An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Crannóg Nua School
Crannog Nua High Support Unit
Portrane, County Dublin
Uimhir rolla: 20136N
Date of inspection: 16 April 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Crannóg Nua School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal and the teachers and with the management of the high support unit to which the school is attached. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers and examined students’ work. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the school staff and to the management of the high support unit. 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.
Crannog Nua School was established in 2002. It is located in Crannog Nua High Support Unit, Portrane, Co Dublin, a high support residential centre operated by the Health Services Executive. Crannog Nua High Support Unit and Crannog Nua School were initially established to cater for needs within the former Eastern Regional Health Authority area. Whilst still acting as a regional service with priority given to referrals from the eastern region, referrals from other areas may be considered. The school is recognised and funded as a special school by the Department of Education and Science (DES). The school staff includes a principal, three permanent teachers, and an allocation of thirty additional teaching hours. The school provides on-site education for young people who are resident in Crannog Nua High Support Unit. In certain limited circumstances non-resident students may be enrolled. At the time of inspection there were ten students on the school roll, of whom four were residents, two were day students, two were former residents who were receiving a transitionary outreach service, and two were residents in other centres. During the inspection five students attended in school.
In order to understand the context of the school it is necessary to consider the role and function of the high support unit (HSU) within which it operates. Crannog Nua HSU delivers high support residential care to children and young people, male and female, aged twelve to seventeen. High support is defined in the unit’s statement of purpose and function as an individualised programme of support for children and young people with exceptional needs, through the provision of a time-limited therapeutic intervention in a non-secure environment. Young people requiring high support care will have had difficult and stressful life experiences. They will have needs that, for the time being, cannot be met by other forms of care, such as fostering or conventional residential care. High support units are described as specialist residential care in that they provide high levels of care and supervision; unlike special care units, they are not defined as secure units. Typical length of stay is from nine to twelve months. Care is delivered by social care workers in residential units that provide for a maximum of six residents. Currently two units are in operation. Therapeutic support is provided by a child and adolescent mental health service team linked to the Mater Hospital. Education is provided by the on-site school.
This report deals with the education provided by Crannóg Nua School; Crannog Nua High Support Unit is inspected by the Social Services Inspectorate.
Crannog Nua HSU was established in 2002 by the former Northern Area Health Board (NAHB), within the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The NAHB acted as patron of the school. An assistant chief executive of the NAHB acted as manager of the school, in the absence of a board of management. Since the reorganisation of the health services in 2005, high support units and special care units have come within the remit of the Health Services Executive (HSE). The HSE has established a national management structure for this specialist residential sector. Within the HSE, the National Special Care and High Support Management Team now has responsibility for Crannóg Nua, including the school. At the time of the inspection a board of management had not been established for Crannóg Nua School. In the absence of a board of management the Director of Crannog Nua High Support Unit has provided local management support to the school principal. A number of key policies included in the school plan have been drawn up in consultation with the local management of the HSU. These policies reflect the role of the school within the overall service provided to the service-users.
It is recommended that the school patron proceed to establish an appropriately structured board of management for the school.
The internal management of the school is efficient and effective. The school principal has been in post since the school opened in 2002, having had significant previous experience teaching students with similar needs. She maintains active links with the management and care teams in the HSU and promotes a culture of frequent and open communication between teaching staff, care staff and therapeutic support staff. The deputy principal is currently on secondment to a post within the educational system. The acting deputy principal and the special duties teacher have been assigned appropriate and relevant responsibilities. They provide positive support to the principal in the day to day organisation of the school and in school planning and development.
School management has succeeded in recruiting a staff group that enables the school to provide a broadly based curriculum. The school’s allocation of teaching posts is used to provide classes in Art, Home Economics, Science, CSPE, SPHE, Mathematics, PE, English, Geography and Information Technology. All teachers are qualified at primary or post-primary level. In addition to the above subjects, Music classes and Drama classes are provided on one morning per week. School funds have been used to employ a general assistant for three days per week to carry out secretarial and general support work.
The commitment of the teachers to continuing professional development and to collaboration within the school and between the school and the residential and therapeutic staff, is evident. Brief information-exchange meetings are held in the school each Monday morning. A member of the therapeutic support team attends these meetings. Extended staff meetings are held monthly. Newly-appointed teachers are introduced through a programme of shadowing and of familiarisation with the work of the high support unit and school, and are mentored by the acting deputy principal. Staff members have participated in a range of workshops and short courses out of school time, in addition to whole-school engagement with national support services for curriculum support and school development planning. In line with policy and practice in the high support unit, the school staff has undertaken training in crisis prevention and intervention, using the Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) approach, and is committed to ongoing refresher training in this area. Continuing training in TCI, and training in relation to information and communication technology, have been identified as areas for future staff development. It is recommended that the rationale and priorities for staff professional development be outlined in a staff development policy in the school plan.
School accommodation is well matched to the school’s needs. The school occupies one of a group of single-storey buildings that also includes the residential houses and an administration block. This cluster of buildings faces onto a large grassed area and a hard-surfaced games area. The school building contains four general classrooms, an art room, home economics room, library/quiet room, principal’s office and a staffroom. The staffroom has refreshment facilities and computer access and is used by staff for planning, for formal and informal meetings and as staff resource area. Immediately adjacent to the school building is a sports hall/gymnasium with ancillary exercise rooms and a music room. The school has access to this building during the school day. School facilities are available for use by the residents, under care-staff supervision, after school hours. Cleaning and maintenance are carried out as part of the overall cleaning and maintenance function within the centre. All areas within the school are attractively presented and well maintained.
Classrooms are well resourced, with a wide range of materials that enable early engagement of newly enrolled students. The specialist areas for Home Economics and Art are well equipped to provide a suitable range of activities. Computers are available for staff and student use in all classrooms. Interactive whiteboards have been introduced in three classrooms. The sports hall and outdoor area provide for a range of games and sports. Department of Education and Science grants have been used to build up a range of materials suitable for specific curricular areas.
2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
In the context of Crannog Nua the maintenance of positive, collaborative relationships between the school and the high support unit within which it is located must be an essential concern for all involved, and is critical to the successful engagement of students in learning. Observation and discussion during this inspection indicated that these relationships are valued by the respective staff and management groups, are well managed and function effectively. Suitable formal structures and informal arrangements are in place to facilitate communication and co-operation between teaching staff, care staff and therapeutic support staff. These structures operate successfully at both staff level and management level. Management, care teams and therapists speak very positively about the quality of relationships and communication within the centre. Teachers communicate, by phone and face-to-face with relevant care staff, on a daily basis. The principal or acting deputy principal attends weekly meetings in each of the two residential units. The principal is part of the admissions committee and of the centre’s management team. On the care side, each resident has two named key workers. A teacher is nominated as link teacher to liaise with these key workers in respect of each student/resident. Case-review meetings, held every six weeks, or more frequently if necessary, are attended by a representative teacher.
The teachers interact in a respectful and supportive manner with the students. A degree of informality is combined with the maintenance of appropriate professional boundaries.
The school’s code of behaviour is sensitive to the ethos of the high support unit. Rules of behaviour are stated in positive terms, emphasising respect for self and others. The school's guidelines involve a graduated step-by-step approach, aimed at ensuring that behavioural difficulties are prevented or dealt with quickly and unobtrusively within the classroom by the teacher, or within the school with the assistance of the principal or another teacher. Alternatively, assistance may be sought from on-call care staff and the student may be asked to return briefly to his/her residence.
Each young person who is enrolled in the school is expected to attend daily. Where students are reluctant or refuse to attend school a proactive approach is adapted by the school staff in conjunction with the care staff. This may include the principal or deputy principal visiting the residence to speak with the student. Where difficulties persist, the school follows the appropriate guidelines in relation to informing the National Educational Welfare Board. A school incentive plan, introduced in its current form in April 2007, encourages daily attendance, punctuality, class participation and completion of classwork and homework. Performance in these areas is tracked through each class period and rewarded with a small monetary reward at the end of the week. An additional award is made for student of the week. Certificates are displayed in the school and a copy sent to the student’s residence. Observation during the end-of-week presentation indicated that this system is valued by the students. At the time of inspection, work was under way, with the support of the therapeutic support team, with a view to integrating this incentive system with incentive systems in the residences.
In line with the policy in the HSU, which has been adopted as school policy, all teachers have received training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI). The use of the TCI model across the campus provides a shared understanding and common language in relation to behavioural issues and has facilitated communication and collaboration among the respective staff groupings. To facilitate consistency of approach between school and residence, each resident’s individual crisis management plan is available in the school. Although TCI includes training in the safe use of appropriate physical-restraint techniques as a last resort, in practice the use of physical interventions by school staff is very rare. While the school maintains an incident book, significant incidents are recorded centrally within the HSU, and follow-up support is provided to students/residents and staff.
School policies have been drawn up through a process of collaboration among school staff, and in consultation, where appropriate, with care teams and the management of the high support unit. In some cases, unit policy has been adopted as school policy. The school plan includes a statement of vision and aims, an outline of the various curricular areas and a range of organisational policies, including health and safety policy and child protection policy. It also outlines areas for current development planning. These include review of the format for individual education plans and the school incentive programme, review of curriculum policy for Music and Information and Communication Technology, integration of interactive whiteboards within classroom teaching and development of a school garden. Areas identified for future attention include review of school report formats and report writing, the school’s use of the Junior Certificate School Programme, and school celebrations. The Draft Curriculum Framework for Children Detention Schools, High Support Units and Special Care Units, recently published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, will provide a useful reference point for ongoing curriculum planning.
It is recommended that ongoing review of the school plan should include a statement of the school’s commitment to collaboration with the care and therapeutic teams and the management of the HSU, reflecting current positive practice in this regard. It is also recommended that in the course of the ongoing review and development of the school plan, specific policies on literacy and numeracy across the curriculum should be included.
Evidence was provided to confirm that management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that school management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
All teachers give careful attention to planning and preparation, in a format that suits the particular context of the school. Weekly and monthly plans are prepared. Monthly review reports are compiled. Student attitudes, interests and subject-related skills are identified through initial in-class assessments and through short questionnaires completed by or with the student, the key worker and others. An individual education plan (IEP) format is used to identify strengths, needs and learning priorities. The IEP is reviewed at six-weekly intervals. An individualised plan for each subject covers a two-month period. The school contributes to the planning and review of the young person’s overall programme within the HSU, through attendance at weekly meetings and six-weekly review meetings.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The school uses its teaching resources efficiently to provide a curriculum that reflects the scope of the Primary School Curriculum and the areas of experience of the post-primary junior cycle.
While the timetable is adjusted daily in order to take account of the specific students that are due to attend, the master timetable and the typical provision for each week involves four lesson periods in English, four in Mathematics, four in Home Economics, four in Visual Art, four in Physical Education, one in Information and Communication Technology, three in Geography, two in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), one in Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), one in Science, one in Music and one in Drama. In addition to the key areas of English and Mathematics, there is a strong emphasis, both in the subjects offered and in the teaching approaches used, on active participation. This emphasis is appropriate and commendable in the context of the learning styles and needs of the students. The proportion of time allocated on the timetable to SPHE and CSPE, subjects that focus on attitudes, knowledge, and skills related to personal and social development is small in comparison to some other areas. This must be seen, however in the context of the cross-curricular approach used by the teachers in other subject areas. In this regard, classroom observation, document review and discussion with staff and management clearly indicated that teachers use lesson activities in Art, Home Economics, Physical Education and other areas as means for developing and consolidating personal and social skills and building the students’ confidence and self-esteem. It was also noted that the relaxed atmosphere that is created when students are engaged in practical activities allows for affirmative, informal verbal interaction between teachers and students. Similarly, all teachers seek opportunities to reinforce language, literacy and numeracy skills.
Students may prepare for subject examinations at Junior Certificate level and for certification through the Junior Certificate School Programme, in English Mathematics, Art, Home Economics, Geography, SPHE, CSPE, Music and Science. In the context of the typical length of stay in the high support unit, it is clear that access to mainstream certification is a significant motivating factor for the students, notwithstanding that they may need significant encouragement and support in applying themselves to the preparation involved. The school’s success in providing this support is commendable.
Students are encouraged to reflect on and discuss their own learning needs and their progress, as part of the normal classroom interaction, in the context of the development of individual education plans and as part of the Junior Certificate School Programme. This approach is commendable and can be developed further.
The English classroom contains a large stock of textbooks, workbooks, reading material, skills-practice material and computer software programmes. The range of materials available facilitates early engagement of new students in language activities, at an appropriate level. Some students require re-visiting and consolidation of initial reading skills; a range of support materials is available for this purpose. Most students have acquired sufficient literacy skills to allow them to use reading and writing as learning tools and to engage with post-primary school programmes. Three of the current students were preparing to take Foundation Level English in the Junior Certificate examination. Internet access, interactive whiteboard, and desk-top computers in the classroom allow for variety and active involvement in learning activities. Fiction books, aimed at teenage and young adult readers are incorporated in the classroom programme through a combination of student reading and teacher reading linked to discussion.
Information and Communication Technology
Students attend one class per week aimed at developing their skills in Information and Communication Technology. In addition, students use computers in the context of lessons across the curriculum. A wide range of software relevant to various subject areas is available. Students complete assignments involving word-processing and the use of e-mail, internet search engines and websites. All students are introduced to a computer-based touch-typing course.
Mathematics lessons are well paced. Student engagement is sustained through the division of the lesson period into a number of segments, each involving a different type of activity. Students are prepared systematically for Junior Certificate, generally at foundation level. Statements from the Junior Certificate School Programme are used as a structure for target setting and for acknowledgement of student application and progress. The teacher selects content from a range of mathematical programmes and textbooks in order to suit individual needs. Good use is made of computer software and an interactive whiteboard to provide resources and to record the students’ work. Basic number facts and number operations are revised and consolidated. There is an appropriate emphasis on developing the students’ understanding and use of mathematical language.
Within this curricular area Geography and Science are delivered as timetabled subjects. While History is not provided as a separate subject, aspects of History are incorporated with other subjects.
Students are prepared for Junior Certifcate Geography examinations. A range of textbook and workbook materials is used flexibly to support learning. Computer software packages add to the variety of the work and a recently introduced interactive whiteboard has added to the school’s capacity to engage the students actively and respond quickly to their interests.
Students attend one dedicated Science class per week. In addition, the Home Economics programme incorporates elements of Science. Four main themes are addressed: living things, energy and forces, materials, and environmental awareness and care. In keeping with the school’s emphasis on practical, hands-on activities, much of the work in this area is centred on direct observation, on everyday applications of science and on work related to the growing of indoor and outdoor plants. Plans are in train to establish a school garden area to facilitate work in this area. Science is not currently offered as a Junior Certificate Examination subject but the school can facilitate students who have been preparing for the examination prior to admission.
Arts Education is an area of particular strength in the school’s curriculum. Students have access to the three constituent subjects - Visual Arts, Music and Drama. Elements of the Home Economics programme also contribute to the range of experiences in this area. The opportunities for expressive and practical work within this area of the curriculum are particularly relevant to the needs and interests of the students.
The organisation of Visual Arts activities benefits from the availability of a well-resourced art room. The teacher ensures that students explore a wide range of techniques and materials, in line with the requirements of the Junior Certificate. Student preferences are reflected in the choice of themes. Students engage well in the lessons and display pride in their work. The quality of students’ work displayed in the art room and throughout the school is impressive. Teaching style is purposeful, with an appropriate degree of informality. A valuable cross-curricular dimension is provided through cooperation with other teachers in relation to shared topics and school events.
All of the students participate in music lessons, individually or in pairs. Teaching in this area is delivered by a visiting teacher who attends the school for three hours on one morning per week. A range of age-appropriate musical instruments and equipment is available, including tin whistles, guitars, drum kit and keyboards. An ancillary room in the sports hall has been set aside as a music room. Depending on interest and ability, students are prepared for Junior Certificate Music examinations. During the course of the inspection one student was observed making final preparations for the practical element of the examination.
Drama activities are delivered by a visiting teacher on one morning per week. Lessons in this area were not observed during the inspection.
4.6 Physical Education
The school has full access, during school hours, to a large sports hall with an ancillary exercise room and to large outdoor grassed and hard-surface areas that are marked for team and individual games. All of these facilities are well maintained and well equipped. As observed during inspection, students participate actively in well paced and varied lesson activities. Monitoring of the students’ fitness levels during the exercise room activities is a positive motivating factor.
The climate of interaction within the school is well suited to the development of student self-esteem and to the development and reinforcement of personal and social skills. Teachers see all subject areas as opportunities to promote development in this area.
For the purpose of his report, Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) and Home Economics are recorded under the umbrella of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). One SPHE lesson, two CSPE lessons and four Home Economics lessons are provided per week for all students. Teaching in the area of SPHE is conducted in small groups and where necessary on an individual basis. In both SPHE and CSPE a cross-curricular approach, involving teacher collaboration, is used. A particular example of this is an action project carried out as part of the CSPE programme, involving art, cookery and computer activities.
Students are timetabled for four classes per week in Home Economics. This is usually broken down into two practical cookery and food preparation classes, one craft class and one theory class. The scope within this subject area to engage the students in practical, motivating activities and to develop useful personal and social skills is effectively exploited. The well organised and well equipped Home Economics room is similar in style and layout to a domestic kitchen. It allows for students to take responsibility for the sequence of planning, preparing, cooking, and presenting a meal and evaluating both the product and their own input. Students engage actively in the lesson activities. Preparation for Junior Certificate provides a focus for student motivation in the longer term. The Home Economics curriculum also allows students to explore and develop skills in fabric-based crafts, providing further opportunities for engaging the students in practical work, and complementing the work done in Visual Arts.
Assessment of learning and assessment for learning are embedded within lesson activities. Students are encouraged to reflect on their own performance and to affirm their achievements. The involvement of the therapeutic support service ensures that the school has access to relevant assessment reports and to related advice from a psychologist, speech therapist and other professionals. Each teacher takes responsibility for carrying out initial assessments during the first six weeks of a student’s enrolment period, leading to the development of an individualised plan for each subject area and to an overall individual education plan (IEP). Much of the assessment work is carried out through teacher observation during set tasks and through the use of teacher designed tests and checklists. Standardised individual and group reading tests are used to establish reading ages and provide differential information in relation to aspects of literacy. The use of Junior Certificate School Programme targets and statements provides appropriate access to externally moderated assessment and encourages students to become involved in monitoring and discussing their own progress. The terminal examination format of the conventional Junior Certificate examination provides access to external certification associated with mainstream schooling and provides significant motivation and affirmation to the students.
The combination of the three dimensions of provision available within the centre - education, residential care and therapeutic support - creates a high level of support for the students/residents. The on-site therapeutic dimension, provided by the Mater Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in partnership with the Health Services Executive, is the equivalent of a half-time child and adolescent mental health services team. This is a valuable resource and represents a significant level of provision in the context of the competing needs for such services. Discussion and interaction with education, care and therapeutic personnel during the course of this inspection indicated that the therapeutic supports are highly valued and that a flexible interdisciplinary approach is in operation. The therapeutic support team includes expertise from the disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, speech and language therapy and psychotherapy. Team members provide assessment and consultation as well as working directly with students/residents. Formal and informal assessment work carried out by the team members contributes to individualised planning for education and care. While all members of the therapeutic support team work across the campus as needs arise, the speech and language therapist takes a particular liaison role in relation to the school. She attends school meetings on a weekly basis, provides advice to the teachers and contributes to school and staff development. She has noted what appears to be a pattern of difficulty among the students in relation to oral receptive language, in comparison with expressive language. Consequently, this aspect of language has been identified as an area for further joint attention by teachers and therapist.
While newcomer students or students from minority ethnic groups have not been a significant feature in the school’s enrolment, the school is commended for having a policy statement on inclusion of ethnic minorities in its school plan. The general climate of respect and affirmation for the individual students places the school in a strong position to respond positively to the needs of students from diverse backgrounds.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The principal provides active, supportive leadership and promotes respectful, collaborative, interaction at all levels within school community.
· The acting deputy principal and the special duties teacher provide effective support in day-to-day organisational matters and in school development planning.
· The school is well served by teachers that are committed, resourceful and adaptable.
· The quality of communication and co-operation involving the school, the staff and management of the high support unit and the therapeutic support team is commendable.
· The students are provided with a broad curriculum, with an appropriate emphasis on active learning and practical subjects.
· Teachers create a positive classroom environment that promotes student engagement.
· The three dimensions of provision - education residential care and therapeutic support - combine to ensure a high level of support for the students.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The school patron should proceed towards the establishment of an appropriately structured board of management for the school.
· The rationale and priorities for staff professional development should be outlined in a staff development policy in the school plan.
· A statement of the school’s commitment to collaboration with the care and therapeutic teams and the management of the HSU should be included in the school plan, reflecting current positive practice in this regard.
· In the course of ongoing review and development of the school plan specific policies on literacy and numeracy across the curriculum should be included.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the school staff and the management of the high support unit, where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed. A meeting was also held with the Health Services Executive’s national manager for high support and special care.
Published December 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
A good overview of the school
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
· Rationale and priorities for staff professional development to be outlined in a staff development policy and included in school plan.
· A statement of the schools commitment to collaboration with care and therapeutic teams and HSU management team to be included in school plan.
· Specific policies on literacy and numeracy to be devised for inclusion in school plan.