An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Programme Evaluation

Leaving Certificate Applied

REPORT

 

Carrigaline Community School

Carrigaline, County Cork

Roll Number: 91388S

 

Date of inspection: 11 May 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluation of the leaving certificate applied

Introduction

Quality of programme organisation

Quality of programme planning and co-ordination

Quality of learning and teaching

Summary of strengths and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

EVALUATION OF THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE APPLIED

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) in Carrigaline Community School. It presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for the further development of the programme in the school. Although pre-evaluation meetings were not held, senior management was met with during the evaluation process to clarify a number of minor issues in regard to the completed questionnaire. During the evaluation, the inspector also held a meeting with a small group of students. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector visited classrooms to observe teaching and learning. The acting chairperson of the board of management provided the inspector with the schoolís planning documentation and studentsí key assignments and tasks. The inspector also examined studentsí work and reviewed relevant documentation pertaining to the programme. The outcomes of the evaluation were discussed with senior management following the evaluation. 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

 

Carrigaline Community School is the sole education provider for the students of Carrigaline, a town close to Cork city. The school has a long history in providing for the needs of all its students. Its curriculum contains all the available programmes: the Junior Certificate, the Transition Year (TY) programme, the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the LCA programme. In addition, Carrigaline Community School supports adult and lifelong learning through its comprehensive adult education programme. LCA has been offered to students since its inception in 1995. Prior to that time the school offered a pre-employment course.

 

 

1 Quality of programme organisation

 

1.1 Whole school support

 

Senior management displays effective leadership regarding the LCA programme and its implementation. Both principal and deputy principal have a very good knowledge of LCA and of all issues pertinent to the programme.

 

There is a very good whole-school approach to publicising and implementing the programme. Whole-staff information is enhanced through continuing professional development (CPD), using internal expertise. This is supplemented by the use of the staff notice board and by the inclusion of relevant information in the weekly staff newsletter. In addition, an article focusing on aspects of LCA is also published in the annual school publication. Matters relating to LCA are also discussed at subject department meetings. The school community, including parents and the local community, are also made aware of the nature and purpose of the programme through the schoolís website. LCA students feature each year in the principalís awards ceremony, a trophy for highest achievement being presented to a student in each LCA class group. The co-ordinator and individual students reflect on the highlights of the programme in the annual year-group Mass. The use of such a range of communication modes is commended.

 

The induction of teachers new to the LCA programme is good. In addition to the in-service provided by the Second Level Support Service (SLSS), support and guidance of subject department colleagues and the co-ordinator is also made available. The schoolís teacher mentor also facilitates the induction process as necessary.

 

1.2 Resources

 

Staff members are appropriately assigned to teach LCA. Commendably, cognisance is taken of the experience, interest and commitment of teachers to the programme in the selection process.

 

A system is in place for the purchase and repair of resources to support teaching and learning. Other aspects of programme implementation are also financially supported on a needs basis. Information and communication technology (ICT) is used effectively in both organising and implementing the programme. Students have good access to ICT and there is evidence that this enhances the presentation of key assignments and tasks. The production of a DVD by students in Physical Education and in Drama is highly commended because, in addition to further developing studentsí ICT skills, the opportunity was taken to enhance studentsí literacy and social development.

 

Carrigaline Community School actively supports teachers in upskilling themselves and a policy exists in the school to assist this process. Thus, the LCA teachers are encouraged and facilitated to avail of appropriate external CPD. For example, having taken up the post, the co-ordinator attended the modular course for new co-ordinators of LCA provided by the Second Level Support Service (SLSS). Peer sharing of relevant expertise and teaching strategies is a significant element of the schoolís CPD.

 

1.3 Student selection and support

 

Staff members in student-support roles monitor the personal development and academic progress of the LCA students in their care and communicate with other staff members as appropriate. Student support systems for the fifth-year LCA students are along the same lines as students studying the other Leaving Certificate programmes and comprises the year-head and class-tutor system. This incorporation of care and discipline for LCA students into the whole-school system was put in place at the beginning of this academic year. The care and implementation of discipline procedures for the sixth-year LCA cohort are currently undertaken by a pastoral monitor. It is understood that the school will evaluate the effectiveness of both pastoral systems, before a final decision is made regarding the system to be implemented on a permanent basis. Student welfare is further supported by the existence of a care team, consisting of a guidance counsellor, special needs personnel and the chaplain, which meets weekly to discuss issues relating to the care of students in the whole school and maintains links with senior management. This is commended.

 

A systematic student selection process for LCA is in place and incorporates a student interview. It is noteworthy that reflection on the rationale for applying for the programme is a component of the application form. Communication with relevant school personnel supports the targeting of appropriate students. Students are given accurate and appropriate information regarding LCA, are advised of the benefits of following the programme and are given comprehensive and timely support in decision making. In the main, the target students avail of LCA.

 

There are appropriate supports in place on the programme for students with special educational needs. The special education needs team monitors the progress of students in a comprehensive manner and liaises with subject teachers as necessary. The studentsí individual education plans (IEPs) include priority learning targets in both literacy and numeracy. This is commended.

 

An induction day is held at the beginning of fifth year to introduce students to the LCA programme and to initiate the development of relationships among the student cohort. This is good practice. Collaboration among teachers, including the ICT teacher is an additional support to students while managing deadlines for key assignments. This is laudable.

 

Students on the programme show a sense of belonging and pride in their work and stated that the existence of LCA resulted in their remaining in school to Leaving Certificate level. In addition some of the students spoken with have clear plans for future progression. They stated that their decisions were assisted by their experiences within the LCA programme.

 

1.4 Home-school links

 

Prior to entry into senior cycle, parents are made aware of the nature and purpose of all senior cycle programmes. Parents of third-year and TY students are informed of and involved in the programme and subject selection of the students. An open evening is held which focuses on the demands and expectations of the LCA programme. This is supplemented by individual parent and student interviews as necessary. In addition, senior management assists in the selection process on a needs basis. This level of parental involvement is commended. Parents receive meaningful feedback on studentsí progress. This is achieved by means of twice-yearly written reports, letters from the co-ordinator and principal, the annual parent-teacher meeting and telephone contact as necessary.

 

Appropriate contacts are fostered and maintained with outside agencies, support groups and employers. The community from which the school draws its students benefits from the programme through, for example, work experience. Out-of-school activities such as visits to the Blood Bank and local horticultural gardens provide valuable learning experiences for students.

 

 

2 Quality of programme planning and co-ordination

 

2.1 Planning

 

Planning for the programme, which includes an annual evaluation, is good. A comprehensive LCA folder contains the written LCA plan, minutes of meetings and other information relevant to the programme. This written plan includes an overview of LCA in the school, an outline of key deadlines and the mission statement. Significantly, written programmes of work for almost all modules form a component of the plan. Commendably, a number of those programmes of work have been developed in line with best practice and include topics and sub-topics, timeframes, resources, and in-school and out-of-school activities. The inclusion of modular-specific health and safety statements in some programmes of work is highly commended. For consistency, a common template should be devised based on the more inclusive programmes of work, which should then be used by all LCA teachers.†

 

The LCA plan includes data on the progression of students from the programme. This is commended as it is a useful tool for evaluating the success of LCA and also provides role models for the current student cohort.

 

As fifth-year LCA students are an integral part of the fifth-year student cohort, the year head retains information relating to the care and discipline of the students, including their attendance records. This is good practice.

 

Planning for the successful implementation of LCA is supported by a meeting of the core team at the beginning of the year and at intervals during the year as necessary. Commendably, the teaching team meets twice a year and reviews the programme, including the curriculum, at the second of those meetings. Following this input from the teaching team, the programme and its implementation is evaluated by means of discussion and review by senior management and the co-ordinator. It was reported that studentsí success is a key focus of the evaluation process. It is recommended that this evaluation be formalised and include students and parents.

 

The development of a whole-school literacy policy and the sharing of strategies to assist in this process is being led by the English department. This work includes the preparation of a key-word template that will be circulated to all subject departments and includes specific information pertinent to LCA. This whole-school focus on enhancing studentsí literacy is highly commended. In addition, the English programme of work outlines approaches that are taken to enhance studentsí literacy. It is suggested that members of the English department share these strategies for the development of literacy specifically pertaining to the LCA students at future LCA meetings.

 

2.2 Co-ordination

 

The co-ordinator was appointed during this academic year under the terms of Circular Letter PPT 18/02. The terms of reference accompanying the appointment include the co-ordination of both the LCA and the TY programmes. Record keeping within the programme is of a high standard. Documentation provides evidence that a comprehensive range of duties including administration, communication with relevant in-school and out-of-school personnel, including the State Examinations Commission is carried out in an effective manner. The extensive co-ordinatorís planning folder provides evidence of a thorough knowledge and understanding of the programme.

 

Good communications are maintained with school management, teachers and students. Programme-relevant information is disseminated in an effective manner to teachers, students, parents and senior management. Close contact is maintained with the co-ordinator of work experience and with the class tutors, year head and others involved in the care of these students, including the guidance counsellors. In addition to the previously mentioned staff notice board, an LCA notice board is also maintained in the central assembly area to disseminate information to the students. The school is encouraged to use this board to a greater extent to celebrate the studentsí achievements.

 

The timing of the co-ordinatorís appointment did not facilitate timetabled contact with the LCA class groups for this academic year. However this has been the practice in the past and the stated intention of management for the future because the school recognises the importance of this on-going contact in developing good relationships with the students.

 

Appropriate resources, including ICT, are available to support the co-ordination of the programme. A good level of organisation is essential to the co-ordination role and this is illustrated by the effective central storage of almost all key assignments and studentsí assessment records. Building on this good practice it is recommended that all key assignments are centrally stored.

 

 

2.3 Curriculum

 

In general, modules are appropriately timetabled. However, the time allocated for Vocational Preparation and Guidance, and for Irish is less than the time recommended. Management stated that it would address this in future timetabling.

 

The LCA programme curriculum is broad and balanced. The needs, interests and abilities of the students are prioritised in curricular design and implementation. Students are provided with a choice in one of the vocational-specialism option lines, Engineering or Hotel, Catering and Tourism in fifth year and Graphics and Construction or Hotel, Catering and Tourism in sixth year. Building on this good practice, consideration should be given to offering an open choice of the vocational specialisms and of the foreign language to prospective students at the outset, before final decisions regarding the subjects to be offered are made. This would be in line with the schoolís practice in the delivery of optional subjects in other programmes. Students take two elective modules in Religion, in accordance with the schoolís ethos. Two science modules are also provided in response to studentsí requests. This cognisance of studentsí interests in providing many aspects of the curriculum is praiseworthy.

 

Students reported that the aspects of the LCA curriculum they most enjoyed were Agriculture and Horticulture, Graphics and Construction, and work experience.

 

Work-experience is an integral part of the curriculum. Oral reports on studentsí progress are generally obtained from employers, although it is understood that a number of employers return a written report. A template has been devised to obtain a written report on studentsí progress from employers. The school should actively encourage all employers to complete a written report which could then be used for review on returning to school. Students reported that their work experience position changed on an annual basis. In line with best practice, it is recommended that students change their work experience on completion of each module, thus providing them with the maximum range of experiences.

 

The good practice of timetabling a tutorial class-period for personal reflection has been the custom prior to this academic year. Due to the appointment of the co-ordinator during this year, which was after the construction of the school timetable, this was not possible. As a result, the LCA timetable does not comply with the instruction time outlined in Circular Letter M29/95. Management stated that this tutorial period will be timetabled in the future, therefore resolving the issue with regard to instruction time.

 

In line with syllabus guidelines, the guidance module is delivered by the guidance counsellor. Commendably, there is appropriate provision within the curriculum for students to develop their ICT skills. Studentsí skills in ICT were good. This was evident in a range of studentsí tasks and key assignments.

 

 

3 Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Planning and preparation

 

The taught programme in the lessons observed reflected the written plan and the module descriptors. ICT was used effectively in the preparation of teaching and learning materials. Planning for the integration of a range of methodologies into teaching and learning, including the use of ICT, was effective. Planning for lessons included the preparation and organisation of resources, including handouts, equipment, tapes and DVDs, which were successfully employed in developing lesson content.

 

 

3.2 Learning and teaching

 

A range of methodologies was successfully employed in the lessons observed. Lessons were well structured and the pace was appropriate in almost all instances. Lessons began in many cases with a brief outline of the material to be covered, thus focusing studentsí attention on the planned learning outcomes. In other instances, the lessons began by referencing the work covered in† previous lessons, thus reviewing studentsí knowledge and successfully setting the scene for the lesson. One particularly successful strategy for introducing a poem and song was observed where the topic was introduced indirectly in a way that piqued the studentsí interest. For example, the topic of a particular song was introduced by discussing the life of a local boxer, Jack Doyle, followed by listening to the song. Where an introduction is linked carefully with the material following, as was the case here, it is a very good strategy.

 

A variety of resources were used effectively to support teaching and learning. In a number of instances, imaginative use was made of resources, in particular the use of video clips and music to anchor and develop the lesson content. Students responded very well to these strategies. In one lesson, well-chosen advertisements served to stimulate studentsí interest while simultaneously developing studentsí analytical skills.

 

The student-centred nature of lessons was very evident. Studentsí engagement and active participation was successfully enhanced, and learning occurred and was consolidated when lessons comprised of a series of short activities such as watching a DVD, pair work, whole-class discussion, note-taking and note-making. Students were generally enthusiastic, purposeful and co-operative in their work.The teachers sought to encourage learning at all times and interacted very frequently with their students during the course of the lessons observed.

 

In some instances, appropriate links were established, with existing understanding and everyday experiences, thus making the subject tangible and relevant. For example, in the hotel, catering and tourism lesson, the studentsí knowledge of a local hotel was successfully used in conjunction with the hotelís website to develop the studentsí understanding of a particular aspect of tourism.

 

Students were observed to support each other in their learning in some instances. For example, in a mathematics lesson it was observed that students assisted each other in explaining the concepts involved in set work. This is good practice as it enhances the learning of both students involved.

 

Commendably, opportunities were provided to develop studentsí communication skills. In some lessons there was particularly good focus on the development of the key language concepts and the terminology of the topic, which were consolidated throughout the lesson. In these instances the development of all aspects of language, written, oral and aural was integrated into the lesson structure. Some very good practice was seen where students were asked to read silently and to ponder before responding. Students should be encouraged to use a dictionary as necessary to further develop their literacy skills in an independent manner.

 

A significant amount of written activities supported the development of studentsí numeracy. In addition to the enhancement of numeracy skills in the mathematics lesson, numeracy was also integrated seamlessly into a minority of other lessons. This very good practice should be used to a greater extent across subject areas.

 

Personal and social development was facilitated in almost all lessons through various teaching and learning strategies, including group and pair work and whole-class discussion. For example, in the drama lesson short video clips demonstrated different types of behaviour to students and whole-class discussion ensued in which the range of verbal and non-verbal communication styles observed was examined. This is commended. The key assignments completed as part of the leisure and recreation modules provided evidence of studentsí use of self-reflection, and are also commended.

 

It is good to note that work on examination questions in one lesson was effective in preparing students for their final written examinations. However, it is advised that, where a long piece of prose is read by students, whole-class discussion should take place before the class tackles the written assignment in order to make sure that the individual students clearly understand the content.

 

Questioning was used effectively to gauge studentsí level of understanding, to probe their responses and to direct their attention towards more complex aspects of a text or topic. Students responded well to questions and did not hesitate to ask questions themselves. In general, the interaction between the teacher and students was much more based on discussion than on question and answer. This is commended.

 

Commendably, in all lessons, teachers moved about the room and provided support and encouragement to students as they performed group work and written activities. It was observed that students were confident and capable as they worked. Observation of and interaction with the students showed them in general to be lively and confident and able to participate in class discussion in a meaningful manner. 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.

 

3.3 Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes are used to assess studentsí learning. These include questioning, twice-yearly examinations and the key assignments and student tasks which are mandatory assessment components of the programme. Students also take pre-LCA examinations, a practice that is commended as it provides them with the opportunity to become familiar with the standard, layout and rubrics of the examination paper. Practical assessment also takes place in a number of subjects. This is praiseworthy. Homework was given in some instances to consolidate studentsí learning. This good practice should be extended to all lessons as appropriate.

 

All studentsí progress is monitored through the completion of the key assignments associated with particular modules. The practice of centrally storing the key assignments assists in building up a complete profile of studentsí work. Studentsí key assignments provided evidence of the good standard of studentsí ICT skills. The presentation of the key assignments was enhanced by the use of visual images and graphical representation and it was clear that students were skilled in a number of software packages. The key assignments and student tasks also facilitated students in enhancing their literacy skills and engaging in cross-curricular work, both underlying principles of LCA. This is commended.

 

Student attendance levels are monitored in a systematic manner. Each subject teacher keeps a formal record and reports back to the co-ordinator and year head or pastoral monitor. The in-school education welfare officer (EWO) liaises with the care team, students of all programmes and their families as necessary. In addition, the co-ordinator ensures that senior management is aware of any students whose non-attendance is becoming a significant difficulty. This is commended. The credit system in relation to attendance is explained to parents prior to entry to LCA. Students whose non-attendance is causing concern and their parents are communicated with through the previously mentioned mechanisms which may include contact by the school principal. This is good practice. The school keeps up-to-date records on student retention levels.

 

 

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, December 2009