An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection in Irish
St. Kevin’s CBS
Arklow, Co. Wicklow
Roll number: 61770U
Date of the inspection: 13 December 2006
Date of issue of the report: 21 June 2007
the Quality of Learning and of Teaching in Irish
This report was written following a subject inspection at St. Kevin’s CBS, Arklow, Co.Wicklow. It outlines the results of the assessment of the standard of instruction and learning in Irish and makes recommendations re the development of instruction in this subject in the school. This assessment was carried out in the course of one day during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed instruction and learning. The inspector had contact with both the pupils and with the teachers. The students’ work was examined and discussed with the teachers. School planning documents and teachers’ written preparation work were examined. Following the assessment visit, the inspector gave a verbal feedback re the results of the assessment to the principal, the deputy principal and to the subject teachers
First year classes in the school are usually of mixed ability. Depending on the number of students involved, the students are divided into two class groups in second year. In second year at present, in one higher level class some students take the ordinary level paper in the Junior Certificate Examination and there is another class at ordinary level where a small number of students study the foundation level course. It was reported that a great deal of flexibility exists concerning the different levels and students are permitted to change levels as appropriate.
Four teachers teach Irish in the school. The two teachers most involved with teaching the subject both have a degree in Irish. Two other teachers who are fluent in Irish take one or two classes as required. In recent years a lack of continuity occurred in the supply of Irish teachers in the school due to teachers leaving the district. This posed considerable difficulties for the school but it is thought that these difficulties are close to resolution.
Junior cycle classes have four periods per week. It is recommended that, if possible, this should be increased to five periods at least in third year. The Transition Year class has three periods per week but this class is divided between two teachers. It is difficult to provide a comprehensive continuous course to the Transition Year in three periods per week with two teachers. The management are advised to reconsider this unsatisfactory arrangement for next year. Provision for the subject in the senior cycle is satisfactory at five periods per week for the fifth and sixth years.
The school’s parents’ committee provides a considerable sum of money for Gaeltacht scholarships for students. The expenditure of this sum or its use in order to derive the greatest benefit from it has not been discussed between the parents’ committee and the Irish teachers. It is strongly recommended that the teachers discuss this matter amongst themselves and should then discuss with the committee how best to spend this money. Expenditure of this type could greatly influence the promotion of Irish in the school in general if it is managed efficiently.
It was reported that nothing is organised for Irish in the school outside the classroom. However, it was reported that the Irish teachers intend looking at the possibility of organising some events during “Seachtain na Gaeilge”. The school’s commitment in this matter is commended. It is strongly recommended however, that the Irish teachers discuss this among themselves and that they should then seek the ideas of both staff and students concerning enjoyable events that could be organised in the school. It is recommended that a start be made with arranging events for “Seachtain na Gaeilge” and then to gradually extend a programme of events throughout the school year.
Although each teacher, except one teacher who teaches one class only, has their own room, very little material relative to the teaching and learning Irish was displayed in the classrooms. It is strongly recommended that the quantity and standard of the material be added to between students’ work and posters to create an Irish language environment and an enjoyable learning atmosphere.
The Irish teachers meet twice a year for planning purposes. They are afforded the opportunity to meet at the beginning and at the end of the school year. Selecting the schoolbook list and allocating students to classes are the two main subjects of discussion at these meetings. The management are advised to investigate the possibilities around providing the Irish teachers with opportunities for planning. The formulation of a comprehensive plan for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school is recommended. Such a plan would include topics to be covered, teaching methods, resources, strategies for dealing with reluctant students, learning goals for the classes and for the different levels. Drafting the plan would provide the teachers with an opportunity to share their expertise and experience. A plan for the teaching and learning of the subject would ensure continuity from year to year even if different teachers were to teach the subject. The plan would be a guide and a support to both well established teachers and to new teachers. It was reported that some of the Irish teachers were recently given an opportunity to attend an in-service course for Irish organised by the Second Level Support Service. It is recommended that these teachers be given the opportunity to share the course material and recommendations with the other teachers who were unable to attend the course.
It was reported that a computer room is available in the school but that the Irish teachers seldom use it. It is recommended that planning should also be made for the use of information and communication technology in the teaching of Irish.
It was reported that a small annual budget is available to the Irish teachers to purchase materials and resources for teaching the subject. It is recommended that all the resources currently available in the school should be recorded and listed and planning be conducted accordingly for the provision of additional aids over a period of some years depending on the budget available annually.
The plan for the teaching of Irish in Transition Year is out of date. Although work is conducted in accordance with an informal plan it is recommended that a comprehensive plan should be available for the Transition Year with the appropriate emphasis on developing spoken Irish. Transition Year gives teachers wonderful opportunities to teach a subject to students and reluctant learners in an innovative and attractive way. The plan should emphasise the use of various and interesting ways to teach and learn the language.
Certain efforts were made to use Irish as the language of communication and teaching with the students in the Irish classes. While commending these efforts it is necessary to place much more emphasis on speaking Irish from first year onwards. Irish must be used as the language of management, communication and teaching in the classes. Irish to English translation should not be relied upon to ensure the students’ understanding of the lesson material. It is recommended that teachers should continuously discuss this very important issue among themselves. Methods should be employed from first year onwards to ensure that students experience Irish as a spoken language. It is necessary however, that each teacher follows the same methods from year to year to ensure continuity.
Although some students were quite restless the teachers managed to maintain overall control and certainly the majority of students were quiet and engaged in work during the classes. It is recommended however, that devices for dealing with the minority who interfere from time to time with the teaching and learning be discussed.
The manner in which a narrative was told on the whiteboard in one instance observed, whereby students were given opportunity to compose sentences and to develop the story gradually, is commended. It worked well as a device and the students enjoyed it as they were given an opportunity to participate in the process. The way in which elements of the story were linked to the students’ modern lifestyles is commended. This aspect of the lesson could be developed however, and more links be made between the lesson material and the students’ everyday living. It is very important to develop this link or relationship in every class in order to make teaching and learning Irish enjoyable and interesting.
It was noticed in many of the classes observed that the teachers did not move about the classroom among the students during the period of the class. It is strongly recommended that teachers move continuously about the room speaking and interacting with students. This also helps to maintain control in the class.
It was felt that too much emphasis was placed on use of textbooks in some of the classes observed. It is recommended that teachers should use a broader range of resources and materials during class to make learning Irish more interesting and more enjoyable for students. It is not sufficient to rely exclusively on textbooks. It is preferable to use the textbook as a resource in the class rather than as the sole teaching aid.
Traditional teaching methods were mainly employed in the classes observed, with the teacher doing most of the talking in the class. It is recommended that teachers make use of a broader range of teaching methods. It is also important to create opportunities for communication for the students from first year onwards. It is recommended that games, pair-work, and role-play be used as appropriate. Of course it is necessary to take the level of ability in Irish and class behaviour into account when choosing these teaching methods. Even so, it is important to create variety in the Irish class in order to awaken and foster the students’ interest in the subject. The Irish communications media are a wonderful resource and it is highly recommended that they be used with various classes and not just with the Transition Year. It is necessary for each class to experience Irish as a living language in various communities throughout the country.
In-house exams are arranged once a year in summer. Christmas exams are conducted in class. Reports are forwarded to parents at home twice a year and occasionally three times in the case of examination classes.
A great deal of work was done in some of the copybooks observed and teachers and students are commended on their enthusiasm in this regard. However, major differences were observed between the teachers’ practices re correcting that homework. It is recommended that the teachers agree a common corrections system that would ensure that students receive a grade or mark for work done as well as reference notes on the merit of the work. It is also important that teachers arrive at an agreed correction system so that students will learn from their errors.
Common examinations are arranged in first year when more than one class is involved. Common examinations would not be suitable for the other years as different levels are involved. That approach is commended with regard to first year and it is recommended that it should be school policy to hold common examinations at Christmas and in summer.
The students’ communicative skills are not tested in junior cycle. It is recommended that a short oral exam is held as part of the summer examinations for each year group from first year onwards. Teachers could exchange classes so that a teacher other than the class teacher would ask the questions. It is very important that students experience the applied use of Irish from first year. It is too late to begin spoken Irish in Transition year.
The following are the main strengths that were identified in the assessment:
· The school had considerable difficulties in recent years with the provision of Irish teachers for the school and as a result of this a lack of continuity in the school arose with regard to the teaching of Irish.
· The parents’ committee in the school are commended for providing a sum of money on an annual basis for Gaeltacht scholarships.
· An in-service Irish course was attended this year as part of a modular course provided by the Second Level Support Service.
· The school management are commended for providing the Irish teachers with a financial budget every year.
· The Irish teachers’ plan to initiate Irish language events during the 2007 “Seachtain na Gaeilge”.
· Some effort was made to use Irish during the Irish classes.
· Particular notice was taken of one sample in which an Irish lesson was taught in an enjoyable way through telling a story on the whiteboard with active participation from the students.
The following main recommendations are made in order to build on these strengths and to identify areas for development:
· It is recommended that the provision of Irish periods to classes in the junior cycle and the Transition year be considered.
· It is recommended that events take place during “Seachtain na Gaeilge” and that a programme of extracurricular and co-curricular events be gradually developed during the school year in general.
· It is recommended that the quantity and standard of material related to the teaching and learning of Irish in the classrooms should be enhanced.
· It is recommended that a comprehensive plan for the teaching and learning of Irish be compiled taking into account communication and information technology, Transition year planning, the supply of materials and resources and a broader range of teaching methods.
· Concentrating on the use of Irish as the target language in the classroom is recommended in order to broaden and develop the students’ experience of Irish as a spoken, living language.
· The use of a broader range of teaching methods with the emphasis on creating opportunities for pupils to communicate is recommended.
Post assessment meetings were arranged with the Irish teachers, with the Principal and with the Deputy Principal at the end of the assessment when the draft findings and recommendations were presented and discussed.