills of reflective practice.

 

Work experience is an integral part of the curriculum, each student completing two blocks of work experience in each year. Preparation for work occurs through subjects such as English and Communication and Guidance. In almost all instances, students obtain their own work placements. The co-ordinator maintains contact with employers during the work experience by telephone or by visiting the work place. Employers are encouraged to complete an evaluation for their specific student. On return to school, students compile records of their experiences. This structured approach to work placement is commended.

 

 

3 quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Planning and preparation for teaching

 

In almost all instances, individual teachers have comprehensive planning folders. This planning documentation provides a clear description of the work to be completed within the subject areas and supports the short-term planning of individual teachers. The taught programme reflects the written plans.

 

All subject teachers engage in effective individual planning and preparation for lessons. This includes the development and organisation of resources such as handouts and equipment. Where employed, ICT was used effectively in the preparation of teaching and learning materials. Planning and preparation provides for differentiated approaches to teaching and learning in accordance with the range of students’ abilities and needs. For example, this was evident in one practical lesson where students’ hands-on activities were customised to meet students’ practical competencies, the implementation of which was performed in a sensitive manner within the workshop.

 

3.2 Teaching and learning

 

All lessons observed had a clear learning intention that was shared with the students. The lessons observed were well structured so that content and pace were appropriate to the class group, the subject matter and to the time available. A range of teaching methodologies was used appropriately and a variety of resources was effectively used to support teaching and learning. Methodologies included class discussion, students’ practical activities, reading aloud and writing. In theory lessons, short clear teacher inputs were suitably interspersed with students’ activities, contributing to students’ ongoing engagement. Appropriate questioning was very effectively employed to review students’ knowledge and to develop content in many lessons.

 

Good attention was given to the development of literacy in almost all instances. For example, in the social education lesson, students were involved in answering questions initially in written format followed by class discussion. Progression of students’ literacy could be enhanced further in all lessons by means of displaying key terms on the topic in question on the wall for the duration of a lesson. Students could over time build up a bank of key words in individual subjects. A dictionary should be available in each lesson, which students should be encouraged to use.

 

The development of students’ skills in numeracy and the consolidation of the practical application of measurement was the focus of a mathematics lesson. It is recommended that active methodologies be employed in this good practice of reinforcing students’ learning.

 

The student-centred nature of lessons was evident in all lessons. For instance, in an English and Communication lesson, students’ questions on the topic of the organisation of work experience were successfully incorporated into the lesson and utilised to develop the lesson further. In Engineering students immediately got to work on their projects in an independent and safe manner.

 

Given the students’ interest in the Rugby World Cup, it is noteworthy that a series of lessons in Dance have been based on learning the Haka, a Māori traditional dance that the ‘All Blacks’ perform immediately prior to international matches.

 

Development of students’ personal and social skills was the focus of a few lessons. The structured opportunities to reflect on personal experiences and to examine and explore issues relating to self-awareness and interpersonal relationships are good practice. Students were comfortable reflecting, discussing and writing about the topics in question. This is highly commended

 

Activities took place in a positive, stimulating and structured environment. 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 in almost all instances. They responded well and engaged in the lessons in the main. In one lesson in which students were learning a new skill, almost all students were wholeheartedly engaged for the most part. Building on this good practice, strategies should be explored to sustain students’ active participation throughout the lesson.

 

Commendably, in all lessons, teachers moved about the room and provided support and encouragement to students as they performed hands-on practical or written activities. It was observed that students were confident and capable as they worked on their practical tasks. The quality of students’ understanding was reflected in their ability to ask and answer questions.

 

It is good to note that the first key assignment in Social Education, which is in the form of a collage is displayed on the wall of the classroom thereby applauding students’ work.

 

3.3 Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes is regularly used to assess students’ competence and progress. These include key assignments and tasks, which are pre-requisites of the LCA programme, in addition to written work and questioning in class. In some subjects students complete regular tests, thereby receiving tangible evidence of and affirmation for their learning. This is commended. There was evidence of regular monitoring and annotating of students’ work. It is recommended that this good practice should be appropriately employed in all subject areas. Students also sit formal examinations at Christmas, summer and the pre-examinations. This is good practice.

 

Students’ progress is monitored through the completion of the key assignments associated with particular modules. These are generally retained by the subject teacher. In a minority of instances, due to changes in teaching personnel as students progressed from fifth year to sixth year, it was not possible to see evidence of completed key assignments. It is suggested that copies of completed key assignments be retained in a central storage area until completion of the appeals process following the Leaving Certificate examination. The recording of the completion of key assignments is commended.

 

Over the course of the programme, students are required to complete seven student tasks. Students created reports that incorporated aspects of planning, execution and evaluation of the tasks. Much of the work involved in these tasks was completed during class time under the direction and supervision of a teacher. It is clear that the students’ tasks facilitated the development of skills such as decision-making, initiative, and responsibility. Group tasks, for example the operation of a mini-company, gave students the opportunity to develop teamwork skills. The development of proficiency in organisation was facilitated by events such as the disco for first-year students. Students who had completed a study on a specific young child stated that they found this task interesting and enjoyed their interactions with the specific child and his or her parents.

 

Parents receive meaningful feedback on students’ progress via the twice-yearly report and the annual parent teacher meeting. In addition they contact the school as required. This is good practice.

 

 

4 programme evaluation and outcomes

 

4.1 Programme evaluation and review

 

Record keeping by the programme co-ordinator is of a good standard. While LCA has been evaluated informally to date, it is recommended that the programme be reviewed on an annual basis and that this evaluation involve all participants in LCA, including parents and sixth-year students. It was stated that the informal evaluation had an influence on the specialisms offered. The LCA programme should be formally evaluated in terms of its objectives and students’ needs and interests, and the outcomes of such an evaluation should have an effect on the future planning and delivery of the programme.

 

4.2 Attainment of programme objectives

 

Students show a sense of belonging and pride in the programme. Their attendance levels are good in the main and the majority progress to achievement in State examinations. The school keeps up to date records on students’ attention and retention levels. Subject teachers also maintain attendance records. The consequences of unsatisfactory attendance are constantly reinforced to students at assemblies and by subject teachers. Cognisance is taken of certified absence to the school. This careful monitoring of attendance is commended, given that accreditation for modules depends on ninety percent attendance and satisfactory completion of key assignments.

 

There is evidence of the development of students’ learning and self-management skills. Their ability to complete tasks and the accompanying reports within specific timeframes, in conjunction with their understanding of the appropriate approach to the organisation of work experience are examples of this. During a meeting with representative students, they informed the evaluation team of their plans for future progression. This truly illustrates the success of the programme in Coláiste Phobail Ros Cré in preparing students for the world of work.

 

Students’ abilities to communicate on a variety of topics, the interest and enthusiasm demonstrated as they performed tasks and the pride that was evident as students’ showed their completed projects to the inspectors, is indicative of a good level of self-esteem and self-confidence. This is highly commended. Competency in oral communication along with students’ written work provides evidence of attention to the development of literacy.

 

Implementation of the principle of cross-curricular integration, which is a key educational principle of the LCA programme, is facilitated through key assignments, tasks and work experience. All tasks afford the students the opportunity to display their competence in the use of ICT, which also enhances the presentation of the tasks. The school could continue to explore strategies to increase the level of cross-curricular integration.

 

 

5 summary of strengths and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         The LCA programme is well supported in the school and good communication strategies are in place.

·         Students and their parents are provided with good support and guidelines when choosing their programme option for senior cycle.

·         There are appropriate supports in place for all students with additional education needs. The good practice of team teaching is highly commended.

·         The co-ordination of the programme is effective.

·         There was evidence of good and in some instances very good plans for individual subjects within the programme, which effectively support teaching and learning.

·         The school complies with Department guidelines and circulars regarding LCA. The needs, interests and abilities of students are prioritised in curricular design and its implementation.

·         A good standard of teaching and learning was observed in all lessons. It is noteworthy that the development of the underlying principles of LCA was evident in the lessons inspected.

·         Systems are in place to support the attainment of programme objectives.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         A formal in-school induction programme should be put in place for new teachers.

·         Management should explore the feasibility of providing an anchor classroom for LCA.

·         Management should endeavour to timetable the co-ordinator for some aspect of the programme, thus providing him with class-contact time in line with best practice.

·         To further support the implementation of LCA, the development of a core team of teachers is recommended. This team, in conjunction with the co-ordinator could focus on areas such as the development of an overall written plan for LCA and the induction of new teachers.

·         Other strategies, which should be utilised to improve students’ literacy, include text marking of important pieces of information, sequencing, text restructuring and note taking.

·         Copies of completed key assignment should be retained in a central storage area until completion of the appeals process following the Leaving Certificate examination.

·         It is recommended that the programme be reviewed on an annual basis and that this evaluation involve all participants in LCA, including parents and sixth-year students.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Coláiste Phobal Ros Cré would like to acknowledge receipt of the recent Leaving Certificate Applied Report. In general, we were quite pleased with the report as it affirms the good work taking place at the College regarding Leaving Certificate Applied provision. We also welcome the constructive comments made by the inspectors over the course of the visit. We will now endeavour to implement the recommendations made and agree that when achieved they will enhance the programme even further in the College.