An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Home Economics

REPORT

 

Heywood Community School

Ballinakill, County Laois

Roll number: 91427C

 

Date of inspection: 3 October 2007

Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School Response to the Report

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Home Economics

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Heywood Community School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Home Economics and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over one day during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and home economics teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Home Economics is a popular subject in Heywood Community School. The subject plays an integral role in all of the curricular programmes offered on the school’s curriculum.

 

First-year students select three out of a possible six optional subjects prior to entering the school in September. Commendably an open night is held to assist students and parents in the process of subject selection. Students re-select optional subjects at the end of first year, as Music and Art are no longer core subjects in second year. On both occasions option bands are generated based on students’ preferences and every effort is made to accommodate as many students as possible. This year, students taking the Transition Year programme (TY) will study Home Economics for the full year. This change has been welcomed by the home economics team in order to promote Leaving Certificate Home Economics to a wider range of students. Student uptake of Home Economics, at both junior and senior cycle, has been increasing steadily in recent years and the home economics team is commended for their efforts in this regard. However, evidence would suggest that the subject is traditionally chosen by girls. The home economics team recognises this fact and have prioritised further promotion of the subject to facilitate the on-going development of Home Economics in the school. This is a worthwhile initiative. Strategies should be explored to promote Home Economics as an optional subject with appeal for all students, in order to redress the gender imbalance. The TY programme is a good starting point for senior cycle. Other possible strategies might include the introduction of a subject notice board in a prominent place in the school, hosting awareness campaigns on relevant issues during the school year and developing further cross-curricular projects to maximise student exposure to topics relevant to Home Economics. In the context of future curriculum planning, a short taster programme could be considered for incoming first-year students to provide an opportunity to sample each optional subject and facilitate a more informed subject choice. Such a programme can be of benefit in reducing gender bias in relation to subject choice. The length of time given over to a taster programme would have to be considered carefully to ensure that students derive full benefit from the initiative while at the same time not impacting negatively on their progress through the Junior Certificate syllabuses.

 

There is very good whole-school support for Home Economics. Management is very supportive of the on-going replacement and updating of specialist facilities, as evidenced by the recent re-furbishment of a former textiles room into a second dual-purpose room. These rooms are very well maintained and resourced to support the teaching and learning of the subject. The system in place for compiling an annual ‘snag list’ is a very good way of ensuring that any necessary upgrading and refurbishment of the specialist facilities is carried out on a phased basis as resources become available. The provision of an annual budget to the department also ensures that a very good range of additional resources is provided.

 

Teaching time allocated to home economics classes is in line with syllabus requirements. However, it was noted that a number of issues arose this year that require attention in the future timetabling of the subject.  In TY, where classes are allocated one double lesson and one single lesson, they should not be timetabled over two consecutive days. This results in a gap of almost one week between lessons. The very good arrangement of Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate classes into double and single periods facilitates a very good spread of lessons across the week and this is commended. However, in one instance the two single lessons are scheduled at different times on the same day. This affects the pacing of lessons by slowing down the introduction of new content, thus impacting on effective progress through a syllabus. In other instances the double lesson, which is essential for practical food studies lessons is split by break time. Uninterrupted double periods are necessary to enable students to develop essential time management skills in the area of culinary skills in preparation for the practical food and culinary skills examination. This current practice may also militate against students opting to study Home Economics as it could restrict their ability to socialise with their peers during break time. While recognising the contextual factors that existed this year in relation to the preparation of a timetable, it is recommended that these issues be addressed in the context of future timetable arrangements. Teachers retain their classes from the second year of the Junior Certificate programme and through the complete Leaving Certificate programme. This is good practice.

 

There is a strong commitment to continuous professional development (CPD) evident among the home economics team. In addition, the home economics teachers have a range of experience in the marking of the certificate examinations. Management and the home economics teachers are commended for their efforts in this regard. It is obvious that the experience gained contributes positively to the quality of teaching and learning in the subject.

 

Subject department structures are well established and a high level of collaboration exists between the home economics team. This process is led effectively by a subject co-ordinator whose duties form part of a post of responsibility. Management is very supportive of collaborative planning and facilitates formal meetings on a regular basis throughout the academic year. An agenda is prepared and minutes are taken at each meeting. This good practice ensures effective continuity and follow-up between meetings. There is very good communication between the home economics team and senior management. This has ensured that a cohesive approach has been taken to the long-term development and support of Home Economics in the school. 

 

All home economics classes are mixed ability. It was noted positively that students are encouraged to aim for high academic standards and to take Home Economics at the highest possible level in the certificate examinations. Participation rates at higher level in the certificate examinations are very good. It is commendable that the home economics team regularly analyse student outcomes as evidenced by results in the certificate examinations. This useful exercise informs reflective debate on the teaching and learning of Home Economics and the general whole-school provision for the subject. This is good practice.

 

Health and safety is given high priority in subject planning for Home Economics. In addition to a whole-school health and safety statement, a detailed subject-specific health and safety policy has been devised by the home economics team. Hazards have been identified and procedures developed for theoretical and practical lessons. To build on this good practice, the hazard lists should be extended to include all the key textiles equipment and any new equipment for food studies practicals. Considering the fact that both specialist rooms are dual-purpose rooms that are used for food studies and textiles practicals, it is recommended that the safety procedures for practical textile lessons be displayed clearly in each room.

 

Through their engagement with subject planning the home economics team has clearly identified concrete strategies for the effective integration of information and communications technology (ICT) into the teaching and learning of Home Economics. This plan arose out of recommendations made during a previous Whole School Evaluation and is evidence of the school’s continued engagement with the process of school planning, self-evaluation and review. Of particular note is the practice where useful web links for Home Economics have been uploaded on the student section of the school’s website.   

 

 

Planning and preparation

 

Subject department planning is at an advanced stage of development and a very systematic and professional approach is evident in the development of a subject plan for Home Economics. The home economics team has made very good use of the resource materials produced by the Home Economics Support Service and the School Development Planning Initiative to progress this work. Subject specific policies in the areas of inclusion, health and safety, homework, cross-curricular activities and assessment have been developed. Each policy has a clear rationale, which reflects the values espoused in the school’s mission statement and detailed objectives are listed. This is very good practice. It was noted positively that the home economics team carries out a regular analysis of strengths, challenges and opportunities for the continued development of Home Economics in the school. This very useful self-evaluative exercise has ensured that an informed and pro-active approach is taken to the continued development of the subject.

 

The home economics team recognises the potential of cross-curricular planning in promoting the subject among a wider student cohort. An interesting variety of cross-curricular projects are planned for the current academic year. The teaching team is commended for their work in this area.

 

Collaborative programmes of work are at an advanced stage of development. The willingness, commitment and professionalism of the home economics staff in producing such good quality planning documentation is acknowledged and highly commended. It is particularly commendable that the design brief process is introduced from first year in the areas of core textiles and food studies. This very good practice enables students to develop essential knowledge and skills over time, in the areas of investigation, problem solving, planning and evaluation. To enhance the good work already underway, it is recommended that the plans should be amended over time to maximise opportunities for integration across and within the core areas of study. Lessons should be sequenced in a manner that demonstrates the incremental development of students’ theoretical knowledge as well as their procedural and practical skills. All practical work undertaken by students should be incorporated into the planning documentation. In particular, the sequence of content in the Leaving Certificate plan should be modified to ensure that the relevant core content is covered before the elective area of study is commenced, as recommend in the revised syllabus.

 

From reviewing the programme of work for TY Home Economics, it is evident that there is considerable overlap with Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus, both in terms of the chosen content and teaching approaches used. It is recommended that this be reviewed to ensure the home economics programme reflects the underlying principles of the TY programme. The exploration of any Leaving Certificate material should be in a manner that is original and significantly different from the approach taken in the Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus. There is some very innovative coursework planned as part of the TY programme. The preparation of a recipe booklet is a particularly worthwhile initiative. It is advocated that the assessment criteria for this group project be developed further to allow for the monitoring of students’ progress and achievement.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

There was good quality advance planning and preparation for all of the lessons observed. Lessons were well structured and, in general, paced and pitched at a level that suited students’ needs. Best practice was observed in instances where an appropriate emphasis was placed on syllabus requirements in terms of students’ expected knowledge and understanding of the topic, while at the same time bearing in mind students’ abilities and levels of experience. There was some good use of additional resources such as handouts, posters, power point presentations and exemplar answers to support and consolidate students’ learning. This is very good practice.

 

All lessons had a clear focus and the good practice of sharing the aim of each lesson was noted. Detailed lesson plans presented during the course of the evaluation further outlined the key learning outcomes for each lesson. It would prove useful if these learning outcomes were shared with students to provide an additional focus to lessons, and to assist students to consolidate their learning and facilitate self-evaluation of their progress. This is one on the key principles underpinning Assessment for Learning (AfL). Further information on AfL is available on the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment at www.ncca.ie.

 

A purposeful working atmosphere permeated all lessons. Teachers’ explanations were clear and well summarised. Deliberate efforts were made to link the material being taught to students’ own experiences and prior learning. This very good practice enabled students to develop a deeper understanding of new concepts being taught in the lesson. A good balance of global and directed questioning strategies proved very effective in engaging students with lesson content and assessing individual levels of learning. It is commendable that teachers assisted students in developing detailed answers by gently probing further clarifications and affirming students’ contributions. This is very good practice.

 

In the lessons observed some good strategies were used to accommodate the various student learning styles and assist effective learning. Group work was a feature in a number of lessons. This is a commendable strategy to promote student collaboration and active learning. Textbooks were used appropriately to consolidate key points of information. Of particular note was where students were required to underline or highlight key words or phrases particularly relevant to the topic being taught. Another effective strategy observed was when key words were written on the board to clarify spellings or explanations. These good practices are encouraged further. However, it is advocated that the practice of dictating information to students for inclusion in their notebooks be avoided. An alternative strategy could be the use of mind maps, which are a very useful tool to present summarised information in a visually attractive and easy to read format. Mind maps can also be used to highlight the interrelationships between topics, which is a key principle underpinning the teaching and learning of Home Economics.

 

The personal contribution that the teachers made to teaching their classes was much in evidence throughout all lessons. In order to build on the good practices already evident, it is recommended that in lessons where there is a tendency for students to remain passive, a wider range of teaching and learning strategies be incorporated into the lessons. Care should be taken to ensure the resources chosen as well as the range of teaching strategies deployed accommodate a range of learning styles, as well as the  range of abilities evident in mixed-ability classrooms. Further information on differentiated strategies for mixed-ability learning and teaching is available from the Second Level Support Services at www.slss.ie.

 

Observation of and interaction with students during the course of the evaluation indicated that they had a good understanding of the key concepts of each lesson. Good progress was evident in students’ copybooks and Leaving Certificate practical coursework journals. Best practice was observed in notebooks and copybooks where students filed all their handouts and worksheets in a systematic manner for ease of reference for revision purposes. Observation of practical coursework completed in the areas of core textiles and design and craftwork optional studies indicated a high level of originality in the interpretation of the task. There were some very high levels of appropriate craft and textile skills evident in the items produced. This is very good practice. Observation of students’ project work in the area of Childcare indicated a very good level of competence in the organisation and presentation of materials. A variety of projects were observed during the evaluation. Projects that had specific but narrow aims, utilised a variety of research methods, only included content that was relevant to aims and had well developed conclusions relevant to the stated aims were illustrative of very good practice. It is worth noting that the chief examiners’ reports and associated marking schemes issued by the State Examinations Commission are very useful for further guidance and advice on the Junior Certificate coursework components. These documents are available at www.examinations.ie.

 

Planned learning activities were very well managed in all the lessons observed. A high level of mutual respect and co-operation was evident. It was obvious that the practice of the teacher moving around the room gave students the opportunity to seek individual help and clarification in a supportive structure. The physical environment of the home economics rooms was enhanced by displays of students’ project work, photographs of student achievements and a range of appropriate educational posters and reference material. Such very good practices stimulate and engage students’ interest. Displays of students’ work also promote a sense of student ownership and responsibility for the creation of a stimulating learning environment. The dedicated examinations notice board is a particularly good idea, as students need to be regularly reminded of the State Examinations Commission regulations governing the submission of practical coursework for Home Economics.

 

 

 

Assessment

 

A comprehensive assessment policy has been developed for Home Economics. It is commendable that the range of assessment modes used from first year through to sixth year reflect the assessment objectives of the Home Economics syllabuses.

 

A wide range of formative assessment modes is used in Home Economics to monitor student progress and provide feedback. These include oral questioning, written assignments, class tests, term tests, project work, as well as class presentations and continuous assessment. Of particular note is the creative and effective use of team project work in promoting co-operative learning among students.

 

The home economics team operates a commendable system of summative assessment. The common papers which are set by the teaching team reflect the format of the relevant certificate examination paper. Grades awarded to students at key times of the year comprise an aggregate mark which reflects students’ achievement in the relevant practical coursework components. It was noted positively that the assessment templates designed by the teaching team for the food and culinary skills practical examination in first and second year are informed by the marking schemes issued by the State Examinations Commission. This is very good practice.

 

All assessment results are systematically recorded by the teachers. This good practice helps to build up a profile of students’ progress and achievement in the subject. There is very good communication between home and school. Students’ progress is communicated to parents through written reports which are issued four times per year and at the annual parent-teacher meetings. It is commendable that the home economics team highlights students’ responsibilities regarding the practical coursework requirements for Home Economics to parents. However, the team needs to review the written documentation issued to parents to ensure that it reflects the good practice already evident in the school.

 

A clear homework policy has been devised for the home economics students in each year group. From reviewing the policy an interesting range of assignments and activities are planned. However it is recommended that the range of homework assigned to first-year and second-year students includes regular opportunities to develop skills in the range of long-answer questions styles typical of certificate examination papers in Home Economics. Students’ work is monitored regularly. It was noted positively that students are required to follow up and reflect on corrections made to their written examination scripts to consolidate their work and to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their own learning. During the course of the evaluation some good practice was evident in students’ copybooks where useful teacher comments provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done. This good practice should be extended, as it enhances learning by informing students about their own individual progress, highlights areas for improvement and ultimately challenges and assists students to reach their full potential.

 

Students enjoy Home Economics and generally demonstrate a sense of pride in their work. Observation of classroom activities and interaction with students indicated a good level of engagement and genuine enjoyment of the subject.

 

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Home Economics is a popular subject on the school’s curriculum, albeit traditionally among the female student cohort.

·         There is very good whole-school support for Home Economics with some good deployment of teaching time to the subject.

·         The specialist rooms for Home Economics are very well maintained and resourced to support the teaching and learning of the subject.

·         Subject department planning is at an advanced stage of development. A very systematic and professional approach is evident in the development of a subject plan for Home Economics.

·         Collaborative programmes of work are at an advanced stage of development.

·         The home economics team has clearly identified concrete strategies for the effective integration of information and communications technology (ICT) into the teaching and learning of Home Economics. Useful web links for Home Economics have been identified and uploaded on the student section of the school’s website.  

·         A comprehensive assessment strategy, which is underpinned by the assessment objectives of the revised syllabuses, is planned to monitor students’ achievement in the subject.

·         The team-based project work used in first year has proved successful in promoting co-operative learning among students.

·         A purposeful, calm atmosphere permeated all the lessons observed and good learning outcomes were achieved.

·         Observation of student coursework completed in the areas of textiles and design and craftwork indicated a high level of originality in the interpretation of the task and some very high levels of appropriate craft and textile skills were evident in the products made.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         The timetabling issues, as outlined in the report, should be addressed to facilitate effective continuity in teaching and learning.

·         At the next review stage, the plans should be amended to promote further opportunities for integration across and within the core areas of study. The topics studied should be sequenced in a manner that demonstrates the incremental development of theoretical knowledge as well as procedural and practical skills.

·         The TY plan should be reviewed to redress the overlap that currently exists with the Leaving Certificate Home Economics syllabus.

·         A wider range of teaching and learning strategies should be incorporated into lessons where there is a tendency for students to remain passive. Care should be taken to ensure the resources chosen, as well as the range of teaching strategies deployed, accommodate the range of student learning styles and abilities evident in mixed-ability classrooms.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Home Economics and with the principal and the home economics team at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 


 Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report 

·         The Home Economics department welcomes the positive nature of the report and will endeavour to implement its recommendations. Overall the report was very balanced including input from school management and the Home Economics department itself

·         Each year produces entirely different timetables thus the emphasis placed on two classes on the one day do not reflect the true timetabling spirit of the school. A new timetabling package was introduced for the first time in 2007/2008. This package had a major bearing on the comments issued on p3 and are not reflected in previous timetables.

·         Exam style questions are part of the second year Home Economics programme as outlined in the subject plan. However the teachers are of the view that to introduce such exam style questions in 1 sI year may hinder student's interest in the subject at such an early stage.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

 

 

 

·         In order to promote Home Economics as a subject. for all students, a display of work showing various ethnic dishes which have been cooked by students from other countries will be compiled

·         A Careers Notice Board has been set up outside the classrooms highlighting relevant courses/employments that may be of interest to students who take Home Economics as a Leaving

·         Certificate subject. '

·         Ongoing activities such as healthy eating week, guest speakers will also be implemented.

·         To address the final recommendation, regarding mixed ability the Home Economics department have organised a cluster meeting with the Home Economics Support Service. This meeting addressed the topic of differentiation, mixed abilities and co-operative learning. Various teaching and learning strategies were examined and these will be incorporated by the team to accommodate the range of student learning styles and abilities in the teaching of Home Economics.