An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Social, Personal
and Health Education
Killinarden Community School
Tallaght, Dublin 24
Roll number: 91337B
Date of inspection: 6 November 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Social personal and Health Education (SPHE)
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Killinarden Community School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of this subject in the school. The evaluation was conducted over three days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined studentsí work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and teachers of SPHE. 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.
Killinarden Community School has a long tradition of providing for the social and personal development of its students. Prior to the introduction of SPHE, the school provided a developmental and social studies programme that was timetabled for all year groups. SPHE continues to enjoy a high profile amongst all members of the school community.
There is a very positive attitude and a supportive school environment for the delivery of SPHE. The subject enjoys excellent provision, as evidenced by the fact that all junior cycle and senior cycle students are timetabled for one class of SPHE per week. It is commendable that teachers are assigned to SPHE classes through consultation. All teachers of SPHE also teach Civics Social and Political Education (CSPE) to the same class group. This practice ensures that each teacher meets the class group for at least one other subject to help establish a rapport with the group. It is laudable that new teachers are encouraged onto the SPHE team thus building capacity for the future. In view of the gender composition of the current student cohort the school should be mindful of gender balance when creating future SPHE teaching teams. It is laudable that teachers retain their class group from one year to the next. This is especially important in the case of SPHE to facilitate optimal learning. While it is recognised that it is normal practice to assign established members of staff to teach SPHE in Killinarden Community School, to facilitate maximum continuity, the appropriateness of deploying Higher Diploma in Education students to teach SPHE classes should be considered. To assist in the dissemination of information among the teaching team, the SPHE co-ordinator has compiled a useful teacher handbook for staff involved in the delivery of SPHE. This initiative is highly commended.
The process of whole-school policy development in Killinarden Community School demonstrates a commendable level of consultation with all the representatives of the school community. Whole-school policies in the areas of substance use, anti-bullying and critical incidents have been ratified by the board of management. A draft policy on relationships and sexuality education (RSE) has been in existence for a number of years but to date the policy has not been ratified by the board. In keeping with the requirements of Department Circular M 4/95, it is recommended, that the draft policy be finalised and ratified as soon as it practicable. This policy could perhaps be progressed in tandem with the SPHE policy that is currently at draft stage, as the RSE programme is delivered mainly through the junior and senior cycle SPHE programme. Further advice and support on developing an RSE policy is available from the education personnel section of the Department of Education and Science website at www.education.gov.ie.
There is a well-established subject department for SPHE. Management facilitates formal planning time on a regular basis. It is commendable that an agenda is planned and that minutes are kept for each planning meeting. This good practice facilitates effective continuity between meetings. There are currently nine members of staff involved in teaching SPHE. The work of the team is led effectively by a SPHE co-ordinator whose duties form part of a post of responsibility. There is a high level of commitment and enthusiasm among team members for SPHE. A systematic and incremental approach is evident in the procedures for up-skilling teachers of SPHE. This is very good practice. It was noted positively that members of the team have attended a broad range of courses on topics relevant to SPHE and that regular contact is maintained with the relevant support services. This has ensured that there is a commendable level of shared expertise among the teaching team. It is suggested that a copy of the information supplied at each in-service course attended be filed in the subject planning folder. This would ensure that the information is available to each member of the team to be referred to when required.
There are very good facilities and an excellent range of resources available to support the teaching and learning of SPHE. There is a dedicated resource room for SPHE where all the resources are stored systematically. Management is very supportive of requests made to update the resources and equipment for SPHE. It is advocated that an inventory of all the available resources is compiled and included in the SPHE teacher handbook. The dedicated notice boards for SPHE in the staff room and on the school corridor ensure that the subject is promoted throughout the school on an on-going basis. It is laudable that parents are provided with information about the SPHE programme at an information evening for parents of incoming first-year students.
There is good liaison between the SPHE team and school personnel such as the senior management and guidance teams, year heads, tutors and the home-school-community liaison co-ordinator. This good practice ensures that a cohesive approach is taken to planning for the social and personal development needs of all students in the school.
A collaborative and committed approach is being adopted towards the process of subject department planning. In addition to the formal meeting time allocated by management, the teachers meet on an informal basis as the need arises. Good progress has been made in planning, particularly with regard to the compilation of a wide range of resource material to support the teaching and learning of SPHE. Commendably, the SPHE co-ordinator actively facilitates the sharing of these resources and promotes good practice.
A broad curriculum programme has been developed for junior and senior cycle SPHE. A commendable range of co-curricular and whole-school activities supports the SPHE programme. It is commendable that the SPHE team, in association with senior management, have set out agreed procedures in relation to the deployment of visiting speakers and outside agencies. It is advocated that these procedures are extended to acknowledge the need for in-class work in preparing for a visiting speaker and the need for subsequent in-class follow-up to maximise the learning potential of visitors to SPHE lessons.† Themed weeks in the areas of Friendship, Healthy Living, Alcohol Awareness and Respect are held throughout the year. A laudable range of activities support these events. These practices are commended as a means of promoting and supporting the social and personal development of students in the school.†
There is an agreed programme of work for SPHE. This good practice ensures that all class groups follow a common programme from first year through to sixth year. A degree of flexibility is also allowed to meet the needs of individual class groups. This is good practice. The common programme outlined in the written documentation is primarily based on the SPHE framework contained in the Guidelines For Teachers produced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). This programme needs to be adapted to take account of all the very good work that is underway in the school. Therefore, it is recommended that the SPHE collaborative programme of work be expanded to incorporate both the range of co-curricular activities that take place in the school, and further information on the specific amount of time allocated to each module. Clear learning outcomes should also be identified for each module of work to ensure that there is an incremental approach taken to the development of studentsí knowledge, attitudes and skills from first year through to sixth year. This work should be progressed on a phased basis, taking for example one junior cycle and one senior cycle plan per annum. It is commendable that the SPHE team carry out a regular review of the SPHE programme as part of the agenda of subject planning meetings. A mechanism that would allow feedback from students and parents to inform the cycle of review and evaluation should be considered.
There was some very good practice evident in the planning documentation presented by individual teachers during the course of the evaluation. Particularly noteworthy was where the collaborative plan was developed further by listing learning outcomes and resources for particular modules of work.
All the lessons observed were based on the friendship module, which was consistent with the long-term programme of work. An enthusiastic and positive attitude to SPHE was evident among the students in all instances. The quality of short-term planning for the lessons observed was good. All lessons had a clear focus and were, in general, appropriately paced. A good range of resources was used to support learning. Some very good practice was evident with regard to the choice of worksheets and teaching strategies in order to provide effectively for the wide range of student abilities in SPHE lessons.
Each lesson began by sharing the topic of the lesson with the students. In some instances this strategy was developed further by sharing key learning outcomes with the students. To maximise the learning potential of this strategy the outcomes occasionally were framed in terms of what the students themselves would be doing and why. This very good practice is encouraged further to consolidate studentsí learning and facilitate opportunities for student reflection and self-evaluation, which is a key principle underpinning the aims of the SPHE syllabus. As recommended in the teaching of SPHE, some very good integration of lesson content with studentsí prior learning from other modules was apparent. †
A range of teaching strategies was deployed in the delivery of lessons to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and the development of positive attitudes and values in the area of friendship. Very good use was made of worksheet activities such as case studies and quizzes to allow students to reflect on their feelings and attitudes. In all instances the teachers provided very clear instructions for completing each worksheet activity and a commendable emphasis was placed on studentsí literacy development. Where necessary, the teacher circulated around the classroom to provide individual help to students in a sensitive and supportive manner. These very good practices assisted studentsí understanding and ensued that students remained purposefully engaged with the activity. Best practice was observed in lessons where student feedback was taken from each worksheet activity and the key points of information summarised clearly to reinforce studentsí learning. During some feedback sessions observed, questioning was used to very good effect to encourage students to express their opinions and make sound judgments on issues relating to the lesson topic. Very good practice was evident in instances where the development of studentsí higher-order skills was facilitated by using gentle probing questions that encouraged students to analyse critically the information under discussion. In one lesson students were set a home task of designing a friendship card for the next lesson. This good practice is encouraged, as assigning an occasional home task can support continuity between lessons and provide an opportunity for the provision of constructive feedback to students on their progress in SPHE.
The personal contribution that the teachers made to teaching their classes was much in evidence throughout all the lessons. In order to build on the good practices already evident, it is recommended that the range of teaching strategies deployed in SPHE lessons be extended to include opportunities for students to participate in group work and pair work as an alternative to teacher-led activities. Small group work or pair work enables students to develop social skills, as opportunities are provided for those who may be shy or apprehensive about speaking out in a larger group to develop confidence in this area. Care should also be taken to ensure the resources chosen, as well as the range of teaching strategies deployed, accommodate various learning styles and the range of student abilities evident in mixed-ability classrooms.
Planned learning activities were well managed, with some very good strategies evident for managing student behaviour. There was a secure, caring and supportive atmosphere in all the lessons observed. A high level of mutual respect and a positive student-teacher rapport was evident in all lessons. It is commendable that ground rules, which are positively written, have been drawn up by all classes and are referred to during the lessons, as appropriate. Of particular note is the fact that a collective ownership of these rules is encouraged, and that the rules are displayed in the classroom or in the studentsí folders.
Students are challenged and motivated in SPHE. High expectations are set and the studentsí folders indicate good progression in their work. A stimulating classroom environment was evident through the creation of an SPHE wall in many of the classrooms visited. This very good practice allows students to display the work completed in SPHE.
An agreed system has been developed for students to store and file material from their SPHE lessons. It is laudable that the folders are stored securely by the class teachers. Due to the integrated and holistic nature of the SPHE programme, students may need to reflect back on work covered in previous years. Therefore, it is suggested that students may find it useful to store their material from first year through to third year in the folder, rather than the current practice of storing the material for one year only. Observation of a number of copybooks indicated that students used the same copy for SPHE and CSPE. It is recommended that this practice be discontinued.
In line with good practice, the need to assess and monitor studentsí progress in SPHE is recognised by the teaching team as an essential component of a holistic personal and social development programme. While there is no agreed assessment policy for SPHE, some very good assessment practices are evident. Poster and short-story competitions are held in conjunction with the themed weeks held throughout the school year. Studentsí achievement in these competitions is recognised through the awarding of school certificates and prizes. Observation of students folders indicate that good practice is evident with regard to providing students with opportunities to reflect of their own learning. In some instances students complete key assignments or home tasks which are monitored by the class teacher and very good practice was evident in the provision of constructive feedback on these activities. These practices, which are encouraged further, are a particularly valuable assessment for learning tool, as they take place at the site and time of learning and provide opportunities for individual student feedback. Assessment of learning is another feature of the SPHE programme. It was noted positively that some of the learning targets used to profile students who are taking the Junior Certificate School Programme are rooted in SPHE. To build on good work already evident it is recommended that the SPHE team collectively review the range of assessment modes used, to establish an agreed range of assessment tools that could be used with all class groups. It is important that these assessment modes are fully compatible with the aims and objectives of the SPHE syllabus. In this context, particular attention should be given to reviewing the practice of including a formal written examination as part of the assessment procedure that is currently in use. Alternatively consideration should be given to the development of a SPHE portfolio as discussed in the NCCA Junior Certificate Guidelines For Teachers.
Teachers maintain good records of studentsí attendance and the work covered in SPHE lessons. It is commendable that the school reports to parents on studentsí progress in SPHE as part of the regular school report and at parent-teacher meetings.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ Killinarden Community School has a long tradition of providing for the social and personal development of its students. The subject enjoys a high profile amongst all members of the school community.
∑ There is a very positive attitude to, and a supportive school environment for the delivery of SPHE. The subject enjoys excellent provision, as evidenced by the fact that all junior and senior cycle students are timetabled for one class of SPHE per week.
∑ SPHE is visually promoted in the school and relevant information is disseminated effectively. The compilation of a handbook for SPHE staff is a laudable initiative.
∑ There is a well-established and committed SPHE department. Management facilitates formal planning time on a regular basis.
∑ There is a commendable level of shared expertise among the core team of SPHE teachers. A systematic and incremental approach is taken to up-skilling teachers of SPHE.
∑ There is good liaison between the SPHE team and other school personnel in planning for the needs of all students in the school.
∑ There are very good facilities and an excellent range of resources available to support the teaching and learning of SPHE.
∑ A commendable range of co-curricular and whole-school activities support the SPHE programme.
∑ An enthusiastic and positive attitude to SPHE was evident among students in all the lessons observed.
∑ Planned learning activities were well managed with some very good strategies evident for managing student behaviour.
∑ There was a secure, caring and supportive atmosphere evident in all of the lessons observed.
∑ Studentsí achievements in SPHE are recognised and acknowledged and feedback on studentsí progress is given to parents.
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 SPHE and with the principal and deputy principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.