An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Subject Inspection of Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE)



Presentation College

Askea, Carlow

Roll number: 61141M


Date of inspection: 22 January 2009





Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning


Summary of main findings and recommendations







Subject inspection report


This report has been written following a subject inspection in Presentation College Askea, conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in CSPE 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 subject teachers.


Subject provision and whole school support

Presentation College Askea is a co-educational secondary school with 469 students. CSPE is a compulsory subject for all students at junior cycle.  There is one top class in each junior cycle year group, while all remaining students are divided into mixed-ability groupings. 


There is appropriate provision for CSPE in the allocation of time and timetabling.  All classes have one period each week for the subject.  Many of the teachers assigned to teaching CSPE have their class group for another subject.  This is good practice as it affords both teachers and students greater flexibility in optimising time for the completion of action projects.  Senior management should review timetabling arrangements to ensure that there is similar provision for all teachers of CSPE in future years.


There are six teachers involved in the teaching of CSPE, most of whom are Arts graduates.  School management has facilitated professional development for teachers of CSPE in recent years through the Second Level Support Service (SLSS).  Furthermore teachers new to CSPE can be paired with a more experienced teacher who will act as their mentor during the year.  Some teachers are also members of ACT, the association for teachers of CSPE.  The commitment of school management and teachers to continuing professional development is highly commended. 


Some teachers have their own base room, while others have to avail of the classrooms that have been allocated to them for the lesson.  One classroom has been designated a CSPE room and, while it is teacher based, it is also used for all CSPE events and celebrations.  This room has been developed as a bright visually stimulating place of learning with posters of the various celebratory days in the international calendar, the range of concepts studied as part of the curriculum, photographs of relevant political and international figures and projects completed by students.  The creation of such an attractive learning environment is highly commended.  In order to optimise the benefits of such an environment for all students it is recommended that as many teachers of CSPE as possible be given access to this room for their CSPE lessons. 

There is good whole-school provision for resources.  There is an annual budget for the purchase of supplementary materials by the CSPE department.  The allocation of a budget is good practice as it enables a subject department to plan and prioritise in a systematic way.  All resources, including those sent by various voluntary and non-governmental agencies, are filed under the relevant concepts in a designated CSPE filing cabinet in the staffroom.  A lending system has been established where teachers sign for all resources borrowed.  Secure storage for students’ examination work is provided in the principal’s office.  The provision for and management of resources is highly commended.  There is one computer room which can be made available by arrangement.  There is also access to laptops and projectors for teachers wishing to use information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool for teaching and learning.  It was evident during the course of the evaluation that ICT has been actively embraced by the CSPE department to support their work in the classroom.  This is highly commended.  


Outings are organised for each year group to raise awareness of certain issues and to support the work of their action projects.  The school also hosts an annual visit from a theatre group who work with the students on issues relevant to the subject.  Students and teachers also engage in a ‘Coppers for Rights’ project, where students collect copper coins to support human rights.  A whole-school initiative, where students fundraise and travel to Zambia to work on development projects, is also actively promoted through CSPE.  World International Day is an important event in the annual school calendar and related work is integrated into CSPE lessons.  The school is currently in the process of participating in a Comenius project linking up with other European schools and senior management reported there may be opportunities for the students of CSPE to get involved in this project.  Commitment to co-curricular activities both at class and at whole-school level is very good practice in promoting active citizenship which is one of the aims central to the CSPE curriculum.



Planning and preparation


The members of the CSPE department have engaged in subject planning as part of the whole school development planning process.  There is a subject coordinator, a voluntary position which it is planned to rotate every two year.  This is good practice.  Time for planning is made available to the all subject departments as part of staff meetings and the CSPE department has met four times in the current academic year.  Minutes are available for all formal meetings.  This is good practice.


A review of the long-term plan for CSPE indicates that the teachers of the subject have actively embraced the collaborative subject planning process.  The plan outlines the aims and objectives, the skills to be promoted, proposed methodologies, curriculum content and assessment protocols.  Schemes of work in terms of the concepts to be studied in each year group for each term have also been included.  Teachers are commended for the work they have completed to date in subject planning.  As the planning process continues it is recommended that the teachers of CSPE progress the work completed to date in a more integrated way, outlining desired learning outcomes for each year group in terms of what the students will be able to do as a result of their learning.  This will also enable teachers to evaluate their own work in a more effective manner.


Some of the individual lesson plans submitted organised their work in terms of the learning outcome for the lesson.  This approach to individual lesson planning is highly commended and could serve for the development of the above mentioned desired learning outcomes.


There was evidence of careful planning and preparation for the lessons observed with the advance readiness of ICT equipment and supplementary materials.



Teaching and learning


Inspection activities involved the observation of five lessons, one in first year, two in second year and three in third year.  There was also the opportunity to review students’ folders or copies.


Good practice was observed in lessons where the teacher shared the lesson plan with the students and reminded them of the concepts being studied, thereby involving them from the outset.  In the interests of further engaging students in the shared responsibility of teaching and learning teachers should reframe the plan in terms of the proposed outcome for the lesson. 


Brainstorming was very effectively used in some lessons to introduce a new concept.  This is commended as it makes students aware of the value of their own world knowledge and the cumulative nature and benefits of learning.  Student input into the lesson also improves their confidence.  Other lessons began with the discussion of an international news item from the previous day, the subject of which was linked into a concept already completed by the students.  In one of these instances the teacher read out a piece of related work written by a student in the class.  This contribution to the lesson is highly commended as it is affirming of an individual student as well as engaging the others.


Lessons were well structured and paced and the content was appropriate to the needs and abilities of the student cohort.  There were some excellent examples of a seamless progression from one section to the next in some of the lessons observed.  The topics studied in all lessons were grounded in the students’ knowledge of their local environment before being progressed to issues of national and global importance.  This is highly commended. 


Question and answer sessions were effectively used in all lessons to elicit information and to initiate discussion and there were many good examples of higher order questions leading to good reflection by students.  This is commended.


Visual supports, including a range of photographs and drawings on the board, were effective in simplifying the lesson content and consolidating learning.  Subject-related songs were commendably used in some lessons to further illustrate and support the work of the lesson in an enjoyable way.  All teachers demonstrated the benefits of ICT as a tool for teaching and learning, through the use of simple PowerPoint presentations to illustrate the work in hand, to summarise, to chart the outcomes of a survey, to correct work and to introduce a proposed revision programme for the students.  Teachers are highly commended for the way ICT was used to support learning.


Student-based individual and group tasks were observed in some lessons.  The use of such tasks is commended as a means of engaging students more actively in their own learning.  To this end it is recommended that the use of individual, pair or group activities be extended to all lessons.


Teachers were affirming of their students, most of whom were well behaved and applied themselves to the work of the lesson and there was good evidence of learning in the discussions which ensued.  There were a small number of students in one lesson who disengaged from the work in hand and whose behaviour had a negative impact on learning.  It is recommended that current classroom management strategies be reviewed in terms of revised seating arrangements and that a greater number of student-based tasks should be used to actively involve these students in their own learning.



A variety of assessment modes are used to monitor students’ progress, including question and answer sessions in class, homework assignments and class tests and formal examinations. Homework was assigned in all of the lessons observed.  Some students had copies with written homework exercises assigned and corrected.  However, given the nature of CSPE where such assignments may differ from the traditional format of written exercises other students used folders and maintained a tracker journal of the work completed.  The use of such a journal is good practice which should be extended to all lessons to ensure that students maintain a record of all assignments and research carried out.  Students should also record their own learning outcomes in the journal.


Students carry out two action projects during the course of their junior cycle programme and in some instances may complete an additional smaller project.  This is good practice.  They complete the “Report on an Action Project” (RAP) for their Junior Certificate examination.  Class tests are held at Christmas and students will sit a formal CSPE examination at the end of the school year.  The outcomes of action projects are also included in first-year students’ overall assessments.


Contact with parents is maintained through the use of the student journal, school reports which are issued twice yearly and the annual parent teacher meetings held for all year groups.


Summary of main findings and recommendations

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         There is good whole school support for CSPE in the allocation of time, the provision of resources and support for continuing professional development.

·         The teachers of CSPE are making good progress in collaborative subject planning.

·         A variety of methodologies was observed to very good effect.

·         ICT was very effectively used to support teaching and learning.



As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

·         Senior management should endeavour to ensure that all teachers of CSPE have their class group for a second subject.

·         The use of student-based, individual or group activities should be extended to all lessons to facilitate active and independent learning.

·         Consideration should be given to extending the use of a reflective or tracker journal for all students where students can maintain a record of all assignments and

research carried out, in addition to recording their own learning outcomes.


Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of CSPE and with the principal, at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.





Published January 2010