An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
Mater Christi Secondary School
Cappagh, Finglas, Dublin 11
Roll Number: 60852R
Date of Inspection: 15 and 16 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Irish
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Mater Christi Secondary School. 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 to the 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.
The teaching staff and school management are highly commended for their support of the teaching and learning of Irish in the school. They are also commended for the good level of provision made for Irish. This support and provision is used to ensure that students’ learning of Irish is not restricted to the classroom.
There are two Irish teachers in the school and both have extensive experience of teaching Irish in the programmes and at the various levels in which Irish is provided in the school. Irish classes are of forty minutes’ duration. Classes in each year of the junior cycle and Applied Leaving Certificate are allocated four class periods per week. Students studying Irish for the Leaving Certificate established have five class periods per week. The amount of time allocated to Irish is satisfactory, especially in the case of the senior cycle. It was reported that Leaving Certificate students taking higher level Irish are provided with an extra class as required. All classes receive a single Irish class period per day, as recommended.
There are two class groups in each year of the established programmes except for fifth year which has one class group. One class group is taking the Leaving Certificate Applied and this group studies Irish during one year of the programme. The provision of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) was re-introduced in the current school year and one class group in first year is participating in this programme. This demonstrates that management reviews the quality and effectiveness of the school’s educational provision in meeting the needs of the students and they are commended for this. The allocation of students to the JCSP class is based on their achievements in literacy and numeracy tests completed as part of school transfer examinations. The feeder primary schools and parents are also consulted when making this decision. Teachers and management are also commended for provision of Irish to students according to the Siollabas don teastas Sóisearach: Gaeilge students of this programme.
A very small number of students in the school are exempt from Irish. All students are encouraged to study Irish and it is the school’s vision that the language belongs to everyone. Teachers and management are highly commended for promoting this attitude in the school.
Irish teachers have their own classrooms and these contain whiteboards, televisions, DVD and CD players, as well as storage cupboards. The supply of aids and resources available to the teachers of Irish in the school is commended. Computer rooms are available for teaching and learning Irish. Management is specially commended for formally scheduling time for the teachers to spend with their classes in these computer rooms. However, it is understood that the teachers of Irish only use these facilities occasionally. It is recommend that teachers include the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for the teaching and learning of Irish in their planning work and that this is integrated with the other methodologies and strategies for teaching and learning which are used in class.
A comprehensive programme of events is organised for all the school’s students during Seachtain na Gaeilge. Some of these events were in progress during the visit. The entire school staff greatly support the Irish teachers in organising these events, as was observed for example in the case of a table quiz which was held for sixth years. Management and staff deserve much credit and recognition for supporting Irish teachers and students in organising events outside of Irish class in which Irish has a central role. A Feachtas Irish Club is held once a week at lunchtime, during the school year. This also gives students an opportunity to use the language outside of class. Great efforts are made to encourage students to attend summer college in the Gaeltacht and it was intimated that an increased number of students will attend this year. Management, teachers and students are highly commended for their initiative in providing financial support to those who visit the Gaeltacht.
There is a dedicated notice board Irish in the school hall and there are notices, posters and other material in Irish on the walls around the school. It was evident that worthwhile efforts are made in the school to ensure that students’ experience of the language is not restricted to Irish classes and management and teachers are highly commended for this.
The teachers are engaged in developmental planning for Irish and a plan has been developed. The plan takes account of various aspects of Irish in the school and it is evident that good progress has been made in its development. Teachers hold a formal meeting at least once per term, as well as informal meetings. Agendas are set for the formal meetings which are recorded and presented to management. This is good practice. Teachers coordinate the subject on a rotational basis and it is clear that they effectively share their experience, expertise and strengths. Developmental planning is central to the meetings. Students’ progress and the organisation of the co-curricular and extra-curricular events in which they participate are among the other items on the agenda.
Regarding the next stages in the development of the plan for Irish, it is recommended that the material for the various year groups is laid out according to term, that the plans take account of the teaching and learning methodologies and strategies to be used, including ICT, and of the assessment methods, including an approach to correcting homework. It would be helpful to this work to set a framework of the expected learning outcomes at various levels. This framework would also be useful in increasing integration in relation to the development of language skills. Regarding ICT, these facilities provide opportunities for presenting Irish to students as a contemporary, living language and using them would also give them the opportunity to practice transferable skills, such as using search engines and critical reviewing, for example.
The standard of preparation which had been undertaken for classes observed during the visit and the plans provided for those classes was good. Worksheets and other learning resources had been prepared to implement the lesson aims.
Students were set various tasks in the majority of classes observed. The variety of activities assisted, in some cases, with the development and consolidation of different language skills. In the majority of cases, they helped to ensure a suitable pace of work.
In some cases the roll was called and answered in Irish and the day’s date confirmed at the start of class. Extending this practice and spending a little time on general conversation in Irish at the start of class is recommended. This would help students to settle down and prepare themselves for Irish class, having come from other classes or situations in the medium of another language. Students were informed of the aim of the lesson in some cases. This practice is commended and should be extended. In order to give students a better understanding of their learning during class and how it relates to the rest of their work, it is recommend that expected learning outcomes are shared with students at the start of class.
Several samples were observed of students being enabled to ask and answer questions. The case observed in which students, who were organised into pairs, were given responsibility for setting questions for a table quiz based on topics of interest which they had covered, is highly commended. Students were given clear guidelines and were informed of the time limit for the task in hand. They used dictionaries and other resources available to them in the classroom in this work. When the questions had been set and the answers corrected, they exchanged questions with other groups of students to answer. The sample observed in which students were required to set questions based on a particular theme, write them down and ask each other the questions orally, is also commended. This allowed students to practice asking and answering questions aloud in class and gave them an opportunity to develop their self-confidence in hearing themselves speak the language.
Worksheets containing a variety of written exercises for students were presented in a particular instance. The exercises were prepared in such a way that students could complete them and progress according to their ability. This preparation is commended. It is recommended, however, that an entire class is not spent on one language skill and that the students are brought together again as a group at an appropriate point during the work.
A commendable example of the teaching of grammar was observed. Although undertaken formally, the students showed that they were at ease with it and that they were able to recognise and practice patterns. It is recommended, however, that this learning is put in context by using authentic texts, for example from broadcast or print media, to demonstrate its use to students.
The needs of each student were attended to in the vast majority of classes. It must always be ensured that all students in the class receive input, even if they are studying Irish at different levels. The atmosphere in all classes was conducive to learning and students’ attention was focussed on their work. Posters and samples of students’ work were displayed on the walls of the classrooms. The displaying of students’ work was particularly praiseworthy and it is recommended that this practice be continued.
Although Irish was used as the medium of communication in the main, increasing its usage is recommended. As the plan for Irish showed, work has already been done on the classroom vocabulary required by students, for example. It is recommend that students are enabled to use this classroom vocabulary and that, for example, page numbers are called out in Irish, for example, and that the practice of using Irish when praising students for their work and their participation in class, which was observed in the majority of cases, is extended.
Staff will be involved in developing a formal assessment policy for the school in the next school year. Student learning is assessed through questioning in class, homework, class tests, house examinations which are held twice a year, at Christmas and summer, and “mock” State examinations. In order to gain a more accurate understanding of students’ progress in first year, they are given an examination around the time of the mid-term break in the first term. Teachers analyse students’ performance in this examination and the allocation of students to particular classes can be reviewed at this point, or at another point during the school year. Reports on students’ performance in house examinations and in mock examinations are sent home to parents. Meetings with parents are held once a year and parents may also request a meeting or a report on their student’s performance during the school year. Teachers and management are commended for their communication with parents.
Regarding house exams, in come cases students’ performance in all of the language skills is taken into account. This is good practice which is in line with the aims of the syllabuses. This type of practice acknowledges students’ performance in the different language skills and gives them an understanding of same. It is recommended that the assessment of all of the language skills is included in the results for all students.
A sample students’ copybooks were also reviewed during the visit. The material in the copybooks was in line with syllabus requirements at the various levels. Notes of encouragement or marking were used in correcting homework in some cases. Copybooks showed in one case that questions, for example, were being translated to English and it is recommended that this practice be avoided.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school’s management and teaching staff are highly supportive of the teaching and learning of Irish and each student is encouraged to study Irish.
· There is a good supply of aids and resources available, including time on the timetable to spend in the computer rooms.
· A comprehensive programme of events is organised that gives students an opportunity to use the language and to gain experience of the culture outside of Irish class.
· A plan for Irish has been developed and teachers take on the role of coordinator in rotation.
· Good preparation, including task planning and worksheets, was carried out for the majority of classes observed.
· Examples were observed in which students were given responsibility for their learning and were enabled to ask as well as answer questions.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Continue to develop the plan for Irish and the aspects of it which are mentioned in this report. Implement the plan regarding the classroom vocabulary required by students to increase the use of Irish as the general language of communication.
· Include the needs of all students when planning classes, as was the case in the majority of classes.
· Share expected learning outcomes with students at the start of class.
· Extend the practice of including all of the language skills when assessing students’ work, as was done in some cases.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
We are very happy with the inspection and report. The report reflects accurately and fairly on the practice of the teaching of Irish in the school. We are happy to accept the recommendations made.