An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Coláiste Cois Siúire,
Mooncoin, County Kilkenny
Roll number: 70620C
Date of inspection: 16 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Coláiste Cois Siúire. 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, the teachers, the school’s board of management, the Chief Executive Officer and representatives of the parents’ association. 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, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. 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 staff, board of management and the CEO. 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. 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.
Mooncoin Vocational School, later named Coláiste Cois Siúire, was established in 1935 and was one of the first rural vocational schools in Ireland. During its development, the school played an instrumental role in providing for the educational needs of the mostly rural population of the area. The school has historical links to the establishment of both Macra-na-Feirme, the Irish farmers’ movement and also Macra na Tuaithe, which later became known as Foróige. Both Macra na Feirme and Foróige sought to empower local communities by instilling an appreciation of the importance of education, and the school continues to promote these aims.
During the late 1960’s and 1970’s the Day Vocational/Group Certificate and Intermediate Certificate were offered to students and, in 1978, the Leaving Certificate was introduced to the curriculum of the school. In 1987 a parents’ association was established and together with the school management campaigned for the provision of a new school building. The new school was officially opened in 1993 and was renamed Coláiste Cois Siúire.
Coláiste Cois Siúire is located on the outskirts of Mooncoin, and serves the local primary schools together with the primary schools in the neighbouring hinterland. It is a co-educational, multi-denominational school catering for a current enrolment of 178 students. Approximately thirty percent of the student population comes from agricultural backgrounds, maintaining the traditional links of the school. There is also a strong tradition in the area of siblings and children of past students attending the school. However, student enrolment in the school has fallen over the past three years. The opening of a new community college on the Kilkenny border of Waterford city, the option of single sex secondary schools in the nearby urban centres, and falling numbers in the local primary schools are cited as the main reasons for the falling enrolment in the school. It is reported that enrolment in the feeder primary schools has increased and a number of housing estates have been built in the locality, all of which it is anticipated will help to increase enrolments in the school.
Coláiste Cois Siúire is one of eight schools run by the County Kilkenny Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) and has a teaching staff of nineteen teachers. The school offers the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) as well as a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course. Coláiste Cois Siúire has recently been invited to join the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. Under this programme, the school will receive additional resources, such as a shared Home School Community Liaison teacher (HSCL) to support students to complete second-level education and to achieve to their full potential.
The recently reviewed school’s mission is “to strive continuously to provide for the educational needs of all who wish to avail of the teaching, learning and training services provided by Coláiste Cois Siúire”. This mission statement aims to promote the total development of each individual student. The mission reflects the school’s intention to ensure that the educational needs of students of all abilities are being met. The characteristic spirit of Coláiste Cois Siúire is one of a caring community where every student is respected and encouraged to achieve to the best of his or her potential.
This characteristic spirit was best expressed during a meeting with the student council, where students commented on the good atmosphere, the friendly staff and the support from teachers. This was also supported by the parents’ association and the board of management. This ethos also permeates relationships between staff members, who present as a friendly, supportive and unified group. The quality of interactions and relationships observed throughout the school indicates that the staff and students display a mutual respect for each other. The relatively small school size means that there is a warm, relaxed and intimate atmosphere, where staff has knowledge of all students and share an interest in their welfare. This has resulted in a calm, settled environment.
A supportive parents’ association, an effective and integrated pastoral care, learning support, guidance and discipline systems and an open and flexible leadership style fosters the success of this atmosphere.
The patron of Coláiste Cois Siúire is Co. Kilkenny VEC and the CEO of the VEC executes the patron’s functions. Co. Kilkenny VEC has recently published its education plan 2006-2010 entitled “Facilitating Quality Teaching and Learning in County Kilkenny”. This plan highlights five strategic aims for the scheme to be achieved by the committee. These aims are: meeting the learning needs of the community in Co. Kilkenny; enhancing the quality of teaching and learning; developing the profile of Co. Kilkenny VEC; building the human resource and organisational capacity of Co. Kilkenny VEC and promoting partnership and innovation. A series of initiatives to help achieve the stated aims and objectives have been put in place by the CEO including a staff mentoring system for new teachers to the scheme, innovations to teaching and learning in Mathematics and the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) into teaching and learning. Co. Kilkenny VEC has recently appointed an ICT specialist with responsibility for enhancing the provision and deployment of ICT as a teaching and learning tool within the schools and centres governed by the scheme. The VEC also allocates a percentage of its funds towards the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers. These initiatives and contribution towards improving the quality of teaching and learning and educational provision within Co. Kilkenny VEC are to be commended.
The board of management is a sub-committee of Co. Kilkenny VEC. The VEC has only recently appointed members to a new board of management for Coláiste Cois Siúire. However, this new board has not yet taken up its duties and the inspection meeting was the first gathering of the board since new members were appointed. The reason stated for this situation was that the incoming board was waiting on the provision of training for new boards from the VEC. The previous board of management was inaugurated in March 2005 and completed its duties in December 2006. The establishment and duration of the board of management are not in accordance with the recommendations and procedures as specified in the “Handbook for Vocational Education Committees and Boards of Management of Schools and Community Colleges”. It is recommended that the appointment of new boards and their duration be in accordance with the recommendations as set out in this handbook. It is important that new boards are established prior to the end of September in the year of inauguration and are in place for three years or the duration of the VEC whichever is shorter. This will allow each board sufficient time to identify and prioritise key areas for development and to develop strategies to manage the school effectively.
The present board of management in Coláiste Cois Siúire is appropriately composed, with four VEC nominees; two staff nominees; two nominees from the parents’ association; the principal, who acts as secretary and deputy principal. There is an element of overlap between outgoing board members whenever a new board is constituted in order to ensure continuity, which is good practice. Historically, the number of board meetings is very low varying from one to two per year, with additional meetings arranged if issues arise. It is recommended that the incoming board meet on at least five occasions per year in order to execute its functions properly.
It appears that previous boards have operated effectively and appropriately whenever meetings were convened. Minutes of meetings are well maintained and illustrate that a range of issues have been discussed, such as the development of the school plan, including the review and submission of school policies for approval, and providing guidance and advice to the principal and deputy on issues relating to the day-to-day management of the school. The previous board has ensured that the school’s admission and participation policy and its code of behaviour have received VEC approval. The secretary to the board provides a copy of the agreed minutes of meetings for dissemination to staff, parents and the CEO of the VEC. The VEC representatives also report to the CEO and communication between all partners was deemed good by the present board members.
Most members of the present board are aware of their roles and responsibilities and have a close affinity with the school. The board at the WSE meeting identified a limited number of development priorities for the school such as maintaining the school’s viability by increasing enrolment and the development of additional accommodation as part of the school’s involvement in the DEIS initiative. There is a need for the board of management to collaborate as a unit to identify fully the priorities for the school and to develop and implement strategies to achieve these goals. To this end, it is recommended that all members of the board receive the training it needs to fully support the management of the school. There is scope for the patron to be more proactive in supporting the board of the school towards the effective provision of education for the students of Coláiste Cois Siúire.
There is a very dynamic and proactive parents’ association in the school, which has been in operation since 1987 and meets on at least five occasions a year. The principal or deputy principal attends these meetings as a representative of the teaching staff. The parents’ association see their role as a supportive one for the school. They carry out fund-raising events during the year and help with any of the functions being organised by the school such as the awards and open nights. They have raised substantial amounts of money to fund various projects including the upgrading of computers, the provision of a school bus and the book rental scheme. In addition, the parents’ association have begun to publish a newsletter for the general parent body highlighting all aspects of school life during each term. The parents’ association are consulted about all issues dealing with school policies and have a very proactive role in the development and approval of these policies. The hugely beneficial contribution of the parents’ association is highly commended and it is recommended that it continue its very valuable role in supporting the work of the school.
Parents indicated their satisfaction with levels of communication within the school, both with the board of management and the staff. They spoke warmly of the relationship between the principal and the parents’ association and stated that the school is fully supportive of the needs of their children. Parents expressed their satisfaction with the management of the school and the standard of teaching and learning.
Senior management in the school comprises the principal and deputy principal. They work very well together as a team and have developed a complementary system in the execution of their roles. The principal takes responsibility for major aspects of management, such as drawing up the timetable, arranging the deployment of staff within the school and managing legal and financial matters. The deputy principal acts in a supportive role to the principal in the day-to-day running of the school. Both maintain an active and visible presence in the school. In addition to their management duties, both are actively involved in teaching classes. The principal, although ex-quota, teaches twelve class periods and the deputy principal teaches twenty-four class periods per week. The rationale for undertaking such a volume of teaching duties is to ensure that the subject choice and access to appropriate levels is maintained for students. It is felt by senior management that this is necessary to ensure a continuity of service to the students given the restrictions imposed by the relatively small student population. Senior management is commended for its dedication to ensuring the widest possible curriculum for students and for undertaking additional teaching hours in excess of those required. However, it is recommended that this situation be constantly reviewed to ensure that adequate time remains for managing the progression and realisation of the identified priorities of the school.
Both the principal and deputy principal meet informally several times during the day but do not have a regular scheduled meeting time. It is recommended that a dedicated meeting time be timetabled whereby the short-term and long-term priorities for the school and issues arising from the day-to-day management of the school may be discussed. These meetings may be once per week or more frequently if needs arise. Teachers feel well supported by senior management and there is an openness and collegial atmosphere based on mutual respect between staff and senior management.
There are currently three assistant principals and four special duties teachers working as the middle management of the school. A recent review of duties was conducted with post holders to ensure that the assigned duties were meeting the needs of the students and the school. Due to the small size of the middle management team, each member executes a range of management responsibilities. All assistant principals have a reduction in timetabled hours, as allocated by the VEC, to facilitate the execution of their duties. There is a strong sense of collegiality between the members of the middle management and senior management teams, with all members willing to undertake additional duties as needs arise. The duties assigned to the post holders are commensurate with the level of posts held and contribute to the effective management of the school. However, it is recommended that the duties of public relations be given consideration at the next review of posts to actively promote the school. These duties may include the development of a school website, as well as regular use of other modes of public information to publicise the work, activities and achievements of the school to the wider community.
Management has expressed satisfaction with the range of responsibilities undertaken by post holders. In addition, many teachers who are not post holders undertake extra duties to ensure the smooth running of the school. This is highly commendable and exemplifies the commitment of the whole staff to the school.
Members of the middle management team discuss their roles informally with senior management and deal with issues as they arise. There is no formal meeting structure in place at present. It is recommended that a regular meeting be scheduled between assistant principals and senior management to discuss the progress of their duties and to assist in the development of strategies towards achieving the priorities for the school.
There was evidence of good organisation and communication systems within the school. Teachers are informed of daily events and items for attention through a whiteboard in the staffroom, and staff is frequently briefed of events during break times. There are also approximately five to six staff meetings during the year, usually two per term. Staff may also add items to the agenda for staff meetings. This is good practice and displays an open and collaborative approach to the management of the school. All staff meetings are documented and minutes are posted in the staffroom for review.
The school produces a staff handbook that contains a synopsis of all policies and procedures in place in the school. Co. Kilkenny VEC has developed a mentoring system for all new teaching members to the scheme and Coláiste Cois Siúire has appointed two existing members of staff to act as mentors, both of whom have received training from the VEC. This is a highly laudable initiative to ensure that all teachers are facilitated as they develop professionally.
The school has developed an admissions and participation policy, which is reflective of the characteristic spirit of the school. This policy stresses inclusion, equality of access and participation, choice and respect for the diversity of values, beliefs, traditions, language and ways of life in society. The admissions and enrolment procedures are clearly outlined. However, the policy does not contain any reference to the rights of parents, or students over the age of eighteen, to appeal the decision of the board of management to refuse admission under section 29 of the Education Act 1998. It is recommended that a statement highlighting this right be included in the current admissions and participation policy.
A well-defined code of behaviour has been developed through the consultative process involving all the school’s partners. It clearly states the school’s intention to support and foster respect for oneself and others. The code of behaviour outlines and explains the rationale underpinning the establishment of each of the school rules, which is good practice. The school rules are also printed in the student’s journal and each student and parent/guardian must sign the code of behaviour prior to admission to the school. The code of behaviour acknowledges a series of appropriate rewards for good behaviour as well as sanctions for students in breach of the rules. Throughout the course of the inspection students behaved in a very respectful and mature manner and all interactions observed by inspectors were positive and courteous.
Sanctions for breaches of the agreed code of behaviour follow a “ladder of referral” in a five-step process. At each step of the referral system, the school attempts to provide an intervention to help students adopt behaviour that is more acceptable. Records indicate that only a few students account for most of the documented suspensions. If the principal has serious concerns about a particular student he convenes a case conference with the relevant school staff, including the pastoral care team, and may include outside agencies to provide advice and assistance including the Gardaí, the local officer of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) and the local educational psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). Management has sourced and provided inservice for the staff, through the Second Level Support Service (SLSS), on “Positive Behavioural Management”. Discipline is discussed regularly at staff meetings and the school’s policy and procedures regarding discipline are constantly reviewed, which is highly commended.
Parents and students expressed their acceptance and satisfaction with the code of behaviour. The code of behaviour refers to the rights of parents and students over the age of eighteen to appeal a decision to expel a student to the board of management. However, it is recommended that reference be included to section 29 of the Education Act 1998, similar to that recommended for the admissions and participation policy.
There is a good system in place to monitor attendance, which is recorded in the morning and afternoon for all students, including those in the PLC class. Students who are late or who have an appointment must sign in or out at the office and this system works well.
An absence of a school notice board in either the immediate entrance or student courtyard area was noted, and it is recommended that consideration be given to the provision of one in the near future. A notice board positioned in a prominent place in the school foyer would provide an effective means of identifying senior members of the school staff and members of the student council, whilst providing a valuable communication tool for informing visitors, parents, staff and students of the variety of events, activities and achievements of the school community.
The school has established considerable links with the local community especially with local industries. Some of these industries have been especially generous and supportive of the school by providing work experience for LCVP and PLC students. In addition, some business owners visit the school to help with “mock interviews” and provide students with advice regarding issues related to the world of work. The sports clubs in the local community have also extended the use of their facilities to the school for training and competitive matches and good relationships exist between these bodies and the school. The school also maintains links with Waterford Institute of Technology.
The teacher allocation from Co. Kilkenny VEC includes some additional concessions to maintain the current breadth of the curriculum on offer and to meet the needs of the present student cohort. In addition to the teaching staff, the school has two part-time secretaries, a fulltime caretaker, two part-time support staff and a part-time bus driver. School management is cognisant of the current and future staffing requirements of the school and endeavours to safeguard the school’s ability to provide appropriately for students’ needs. The school is proactive in securing additional teacher allocation under the DEIS programme, with the position of Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) teacher to be appointed on a shared basis between Coláiste Cois Siúire and its associated primary school.
The school principal has attempted to deploy the teaching staff as effectively as possible. All permanent whole time teachers are timetabled for the optimum hours commensurate with their posts. In many cases, teachers are timetabled to provide learning support for individual students who may have an exemption from Irish and who may require literacy, numeracy or subject specific support. In most cases, teachers are deployed only in the specialisms for which they hold recognised qualifications and it is recommended that the school continue to follow this practice as much as possible given the present restrictions.
Management organises a supervision and substitution roster to facilitate the supervision of students prior to school and during break-times and to provide classroom cover for teachers who may be absent due to attending inservice, extra-curricular or co-curricular events or through illness. This system was found to be organised and executed appropriately, with staff members always willing to support management when requested.
Management supports the continuing professional development of all teaching staff. Procedures exist whereby teachers are informed and encouraged to attend all approved inservice courses provided by the Department of Education and Science and SLSS. In addition, notification of relevant courses run through the education support centres is brought to the attention of the teaching staff. The school has also organised external experts to provide appropriate inservice during staff development days. A mentoring system is also in place in the school to provide support and advice for new teachers joining the staff. The recognition, support and organisation of continuing professional development by the school is highly commendable.
Members of the support staff expressed high satisfaction with their roles in the school and were complimentary of the support and appreciation they receive from the teaching staff and management of the school. Support staff are enabled and encouraged to make an appropriate contribution to the life of the school.
The school building is designed with an open-air central courtyard from which access to the classrooms may be gained from around its perimeter. Teachers are mostly classroom based and students move to their appropriate classes throughout the day. All specialist rooms are consistently used for their designated purpose with the exception of the Technical Drawing/Graphics room, which is mostly used for teaching Mathematics at present. It is recommended this room be prioritised for the teaching of Technical Drawing/Graphics as much as possible as it has many network points and will be most suitable for the introduction of the revised syllabus.
The external facilities include a playing pitch and hard court area for Physical Education and extra-curricular physical activities. The school had previously encountered a minor problem with vandalism during out of school hours at night time and weekends, and in response has upgraded its surveillance system and this has proven to be highly effective. The building and the school environment are excellently maintained and it was reported that students are actively encouraged and adhere to a litter free environment. As part of planning for the DEIS programme, management is actively pursuing the provision of additional accommodation for a student social area/canteen and a parents’ room, which is commendable.
Current ICT resources within the school consist of a computer room, which has recently been equipped with new computers, and computers are available in some of the classrooms and administration office. The school has broadband internet access and each of the classrooms has been fitted with access points to the network. The school is currently in negotiations with the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) to improve its broadband access. ICT facilities are used quite well in some subject areas for teaching, preparation and research purposes but there is scope for further development in this area. There is currently no data projector in the school. It is recommended that the school invest in providing a number of data projectors, access to laptops and some overhead projectors to expand the possible teaching and learning methods that may be employed through the utilisation of these tools.
There is a designated health and safety representative on the staff and some teachers have undertaken courses in first aid. The school, under the direction of Co. Kilkenny VEC has conducted a full audit of all the health and safety risks and has addressed any issues identified. Some subject areas have also conducted a more recent health and safety audit to address the functioning of practical equipment. This is good practice. The school environment is well equipped with fire-safety equipment including access to a fire-hose in each zone. Whilst evacuation drills have been conducted in the past, there has not been one so far this year. It is recommended that the school conduct an evacuation drill early in each school year to familiarise and reinforce the procedures for new and existing students alike. Furthermore, it is recommended that the school develop a comprehensive up-to-date health and safety statement, based on a risk assessment in all areas, to familiarise staff and students of the practices and procedures to ensure their safety and well-being.
The school has a designated room for resource and learning support. This room is fully equipped with teaching and learning resources including computers that have a range of software applications to support students that may have special educational needs. In addition, there is a dedicated guidance and counselling room, which is fully equipped for this purpose. A small school library is also used as a general classroom. The school is encouraged to develop the library as a specialist room where students can read, research and actively engage in independent learning.
School planning has been undertaken prior to 2000 in Coláiste Cois Siúire and the school has taken many initiatives to develop the process. During the initial phases of developing a collaborative system of planning, personnel from the school development planning initiative (SDPI) visited the school to assist management and staff with developing their planning process. Whole staff inservice days were organised, firstly to facilitate whole school planning and secondly to identify good practice in subject department planning. A special duties teaching post for coordinating school planning has been created to support the process. All of these initiatives are to be commended as they provide the school with the tools necessary to develop the planning process through a whole-school approach.
The school operates a collaborative process to identify and address areas for development. Issues are identified and discussed at staff meetings and committees are formed to review existing policies and procedures and to report with recommendations at subsequent staff meetings. Evidence of this good practice was provided in the school plan, which highlighted the review procedures and recommendations of committees on homework, literacy, discipline and self-esteem.
A clear system exists for the development and approval of all school policies. This process involves staff consultation, the establishment of a review committee and the production of a draft policy for consideration by staff, parents and the board of management. The students’ council has also had opportunities for input into the formulation of existing policies including the substance use policy and the code of behaviour. Once agreed, draft policies are submitted to Co. Kilkenny VEC prior to adoption. All policies are dated as they go through each stage of the development and ratification process, which is good practice.
The permanent section of the current school plan includes a statement of the mission and aims of the school, a brief history and background of the school and an outline of the school curriculum, structures and resources. The core elements of the plan also includes the policies that have been developed and ratified, as required by legislation, as well as a number of policies in draft form.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of 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 Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines. Whilst sound procedures and practices have been identified, the board of management has yet to formally adopt a policy for child protection. It is recommended that this be addressed in the interest of all members of the school community.
During the inspection, there was clear evidence that the school has undertaken significant review and has identified several areas of priority for its future development. Work has commenced in some of these areas including involvement in the DEIS programme and increasing the school’s accommodation. At many of the meetings held as part of the WSE process, addressing enrolment was identified as a major priority for the school. Whilst work to date on these priorities was clearly visible to the inspection team, they are not stated as part of the developmental section of the school plan. It is recommended that the school document the good work that is already taking place, outlining the identified priorities, the strategies developed to promote improvement, identification of the personnel responsible for implementing and evaluating these strategies, the resources required and the timeframe involved. This will ensure that all aspects related to the development of the school are documented, progress may be monitored against stated targets and all staff members are familiar with the organisational arrangements and school improvement strategies.
The school has also highlighted subject department planning as an area for future development and work has commenced in this area. A dedicated space in the staffroom has been set aside for the filing of subject department plans. Each subject department is currently developing a comprehensive plan for their subject and progress in this area is commended.
The school views planning as an ongoing process and aims to conduct a review of each of its established policies and procedures three years after its development. This is commendable practice, as it will ensure that practices and procedures meet the needs of the ever-changing student body.
Class groups are organised into mixed-ability settings with each group assigned a class teacher as part of the pastoral care system. As there are only two class groups in each year, a year-head system does not exist. All classes, with the exception of the third-year group, are organised into mixed gender settings for all subjects. In the present third year, boys and girls are separated for Geography, History, Science, Physical Education, Social Personal and Health Education, Civic Social and Political Education, Computer Studies and Guidance with the remaining subjects, including option subjects, being organised into mixed gender settings. This situation arose when there was a particularly large group of girls in first year and the school decided to organise separate classes to concentrate on improving educational attainment. However, following reflection and discussion, the school has reverted to mixed gender settings for the past two years to promote the principles of co-education. This reflective practice is commended.
Coláiste Cois Siúire has a broad and balanced curriculum in place. The school succeeds in providing a good curriculum, which satisfies the needs of most students and with the exception of Physical Education, complies with the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science (DES) Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools. The principal takes charge of curriculum planning and organisation in the school. It is commendable that the school endeavours to maintain the subjects presently available on the curriculum despite the restrictions imposed by its current enrolment. The school offers the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) to students who are eligible to undertake this programme of study and is fully compliant with the programme requirements. The school also operates a PLC course in Computer Applications and Office Administration. It is regrettable that LCVP students do not have access to Physical Education as the LCVP link modules are timetabled concurrently with Physical Education. It is recommended that management review this situation with a view to ensuring that all students have access to quality Physical Education in line with the recommendations outlined in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools 2004/2005.
The timetable allocation for subjects is generally well distributed throughout the week. This good practice ensures that students receive exposure to each subject at regular intervals creating a greater potential to reinforce learning. Core subjects of Irish, English and Mathematics are timetabled concurrently to facilitate student mobility for different levels in these subjects. The school is commended for its efforts to ensure that the school’s timetable follows as close to recommended best practice as possible. However, in some cases, a number of senior cycle students are timetabled for one or two study periods per week and it is recommended that this practice be reviewed to ensure that all students receive the minimal instruction time in compliance with DES circular M29/95.
The school has established very good working relationships with local sports clubs and businesses to support the extra-curricular physical activities and work experience programmes. Work experience is organised to support learning as part of the LCVP and PLC course. The school has established positive working relationships with local businesses and has developed a placement and evaluation system to monitor students’ engagement and progress on work experience, which is good practice. The responsibility of obtaining work placement rests with the students themselves. Students in the PLC course attend work placement one day per week for sixteen weeks, whilst LCVP students are required to undertake their placement over the mid-term break.
The subject option choices at junior cycle were recently reviewed in an attempt to improve student access to the range of subjects and enhance greater gender balance in subject selection. Management also indicated that it was planning a review of the present option choices at senior cycle to improve students’ access to both Science subjects or Construction and Engineering. This type of review is commendable as it illustrates an awareness of the need to broaden students’ educational experiences and subsequent career options.
From the beginning of September, the school operates a “taster” programme over six weeks for incoming first-year students, whereby all students experience each of the subjects that they may choose to study for the Junior Certificate. An open night is organised for parents during the second week of September where the subject selection process is fully explained and the senior management team and guidance department address any queries parents may have regarding subject options or access to subjects. This is highly commendable practice as it ensures that students and parents are informed regarding subject choice and the implications of these decisions for the students’ educational and future career.
The current junior cycle programme includes twelve core subjects and three option subjects. Students choose between Wood Technology or Business Studies, Metalwork or Home Economics and Technical Graphics or Art, Craft and Design. It is suggested as part of the next curriculum review that the school examine the placement of Home Economics and Art, Craft and Design with their corresponding subject choice. This may enable students who wished to develop both design and artistic interests simultaneously and may increase the balance of males and females in each of these subjects.
Third-year students are timetabled for Career Guidance, which is good practice as it helps to focus students towards their educational and career goals prior to undertaking the Junior Certificate and creates an informed platform for beginning senior cycle. Whilst members of the parents’ association expressed satisfaction with subject choices and the process in place in the school, there is some scope for further informing and involving parents in subject choice at senior cycle, and management is encouraged to develop a process similar to that which exists for incoming first years.
It is commendable that the school has accommodated student choice as far as possible at senior cycle. An example of the school’s effort includes the facilitation of a small group of senior students to study History, which is a fledgling subject on the curriculum. Management is commended for its proposed review of the subject option blocks at senior cycle to increase students’ opportunities to develop interests in areas such as the Sciences, the Arts and the Humanities or the Technologies.
Coláiste Cois Siúire endeavours to provide as wide a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities as possible to complement and support students’ learning. Some subject departments organise co-curricular activities designed to engage students in the application of learning beyond the school environment, such as trips to art galleries, ecology trips, historical/architectural walks, visits to theatres, outdoor education centres and sports centres. A range of other co-curricular activities are organised within school including visiting drama groups in English, French and Irish. In addition, organised projects and involvement in competitions such as the Young Scientist competition is encouraged and facilitated. During the WSE process, a group of LCVP students qualified for the regional finals of an enterprise competition. Activities and efforts to promote learning that are both challenging and stimulating and complement the existing syllabuses is highly commendable, and it is recommended that this good practice be extended to all subject areas whenever possible.
The school organises an international tour every two years, with this year’s excursion taking place during the mid-term break to a skiing resort in Italy. An enhanced relationship and respect between students and staff and amongst students themselves was expressed as one of the main benefits of participation in the school tour. A thorough set of procedures are in place to ensure a safe, secure and successful tour and it was evident that tremendous work was put into the organisation of the tour. The efforts of the school and in particular the teachers, who organise and travel with students during the mid-term break is highly commendable.
Coláiste Cois Siúire also offers a range of extra-curricular physical activities including hurling, Gaelic football, soccer, basketball and badminton. Participation in these events is organised mostly during lunchtime breaks and some afternoons after school. The school is proud of its hurling roots and has been very successful during the past year. Once again, the commitment of staff towards their students is exemplified by the arrangements of several training sessions for the senior hurling team during the Christmas and mid-term breaks. It is also highly commendable that efforts have been made to support the participation of female students in extra-curricular physical activities. Despite its small size, the school has been very successful in girls’ basketball and badminton. It is particularly noteworthy that almost all of the females in the school participate in at least one of the extra-curricular physical activities provided. A vital part of this success is the contribution of students towards helping each other, as exemplified by third years coaching first-year students. This is highly commendable practice and one that is both motivationally and educationally rewarding. Teachers who involve themselves in coordinating, organising and coaching the various activities deserve high praise for the achievements of the school and its students.
Subject planning has been incorporated into the School Development Planning (SDP) process and has been greatly assisted by the appointment of a member of staff, who has responsibility to facilitate and develop this process. There was evidence of good collaboration and collegiality within each of the subject departments inspected during the WSE process. Teachers in each subject department work together to plan their work and formal subject department meetings take place twice a year. Informal meetings and discussions with colleagues take place on a daily basis and this level of interaction, communication and collaboration is commendable. It is recommended that the proceedings of formal meetings, and decisions taken, be recorded and retained within each subject-planning file. This process will help guide subject coordinators towards the achievement of the long-term planning goals for the development of the subject.
Each subject department has a coordinator who undertakes this duty in a voluntary capacity. Good practice exists where this role is rotated regularly to ensure that all teachers gain from the experience of coordinating the subject as well as sharing this responsibility equitably. The size of the school dictates that most subject departments are small and this suits the informal nature of subject planning that presently exists. Subject plans have been developed for each subject inspected with much good work completed to date. In all cases, planning documents give broad outlines of the work to be completed within each year group and in some cases, schemes of work for each subject have been developed. It was noted that some of the subject plans did not document the full range of effective teaching and learning methods observed in the classroom. Subject departments are encouraged to document all aspects of the planning and organisation for the subject, most of which is already taking place. It is recommended that all subject plans outline the long-term strategic aims for the subject including curricular provision, student uptake, levels and attainment, the resources required and planning for continuing professional development. Planning may also extend to the development of resources and the inclusion of additional tools to assist with teaching and learning, such as ICT.
There was good liaison between the subject departments and the learning support team in planning for the needs of all students in the school, and in most cases, there was evidence of good practice in planning for differentiation to meet the needs of the diversity of student abilities. This is highly commendable.
In most cases, there was good planning for the identification and sourcing of materials and other resources required to support the teaching of the subjects. However, consideration should be given to procuring more up-to-date Technical Drawing and Technical Graphics textbooks. Additionally there is a need to plan for the acquisition and use of data projectors and laptops as well as subject specific software to support the teaching and learning of most subjects in the school. Teachers are encouraged to develop electronic materials and resources as these have been shown to be very effective in improving student engagement and achievement.
Appropriate and comprehensive provision has been made for health and safety requirements in the use of materials or specialist equipment. There was clear evidence of effective preparation and organisation of resources and materials for all lessons visited and in all cases, classroom use reflected thoughtful preparation, which resulted in a good learning environment.
Lesson preparation was thorough for all classes visited and inspectors reported very good classroom management and a positive working environment in all cases. In practical lessons visited, students demonstrated familiarity with established procedures for movement around the classroom or laboratory and were very efficient in getting themselves set up for class. Most lessons began with teachers recording attendance and introducing the topic of the lesson. Good practice was observed when teachers recapped on previously learned material and introduced new topics by prominently displaying key words or ideas on the blackboard to help maintain students’ focus throughout the lessons. Good use was also made of the blackboard as an aid to record student responses and to demonstrate key techniques.
There was a strong commitment to oral questioning in all lessons observed, and teachers demonstrated good awareness of each student’s abilities and differentiated targeted questions accordingly. There was a good balance between closed and higher-order questioning and this was found to be appropriate to the mixed-ability settings. Questions were well distributed throughout lessons and directed at individual students on a first name basis. This good practice is commendable as it informs students of their importance as a member of the class, ensures that they remain attentive and helps determine the rate of learning and understanding of the topic.
Excellent practice was observed in some lessons when students were using Computer Aided Design (CAD), where they demonstrated a high level of proficiency in using this software application. The facilitation and engagement of students in modern technology to aid their learning is exemplary practice. However, inspectors found that there was scope for a higher level of engagement with ICT across most subject areas. It is recommended that methods of planning and implementation of ICT, as a tool to aid teaching and learning, be included for discussion at whole staff level and strategies for its development in the school be prioritised. Subject teachers are encouraged to explore the ranges of innovative and user-friendly software programmes and websites that are available in their subject areas, as well as the use of applications to develop, store and record their own resources.
Good practice was in evidence when students were provided with opportunities to share their ideas and experiences with the class group to advance understanding of topics. It is recommended that this and other strategies such as role-play, pair-work and peer presentations be used on occasion to help increase students’ confidence to apply and demonstrate their learning and to enhance overall cognitive ability.
Inspectors reported that class groups were appropriately advanced with their courses, were effectively guided and advised by teachers and were achieving well. Students demonstrated a willingness to co-operate with their peers and with their teachers in their learning. There was evidence of student commitment to and enthusiasm for their subjects and students demonstrated a level of knowledge and skills appropriate to their abilities. Inspectors also reported that there was excellent student-teacher rapport in all classes visited and an atmosphere of mutual respect was evident throughout. Teachers are highly commended for their understanding and thoughtful approach to the pastoral and educational needs of their students.
A range of formative and summative methods are used to assess students’ progress including questioning, completion of worksheets, completion of practical assignments and end of topic tests. Formal house exams are held for all non-examination classes twice per year, at Christmas and summer. Examination students sit Christmas exams and “mock” examinations in the spring. All results are recorded and reported to parents twice per year, and a parent-teacher meeting is held annually for each year group. Senior management conducts an analysis of students’ results in the state examinations every year and it is reported that these results are provided to staff. This is commendable practice.
The student journal is used as an effective communication tool to parents, and students use the journal to record all homework assigned. In some subject areas, students’ work was well monitored, dated, signed and contained formative comments to affirm students’ efforts and to identify some areas for improvement. This is commendable practice. However, there is scope for a more consistent approach to assigning and monitoring homework across all subjects. It is recommended that teachers assign regular homework suitable to the abilities of students, monitor the completion and standard of all assigned work and provide regular feedback to students to inform their progress. Where applicable, students should be encouraged to complete all practical work to ensure that their practical copybooks and portfolios are maintained to a high standard. Teachers are encouraged to award a percentage of the overall marks for end of term tests to practical assignments and completed homework as a means of encouraging students to adhere to the stated goals of the homework policy.
The school has developed policies on the admission, enrolment and participation of students with special educational needs (SEN), which are consistent with statutory requirements. A comprehensive system is in place for identifying students with SEN and allocating learning support. The senior management team visits all the feeder primary schools as part of the enrolment process and consults with the principals of these schools regarding students who have identified SEN. In addition, a series of psychological tests are ranked as part of the enrolment process for incoming students. The results of these assessments are then forwarded to the coordinator of the learning support programme, who in collaboration with the principal, compiles a list of students requiring additional learning support. These students repeat the assessment tests after a brief settling in period in September. This process is good practice, as it helps to identify students who may have underperformed on the entrance assessments. The school applies for any resources required to support the learning needs of these students as early as possible in the enrolment process. The collaboration with the feeder primary schools and the established roles and collegiality between the guidance and learning support teams are highly commendable.
The school has accessed the resources to which it is entitled and these resources are used specifically to provide for the educational requirements of students with SEN. The school currently has an allocation of 1.15 whole time equivalents (WTE) for students with SEN and 0.5 WTE for remedial teaching. One trained learning-support teacher acts as coordinator of the learning-support/SEN team. A significant number of teachers are involved in providing individual tuition to students. A recommendation from the school’s literacy committee suggested that one teacher, as far as possible, should be assigned to the same student for all of his/her resource allocation. This recommendation is in line with best practice as it ensures continuity and familiarity with the student’s needs and progress. It was reported that teachers involved in the provision of learning support meet formally early in the year and the learning-support coordinator provides details of assessments and strategies best suited to each student. Informal meetings occur on a daily basis.
The learning-support coordinator consults with the subject teachers of each of the identified students in order to compile a more comprehensive profile of the needs of the students. This is very good practice as it involves all teaching staff, thus increasing awareness as well as identifying the specific targeted support required to help improve these students’ educational attainment. Students in receipt of learning support and resource teaching undergo regular assessments to gauge their level of improvement over the course of the year. Education plans are drawn up for each student in receipt of learning support and aims to identify short-term goals for students. This is good practice.
The learning support coordinator has established close links with a variety of professionals to assist in the provision of support and services for students. A member of the Special Education Support Services (SESS) gave a seminar for all the teaching staff last September outlining the facilities, strategies and resources available to support teachers in providing for students with SEN. It was reported that learning support is now viewed as a whole school approach and strategies such as key words and phonic charts have been used in some subject areas. This is highly commendable and it is recommended that this good practice be extended to all subject areas. Parents are informed and invited to visit the school if they wish to discuss any aspects of the arrangements for their child. The school has also established close working relationships with the local NEP’s psychologist and Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) to advise and provide support to the school and access to a speech and language therapist is available when required.
The school’s admission and participation policy refers to respect of the diversity of traditions, backgrounds and beliefs of its students and their families. Every effort is made to ensure that all students from minority groups and/or disadvantaged backgrounds feel fully included and are encouraged and facilitated in all aspects of school life. The school has endeavoured to encourage the educational achievement of members of the travelling community within the school, and maintains contact with the visiting traveller teacher to monitor and encourage the full inclusion of these students. Senior management and the teaching staff are very familiar with each student’s background, and as a result, students with particular requirements are dealt with discreetly and sensitively.
Coláiste Cois Siúire has been actively planning for its inclusion in the DEIS programme. The school is now availing of the additional resources and supports made available through this programme. As the school is small, and there are strong links with the local community, there is a general awareness of students that are in need of support. A breakfast club was recently established and is open to all students, but with an emphasis on providing for the needs of an identified group of students. Additional plans have been made to extend the school building to provide a school canteen and meeting room for parents and to provide access to the school library. It is hoped that these new facilities will further enhance the involvement of parents in the education of their children. The school is highly commended for its efforts at inclusion and provision for all of its students.
There is a good Guidance plan in place in Coláiste Cois Siúire and this provides a clear overview of the guidance provision in the school. The Guidance and counselling system is an integral part of the care structure in the school and contributes greatly to the welfare and development of all students.
Students in third year, fifth year and sixth year are timetabled for Career Guidance for one period per week and an appointment system is in place for individual sessions, which is good practice. The Guidance programme aims to prepare students for all possible options for their lives and careers after school. Much work is conducted with third-year students to ensure that they select subject options in keeping with their aptitude and career interests. A comprehensive plan is in place for senior cycle students.
Individual counselling is provided and well supported in keeping with the pastoral ethos of the school. Good links have been established with the local NEPS psychologist and other qualified therapists where students requiring specific help may be referred. This is highly commended. Strong links are maintained with the local branch of guidance counsellors to provide ongoing professional support, which is supported by management in the school. The appointment of a HSCL teacher will also help to provide support to students, as well as enhancing the guidance and counselling programme, through additional links with parents.
Pastoral care is central to the ethos of Coláiste Cois Siúire. As a small rural school, it prides itself in providing for the holistic needs of all its students and this is facilitated through familiarity with each student’s background. The organisation for the pastoral care of students begins prior to students entering the school. Information is then relayed to the appropriate personnel, and any measures necessary are implemented as appropriate. Due to the small number of classes in each year group there is no year head structure in place. However, class tutors are appointed to each class group and these have a strong pastoral role. In addition, a part-time chaplaincy service, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Religion teachers all form part of the care team and constantly monitor and discuss students’ welfare. As a result, students are well supported due to the caring environment and positive rapport that is evident between students and teachers.
Senior management see themselves as having a central role in the pastoral care system and assume overall responsibility for its implementation. Whilst the care system was found to work well, there is no formal written programme or policy documenting this good practice. It is recommended that the school document its procedures and practices and outline the support structures that are in place for students and identify the relevant personnel responsible for the implementation of its pastoral care system.
The support for the social and personal development of the student is comprehensive and SPHE is firmly established in the school. All junior cycle classes are provided with one period of SPHE per week. A Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme has been developed, which follows the recommended guidelines. The school has also developed a number of policies to ensure the wellbeing of students and staff including an anti-bullying policy, substance use and critical incident policies as well as its comprehensive code of behaviour as outlined in section 2.3 above. The school hosts an annual awards night at end of each year to celebrate the achievements of its students and to affirm their contribution to the school. Parents, teachers and students expressed that this is a great addition to the school calendar and is to be commended.
Coláiste Cois Siúire has successfully established a Rainbows programme to support students who are coming to terms with bereavement, separation or loss in their lives. In addition, it is hoped that a Meitheal programme will be established in the school at the commencement of the new school year. Plans have been made for the training of a group of fifth-year students who have volunteered to become involved in this programme and it is hoped that this initiative will be funded as part of DEIS. At present a group of fifth-year students are undertaking training to act as mentors to fifth-class primary school children as part of a diocesan drugs awareness initiative. Involvement in this programme is being facilitated by the school chaplain and aims to promote responsible leadership amongst students. The development of these programmes and initiatives is to be highly commended.
A student council has been established in the school for the past five years. There are ten students on the student council representing two from each year group. Elections are held annually whereby each year group elects one male and one female student to represent them on the council. The present system dictates that males vote for the male candidate of their choice and females vote for their female representative. Previous student councils have been involved in issues of significance to the general student body, including the ratification of the code of behaviour, the provision of benches and deciding on the school jackets. All of this work is commended as it provides students with opportunities to have a meaningful input into supporting the management of the school and to participate in the democratic process. However, there is some scope for improvement in the development of the student council. Firstly, it is recommended that annual elections be held before the end of September each year to ensure that each new council has sufficient time to make a meaningful impact and input to school life over the course of the year. Secondly, it is recommended that elections be open whereby all students vote for the male and female candidates of their choice in keeping with the promotion of gender equality. Thirdly, it is recommended that some continuity exists between student councils so that the work of outgoing councils can be continued and to ensure that there is familiarity within the council of its roles and functions. Finally, it is recommended that student council meetings take place frequently and with clearly defined agendas. Minutes of these meetings should be recorded and retained and decisions taken should be communicated back to the general student body in a systematic way.
The pastoral care system and level of interest in students’ futures is highly commendable. Whilst the school places great emphasis on achievement in state examinations, it also endeavours to find meaningful employment for students who do not progress to further education in occupations suited to their abilities. In support of this activity, records of the whereabouts of all students are maintained for one year after they leave school and this information serves to inform the guidance and pastoral care programmes.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The care and support of students is central to the ethos of Coláiste Cois Siúire. The school ensures that a network of pastoral care supports is available through its learning-support teachers, well-developed guidance and counselling service, class tutor system, SPHE teachers and school chaplain. The expansion of this network of support and services to students as part of the schools involvement in the DEIS programme is commended.
· The atmosphere in the school is warm, relaxed and respectful. The effective and integrated pastoral care and discipline system, caring staff and an open and flexible leadership style foster the success of this positive atmosphere.
· Senior management works well together as a team and effectively manages the day-to-day running of the school. Teachers feel well supported by senior management and there is an openness and collegial atmosphere between staff and senior management.
· The in-school management team system consists of the assistant principals and special duties teachers who work collaboratively with senior management to carry out their management and administrative duties effectively. Posts of responsibilities have been reviewed recently to meet the changing needs of the school.
· Facilities in the school are good and all areas of the internal and external environs are maintained to a very high standard.
· The school is working well in advancing the process of School Development Planning and has appointed a coordinator to facilitate the achievement of its planning goals. Subject department planning is also advancing well.
· A clear system exists for the development and approval of school policies in collaboration with all the relevant partners in keeping with good practice.
· The student council has been proactive in achieving significant developments for the student body as well as contributing to the development of relevant school policies.
· Professional development of teachers is encouraged and facilitated. In addition, a mentoring system exists to facilitate the induction of new teachers to the school.
· The school offers as broad a curriculum as possible to its students and endeavours to meet the subject choices of all students.
· Planning and preparation for lessons observed was thorough and effective.
· Teachers ensure that students’ progress at a pace commensurate with their abilities through a range of effective teaching and learning methods.
· There is a good range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in place to support the interests and needs of students and these are an important part of school life.
· Communication with parents is good and consists of letters, a newsletter, reports and parent-teacher meetings. Additional meetings are facilitated through an appointment system. Parents and students expressed their satisfaction with the levels of accessibility, communication and openness of senior management and the teaching staff.
· There is a dynamic and proactive parents’ association, which makes a valuable contribution towards supporting the school through fundraising, policy review and supporting school events.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that members of the incoming board of management receive the training it needs to fully support the management of the school. Furthermore, the board should meet on at least five occasions per year in order to execute its duties appropriately. It is also essential that the members collaborate to identify the priorities for the school and to oversee the development and implementation of strategies to achieve these goals.
· Whilst procedures and practices have been identified and communicated to the relevant partners, it is recommended that the board of management formally adopt and implement the policy for child protection.
· It is recommended that a statement highlighting the rights of parents or students over the age of eighteen to appeal, under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, the decision of the board of management to refuse admission or to permanently exclude a student, be included in the current admissions and participation policy and in the code of behaviour.
· It is recommended that dedicated meetings at senior management level and with post holders, as part of the middle-management structure, be scheduled at regular intervals where issues arising from the day-to-day management of the school, as well as the short-term and long-term priorities for its development may be discussed.
· It is recommended that the school document its existing short-term and long-term priorities clearly in the development section of the school plan.
· It is recommended that management provides Physical Education for all students in the school and reviews the time provision for the subject in accordance with the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools.
· It is recommended that the student council be established earlier in the school year, that meetings be organised regularly and minutes of proceedings be taken with decisions communicated back to the student body in a systematic way.
· It is recommended that the school review its current homework practice to ensure that there is consistency in its application and monitoring.
· It is recommended that resources to support the deployment of ICT and digital media be made available by the school and that each subject department actively promotes its integration as an aid to further enhance the teaching and learning process.
· It is recommended that the school consider the duties of public relations to actively promote the good work that is taking place to the wider community.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:
· Subject Inspection of History – 15 and 16 February 2007
· Subject Inspection of Mathematics – 6 February 2007
· Subject Inspection of Science and Biology – 12 February 2007
· Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing – 16 February 2007
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of management welcomes receipt of the WSE Report and wishes to express its overall satisfaction with the contents therein.
The Board also wishes to thank the inspection team for their courtesy and help during the evaluation and for their professional input into compiling the report.
The many positive and encouraging comments made in the Report, including the identification of the main strengths of the school are a source of great satisfaction to the Board, the staff, students and parents and augurs well for future development 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.
The Board accepts the key recommendations outlined in the report as a means for building on the strength of the school and for advancing school development further.
A start has already been made on implementing most of these recommendations and it is intended to act on the others during the coming year.