An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Roll Number: 61141M
Date of inspection: 23 January 2009
This report has been written following an evaluation of the LCVP in Presentation College, Carlow, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation (WSE). It presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for the further development of the programme in the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held meetings with the school principal, a core group of teachers and with a small group of students. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector liaised with the programme coordinator and visited classrooms to observe teaching and learning. The inspector provided oral feedback to teachers on lessons observed. The inspector also examined students’ work and reviewed relevant documentation pertaining to the programme, as well as teachers’ written preparation. The outcomes of the evaluation were discussed with the school principal and the programme coordinator following the evaluation.
LCVP is a well established programme in the college having been offered as a programme option for students since 1997. LCVP is one of the complementary palette of programmes offered by the college to its cohort of students. The most recent two years have seen a number of changes in personnel involved in implementing the programme. In this context, this external evaluation of the LCVP provides a timely opportunity for reflection and review of the programme.
1.1 Whole school support
Presentation College aims to prepare all its students for the challenges, responsibilities and experiences of adult life and the inclusion of the LCVP on the college’s curriculum contributes to the achievement of the objectives of the college’s mission statement. Senior management has a good knowledge of the programme and its requirements and is very supportive of the programme. The principal articulated a vision for the LCVP into the future, seeing the programme as a Leaving Certificate plus, targeted at the full range of student ability. Senior management’s articulated wish to increase the number of students taking the LCVP is a welcome development and in the past year, measures have already been put in place to achieve this objective. The use of the electronic notice board and an area of the Careers’ notice board now dedicated to LCVP help to inform staff and students about LCVP activities and benefits. In this context, it is recommended that school management continues to prioritise promotion of the programme, increasing awareness and an appreciation of the value of the programme at whole-school level and in the wider school community.
Senior management has also been proactive in facilitating attendance of members of staff at in-service for LCVP and both management and staff are commended for their commitment to and participation in professional development in the area. The coordinator has also been facilitated in attendance at continuous professional development (CPD) courses provided by the SLSS, the benefit of which was evident in the teaching observed and in the quality of the programme organisation. School management is commended for facilitating attendance of teachers at available in-service.
The deployment of appropriate teaching staff to the programme ensures that LCVP students have access to the necessary specialist expertise for optimum delivery of the LCVP curriculum. The fact that the coordinator is also a qualified Business teacher ensures the laudable and necessary access to Business expertise, as there is a large degree of Business terminology and content for non-Business students to comprehend and retain. LCVP students were clearly benefiting from access to this expertise. LCVP students also have access to expertise in ICT. The ICT facilities in the college are good and student access to ICT facilities was highlighted by the LCVP students as a positive feature of participation in the programme. Those students who had not opted for transition year (TY) found that aspects of skills development addressed in TY, such as enhanced ICT skills, could be developed through LCVP.
Time allocation to the programme, however, is currently insufficient. The need for additional time has been recognised by senior management and increased time allocation is being planned for the next academic year. Students in fifth year have a double links module lesson. This is commendable, as it allows time for the integration of active learning methodologies, which are encouraged for effective delivery of the programme and which were also observed during the evaluation. A double period also ensures time for LCVP students to work in teams on enterprise activities. In line with LCVP implementation guidelines, a further single period should also be assigned in fifth year to consolidate the learning and to provide students with the opportunity to work independently with follow-up work on the computer or in groups. The one single period in sixth year for the Link modules is not adequate for the development of examination strategies, therefore, the planned increase in the time allocation to the Link Modules should be accommodated for coming years. Such an increase should also contribute to improved student attainment.
1.3 Student selection and support
Presently, student uptake of the programme in the college is relatively low with thirteen students in Year One of the programme and twelve students in Year Two. While the decrease in the overall senior cycle cohort of students accounts in part for the decrease in student numbers participating in the LCVP, different factors have impacted on the uptake of the programme in the college over recent years. The timetabling arrangements for the Link Modules periods, whereby these class periods were in the same band as Higher level Mathematics, have militated against uptake of the programme. The burden of work involved for students in taking an additional subject is also factors which has impacted negatively on uptake. These factors are now being addressed by senior management.
Currently, the Link Modules class periods are timetabled in a band including computers and health education, both non-examination senior cycle subjects, or in the case of sixth year, are timetabled in the same band as religious education. This should lead over time to an increase in uptake. Such an increase may help senior management in allocating the appropriate amount of time to the Links Modules and in the distribution of that time across the week. This, in turn, would help in the articulated desire for improvement in student performance and attainment. The criteria for student selection are clearly recorded and in principle, should allow for open access. Once students have made their subject choices for the Leaving Certificate, those students who have the relevant subject combinations are encouraged to consider participating in the programme.
In order to fulfill programme requirements, students choose from a range of vocational subject groupings (VSGs). The VSGs chosen by students range from Biology and Home Economics, Business and Accounting and Construction Studies and Technology. In planning for the programme into the future, senior management should examine the subjects available to and chosen by students and perhaps concentrate on offering a more homogenous set of subjects combinations from which students select VSGs from the specialist groupings and from the services groupings. This will facilitate establishing true cross-curricular links, add cohesion to skills development and interdisciplinary work and provide a focus to the student group on the vocational dimension of the programme.
Parents are fully briefed on senior cycle options for students and are involved in the process of subject and programme selection. Senior management should ensure that this happens at key times of transition for the students, both at the end of third year and once again at the end of TY.
1.4 Home, school and community links
Links with local businesses and community organisations are being established through the programme which contribute to effective delivery of the programme. Visits to institutes of technology and third-level colleges, including careers’ exhibitions, are organised. The school has developed excellent links with a number of outside community and voluntary enterprises and businesses. The effective implementation of the programme from year to year would not be possible without the personnel and agencies external to the school. The value of the support for the programme provided by local enterprises is acknowledged by the college, and these links should continue to be fostered and developed.
There was good and thorough planning for the programme and the planning documentation examined at the time of the evaluation had all the elements of good planning. The planning for LCVP was very much the work of the coordinator and the work completed to date is to be commended. The LCVP plan forms a sound foundation on which to build upon. The LCVP teaching team, together with the coordinator, should now concentrate on customising planning for the implementation of the programme to the specific needs of its own student cohort. At present, the different strands contributing to programme delivery function independently rather than together, albeit at all times for the good of the student. The success of any programme relies on the effective teamwork of the individual contributions of teachers within the school. Therefore, it is recommended that a core LCVP team be established, comprising of the LCVP coordinator, the Business teacher(s), the Link Modules teachers, the Guidance service and possibly one or two teachers of the key VSG subjects. The establishment of a core team would facilitate sharing of responsibility, exchange of ideas and team teaching, where appropriate. This would enrich the students’ experience of the programme considerably.
A review of the programme conducted in the past year has informed programme planning and implementation. Meetings for review of the programme and its delivery in the college are facilitated by senior management at the beginning and at the close of the school year. Items recorded in minutes of these meetings include details in relation to: dates and timeframes for student completion of portfolio items; organisation of enterprise workshops or activities; topics and themes to be covered with each year group. This is commendable. A formal review of the successful outcomes of the programme for students, including student attainment in state examinations, is recommended. Destination tracking of past LCVP student careers and further education directions would also provide the college with reliable data on programme outcomes.
As already referred to, a new coordinator for LCVP has been recently appointed. The additional teacher allocation for LCVP is deployed in part to facilitate coordination time, allocated by senior management for the fulfillment of coordination duties. The coordination role involves a range of administrational and organisational duties, as well as responsibility for the careful monitoring and retention of student portfolios. These are fulfilled in an efficient and effective way. The coordinator reported some difficulties encountered in relation to movement of materials and draft portfolio items. School management is encouraged to examine the possibility of the provision of an LCVP office or work station, to facilitate the storage, sharing and integration of a range of resources, as well as the display and storage of student projects and portfolios.
One of the difficulties encountered by the school relates to the provision of work experience for all programmes being offered by the college, TY, the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the LCVP, and meeting the work experience and work shadowing needs of the students. A re-examination of the role of the Programme Coordinator in meeting this challenge is recommended. The Programme Coordinator could assume overarching responsibility for overseeing the work experience or work shadowing component to all programmes, developing a database of possible work placements and a system of monitoring and review.
Students who participate in the LCVP are encouraged to develop skills and competencies fundamental to both vocational and academic success. There was good delivery of content of the Link Modules, preparation for work and enterprise, observed in the course of the evaluation. Lesson objectives were clearly shared with students, lesson content was appropriate, and student-centred learning activities formed part of the lessons observed. The sharing of expertise and the development of skills across subjects such as ICT, Career Guidance, Business and English will be consolidated once the core teaching team is established. LCVP students follow a Leaving Certificate modern European language.
The Guidance service contributes to the delivery of the curriculum content in relation to the preparation of portfolio items, in particular, in terms of preparation of students for the career investigation and their skills, qualities and career suitability. One-to-one career advice and advice on subject options is also given and this is commendable.
The re-introduction of a work experience component for LCVP is required. This work placement could take the form of one or two work shadowing placements to provide students the opportunity examine further their career investigation or to explore a further career option. A possible solution of securing work-shadowing placements of one day or a half day duration for LCVP students could be piloted in the current year. This would not involve prolonged absence from other subjects or courses of study and would fulfill the programme requirement of being able to experience the career path chosen.
The creation of cross-curricular links is an important aspect of LCVP. When planning possible enterprise activities, the LCVP coordinator is encouraged to look at the calendar of events or celebrations across the school year which may provide LCVP students with opportunities to draw on their range of skills to manage a school event: skills such as organisational, writing, art and design skills. The use of enterprise activities assists students in making links between their vocational subjects and their learning and skills development in the Links Modules. This aspect of the programme needs to be developed further.
3.1 Planning and preparation
All lessons observed were well planned and the planned content executed well. ICT was used effectively in the preparation of teaching and learning materials and all handouts prepared were interlinked to facilitate effective integration into the lesson plan. Student handouts and materials prepared for lessons and the booklet compiled to facilitate examination preparation and strategy were exemplary and an example of excellent pre-planning. Material presented on the data-projector was clear, visually attractive and aided learning and retention of lesson content. Planning for the integration of methodologies into teaching and learning, including the use of ICT, was effective and teacher preparation contributed to good lesson pace and structure.
3.2 Learning and teaching
Lessons were well structured and teachers integrated a range of activities and tasks and ensured active and cooperative learning. Indeed, a noteworthy feature of lessons observed was the way in which students were participative, cooperative and curious in their application to tasks assigned. The objectives of lessons were clearly communicated to students, which ensured clarity of direction and engagement on the part of students. A spirit of cooperation between teacher and students and between students was established from the outset and there was excellent rapport between students and teachers. ICT was integrated well and students were involved in the setting up of the technology.
There was consistent use of active learning methodologies with individual, group and pair work integrated successfully. Students formed into groups and moved around the room with ease and were obviously accustomed to such active learning. Students participated well and there was good attention throughout the different phases in the lessons observed. Teachers interacted with students individually or with small groups. Students’ different learning needs were accommodated; students sought clarification when necessary; and when some students expressed a preference to share task completion, individual differences and preferences were recognised and respected. Teachers were also attentive to time, reminding students of the purpose of the task set, thereby building on students’ capacity to reflect and developing students’ awareness of their own learning. This is excellent practice.
In one lesson, the initial teacher presentation focused on developing student awareness of terminology and refining and revising definitions of key terms. The parallel focus on content and language is praiseworthy and the way in which both were integrated was excellent. Homework was assigned at the end of lessons and this too was characterised by clarity and purpose.
The attention to attendance observed in the course of the classroom visits and in the programme documentation examined is thorough and commendable. It demonstrates the college’s commitment to programme completion. In the main, students who opt to participate in the LCVP follow through with completion of the portfolio assessment and terminal examination. Some small number of individual cases have occurred over the years where students have left the school or not completed the programme. The current mechanisms in place help to ensure student motivation and commitment to programme completion and are to be commended
Formative assessment of students is carried out on a continuous basis by questioning in class, through correction of homework and portfolio work, and also through the excellent level of teacher movement and observation of students during class that was noted by the inspector. Details of the completion of portfolio items are carefully recorded in the class chart record developed by the coordinator and checklists are provided for students. It is recommended that a target date for completion of draft individual portfolio items be included. This would help students to keep themselves on track in relation to completion of items in a timely and efficient manner.
The student journal is regularly used as a means of communication between parents and teachers in relation to students. Parent-teacher meetings are also held in the usual manner to inform parents of students’ progress. Parents are notified of LCVP events and the LCVP coordinator is available to parents to discuss any aspect of the programme.
Among the reasons mentioned by teachers as to why students choose the LCVP was that the programme suits students who are innovative and enterprising and students who can take responsibility for their own learning. The reasons cited by students themselves for opting for the LCVP included: the possibility of gaining additional CAO points for access to a chosen third level course; acquiring key transferable skills; the team work involved in projects and enterprise activities; the focus on careers investigations and work experience. The most effective aspects of the programme, as identified by the LCVP coordinator and the students, are the enhanced skills developed by students: ICT skills, presentation skills, report writing and job seeking skills. An examination of student achievement in state examinations shows that students are successful in the main and achieve a good balance of passes and merits from year to year. Students interviewed were convinced that the LCVP would help them achieve their career, study and life aspirations. These included accessing their chosen career path through additional CAO points accrued, choosing a course for further study or a career path as a result of their experience or knowledge acquired during the programme.
As mentioned in an earlier section of this report, it is recommended that the Guidance service undertakes destination tracking of LCVP students to ascertain the extent of the successful outcomes of the programme for students. The systematic gathering and analysis of student data at school level from year to year will provide invaluable information with which to document the success and value of the programme for students and will help to promote the programme into the future.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
§ The inclusion of the LCVP on the college’s curriculum contributes to the achievement of the objectives of the college’s mission statement.
§ Senior management’s deployment of appropriate teaching staff to the programme facilitates effective delivery of the programme and ensures that LCVP students have
access to the necessary specialist expertise.
§ There was good and thorough planning for the programme and the planning documentation examined at the time of the evaluation had all the elements of good planning.
§ The range of administrational and organisational duties involved in the LCVP coordination role are fulfilled efficiently and effectively, including the careful monitoring and retention of student portfolios.
§ Planning for the integration of methodologies into teaching and learning, including the use of ICT, was effective and teacher preparation contributed to good lesson pace and structure.
§ There was consistent use of active learning methodologies with individual, group and pair work integrated successfully.
§ A noteworthy feature of lessons observed was the way in which students were participative, cooperative and curious in their application to tasks assigned.
§ Formative assessment of students is carried out on a continuous basis by questioning in class, through correction of homework and portfolio work, and also through the
excellent level of teacher movement and observation of students during class that was noted by the inspector.
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
§ It is recommended that senior management continue to promote the programme, increasing awareness and an appreciation of the value of the LCVP at whole-school level
and in the wider school community.
§ The timetabling of the Link Modules should be addressed by senior management and the planned increase in the time allocation to the Link Modules in both fifth and sixth year
should be accommodated for future years.
§ It is recommended that a core LCVP team be established, comprising of the LCVP coordinator, the Business teacher(s), the Link Modules teachers, the Guidance service
and possibly one or two teachers of the key VSG subjects.
§ The re-introduction of a work experience component is recommended. Work-shadowing placements of one day or a half day duration for LCVP students could be piloted in the forth coming year.
§ The systematic gathering and analysis of student data at school level from year to year should be undertaken to document the success and value of the programme for students.
Published January 2010