An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíocht
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering
Holy Family Community School
Rathcoole, County Dublin
Roll number: 91301D
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Metalwork and Engineering
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Holy Family Community School, Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Metalwork and Engineering 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 the teacher, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teacher. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and the teacher’s written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the subject teacher. 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.
Holy Family Community School offers Metalwork and Engineering to all students. At junior cycle, Metalwork is allocated four class periods per week. In fifth and sixth year, Engineering is allocated five class periods per week. These allocations provide adequate time for the teaching and learning of the required practical, project and theoretical work. Currently, Engineering is not offered to students enrolled in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA). Students who choose Transition Year (TY) get the opportunity to study a Technology module. It was reported that as part of this module, students also study a number of principles of Engineering. It is recommended that the module’s title be revised, in order to give students a clearer indication of the module’s content and to promote Leaving Certificate Engineering among TY students.
Prior to entering first year, prospective students attend a ‘School in Action’ day. During this day students are given a tour of the school and are introduced to the various subjects on offer to them. It is recommended that school management consider extending this initial introduction to the various subjects offered by the school to a short ‘sampling of optional subjects’ programme at the beginning of first year. This programme in conjunction with the ‘School in Action’ day would help first-year students to make their optional subject choices based on their experience and aptitude for the subject.
At senior cycle, a number of supports are in place for students when making their optional subject choices. These include: subject sampling for those who choose TY; meetings with the guidance counsellor; group presentations to year groups; informal advice from year heads, class tutors and subject teachers and an information evening for parents. The support structures in place for senior cycle students at these important decision-making times are commended.
The uptake of Metalwork and Engineering among boys is good. The proportion of girls choosing the subjects at both junior and senior cycle is very low. It was reported that girls who wish to pursue a technical education in Holy Family Community School generally choose Technology. The introduction of Technology at senior cycle now provides these students with an opportunity to study the subject as part of their Leaving Certificate. While this is a positive development within the technology subject group, the subject department should continue to promote all technology subjects to all students equally.
The subject department is currently planning to upgrade its machinery and equipment as per circular letter PBU 5/2005. This should be completed as soon as possible. School management should also ensure that all items of machinery to be purchased are in compliance with the current equipment list on the relevant Department of Education and Science circular.
It was reported that school management is very supportive of the subject department by providing relevant resources and by facilitating staff to attend a number of continuous professional development (CPD) courses. School management’s support for Metalwork and Engineering within the school is commended.
The subject department has developed a comprehensive curricular plan. This plan details the planned theoretical and project work to be completed by each year group. The planned project work for junior cycle students is of good quality and allows students to develop their skills in a structured manner. These projects vary from basic filing and drilling exercises to more complex past State Examination Commission (SEC) projects. These projects are reviewed at the end of each year and, depending on their success, retained or changed for the next cohort of students. This reflective analysis of the suitability of project work is commended. The planned projects for senior cycle students consist of past SEC practical exams. While these projects are very useful in developing students’ practical skills, it is imperative that students are introduced to design and manufacture projects prior to beginning their SEC project in sixth year.
Long-term planning for the development of the subjects has mainly involved the organisation and upgrading of machinery and resources. This planning should be formalised in the subject plan. In addition to this, the subject department should prioritise a number of key areas for development including the identification and implementation of suitable design-based projects for senior cycle students and the upgrading and modernisation of the storage facilities in the room.
A number of process sheets have been developed in order to help students learn autonomously. These process sheets allow the teacher to provide guidance and help to those students who require it while allowing students capable of working at a faster rate to continue to work independently. This differentiation in practical lessons could be extended to theoretical lessons through identifying strategies suitable to students with specific learning needs. The school’s learning support team should be consulted in order to determine the most appropriate teaching strategies for each student. In addition to this, guidelines for teachers of students with mild learning disabilities in a technology setting can be obtained from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website http://www.ncca.ie/uploadedfiles/PP_Tech.pdf.
Appropriate planning and provision is made for the health and safety requirements in the Metalwork and Engineering room. All students must have their own personal protective equipment (PPE), and appropriate ventilation at source is provided for soldering procedures. In addition to this, school management recently undertook a full health and safety audit of the Metalwork and Engineering room. This commitment to addressing health and safety issues and to providing a safe learning environment for students is commended.
Teacher-prepared information and communication technology (ICT) resources are stored on the school’s network server, and plans are at an advanced stage to provide students with access to these resources. This initiative is commended.
In both lessons observed, after the roll call and the correction of homework, students were informed of the learning intention of the lesson. This consistent structure allowed students to prepare for the lesson before focusing on the required tasks. This practice is commended.
Both lessons observed consisted of significant practical and theoretical elements. This was most successful where there was an obvious link between the material covered in theory and the practical project work that students were engaged in. This was particularly evident in a junior cycle lesson where students were introduced to various soldering procedures and then applied this knowledge in a practical setting. By integrating theoretical and practical work in this way, students got the opportunity to apply their knowledge thereby reinforcing their learning. This topic was further developed through the use of both individual and group demonstrations. Once these demonstrations were completed, students then proceeded to develop their skills independently while the teacher circulated the classroom providing guidance and advice.
The theoretical elements of lessons were supported by the effective use of ICT and audio-visual technology. This was evident when a variety of ICT resources was used to explain various plastic processing techniques. This audiovisual technology, used appropriately through specific teacher-led demonstrations, is a valuable resource and helps to maintain student engagement in the lesson.
Considerable time was given to students reading aloud sections of text from their books. To ensure that all students are actively participating in lessons, there should be less reliance on the textbook and the subject department should endeavour to facilitate students in the generation of appropriate concise notes supported by clearly labelled sketches. These resources would help students with literacy difficulties while also providing all students with a useful revision aid.
Some useful classroom management strategies have been introduced to help students to organise their project work. One such strategy is the ongoing phased introduction of a toolbox for each student. This currently allows all junior cycle students to store their materials securely and helps them to be prepared for their practical lessons. The use of strategies such as this promotes a sense of responsibility among students and is commended.
All machines had safety zones demarcated around them. This provides a visible deterrent for students from crowding around machines. However, in all lessons observed, students’ schoolbags and chairs were causing considerable congestion in the passageways between machines and between desks. These potential trip hazards should be removed from areas of danger and stored safely during all practical lessons.
Students were given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through the application of skills. In doing so, students were seen to be not only capable of carrying out the required task, but were also fully aware of the factors determining its successful completion. Significant student learning was also evident in a senior cycle lesson where students applied their knowledge to identify common articles manufactured using various plastic processing techniques. This demonstrated students’ abilities to recognise, not only the process required to produce a product, but also to identify the properties inherent in such products that make them suitable for particular applications.
The subject department encourages all students to attempt the higher-level course. It is important however to carefully assess each student’s ability prior to choosing their subject level to ensure that they are attempting the most suitable course, in order to avoid students who are more suited to ordinary level attempting and failing at higher level as was the case with some students in last year’s state examinations.
All lessons observed began with the correction of homework. Students were given written formative feedback and affirmation where appropriate. The correction of homework allowed students to clarify certain points and also helped with the consolidation of learning. Student project work was also corrected and records were maintained to plot students’ progress. Good formative and summative feedback was given to students thereby helping them to identify their strengths and areas for development.
Students’ end-of-term examinations consist of a combination of both practical and theoretical assessments, as is best practice. This assessment technique gives students recognition for the skills learned during the term while also placing a focus on the theoretical work carried out during the course of the year.
Photographs of various students’ achievements are displayed in the room. These photographs highlight student successes in regional and national competitions. It is suggested that, where possible, some examples of quality student work be displayed in conjunction with these photographs to encourage, motivate and inspire existing and future Metalwork and Engineering students.
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 teacher of Metalwork and Engineering and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published November 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
Subject Provision and whole school support:
Machinery and equipment as per circular PBU 5/2005 have been upgraded in compliance with the current equipment list from the Department of Education & Science.
Teaching and Learning:
In relation to the levels which students attempt in their Metalwork state exam, it must be noted that students are always advised on the basis of their ability. This advice has served Metalwork students well over the last twenty-five years in Holy Family Community School and is evidenced in the high rates of pass and honours grades achieved by students. However, when final decisions are being made by students in regard to their choice of level for their exams cognisance must be taken of the views and wishes of the parents and students. Also, the structure of the Metalwork exam at higher level can sometimes be more appropriate for certain less able students and this can affect their final decision.
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 title of the Technology module offered to Transition Year students is being reviewed in accordance with the recommendations of the report.
The recommendation regarding the identification and implementation of suitable design-based projects for senior cycle students has been noted and will be reflected in the subject plan. The upgrading and modernisation of storage facilities is being reviewed and will be addressed in the interim. However, long term solutions in regard to this will take into consideration the recent decision by the Department of Education & Science to provide a new school in the medium term.
The recommendation regarding the further development of the strategies used to integrate fully students who require additional educational support will continue to be developed.
All other recommendations have been noted.