An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Irish
Our Lady’s School
Terenure, Dublin 6W
Roll number: 60860Q
Date of inspection: 13-14 October 2008
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF TEACHING AND LEARNING IN IRISH
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Our Lady’s School, Terenure. 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, deputy principal and the subject 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.
First-year classes in this school are of mixed ability. The students in second year are divided into ordinary and higher level classes. It is possible for students to move between ordinary and higher level without difficulty. Every effort is made to encourage the students to remain in higher level classes in accordance with their ability. The students’ attainment in Irish in this school is very good and the number of students who take higher level papers in state examinations is fairly high. The work of the teachers in encouraging students to continue at the higher level is commended.
At present, seven teachers are engaged in teaching the language in the school. All of the teachers have Irish in their degrees and they have years of experience in teaching the subject. Classes are rotated every year with the agreement of management, so that every teacher gets an opportunity to teach all class levels and age groups. This is good practice.
Provision on the school timetable for Irish is quite satisfactory. Students in first and second year receive four periods of Irish per week while five periods per week are provided for those in third year. In the case of students in Transition Year (TY), four periods of Irish per week is more than satisfactory and classes in the senior cycle have five periods every week.
Excellent efforts are made in the school to extend and develop the students’ experience of Irish as a living language outside of the classroom. Students take part in a wide range of Irish activities both inside and outside of school. A range of competitions is organised during Seachtain na Gaeilge, for example, various classes organise table quizzes, essay and poetry competitions take place while other activities include proverb and poster competitions. A grand céilí is also organised in the school during that week. The school takes part in the Féile Scoildrámaíochta and in competitions run by Foinse and Léargas, and TY students participate in a film-making competition that is organised by TG4. The sixth-year Irish classes are taken to the Gaeltacht every year for four days and the students in the school are encouraged to attend courses in Gaeltacht colleges during the summer. It was evident from the students’ confidence in speaking Irish, demonstrated in some of the classes, that many of the students avail of the opportunity to spend a period in one of the summer colleges. The Irish teachers are highly commended for their efforts in developing cross-curricular and extra-curricular work through Irish and in creating a programme of interesting and enjoyable activities to support the teaching and learning of the language in the classroom. It would be worthwhile for the school to inquire about the new competition to promote Irish in schools Gleo, which is organised by Foras na Gaeilge.
An annual budget is provided for the teaching and learning of Irish and the Irish department has a separate room for the storage of equipment and resources. Modern resources are available in this room and it was reported that all out of date books and materials were disposed of during the year, a commendable undertaking. The efforts taken to acquire and organise these new resources deserves considerable praise. It is now recommended that a list of the available resources be provided so that all of the Irish teachers are fully cognisant of what is available and where to find it.
With one exception, all of the Irish teachers have their own classrooms. These rooms were decorated very artistically with posters, samples of the pupils’ work and other material related to the teaching and learning of the language. The teachers are highly praised for the print rich learning environment that they created in their classrooms.
A co-ordinator of planning for teaching and learning Irish has been nominated from among the Irish teachers and this post is rotated on an annual basis so that each teacher gets an opportunity to take on a leadership role in planning for Irish in the school. This is good practice. The Irish teachers meet once a month or more frequently if necessary. Minutes of these meetings are recorded in Irish. The following items are discussed at these meetings: the allocation of pupils to classes; difficulties that arise from time to time with students; common examinations; Seachtain na Gaeilge; the trip to the Gaeltacht and planning for Irish in general.
Very comprehensive planning has been done in the school for teaching and learning Irish. There is a separate plan for every level in each year group and it includes an outline of yearly teaching targets, textbooks, resources, assessment and a description of various approaches such as games and enjoyable activities for first-year students. There is also a more general plan for the overall operation of the Irish department. It is recommended that all of these plans be combined to form a single unified plan. Praise is due for the work that has been done on planning for teaching and learning Irish. It is evident that considerable effort has been put into all of the planning and it is to be highly commended. It is now recommended however, that more detail be included in the plan in regard to methodologies and to the resources that can be used to teach various topics. It is also recommended that the approach of the Irish department to the use of the target language be given particular mention at the beginning of the plan as the teachers’ approach to this aspect of language teaching is excellent. It is also necessary to direct attention to planning for the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the classes, as a distinct section within the plan.
A plan for TY was also available during the inspection and it is clear that a considerable effort is being made to provide an interesting and innovative programme for the students during their Transition Year. Considerable emphasis is placed on communicative events in Irish during this year and the students also undertake in project work. This is good practice.
A very comprehensive classroom plan was provided for all of the lessons that were observed. Worksheets, notes and games material were prepared and it was clear during the evaluation that first-rate preparation had been made for the various classes.
Teaching and learning
The use of Irish as the language of management, communication and teaching was excellent in all of the classes observed. A range of clever strategies was used to avoid direct translation from Irish to English. Mime, gesture, pictures and the white board were utilised to explain terms to the students rather than resorting to translation. The teachers are to be congratulated on the care that they take with the target language in the classrooms, their hard work and the efforts that they make to encourage the students to speak Irish. The manner in which the students speak Irish, according to their ability, to the teachers and among themselves was notable. Excuses for late coming and questions were sought from students in Irish and it was evident that they were accustomed to this and that they had no difficulty with it.
The manner in which the students were given ample opportunities to communicate in all of the classes observed, is high commended. Use was made of games, drama, pair and group work as well as role play to get the students talking. These strategies were very successful in the great majority of the classes that were observed.
The teachers were energetic and diligent in teaching all of the classes that were observed. They moved around the classrooms talking to the students and ensuring that the work was being carried out. There was a pleasant working atmosphere in the classes and it was clear that good relations existed between the students and the teachers. Discipline was excellent. The teachers succeeded in motivating all students and it was evident that, overall, they were enjoying the Irish classes.
Exceptional efficacy was a feature of Irish classes in this school as a result of the amount of effort that the teachers put into preparing enjoyable and beneficial lessons. They made worthwhile efforts to avoid total dependence on the textbook in their classes. A wide range of materials and resources was used in the classrooms. One class was observed in which part of a TG4 programme was in use, other teachers had games prepared in advance, an overhead projector was used to display questions and answers, flashcards and pictures were in use and, in another instance, a CD was played on which a drama production could be heard. The teachers deserve considerable praise for their efforts in regard to all of this. The use of resources other than the textbook in the classroom requires a certain amount of hard work but it adds greatly to the enjoyment and benefit that students derive from the lessons. It is recommended that this approach be continued and that the number of resources from everyday life, which are used to place pieces of prose and literature in a contemporary context for students, be extended.
The lessons that were observed were well laid out and structured so that a range of activities were in progress in all classes. All of the language skills including listening, understanding, speaking, and writing were developed in all of the classes that were seen. Some strategies are more successful than others and there is a need to review on a continuous basis the reasons why some lessons are more successful than others with particular classes. In some instances full sentences were coaxed from students rather than accepting single words and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all classes and that this approach be written into the plan for teaching and learning Irish in the school.
The students’ pronunciation of the sounds of the language was corrected in a considerate way in certain instances that were observed. Repetition was also used in classes to enable students to practise the correct pronunciation of difficult words. It is recommended to the teachers that they be alert to the issue of phonetics and that they ensure that students can pronounce words and sentences correctly before moving ahead. It adds to the students’ confidence if they feel that they can say things correctly.
Teachers attended inservice courses provided by the Second-Level Support Service for Irish last year. The impact of these courses could be seen in the classes. Teachers made use of the strategies recommended by the Support Service and they proved to be very successful during classes. A number of classes achieved considerable success when poems were taught anew to the students. The characters in the poems were described to the students and they were asked to create their own story. They derived particular enjoyment from that activity and it was very effective in awakening their interest in the poem itself. The teachers are commended for the way in which the recommendations from the inservice course were adopted and for implementing them effectively in the classes.
House examinations are organised in the school in February and in summer. In addition, continuous assessment takes place throughout the year. For example, a minor class test is administered to the first-year students after each unit of work in order to ensure that they have learned the content that has been covered before moving ahead. This practice is commended. Common tests are administered to pupils as appropriate at the different levels during house examinations. Reports are sent home to parents following these examinations and parent-teacher meetings are organised as well for each year group.
A good deal of written work completed by the students was in evidence in the copybooks that were examined. It was clear that the students are assigned homework and that it is corrected regularly. The copies were corrected very carefully by marking them, by describing the quality of the work and by providing a grade as guidance for students. The teachers are commended for the manner in which they correct copies.
Great emphasis is placed on communicative competence in the the Irish department. In order to illustrate the importance of communication to students, those in first year are given an oral test and it is intended to extend this practice to the students in the second and third years. Additionally, the students in Transition, fifth and sixth year also undergo tests in oral Irish. The teachers exchange classes with one another so that students get an opportunity to speak Irish with another adult who does not teach them. This is good practice and praise is due for the emphasis that is placed on spoken Irish from the start in the school.
· The attainment of the students in this school in Irish is very good and a high number of students take higher level papers in the state examinations.
· The efforts made by the teachers to extend the use of Irish beyond the class and to run an interesting and enjoyable programme of activities and events for the students,
are highly commended. These add greatly to the teaching and learning of the language.
· The work that was done to collect and assemble a collection of materials and resources to support the teaching of the language is commended.
· The manner in which the classrooms are decorated with posters, students’ work and other materials relative to Irish also merits praise.
· Good, comprehensive planning had been carried out for teaching and learning Irish in the school.
· The use of Irish as the language of management, teaching and communications was excellent in all of the classes that were observed.
· The students were given ample opportunities for communication in the classes and a range of strategies were employed to encourage students to talk.
· The efforts of the teachers to move away from the textbooks and to use a collection of equipment and resources in their Irish classes as well as a range of activities
that enable the students to practise all of their language skills, are commended.
· The teachers are commended for taking on board the recommendations from the inservice courses and for implementing them in the Irish classes.
· The emphasis that is placed on assessing spoken Irish, as well as the other language skills, by administering oral tests to the students from first year onwards is very laudable.
As a means of building on these strengths and to identify areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that an inventory of the resources that are available in the school for the support of teaching and learning Irish be drawn up.
· It is recommended that all of the plans for Irish be combined to form a single plan and that the areas of ICT and the use of methodologies and resources be developed.
· It is recommended that care be taken to enhance the students pronunciation of the sounds of the language in all of the classes in a considerate way that would not undermine their confidence.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the Irish teachers, with the principal teacher and with the deputy principal where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management and staff are very happy with the report.
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 Irish department accept the recommendations and will endeavour to implement them in the coming year.