An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Subject Inspection of

Materials Technology (Wood), Construction Studies, Technical Graphics, Design and Communication Graphics and Technical Drawing



St. Jarlath's Vocational School,

                                                                      Mountbellew, Ballinasloe,

Co. Galway.

Roll number: 71290M


Date of inspection: 6 March 2008





Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

planning and preparation

Teaching and learning


Summary of main findings and recommendations





Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Materials Technology (wood), construction studies,Technical graphics, design and communication graphics and technical drawing




Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Jarlath's Vocational School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Materials Technology (Wood), Construction Studies, Technical Graphics, Design and Communication Graphics and Technical Drawing 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.



Subject provision and whole school support


Materials Technology (Wood), Construction Studies, Technical Graphics (TG), Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) and Technical Drawing (TD) are optional junior and senior cycle subjects in this school.


Prospective first year students of St. Jarlath's Vocational School attend an activity day and an open evening and following these they select their optional subjects before coming to the school in September. Students entering senior cycle are also supported when making subject choices and are offered an open choice of available subjects with option bands based on students' choices being subsequently developed. This is commended.


All MTW, CS, TG, DCG and TD classes comprise boys and girls of mixed ability and students sit State examinations at the level appropriate to their ability. The school strives to support students who have additional educational needs and this is commended.


Time allocation to MTW, TG, CS and DCG is appropriate and the allocation of double and single class periods to the subjects reflects good practice.


Over the last two years technology subject teachers have attended in-service related to the implementation of the new DCG syllabus provided by the Technology Subjects Support Service (T4) and they are also involved in the local teacher professional network (TPN). The involvement of teachers in continuing professional development is commended.


All TG, DCG and TD lessons are taught in the school's drawing room, which has been recently refurbished in preparation for the introduction of the new DCG syllabus. This room is large, well-appointed and equipped and eminently suitable for the delivery of the syllabuses. The room is equipped with desktop computers, digital and overhead projectors and teacher and student access to SolidWorks software is accommodated in this room. The woodwork (MTW/CS) room is also large, well-appointed and equipped, very well organised and recently refurbished and suitable for the delivery of the MTW and CS syllabuses. Both rooms are decorated with numerous colourful wall charts, models and many examples of students' work. This provision for the subjects is commended.


planning and preparation


St. Jarlath's Vocational School has a technology subjects department. Teachers share the responsibilities associated with co-ordination of TG, DCG and TD and MTW and CS and meet formally each term. When necessary, following these meetings, reports are made to the senior management team on subject-related issues. These meetings are supplemented by frequent informal meetings. These arrangements work effectively in the school.


Teachers have developed comprehensive MTW, CS, TG, DCG and TD subject planning documentation and this is continually reviewed. They have also developed complementary individual planning documentation to support the subject plan. Teachers’ work in this area is commended.


A range of MTW, CS, TG, DCG and TD resources has been developed by teachers and is used to support teaching and learning. Additional resources may be accessed following consultation with the principal and this arrangement works effectively in the school.


Teaching and learning


Teaching of a very high standard in MTW, CS, TG and DCG was observed during the inspection.


All lessons had clear aims and objectives and were suitable for the stage of the programme being delivered. An ordered learning environment was created in all lessons which were well-structured to ensure continuity and progression through the syllabuses. All lessons were very well paced and activities were very well managed. This ensured that students’ interest was maintained and that they experienced success in completing planned tasks. This practice is commended.


Teachers differentiated lesson aims and objectives to meet the needs of individual students in mixed-ability classes. Special needs assistants (SNA) accompanied students during some lessons and their work contributed significantly to the smooth running of activities. This practice is commended.


Teachers employed suitable methodologies during the lessons observed and a range of strategies was used. Students' learning was supported when teachers demonstrated principles and skills in the subjects incrementally to whole class groups, to small groups, and to individual students when students demonstrated to their peers. This is commended as good practice.


During the inspection, third-year MTW students were engaged in State examination project work and were completing portfolio and artefact simultaneously. Leaving Certificate students had already completed a variety of projects for State examination purposes. The design process was being emphasised in the completion of both junior and senior cycle projects. Teachers' organisation and management of the complex task of facilitating ongoing practical activities and the completion of individually designed junior and senior projects each year, including those for State examination purposes, is highly commended.


Fifth-year CS students were engaged in completing a practical exercise during the evaluation and all students worked from laminated working drawings at the bench. Appropriate theory was integrated into practical lessons and every opportunity was availed of to stress the relationship between theory and practice. This approach is highly commended.


Health and safety are strongly emphasised in the woodwork room where a variety of posters and safety signage is prominently displayed. During practical MTW and CS lessons best health and safety practices and procedures were modelled for students and their work on practical tasks was very closely monitored to ensure compliance with these. This is highly commended.


An integrated approach to lesson presentation that emphasised the visual nature of the subjects was adopted during all lessons. Teachers made excellent use of chalkboards and the overhead projector during lessons to support students' learning. ICT was also used and this was particularly impressive in reflecting the technological nature of the subjects. This approach is commended.


Teachers used and emphasised the terminology associated with the subjects when they spoke and this allowed students to listen to instructions and to assimilate subject-specific terminology while working on classroom tasks. This practice reinforced subject-specific terminology throughout all activities and enhanced both teaching and learning in the subjects and is highly commended.


A variety of individual and group questions, including higher order questions, was used during lessons and this is commended.


Teachers used three-dimensional models, computer modelling and other stimulating materials to promote development of students’ subject-specific knowledge and skills through the cycle of concrete experience, abstract representation and realisation of design ideas. The practice observed in the school is highly commended.


Handout materials were also used effectively to supplement texts and these were integrated effectively into lessons. This practice is commended.


During lessons teachers moved around the woodwork and drawing rooms and engaged with individual students. Progress in the completion of classroom tasks was assessed during interactions with students and teachers also provided assistance to individual students when it was required. This practice is commended.


The specialist rooms were very well organised and classroom routines were evident during all lessons evaluated. These routines promoted responsibility for creating an ordered learning environment among students, are particularly important in specialist classrooms and are commended.


Students’ displayed the quality of their understanding of topics in the competencies exhibited during the completion of practical and drawn classroom tasks and in their ability to ask and answer questions during lessons. Students used conventional 450 and 600 set squares, protractors, compasses and pencils when making ruled drawings at the drawing board in TG and DCG and these were of a standard consistent with the range of abilities in the class groups. A set of adjustable set-squares is provided in the drawing room and, in an effort to enhance the quality of students' draughting, it is recommended that these, and micro-pencils, be used by all year groups engaged in drawing activities in the future. 


The importance homework activities play in maintaining continuity with previous and future lessons is emphasised in whole-school and subject-related literature in St. Jarlath's Vocational School. In keeping with this whole-school approach, homework featured in all lessons evaluated. This practice is commended.


The content of students’ portfolios and notes copies was appropriate and work already completed displayed the competencies associated with an appropriate range of syllabus topics. This is commended.


Opportunities for independent and collaborative learning were included in all lessons observed and this practice is commended.


Students communicated effectively with their peers and teachers using terminology associated with the subjects. This is commended.


An excellent teacher-student rapport was evident during all lessons evaluated. This created an atmosphere where students enthusiastically engaged with lesson activities and received appropriate affirmation.




Students' progress in the subjects is assessed during the completion of ongoing classroom tasks and homework activities and their written, drawn, practical and project work is routinely marked, graded and commented on. This is commended. Students also sit classroom-based end-of-topic tests and formal end-of-term and end-of-year examinations. Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students sit a mock examination in the second term each year.


The results of assessments are recorded systematically and used to identify trends in students' achievement, to inform future teaching strategies and to address the needs of individual learners. These practices are commended.


The nature of students’ progress in the subjects is communicated to parents by means of school reports and during parent-teacher meetings.


State examination results are analysed by the senior management and subject department each year and this analysis is used to inform future planning in the subjects. An annual report on this analysis is submitted to the vocational education committee (VEC). These practices are commended.


Students were enthusiastic about the subjects during the inspection and their subject-specific knowledge and skills, relative to age and ability, were appropriate.


Summary of main findings and recommendations


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:


·         Provision for MTW, CS, TG, DCG in the school is very good.

·         The school has an effective technology subjects department.

·         Comprehensive MTW, CS, TG, and DCG planning documentation has been developed collaboratively and is being implemented by all subject teachers.

·         Teaching of a very high standard was observed during the evaluation.

·         Exemplary health and safety practices and procedures were observed during practical lessons.

·         ICT was integrated into teaching the subjects.

·         A range of subject-specific knowledge and skills consistent with the mixed-ability class groupings was exhibited during the evaluation.


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


·         Efforts to enhance students’ problem-solving, draughting, practical and theory skills should continually be made. 


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






















Published October 2008