An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science



Subject Inspection of

Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies



Sancta Maria College,


County Mayo.

Roll number: 64660F


Date of inspection: 01 May 2007

Date of issue of report:  08 November 2007


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 Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies


Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Sancta Maria College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects 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.



Subject provision and whole school support


Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) and Construction Studies (CS) are offered as Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate optional subjects respectively in this co-educational voluntary secondary school. Senior-cycle students study CS as part of the established Leaving Certificate (LC) or as one of a combination of optional subjects that form vocational subject groupings (VSG) for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The school has an optional Transition Year (TY) programme that includes year-long study of a MTW-related programme.


Students entering first year in the school are exposed to a taster programme of six optional subjects. At the end of the taster programme students select the optional subjects they will study for Junior Certificate. CS is offered to senior-cycle students as part of an open choice of optional subjects. It is noteworthy however, that the current arrangements for these optional subjects at junior- and senior-cycle level result in the subjects being taken predominantly by boys. It is recommended therefore, that the ways of encouraging and enabling higher take-up of the subjects by girls should be examined.


Students and parents are informed in relation to programme and optional subject choice at important transition points and the school's senior management team, guidance counsellor, programme coordinators and subject teachers are all centrally involved in this process. This is commended.


All MTW, TY and CS classes receive an appropriate time allocation. Allocations include double and single class periods that allow adequate time for practical work, project work and theory to be accommodated and this type of provision is commended.


A specialist MTW and CS room is used for the delivery of all programmes in the subjects. This room is separate from the school's main buildings, is well appointed, equipped and maintained. A dust extraction system will be installed during the summer of 2007 and its provision is commended. The room is decorated with charts related to wood and construction technology, health and safety signage and examples of students' practical and project work. This ensures a visually rich and stimulating learning environment for students where their work is affirmed. This is commended.


Currently, there is access to one computer in the MTW and CS room but this is not equipped with subject-related drawing software. Provision of appropriate hardware and software for the technology subjects will be made in preparation for the introduction of the new Design and Communication Graphics (currently Technical Drawing) syllabus in September 2007 and this will ensure that MTW and CS students will also have access to appropriate drawing hardware and software in the new school year. This is commended. 


Planning and preparation


The school is engaged in ongoing development planning and a formal subject department structure is in place. Teachers of the technology subjects available in the school form a discrete subject department. This system is operating effectively and is commended. It is recommended however, that the coordination of the technology subjects is undertaken by individual teachers on a rotational basis in future years.


A collaborative approach to planning the technology subjects is adopted. Teachers meet informally on a regular basis during the year, discuss subject-related issues, keep records of meetings, and discuss issues with the principal when appropriate. These arrangements work effectively.


MTW and CS subject plans have been developed and include the syllabus documents, programmes of work for each year group in each subject area that conform to syllabus requirements, aims and objectives for programmes, references to cross-curricular links, details of time allocation to the subjects, information on class group organisation, among other areas. These plans would be enhanced by the inclusion of some further sections, for example the timing of practical, project and theory lessons during the year, methodologies to be employed, resources required for the delivery of programmes, provision for students with special educational needs (SEN), details of assessment procedures and timing of assessments, homework, provision for health and safety, information and communication technology (ICT), continuous professional development, among other areas. It is also recommended that the TY programme in MTW be included with subject planning documentation and that the current programme be reviewed in order to ensure that it prepares TY students for the Leaving Certificate CS programme.


Continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities associated with the introduction of the new Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) syllabus are currently being availed of and this is commended. Opportunities for in-career development in MTW or CS have not been available in recent years and it is recommended therefore, that teachers engage in all professional development opportunities related to the introduction of the new Architectural Technology syllabus when these are provided by T4 in future years. 


All MTW and CS class groups are of mixed ability and students sit examinations at the level appropriate to their abilities. Liaison between subject teachers and the school's learning support team takes place when planning for students with special educational needs is being undertaken and this is commended.


An annual budget is provided for the subjects and requests for additional resources may be made through the principal. These arrangements work well in the school.

Teaching and learning


An appropriately ordered learning environment was created and maintained during all lessons evaluated. This is commended.


All lessons were coherent, had clear aims and objectives, were well structured to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses, and were appropriately paced in terms of the class groups observed. Lessons were suitable for the time of year and took account of the differentiated needs of students. This is commended as good practice. 


Appropriate methodologies in terms of students’ abilities, needs and interests were employed and a range of strategies was used. These included teacher demonstrations of a high standard. Such demonstrations form an extremely important part of both practical and theory MTW and CS lessons as they allow students to observe the teacher modelling the proper execution of woodworking and construction procedures, processes, and associated skills together with health and safety procedures. Formal demonstrations to whole class groups, smaller groups, and individual students were used during the evaluation. This practice is commended. 


Junior Certificate MTW students were being expertly guided through the design and make process as they worked on their projects for State examination purposes. A variety of wood craft and architectural heritage projects will be presented for Leaving Certificate examination purposes. A very effective system for tracking students' progress in project work has been developed and this facilitates effective planning of activities during practical classes and increases the efficiency with which project work is completed. The organisation, management, and monitoring of projects for examination purposes is commended.


Global and directed questions, including higher order questions, were used effectively to revise  material covered in previous lessons, to introduce new topics, to direct student attention and to  summarise at the end of lessons. This approach to questioning is commended.


Chalkboard presentations were used effectively during MTW and CS lessons and students worked from scaled drawings during practical and project work. This practice is commended.


The wood and construction technology principles demonstrated during lessons were presented incrementally and this is commended.


The technological terminology associated with MTW and CS was used continually during lessons. Familiarity with and appropriate use of this terminology is an important part of the technological process and the approach adopted in the school is commended.


Classroom routines were evidenced during all lessons. These ensure the learning environment is well organised, managed and safe during practical activities and are commended.


Textbooks are used for MTW and CS theory lessons but these were not relied upon during lessons observed. A wide variety of resources has also been developed or identified and is used effectively to complement texts, for reference purposes, to supplement lesson content, and for homework assignments. This approach is commended. 


Students' progress on the completion of classroom tasks was assessed during the course of lessons and this is commended as good practice.


The quality of students’ understanding was reflected in their ability to ask and answer questions and in the competencies exhibited during lessons. Their written and drawn work was of a standard consistent with a range of abilities. The content of junior and senior students' notebooks and portfolios in MTW and CS was appropriate and freehand and ruled drawings were of a standard that displayed a mastery of the knowledge and competencies associated with a wide variety of syllabus topics. Efforts should continually be made however, to further enhance students' design and practical skills and to emphasise the importance of freehand and ruled drawings and information-rich concise note-making as forms of technological communication. 


Ample opportunities for students to engage in independent and collaborative learning were built into all lessons evaluated and this practice is commended.


An excellent rapport between students and teachers was evident in all lessons evaluated. This promoted an atmosphere where students contributions to and participation in lessons were being encouraged and students readily engaged with classroom activities. Students were enthusiastic, motivated, displayed their understanding of the concepts associated with lessons and their work and contributions were appropriately affirmed in an atmosphere that was conducive to learning.




A range of assessment modes related to subject-specific objectives is employed in MTW and CS and practical, project, written and drawn classwork and homework is routinely assessed, commented on, and graded. This practice is commended.


First, second and fifth year students sit classroom-based mid-term examinations in October, formal mid-term examinations in February and end-of-year examinations each year. Junior and Leaving Certificate students also sit a mid-term examination in October and formal mock examinations are scheduled during the second term each year.


The results of first, second and fifth year students’ achievements are communicated to parents by means of school reports following mid-term and end-of-year examinations. Reports are also issued to parents of Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students following the mock examinations during the second term.


The quality of record keeping of student attendance at MTW and CS lessons is of a high standard and the results of all student assessments are recorded systematically.


Parent-teacher meetings for each year group are organised each year and regular contact between teachers and parents using the student journal or by telephone is encouraged. These practices are commended.





Summary of main findings and recommendations


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:


  • There is strong whole-school support for MTW and CS.
  • There is a formal technology subjects department, a high level of collaboration and cooperation among the teachers, and subject plans for MTW and CS. 
  • There is strong up-take of MTW and CS by boys.
  • The teaching methodologies employed during lessons were appropriate and effective.
  • Lesson presentation of a high standard was observed. 
  • Students are being expertly guided through the project design and realisation process.
  • The standard of students' practical and project work and of freehand, ruled and scaled drawings reflected the range of abilities in the class groups evaluated. 
  • Students displayed positive attitudes to the subjects.
  • An excellent rapport between students and teachers was evident in all lessons evaluated.   


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


  • The TY MTW syllabus should be revisited to ensure that it prepares students for study of the CS syllabus at Leaving Certificate.
  • Ways to encourage and enable more girls to take MTW and CS should be examined.  
  • Efforts to further enhance students’ design, practical and communication skills in MTW and CS should continually be made. 


Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.







 School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management




Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


School Management were satisfied with the content of report which highlights the quality of teaching and learning within the classroom. The report also highlights the dedication of teachers to the subject and students as well as the whole school support given to this subject area.


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 recommendations have been examined and the following are being or have been addressed.

Area 1; That the TY syllabus be revisited to ensure students are prepared for study of CS at Leaving Cert

TY syllabus has been reviewed in light of recommendations and scheme has been modified to include aspects of the LC CS

Area 2; Ways to encourage more girls to take MTW and CS has also been examined

Subject choices are reviewed annually and all students are given an introductory module in all optional subjects at junior level. During this time students are encouraged to look beyond the traditional gender orientated choices to make informed subject choices. This is facilitated by relevant subject teachers and guidance counsellor. At senior level, in TY all students partake in Woodwork. As part of the career guidance programme at senior level all students take part in a career module to ensure they make suitable and well informed choices for LC. Greater emphasis will be put on suitability rather than gender.

Area 3; Efforts to enhance students' design, practical and communication has also been addressed

New equipment including IT equipment has been installed. This is state of the art design technology and software which can be accessed by all technology based subjects. This will develop the students skills in design and communications.