An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Programme Evaluation

Leaving Certificate Applied

REPORT

 

Beaufort College

Navan, County Meath

Roll Number: 72010I

 

Date of inspection: 6 May 2009

 

 

 

 

Evaluation of the leaving certificate applied (LCA).

Introduction

Quality of programme organisation

Quality of programme planning and coordination

Quality of learning and teaching

Summary of strengths and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

EVALUATION OF THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE APPLIED (LCA)

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCA in Beaufort 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 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 and the programme co-ordinator at the end of the evaluation period. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

Beaufort College is a co-educational vocational school which opened in 1912. Currently there are 451 students attending full time education in the school. The programmes offered are the Junior Certificate, the Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied. The school also provides Post-Leaving Certificate courses in Business Studies Secretarial, Art Portfolio Preparation and Childcare which are accredited by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC).

 

The LCA programme has been offered in the school since 1997. There are currently twenty students on the LCA programme, twelve in year one of the programme (LCA 1) and eight in year two (LCA 2). The school participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative, the Department of Education and Science’s action plan for educational inclusion. It benefits from the services of a home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator and is supported by the National Behaviour Support Service in the management and operation of a behavioural support unit known as Dóchas. The school is linked to NUI Maynooth and participates in an access programme designed to assist Beaufort College students in their transition to university. This involves visits by students and parents to third-level colleges and talks for students as well as revision and guidance programmes.

 

 

1          Quality of programme organisation

 

1.1        Whole-school support

The principal has a good knowledge of the programme and the issues around its implementation. Good initiatives are in place to raise the profile of the programme in the school including the allocation of an award for highest achieving student in LCA 1 and 2. The LCA programme is also represented by one student on the student council in the school.

 

The programme coordinator has been involved in the coordination of the programme since its inception in the school and is very familiar with its organisation. He is involved with student induction, organisation and tracking of work experience as well as liaison with parents, senior management, and the Department of Education and Science. It is praiseworthy that the coordinator makes other staff aware of issues surrounding LCA at staff meetings. Teachers met with during the evaluation were willingly involved in teaching the LCA and demonstrated their support for the programme in the school.

 

There is no core planning team for the LCA in the school at present. However, the entire team of LCA teachers is given the opportunity to meet at the start and end of the school year. At this meeting topics such as student progress, anchor teachers for tasks and cross-curricular planning are discussed. The formal meetings of the LCA team are supplemented with a good level of informal communication. It is good to note that minutes of planning meetings are kept. These meetings should also be forwarded to the senior management team. At the meeting at the beginning of the year, it is recommended that the coordinator should give a short presentation on the underlying principles of the LCA programme for all teachers of LCA. This meeting should also recapitulate on the code of behaviour in the school to ensure consistency among all team members.

 

It is recommended that a core planning team for LCA be formulated. Ideally, this team should include a representative from the following areas: Social Education, vocational specialisms, special educational needs and Vocational Preparation and Guidance. This core team should meet periodically to discuss ongoing areas of the programme and to disseminate information systematically. The core team should also look at good practices in active methodologies applicable to LCA and explore methods of dissemination of this good practice.

 

Teachers of LCA are encouraged and facilitated to avail of appropriate continuing professional development on offer by the Second Level Support Service (SLSS). Induction is provided for teachers new to teaching LCA by the coordinator and teachers are then directed to a teacher who has previously taught that specific subject for support. It is recommended that the support for new teachers be enhanced by putting in place a formal in-school induction programme. The core team could be instrumental in putting together a template for this induction.

 

1.2        Resources

The majority of teachers of LCA have opted to teach on the programme. Many teachers have taught on the programme for a number of years and there is a good level of expertise available within the team. Information and communication technology (ICT) is used effectively in organising the programme and students have good access to ICT. This was evidenced during the evaluation by the students’ reports on their tasks. Teachers can access the ICT room if necessary and a number of teachers have a data projector and screen in their classrooms. All classrooms are broadband enabled.

 

The resources allocated to the LCA coordinator include an office with telephone and storage space including a filing cabinet. In-school management should explore the feasibility of providing a central display area for students work, thus providing a visually stimulating and motivating learning environment and allowing for celebration of students’ achievement. This would also enhance the profile of the LCA programme in the school.

 

1.3        Student selection and support

Students are given accurate and appropriate information regarding LCA and are provided with timely support during the decision-making process. This takes place through an open evening for parents, third-year subject teachers and the provision of a brochure on LCA containing frequently asked questions. The LCA coordinator and guidance counsellor are also open to meeting students and their parents on a one-to-one basis if requested. As a result, in almost all instances, appropriate students avail of LCA.

 

Support for students is provided through withdrawal where appropriate, the provision of small classes and the availability of a resource teacher on the LCA teaching team. The coordinator, who is also the class tutor for one LCA group, meets the students in his group on a daily basis. The tutor provides support and encouragement to students in areas such as attendance and tasks.

 

1.4        Home-school links

The HSCL co-ordinator is a regular conduit between the school and the home. He makes regular home visits and runs courses and events around personal development and parenting for parents. The coordinator of LCA reported to be in regular contact with parents regarding student attendance and progress. It is noteworthy that three LCA students have, so far this year, records of full attendance.

 

Good links have been established with outside agencies, support groups, employers and the local community. This has been achieved through work experience, student tasks and key assignments. A number of tasks completed by students incorporated the enhancement of the students’ social and personal development, in conjunction with the development of their organisational skills. This is commended.

 

 

2          Quality of programme planning and coordination

 

2.1        Planning

A range of planning documentation was made available at the time of the evaluation. This included information on the organisation of the programme in the school, details of student attendance, admission to the programme, application forms, information for parents as well as records of meetings and student achievement records. It is recommended that this information be compiled into one cohesive document.

 

A number of individual written plans were provided. Best practice in individual subject planning was in evidence where the planning folder contained the minutes of subject department meetings, aims and objectives of the module, grouping of students, a list of resources, curriculum content, information on a range of methodologies and exemplar material. Programmes of work were also available for individual modules and best practice was observed where these contained the topics to be covered, the associated learning outcomes linked to appropriate methodologies and modes of assessment. It is recommended that written plans which include programmes of work, be put in place for all subject areas. There is scope for the coordinator, in collaboration with the proposed core team to explore possible formats for the programmes of work and develop a common template for LCA planning. This would further develop the cohesive approach recommended for LCA.

 

2.2        Coordination

A dedicated time allowance is allocated to the co-ordination of LCA in the school. Resources and facilities, including ICT, are available so that co-ordination duties can be carried out effectively. A good level of collaboration between the LCA coordinator and the teachers of LCA ensures the successful operation of the programme.

 

Good communication with management, staff and students is maintained on an ongoing basis. A specific notice board in the staff room is used to disseminate programme information to teachers. Currently, the electronic notice board at reception is utilised to celebrate LCA students’ work. An LCA notice board is also found in the corridor beside the coordinator’s office. In addition, the LCA programme coordinator has timetabled contact with both of the LCA class groups.

 

2.3               Curriculum

A broad range of subjects is made available to LCA students in Beaufort College. The vocational specialisms provided include Hotel Catering and Tourism (HCT) and Agriculture/Horticulture. These were chosen in an attempt to utilise staff strengths and accommodate student preferences. Engineering had been provided in the past. The modern foreign language provided is French. The school currently does not provide any elective modules in LCA. In order to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, it is recommended that management ensures the provision of the full LCA programme, including elective modules. Management should make the teaching staff aware of the potential elective modules in LCA and conduct an audit of staff skills and willingness to engage in the teaching of the electives.

 

Timetabling for LCA is broadly along programme guidelines, however, there are a minority of instances where some subjects are provided twice on the same day. It is recommended that, where feasible, management should avoid timetabling single lessons in the same subject on the same day. There is appropriate provision for students to develop their ICT skills. However, ICT in both LCA 1 and LCA 2 is split between two teachers. It is recommended that where possible, management should ensure that subjects are not timetabled between two teachers.

 

Work experience is an integral part of the curriculum, taking place for one day each week. A number of students reported difficulties in securing work experience, particularly as there are a number of schools in the town. Where this occurs the coordinator has a database of potential employers which can be consulted. In line with the principles of the programme, students are actively encouraged to experience different work placements over the course of the two year programme. However, this variety is not materialising for some students. Therefore, it is recommended that the school places particular priority on this aspect of work experience in order to give students the broadest possible experience of working environments. The current arrangement of one day a week should be monitored carefully and its merits discussed vis-à-vis a block session of work experience. When the proposed LCA core team has been established, it is recommended that it, in collaboration with senior management, should review the effectiveness of the current model of work experience.

 

A number of work experience reports were observed during the evaluation. Some of these were detailed and up-to-date. A cause for concern was the number of write ups missed by individual students. This was reported to be due to absences. It is recommended that all students maintain up-to-date records of their work experiences. It is further suggested that this be monitored by the core team and remedial strategies be discussed.

 

 

3          Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1        Planning and preparation

A range of planning documentation was provided as stated in section 2.1 of this report. Good short-term planning was evident in the majority of lessons. There was further evidence of good planning in some individual lesson plans and in the main this resulted in lessons that were well structured and appropriately paced. Best practice was observed where a range of appropriate resources and materials had been set out in advance. This contributed to the quality of teaching and learning observed. However, there was an occasion where a lesson did not take up the duration of the class period and in such an instance, teachers should have appropriate contingency plans in place. Teachers should also make extra provision for those students who finish a task earlier than expected. The content of the lesson plan should be in keeping with the underlying principles of the LCA programme and the mission statement of the school.

 

Resource folders were made available for some subject areas and these contained materials used in the planning of lessons. They included PowerPoint presentations, brochures, newspaper clippings, worksheets and brochures. Commendably, worksheets to be used in conjunction with videos and DVDs and which aim to focus student’s attention on specific sections and topics were included.

 

3.2        Learning and teaching

Lessons generally began with a roll call. Teachers outlined the aim of the lesson to students either orally or by noting it on the board. A range of methodologies was employed in most lessons in order to enhance teaching and consolidate learning and this is good practice.

 

Personal reflection was encouraged in a number of lessons. Key words such as evaluation were explained to students and previous examples of instances where evaluation was used were provided. Questioning was used to encourage students’ contributions and create opportunities for them to think deeply about their experiences, actions and reasons for them. It is important that, during questioning, teachers be mindful of including all students.

 

Some teachers made good use of worksheets. These were appropriate to students’ abilities and were used to draw attention to key words applicable to the task. In some instances, teachers drew students’ attention to common mistakes and clarified the answers. This is in line with good assessment for learning practices. In one lesson, it was very effective that the lesson was divided up into five steps. This created short-term goals within manageable time frames for students and this was successful in keeping students on task.

 

Where practical work was observed, the health and safety issues were outlined to students at the outset. Students displayed good routines for practical work. They were mature in their attitude and worked with enthusiasm. ICT was used by students in a variety of ways which included research using the internet and in the presentation of work. The internet can be a valuable resource in supplementing the quality of teaching and learning and teachers should carefully monitor the websites visited by students. It is recommended that use of the internet during lessons be appropriate to the lesson content and adhere to both the school’s internet acceptable use policy and the underlying principles of the LCA programme.

 

Discipline was generally appropriately maintained and good strategies for classroom management were utilised in a number of instances. Where chorus answering occurred, teachers immediately took steps to discourage it, although some students did persist. In a minority of instances, some students were inattentive. It is recommended that teachers, in planning their lessons, give consideration to the incorporation of strategies to encourage student participation and engagement. Teachers should encourage all students to listen to each other’s answers. There is scope for these issues to be addressed by the LCA teaching team in the context of reinforcing the school’s code of behaviour.

 

Good use was made of affirmation and praise. Correct answers were reinforced and repeated while incorrect ones were clarified. Teachers regularly checked that learning was taking place. This was done through questioning and checking students’ written work.

 

3.3        Assessment

A range of assessment modes, both formative and summative, is used to assess students’ progress and competence. A number of teacher diaries observed provided records of student attendance as well as records of achievements in class tests and mock examinations; this reflects good practice. Key assignments are retained by the class teacher during the school year; teachers should be mindful to retain these records until the date of appeal has passed.

 

Teachers met with during the evaluation reported that they are confident that the programme meets the needs of the students on the course. The coordinator meets with the principal at the end of the school year and again at the beginning of the new school year to review the programme and plan for the incoming year. This good practice could be supplemented by obtaining feedback from parents and students. It is recommended that the school should carry out a root-and-branch review of the LCA programme in the school. This should include input from senior management, teachers on the programme, students and their parents. This review would be a timely juncture to carry out a student destination survey.

 

 

4          Summary of strengths and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Good initiatives are in place to raise the profile of the programme in the school

·         ICT is used effectively in organising the programme and students have good access to ICT.

·         Students are given accurate and appropriate information regarding LCA and are provided with timely support during the decision-making process.

·         Good communication with management, staff and students is maintained on an ongoing basis.

·         Good use is made of affirmation and praise for students in the delivery of the LCA programme.

·         A range of assessment modes, both formative and summative, is used to assess students’ progress and competence.

·         The coordinator meets with the principal at the end of the school year and again at the beginning of the new school year to review the programme and plan for the incoming year.

 

 

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

 

·         A core planning team for LCA should be formulated.

·         Written plans which include programmes of work should be put in place for all subject areas.

·         Teachers should also make extra provision for those students who finish a task earlier than expected.

·         The content of the lesson plan should be in keeping with the underlying principles of the LCA programme and the mission statement of the school.

·         School management should that the full LCA programme, including elective modules, is provided for students.

·         It is recommended that, where feasible, management avoid timetabling single lessons in the same subject on the same day. 

·         Management should ensure that subjects are not timetabled between two teachers for any one class group.

·         It is recommended that all students maintain up-to-date records of their work experiences.

·         It is recommended that use of the internet during lessons is appropriate to the lesson content and that it adheres to both the school’s internet acceptable use policy and the

      underlying principles of the LCA programme.

 

 

 

 

Published February 2010