An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
Cabra, Dublin 7
Roll Number: 70150O
Date of inspection: 10 February 2009
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Irish
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Éanna. 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 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 the subject teachers. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Coláiste Éanna is a college of the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC) and the school is included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Education (DEIS) scheme. In addition to the second level provision for girls and boys the school provides courses such as the Vocational Training Opportunity Scheme (VTOS), the Back to Education Initiative, and community literacy schemes. It was reported that the number of students attending the school at second level has been in continual decline over recent years. In the current year eighty eight students are enrolled at second level: less than one per cent of the total enrolment. The principal indicated that a submission had been presented to CDVEC which included recommendations agreed by the management and staff of the school regarding future educational provision at second level in the school. It is desirable that CDVEC would indicate its response to this and that its decsion would be acted upon without delay.
There is provision for Irish at second level and also as part of a training course for special needs assistants from the local primary schools. This course is a Further Education and Training Awards Council course and is offered at level four. This subject inspection report is based on the inspection of Irish conducted at second level.
The level of provision and support provided for Irish is low. Every period on the timetable is a one-hour period. Each class group has two Irish periods at junior cycle and three periods at senior cycle. It is strongly recommended that management reviews the practice of providing one hour periods at second level. In keeping with good practice there should be an allocation of five 40 minute periods each week for each class studying the subject for the Junior Certificate and for the established Leaving Certificate. Reference should be made to the guidelines regarding the correct time allocation for Gaeilge Chumarsáideach (Communicative Irish) in the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA) depending on whether the course is taken over a one-year or two-year period. The classes should be evenly distributed over the week so that students receive a regular daily input in the language. Additionally it is recommended that school management undertake a complete review and restructuring of the entire time allocation available for teaching. The timetable indicates that there is an allocation of twenty seven hours teaching time for students during the week. This is below the minimum required allocation. Neither is the time allocated entirely available. At least a quarter of an hour of the first hour is lost each morning because the breakfast club arranged by the school for students does not finish prior to the commencment of the first class period. A further five minutes of the final class before lunch is also lost each day. The Inspectorate had already drawn the attention of management to this specific issue in 2007 when a subject inspection of Home Economics was conducted. It is strongly recommended that management would make the appropriate arrangements to ensure that students receive a minimum of twenty eight hours teaching time per week as outlined in Circular 28/95.
At the time of this evaluation there were two teachers teaching Irish in the school. One of these teachers was fully qualified and this teacher’s proficiency in Irish, for the purpose of teaching, was satisfactory. Management reported having great difficulties in securing Irish teachers and that in fact the second teacher offered to take one class group during the current academic year. It was also reported that there were other teachers on the teaching staff of the school who were fully qualified to teach Irish but that they were not available in the current school year or that they had responsibilities with regard to other subjects on the curriculum or other education programmes provided by the school. It is recommended that management ensures that a teacher would have an appropriate qualification and a satisfactory competence in Irish when classes are being assigned and that appropriate supports be provided to develop the required skills when necessary.
There is only one class group at each year level in both junior cycle and senior cycle. Although most students undertake foundation level at both cycles some students attempt the ordinary level. This results in students preparing for different levels of the state examinations within the same class groups. All junior cycle students are participating in the Junior Certificate School Programme. Management and teachers are commended for providing Irish for students as outlined in Siollabas don Teastas Sóisearach: Gaeilge as this gives them the opportunity to study Leaving Certificate Irish in the senior cycle. There is one class group in Transition Year. It was indicated that this is not the Transition Year as commonly understood but that this year is in fact used to develop the English competence of students from abroad. It was reported that all students in this class were exempt from the study of Irish. After the Junior Certificate students take either the Leaving Certificate Applied or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, depending on the particular group of students involved. At the time of the evaluation those students in the first year of the senior cycle were focusing on the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and students in the second year of the cycle were participating in the LCA programme. Students had studied Gaeilge Chumarsáideach in the first year of the programme. Such provision is commendable as it provides continuity for students in their learning from junior cycle.
It was reported that 27% of the total enrolment of students had an exemption from Irish and one third of these students had specific learning difficulties. It was also reported that a small number of students arrive each year in the school having already been unofficially exempted from Irish, a consequence of their having literacy difficulties. Management makes every effort, in so far as possible, to provide resource and learning support classes, or classes for English as an additional language when Irish classes are timetabled, in order to provide for the needs of those students with exemptions. Such arrangements are commendable.
The provision of resources for the teaching of Irish was satisfactory. Whiteboards, storage presses, televisions and CD/DVD players were available as well as the school’s computer rooms. It was indicated that little use is made of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the teaching and learning of Irish. It is recommended that its use be extended and that planning to this effect take place.
From year to year the work of the Irish department is almost entirely the responsibility of one teacher. It was reported that in recent times the future of the school as a second level provider is the main item of discussion at planning meetings. In the interim, however, planning is required for the teaching of the subject to those students who are in the school. In order to facilitate subject planning it is recommended that management would consider bringing groups of teachers from various areas together to work on common themes and to share with each other their experiences of good practice regarding the teaching and learning best suited to the students in the school, and the ways in which the curriculum might be presented to them.
The teachers provided work schemes which gave an overview of the content taught in class. No development planning has taken place for Irish as part of the school curriculum. It is recommended that a plan for Irish be developed incorporating long-term and short-term planning for the various classes and year groups and that an action plan for this work, with realistic time frames, be established without delay.
It is recommended that work begin on developing the aims and objectives for Irish in the school and that these would reflect the requirements of students and of the syllabus. As a basis for planning for the work it is recommended that a framework of the expected learning outcomes at the various stages and levels be established, and that these would be based on the language functions mentioned in the syllabuses and on the various language skills. This work should act as a guide when planning work is undertaken for the differentiated presentation of the content in classes. The following are also recommended: that the plans for the various year groups would indicate how the language skills and the various aspects of the course will be systematically developed, and that it would be clear from these how the work might be undertaken thematically, and that work relating to the development of students’ language and cultural awareness would be integrated with skills’ work; that a description would be developed of the teaching and learning methodologies and strategies intended to achieve the learning outcomes, including the use of ICT; that planning would be developed on the modes of assessment to be used and that the assessment requirements for all language skills would be included here; that the plan would also include an account of the materials and resources available for the teaching of Irish in the school. It is also recommended that it would be evident that the plan would be regularly monitored and reviewed.
There was good planning in place for most classes and suitable resources and materials had been selected and prepared.
The practice observed in all classes of having the roll called and answered in Irish is very commendable. The standard of preparation ensured that the work was well paced in most classes. There was a good effort made in all classes to present the work in an enjoyable way to students. Some examples were observed of the use of games and competitions as a means of encouraging and maintaining students’ interest in the subject. In one particular case, having encouraged students to indicate the day’s date and having written this on the white board, a game was played based on the days of the week and the months to bring to mind and to consolidate for all students that aspect of what they had learned. In another case the white board was used to very good effect to award marks for feedback from different work groups on a task that had been organised as a competition. It was clear that students really enjoyed such approaches.
Students were informed at the beginning of the class about the content of the lesson and, in some cases, about the various tasks to be completed by them. An instance whereby the information was written on the whiteboard for the groups of students preparing for an examination at different levels was particularly good. It is recommended that such practice be further developed so that students are informed of the expected learning outcomes. This links to the recommendation already made regarding the development of a framework of the expected learning outcomes. It is also recommended that more emphasis be placed on ensuring differentiation in the content of the lessons, particularly given that all classes are of mixed ability.
In addition to the work students completed as a whole class, tasks they completed provided opportunities for them to work individually and in groups. Such a variation in methodologies is commendable. It is recommended that it would be ensured that a time limit is assigned to the various tasks and that students would be informed of this, as happened in some instances. The task completed by students while looking at a short film and the effective manner in which the topic was used in oral discussion to develop students’ competence and confidence of the subject is commendable. This provided a very important opportunity to develop students’ listening to themselves and to their peers in developing their confidence in using the language. It is recommended that greater use be made of similar strategies so that more Irish can be heard from students and that they would be able to develop their answers.
The behaviour of students was very good in most cases. The majority of students were actively engaged in their learning and in some instances they indicated that they were well able to engage with the subject. Students were highly praised for their efforts and the teacher moved around to check their progress on tasks and to help individual students. Printed material in Irish and samples of students’ work was displayed on the walls of the classroom. The clever use made of this as support material for students while working on a writing task was commendable. It is recommended, as an inclusion in these displays, that the posters available as part of the JCSP would be used to provide students with the keywords of particular lessons.
Although the teacher spoke in Irish most of the time in the classes, it is recommended that this would be extended. Additionally, it is recommended that strategies such as miming would be extended, which would help to avoid the overdependence on translating into English. It is also recommended that greater emphasis would be placed on enabling students to use the normal language required by them in the classroom.
The modes of assessment in use are largely appropriate: the participation of students in class, homework, class and house examinations and state examinations. Written examinations and aural tests are mainly used. It is recommended that all the language skills would be included when student learning is being assessed. This would help to ensure that the modes of assessment in use would be more closely aligned to the aims and objectives of the syllabuses.
Formal school reports are sent home twice a year. Parent teacher meetings are held once a year for each year group to give parents an opportunity to discuss students’ achievements. This is commendable
It is recommended that assessment be included when the plan for Irish is being developed. As part of this work it is recommended that particular emphasis be placed on using the framework of learning outcomes that will be developed to establish assessment criteria and to differentiate examinations, particularly in those years when the students are not engaged in state examinations.
There was a great deal of variation in the extent and the standard of work in those copybooks and workbooks reviewed during the evaluation. In one particular case, the organisation of the copybooks, and the work included in them, is highly commended. It is recommended that such practice be extended. The content of the copybooks and the workbooks was in keeping with the requirements of the syllabus. JCSP profile statements were reviewed for one year group and these were being completed as required.
The school does not have a homework policy. Homework forms an important part of assessment and learning. It is important that all language skills would be included when homework is being assigned. It is recommended therefore that a homework policy for Irish be developed and that the language requirements and the role of teachers, students and parents would be outlined. It is further recommended that the policy includes a description of how the students’ homework diary will be used, particularly with regard to recording work.
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 Irish 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 2009