An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Subject Inspection of Mathematics

REPORT

 

Collinstown Park Community College

Rowlagh, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

Roll number: 70041J

 

Date of inspection: 17 November 2009

 

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Mathematics

 

Subject inspection report

 

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Collinstown Park Community College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and subject 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.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

The mathematics department in Collinstown Park Community College is very well organised, highly motivated and works as an effective team. The department liaises very well with the schoolís learning-support team and is very well supported by management.

 

Arrangements for determining the mathematical capabilities of students entering first year are very good. All incoming students sit a range of appropriate standardised tests and are provided with a differentiated mathematics test designed to determine the specific strengths and weaknesses in their mathematical skills base. This is very good practice. Further interventions, including interviews with parents, meetings with the class and learning-support teachers in the feeder primary schools and inputs from the schoolís home-school-community liaison coordinator serve to develop a comprehensive profile of each incoming student.

 

The school is a participant in the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and, following the transfer and assessment process, three mixed-ability classes, one JCSP class and two learning-support classes are formed. The three mixed-ability classes and the JCSP class follow a common mathematics programme, with common assessments. The content of this programme should be reviewed to ensure that it directly targets the needs and exploits the strengths identified by the entrance assessments. The mathematics and learning-support teachers meet at the end of first year to analyse the outcomes of the common assessments and to determine the composition of the second-year mathematics classes. Mathematics classes are set in second and third year.

 

The support provided for students with special educational needs or requiring learning support in Mathematics is very good. The first-year learning-support classes follow a slightly reduced curriculum and receive targeted interventions to address the needs identified during the transfer process. The first-year learning-support programme is differentiated. On one hand, it seeks to develop the studentsí competencies to the point where they are ready to return to mainstream by the end of first year, while on the other hand it provides support for students whose abilities preclude their return to mainstream. This latter group, which is small in number, follow the first-year mathematics programme at an appropriate pace. A small, discrete, learning-support class is formed at the end of first year and the students receive additional support in Mathematics for the remainder of the junior cycle. Students in senior cycle receive a range of additional supports, including an especially adapted mathematics programme in Transition Year (TY), access to the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme and targeted interventions when it is deemed appropriate.

 

A number of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, including those espoused by the LCA and JCSP programmes, are actively promoted by the school. Students in examination classes benefit from the Clondalkin Higher Education Access Project, which provides after-school supervised tuition four evenings per week. Leaving Certificate students can avail of a small monthly scholarship designed to enable students to concentrate on their studies without feeling the need to undertake part-time work. These praiseworthy initiatives are timely, student centred and practical.

 

Timetabling provision for Mathematics is very good. There are five classes of Mathematics per week in each year of the junior cycle. Upon completion of junior cycle, students enter TY and are provided with four classes of Mathematics per week. Student who opt to follow the established Leaving Certificate are provided with six classes of Mathematics in fifth and sixth year while those who enter the Leaving Certificate Applied programme have three classes of Mathematical Applications per week in fifth year and five classes per week in sixth year.

 

The Mathematics department comprises eleven teachers, all of whom have an appropriate qualification in Mathematics. Teachers are assigned to levels by rotation and it is school policy that teachers retain the same class group from second into third year and from fifth to sixth year. This is very good practice. The members of the department have attended a range of continuing professional development (CPD) programmes, including the in-service courses provided as part of the roll-out of Project Maths.

 

The department is very well resourced. It is provided with an annual budget and has built up a considerable array of resources to facilitate demonstration by teacher, active teaching and learning and the integration of information and communications technology (ICT) into lesson delivery.† In order to facilitate enhanced and more uniform integration of such resources into teaching and learning, it is suggested that an audit of existing resources be conducted and that a complete inventory be created and included in the subject department plan for Mathematics.

 

Planning and preparation

 

Subject department planning in Mathematics is well established. A co-ordinator, appointed as part of the schoolís schedule of posts, manages the activities of the department. Regular meetings are held, the agendas and minutes of which are available in the subject department plan for Mathematics.

 

A very good subject department plan is in place. It is succinct and reflects the care taken by the department to identify and meet the needs of the students and to collaborate effectively with management and the learning-support department. The plan contains detailed schemes of work for each year and level in the form of chapter lists and an associated delivery schedule. In order to enhance this element of the subject department plan, it is recommended that the schemes of work be rewritten to detail the intended learning outcomes and the most appropriate methods to be used in achieving them.

 

A key objective in subject department planning is to identify and adopt existing good practice as standard across the department. While the existing subject department plan broadly mentions effective teaching methods, it would be preferable if this were extended to include agreed approaches to teaching core mathematical operations and how best to incorporate the departmentís resources into teaching and learning.

 

A separate, comprehensive, plan for Mathematics in TY is in place. The primary objective of the TY mathematics programme is to address any shortcomings in the studentsí skills sets and to enhance their confidence and competence in problem solving. This is good practice.† Mathematics classes are set in TY and the plan contains discrete programmes for students following higher and ordinary level and for those requiring additional support in Mathematics. The programmes targeting the higher-level students and those requiring additional support are very good and contain some innovative and interesting material. However, it is recommended that the ordinary-level programme be reviewed, particularly in relation to its content and the approaches to be adopted in lesson delivery. The review should ensure that the resulting programme is significantly different from the Leaving Certificate mathematics programme and that the areas targeted for remediation are clearly detailed.

 

Individual teachersí planning for lessons was very good. The lessons observed during the inspection were in line with the schemes of work contained in the subject department plan, took due cognisance of the needs and abilities of the students and established effective links with the studentsí prior learning.

 

Teaching and learning

 

The lessons observed during the inspection were student centred and were characterised by very good differentiation. The teachers were aware of the needs of individual students and accommodated the lesson delivery accordingly. The use of appropriate resources such as differentiated worksheets, workbooks and other hand outs ensured that the teachers could divide their time appropriately between exposition at the whiteboard and supporting students individually or in small groups. The teacher interventions were, in all cases, relevant and effective. In order to enhance the existing good practice in lesson delivery and to prepare for the forthcoming curricular changes, it is recommended that strategies to facilitate the integration of the schoolís ICT resources into teaching and learning be agreed and implemented.

 

The lessons had a very good structure. In the best cases, the teacher shared the lessonsí objectives with the students at the outset and set time aside prior to the conclusion to review the lesson. This very good practice should be adopted as standard across the department. In almost all cases, the lessons proceeded at an appropriate pace and succeeded in engaging all of the students. However, in some instances the lessons could have progressed more swiftly and presented a greater challenge to the more able students.†

 

The teachers taught with enthusiasm and clarity. The students were encouraged to follow procedure and to explain their methods when solving problems and when carrying out calculations. This very good practice ensures that the studentsí understanding of Mathematics is deepened and that good collateral learning also takes place. Teacher questioning was used very effectively to elicit factual responses to questions, to encourage the students to speculate and engage in higher-order thinking.

 

Classroom management and student behaviour were, in all cases, very good. The interactions between teachers and students and between the students themselves were friendly and respectful. The lessons were lively, interactive and were conducted with a sense of fun.

 

The quality of student learning was very good. The students carried out the tasks assigned to them without difficulty and it was evident, from their homework copies and from the quality of their responses when homework was being corrected, that good progress was being made. The performance of students in the state examinations, when school-context factors are taken into account, is also very satisfactory.

 

Assessment

 

Practices regarding the assignment and correction of homework are very good. Mathematics homework is assigned at the end of each lesson and is reviewed at the beginning of the following lesson. The quality of oral feedback given to students during homework review was very good and provided students with a very valuable learning experience. In many instances, the students amended their own work in light of errors that become evident during the homework review. This very good practice should be adopted as standard in all classes.

 

A concise, clear and student-friendly homework policy is in place. The policy is contained in the studentsí journal and the teacher handbook. It outlines the importance of homework in the educational process and details the most appropriate approaches that students should adopt in order to maximise the benefits from doing homework and engaging in revision.

 

Ongoing assessment also takes place through the provision of class tests upon completion of each topic. Formal examinations are held at the end of each term and common papers are set within levels where appropriate. The co-ordinator of the mathematics department has responsibility for organising the preparation of examination papers for the formal and mock examinations. This helps to ensure consistency in the layout and standard of the papers and is very good practice.

 

Arrangements for informing parents of the progress being made by students are very good. Homework and other assignments are recorded in the student journals in each lesson and parents sign the journal every night. The class tutors and subject teachers regularly monitor the journals. The class tutors play a key role in ongoing communication with parents. Non-examination classes have one parent-tutor meeting per year while examination classes have two. In preparation for the parent-tutor meetings, the subject teachers complete a report form for each student detailing their academic progress and their application to their work. The report form also allows the teacher to suggest the most appropriate level that the student should follow. Written reports issue to parents at Christmas and prior to the summer holidays and, in the case of students in examination classes, written reports also issue following the mock examinations.

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

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 Mathematics and with the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation, when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, June 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 of Collinstown Park Community College is pleased to receive this very good report.

 

The Board of Management congratulates the Mathematics teachers on this endorsement of very good practice.

 

The Board of Management places on record its appreciation of the Inspectorís professional engagement with the staff.

 

 

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 Mathematics Department and Management are fully committed to addressing the recommendations contained in this report.† They consider the recommendations as a means of building on our existing strengths and an opportunity to address areas for development.

 

The report will be made available to all subject departments in the school, to provide the opportunity to review their subject planning in the context of the findings and recommendations of this report