An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Evaluation of English as an Additional Language (EAL)

REPORT

 

Scoil Phobail Chúil Mhín

Cluain Saileach, Áth Cliath 15

Roll number: 91315O

 

     Date of inspection: 18 November 2008

 

 


 

Evaluation report on English as an additional language

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

Planning and co-ordination

Teaching and learning

Support for EAL students

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School response to the report

 

 

Report on Provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL)

 

 

Evaluation report on English as an additional language

 

This report has been written following an evaluation of provision for students learning English as an additional language (EAL) in Scoil Phobail Chúil Mhín, Cluain Saileach, Áth Cliath, 15. It presents the findings of the evaluation of provision, teaching and learning of EAL and makes recommendations for the further development of EAL in the school. The evaluation was conducted over three days during which the inspector visited support and mainstream lessons and observed teaching and learning. The inspector held meetings with the principal and with groups of teachers and students, and reviewed school planning documentation, teachers’ written preparation, and students’ work. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and EAL teachers. This report forms part of the evidence base for a forthcoming composite report on EAL provision in primary and post-primary schools, intended to inform Department of Education and Science policy and to promote good practice in schools. 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.

 

 

Whole-school support and provision for EAL

 

Scoil Phobail Chúil Mhín, generally known as Coolmine Community School, has served the local community since 1972. In recent years, the school has seen considerable changes in its catchment area in line with general demographic trends. Coolmine’s student population has become more culturally diverse and enrolment now includes a significant minority of students whose home language is not English. There have been only marginal increases in the overall number of EAL students in the last two years. The cohort of first years in 2008/09 is quite large however, and this has implications for future planning.

 

Dating from 28 October 2008, the school has an allocation of four whole-time equivalent (WTE) posts based on the school’s submission of seventy-four students eligible for EAL support, according to the regulations laid out in circular 0053/2007. The eligible number previously had been ninety-five and this had entitled the school to an allocation of five WTE posts. However, the school estimates that the number requiring support is considerably in excess of seventy-four and, at present, it is catering for all students identified by the school as requiring support. The principal undertakes the role of processing departmental allocations, works in conjunction with the EAL co-ordinator regarding the allocation of teachers to classes and maintains a monitoring brief.

 

Currently, seventeen teachers are deployed in the area of direct EAL support. While taking into consideration the fact that Coolmine has a current total enrolment of 1087 students, this is a large number for a teaching team. It is acknowledged that the number deployed assures some level of flexibility. The school reports that a large EAL teaching team increases staff awareness of the special educational needs of EAL students and contributes positively to an inclusive ethos. However, teaching contact is minimal in some cases and this does not facilitate the development of expertise in the area of EAL teaching. Some members of the teaching team have qualifications in the area of EAL and some have a language background. Taking due cognisance of resources, the changing needs of the school and the need for a flexible approach to support, it is recommended that a smaller, highly-qualified, specialist team be deployed in the area of EAL support teaching. A group of four teachers comprise the core EAL team. Led by the co-ordinator, the core team undertakes an organisational and planning role in addition to providing direct language support. Not all members of the core team have permanent status in the school. It is very desirable that the capacity of the core teaching team be developed and enhanced.

 

The school attempts to ensure that procedures for the placement of pupils across bands in first year are equitable. A number of strategies are used. In the first place, students undergo a group test of reasoning ability and achievement tests in English and Mathematics. The school acknowledges that no specific arrangements are made during the course of these assessments to cater for the special educational needs of those EAL students undergoing assessment. A second strategy used by the school to ensure equitable placement is consultation with the sixth-class primary school teachers in order to get an accurate picture of incoming students’ ability. This is standard procedure for all students. In a few specific cases, the EAL co-ordinator had contact with sixth-class teachers in the feeder primary schools. As a result of the pre-entry tests and information gleaned from the primary school, two bands are formed: the upper band (designated the A band) comprises a group of approximately ninety students that is subdivided into three mixed-ability classes. The second band of 120 students (designated the B band) is divided into five mixed-ability classes. The school reports that the first-year classes in each band are again reviewed after formation to see if a more equitable spread of EAL students can be arranged across the bands. While it is acknowledged that the school attempts to ensure equitable distribution of all students in first year based on its current procedures, the effect is that there is a considerable imbalance in the distribution of EAL students across both bands and classes and the majority are placed in the lower band in accordance with the school’s procedures. Some individual classes have a significant minority of EAL students while others have few or none.

 

It is commendable that the EAL co-ordinator, as stated above, has met primary school teachers in a few cases. This is good practice and should be formalised on an annual basis in order to develop a more accurate profile of the EAL cohort within the year group and thus assist planning.

 

In second and third year, it is reported that efforts are again made to distribute EAL students across class groups and bands. As in the case of first year, evidence gathered during the course of the evaluation indicates that EAL students are concentrated in the lower band and there is an uneven distribution of EAL students across the class groups within the lower band. In the case of the current second year group, the school reports that special conditions obtained in this current academic year that required the specific groupings to be made, that these arrangements are atypical and that teaching and learning has not been adversely affected.

 

It is commendable that the school adopts a flexible approach and any student who makes significant academic progress (including EAL students) is moved to the upper band based on criteria such as teacher referral or assessment outcomes or both. Currently there is one promoted EAL student in third year (who is no longer in receipt of language support). In second year, there is another promoted student who is still receiving language support. This student appears to be the only EAL student currently in receipt of support in the upper band in second year.

 

While acknowledging that the school attempts to meet the educational needs of all students, and to achieve equity in its class organisation, the imbalance in the assignment of EAL students to bands and the unevenness of distribution within the bands do not ensure optimal learning conditions in all classes and across all subjects and do not promote the values of an inclusive school. It is recommended that all procedures with regard to placement be reviewed. The division of students into streamed bands as early as first year should be reviewed and full mixed-ability setting introduced in first year. This would give greater flexibility in the assignment of EAL students.

 

At the end of first year there is a common Mathematics test. Based on this and on other assessment information, students are set for higher and ordinary level within band B for Mathematics and Irish in second and third year and are timetabled concurrently for these two subjects. It is commendable that student expectations are raised in the lower band: for example, it was noted during the evaluation that a second-year Mathematics group in the lower band was encouraged to take the higher level. This represents good practice and suggests that, since the majority of EAL students are placed in the lower band, they have an opportunity to take higher-level Maths. EAL students requiring support are generally withdrawn from Irish for those who have exemptions (the majority), and from Religious Education (RE) for those who do not participate or who do not have exemptions from Irish (a minority). Concurrent timetabling of Irish in the lower band facilitates withdrawal of EAL students for additional language support.

 

Students with EAL who arrive at different times of the year are interviewed by a member of the senior management team and allocated to class groups. Afterwards, the student is formally assessed by the member of the EAL team. The order of the sequence may need to be reviewed with testing by a member of the team taking place prior to placement in a class group. Where this proves impracticable, it is essential that testing takes place as early as possible to ensure accurate placement and minimise disruption to students who already have undergone considerable change.

 

Placement tests and materials used (including the English Language Proficiency benchmarks) have been found effective by the team to date. The testing tool kit referred to in circular 0053/2007 will be sent to schools early in 2009 and this should assist schools in their assessment procedures whether for placement or ongoing monitoring.

 

A flexible approach is adopted to timetabling for students with EAL. Timetabling allocation is generally good. The number of EAL lessons varies, with five support lessons on average for all year groups. It is commendable that year groups two, three, five and six are divided into three proficiency levels. Concurrent timetabling facilitates movement in line with developing competency. It is also commendable that one teacher is assigned to each group in most cases and this ensures continuity and consistency. In first year and TY, students are placed in mixed-ability groups. This is not in line with the better practice established in other year groups. It is recommended that groups of similar proficiency (applying the English Language Proficiency benchmarks) be formed in all year groups where at all possible and, where not, a carefully documented differentiated programme should be consistently implemented and monitored on an ongoing basis.

 

Students are withdrawn as individuals on only rare occasion as most are organised in peer groups of from two to ten students. Some of the first-year withdrawal groups and a small number of other discrete sets are taught by several different teachers for almost all lessons. This does not promote a consistent and cohesive approach to skills development and is not good practice. Moreover, each support teacher follows his or her own language programme although it is reported that different teachers liaise with each other and the core team. It is recommended that students be placed with the same teacher for every language-support lesson in order to make meaningful progress. All teachers should follow a common programme devised by the EAL core team in conjunction with the larger team and subject teachers, with adjustments being made for individual learners as need requires.

 

Team teaching is used to support targeted students in some junior cycle classes such as Science, History and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE). It was also used in Biology, English and Construction Studies last year. This is a positive initiative. To maximise its use, a review should take place to establish what is working well and what areas need to be improved. A range of subjects should be considered for team teaching based on an analysis of student achievement and consultation with all subject teachers in all programmes so that a targeted use of the strategy leads to real and measurable improvement. The intervention should be reviewed regularly as it may not be required on an ongoing basis. While it is desirable that the support teacher is a subject specialist, this is not always possible; planning and close co-operation between the two teachers should overcome this potential obstacle.

 

It is reported that the implications of not studying Irish are explained by the guidance counsellor at the open night for parents of first-year students. However, there is nothing in writing and this is an area that should be looked at with regard to enrolment procedures and Guidance in the junior cycle. In the short term, the information could be made available on the school’s website and preferably in a range of the most frequently spoken languages identified by the school. It is commendable that a basic course in Irish culture was provided in the past for EAL students. Since the school has a very positive ethos for Irish language and culture, it is well placed to examine again the possibility of helping more EAL students to access Gaeilge.

 

It is commendable that EAL students have access to the full curriculum and a very good range of optional subjects is provided. The school applies a best-fit model in optional subjects and makes every effort to ensure that students get their preferences. Coolmine Community School is commended for offering first-year students an opportunity to sample subjects before making choices through its year-long taster programme. Management reports that the programme is highly valued by all stakeholders. However, the length of the taster programme should be reviewed: most students will have made their subject choices much earlier in the year and EAL students would have a greater opportunity to develop proficiency in their chosen subjects were the programme to be shortened. Moreover, syllabuses assume a full three-year Junior Certificate programme and a year-long taster programme may impact negatively on syllabus delivery in the optional subjects.

 

Achievement in some subject areas gives cause for concern with a significant number of EAL students failing to achieve a D grade even at ordinary level, in one or more Leaving Certificate subject. It is reported that absenteeism is a major contributory factor in some cases. It is recommended that a comprehensive analysis of attainment takes place immediately with the purpose of gathering information and devising a range of intervention strategies to ensure that all EAL students achieve their full potential. Consultations with stakeholders should form part of the process. The outcomes of this research should inform all aspects of EAL support in the school. Very few EAL students attempt their home languages in the LC and therefore they are not maximising their opportunity to access third-level courses. It is reported that students are advised in this regard but current practice does not appear to be having any effect. It is recommended that the school adopt a proactive approach through its guidance programme. While a good guidance programme is available to all students, and particularly in the senior cycle, it does not have a specific EAL focus; this needs to be reviewed. It is recommended that EAL students’ progression be tracked by the guidance department after they leave the school in order to gather information that would inform provision and planning.

 

Resources for EAL are adequate for the most part. There are two EAL support rooms, one small room used for withdrawal and one larger room that functions as both a resource room and as a support classroom and this is a very useful facility. Mainstream classrooms are also used for EAL support. Usage needs to be reviewed. In a lesson observed, one of the large mainstream classrooms had just two EAL students. In another lesson observed, the support classroom was extremely small and unsuited to a relatively large group. It is acknowledged that there is severe pressure on classroom accommodation. Therefore, where possible, the school should ensure that all spaces in which EAL support is taught are suitable for the purpose. The team has invested considerable effort in building up a range of resources, particularly text resources and these are stored in the main EAL room. Some documents have been translated and there are plans for further development. The department is also developing a handbook for EAL students. All first years are to develop a European language passport. The department attempts to maintain a good interface with other departments, especially the English department. It has developed useful referral forms for subject teachers but evidence suggests that these are rarely used. The school has a substantial library space but it is not being used for the purpose for which it was intended. An audit of current use should be considered. It may be possible to subdivide the large space in order to create a designated library to benefit all students. In the short term, the school should seek to build up a stock of books in the main home languages in order to ensure that EAL student literacy skills do no decline. These books and other resources, if available, could be stored in the EAL resource room. In addition to accessing specialist websites, the school should seek assistance from parents and ethnic community groups in this regard and this would also have the advantage of involving the communities in the school. Resources and facilities in the area of information and communications technology (ICT) are underdeveloped for EAL support. ICT is used well for research and teachers are proactive in seeking information and resources in the subject area. There is very little evidence of student use of ICT in an EAL context. Access is an issue. All classrooms are wired for broadband. The school is conscious of the need to develop ICT and is currently planning to invest in a number of data projectors. It is recommended that a plan for the use of ICT (to include student use) be integrated into the plan for EAL and that resources be a specific focus for future development.

 

The school is commended for organising whole-staff continuous professional development (CPD) in the area of inclusive practice. Actions included participation in a research programme; dissemination of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) Intercultural Guidelines; and two in-school planning days dedicated to staff CPD in August and November 2008. Individual EAL and other subject teachers have also been proactive in regard to CPD and are commended. Training will be provided by the Department of Education and Science in the near future for EAL support teachers: information gleaned should be presented to a whole-staff meeting and good practice should be disseminated as an extension of the school’s very good CPD initiative.

 

 

Planning and co-ordination

 

Coolmine Community School has attempted to create a culturally diverse and inclusive ethos. It is very commendable that the school has developed an intercultural policy that has been translated into three languages. An intercultural day was also held in 2008 and there are plans to develop this initiative further in 2009. There is a small intercultural display in the reception area, two large notice boards, one featuring “Faces of Coolmine” and the other a world map elsewhere in the school and welcome signs on EAL classrooms. The school has an admissions policy that was reviewed in January 2008. However, the document should now be fully written up so that it is ready for dissemination. A date for the next review should appear on all planning and policy documents. The school has a whole-school guidance policy that lists policy documents. A considerable proportion of this policy records the consultation process itself; this information should be presented in an appendix. There is also a specific guidance policy and plan. In the course of review, the school should ensure that the guidance policy refers to the special needs of EAL students. The school’s code of behaviour is currently under review and this is positive as some aspects of the code require elaboration and reconsideration. In response to concerns that suspension was being over-used as a strategy to modify EAL student behaviour, the school conducted a survey to establish suspension patterns of EAL students. The analysis pointed up one case of severe recidivism that distorted the statistical return; the general pattern of EAL student suspension was in line with the majority student population. In the case of the senior cycle, suspensions of EAL students were well below the majority school population confirming the school’s view that most EAL students are motivated and compliant with school regulations. The school’s organisation of classes in the junior cycle (referred to above) should be examined, however, in the context of behaviour management.

 

The school has established a very good structure to support planning and delivery of EAL. The role of EAL co-ordinator is a special duties post and is clearly defined to include management of the programme and regular contact with senior management. Co-ordination is conscientious and efficient and is highly commended. The co-ordinator has been proactive in responding to changing needs and in developing initiatives informed by a reflective ethos. The co-ordinator is ably assisted by the core team. Regular formal meetings take place and records are maintained.

 

The core team has done a great deal of work in the area of planning and is highly commended in this regard. Praiseworthy targets have been set for this year. There is an outline plan for EAL in place using the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) template. The EAL plan does not contain details of the programmes of work for each year group and the three proficiency levels. Instead, each teacher has his or her own programme within a very broad framework. To build on the good work completed, it is now recommended that a comprehensive plan and common programme of work be developed for the delivery of EAL. The subject plan should fully document the scheme for each year group and each proficiency level and it should ensure a balance between the teaching of basic interpersonal communication skills and cognitive academic language, that is, the language of instruction. It is strongly recommended that learning outcomes in relation to the acquisition of the language of instruction be clearly detailed in the programme for EAL support for all year groups and proficiency levels. The plan should document the teaching methods to be deployed, resources to be used, a timeframe for the delivery of the programme, assessment methods across all skills, (speaking, listening, reading and writing), and reporting procedures to be followed. The links between the support classes and mainstream classes across all subjects and programmes should be clearly indicated. The common EAL plan and schemes should be implemented by all support teachers; individual support teachers’ schemes and individual lesson plans should mirror the department scheme with adjustments being made for the needs of individual learners within the programme. In the course of developing the plan, wide consultation should take place with all EAL support teachers, all subject teachers, and EAL students and their parents.

 

It is commendable that the core team actively seeks links and opportunities to discuss pedagogical issues with other professionals in the field. The department should develop a policy in the area of CPD and should identify the team’s training needs. The Department of Education’s forthcoming training programme, planned for EAL support teachers, should prove of considerable benefit in helping the core team develop all aspects of planning.

 

Subject department planning for EAL students is an area currently under development. In the relevant section of the documents examined, it is commendable that there is recognition of the core principles that should characterise an inclusive classroom and it is understood that there has been a positive response to recent staff CPD initiatives. However, there is a lack of consistency, firstly, between subject departments, and secondly, with regard to implementation at individual teacher level. Some of the subject documentation in regard to support for EAL students is more detailed and makes specific reference, for example, to the Intercultural Guidelines and this is commended; other plans are vague. Some subject departments are more proactive in engaging with the EAL team than others. There should be consistency between departments both in planning and in implementation, with adjustments being made for subject-specific requirements. Subject departments should make their plans available to the EAL co-ordinator either in hard copy or electronically. Collaborative subject planning should ensure that there are no barriers to student movement between levels. Subject departments should document how the language of instruction is specifically targeted at EAL students; subject plans in all cases should document the methods and resources that are to be used for EAL students. Subject departments should share good practice and should formally liaise with the EAL co-ordinator.

 

In the second case, evidence gathered during the evaluation points to inconsistent practice in the classroom and an uneven level of communication between individual mainstream teachers and the EAL support team. All subject teachers must develop a consistent response based on the core principle that all teachers are teachers of language. It is the responsibility of the individual subject teacher to implement the subject department’s policy and general policies in relation to support for EAL students, to liaise with the EAL department, to monitor the progress of each EAL student in the group, to maintain records of assessment and to ensure that the student is fully supported to access the subject. All teachers should take full advantage of EAL referral forms to help the EAL students access their subject more effectively. All teachers should supply keywords to the EAL core team to be taught to EAL students and should indicate the key concepts that will be taught in short-term plans in order to fully support the EAL student.

 

Individual support-teacher planning, based on evidence and reports, is conscientious on the whole. However, a large team of teachers each with differing schemes of work, even within a common framework, is not likely to ensure consistent and cohesive delivery of an effective EAL support programme. Variations in terms of the delivery of programmes were noted during the course of the evaluation. There is a good level of co-operative planning between the teachers in team-teaching contexts. The evaluation points up the urgent need for a common programme as outlined above that is consistently implemented by all support teachers to ensure that EAL students access the full curriculum.

 

Planning in mainstream subjects was good in most but not all lessons observed. It is recommended that all subject teachers plan lessons and programmes to ensure that lesson time is productive, that learning takes place and that the particular needs of EAL students in the key areas of teaching methods, deployment of resources and assessment are considered.

 

Health and safety issues are, it is reported, clearly explained to students in practical classes at the start of the year and the information is displayed in specialist rooms in English. It is recommended that these be translated into the most frequently occurring languages in the school and displayed alongside the English version.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

Three support classes and four mainstream curricular classes across three programmes were visited. One lesson was a double practical class. In some cases, it is commendable that the learning aim was announced to the students. In most mainstream classes, lessons maintained a clear line of development to achieve the learning intention. It is recommended that in all lessons, teachers write the learning intention on the board and also record the key learning outcomes to be achieved by the end of the lesson. This is helpful to all students as it gives clear purpose to learning. The closing phase of the lesson should be used to check if the outcomes have been achieved through whatever form of assessment is considered most suitable, be it oral questioning or setting a brief practice written task. This would allow the teacher an opportunity to assess whether or not the learning intention has been achieved and what modifications are needed for reinforcement in specific cases. In a minority of classes, both support and mainstream, the pace may have been somewhat slow.

 

Methods to support full inclusion were very good in some cases. Good practice was observed in a team-teaching context where an EAL support teacher provided a useful visual support for the target students. The same resource could have been of great benefit to all students in the class group. The target students were constantly monitored and supported by the EAL teacher. Particularly commended in a practical lesson observed was the methodical outlining of the process and the use of illustrations to support each stage of the process. The overhead projector was used in a lesson observed and the diagrams used helped clarify meaning. The board was used very well in most classes. Further use of visual material should be explored and care taken to ensure that it can be seen by all students. Contextualised learning was supported in lessons observed. There was very good use of non-verbal clues in some cases, such as demonstration to reinforce concepts and this benefited all students while at the same time securing a good level of engagement and response. It is commendable that active learning methods were used in some cases. Teacher support was very good in most cases and exemplary practice was observed in a few so that students had a clear understanding of their task and all were engaged in the learning process. Very good practice was observed in a lesson where concepts were clearly and patiently explained and where explanation was reinforced by board illustrations, a prop and demonstration. Teachers set practice tasks and this facilitated individual monitoring and discrete support for all students who needed it. This is highly commended. ICT was used well in one lesson: the effect would have been even better had a data projector been used to enlarge the screen image.

 

Questioning technique was good where there was a clear link with the stated learning intention and extraneous issues were not allowed to intrude or disrupt the lesson. Highly commended were questions that challenged all students within a carefully planned lesson structure. Methods extending speaking and writing skills were evident in support classes and in some mainstream classes. Students demonstrated good techniques in relation to reading skills to identify key points: in one instance it was very clear that EAL students were conversant with the methods used and performed required actions routinely and fluently. It is commendable that new words were written on the board. Language development was very good in a support lesson where very high expectations were set in relation to vocabulary development in the case of an advanced senior group. The lesson was well scaffolded with creative resources and a very strong level of interaction between students. In a team teaching context, the support teacher ensured that students had access to bilingual dictionaries and this is good practice. In a small minority of cases, students are not receiving meaningful practice in writing and there is no feedback on the quality of written work: this does not allow EAL students to develop written language proficiency in the subject area. EAL students should have adequate practice to develop all of their language skills.

 

The use of the home language is not actively discouraged in any lesson, nor is there any policy as such that discourages its use in the school; however English is expected in the normal run of school life. Subject teachers should acquaint themselves with the potential of the home language to help students advance in the learning process. It is particularly commendable that some advanced, high-achieving and motivated EAL students took a leading role in peer tutoring in a lesson observed. Students were confident in their learning in those classes where activities were carefully structured, where evidence of planned activities and of reinforcement of learning was present and where there was good support through use of worksheets and other resources. In most lessons observed, there was a supportive atmosphere of mutual respect.

 

In most lessons, there is ongoing monitoring of students’ progress through informal observation, homework and tests, both formal and informal; in most cases, good records are maintained. Students are given feedback on their progress in a variety of ways. It is commendable that a space is made available on the formal school report form issued to parents indicating students’ progress in EAL. At parent-teacher meetings, the EAL team also use Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) resources, if necessary, to assist communication. Assessment feedback (oral or written) is given to students in most classes; it should be provided in all lessons to guide learning and make homework tasks meaningful. In a minority of classes, no records of student assessment or progress are kept. This is a matter that must be addressed: it is good professional practice to record student assessment across a range of skills in order to gather accurate information and to track student progress. This information can then be shared with other concerned professionals in order to assist students in their learning.

 

The EAL department is highly commended for its monitoring of EAL students’ progress through the school’s e-portal system allowing the core team to access formal progress reports on EAL students that are sent home to parents.

 

 

Support for EAL students

 

Coolmine Community School has a well integrated and organised system of supports for students to include a care team, year heads and tutors. One of the two deputy principals manages the school’s pastoral care system. There is a Meitheal programme through which senior students support junior students. It is reported that five EAL students are directly involved and this is highly commended. The school has also initiated a “Buddy” system for EAL students. It is also commendable that this year, the EAL co-ordinator and core team have been developing welcome packs for EAL students to be ready for the forthcoming academic year, 2009/10.

 

The question of EAL student absenteeism has already been referred to in terms of student achievement. While the majority of EAL students attend on a regular basis, and indeed, some have received awards, in a very small number of cases, there is a serious issue regarding absenteeism, often linked to personal family circumstances. The school is satisfied that it has robust attendance strategies in place. It may be necessary to target specific strategies at EAL students and this should be reviewed by the school as part of the general analysis of EAL student achievement.

 

Guidance is provided for all students, at a personal, educational and vocational level. The school’s chaplain also provides a service. EAL students have good access to personal counselling. Referrals come from a number of sources to include parents and teachers but self-referral on the part of students is said to be very common. The EAL team has an important role in referral and in advocacy. It is commendable that the theory of multiple intelligences underpins guidance planning and testing. There is a well-developed interface between the EAL and learning-support departments and learning support is well organised in the school. Approximately thirteen of the current EAL cohort needs learning support in addition to language support. Appropriate testing has been a challenge and the school has been proactive in addressing this issue. Regular team meetings take place.

 

The school reports that there is a good level of interaction between EAL students and the remainder of the student cohort and EAL students have integrated well. A focus group of EAL students selected by the school reported that, in general, they were happy with the level of integration and supports they receive. As a feature of ongoing school self-evaluation, the intercultural policy should be reviewed. In advance of next year’s intercultural event, it is suggested that plenty of advance information be provided and that the scope of the week be increased. In a meeting with a focus group of EAL students, there did not appear to be great awareness of the intercultural day already held. The student council is valued in the school and is representative of all students. The school should explore how the council could be further used to promote inclusion.

 

In the past, the Parents’ Association has been well supported by parents of EAL students. This is positive and it may be necessary to renew efforts in this regard. The school has also attempted to promote good communication with parents through arranging for documents to be translated and is looking at further ways of ensuring that school documentation is available in the most frequently occurring languages. The co-ordinator has sourced translation of some useful documents. The guidance department and the EAL co-ordinator have established useful links with a good range of external agencies. It is reported that extra-curricular and co-curricular activities such as sport, dance and singing have proved very important in promoting inclusion and this is commended. The EAL core team has also established a lunch-time board-games club for EAL students; it is open to all students and is reported to be working well. Such commitment and initiative are highly commended.

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

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

 

 

 

A meeting was held with members of the EAL teaching team, the principal and deputy principal following the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, June 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 


 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection 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.