An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta


Department of Education and Science



Subject Inspection of Art





Loreto College,

Mullingar, County Westmeath

Roll number: 63290Q



Date of inspection: 25 October 2006

Date of issue of report: 26 April 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 Art


Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Loreto College, Mullingar. 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 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 art department provides artistic education for a good proportion of the school’s population and management is both aware and appreciative of the contribution it makes to the personal and academic development of the students, and to the cultural life of the school. The subject is well catered for in terms of space, budget, and in the personnel and temporal provision afforded to it.


Very good conditions in the art department and management should seek to enhance the work being done at all levels by encouraging the whole notion of artistic development through a multiplicity of options. The general approach to implementing and delivering the courses needs to be updated for the benefit of the students’ learning. More should be expected of the students, who are capable of reacting well to, and benefiting from, a wider variety of artistic and aesthetic challenges. The subject is characterised at present by its emphasis on examination requirements and on skilling the students in a quite contracted range of topics and approaches to succeed within that framework.  


The art department is based in two large adjoining classrooms, with a shared storage facility; these rooms are physically well-resourced, well lit with both natural and artificial light, and allow good space for working and circulation. 


In furthering the recommendations made in this report and in planning for the long-term development and improvement of the subject, it is recommended that management engage in whatever ways are necessary with art department personnel.


It was recommended in the 2001 subject inspection of Art that computer use become part of the teaching and learning process. Commendably, there are now two Mac computers in the art department. However, other recommendations made in that report have not yet been implemented.  A time-frame for implementation should be agreed between management and art department personnel, and a tracking and documentation system put in place to monitor progress. 


Planning and preparation


Planning documentation consisted largely of lists of activities and the time/weeks to be allocated to various activities. Planning had not developed perceptibly since the 2001 inspection, and there are still no learning aims and objectives integrated into the plan. Lists are not adequate on their own.


In preparation for the delivery of the Junior Certificate course, it is strongly recommended that all the art department personnel study the Junior Certificate Art, Craft and Design syllabus document in a collaborative way and on the basis of this joint effort review and rework all the planning documents.


The educational value of every classroom activity and topic to the students’ visual and aesthetic development needs be very clearly thought through, and recorded in the planning documents. This should be done for both junior and senior cycle.


In planning for the delivery of the history and appreciation of art, it is recommended that this component is covered from the September of year 1 of senior cycle rather than later on, in order to equip students properly to engage visually with historical material, their own artefacts, and the international visual-culture environment that is so easily accessed digitally through ICT.


In planning for life-drawing in senior cycle, it is recommended that time-blocks of varying durations be used as a strategy for maximising learning opportunities and building student fluency and confidence in drawing from observation of the figure from the outset of the two year course.


Documented planning for TY had aims and objectives included. There is no computer use indicated in the TY document under teaching strategies, and as there are two Macs in the art department, it would be valuable for students if this expensive resource was used in this way. Poster design is part of the course content.  It is questionable whether this is appropriate for inclusion in a year that is free from examination pressures. Nonetheless, if poster design learning was linked to computer use it would have wider learning value.  The aims and objectives outlined in the TY planning do not match what is listed under content, which is limited and restrictive. More class contact time for art would also assist the development of a meaningful TY programme which would more correctly reflect the spirit of the programme, with its required emphasis on exploratory and student-centred practice.

Teaching and learning


A very positive learning environment exists and classroom atmosphere most conducive to achievement was observed. Management of students was excellent, and the work of the day proceeded in all cases in an ordered way. Students were dealt with in a firm, friendly and courteous way.  There are good pupil-teacher relations, and this enhances the learning environment. The capabilities and characteristics of the individual students are well known to the art department personnel. Demonstrations, verbal instructions and guidance, whether to individuals or full class groups were all delivered most professionally, with appropriate language being used. Students were encouraged and supported in their learning.



There was evidence of good painting skills but the imagery was more often than not derived from secondary sources. Students had achieved good batik skills. There was good use of colour and texture in students’ paintings and collages. Despite a range of aptitude and motivation to be found amongst students, there was a uniformity of attainment, a sameness about the artefacts and in the aesthetic choices encapsulated in these. There was evidence of cumulative achievement: the portfolios of fifth year students showed a good synthesis of skills, confident and practised painting and drawing. Consistent effort was apparent in the majority of students’ work.


There is a sense that, in general, the standard of attainment achieved by students appeared to be fairly uniform within their class/year grouping. More could possibly be done to elicit higher performance from some students whose aptitude and motivation allow this. Aims and objectives should be devised for the stronger students, and also for the less motivated, in order to bring them to the best level possible.


The main innovation seen was film-making with LCA students. This is in welcome contrast to the examination focused teaching and learning prevalent in other classes. Computers are used to create the students’ own individual films. This is progressive and the technical and artistic aspects of class-based film generation are being excellently delivered.


There is a strong culture of examination preparation, but not enough emphasis is placed on encouraging independent visual creativity through the development of mental, perceptual and technical skills. This needs to be addressed. It is possible to bring students to a higher point of examination readiness by making them artistically confident and aesthetically aware than by recipe-style teaching and learning, which restricts itself to the examination format. A review of current practices in the delivery of the junior cycle courses in particular should now be undertaken in order that artistic skills of a wider order are developed. This review should then be reflected in the planning undertaken.   


Given the facilities available, the good learning atmosphere, the largely co-operative attitude of the students, and the many advantageous contextual factors that exist, art and design skills and knowledge among students are not as strong as they could be. The possibilities and advantages for growth and development inherent in the school’s overall profile and context are not being maximised in the art department.      


The 2001 Subject Inspection Report recommended that the kiln and pottery facilities, which were then dormant, should be got back into use for the educational advantage of the students. There was no evidence on the day of the inspection that this had happened. No pottery glazes had been procured, a few small bisque-fired thumb pots were stored on top of the kiln, the ceramic medium was not evident as part of project work, and no accomplished pottery or fired modelled-clay artefacts were displayed. This whole area of pottery, ceramics, and modelling needs to be developed, starting in the current academic year, for the benefit of the art and design learning opportunities of students.


A primary-sources based procedure should be emphasised in the delivery of the junior cycle programme. In guiding students with their project work, art department personnel should adopt a directive approach in advising students to develop their ideas into a way that allows for the possibility of using primary sources at different stages in the practical work and support studies activities they will undertake. Excessive use of secondary sources is not educationally desirable; where they are used, a clear path from them into primary sources use should be apparent. Support Studies based on a scrapbook of secondary sources is not a rich enough educational experience; this course component should be defined as the appreciation of art, design and the built environment at junior cycle and should use painting, drawing and 3D as tools to engage with imagery and other material from art and design, both historical and contemporary.  It is recommended that use of primary sources be made more strongly central to students’ learning activities, and that the educational value to visual and aesthetic development of every classroom activity and topic be very clearly thought through, and recorded in the planning document associated with it.


It is recommended that the history and appreciation of art, and support studies, be delivered in an increasingly visual way using data projector, screen and Powerpoint. It is also recommended that the students have access to visual art, design and architecture material on CD-ROM, a time-efficient way of enabling them to do personal research.


There were laminated reproductions of paintings hung around the art room, and this is good practice. It would be a valuable extension of this if a wider range of imagery were available to students in this way, to include sculpture, architecture, contemporary art, and different design disciplines. A small dedicated budget for the purchase of art/design postcards, posters and inexpensive art books which can be cut up and displayed on the wall is recommended. These images should be changed on a regular basis, in order that the students of all ages, aptitudes and motivations are constantly exposed to the visual culture that is at the basis of the art programmes taught in post-primary schools. Again, ways of using this material should be creatively based, with a conscious and deliberate emphasis on increasing student engagement with art and design of all sorts, and on student self-directed learning. For example, asking students, as individuals or small groups, to ‘curate’ a display of art reproductions, and to give a brief presentation about it is a good way to help students to develop taste, exercise choice and engage with aesthetic knowledge that is task-driven and not textbook derivative.


A particular shortcoming of the delivery of programmes emerged during the inspection in conversation with junior cycle students. When questioned, only one knew about a ‘famous, or local, artist or designer’, citing Warhol: two others gave examples of Renaissance artists, which they had encountered in the history department rather than the art, and most could name none at all. This distance from the real sources of art, design and architectural artefacts needs to be addressed now, as it is a dimension that, when absent, diminishes both the cultural and aesthetic learning outcomes for students, whatever their aptitude and motivation.       


Competent life drawing was seen on display and in students’ folders. Efforts should be made to link life drawing with 3D work particularly clay modelling, and with crafts; for example, instead of basing a batik on secondary sources, students could utilise one of their own drawings.  



A combination of assessment procedures is in use in the art department, including continuous assessment based on class-work, mock projects, assignments and invigilated examinations. There are written examinations for the history and appreciation of art component of the leaving certificate programme. The school shows good levels of achievement in the state examinations. A strong consciousness of SEC assessment criteria, and of the associated practical requirements, informs the work of the art department. There are systematic records of students’ during-term, end-of-term, and end-of-year assessment/examination results. End of term and end of year results are communicated to parents and guardians. Regular parent–teacher meetings are held and the art department provides discussion, feedback and advice at these.


Assessment criteria need to be available and documented. It is recommended that these be developed as part of the teaching and learning process, and used to assess student attainment. The use of varied assessment methods is to be encouraged, including, where possible, some elements of students’ self evaluation/assessment.  Assessment methods are well outlined for TY.


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 Art 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     



ART  - - - Response to Inspection Report


1.       History and Appreciation of Art is covered from September of Year 1 of the Senior Cycle and not ‘later on’.  E.g. We studied Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth and then went on a trip to Bru Na Boinne.  The students did some research work at the centre and took notes on site.  They then did 2 exam questions from the Leaving Cert paper – one on Newgrange (Irish section) and one on an interpretive centre – (general section)

2.       Time blocks of Life drawing have been introduced since inspection.

3.       During the T.Y. year we have many requests for posters designed by the Transition years from teachers of other subject areas.  It is therefore necessary to give the students some basic knowledge about layout of lettering and imagery suitable for advertising.

4.       We as teachers constantly encourage students to work from primary sources i.e. to draw and sketch from home environments – to paint what they see around them – to do object drawing from observation in the classroom and to study the natural landscape of the schools garden environment i.e. 2003/2004 first years did observation chalk and oil pastel studies of garden flowers in front of the convent.  As an alternative we advise them to bring in photographs of real life things i.e. horses, cats etc. e.g. 2005 Junior Cert students did a project based on cats, where she worked from both real life, photographs and pictures collected.  She achieved an A in her Junior Certificate exam.  Many of their projects in the classroom are based on observations i.e. – 2nd years at present are doing texture drawings of vegetation which will lead to textured 3Ds – from real life sources.

5.       There are many examples of creative projects which we have carried out in the classroom. Here are three examples of them.

(a)  2005/06 2nd years Imaginative Composition – students spent time outside
      doing textured drawings and oil pastel colour studies of the three landscape.         

They then observed some Artwork of choice, using paint.  They made a collage of a section of Artwork done previously.  Finally combined all work to produce an imaginative composition painting with collage/oil pastel.

      (b) 4th years ’05-’06 went to visit a Philip Treacy Exhibition of hats.  When they came back they were given a project on 3D – to design their own hat.  Any theme of their choice using any material of choice – they were then given instructions on how to manipulate the materials.

(c)  Leaving Certs 06/07 (since inspection) are at present doing imaginative compositions/abstract – based on a passage from a previous Leaving Cert paper.  They are using collage/gesso paint.  We have looked at the works of artists which produced abstract and imaginative composition and discussed the work so that they have a clear understanding what the difference between abstract/imaginative compositions are.  They have recently bee to Museum of Modern Art, which should help to open up their ideas even further.



6.       Art and Design Skills being taught in the Art Department are as follows: -
Drawing, painting, colour work, oil and chalk pastel, colouring pencil, collage, ink gesso, 3D sculpture, construction, clay modelling, casting, textiles – batik, weaving, embroidery.  Printing – monoprinting, lino, stencil printing, film, animations, graphics – logo, cd covers, stamp design and poster design.  Imaginative composition.  Still Life and abstract painting and life drawing. 

7Kiln and Pottery facilities are now in full use.

8Refer to point 4

.  We have always got students to work from artist’s works as part of their J.C.

     programme.  They have done colour studies of artist’s works and used some of the
     Art elements to inspire their own work.  They have used both drawing and painting
     tools for their purpose.


At present the 2nd year students have studied the texture of Van Gogh and are making 3D pieces and plaques from the work of artists.


10.   Since inspection – we are researching the work of Artists even more thoroughly – through the medium of oil and chalk pastel and paint.

11.   We often link Life drawing to 3D making e.g. ‘05/’06 – 2nd years did portraits of each  other.  They did profile drawings and drawings from the back of the head. 
  -  they then made clay heads.
  -  they made paintings of each other and painted the skin tones and hair colours on 3D pieces.

Assessment – we have marking schemes templates which we use for Art history and appreciation. All assessments are documented in the roll book.







Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection  

               activity implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.             




12.   Recommendations.  Ceramic Kiln is now in full use.  3D has always been a strong area in the Art Department e.g. (i) 2004/05 3D project 2nd years – using a variety of media the students produced 3Ds of a very high standard.  One student’s work comes to mind, she made a large stork from wire and fabric and the feathers were made from paper.  2.  2005/06 – 2nd years did carvings on a turnip of heads of a friend.  They also made dough heads and put them in the oven and painted them.  3.  2006/07 – 2nd years are making clay pieces which have a strong tactile and special quality.


Conclusion:  We as teachers in Loreto College Art Department appreciate the advice given.  We will take on board as many of the recommendations as possible as we realise there is always room for improvement.

However, because the inspection took place so early in the school year, a lot of course work had not been covered at that stage.  We understand how difficult it is to access work, which is not yet in progress.


It is also important to mention that due to the fact that one of the teachers is new to the school she could not give examples of work carried out in previous years and in previous schools.