An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Art
St Joseph’s Secondary School
Rush, County Dublin
Roll number: 60343T
Date of inspection: 16 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Art
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Joseph’s Secondary School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Art 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 subject teachers.
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.
Three fully qualified teachers staff the art department at St Joseph’s Secondary School. The department is very well established and there is a very strong awareness of the potential of the subject to enhance the lives of all in the school community. A subject department structure is in place and there is a volunteer co-ordinator of the department. Recently the department has held formal planning meetings although the minutes of these meetings were not available at the time of this evaluation. It was voiced during the evaluation that the department was collaborative and that the support offered by more senior members of the art department was very valuable. The department is very active and ensures that there is a plethora of activity ongoing throughout the school year. This very strong commitment to the visual arts and cultural pursuits culminates in a variety of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities both in the school and in the locality. Some of these events and activities include participation in St Patrick’s Day parades, organisation of the annual art exhibition, involvement in the school show, school functions and, not least, the school’s three day festival of the arts called ‘Dóchas’.
Teachers have been members of a subject association in the past but are not currently members. It is suggested that membership be re-established. However, the teachers in the art department have been active in ensuring that their own professional development needs have been nurtured and this helps them to keep a fresh perspective on the delivery of the subject. They have engaged in personal professional work, art trips abroad to take slides and other activities. Teachers’ enthusiasm for the subject is also shown in their support and direction of students who embark on extra projects such as portfolios or other types of projects much of which is given in teachers’ non-teaching time.
The department is provided with a designated art room and also has the use of the demonstration room for teaching the history and appreciation of art. Due to the numbers of students taking the subject the main art room is subject to a lot off student traffic. This, combined with the use of the room as a practical workspace, has contributed significantly to the wear and tear of the room. The room is also used to hold materials and students’ work. To make best use of the room and the space available, it is recommended that the room be cleaned out and that useful materials are stored away. In line with health and safety regulations sharp objects such as knives and other potentially dangerous tools should be stored away from students in a secure unit. The room should then be re-painted to aid the display of exemplars and students’ work.
The demonstration room is not ideal for the delivery of Art but suffices for the delivery of the history and appreciation of art. Of particular note two overhead projectors are available in this room and are used to display relevant images. The efforts put into collecting these images and slides are commended.
Regarding the acquisition of materials, the department purchases what is necessary from the art budget and if necessary school management will subsidise other purchases. It was noted on the day of the inspection that finished work was presented on regular paper. It is suggested that good quality presentation paper should be obtained so that students’ work can be presented to the best possible advantage.
The numbers of students choosing to study the subject at both junior and senior cycle are healthy. An opening evening and a separate information evening is held for parents and students when the guidance and art teachers are available to give advice to students. Senior cycle students are also advised and informed of the potential consequences of their choices.
During the evaluation visit an art department plan was made available. The plan’s mission statement is to foster ‘openness to originality and creativity and to help pupils confidently enjoy museums, galleries and all visual culture throughout their lives’. Commendably, this highly aspirational mission statement is being lived out on a daily basis in the activities and actions of the art department and is delivered to all year groups and programmes. The art department plan lists a number of topics to be attended to by each year group and programme and the range and breadth of these topics is expansive. While this list has no doubt been of use in the past, more detail would describe these tasks in clearer terms and specify the skills being developed. For example, instead of listing ‘painting with sweet wrappers’ this exercise could be described as a colour study, with definite developmental steps such as line drawing with contours, identifying colour, mixing and laying down of paint. Breaking down these steps helps to clarify the issues and is an aid to differentiation and to the creation of assessment criteria. It is suggested that in developing this plan further that more attention be given to developing projects from primary sources in order to capitalise on the drawing skills being developed and the students’ sense of personal creativity and development.
Each teacher has a set of plans for each individual class group based on the art department plan. These plans are amended to suit the particular class group being taught. All of the plans examined were stimulating and practical.
Four lessons were observed as part of the evaluation and this sample of lessons included both junior and senior cycle students. Lesson structure in each case observed was logical, sequential and students were familiar with the working practices of the department, which created a good working environment. The pace of all lessons was appropriate and the majority of students were at all times engaged in their work. Some few students were easily distracted and it is suggested this type of behaviour be addressed in its initial stages so that it does not develop further. Affirmation was given regularly and in all lessons the delivery of the subject was lively, informative and pleasant, thus creating a good rapport with students. Individual tuition was given as necessary.
Three of the lessons observed related to drawing. Where learning was optimal students were observing from life. Two sets of subject matter were used; the classroom itself and individual objects. Viewfinders were used in the former to help students isolate areas to study and students who had completed drawing whole objects were asked to draw a section. The standard of drawing in both these sets of lessons was good and it is recommended that drawing in general be brought to further advancement by developing it into crafts, fine art or design pieces. It was particularly positive to see that weaker students were able to access this process in the same manner as other students and that their work and efforts were praised. Such an honest and direct approach to drawing is commended.
Where drawing was less successful, students were drawing from secondary sources. Some of these sources were too small for students to see properly and whilst the aim of the lesson was to investigate the use of formulaic structures in drawing a frontal portrait some of the faces in the images were turned to the side making the students’ task very difficult. It is suggested that the development of the art department plan as indicated above would avoid such issues by clarifying processes.
A senior cycle art history and appreciation lesson was also observed. This lesson was held in the demonstration room and commendably, two overhead projectors were used so that students could compare images simultaneously. The delivery of the topic was very pleasant and informative. The teacher involved made very good links between topics and strove to ensure that links were relevant to the students. Students were also challenged to make links such as associating Robin Hood with particular architectural style and period in history. The students in this lesson were confident and knowledgeable and it is suggested this strategy be developed by challenging them further to develop their application of knowledge. An examination of students’ notebooks showed that the work is progressing well. It was noted that drawings of historical images was prioritised by some students and it is suggested that this should be encouraged across senior cycle.
The department has established plans and procedures for assessment in Art. Junior cycle students are regularly required to complete drawing and research homework, whilst senior cycle students must complete class tests and written assignments on the history and appreciation of art components, as well as practical work. Formal examinations are held at Christmas for all students and at summer for first second and fifth year groups. ‘Mock’ examinations are held for Certificate examination candidates in February.
Parents are kept informed of students’ progress using the school journal, parent-teacher meetings, and twice-yearly reports.
Records are being kept of students’ behaviour and progress. Generally very thorough profiles are kept on students and teachers have in-depth knowledge of students’ potential, strengths and weaknesses. Documentation is also kept by class teachers to help students with specific learning needs.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Art and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Rush, is very heartened by the findings of this Inspection. The noting of good practice and the living out on a daily basis of the mission is affirming of the staff and pupils. The Board congratulate the Principal and Art teachers for their commitment to the Arts and their students. The Board agrees that the Inspection was conducted in a fair and professional manner and feels it will enhance the development of Art in the school.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
As an integral part of the ongoing School Development Planning, the school management and the Art team will carry out the recommendations of the Inspection Report.