Department of Education and Science

An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

 

Subject Inspection of Irish

REPORT

 

 

Ramsgrange Community School

Co. Wexford

Roll number: 91431Q 

 

Date of inspection: 27 October 2006

Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Irish

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Achievement

Summary of the Main Findings and Recommendations

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Irish

 

This Subject Inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection of Irish in Ramsgrange Community School, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. 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, the deputy principal and the subject teachers.

 

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

 

Classes in this school are of mixed ability in the first year. Students are separated into higher level and ordinary level classes in second year. It was reported that there is flexibility between the different levels and that students are allowed to change easily between the higher and ordinary levels.  It is clear however, that the majority of students are taking the ordinary level for the Junior Certificate and for the Leaving Certificate examinations.  In addition to this a significant percentage of the students are sitting the foundation level in the State examinations. This means that only a small number of students are taking Irish at higher level in either of the two examinations. It is recommended that the school management and the Irish teachers develop strategies to encourage more students to take Irish at higher level or ordinary level depending on their ability in the language. 

 

It is reported that thirty two students in the school have an exemption from the study of Irish. Of these twelve are international students and the other twenty students who are exempted from Irish have learning difficulties. Students who have such difficulties are given extra help during the Irish classes. Those who have good English are allowed to study in the classroom during the Irish classes. Those who require it are offered addition help with English for the duration of the Irish classes.

 

As was recommended in a previous inspection report (January 2004) a start has been made regarding organising events during “Seachtain na Gaeilge”. It is reported that efforts in this regard have been successful and that quizzes and a poster competition had been organised. The teachers’ efforts in this regard are highly commended.  It is now recommended that this work be built on and that the number of events organised during the week and during the entire year are further developed. Speakers could be invited to come and give talks or workshops to students. It is also intended to take the Transition year class to the Gaeltacht but as yet, details are not available as to which area or as to the duration of the visit there.

 

The provision for the subject is quite satisfactory in the school. As was recommended in a previous inspection report (January 2004), the number of Irish periods in Transition year was increased. There are now four periods of Irish but two of those periods are in one day. This also occurs in one Leaving Certificate Applied class (which has three periods per week) where there is a double period on one particular day. One class of Irish per day is recommended, if possible, especially for the Leaving Certificate Applied class. If it is necessary to have two periods in one day it is recommended that this should be a double period. A double period would provide the teacher with opportunities to organise interesting activities such as watching an Irish language film or undertaking project work.

 

It is reported that the Irish teachers have an annual budget and that they have purchased a supply of resources and materials for the teaching of Irish. It is recommended that a register be compiled immediately of all the resources for teaching the language in the school and that those resources should be made available in a central location where teachers would have easy access to them.   An up to-date list should be maintained and a copy supplied to every teacher, especially new teachers arriving in the school in order that they might be aware of precisely what is available. It was reported that “Dréimire”, “Céim” and “Breacadh” are used in the appropriate classes. 

 

Irish teachers have their own base classrooms. In the previous inspection report (January 2004) it was recommended that the quantity and quality of the material on display in the classrooms be improved, in addition to developing the display of student work. Effective effort has been made in encouraging students to undertake work on signage and other work on display. This work was hung in the classrooms. It is recommended however, that additional material relative to the teaching and learning of Irish be displayed in the classrooms.  The efforts made to use Irish signage in the school area in general are recognised and commended.   {0>

 

A number of the teachers are interested in conducting an Irish course in the school during the summer based on the Irish summer college model.  At present they are investigating the financial implications and student demand etc. This plan is particularly commended especially as it would provide an opportunity for students who could not afford to go to the Gaeltacht to attend an Irish course and to use Irish in a live language setting.

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

One of the teachers is designated as planning co-ordinator for the teaching and learning of the language.  As recommended in the previous inspection report (January 2004), this responsibility is now rotated among the teachers, and each person is given the opportunity to accept this responsibility for a period of at least one year. This approach is commended.

 

The teachers have worked on devising a plan for Irish as recommended in the inspection report. This plan was drafted in the context of the “School Development Planning” process. The teachers’ work in this regard is commended. It is now recommended however, that this plan be further developed and structured to suit the Irish department and that it be written in Irish with an English summary if necessary. This plan ought to include a more detailed description of work plans for the different year groups, learning objectives and a more precise description of teaching methods.  There is also a need to look at planning for the provision of modern resources to be used in classes to make learning Irish more enjoyable and interesting for students. 

 

There is also a need to undertake planning for the use of information and communication technology in the teaching of Irish as recommended in the previous inspection report. It was felt that little had been done in this area so far.  Other teachers on the staff who have particular skills in information and communication technology could be involved. 

 

It was felt that the plan for teaching Irish in Transition year was fairly basic. Substantial development of the plan for teaching and learning of Irish in Transition year is recommended. There ought to be emphasis on learning Irish in various contexts and situations and every effort should be made to develop the students’ oral competencies.  It is recommended that Irish language media and other external resources are used rather than depending on textbooks. Transition year gives students wonderful opportunities to experience a school subject in a manner very different from ordinary academic classes.  It is recommended that the opportunity be grasped to give the Transition Year students a broad interesting insight into Irish as a living language.  

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

As recommended in the previous inspection report, the use of Irish as the language of management, communication and instruction was greatly improved in the classes observed. The teachers’ efforts in this regard are highly commended. In a few cases observed however, a certain amount of translation from Irish to English was needlessly involved.  It is recommended that teachers discuss the development of strategies among themselves regarding the avoidance of direct translation.

 

The efforts made to develop oral Irish in the classroom as recommended in the previous inspection report, is commended. The teachers put a lot of work and effort into encouraging students to speak and to communicate through asking them successive closed and open questions in class. Although this approach is highly commended it is recommended that teachers begin with the first year students and concentrate on giving students confidence in their oral ability at that stage.  It is difficult to encourage the use of oral skills among students in the senior classes when they are not accustomed to speaking the language.   The teachers should discuss ideas and strategies to encourage students to speak from first year onwards.  Pair work, games and role-play can be used with students of fairly limited oral ability.  The way in which students were expected to answer questions with full sentences rather than just single words, was noticed and commended.  In one case observed, suitable emphasis was also placed on the correct structure of the sentences under discussion in the class. 

 

In the case of the Transition Year classes it is recommended the classroom layout be informal to put students at their ease and to encourage them to speak more freely.

 

The group work that was being undertaken in one class on the creation of a montage based on “Irish in the environment” is commended and the cross-curricular aspect associated with this work is also commended. The students derived much enjoyment from this small project and good planning had been conducted for the class work in the copybooks beforehand. It is recommended however, that when work of this kind is involved an effort be made to place additional emphasis on the use of spoken Irish and that students are given the appropriate tools for this. 

 

The encouragement of students to think about themes and various characters during literature classes, is commended. The themes and images from literature were examined and developed in an effective way in classes observed.

 

The teachers were energetic and enthusiastic in their work in the classes observed. The teachers moved about the classrooms speaking with students, correcting their work and ensuring that the work was being done. There was a good rapport between students and teachers and discipline was excellent.  Teachers continuously praised students for their efforts and this is recommended as good practice.

 

In a couple of cases observed appropriate emphasis was placed on correcting phonetics and grammar in an understanding manner that did not upset the students’ self-confidence. In some classes observed efforts were made to link the lesson material with the students’ lives and this approach is commended.  It is recommended however, that the same approach should be taken as far as possible in all classes in order to provide students with a modern context in which to learn Irish.

 

The whiteboard was used effectively in the classes observed but few other resources were employed to make the teaching and learning of Irish more interesting for students. It is recommended that a much broader range of resources be used in the classes in accordance with the recommendation in the previous inspection report.

 

 

Assessment and Achievement

 

In-house exams are conducted twice during the year, at Christmas and in the summer. Pre-exams are arranged for the appropriate classes in February/March. The teachers also set regular class tests for the students during the year.

 

The homework diary was reported to be used effectively to monitor students’ work and progress. A good deal of work had been done in the copybooks observed and they were well kept. The copybooks observed were carefully corrected. The teachers are commended on their work on corrections but there is need to devise a correction system that will ensure that students learn from their mistakes. It is recommended that a system be discussed and agreed among the teachers and that it be part of the plan for the teaching and learning of Irish in the school.

 

As recommended in the previous inspection report a special award is made every year to the student who makes the best effort in Irish in each year group. This was recommended in the interest of raising the profile and importance of Irish in the eyes of the school community and it is reported that this is succeeding.  

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Recommendations made in the inspection report (January 2004) were accepted and work was progressed in these areas:

 

The recommendation that an effort should be made to organise events during “Seachtain na Gaeilge” was accepted and a start has been made on organising a certain number of Irish events in the school.

 

The number of periods for Irish in Transition year was increased from two periods to four periods.

 

A good amount of students’ work was put on display in the classrooms and around the school in general.

 

The teachers have worked on devising a plan for Irish.

 

The use of Irish as the language of management, communication and teaching in the Irish classes is greatly improved.

 

Good efforts were made in the classes observed to encourage the students to speak in Irish.

 

Every year, special awards are presented to some students for effort in Irish.

 

·         The work on assembling a montage based on Irish in the environment in a couple of classes is commended.

·         In a couple of cases observed excellent work was done developing and discussing literature.

·         The teachers were energetic and enthusiastic in conducting the classes observed. It was felt that there was a good relationship between students and teachers.

 

The following recommendations are made in order to build on these strengths and to identify areas for development:

 

·         It is recommended that the number of Irish events in the school be further developed.

·         It is recommended that the problems associated with provision of Irish on the timetable for particular classes are further investigated.

·         It is recommended that the existing resources for the teaching of Irish are recorded and listed and they are made available in a central location so that teachers can easily access them.

·         It is recommended that the plan for Irish be further developed, taking information and communications technology into consideration. 

·         It is recommended that a more substantial plan be developed for the Transition year taking advantage of the opportunity to present Irish to the students in an enjoyable and interesting manner.

·         It is recommended that a good deal of work be done on developing oral Irish starting with first year students and developing it gradually throughout the school. 

·         It is recommended that a broader range of materials be used in the Irish classrooms.

·         It is recommended that a common correction system that would ensure students will learn from their mistakes, be developed.

 

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.