An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
Kinsale Community School
Kinsale, County Cork
Roll number: 91499 E
Date of inspection: 27/28 September 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in irish
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Kinsale Community School. 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 two days 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 to the Irish 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.
There are seven teachers of Irish in Kinsale Community School, having a variety of experience of the teaching of Irish. It was apparent from the evaluation that these teachers are diligent workers whose concern is the progress and development of the students under their care.
Students of Fifth and Sixth Years each have five classes per week and students doing the Leaving Certificate Applied and Transition Year each have three classes per week. As regards Junior Cycle students, first-year students have four classes per week and both second and third-year students have five classes per week. The attention of school management was drawn to the importance of regular, daily contact time, where possible, so as to reinforce as well as possible the target language for the students. School management agrees with this and every effort is made to make the best provision possible for Irish, subject to the constraints of the timetable and the availability of rooms.
Eighty-three students have exemption from the study of Irish. Fifty-seven of these are foreign nationals and the remainder have either general or specific learning difficulties. During the Irish classes, these students are given additional support, where possible, in numeracy, literacy or English. Reference was made to the willingness on the part of some students with exemption from Irish to participate in the activities of the Irish lessons, and teachers are to be complimented on affording them limited contact with the language.
An effort to create a bilingual environment has been made by displaying bilingual signage throughout the school. Furthermore, the hanging of posters and charts which support the learning and teaching of Irish in a particular classroom was commended. It is an advantage that some of the Irish teachers have been assigned specific classrooms; not alone does this enable them to create a stimulating learning environment but it also facilitates them in the orderly storage of all of their teaching resources. It was recommended that all the teaching and learning resources for Irish should be brought together and made accessible in a central location.
The Irish teachers meet frequently in order to discuss matters relating to their subject. They hold six formal meetings each school year and it is their practice to meet informally as required. Among the topics discussed at meetings are the selection of textbooks, banding of students, extra-curricular activities, common examinations and planning issues. A copy of the minutes of formal meetings is forwarded to the school management. The Irish teachers are fully satisfied with the arrangements made by school management for the convening of meetings. It was intimated that application could be made for additional time for meetings, if needed, an indication that the school management recognises the importance attaching to co-operation and collaborative planning.
Certain students spend some time in the Gaeltacht in the summer. A local association, in conjunction with the school, provides partial funding for some students attending summer colleges. A wide range of events is organised for Seachtain na Gaeilge, including ceilidhs, a quiz, and visits to the theatre, as well as a variety of competitions.
In addition to individual planning, the teachers also undertake collaborative planning. The departmental file was made available in the course of the evaluation. The teachers are to be commended on the diligence with which they address subject development planning. It was pointed out that the totality of material in the planning file constitutes the foundation for the process of subject planning. It was put to the staff, as a challenge, that the planning process could be advanced one step further through a detailed scrutiny of particular aspects of classroom practice, especially the development of the oral skills of students.
As regards individual planning, it was clear that the teachers devoted both time and effort to the preparation of lessons. It was further apparent that many of them had reflected on the effectiveness of the learning and teaching activities undertaken in class. The effects of this reflection were evidenced in well-structured lessons which were methodically presented.
A yearly plan has been drawn up for each of the different levels in the various years. These plans focus on topics for discussion with a view to developing the skills of language. In the Transition Year plan, a significant emphasis is placed on the Leaving Certificate literature course. It was recommended that this plan should be rewritten, laying a greater emphasis on all the language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. As regards the other yearly plans, the teachers' attention was drawn to the importance of regularly reviewing the attainment of learning targets. It was further recommended that the teachers should discuss the most effective strategies for availing of as many opportunities as possible for authentic communication during Irish classes – these should be integrated into the learning and teaching associated with any given subject matter.
A good work ethic was evident in the Irish classes, in that interesting lessons had been prepared and presented in a well-sequenced, skilful fashion and that the students involved themselves willingly in the various learning activities.
Irish was the language used during classes. Instructions were given and the material was presented through the medium of Irish. The majority of students made an effort to speak Irish. In some classes it was clear that the students were well accustomed to speaking Irish to the teacher and to one another. It was greatly encouraging to hear students such as these discussing various topics through Irish. These teachers and students are commended on fostering such a practice in the Irish classes and it is recommended that it should be developed and further extended. The development of the students' speaking skills should form an integral part of every Irish lesson – governed, of course, by the emphasis which is being placed on the development of the other language skills (listening, reading and writing) in any particular lesson.
Every effort has been made to create a stimulating learning environment. In the case of the rooms assigned to particular teachers, the walls have been decorated with samples of the students' work and with charts showing clusters of words, points of grammar and the most frequently occurring speech patterns. That these charts are on display is of great assistance in that they function as sources of reference particularly when a topic is being discussed in class. It is a matter of pride for the students that their own work is on display and it is an effective method of affording recognition to those who make an effort. This approach was commended.
Among the topics discussed were games, 'a school tour', 'my friends and I', 'a house fire', gambling, school facilities and 'my home'. These topics matched the interests and experience of the students. This approach was commended, especially those classes in which the opportunity was taken to discuss issues which was prominent in the media at that time. The teachers were reminded that more effective learning is achieved by having the subject matter of lessons closely connected with the students' lives and the major stories of the day.
There was great variety in the activities undertaken during the Irish classes. Students were allocated reading, writing, working in pairs, listening or small tasks such as 'fill the gaps' or word games. The teachers were commended on the diversity of activities. They accept that it is necessary to present new elements of language to students in different ways, as no two learners are the same as regards the process of internalising language. Not only that – it is also an effective method of consolidating what has been learnt.
The need for giving students the tools in order to be able to communicate in real life contexts was drawn to the attention of teachers. With this in mind, not only is it necessary to practise diligently the manipulation of verbal forms and the accurate usage of the main linguistic idioms, but it is also necessary to assign students tasks which afford opportunities for authentic communication. It was apparent that some teachers were accustomed to integrating as many interactive tasks as possible into stimulating lessons in order to create speaking opportunities for the students. This is an excellent approach and its influence was clearly to be seen in the levels of understanding and fluency of the students under their care. It was recommended that teachers should consult with one another in order that this practice might be further developed and extended.
Among the learning and teaching aids in use were work sheets, flashcards, textbooks, charts and transparencies with diagrams, a tape recorder and the white board. The teachers were making appropriate use of the pool of resources which they had assembled. It was recommended that they should further avail of real life materials such as coloured brochures, advertisements, internet sites and photographs, so as to give students to understand that Irish has its place in contemporary life in Ireland.
The students of Irish utilise information technology while engaged in various tasks. They are accustomed to doing research on the internet and to typing particular writing lessons on computers.
In all the classes observed the teachers drew attention to linguistic points, as was appropriate to the range of ability of students. The teachers are to be commended on the care they take with ensuring accuracy, whether in grammar, spelling or the pronunciation of Irish.
A comprehensive system of assessment is implemented in the school which keeps all parties informed as to the progress of students.
Students are assigned homework on a regular basis and the teachers set short examinations for students in class. It was generally evident from a perusal of the students' copybooks, that it is the practice of teachers to collect them at regular intervals in order to give a more detailed feedback to the students. In the case of small classes, some teachers require students to correct one another's work. This is an effective strategy because it focuses the attention of students on major errors. The teachers keep a record of the students' progress in their own files.
In-house examinations are administered at Christmas and summer. The students destined to take the state examinations are given preliminary examinations in the spring. Reports are sent to students' homes following these major examinations. These examinations are beneficial in that they give students experience of the conventions of the state examinations, of the reading and layout of examination papers and of time management.
The speaking skills of senior students are assessed through oral tests. These are highly worthwhile in conveying to the students the importance of the speaking of Irish. It was recommended that recognition should be afforded to the speaking skills of junior students also, by making reference in the school report to the efforts students of Irish make to speak the language in class.
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.
School Response to the Report
Submitted by the Board of Management
Inspection Report School Response Form
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Kinsale Community School wishes to sincerely thank the Cigire Gaeilge, for her very professional assessment of the work undertaken by the Irish language teachers in our school. The Board is pleased that the diligent endeavours of these teachers has been noted and that the report acknowledged the different aspects of the very thorough programme delivered each day.
It is also heartening to read that the students have responded enthusiastically to the encouragement of their teachers and that a good work ethic was evident in the classrooms.
The Board recognises the value of a spoken language and fully endorses the message encapsulated in the proverb “Beatha teanga í a labhairt”. Teachers are therefore to be congratulated for encouraging the use of spoken Irish in the classroom and will take further steps to promote this aspect of their teaching.
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 Board fully endorses the recommendations made by the inspector, and is aware that at the time of writing the Irish language teachers are actively preparing a scheme of work that will enhance the opportunities of our students. Shared classroom practice will be further encouraged, and to this end the co-ordinator of the Irish Department will meet with the principal to discuss any necessary arrangements that may arise from future plans.