An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme
St Kieranís College
College Road, Kilkenny
Roll Number: 61560J
Date of inspection: 25 February 2009
This report has been written following an evaluation of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) in St Kieranís College, Kilkenny. 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 one day during which the inspector liaised extensively with the programme co-ordinator and visited classrooms to observe teaching and learning. The inspector provided oral feedback to teachers on lessons observed. The inspector also examined studentsí work and reviewed relevant documentation pertaining to the programme, as well as teachersí written preparation. The outcomes of the evaluation were discussed with the school principal and the programme co-ordinator following the evaluation.
The programme was introduced onto the collegeís curriculum a number of years ago and approximately one third of the total student cohort opt for the programme. In the current school year in St Kieranís College, there are twenty-nine LCVP students in year one of senior cycle and twenty-three students in year two.
1.1 Whole school support
The LCVP is a programme designed to enhance the vocational dimension of the Leaving Certificate established and the inclusion of the LCVP on the collegeís curriculum contributes to the fulfilling of the mission statement of the college. There is good support from senior management for the programme and senior management plans to promote the programme further and to consolidate its position in the schoolís curriculum. Senior management ensures the successful implementation of most aspects of the LCVP through the supportive allocation of resources to the programme.
The development of a team approach to programme implementation is being facilitated by school management. The LCVP programme, as delivered in St Kieranís College, is implemented collaboratively by members of the whole teaching team. This was particularly borne out in the team-teaching observed. Review and evaluation are features of the LCVP teamís way of working. The principal benefits to the school and its students, identified as part of review, have been in the enhanced information and communication technology (ICT), communication and presentation skills acquired by students and also providing students with the possibility of gaining extra Central Applications Office (CAO) points.
It is evident that senior management has identified and drawn upon the strengths, expertise and qualities of its teaching staff and deployed teachers appropriately to ensure the optimal delivery of the LCVP. Teachers are also facilitated in attending relevant continuing professional development (CPD) courses designed to support the programme. Students participating in the programme have regular access to the expertise and knowledge relating to the areas of Guidance, ICT, Business and languages. There is a core team of teachers involved in implementing the programme which includes the teachers of Business, the teachers of ICT and the Vocational Subject Groupings (VSGs), modern language teachers and the guidance service. The LCVP co-ordinator is central in the teaching of the programme.
The allocation of time to the different elements of the programme is an important and significant factor in its success. The extra teaching allocation for LCVP is used for co-ordination time and for the creation of smaller class groups. Time allocation is more than enough to meet programme requirements with the exception of time allocation to the ab initio European language module. Senior management must ensure that adequate time is given to the language module on a weekly basis, that is, that one period per week is allocated to the language module in both fifth and sixth year. Currently, there is an allocation of two hours and thirty minutes for LCVP co-ordination duties. There is also ongoing liaison between the LCVP co-ordinator and the collegeís programme co-ordinator, appointed under the terms of Circular PPT 20/02. The programme co-ordinator has overarching responsibility for the organisation of the work-experience element of the different programmes offered by the college. Senior management is encouraged to examine ways in which better use could be made of this valuable allocation. This is turn would alleviate the need for the amount of time allocated to LCVP co-ordination.
Senior management is conscious of the aspects relating to the operation of the LCVP which need review, such as the timetabling of the language module and the placing of the lesson periods for the Links Modules. The good practice of timetabling the double Links-Modules lesson period when the computer room is available facilitates the integration of ICT, which is essential to the programme and is praised. However, finding a place on the timetable to provide a subject for less than a third of the student cohort is a challenge. The double Links-Modules lesson period has been timetabled concurrently with subjects such as Religious Education (RE), Health Education and with study periods. These arrangements are not entirely satisfactory and should be addressed for future years. Senior management was already looking at the possible solutions, including the expansion of the cohort of students taking LCVP, which would alleviate some of the difficulties. ICT is used effectively in both organising and implementing the programme.
1.3†† Student selection and support
Access to the programme is open to all students, is targeted at and is now attracting the full range of student ability. Significant improved attainment in student outcomes bears witness to this. Comprehensive information relating to subjects and the Transition Year (TY) and LCVP programmes is given to students in the college at the end of third year and in the case of LCVP, once again, at the end of TY. The LCVP co-ordinator and teachers address students in relation to the programme and students reported that they are now given more detail when making the decision than heretofore. If students have the subjects necessary for the appropriate VSG combinations, they are encouraged to apply for the programme and are interviewed. When applying for participation in the programme, students have to articulate the reasons for their interest which requires both a level of prior knowledge and reflection on the part of the individual student. This is a good idea.
Once students have indicated that they are interested in participating in the programme, they are given an induction into the programme and its requirements. The LCVP induction day is a praiseworthy initiative which serves to provide additional information and prepare students for the different aspects of the LCVP. As most students do TY, the LCVP core team should consider providing a similar induction content to students during the course of TY to help them make a more informed choice at the end of that year and to promote increased uptake of the programme.
The main reason given by students for opting for the programme was first and foremost the vocational dimension to the LCVP curriculum. Students appreciate the aspect of developing job-seeking skills, the preparation for work and the opportunity for work experience. Generally, LCVP students form part of the mainstream Leaving Certificate groups and come together as a distinct group for links modules lessons and associated activities. Some students view the programme as an additional subject for inclusion for points as a back-up subject for additional Central Applications Office (CAO) points. The LCVP co-ordinator should ensure that students are reminded of the value of the vocational dimension of the programme and of the benefits of following the programme.
As part of LCVP, students expressed their satisfaction with the individual attention they received and valued the opportunities for teamwork and to conduct independent research on computer. Students with special educational needs are integrated into the normal class groups. The LCVP curriculum is designed to be delivered through learning by doing. Teachers use a wide range of teaching methodologies associated with enterprise, such as questioning, case studies, brainstorming, group work, mind maps and ICT. Such approaches help all students but in particular students with learning difficulties.
1.4 Home-school links
Links are established and fostered with enterprises, employers and the community through work-experience placements. The home-school-community links are also being nurtured through the enterprise activities and through visits-in and visits-out to local businesses. Information to parents is thorough and timely. Reporting on studentsí progress is regular and communication with parents is good. ††
Planning documentation for the programme had all the elements of good planning. In relation to the Links Modules, a detailed programme of work for each year group is outlined in terms of lesson content for each term, further broken down into schemes of work for each month and week. More detail, particularly in relation to the development of examination strategies, is planned for inclusion in the scheme of work for sixth year. When implemented, this will consolidate the improvement in student attainment already achieved in the Links Modules. The plan is systematic, thorough and reflects the commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers involved in delivering the programme.
There is a team approach to the planning and the concept of a core team is developing in the college, both in relation to planning and implementation. The sharing of materials and resources is commended. The importance of teachers involved in implementing the programme meeting on a regular informal basis was underlined by the teachers in discussion and evident in documentation. Evidence from records of meetings shows that review is a feature of planning with items for improvement identified. Some of the items identified for action and improvement in the planning documents have already been addressed and improvements initiated to date are acknowledged. As the practice of programme evaluation and review has already been established, strengthening the voice of students and parents in programme review is suggested.
A French subject plan for the module was presented during the evaluation. An ab initio module has also been offered in Spanish. The content of the language module is appropriate and the interest and commitment of the language teachers are commended.
The co-ordinator for LCVP has been in the position for the last two years. The role is not attached to a post but two hours and thirty minutes have been allocated to co-ordination. In using this time, the co-ordinator has focused initially on conducting a review of the programme and in the current year on establishing practices in the programme for future years. While the generous time allocation has been used well to the benefit of the programme, it is recommended that it should be reviewed at the end of the current year. The LCVP co-ordinator role involves a range of organisational, administrative and monitoring duties which are executed efficiently and effectively. The work completed by the co-ordinator in the LCVP planning folder is highly commended. Records retained by the co-ordinator and examined in the course of the evaluation include: minutes of planning meetings; work experience contracts and evaluation forms; records of portfolio items signed in by students; a data base of employers; records of recent examination results and lists of the VSGs.
The co-ordinator, who is also one of the teachers of the Link Modules, records the work programme for both year groups, gives information to TY groups in relation to the programme as well as providing induction for new teachers and to students prior to commencement of the programme. An information evening for parents is also organised. In relation to the work experience component of the programme, the work experience placements for LCVP are co-ordinated by the LCVP co-ordinator and the beginnings of a database of student placements has been established. Liaison with students, teachers and employers in relation to work experience takes up much time. The overarching responsibility for the co-ordination of work experience has been assigned to the programme co-ordinator for all programmes. The work on the database of work placements should be completed and regularly updated by the programme co-ordinator .
Time allocation to the programme and planning for the programme are good, to allow for thorough delivery of syllabus content. The curriculum is in line with Department guidelines. The success of the learning outcomes was in evidence in many aspects of the programme: in improved student attainment in the state examinations; in the reports of the work experience journals examined; and in the quality of the work presented in student portfolios. The integration of ICT was effective in the teaching and learning and appropriately formed a central strand in the approach and methodology for LCVP.
In addition to the double period for the Links Modules, LCVP students have career guidance classes in which aspects of the programme, such as career investigations and interview techniques, can be addressed. The guidance service has found that the fact of having to conduct a career investigation as part of the portfolio ensures that students, perhaps for the first time, think about what they are doing or want to do in the future.
The work-experience component is working well. The timing of the work-experience placement early in the first term means that students have to apply newly acquired skills and knowledge immediately. Work-experience placements are organised by the students themselves to put to use their job-seeking skills into practice from the outset. In advance of work experience, lessons which focus on developing job-seeking skills, such as letters to employers, insurance forms and evaluation forms, as well as presentation and communication skills are prioritised. Students must provide full employer details prior to placement and the co-ordinator makes contact with any new employer to explain the purpose of the LCVP work experience. Students are supported by the LCVP co-ordinator in procuring placements and the co-ordinator endeavours to make visits to employers during work-experience placements. The evaluation forms sent back by the employers are retained on file by the co-ordinator.
The main VSG combinations chosen by students in St Kieranís College include: Engineering and Construction or Design and Communication Graphics (DCG); Construction and Business; Accountancy and Economics; Agricultural Science and Business. All staff members are provided with a list of the students following the LCVP. The teachers of the VSGs are aware of the students pursuing the programme and of the timing of activities, which helps to ensure that students do not miss crucial subject content. The subjects chosen readily lend themselves to the preparation of products for enterprise activities and, where possible, assistance is provided by other teachers to students in carrying out their enterprise activities. It is recommended that the core team should now focus on the development of cross-curricular links and interdisciplinary activities, an important aspect of LCVP, thereby heightening studentsí awareness of the links between the VSG subjects and their enterprise activities.†
While French, German and Spanish are offered in first year, most students participating in the programme do not have a Leaving Certificate language. These students are provided with a school-based language module in French, as appropriate for the requirements of LCVP.
3.1 Planning and preparation
There was a well thought-out structure to the lesson with initial presentation of definitions and placing the objective of the lesson in terms of specific learning outcomes.
3.2 Learning and teaching
An attractive learning environment had been created with clear charts of programme requirements and definitions of terms. The clarity of the charts displayed on the classroom walls helped students with understanding and retaining definitions. The computer room had also recently been upgraded and refurbished. In the double lesson observed, there was a good balance between the focus on knowledge and content, and a focus on terminology and definitions. The sharing of the lesson objective and the clarity with which the learning was directed were commendable. Lesson objectives were clearly articulated in terms of specific learning outcomes (SLOs) for the students, in line with the recommended approach in LCVP. A definition of the career investigation was given so the theory lesson was a good introduction to the students researching on a careers portal in the computer room. The second part of the double lesson observed was a very good example of successful co-operative team-teaching and all the teachers involved in delivering the Links Modules were available for teaching at the time. Teachers gave individual inputs, concentrating on development of specific skills and students were directed by teachers to linked websites for further information on careers and career paths. Links Modules teachers created the link with the theory lesson which preceded.
There was very good application and interest demonstrated by students. Students engaged with tasks assigned, applied themselves diligently and participated well. Teachers drew out quieter students skillfully. Questioning was initially open and was then directed at named individuals to ensure participation by all students, of all abilities. Teachers required students to be specific about skills and qualities and to clearly articulate and exemplify the skills in question. This approach was very effective. Teachers also paid good attention to the quality of student note-taking. There were some very good examples of active learning, where students worked in pairs, contributed to useful plenary discussion and worked independently on computers. At all times, there was excellent rapport between students and teachers and classroom management was very good.
Formative assessment is integral to the collegeís assessment policy and practice. Year heads monitor student performance on an ongoing basis. The homework journal is used to record homework assigned and for recording deadlines for the completion of tasks. At the time of the evaluation, there was evidence of careful monitoring of student portfolio work which was maintained to a high quality. There is also regular assessment through end-of-term and end-of-year formal written examinations. A range of assessment modes is utilised in the language module. The introduction of different forms of assessment for the language module was discussed with the language teachers.
There are formal meetings to review the programme in September and May each year. The previous year and the forthcoming year are discussed. Recommendations are drawn up and brought to the attention of the relevant teachers. A review of examination results is also undertaken. The outcomes of the programme have improved in the last two years and this has been welcomed and acknowledged by school management. Instances of non-completion of the programme have also been eradicated. The improvements and changes now being put in place will ensure successful programme outcomes into the future.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
Published January 2010