An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Josephís Adolescent and Family Services School

St. Vincentís Hospital, 193 Richmond Road

†Fairview, Dublin 3

Uimhir rolla: 20153N

 

Date of inspection: †14 May 2008

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction Ė school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Josephís Adolescent and Family Services 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teacher, the schoolís board of management, and a parent representative. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed learning and teaching. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupilsí work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector also reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

 

1.†††† Introduction Ė school context and background

 

St. Josephís Adolescent and Family Services School is located on a site adjacent to St. Vincentís Hospital, Fairview, Dublin 3 and provides education for pupils aged thirteen to eighteen years who are experiencing mental health difficulties. The school is categorised by the Department of Education and Science as a special school for adolescents with emotional disturbance and/or behaviour problems and is designated a teacher: pupil ratio of 1:6. The school principally serves pupils who reside in North Dublin City and County Dublin. The school is a day-service and pupils attending the school generally reside in their ordinary place of residence. On occasions and if deemed appropriate, pupils resident in St. Vincentís Hospital attend the school for periods of time during the school day. At the time of the evaluation there were ten pupils enrolled in the school. Pupils enrolled in the school are availing of a tertiary service designed for pupils who require a level of therapeutic intervention that cannot be provided for by community mental health teams. Referrals are accepted only from secondary services such as child or adult mental health services and teen counselling services. Pupils are accommodated in attending the school in accordance with their identified needs. The length of the enrolment period varies in accordance with the needs of each individual pupil. Enrolment trends indicate that this provision continues to be warranted. Regular and systematic reviews of placements demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that pupils remain in the school for as short a period as possible.

 

Staff consists of one teaching principal and one class teacher. An allocation of 500 teaching hours has been sanctioned annually through the Vocational Educational Committee to facilitate the school in providing pupils with access to specific subject areas as required. At present teachers are employed for the teaching of Woodwork, Visual Arts and Gaeilge from within this allocation, The school has daily access to nursing care and speech and language therapy. Currently two nursing posts, a service manager post and one speech and language therapist post are allocated to the school. The services of a consultant psychiatrist, psychologist and psychotherapist are also available as required. The trans-disciplinary approach adopted by staff in the school was observed to impact positively on pupilsí educational placements.

 

Praiseworthy attention has been directed towards providing a clear sequence to the school day in order to create a structured and organised learning environment. Pupils were observed to respond positively to this process. A daily handover session is conducted with relevant multi-disciplinary staff in order to share information and plan for the day ahead. A daily fifteen-minute assembly is conducted with pupils and a representative from teaching and nursing staff in order to discuss the dayís timetable and concerns that may arise. Mobile phones are handed over to the nursing staff for safe keeping during the school day. All recess periods are closely supervised and constructively used to promote extra-curricular activities that include pool, board games, walking, tennis, and listening to music. Pupils are supported in socialising with their peers and encouraged to discuss current affairs and popular topics. The provision of the daily newspaper was observed to effectively stimulate discussion.

 

The school day commences at 9.00 am and finishes at 2.45 pm. A team meeting takes place weekly on Tuesday mornings in relation to individual pupils and is attended by relevant multi-disciplinary staff members. Pupils attend school from 11.30 am on Tuesday mornings to facilitate this process. †

 

The schoolís mission statement is concerned with providing a therapeutic and supportive milieu that aims to promote the full and harmonious development of each pupil. The role of education in the rehabilitation of the pupils is affirmed and attention is directed towards promoting the holistic development of each pupil in an atmosphere that fosters care, respect, inclusivity and social responsibility.

 

 

2. ††††Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and endeavours to meet five times annually or more often if required. A collaborative and collegial approach to the management of the work of the board is evident and board roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated. A praiseworthy commitment to supporting the school and proactively developing provision in order to optimise pupilsí progress and rehabilitation is apparent. Satisfaction was expressed by the board in relation to the curriculum in place in the school and the achievement of pupils. It is evident that the board engages in a process of self-evaluation in relation to its effectiveness as a board in successfully supporting and managing the work of the school. The board has been actively involved in the school development planning process and a number of policies have been dated, signed and ratified by the board. In the context of advancing the school development process, it is advised that all policies are dated, signed, ratified by the board and a review date identified. It is further advised that reference is made to the Equal Status Act 2000-2004 and Circular 22/02 in the enrolment policy in order to ensure that the policy is explicitly referenced to the provisions of the legislation and the Circular. The board has constructively identified the provision of career guidance and vocational preparation as areas of priority for future development.

 

The attendance book, registers and roll books are regularly maintained. It is recommended that attention is directed to ensuring that all requisite information is documented in these records. The positive practices observed in relation to promoting pupilsí attendance should be documented and included in the school plan. The compilation of a policy in relation to the procedures for liaising with the pupilís prior educational placement and the structures adopted for sharing of information would greatly assist in the clarification of this process.

 

Some members of the board have attended training in relation to their work. A need for training in relation to on-going legislative and policy developments was articulated. The board expressed a willingness to access this training as required in the future.

 

2.2 In-school management

Staff members display a praiseworthy understanding of the management structure of the school. Collaboration and open communication are a feature of staff relations and a shared vision for the school is evident. A commendable partnership approach to school leadership and curriculum implementation impacts positively on the education being provided in the school. The establishment of a caring ethos and high expectations in relation to pupilsí behaviour contribute to the creation of a responsive learning and teaching environment. The post of responsibility in the school is vacant at present and will be allocated following completion of the required official procedures that are currently underway. The principal was appointed to the position in September 2006. He displays strong and effective leadership qualities and adopts a proactive approach to the management of the school. He is concerned to develop and improve the education provision in the school and is receptive to advice in relation to his role. A supportive school environment is cultivated and the expertise and contribution of multi-disciplinary personnel are valued and incorporated appropriately in curriculum delivery. The principal demonstrates a praiseworthy commitment to providing both a therapeutic and appropriately educationally challenging milieu to enable the pupils to flourish in the school.

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

Staff is beneficially deployed with reference to their qualifications, expertise and experience. Team-teaching is used to good effect and optimises the pedagogical skills of both teachers. There is a commitment to developing a culture of continuing professional development (CPD) in order to develop the knowledge and skills of staff in meeting the diverse needs of the pupils in the school. Staff has attended relevant CPD provided by the Special Education Support Service and Curriculum Support and School Development Planning Services. It is recommended that the CPD accessed by staff is recorded in the school plan and that priorities for future CPD are identified. These priorities should reflect the increase in age to eighteen of the definition of a child in accordance with the Mental Health Act, 2001 and the associated impact this will have on the educational needs of the prospective pupil population.

 

School accommodation and environs are adequate and are maintained to a high standard by staff employed by St. Vincentís Hospital. The school building consists of three permanent classrooms, a kitchen, a shared general-purpose area, two meeting rooms, indoor storage space, staff and pupil toilets, and office space allocated to health personnel. Outdoor recreation areas comprise a spacious grass area and hard court surface. Particular attention is directed to issues of health and safety. Maintenance and cleaning personnel, school staff and pupils are to be commended for creating a safe and hygienic school environment. A safe means of access and egress is in place and methodical systems of work are in operation. The school endorses St. Vincentís Hospital Departmental Safety Statement, which has been developed in consultation with the school.

 

A range of motivating teaching resources relevant to each subject area of the curriculum is available and used appropriately. Teacher-devised materials assist in the provision of differentiated and engaging learning and teaching opportunities. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is beneficially used to augment pupilsí curriculum access. A policy on the acceptable use of the internet has been developed and aims to ensure that pupils will benefit from learning opportunities in a safe and effective manner. Pupilsí access to the internet is closely supervised and monitored. It is recommended that an action plan to further develop ICT facilities is considered.

 

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

School policies are concerned to promote the meaningful involvement of parents/guardians/carers in pupilsí programmes. The critical role of parents/guardians/carers in encouraging and supporting pupils is constructively acknowledged and encouraged. Regular communication with parents/guardians/carers is promoted. At the pre-evaluation meeting with the parentsí representative, satisfaction was expressed with the education being provided for pupils at the school. It is recommended that parents are informed with regard to the arrangements for circulation of the school plan. Addressing the sensitive nature of transitioning pupils back to their former placements and the importance of providing alternative second-level programmes at the school were identified as issues of concern for parents/guardians/carers. It is to be noted that the school is currently in the process of further developing these areas.

 

An ethos of co-operation, consultation and teamwork permeates the work of the school. There is ongoing liaison and consultation with the pupilsí former and prospective educational placements, outside agencies and relevant health and medical personnel to support pupilsí rehabilitation. A partnership approach is constructively adopted to pupilsí induction, progression and transitioning.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

On admission to the school, a key teacher and a primary nurse are assigned to each pupil to assist in supporting the pupilís educational placement. A positive approach to behaviour management based on the principles of consideration, courtesy, respect and tolerance is evident. Pupils and staff are to be commended for the high standard of behaviour that was observed during the evaluation. A strong sense of community is nurtured among pupils and staff. The roles of teachers and management, parents/guardians/carers and pupils in relation to the effective management of behaviour and the creation of a secure learning environment are clearly detailed in the school plan. Mutually respectful interactions are consistently and successfully promoted. High expectations in relation to appropriate behaviour and standards of effort and achievement are affirmed. Clear communication, teacher-modelling and appropriate guidance are employed effectively in the management of pupilsí behaviour. Reference is beneficially made to the proposed Guidelines for a Code Behaviour to be prepared by the National Educational Welfare Board and it is planned to review the code of behaviour with reference to these guidelines in April 2009. As these Guidelines have now been issued, it is advised that this review process is initiated at the beginning of the next school year.

 

 

3.†††† Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Attention has been directed towards engaging in a school planning process related to the specific needs of the school. The school plan contains a range of curricular and organisational details and policies related to enrolment, behaviour, anti-bullying, internet use, homework and curriculum. Health and safety policies articulate a concern to provide a safe and healthy working environment for pupils and staff. The school has beneficially liaised with St. Josephís Adolescent and Family Service in adopting a range of health and safety-related guidelines and procedures. Draft policies have been compiled in respect of special education, assessment and child protection. The curricular section of the plan is less developed and requires greater detail in relation to the aims, content outline, teaching strategies and methods, resources, differentiation and assessment modes associated with individual subject areas. Attention should also be directed towards systematically outlining specific targets, timeframes, responsibilities and monitoring procedures in the developmental section of the plan.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management is currently in the process of formally adopting the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). It is intended that these child protection procedures will be brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures will be provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management will ensure that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines. It is recommended that the Draft Child Protection Policy detailing compliance with Primary Circular 0061/2006 is now dated, signed and ratified by the board of management and the above procedures put in place.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

Teachers plan for their work with reference to the relevant syllabi of the second-level curriculum. Short-term planning variously refers to the chosen topic, learning aims and objectives, reflections and evaluations, resources and materials, lesson outline, differentiation, homework, feedback and conclusion, assessment of pupilsí learning and implications for the next lesson. Teachers work collaboratively and meet together to plan for their work. Planning and preparation indicate that attention is directed towards employing differentiated approaches to learning and teaching. Links are discernible between the content of the school plan and individual teachersí planning. Planning for curricular linkage is a feature of practice. It is advised that a whole-school approach to curriculum planning is adopted based on the requirements of the Rules for National Schools, 1965 and taking cognisance of the flexibility required in the context of the transient nature of the pupilsí placements in the school.

 

 

4.†††† Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

A broad and balanced curriculum is provided and is regularly reviewed in accordance with the strengths, interests and needs of the pupils in the school. Pupilsí individual learning and teaching programmes are based on the second-level curriculum. Second-level certificate programmes are provided in accordance with the identified requirements of pupils who are enrolled in the school at any particular time. The school demonstrates a willingness to provide pupils with access to appropriate second-level programmes in order to ensure that pupils continue to follow second- level programmes that they were previously pursuing in their former school placements. At the time of the evaluation, pupils were observed engaging in English, Mathematics, Geography, Visual Arts, Woodwork, Physical Education, Social Personal and Health Education and the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme. Curricular linkage with the science curriculum was a positive feature of practice. The objectives of each lesson are constructively shared with pupils, which impacts positively on pupilsí engagement and motivation. The careful structuring of lessons ensures that the content and pace are appropriate to the individual pupil/class group, the subject being taught and the time allocated. A diversity of teaching strategies is used that includes direct teaching, task analysis, teacher-modelling, brain storming, talk and discussion, individual, group and class teaching, activity and investigative approaches. Active and purposeful involvement of pupils in their own learning is consistently fostered. Teachers effectively engage in specific, relevant and clear questioning techniques. Teachers are conscious of the importance of formally and informally directing pupilsí attention to examination techniques and study skills in a sensitive and focused manner. Differentiated teaching methods are successfully used in meeting pupilsí needs and lessons are appropriately challenging. Pupils co-operate with their peers and teachers and demonstrate familiarity and competence in the relevant subject areas in accordance with their needs and abilities.

 

4.2 Language

 

English

The role of language in shaping and ordering experience is acknowledged and attention is directed towards developing pupilsí receptive and expressive language skills during all curricular activities. Functional oracy and social communication skills are consistently developed and promoted. Individual programmes are in place that nurture the intellectual, imaginative and emotional growth of each pupil through developing pupilsí proficiency in the arts and skills of language. Pupils are supported in exploring texts and forming ideas in relation to a variety of genres that includes literature, poetry, media, fictional and non-fictional texts. A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on promoting respect for the linguistic competence of each pupil and pupils were observed to think, respond and communicate confidently. Cognisance is taken of the programmes that pupils are pursuing in their former school placements and the school is to be commended for ensuring that pupils continue to access these programmes. Pupilsí comprehension is systematically checked in an interactive and non-intrusive manner. The provision of regular and constructive feedback enhances and extends pupilsí learning. Self-checking is promoted and pupils competently edit their own work. A combination of oral, written and symbolic instructions is used successfully to maintain pupilsí on-task behaviour. Pupilsí identified interests are beneficially incorporated in the teaching of English, which impacts positively on the development of pupilsí literacy skills. Information and Communication Technology is used to augment the writing process and pupils are expected to present their work clearly and legibly.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

Pupils are encouraged to develop positive attitudes towards Mathematics and activities are purposefully designed to stimulate pupilsí interests and optimise task-engagement. Realistic target-setting and expectations contribute to the pupilsí achievement of success and increasing confidence. The criticality of building on pupilsí existing mathematical knowledge, skills and understanding is emphasised. Praiseworthy attention is directed towards developing pupilsí ability to problem-solve, manage abstractions and generalisations and recognise and present logical arguments. Pupilsí involvement in their own learning is facilitated and opportunities are created for pupils to discuss potential difficulties as an integral part of the learning process. Mathematical concepts are explained clearly, which allows pupils to engage effectively with mathematical relations and symbolism. Liaison with pupilsí prior placements ensures continuity and stability in pupilsí learning. Interactive learning is used constructively to engage pupilsí attention to their respective tasks. Task-analysis provides pupils with shorter tasks punctuated with enjoyable mathematic-related activities. The linking of the teaching of Mathematics with pupilsí life experiences and other curricular areas is particularly effective.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

Geography

Geography stimulates pupilsí awareness and interest in the wider world and cultivates an understanding of the interrelatedness of human and natural environments. Physical Geography enables pupils to examine environments at local, regional, national and global levels. Social Geography increases pupilsí awareness and appreciation of diversity. The pupilsí understanding of primary, secondary and tertiary economies is developed through Economic Geography. An emphasis is placed on the importance of clearly recording, interpreting and communicating geographical information. The promotion of discovery and problem-solving successfully develops pupilsí geographer-skills. The use of maps, globes, diagrams, photographs and plans develops pupilsí understanding of spatial information. Focused questioning techniques, unambiguous feedback and the provision of stimulating teaching resources contribute to pupilsí on-task behaviour. Maintaining direct links with the second-level geography syllabi provides pupils with continuity in their learning experiences.

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in Visual Arts on a weekly basis. The creative process and learning potential are emphasised during activities and pupils are encouraged to express themselves in secure and appropriately scaffolded contexts. Pupils demonstrate a willingness to experiment with materials and explore creatively during the artistic process. Due attention is given to emphasising process over product. The media of drawing, painting, printing, collage, clay, textiles and construction are used successfully to extend and develop pupilsí skills. Pupilsí interests are used effectively to stimulate interest and engagement in tasks. The creativity and craft evidenced in the attractive displays, pupilsí portfolios and photographic records are to be commended.

 

A differentiated woodwork programme is provided for individual pupils. Emphasis is placed on the recreational and therapeutic aspects of woodwork and pupils are supported in acquiring a range of basic and relevant skills. Pupils are encouraged to adopt an active role in choosing their individual projects, which are selected based on pupilsí identified interests and skills. The woodwork room is spacious and adequate ventilation is provided. Pupils are encouraged to exercise care and vigilance in manipulating tools and commendable attention is directed towards creating a safe working environment. Direct teaching, the use of a clear and unambiguous language of instruction and appropriate monitoring of pupilsí responses are effectively used to optimise pupilsí learning. The range of products on display indicates pupilsí meaningful, functional and efficient engagement with this subject area.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The physical education curriculum fosters diversity of skill and learning in active and enjoyable contexts. A range of equipment is available and the spacious grass and hard court area greatly facilitate the implementation of the physical education programme. Clear rules and high expectations of behaviour permeate all activities. Individual and team development is effectively developed and participation is duly celebrated.† Attention is directed towards ensuring that pupils are appropriately challenged while encouraging pupils to develop an appreciation of, and respect for others. The importance of promoting health, fitness and general well-being is highlighted and innovative links with the science curriculum assist in enhancing pupilsí understanding and knowledge. Athletics, games and outdoor and adventure activities provide opportunities for pupils to increase their repertoire of experiences and develop their skill base. Teachers are proactive in fostering positive attitudes towards socialisation and a balance is maintained between competitive and non-competitive activities.

 

 

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is recognised as intrinsic to the curriculum being implemented in the school. Pupilsí positive self-esteem, social and communication skills and understanding of issues related to safety and protection are fostered formally and informally throughout the school day. An emphasis is placed on the development of social competency to assist pupils in constructing a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills from which to engage in informed decision-making. Interpersonal, behavioural and assertive skills are systematically and constructively developed. A school ethos that promotes respect for each pupil and staff member is evident and a positive learning and teaching environment is accordingly created. Information and Communication Technology is used innovatively and effectively engages pupils in the learning and teaching process. The use of active-learning strategies, mind-mapping, curricular linkage and discovery learning considerably enhances pupilsí understanding of concepts. In order to develop its expertise further in the SPHE curriculum, the school has volunteered its involvement in a project co-ordinated by the Second Level Support Service.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

Pupilsí progress and achievements are assessed through a variety of modes that includes homework, pupil self-evaluation, teacher-observation, curricular-related checklists, teacher-designed tests and tasks, work-samples, portfolios and projects, anecdotal notes, standardised and diagnostic tests. Particular attention is directed towards providing constructive and sensitive feedback to pupils during learning and teaching. Further development of the assessment policy should indicate the assessment modes used in individual subject areas. The compilation of individual and accessible pupil portfolios that record assessment outcomes would further enhance the assessment process.

 

 

5.†††† Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The schoolís draft policy on special educational needs demonstrates a commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all pupils. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are compiled in respect of each pupil. Parents/guardians/carers, teachers, nursing staff, psychiatrist, psychologist and speech and language therapist are beneficially involved in the IEP process. It is creditable that the involvement of the pupil in the IEP process is facilitated. Individual Education Plans variously include pupilsí personal and school information, special educational needs, school curriculum and subjects being accessed, observations on the pupilsí attitude to learning and social activities, assessment information on admission to St. Josephís, interests, strengths and learning needs. Priority learning needs are identified and associated actions to be taken outlined. It is recommended that particular strategies related to the identification of a pupilís special educational needs are elucidated in the IEP. A stream-lined approach to the IEP process is recommended that ensures planning for learning and teaching is differentiated from the additional needs that are addressed through the IEP process. A policy should be adopted in relation to ascertaining the availability of an IEP from each pupilís prior placement in order to assist in maintaining a consistent approach to meeting the special educational needs of pupils. †Particular attention has been directed towards differentiating pupilsí curricular access by content, process and outcome in accordance with their identified needs and abilities. A discharge summary is compiled in respect of pupils who are transitioning back to their previous school placement or to an alternative setting. This summary provides details in relation to the pupilís previous history, attendance, subject areas accessed, strengths and interests and priority needs.

 

5.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups

An inclusive and equitable approach to meeting the needs of all pupils in the school is evident. In line with the characteristic spirit of the school pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups are encouraged and facilitated in all aspects of school life. The school demonstrates a willingness to liaise with outside agencies to meet the needs of all pupils and parental participation is encouraged, supported and facilitated. Becoming familiar with the Guidelines on Intercultural Education in the Post-primary School and materials developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training would further enhance the knowledge and skills of the school in celebrating and accommodating diversity.

 

 

6.†††† Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

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:

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

   

Published September 2008