Department of Education and Science

 

Programme Evaluation

Leaving Certificate Applied

REPORT

 

Coláiste Cholmcille

Ballyshannon, County Donegal

Roll Number: 91506V

 

Date of inspection: 12 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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

EVALUATION OF THE LEAVING CERTIFICATE APPLIED (LCA)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCA in Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon. 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 documentation pertaining to the programme. The outcomes of the evaluation were discussed with the school principal 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

The school was built in 2000 following an amalgamation of three schools in the town. It currently caters for 625 students. The school offers the Junior Certificate, the established Leaving Certificate, the Transition Year programme(TY), the Leaving Certificate Vocational programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). The school benefits from the services of a behavioural support teacher and a home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has offered the LCA since 2003. Currently, there are eighteen students in year one of the programme (LCA 1) and eleven students are in year two (LCA 2).

 

 

1          Quality of programme organisation

 

1.1        Whole-school support

There is a whole-school approach to the implementation of the LCA in Coláiste Cholmcille. The programme is well co-ordinated and very good communication is maintained with school management, teachers, parents and students. The LCA is discussed at middle-management meetings and regular memos are circulated among members of the LCA teaching team. Whole-staff awareness of LCA activities is facilitated through discussion slots at staff meetings and attendance of teachers at LCA events. This is commendable. Specific notice boards are maintained in the staffroom and on the corridor to disseminate programme information to all teachers and students.

 

A team of sixteen teachers is involved in teaching the programme. A number of teachers have been with the LCA programme since its inception in 2003 but generally teachers are allocated to LCA on a rotational basis. The principal reported that he is keen to maintain a good level of expertise in the area of LCA within the teaching staff. All teachers met with during the evaluation displayed enthusiasm for and commitment to the programme. In line with good practice there is a core planning team for the programme consisting of the LCA co-ordinator, the HSCL co-ordinator, the learning support co-ordinator, the LCA class tutor and the guidance counsellor.

 

In keeping with the whole-school approach to LCA, the idea of providing teacher mentors for LCA students has been discussed. This is a positive development and one that should be pursued. The mentor could, for example, encourage attendance and provide informal support for the LCA student at the times where completion of deadlines is an issue.

 

Teachers of the programme are encouraged and facilitated to avail of appropriate continuing professional development. Induction of teachers who are new to LCA is carried out by the LCA co-ordinator. Commendably, they also receive ongoing support from colleagues in the same subject area.

 

1.2        Resources

The LCA co-ordinator has a good awareness and understanding of the programme. Selection of teachers for the programme is based on teacher interest and availability as well as subject expertise. It is recommended that a staff audit be carried out to reveal teacher interests and expertise in areas which could be incorporated in to the LCA programme in the future, particularly with regard to the elective subjects.

 

The school has two computer rooms and LCA students have regular access to them. There is a base classroom for general subjects while other subjects are taught in subject-specific classrooms. Displays and information relating to LCA is displayed in the base classroom. It is also good practice that there is an LCA notice board outside this room where documents pertinent to LCA are displayed as well as student achievements. LCA students are involved in a number of activities around the school and this generates interest in the programme and promotes it. It is good to note that the LCA class is also represented by one student on the student council.

 

The co-ordinator does not have an office; however, other resources essential to the co-ordination of LCA have been provided. Timetabling of the programme is generally appropriate. Timetabling issues are discussed annually by senior management and the LCA co-ordinator; this is good practice. Subject teachers are also consulted regarding the timetabling of the modules.

 

1.3        Student selection and support

Students and their parents receive comprehensive and timely support in decision-making. This takes the form of information on LCA provided at a senior cycle options night where input is provided by the LCA co-ordinator. Students also have access to the guidance counsellor, advice from the LCA co-ordinator and subject teachers. In addition, a brochure documenting the LCA programme is posted out to parents of prospective LCA students. It is commendable that a second information evening is provided for parents in mid-October when the course has commenced and students have settled in. This presentation provides information on credits, work experience, tasks and key assignments.

 

Specific criteria, in line with the objectives of the programme, are employed for selection and targeting of students. In advance of selection of the senior cycle programme, the co-ordinator discusses student selection with third-year subject teachers and the special educational needs team in order to identify those who are deemed suitable candidates for the LCA programme. Application procedures, which include a student interview, have been devised to ascertain students’ interest and to assist in the selection of students who would find the LCA of benefit. It was reported that targeted students generally avail of the programme. This is commended.

 

It is commendable that resource teachers form part of the LCA teaching team and that the learning-support co-ordinator attends all LCA team meetings.

 

1.4        Home-school links

The school maintains effective home-school links via a range of strategies including the school journal, telephone, letters home, parent-teacher meetings, school reports and the local newspaper. In addition, the school website is currently being restructured. The parents’ association also publishes a school newsletter which is open to input regarding the LCA. It was reported that the LCA team avails of this method of communication regularly and this is commendable.

 

Students on the LCA programme can also benefit from the services of a HSCL co-ordinator who assists in maintaining good links between the school and home. The school has a spacious parents’ room where parents can meet with the HSCL co-ordinator or the LCA co-ordinator. The school has also provided courses and talks for parents. For example an internet safety seminar and a talk on Living with Teenagers have been provided this year. The LCA programme has a number of links with the local community, for example, teachers have bought LCA students to a range of local amenities and facilities including the local hospital, hotel, supermarket, the Abbey Centre theatre, the pottery factory and the town council offices. Guest speakers have also been invited into the school; for example, a self-employed person was invited to talk to the students in the vocational preparation and guidance module.

 

 

2          Quality of programme planning and coordination

 

2.1        Planning

The core team meets regularly to plan, monitor and evaluate the programme and minutes are kept of these meetings. The co-ordinator is a tutor to LCA 2 and regular informal contact is maintained with the tutor of LCA 1. A meeting of all LCA staff is held at the beginning of each year where topics such as student achievement and cross curricular planning are discussed.

 

Documentation provided at the time of the evaluation included information on student induction, student achievement and attendance records. A comprehensive programme overview folder was also provided which included information on the aims of the programme, the programme admissions procedures, an induction handbook, a list of LCA teachers, the application form for LCA, and resources from the LCA Support Service.

 

2.2        Co-ordination

The LCA programme is very well coordinated. This is largely due to the commitment, enthusiasm and dedication of the LCA co-ordinator, who managed the introduction of LCA in 2003, and continues to direct the programme in an effective manner. The co-ordinator is supported by the core team. A dedicated time allowance is allocated for co-ordination duties, thus facilitating the successful implementation of the programme. Resources and facilities, including information and communication technology (ICT), are available so that co-ordination duties can be carried out effectively.

 

The co-ordinator’s duties are wide-ranging and include administration, planning, and motivation of both teachers and students. The co-ordinator manages the resources and facilitates consultation and teamwork. Commendably, the co ordinator has developed a number of templates to record details of trips, key assignments completed and for the interviews conducted after completion of tasks. This all contributes to the well coordinated approach to the LCA programme in the school.

 

Communication is effective and involves liaison with the teachers of LCA, senior management, parents and students as well as with the special educational needs department. Good communication is achieved through announcements, the student journal, the LCA notice board in the staffroom as well as through numerous informal meetings between team members. The co-ordinator teaches both LCA1 and 2 which promotes communication and allows the co-ordinator to get to know students and their progress. As with all other classes in the school, the LCA students meet with their tutor every day. This is an example of the good care system in the school and is reflective of the school’s mission statement.

 

2.3        Curriculum

The LCA curriculum provides a broad and balanced range of subjects. In LCA 1 students choose vocational specialisms from either Hotel Catering and Tourism (HCT) or Engineering and a second specialism from Graphics and Construction Studies or Craft and Design. In LCA 1 students have separate classes for their electives and this is appropriate. Subjects studied as electives in LCA 1 are Religious Education and Science. In LCA 2, students do all three of the specialisms: HCT, Engineering and Graphics and Construction Studies. They then choose two as vocational specialisms and do the third as an elective subject. This results in classes comprising some students who are studying the subject as a vocational specialism while a number of other students are studying it as an elective component. Teachers reported that this arrangement is difficult to organise with planning for lessons and requirements around differentiation posing particular problems. It is recommended that the school reviews the system of providing electives and keep them separate from the vocational specialisms classes.

 

The modern foreign language provided is French. Students in the LCA programme who have an exemption from Irish join a general studies group at this time. There is appropriate provision within the curriculum for students of LCA to develop their ICT skills.

 

 

3          Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1        Planning and preparation

Good short term planning was observed for all lessons visited. All materials and resources to be used were prepared and set out in advance. This contributed to the quality of teaching and learning observed. Teachers’ individual schemes of work were not provided; however, some teachers provided individual lesson plans at the outset of the lessons visited. It is suggested that the schemes of work for all LCA subjects be included in the overall LCA planning folder.

 

3.2        Learning and teaching

All lessons visited were well structured and proceeded at an appropriate pace. There was very good continuity with prior learning. The aim of the lesson was outlined to students at the outset of each lesson and this is good practice.

 

Methodologies adopted by teachers were appropriate to the programme and these were varied according to the lesson content. In all lessons visited there was good emphasis on the underlying principles of the LCA and this included emphasis on literacy, numeracy and personal and social development where appropriate. Pair work was used effectively as a classroom management strategy in some practical lessons visited. Students displayed well established routines for setting out and clearing away the apparatus and materials. Good attention was paid to health and safety regulations. In other practical lessons, students worked independently on their project work. They worked with enthusiasm and were keen to demonstrate their projects to the inspector. Students could clearly explain how they had developed their projects and displayed pride in their work.

 

ICT was effectively integrated to support teaching and learning. In one lesson, the data projector was used to good effect in providing a good visual display of photographs on the theme of justice. This supplemented a well structured lesson where student contributions were sought in both verbal and written format. New words were noted on the whiteboard as they appeared in the lesson and the associated worksheet contained a list of key words which could be used in answering some of the questions. This emphasis on literacy reflects best practice. Good practice was observed where the lesson content was linked to students’ prior learning and the everyday applications of the topics were explained to students. Photocopies of resources such as pay slips were used to supplement a lesson where calculations of tax deductions were explained.

 

Discipline was good in all lessons visited and classroom management was effective. Students were regularly affirmed by their teachers. A positive atmosphere permeated all lesson visited and a good rapport was seen to exist between students and their teachers. Students worked purposefully and were co-operative. They displayed a good level of interest in their work and showed good understanding of the topic taught when questioned.

 

3.3        Assessment

The main forms of assessment used in the lessons visited were observation and questioning. Student notebooks observed were generally well maintained and reflected the range of abilities present in the lessons. Some good practices in relation to assessment for learning were observed and there is scope to extend these across the LCA teaching team. Further information can be attained on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website (www.ncca.ie).

 

Comprehensive records are maintained by the co-ordinator and the subject teachers. These include details of modules completed, attendance, and credit records. As appropriate, key assignments are retained by the teacher until the end of the appeals period. The school has an attendance strategy for LCA. It is commendable that two awards are given each year to the students with the best attendance in LCA 1 and LCA 2. Student attainment is well monitored and an analysis of results is carried out each year by the co-ordinator. There is scope to extend this by including a student destination survey.

 

The programme is evaluated in terms of its objectives each year. This annual review is carried out by the co-ordinator, principal and the teachers of LCA. It is recommended that the annual review of the programme be extended to include student and parental input.

 

 

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:

 

    particularly with regard to the elective subjects.

 

 

 

 

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 acknowledges the professionalism of the inspection process and is pleased that the many strengths of the Coláiste Cholmcille LCA Programme have been noted and outlined in the WSE report.

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The Board considers the report to be a significant resource in terms of the strategic development of our LCA programme. The key recommendations, 2 of which are already in place for this academic year, will be utilised constructively in prioritising and informing future programme development.