An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Irish

REPORT

 

Coláiste Treasa,

Kanturk, County Cork

Roll number: 71000 A

 

Date of inspection: 11-12 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

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in irish

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Treasa. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Irish 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 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 the teachers of Irish. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Coláiste Treasa is situated in an area where the people are positively disposed towards Irish culture. The peoples' interest in Irish stems from the strong tradition of music, dance, singing and drama in the area, and these various modes of expression are drawn on in order to ensure that the school students are given a positive experience of the culture and language. Many of the staff members are fluent in Irish and their willingness to speak and promote Irish, both outside and inside the school, is positively heartening.

 

There is an Irish room in the school containing a library and audio-visual aids. The walls of this room are attractively decorated with posters showing photographs of school activities and charts on which grammatical points and vocabulary lists are shown. This practice is commendable. Not only do the charts function as a reference aid for teachers and students while engaged in a variety of activities, but seeing their own work on display is a source of pride for the students. The school management accepted the recommendation that some computers should be installed in the room in order to make for greater variety of activities in the Irish classes.

 

A further indication of the high status which Irish enjoys in the school is given by the effort made  to give Irish a visibility throughout the school. In addition, Irish is given priority in the school stationery. This was commended and additional ways were suggested in which Irish might be further used outside of the classroom, for example in correspondence with parents/guardians.

 

While the students have contact with Irish in a variety of informal contexts, the timetabled allocation for Irish is inadequate in first-year. Language learners require regular inputs, and it was strongly recommended, therefore, that all students should have at least four classes of Irish per week.

 

The school spares no effort in encouraging all students to study Irish. Nevertheless, sixty students have exemption from Irish. Forty-five of these have learning difficulties and the remainder are foreign nationals. It is disappointing that the number of students with exemption is so high, particularly in light of the standing of the language and culture both in the school and the community.

 

A broadly based extra-curricular programme supports the advancement of Irish. The school has an Irish Club and the school participates in debates, and music and dance competitions. Students are taken to workshops on literature, which are addressed by visiting speakers. Some students spend periods in the Gaeltacht during the summer and the County Cork Vocational Education Committee offers scholarships by way of support for this.

 

Seachtain na Gaeilge is one of the principal activities of the year and the range of events is commendable. Music and dance competitions and quizzes are organised. Last year, students were brought to University College, Cork so as to present a radio programme through Irish.

 

The greatest achievement of last year, and a cause of celebration for the people of the whole area, was the short film entitled An tAthair Baistí made by the Transition Year students. Having read the script, the film department of TG4 decided to produce the students' work in the form of a short film. The school won the All-Ireland competition and the film-makers were invited to the European competition in Italy. The film, as well as its associated activities, had a strong impact  on the school and on the people of the locality.  People were greatly encouraged to see the TG4 film crew operating entirely through the medium of Irish, an indication to them that Irish has its place in contemporary life in Ireland.

Planning and preparation

 

The teachers of Irish are accustomed to coming together frequently in order to discuss issues relating to Irish, whether administrative matters, classroom practice or extra-curricular events. It is clear from the department's planning file that care has been taken with subject planning. The school has drawn up a policy in regard to Irish, a praiseworthy initiative. It may be inferred from the documentation in the file that it is the practice of teachers to discuss and debate topics such as learning aids, the abilities of students, learning activities and methods of assessment. It was recommended that the subject planning process should be brought one further step forward, by exploring how best to provide as many opportunities as possible for dialogue among students during classes. With this in mind, it was especially recommended that the most effective use that might be made of real life materials, such as magazines, pictures, brochures, internet sites, application and information forms and audio recordings, should be explored. 

Teaching and learning

 

A pleasant atmosphere permeated the classes. All parties dealt courteously with one another and addressed their tasks with enthusiasm. It was clear that a well-established work practice had been determined by some teachers and that the students were accustomed to this.

 

Irish was the language used in all the classes observed, in that the teachers addressed the students in Irish. In some instances, the students clearly understood the spoken language of the teacher and made every effort to answer through Irish. Some senior students displayed a good standard of Irish and their teacher is to be complimented on having inculcated this oral ability in them. It was felt, however, that in the majority of classes insufficient opportunities of practising the speaking of Irish were being created, nor was there an adequate emphasis being placed on the oral skills of students. It was the teachers who did most of the talking in these classes. In one case, the teacher spoke somewhat too rapidly for the standard of the class and in another case it was clear that not all the students understood the teacher's instructions. It was recommended to these teachers that they should ensure that the students understand the language specific to the classroom and that they are enabled to give simple answers through Irish. These are fundamental, initial steps in the process of language acquisition and time devoted to them is very well spent.

 

Generally speaking, the subject matter of lessons matched the interest range of the students and they participated actively in the tasks set.

 

In classes in which works of literature were being studied, the variation of activities undertaken held the continuing interest of students. Included in those were listening, reading and writing tasks. While answering factual questions afforded students some scope for speaking Irish, it was felt specifically that opportunities for spoken communication were not sufficiently exploited. Among the recommendations made in relation to this was that more extensive use should be made of applied activities such as role playing, working in pairs and group work.

 

As regards those classes in which particular topics were under discussion, every effort was being made to integrate the various language skills. To this end taped excerpts were played, students were set to reading aloud, the students jotted down notes and answers and were given a little practice in speaking the language at the beginning and/or at the end of the class.  This is a laudable approach and it is recommended that it should be developed so that, while a specific theme is being discussed, the activities would afford the students additional opportunities of practising and internalising the new language being presented to them.

 

The resources utilised included flash cards with diagrams, taped passages, worksheets, and the textbook.  It was regrettable that more extensive reference was not made to the Irish on the display charts, especially those showing the more commonly used verbs. The function of these charts was drawn to the attention of teachers – charts illustrating interrogative forms, vocabulary lists and the more commonly used speech idioms, should be used as reference aids for teachers themselves and for their students.

 

The students' copybooks were reviewed.  The written exercises completed by them are many and varied. It was apparent that students were accustomed to note taking during class, a skill which should be fostered among young independent learners.      

Assessment

 

A comprehensive system of assessment is implemented which takes into account the students'  competence in all the skills of communication.

 

The students are regularly given homework, which is either corrected in class or is corrected by the teacher where a closer scrutiny is required. The feedback given to students is very important and it was recommended that all teachers should place a continuing emphasis on the correction of major errors.

 

In-house examinations are administered at Christmas and in summer, and students who are destined to sit the state examinations are given preliminary examinations in the spring. These major examinations are well justified, as experience for the students of time management, the layout of examination papers and the conventions of the state examinations.

 

Every effort is made to afford each of the skills of communication equal weighting in the tests administered to students.  By way of acknowledging the importance and the value of the spoken language, Third-year students are given the opportunity of taking the optional oral Irish examination in the Junior Certificate. In addition, this year it is proposed to take into account in the in-house examinations the efforts of students of Transition Year to speak Irish in class. The teachers are deserving of high praise for the resourcefulness which they have brought to the methods of assessment which they implement.

 

All relevant parties are kept informed as to the students' progress, by sending a report home following each of the principal examinations. As well as this, meetings between teachers and parents/guardians are held every year.

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The attempt made to promote the language in all aspects of the life of the school is remarkable. All parties are to be complimented on their diligence and resourcefulness.
  • Every effort is made to create a stimulating environment for the learning of Irish, by providing an Irish room containing a library, audio-visual aids and multicoloured posters and charts.
  • Particular praise is due to those teachers who encourage students to participate in a very wide range of extra-curricular activities which advance Irish language and culture.
  • Collaborative planning comprises an important element of the teachers' work and detailed discussions have been held on many aspects of teachers' practices.
  • An atmosphere of courtesy and diligence permeated all the classes observed. The students are to be commended on the effort they make to speak Irish and on their active participation in classes.
  • The subject matter of lessons was appropriate to the experience and interest range of students.
  • Students are assigned homework on a regular basis, a practice which is laudable.
  • The school has a comprehensive system of assessment which takes account of the students' capacities in all the skills of communication.

  

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

 

  • As a means of developing the speaking abilities of students, it is recommended that the communicative method should be adopted as the main methodology in Irish classes.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Irish and with the Principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.