An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Bush Post Primary
Roll number: 71750U
Date of inspection: 8 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This Whole School Evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Bush Post Primary School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, 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 and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Bush Post Primary School is a co-educational, non-denominational second level school. It is situated in north Louth, a rural setting in the Cooley peninsula, and approximately 25 kilometres north of Dundalk. The school is currently in a growth phase and the student cohort has steadily increased during recent years. The school attracts students from 10 primary schools and has strong cross-border links. It is maintained by County Louth Vocational Education Committee (VEC) and has a Board of Management (BOM) that is a subcommittee of the VEC.
The school was founded in the early 1930’s and has evolved to form very strong links with the local community. It is currently the sole second level school serving the community.
The characteristic spirit of the school is built on its mission statement which gives the principal aim of the school as being to ensure that “each person in our school community feels secure and fulfilled, enjoying a positive educational experience. We envisage the development of well-adjusted individuals, who will succeed in life and actively contribute to the betterment of the greater community”. The school prides itself on being student driven, with a holistic approach to education.
It was evident during the evaluation that these goals are central to the school. All of the partners spoke of the school as a caring and welcoming place with a unique sense of community between staff and students. The awareness that staff has of students was acknowledged by all of the partners and was clearly a valued feature of the school.
The characteristic spirit is strongly supported by the Board of Management and this, in turn, is clearly evident in a number of the school’s policies. For example, the health and safety policy is grounded on a vision of Bush Post Primary School as a “caring community”; the Admission Policy strives to ensure that a quality of care will leave “no child neglected and every child nurtured”; the school Code of Conduct is rooted in a positive approach to discipline with responsibility for behaviour clearly being placed on each individual student.
Links with the community are maintained by the school in a variety of ways. For example, the most recent musical production My Fair Lady was performed in a local community hall. The Local Issues Committee, established by the school, also enhances community links through its membership and its addressing of school/community concerns. The school makes its facilities available for meetings of this committee. Facilities are also made available for sporting activities.
School personnel are proud of the commitment to the provision of pastoral care for the students. Such commitment is clearly evident in school structures such as the year head and tutor systems, Home School Community Liaison (HSCL), the educational support department and the student prefect system.
The Vocational Education Committee, headed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), has overall responsibility for the running of the school and particularly, is responsible for recruiting personnel and for the distribution of funds. The CEO visits the school from time to time in order to maintain contact with staff both formally and informally. Additional communication between schools and with the VEC takes place on an ongoing basis: to date, this academic year, principals in Co. Louth VEC have met twice to discuss management and other issues.
The Board of Management is generally constituted in accordance with the requirements of the Education Act 1998 and with the guidelines set out in the Handbook for Vocational Educational Committees and Boards of Management of Schools and Community Colleges. In keeping with the spirit of s.14(5) of the Act, optimal gender balance can be resolved at the time of formation of the next board. The board meets three to four times per year and agreed that an increase in the number of meetings would enhance its connection with the life of the school.
In line with guidelines, the board is established every three years. The current board has existed since November 2004 and members have a good perception of their individual responsibilities. This is an ideal time for the BOM to reflect on its corporate role. As specialised training has been undertaken by few members, opportunities to optimise available training should now be fully exploited, giving the BOM a corporate perspective and an understanding of the statutory framework in which it works.
The board’s involvement in the running of the school is evident and is clearly identifiable through the information provided in the documentation presented. Decisions are taken by vote or consensus after discussions have taken place. Appropriate content of meetings is verbally relayed to staff by the Principal and to the Parents’ Association by their BOM representatives. There is scope for improving this communication system to ensure consistency in the feedback and information process. It is recommended that the BOM devise a strategy for ensuring that a formal, agreed written report from all meetings is made available to staff and parents.
The board fulfils its obligations in relation to the development and ratification of policies, examples of which are the Substance Use and Admissions policies. A presentation was given by a member of the school planning team in May 2005 to ensure that the BOM was made aware of the school development planning process and of progress in relation to policies existing in the school at that time. To date, a review of the Admissions Policy, Substance Abuse policy and Learning Support policy has taken place. As part of future planning, timely reviews of other established policies could now take place in close collaboration with the school planning team, senior management, parents and students.
Bush Post Primary School has experienced significant changes at senior management level during the last five years culminating in the impending retirement of the current principal. The caring ethos of the school is reflected in the style of management adopted by the current senior management team. The complementary skills of each member of senior management are brought to bear in the management of the school, both on a day-to-day basis and in the longer term. The presence of the senior management team is very evident in the daily life of the school and this is strongly complemented by their “open door” policy. The good working relationship which was displayed throughout the evaluation is nurtured by frequent and ongoing daily communication with each other. Such commitment is commended. All management meetings are held informally. It is recommended, however, that senior management create time to meet formally once a week with a view to ensuring the most efficient use of the team’s time. In this way, planning can reach beyond day-to-day issues and attempt to address medium to long-term issues for the school. Such meetings should be minuted to assist with future planning.
Each member of the senior management team has a clear and defined role. Such roles have evolved through time while taking account of the individuals’ strengths. With the changes soon to take place in senior management personnel, the new term will be an appropriate time to agree defined duties for the incoming principal and deputy principal.
Information between staff and senior management is communicated at staff conferences, briefing meetings, staff-room announcements, using the staff notice-board, or by informal meetings of staff with senior management. A monthly planner is situated in the staff room to record school activities. There is scope for the development of a weekly staff bulletin which could specify forthcoming events and highlight significant achievements of the previous week. The school web-site is an additional means of providing information and should be more fully exploited.
The middle management team make individual contributions to the school’s management structure. Responsibility for clearly defined duties such as Year Head, School Planning Co-ordinator and programme co-ordinator have been delegated to this team consisting of nine Assistant Principals and seven Special Duties Teachers. Post duties are allocated through agreement with the principal, but the schedule of posts has not been reviewed in recent years. In that context, there is scope to initiate timely reviews in consultation with all staff, BOM and the VEC, to ensure that all posts meet both short and medium-term management needs of the school. Consideration should be given both to the manner in which post duties are allocated and to the equity of workload among post holders.
Currently, members of middle management at similar levels or with similar functions do not meet formally. Senior management should address this by creating opportunities for post-holders to meet as often as is warranted. These meetings would provide a useful support network and take account of the need for consistency in work practices. Over and above the formal management structures within the school it was evident that collective sharing of responsibility for the smooth running of the school is a hallmark of Bush Post Primary school. This is reflected in the obvious commitment of the staff as shown in the active participation in a wide range of activities such as the open day and extra-curricular activities.
Communication between the school and home is maintained on a day to day basis through the school journal. The range of daily activities that occur in the school is not always communicated to the entire parent body. This could be resolved, for example, through the publication of a school newsletter, which would help to ensure that the activities that occur would not go unnoticed. This would also highlight the level of commitment by staff, students and parents to the school.
The student council was established in 2004. So far, it is restricted to students at junior cycle. Future plans are to include students from senior cycle. As a prefect system is already in place in senior cycle, consideration might now be given to linking these two groups to form one, cohesive student council.
In general, the school experiences little difficulty securing qualified teaching staff. However, there is evidence in a very small number of cases that optimum use of such resources has not been made in their deployment. In that context, it is recommended that the deployment of available qualified staff is maximised.
All teachers, as the need arises, have been facilitated by school management to avail of in-service training and such support is acknowledged and commended.
Resources and facilities in Bush Post Primary School are very good. Programme co-ordinators are allocated a budget but management also tries to meet any additional needs. Although there is no fixed budget allocated to other subject departments, all needs are met subject to requisition. All of the specialist subjects are well resourced and management is firmly committed to ensuring their continued development as evidenced, for example, by the recent refurbishment of the wood technology room. The availability of three computer rooms is a considerable asset for the school and their continued use along with the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in the teaching and learning of individual subjects is encouraged. The provision of two student canteens is very beneficial given the rural location of the school.
All Year Heads have access to offices, which in many cases are shared. The provision of a dedicated Learning Support Room, Guidance and Counselling room and Careers room are also an asset to the school and the students.
Sporting facilities have seen a tremendous injection of financial resources. A new running track is currently being developed by the local Glenmore Athletic Club with funding from the Department of Sport and Tourism, Cross Border and Louth County Council. A new PE hall will be available. The overall school accommodation, both internal and external, is well maintained. The display of awards at the entrance is particularly striking, both for the range of areas covered and for the originality of design and as such is commended. The very high standard of maintenance of the school grounds was clearly evident and contributed to the attractive environment.
Resources for the Guidance department are very good as evidenced, for example, by the provision of a dedicated office, notice-board and individual laptop. A library containing careers information is available for students at lunchtimes. Guidance classes are generally held in a shared classroom which can limit students’ access to careers information available on the internet. The ICT facilities available should now be more fully exploited by the Guidance department. This would allow senior cycle students to readily access up-to-date careers information and ensure that adequate time is being provided for students to electronically complete and submit university application forms. In that context, it is recommended that both senior management and the Guidance department, as part of future planning for the department, ensure that senior career guidance classes are timetabled in a computer room as often as is practicable.
The school has met its statutory obligations in preparing and issuing a general safety statement.
The process of formal school planning in Bush Post Primary School was initiated in the early 90’s, at which stage planning was confined to discussions at meetings of Assistant Principals. In May 2000, all staff attended a staff day on planning, which was facilitated by the School Development Planning Initiaitve (SDPI) and from then on, the planning process was firmly established. Other planning days have occurred since 2000, most recently in March 2006. A variety of task groups was established to progress work on policies, and draft policies were circulated amongst staff for their consideration. The level of collaboration for the Substance Use policy followed given guidelines. However, it was evident that overall, levels of collaboration on policy development could now be improved so as to consolidate the links between teachers, parents, students and the BOM.
At the request of the VEC, a sub-committee was established within the BOM to prioritise planning for Bush Post Primary School for the five years 2005-2010. The sub-committee plans to consult with students and teachers for their input and has already surveyed the PA. This level of collaboration is commendable and the sub-committee is encouraged fully in this regard.
At present, responsibility for managing the process of school planning has been assigned to an Assistant Principal post-holder. Curriculum planning is ongoing and was cited as a priority for development. Whole-school policies such as the Code of Conduct and the Admissions Policy are in place and some policies, including Learning Support and Substance Abuse, have undergone a formal review. Consideration should now be given to the review of remaining policies and the establishment of definitive timeframes with a view to ensuring that all the partners in the process are informed and consulted. In that context, it is recommended that the school, in collaboration with the BOM, staff, parents and students, establish a timeframe for the review of remaining policies while concurrently working on curriculum planning.
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, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Bush Post Primary School offers a commendably broad range of programmes: Junior Certificate (JC), Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), Transition Year (TY), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and all programmes are co-ordinated by individual members of staff. Programme co-ordinators identified the stabilisation of the core team as a priority in conjunction with the importance of consistent rejuvenation of the programme itself. The recent addition of the LCA, JCSP and LCVP has enhanced curriculum provision considerably and has met with a favourable response from parents and students alike. The BOM is kept informed of and approves all new programmes before their introduction.
A wide breadth of subjects is available for students at all available levels, higher, ordinary and foundation. The former practice regarding streaming on entry to the school has now been amended to allow for mixed ability classes in first year.
Analysis of the school timetable indicates that the total instruction hours being provided are not in line with the requirements of circular M29/95 Time in School. The school should now review the present timetabling arrangements with a view to complying with those requirements.
Information is provided to students to support them in making appropriate choices throughout their school life. A comprehensive entrance procedure for incoming first-years involves visits to the feeder primary schools, and appropriate testing procedures ensure that the school is well aware of each individual child’s aptitudes and needs. Parents of incoming first-year students are invited to the annual open evening and information about the range of subject options available is sent through the post. Separate information evenings dedicated to JCSP, LCA and TY respectively are held, where programme co-ordinators and senior management address the students. It should be borne in mind that career guidance is an important element for parents and students at these information nights and in that context, it is strongly recommended that the Guidance department play an increased role in all such events.
First years are provided with set bands from which they make their optional subject selections while senior cycle students are provided with an open menu. Consideration might be given to the provision of an open menu of subjects at junior cycle to allow students a greater choice.
In first year, a dedicated class, who remain together as a core group for all subjects, has been established for students following the JCSP. Second and third year JCSP classes, however, join with their junior cycle peers for optional subjects and, in this way, experience a broad and balanced curriculum. This change in policy and practice might now be reviewed in collaboration with BOM, staff, and parents as part of future planning. Curriculum organisation plans include the concurrent timetabling of classes from second year onwards for the subjects Gaeilge, English and Mathematics.
A review of certification data indicates a possible concern regarding the uptake at higher level within certain subjects. It is acknowledged that many factors can account for decisions made or options chosen in this regard. However, students require consistent encouragement and motivation from all partners in their learning to achieve their optimum potential in examinations. It is recommended that teachers in all subject areas reflect on ways in which students can be provided with opportunities to develop confidence in their own competence and sustain the motivation to achieve their optimum potential.
A commendably wide variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, which contribute to the personal and social development of students, is promoted and encouraged in the school. This provision is heavily reliant on the commitment and generosity of the teaching staff and their obvious interest and enthusiasm adds greatly to the learning experiences of the students in their care.
The available activities include sport, culture, enterprise, handcrafts, board games and spiritual awareness. “Superstars”, a year-long competitive event of sporting and other activities, attracts a commendably high proportion of students and this is complemented by the participation of staff members. A games committee has been established so that all sporting activities are organised efficiently. This very good practice is commended. The development of an extra-curricular policy would now be useful and could include, for example, guidelines regarding the number of activities in which students can participate.
The extensive variety of extra-curricular activities speaks highly of the commitment in the school to the provision of a holistic education. Management and staff are commended for providing opportunities for students to develop their talents and self-confidence. The significant voluntary work done by teachers is an important contributor to the positive relationships enjoyed in the school and this was remarked on by both parents and students during the evaluation.
Specific findings and recommendations for each of these areas are included in the subject inspection reports that are appended to this report. The following are the general findings on learning and teaching.
A subject department structure, which facilitates a team approach to subject planning, has been firmly established for all of the subjects evaluated. In some cases, subject co-ordinators have been appointed. It is recommended that a co-ordinator be put in place in all subject departments, perhaps on a rotating basis, so as to encourage the development of leadership in the planning process and to facilitate all members of the subject team in gaining experience in the operation of a subject department.
There was very good evidence of collaborative planning. In some cases, management facilitates formal subject department meetings, whilst, in others, it is apparent that subject meetings take place at a time that is convenient to the subject teachers. Consideration should be given to the provision of time for formal subject department planning in all subjects, as part of school development planning, at least at the beginning and end of the school year.
Subject department plans, many of which are based on the templates provided by the SDPI, have been developed. While they are at different stages of development, it is commendable that most subject teams have agreed common programmes of work, based on the syllabuses for each year group. It is recommended that this good practice be extended to all subject departments. It is further recommended that subject plans focus on the learning outcomes for students in terms of expected knowledge and understanding, rather than on a simple list of topics to be covered. As planning develops, the inclusion of more definite timeframes and more specific methodologies and resources should be considered. Further attention should also be given to the effective integration of ICT into teaching and learning in all subjects, as required.
There were good examples of cross-curricular links in some planning documentation, but opportunities to engage more actively in cross-curricular planning between departments, particularly in the Transition Year Programme, should be considered. Teachers are commended for the planning of a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that supplement and enhance the work in the classroom and which provide students with opportunities to extend their learning beyond the formal setting. Teachers have built up and developed a good range of resources in support of teaching and learning and this is commended.
There was clear evidence of careful short term planning for all of the lessons observed. Lessons had clear objectives, were well structured, purposeful and presented at a pace suited to the abilities of the students. The good practice of sharing the planned learning outcomes with students was evident and where this occurred, it provided a clear focus for student attention.
A commendable variety of teaching methodologies was observed in the classrooms visited. These ranged from active learning methodologies, class discussions, pair/group work, individual project work and digital presentations, to a more traditional teacher-led lesson. Group work was effectively organised and students responded with enthusiasm. Those methodologies that actively engage students in their own learning are highly commended; they cater effectively for students with different preferred learning styles and for classes based on a mixed-ability structure, ensuring a balance between teacher input and student activity. Opportunities to share good practice in relation to the use of teaching methodologies should be considered as part of collaborative subject department planning where appropriate. The use of students’ interests and examples drawn from their personal experiences and the local environment greatly facilitated their engagement with the lesson content. It was apparent that teachers taught with enthusiasm and were aware of the needs of their students.
In all of the curricular areas evaluated there was a clear emphasis on the development of appropriate skills, facilitated by the use of a wide range of resource materials that were appropriately integrated into the lesson structure. This good practice is commended and is in line with syllabus requirements. Questioning, which was inclusive and affirming, was used effectively and it frequently challenged students to develop higher order thinking skills. In some classrooms it was appropriate that there was a focus on revision and examination preparation, given the time of year.
Many of the classrooms visited provided a stimulating and rich learning environment for students with the display of colourful educational aids and charts. Teaching and learning took place in an environment where a good rapport between students and teachers, mutual respect and positive working relationships were clearly evident. This resulted in a relaxed and secure environment that was supportive and conducive to learning.
There is regular assessment, recording and reporting of student progress at Bush Post-Primary School. A wide and appropriate range of assessment techniques is used, including questioning, monitoring of homework, class tests and term examinations. The practice observed in some subjects of setting common assessment papers for first-year classes is commended and teachers are encouraged to extend this practice to other year groups, where possible.
There were examples, in some subject areas, of good practice in the assessment of practical, project, oral and aural as well as written components of subjects. This is commended as a more accurate indicator of students’ abilities. It is recommended that such practice be agreed as a standard element of in-house assessments and that strategies are developed for its implementation.
An examination of students’ copybooks indicates appropriate progress is being made and work is well organised and of a good standard. In addition, there was clear evidence of teacher monitoring, along with constructive feedback on students’ progress. The further development of ‘assessment for learning’ principles is encouraged so that students can optimise the benefits of teacher feedback as an enhancement to their learning.
There was some evidence in the course of classroom observation, discussion with teachers and analysis of State examination data that, in the subjects inspected, students are encouraged to take examinations at the highest level possible. It is recommended that, in all subject areas, review and analysis of uptake rates and levels of achievement in State examinations should be included in subject planning activities.
Bush Post Primary School tries to ensure that appropriate provision for students with special educational needs (SEN) begins prior to entry. The school works closely with parents and the feeder primary schools to gather all relevant information required to access supports such as resource/learning support hours. A learning support department, newly co-ordinated since September 2005, is in place. This department aims to cater for all students displaying a need for educational support, a practice which is laudable.
Students who avail of educational support are usually withdrawn, for example, from subjects where they have experienced difficulties, or following a recommendation by a teacher. Short, medium and long-term support, predominantly in literacy and numeracy, is available as required. Time allocation is dependent on recommendations from psychologists or on the time allotted to the subject from which the student with SEN has been withdrawn.
The learning support team works collaboratively, both together, and with other teachers, (primarily Maths and English), in drawing up the Individual Education Plans (IEP) for students. The commitment of the Learning Support department in striving to meet all the students’ needs, in conjunction with fulfilling other teaching obligations, is acknowledged and commended. Students’ IEPs are currently shared with parents if requested. It would be more beneficial to students and parents if the IEP was shared from the outset so that parents would have a clear overview of the plan for their child and the opportunity to contribute if appropriate. The educational support department also works with the psychologists attached to the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and with the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO).
Detailed planning documentation was presented for inspection, within which results of assessments of students on entry and at junior certificate are recorded. Such commitment by the department to the development of such detailed plans and assessments is acknowledged and commended. To enhance this very good work, consideration could now be given to improving tracking systems from entry level to junior certificate and monitoring all results. This would provide the department with an additional device to ensure that the programmes being provided meet the needs of students while concurrently serving as a useful tool for self-evaluation.
The school is pro-active in providing supports for students in need through, for example, the availability of grants for books, breakfast club, homework club, educational trips and uniforms as required. The VEC also provides Gaeltacht scholarships within for students attending schools within the county, a provision which is commended. The School Completion Programme is a significant support available for students and such provision is commended.
The school currently receives an allocation of almost 17 hours for Guidance. 7 periods have been scheduled as classroom tuition and the Guidance department indicated that approximately 8 periods are made available for one-to-one guidance and counselling sessions. These individual sessions have, to date, been arranged informally, with no formal structured timetable. It is very important that senior management, students and parents are aware of the availability of the Guidance Department for career and counselling advice. In that context, it is recommended that the Guidance Department, as part of its future planning, develop a formal timetable of individual sessions and communicate it to senior management, parents and students with a view to encouraging and facilitating students’ attendance.
Guidance, in the LCVP link module, is currently provided by a teacher who is a non-specialist. It is desirable that in the future, optimum use is made of available qualified staff. In the interim, the experience and expertise of the guidance counsellor should be used to create effective liaison with all involved in the provision of guidance in the interest of shared best practice.
Guidance lessons are currently timetabled in a shared classroom. This room also houses the careers library to which access for students is therefore limited. Copies of all prospectuses are housed in the Guidance office which provides some additional level of access for students.
To date, the level of interaction between the Guidance department and parents is limited to requested appointments or parent-teacher meetings. It is now timely, as part of future planning, to assess the needs of parents and students regarding guidance provision. For example, a survey of the Parents’ Association could be a useful starting point in determining parents’ needs. These findings could then be shared amongst the wider parent body. The student prefect system is also a useful starting point for assessing the views of students.
Formal planning within the Guidance department is at a preliminary stage. There is a need for management and the Guidance department to address this as a matter of urgency. A wide level of support is readily available for formal planning and should be exploited. For example, templates are available on the Guidance website at www.ncge.ie or on the School Development Planning Initiative website at www.sdpi.ie. Other useful resources include Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act of 1998, Relating to Students Access to Appropriate Guidance (DES) and Planning the School Guidance Programme (National Centre for Guidance in Education).
The pastoral care structures in the school include a post-holder with defined responsibilities in the area. The post-holder is responsible for the development of the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme which is delivered to all junior cycle classes, in line with syllabus requirements. Others include Year Head and Tutor system, Rainbows (when required), and the provision of a Breakfast Club. This level of pastoral care is an indication of the dedication and support by staff for students. As clear pastoral care structures are in place, it is recommended that such good work should now be formally documented as part of the overall school plan. A Catholic school chaplain and a minister from the Church of Ireland are available to meet with students once a week. The school prefect system is an additional support for students. The “Buddy system”, a support for students in the past, would prove to be very useful for the future.
A system of Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) is in place, working in conjunction with senior management regarding student attendance. Of concern is the significant level of absenteeism in the school. While in many cases, contextual issues may be a significant factor, it is recommended that management and staff examine this issue with a view to tightening attendance and monitoring procedures. Also, procedures for promoting students’ attendance, as required under section 22 of the Education (Welfare) Act, (2000), should be addressed.
Tutors have regular contact with the students for whom they are responsible as almost all tutors teach their core class group. Some tutors are currently involved with delivering the SPHE programme. This is a useful means of increasing the level of contact between tutors and students and consideration should be given to the role of all tutors as teachers of SPHE.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Subject inspection reports in Gaeilge, Geography, German and Home Economics are appended to this report.
As móriomlán de 475 scoláire de chuid Bush Post Primary School atá cláraithe don scoilbhliain reatha 2005-2006 níl díolúine ón nGaeilge ach ag 4 scoláire díobh. Scoláirí a tháinig ón iasacht atá i gceist. Níl acmhainní breise i gceist leis na scoláirí seo agus fanann siad sna ranganna i mbun oibre dá gcuid féin an uair a mbíonn an Ghaeilge ar an tráthchlár acu. Áirítear na socruithe seo a bheith sásúil san am i láthair. Sa chás go dtagann méadú ar líon na scoláirí le díolúine in aon scoilbhliain ar leith b’fhiú socruithe a aontú roimh ré a chinnteodh clár eile foghlama do na scoláirí sin, a oiread agus is féidir, an uair a mbíonn an Ghaeilge ar an tráthchlár.
Bíonn deiseanna ag na múinteoirí Gaeilge comhphleanáil a dhéanamh i bpáirt ag cruinnithe roinn na Gaeilge a thionóltar faoi thrí sa bhliain .i. uair in aghaidh an téarma. Is in am na múinteoirí féin a dhéantar na cruinnithe sin a thionól, uair go mbíonn tréimhse comónta ar an tráthchlár saor ó theagasc i gcás na múinteoirí Gaeilge ar fad. Déantar cruinnithe eile a thionól ar bhonn riachtanas, arís in am na múinteoirí féin. Is fiú ceist ama do chomhphleanáil imeachtaí roinn na Gaeilge a chur san áireamh mar chuid de scéim iomlán chomhphleanáil na n-ábhar ar fad de réir mar a dhéanfar an méid sin a fhorbairt. Sa chomhthéacs sin tá dea-eiseamláir le fáil ag foireann na n-ábhar eile sa scoil ar chomhar agus ar chomhoibriú i measc bhaill roinn na Gaeilge.
Postshealbhóir de ghrád dualgas speisialta atá mar chomhordaitheoir ar roinn na Gaeilge – arb é riaradh imeachtaí ginearálta na roinne na cúraimí a bhaineann leis. Chomh maith leis sin déantar plean na roinne a chur le chéile faoi cheannas bhaill iomlán na roinne, duine ar a sheal féin, gach re bliain. Eagraí an ábhair a thugtar ar an bpost seo, téarma a chum na múinteoirí féin. Coimeádtar súil ar ghnóthachtála na scoláirí san ábhar i gcaitheamh na bliana ar mhaithe leis an leibhéal is fearr a oireann do chumas agus do mhianta na scoláirí a chur ar fáil. Socruithe iad seo atá le moladh agus a chinntíonn páirt ghníomhach do bhaill uile na roinne maidir le cláir theagaisc a phleanáil.
Tá na socruithe a bhaineann le dáileadh an ama ar an ábhar ar thráthchlár na scoile sásúil. 5 thréimhse sa tseachtain – i ranganna singil – an soláthar a dhéantar do na ranganna ar fad sa timthriall sóisearach agus san Idirbhliain. 6 thréimhse sa tseachtain a chuirtear ar fáil do ranganna scrúdú na hArdteistiméireachta. Déantar soláthar maith a chur ar fáil chomh maith do ranganna Chlár Scoile an Teastais Shóisearaigh agus na hArdteistiméireachta Feidhmigh. Tá iarrtha ag na múinteoirí ar bhainistíocht na scoile na ranganna Gaeilge sa dara bliain agus sa tríú bliain a chur ar siúl ag an am céanna feasta ar mhaithe le solúbthacht níos mó a chur ar fáil le freastal ar roghanna agus ar shoghluaiseacht na scoláirí chuig leibhéil éagsúla i gcaitheamh na bliana. Tá glactha ag an mbainistíocht leis an iarratas seo.
Tá seomra ranga faoina chúram féin ag gach duine den triúr múinteoirí Gaeilge – rud a éascaíonn slán-choimeád acmhainní agus teacht orthu go héasca. Is cóir a lua go raibh maisiú spreagúil, tarraingteach ar bhallaí na seomraí ranga seo d’ábhar éagsúil i nGaeilge – agus go raibh obair na scoláirí féin chun tosaigh mar dhearbhú ar a gcuid oibre. Bhí cuma na seomraí le moladh as an eagar, as an slacht, agus as an spreagadh a bhain leo. I seomra amháin díobh bhí ríomhaire pearsanta in úsáid ag an múinteoir a raibh stór maith acmhainní leictreonacha i nGaeilge a chnuasaigh sé féin le fáil air.
Ina measc seo bhí leaganacha Gaeilge d’iomlán na mbailte fearainn i gContae Lú a íoslódáladh ó shuíomh gréasáin na Roinne Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta mar áis do chlár na hIdirbhliana. Tá an úsáid thionscantach seo d’acmhainní leictreonacha i dtaca le múineadh na Gaeilge le moladh, cé go raibh úsáid acmhainní Theicneolaíocht na Faisnéise agus na Cumarsáide (TFC) teoranta go leor i gcoitinne. B’fhiú clár a chur le chéile a mbeadh míreanna den TFC ann do na ranganna Gaeilge – sa timthriall sóisearach agus san Idirbhliain go háirithe – ar mhaithe le taithí láimhe oibriúcháin ar TFC i gcúrsaí comhaimseartha na Gaeilge a thabhairt do na scoláirí agus saoirse áirithe a cheadú ó na téacsleabhair.
I gcomhthéacs na scoile, tuigeadh ó na múinteoirí go raibh na hábhair phraiticiúla go mór chun tosaigh ag na scoláirí agus ag na tuismitheoirí agus nach raibh an tóir chéanna ná an dúil chéanna sa Ghaeilge. Léirigh na múinteoirí an-iarrachtaí le cur le seasamh na Gaeilge sa scoil agus luadh go raibh tacaíocht bhainistíocht na scoile leis na hiarrachtaí seo.
Ar na hiarrachtaí seo bhí an t-athrú a cuireadh chun cinn i gcás na Gaeilge leis na ranganna do Chlár Scoile an Teastais Shóisearaigh (CSTS) faoina raibh an Ghaeilge ag an ngnáthleibhéal ar bun ag an gcuid is mó ar fad de na scoláirí sin mar rogha ar ‘Irish Cultural Studies’ faoi mar a bhíodh ar siúl ag na ranganna sin blianta beaga ó shin. Dul chun cinn suntasach eile is ea an toradh a bhí ar iarrachtaí na múinteoirí Gaeilge le cur le líon na scoláireachtaí do choláistí samhraidh a mhaoinítear do na scoláirí. Bronnadh leath-scoláireachtaí ar 28 scoláire an lá a raibh an chigireacht ábhair ar scoil. Ba le tacaíocht Choiste Gairmoideachais Chontae Lú agus le stocaireacht ar na coláistí samhraidh féin a d’éirigh le roinn na Gaeilge an líon sin scoláireachtaí a bhaint amach. Tá iarrachtaí seo na múinteoirí ar son na scoláirí agus ar son chur chun cinn an ábhair le moladh.
Bhí taithí éiritheach ag na múinteoirí Gaeilge mar scrúdaitheoirí cúnta ag na scrúduithe teistiméireachta scríofa agus ag béaltrialacha na hArdteistiméireachta chomh maith le taithí ar mhúineadh labhairt na Gaeilge i gcoláistí samhraidh i gcás amháin. Bhí cur amach dá réir ag na múinteoirí ar riachtanais na bpáipéar scrúdaithe agus bhí féinmhuinín le sonrú ar eagar agus ar chur i láthair ábhar an teagaisc sna ranganna a breathnaíodh. Tugtar deiseanna do na múinteoirí ar na leibhéil ar fad san ábhar a theagasc agus roinntear an taithí sin ag leibhéal na hArdteistiméireachta i measc na múinteoirí dá ndeoin féin, socrú atá le moladh.
Cuireadh dréacht (Márta 2006) de Phlean Roinn na Gaeilge ar fáil a bhain le pleanáil fhadtéarmach na gcuraclam éagsúla. Bhí tagairtí le léamh sa phlean do shiollabais Ghaeilge na Roinne Oideachais agus Eolaíochta mar aon leis na treoirlínte do mhúinteoirí mar threoirdhoiciméid. Bhí ceannteidil le léamh sa phlean a bhain le spriocanna foghlama a shainiú bunaithe ar na topaicí a bhí á lua taobh leo, bliain ar bhliain, in aghaidh na leibhéal éagsúla. Bhí tagairtí do mhodhanna measúnachta agus d’aidhmeanna agus do chuspóirí an teagaisc.
Cé go mba obair idir lámha a bhí i gceist leis an bplean seo go fóill a mbeadh tuilleadh obair chomhphleanála de dhíth air le heagar níos fearr a chur air, bhí dúshraith maith leagtha síos don obair sin. Ba léir ón bplean go ndearnadh machnamh ar riachtanais na scoláirí agus ar chur chuige a aontú le múineadh na teanga a dhéanamh ar bhealach éifeachtach agus aird á tabhairt ar réimse spéise na scoláirí agus ar a dtaithí ar an saol. Bhí na tagairtí do na hacmhainní teagaisc le moladh, go háirithe i gcás na ranganna sinsearacha mar a raibh tagairtí do théacsanna dílse le léamh.
Tá tús curtha le ranganna chumais mheasctha sa chéad bhliain sa scoil, athrú a thionscain bainistíocht na scoile de rogha ar shruthú a chur i bhfeidhm ón tús, faoi mar a bhíodh cúrsaí. Is mó an tábhacht dá réir a bhaineann le spriocanna foghlama aontaithe i measc na múinteoirí a chlárú sa phlean fadtéarmach seo mar threoir níos soiléire do na múinteoirí féin sa gharullmhúchán a dhéantar do cheachtanna sa rang. B’fhearr na ceithre mhórscileanna a chur san áireamh agus na spriocanna foghlama a shoiléiriú i ngach cás díobh. B’fhiú chomh maith an dea-obair atá ar bun sa Ghaeilge leis na ranganna a thugann faoi Chlár Scoile an Teastais Shóisearaigh a shainiú.
Bhainfeadh tairbhe leis na spriocanna foghlama seo a roinnt le scoláirí agus le tuismitheoirí i dtús na bliana mar threoir dóibh leis na dúshláin a bhainfidh le hobair na bliana. D’fhéadfaí achoimre ar an méid sin a cheangal i dtús téacsleabhair nó i dtús cóipleabhair agus b’fhearr go mór é mar threoir le hobair na bliana ná an téacsleabhar féin. Sa tslí sin thuigfeadh na scoláirí nach raibh sa téacsleabhar ach gléas leis na ceithre mhórscileanna a fhorbairt. I gcás scoláirí díograiseacha dob fhéidir treoir a chur orthu le taifead a choimeád ar an dul chun cinn leis na spriocanna foghlama sin trí bhoscaí a chur taobh leis na spriocanna sin, boscaí ina gcuirfeadh an scoláire tic le méid an dul chun cinn a chlárú. Chuirfeadh cur chuige dá leithéid an fhoghlaim neamhspleách chun cinn i measc na scoláirí.
Ba mhaith an rud é na hacmhainní teagaisc ar fad atá ar fáil do theagasc na Gaeilge a chlárú faoin gceannteideal sin sa phlean neamhspleách ar na téacsleabhair. B’fhiú cuntas a choimeád ar athnuachan na n-acmhainní sin agus foirm iarratais chaighdeánach ar acmhainní breise nó ar athnuachan acmhainní a dhearadh le cur sa phlean. Ba chóir an fhoirm sin a líonadh ag cruinniú dheireadh na bliana de roinn na Gaeilge agus a chur faoi bhráid bhainistíocht na scoile.
Meabhraítear an tagairt a rinneadh cheana do chúrsaí TFC a chur san áireamh sa phleanáil, go háirithe as a oilte sna cúrsaí sin a bhí baill na roinne. Cé go bhfuil fáil ar theilifíseán agus ar ghléas físeán le tabhairt ó sheomra go seomra is fiú na féidearthachtaí a bhainfeadh le hacmhainní den tsórt seo a chur ar fáil sna thrí sheomra ranga don Ghaeilge a fhiosrú. Déantar an moladh deireannach seo go háirithe as an bhfonn a tugadh faoi deara i measc na múinteoirí ar an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn cothrom le raon spéise na scoláirí, a bhféadfaí cothú a dhéanamh air ó mhíreanna rialta dea-roghnaithe de chláir TG4.
Déantar tagairt sa phlean do phleanáil tras-churaclaim mar threoir ghinearálta do na múinteoirí le hábhar teagaisc a chur in oiriúint d’eispéireas na scoláirí i ngach ábhar scoile agus i ngach gné de shaol na scoile. B’fhiú do na múinteoirí an ghné seo a aontú agus a fhorbairt i gcomhar le chéile i gcaitheamh na bliana agus súil a choimeád ar imeachtaí scoile agus ar imeachtaí in ábhair eile.
Bhain úire agus nuálacht le clár na hIdirbhliana a raibh aidhm shoiléir ag baint leis .i. an teanga a chur i láthair mar dhúil bheo i saol na tíre trí bhíthin staidéar a dhéanamh ar na meáin chumarsáide chraolta i nGaeilge, cuairt a thabhairt ar Ghaeltacht Ráth Cairn, agus labhairt na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn i measc na scoláirí sa rang, lena n-áirítear díospóireachtaí ranga.
Cuireadh bileog ar fáil a thug cuntas ar na himeachtaí Gaeilge a eagraítear sa scoil i gcaitheamh na bliana. Ar na himeachtaí seo bhí ócáidí a bhain le seachtain na Gaeilge, turais chultúrtha chuig léirithe drámaí i nGaeilge, turas chun na Gaeltachta do scoláirí na hIdirbhliana, comórtas chlár raidio, ailt i nGaeilge d’iris na scoile agus taispeántas ar leith ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge a chur chun cinn ar oíche oscailte na scoile do thuismitheoirí. Bhí na himeachtaí seo ar fad le moladh go mór agus ba chóir iad a chlárú mar dhlúth agus inneach de phlean roinn na Gaeilge. Níl cur síos ar an bhfiúntas a bhaineann leis na himeachtaí sin ar fad le híomhá dearfach a thabhairt don ábhar i measc na scoláirí agus i measc a muintire.
An chuid den phlean seo is mó a mb’fhiú forbairt a dhéanamh uirthi ná tagairtí a dhéanamh do mhodheolaíochtaí teagaisc agus foghlama. Ina theannta sin moltar do na múinteoirí leanacht lena gcuid oibre atá tosaithe sa chéad bhliain agus cláir theagaisc chomónta a aontú, bliain ar bhliain, do na leibhéil éagsúla san ábhar.
As méid an chomhoibrithe i measc na múinteoirí a bhí le brath ar an gcruinniú a tionóladh leis an gcigire moltar machnamh a dhéanamh ar mhúineadh i bpáirt le chéile – sa mhéid is gur féidir sin ar an tráthchlár – nó machnamh a dhéanamh ar chuairt a thabhairt ar ranganna a chéile ó am go chéile i gcaitheamh na bliana le gnéithe áirithe den teagasc agus iad á múineadh ag comhghleacaí a bhreathnú.
Sna ranganna ar tugadh cuairt orthu tugadh faoi deara go mba í an Ghaeilge a bhí á labhairt ag na múinteoirí in imeacht na ranganna ar fad leis na scoláirí, mar shampla i ngnáthimeachtaí an ranga ar nós freagairt do ghlaoch an rolla agus tús á chur leis an rang le paidir i gcásanna. Tá an cur chuige seo le moladh mar go dtugtar le fios do na scoláirí ó thús na chéad bhliana gur teanga chumarsáide atá i gceist leis an nGaeilge sa rang seachas mar ábhar scrúdaithe a bhaineann le téacsleabhair amháin.
Bhí an múinteoir lárnach san obair sna ranganna ar fad ach i gcásanna áirithe tugadh obair le déanamh do na scoláirí ar ball a thug deis dóibh bheith rannpháirteach le chéile agus an obair a riaradh iad féin ar feadh tréimhse ghairid. Bhí caighdeán na hoibre sin níos fearr i ranganna áirithe seachas a chéile cothrom le cumas na scoláirí san ábhar. Mar shampla, b’fhearr go mór méid agus cáilíocht na cainte a bhí le cloisteáil ó na scoláirí a bhain le rang ardleibhéal seachas le rang gnáthleibhéal.
Ce go raibh tost le sonrú ar iarrachtaí scoláirí áirithe san obair ghrúpa, san am céanna bhí na scoláirí sin in ann an obair a leagadh síos dóibh a chur i gcrích agus freagraí a bhreacadh síos, ainneoin nach trí phlé a dhéanamh i nGaeilge a rinneadh an obair sin. Glactar leis go raibh scáth níos mó ar na scoláirí seo a gcuid cumas teoranta sa teanga a léiriú seachas mar a bhí i gcás scoláirí ranga ardleibhéil a léirigh féinmhuinín níos mó sa teanga. Tá moladh ag dul don mhúinteoir as na hiarrachtaí a rinneadh le deis chainte a thabhairt do na scoláirí seo ainneoin a theoranta is a d’éirigh leo an méid sin a dhéanamh.
Is fiú a chur san áireamh i gcás ranganna chumais mheasctha, faoi mar atá anois sa chéad bhliain, go bhféachtar chuige go mbíonn an deis chainte chéanna ag scoláirí a bhíonn níos laige sa teanga thar scoláirí eile ach a dheimhniú go lorgaítear freagraí de chaighdeáin idirdhealaithe ar na scoláirí éagsúla.
Bhain aidhm shoiléir leis na ranganna ar fad a breathnaíodh agus cuireadh an aidhm sin in iúl i dtús na ranganna. Chomh maith leis sin bhí leanúnachas le sonrú ar na ceachtanna le hobair a rinneadh roimhe sin. Bhí féinmhuinín le sonrú ar chur i láthair an ábhair i gcás na múinteoirí agus rinneadh an teagasc le díograis i ngach cás.
Úsáideadh spreagchártaí le rang sa timthriall sóisearach mar chabhair leis na heochairfhocail a mheabhrú do na scoláirí ar mhaithe le foclóir a leathnú. Focail a bhain le cur síos a dheanamh ar shuíomh a bhí i gceist ar nós ‘os comhair’, ‘taobh thiar de’, ‘in aice’, ‘i lár’, ‘ar thaobh na láimhe deise’. B’fhearr an cur chuige seo go mór ná an foclóir céanna a léamh amach ón téacsleabhar le cur in abairtí agus bhain úire leis an gcaoi ar iarradh ar na grúpaí spreagchárta a roghnú go fánach as an mbeart a cuireadh ar fáil dóibh mar a bheadh cluiche cártaí ann. D’fhreagair na scoláirí go maith don chur chuige seo agus léarscáil sráide ar an gclár bán le cruinnúsáid an fhoclóra sin a dheimhniú. Tugadh obair bhaile scríofa ar ball leis an obair a rinneadh sa rang a chleachtadh agus a bhuanú. B’fhiú obair bhaile a thabhairt chomh maith a chuirfeadh iallach ar na scoláirí na focail sin a chleachtadh ó bhéal e.g. cuntas ó bhéal a ullmhú ar rudaí sa gharthimpeallacht acu féin sa bhaile nó i dtimpeallacht na scoile.
I rang eile rinneadh an-chleachtadh ar obair léitheoireachta ón téacsleabhar a bhain le bia folláin agus bia mífholláin. B’fhiú obair an téacsleabhair a leathnú amach agus ceangal níos mó a dhéanamh le saol na scoláirí féin ar mhaithe le caint agus le comhrá a chur chun cinn. Tráthúil go leor bhí scoláire amháin a léirigh cumas ar leith sa chaint agus a bhí ar a chompord ag plé leis na cúrsaí sin. B’fhiú cleachtadh a thabhairt do scoláirí eile ar chaint a dhéanamh ina measc féin ar na cúrsaí céanna, rud a thabharfadh saoirse ón téacsleabhar agus deis chainte ina measc féin do na scoláirí. Níor chóir a bheith buartha i gcás scoláirí sóisearacha nach n-éireodh leis na hiarrachtaí sin.
D’fhéadfaí chomh maith céanna ábhar dráma spéisiúil a chumadh as an ábhar e.g. duine fásta ag iarraidh comhairle ar dhochtúir agus na scoláirí a chur i bpáirt sa dráma. Thabharfadh gníomhaíocht den chineál sin deis leis an ngreann a chur sa scéal chomh maith agus scoláirí le cumais éagsúla sa chaint a cur i bpáirteanna éagsúla. D’fhéadfaí cleachtadh a thabhairt ar an gcaoi sin chomh maith ar cheisteanna a chur ar a chéile mar rogha ar cheisteanna a fhreagairt de shíor.
I gcás ranganna áirithe sa timthriall sóisearach chonacthas caint na scoláirí á cur chun cinn go mór le greann agus leis an gcur amach a léiríodh ar ábhar spéise na scoláirí. San áit, mar shampla, a raibh athchleachtadh á dhéanamh don scrúdú ar litir ghearáin a scríobh, bhain ábhar na litreach le ceolchoirm popcheoil sa ‘Point Depot’ nárbh fhiú luach na dticéad. Pearsana aitheanta i saol an phopcheoil in Éirinn san am i láthair a bhí i gceist sa litir, pearsana a bhíonn i mbéal an phobail i measc an aosa óig agus ar na meáin. Ba léir ar na scoláirí go raibh siad an-tógtha leis an litir a scríobh agus rinneadh cúram de chruinnscríobh na Gaeilge agus de chruinnfhoghraíocht na bhfocal i rith an ama gan bhaol don ábhar cruinneas na teanga a chur i leataobh. Seinneadh ceol mar chúlra agus na scoláirí i mbun an obair ghrúpa. Bhain fiúntas mór leis an obair seo ó thús deireadh agus ba i nGaeilge a bhí na buíonta éagsúla ag obair nuair a cuireadh obair ghrúpa ar bun.
Bhí fianaise bhreise le léamh sna cóipleabhair ar a mhéid a bhí obair an ranga in oiriúint don aos óg san obair a bhain le cuntais nó léirmheasanna a scríobh ar phearsana móra le rá idirnáisiúnta i saol na siamsaíochta, ar chláir aitheanta theilifíse ó Mheiriceá a mbíonn an-tóir orthu sa tír seo agus in ábhar chomh simplí le haiste a scríobh ar ábhar ar nós ‘An lá ar goideadh mo fón póca’.
Bhain éagsúlacht le hobair na ranganna a breathnaíodh sa timthriall sinsearach. I gcás ranga amháin bhíothas ag plé le dán de chuid Mháirtín Uí Dhireáin agus sa rang eile bhí an chluastuiscint á cleachtadh trí bhíthin mhír nuachta Gaeilge ón teilifís. Rinne na múinteoirí a lán dícheall sa dá chás na scoláirí a mhealladh le páirt ghníomhach a ghlacadh sa rang. Ainneoin na n-iarrachtaí sin, a bhí le moladh, bhain deacrachtaí do go leor scoláirí a dtuiscint féin ar an dán a chur in iúl. Bhí an méid sin le sonrú ainneoin gach dícheall le téacs agus le cúlra an dáin a mhíniú i bhfriotal níos simplí.
Is in imeachtaí den chineál seo a bhainfeadh buntáiste le machnamh a dhéanamh ar chuairt a thabhairt ar ranganna a chéile le cur chuige éagsúil a bhreathnú. Ní haon dóithín é tuiscint ar dhán de chuid an Dhireánaigh a roinnt le scoláirí nach ndearna, don chuid ba mhó, staidéar ar dhánta mar chuid de chúrsa an Teastais Shóisearaigh cé is moite de dhánta ina raibh an t-ábhar agus an teanga sothuigthe soiléir. Ar an ábhar sin ní mór an-chuid réamhullmhúcháin a dhéanamh le dán den chaighdeán seo a chur i láthair do scoláirí ar beag a dtuiscint d’fhriotal na filíochta. Chuimseodh an réamhullmhúchán gnéithe tras-churaclaim ar nós na tír eolaíochta agus an Bhéarla le cúlra ceart a chur ar fáil sula dtugtar faoin dán a léamh fiú amháin.
Bhainfeadh buntáiste mór le taifeadadh a bheith ar fáil ar léamh an dáin ag an údar féin nó ag aisteoir ghairmiúil. Chomh maith leis sin ba mhór an chabhair grianghrafanna nó tréshoilseáin a thaispeáint ar Árainn i gcontrárthacht le híomhánna eile a léireodh saol broidiúil na cathrach lenar cheangail an file duairceas agus coimhthíos. Ba mhaith an rud é chomh maith ceangal téamúil a dhéanamh, más féidir, le dán ó chúrsa Béarla na hArdteistiméireachta. Baineann obair mhór leis na moltaí sin thuas ach is obair í a d’fhéadfaí a roinnt ar a chéile i measc na múinteoirí, mar chuid den obair chomhphleánála agus a chur ar bhuanchoimeád le húsáid nó le leasú le ranganna eile.
Bhain úire leis an obair nuachta a thug dea-chleachtadh ar chluastuiscint a ghéarú chomh maith le taithí ar an nGaeilge á labhairt ag duine eile seachas ag an múinteoir. Bhí dealramh leis an obair a tugadh le déanamh do na scoláirí, sé sin ceisteanna eolais a fhreagairt bunaithe ar an mír nuachta a casadh roinnt uaireanta. B’fhiú go mór mír den deachtú a dhéanamh as an obair chéanna agus an téacs cruinn a thabhairt amach ar ball.
Ba léir ar na ranganna ar fad go ndearnadh garullmhúchán maith dóibh, go raibh dea-eagar faoi ghníomhaíochtaí na foghlama, go raibh na múinteoirí díograiseach ina gcuid oibre agus tuisceanach agus réasúnta maidir le riachtanais na scoláirí. An dúshlán is mó atá roimh na múinteoirí, ar mhaithe le cúiteamh a fháil ar a gcuid oibre agus le hobair na scoláirí féin a chúiteamh dóibh siúd, ná béim níos mó a leagadh ó thús na chéad bhliana amach ar labhairt na teanga a chur chun cinn. Tá na tosca cuí ar fáil sa scoil le go mbeadh rath ar na hiarrachtaí sin .i. tuiscint don phleanáil, cumas sa mhúinteoireacht, comhoibriú i measc fhoireann roinn na Gaeilge, agus méadú mór ar líon na scoláirí a thabharfaidh cuairt ar choláistí Gaeltachta.
Ní bhaineann scrúdú iontrála sa Ghaeilge le dáileadh na scoláirí ar ranganna sa chéad bhliain mar gur i ranganna chumais mheasctha a chuirtear anois iad. Déantar na scoláirí a roinnt ag tús an dara bliain ar ranganna a dhíríonn ar na leibhéil éagsúla sa teanga. Bunaítear an roinnt seo ar thorthaí scrúduithe tí an tsamhraidh sa Ghaeilge agus ar chuntas leanúnach na múinteoirí ar dhul chun cinn na scoláirí i gcaitheamh na chéad bhliana dóibh.
Tá rang amháin i ngach bliain sa timthriall sóisearach ag gabháil de Chlár Scoile an Teastais Shóisearaigh (CSTS). Déanann formhór mór na scoláirí seo staidéar ar an nGaeilge agus déanann líon mór díobh an gnáthleibhéal i scrúdú Gaeilge an Teastais Shóisearaigh mar rogha ar an mbonnleibhéal agus mar rogha ar ‘Irish Cultural Studies’. Ba é an clár deireannach seo an t-aon chlár a raibh baint aige leis an nGaeilge a dhéanadh scoláirí ranganna CSTS go dtí 3 bliana ó shin. Is iad na múinteoirí Gaeilge a chuir rompu siollabas Gaeilge an Teastais Shóisearaigh a mhúineadh do na ranganna sin agus tá ag éirí leis na hiarrachtaí sin. Tá na múinteoirí le moladh as an dúshlán seo a thabhairt.
Déantar obair na scoláirí a mheas trí cheistiú ó bhéal sa rang agus le hobair bhaile sna cóipleabhair. Bhí cuntas pearsanta ag na múinteoirí ar dhul chun cinn na scoláirí san ábhar i gcaitheamh na bliana. Breathnaíodh raon cóipleabhar agus fillteán a bhain le hobair cheapadóireachta agus obair fhoclóra sna ranganna ar fad in imeacht na cigireachta. Bhí caighdeán na hoibre ag teacht le leibhéal an ranga i ngach cás agus bhain dea-eagar agus slacht leo ar fad. Bhí aitheantas na múinteoirí le léamh ar obair na scoláirí. Bhí méid na hoibre a cuireadh i gcrích i gcaitheamh na bliana le moladh agus ba léir go raibh feidhm le polasaí obair bhaile na scoile.
B’fhiú machnamh a dhéanamh ar sciar de na marcanna sna scrúduithe tí a chur i leataobh don obair a dhéantar sna cóipleabhair mar aitheantas ar cháilíocht na hoibre a chonacthas iontu. I gcásanna áirithe bhí méid an aistriúcháin go Béarla iomarcach, go háirithe san áit a raibh litir i nGaeilge le léamh agus aistriúchán lom go Béarla taobh leis. Moltar ró-úsáid an aistriúcháin mar seo a sheachaint.
Eagraítear scrúduithe tí faoi dhó sa bhliain i gcás na ranganna sa timthriall sóisearach, faoi Nollaig agus um Cháisc. I gcás ranganna sinsearacha eagraítear scrúduithe ranga um Shamhain agus um Cháisc de bhreis ar na scrúduithe tí sin agus bíonn triailscrúduithe san Earrach i gceist do ranganna na scrúduithe teistiméireachta. Obair thionscnaimh a bhíonn i gceist san Idirbhliain. Seoltar tuairiscí scríofa abhaile chuig na tuismitheoirí faoi dhó sa timthriall sóisearach, faoi thrí san Idirbhliain agus sa séú bliain, agus faoi cheathair sa chúigiú bliain. Tuairisciú cuimsitheach atá i gceist do na tuismitheoirí lena liacht sin tuairiscí.
Scrúduithe comónta atá i gceist sa Ghaeilge sa chéad bhliain anois ag éirí as na spriocanna foghlama aontaithe atá ann do ranganna chumais mheasctha. Bíonn scrúdú béil mar chuid de scrúduithe Gaeilge na hIdirbhliana. Scrúduithe scríofa don chuid is mó ar fad a bhíonn i gceist leis na scrúduithe tí. Tuigeadh go mbíonn scrúdú cluastuisceana mar chuid de na scrúduithe sin uaireanta ach nach bhfuil cleachtas aontaithe ina thaobh.
Moltar measúnú a dhéanamh ar na mórscileanna teanga ar fad mar chuid de na scrúduithe tí agus cumas na scoláirí i labhairt na teanga a chur, dá réir, mar chuid riachtanach den mheasúnú sin. Ba chóir an méid sin a phlé mar chuid den obair chomhphleanála agus teacht ar an réiteach is fearr a chinnteoidh go mbronntar aitheantas ar chumas na scoláirí i labhairt na teanga. Ní gá go mbeadh béalscrúdú aonair i gceist leis an méid sin. D’fhéadfaí monatóireacht a dhéanamh go neamhfhoirmeálta ar a mhéid a dhéanann na scoláirí iarrachtaí ar an teanga a labhairt sa rang leis an múinteoir nó i measc na scoláirí féin in obair ghrúpa – chomh fada is go ndéanfaí an measúnú sin ar bhonn rialta. Níor mhór an cur chuige sin a mhíniú do na scoláirí i dtús na scoilbhliana agus céatadán na marcanna a bheadh le bronnadh ar labhairt na Gaeilge a fhógairt.
Déantar anailís ar thorthaí na scoláirí san ábhar ag na scrúduithe tí agus ag na scrúduithe teistiméireachta a phlé mar chuid d’obair chomhphleanála roinn na Gaeilge – obair atá le moladh. Léirigh iniúchadh a rinneadh ar rannpháirtíocht na scoláirí ag na leibhéil éagsúla sna scrúduithe teistiméireachta go bhfuil iarrachtaí fónta ar siúl le líon na scoláirí a thugann faoin ardleibhéal a mhéadú agus go bhfuil beart creidiúnach le léamh sna staitisticí a bhaineann le gnóthachtála na scoláirí sna scrúduithe céanna. Ba mhaith ann na staitisticí seo a chlárú i bplean roinn na Gaeilge mar phointí tagartha i gcúrsaí rannpháirtíochta agus gnóthachtála na scoláirí san ábhar agus mar threoir le hathbhreithnú a dhéanamh ar chláir agus ar mhodhanna teagaisc.
Is iad seo a leanas na príomhbhuanna agus na príomhachair ar díth forbartha a aithnítear sa mheastóireacht:
Mar bhealach chun tógáil ar na buanna sin agus aghaidh a thabhairt ar achair ar díth forbartha tá na heochairmholtaí seo á ndéanamh:
Tionóladh cruinnithe iarmheastóireachta leis an bpríomhoide agus leis na hoidí Gaeilge ag deireadh na meastóireachta. Cuireadh dréachtchinní agus dréachtmholtaí na meastóireachta i láthair agus pléadh iad.
Subject provision and whole-school support
From a total of 475 students registered at Bush Post Primary School in the current school year 2006-2006, only 4, each of foreign origin, have exemption from Irish. No additional resources are involved in their case and they remain in the classroom to undertake their own work when Irish is timetabled for them. These arrangements are considered satisfactory at present. Where there may be an increase in the number of students with exemption in any school year, arrangements should be agreed in advance whereby such students have separate work programmes, as far as possible, at periods timetabled for Irish.
The teachers of Irish have opportunities to plan together collaboratively at formal Irish department meetings convened three times a year (once per term). These meetings are held in teachers’ own time, when all teachers have common timetabled free periods. Other meetings are held as required, again in teachers’ own time. Time for joint planning of Irish department activity should be included in the overall collaborative planning scheme for all subjects as that plan is developed. In that context, the cooperation and solidarity among the Irish department team can be an exemplar for other subject teams in the school.
A special duties post-holder acts as coordinator of the Irish department, a responsibility that involves general organisation of the department’s activities. In addition, the department plan is put together by one of the full team every second year. This post is termed “Subject Organiser”, a term decided by the staff. Students’ attainments in the subject are monitored during the year so that the level most appropriate to the abilities and preferences of students can be provided. These arrangements are to be commended, as they ensure full participation by all teachers in planning teaching programmes.
Arrangements for time allocation on the school timetable are satisfactory. 5 single periods weekly are allocated to all classes in junior cycle and in Transition Year. 6 periods weekly are allocated to Leaving Certificate examination classes. Good provision is also made for classes in the Junior Certificate School Programme and in Leaving Certificate Applied. Teachers have requested school management that Irish periods in second and third years be timetabled concurrently in future in order to ensure flexibility in responding to students’ choice of level and need for mobility between levels during the school year. Management has acceded to this request.
Each of the three Irish teachers has his/her own permanent room, thus facilitating secure storage of, and ease of access to resources. It must be said that the walls of these rooms were decorated with stimulating and well-produced materials, prominent among which was the work of students themselves in recognition of that work. The presentation of these rooms, from the point of view of organisation, cleanliness and stimulus, was commendable. In one room, a personal computer was in use to store a good range of Irish-language electronic resources collected by the teacher.
Among these resources were the Irish versions of all townlands in Co. Louth, downloaded from the website of the Department of Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs as an aid for the Transition Year programme. This project-focused use of electronic resources in the teaching of Irish is commendable, although the use of ICT resources was limited enough in general. It would be beneficial to develop a programme of ICT modules for Irish classes, in junior cycle and Transition Year in particular, as a means of providing students with first hand practical experience of ICT in a modern Irish language context and a certain freedom from textbooks.
In the context of the whole school, it was understood from the teachers that practical subjects were the most popular among students and parents, and that there was not a similar demand for, or interest in Irish. Teachers have made great efforts to promote the standing of Irish in the school and it was reported that school management were supportive of those efforts.
Among these efforts was the change effected in the case of Irish in JCSP classes where the great majority of students have undertaken ordinary level in preference to ‘Irish Cultural Studies’ which these classes had undertaken in recent years. Further significant progress has been made with the success of the Irish teachers’ efforts to increase the number of Irish college scholarships made available to the students. Half-scholarships were presented to 28 students on the day of the subject inspection. The success of the Irish department in achieving this number of scholarships was due to the support of Co. Louth VEC and to representations made to the Irish colleges themselves. The efforts of teachers on behalf of the students and developments in the subject are commendable.
The experience of Irish teachers as assistant examiners for the written certificate examinations and in the Leaving Certificate oral examinations, and in one case as teacher of spoken Irish in Irish colleges, is considerable. As a result, teachers were familiar with the requirements of the examination papers and their self-confidence was reflected in the organisation and presentation of teaching content in the classes observed. All teachers have opportunity to teach all levels in the subject and, at Leaving Certificate level, there is a commendable arrangement whereby this experience is shared voluntarily among the teachers.
Planning and Preparation
A March 2006 draft of the Irish Department Plan, dealing with long-term planning for the various programmes, was presented for inspection. The plan cited as guidance documents the Irish syllabuses from the Department of Education and Science and the guidelines for teachers. Headings in the plan referred to specific learning targets based on topics cited alongside for each year group and for every level. Reference was also made to assessment methodologies and to aims and objectives of the teaching.
While this plan is ‘work in progress’ and will require further joint planning to ensure better organisation and layout, nevertheless it provides a sound basis for that work. It was clear from the plan that teachers had reflected upon the needs of the students and on the desirability of agreeing an approach to ensuring the language was taught effectively, taking account of the range of students’ interests and their life experiences. There was commendable attention to teaching resources, particularly in the case of senior classes where references were made to authentic texts.
Mixed ability classes in first year have been introduced, a change initiated by school management in preference to streaming, as was the case. As a result, it is particularly important that teaching targets agreed among teachers be recorded in the long-term plan as clearer guidance for themselves in their short-term preparation for lessons. When clarifying learning objectives in each case, it would be preferable that the four main skills be taken into account. It would also be beneficial to record the specifics of the good work being done in Irish with the JCSP classes.
There is value in sharing these learning objectives with students and parents at the start of the school year as a form of guidance in facing the challenges of the year’s work. A summary could be attached to the cover of a textbook or copybook and would provide a better guide to the year’s work than the textbook itself. In this way, students would realise that the textbook was merely a vehicle for developing the four main skills. For particularly diligent students, they could be advised to record their progress with these learning objectives by ticking boxes beside the objectives. Such a strategy would promote independent learning among the students.
It would be useful to record in the plan all available teaching resources for Irish, under that heading, and separately from the textbooks. A record should be kept of how these resources are renewed and a standardised request form for new or replacement resources should be designed for inclusion in the plan. That form should be completed at the final meeting of the Irish department each year and placed before school management.
Reference is made again to the inclusion of ICT matters in planning, especially given the level of skill among staff. Notwithstanding the availability of one TV and VCR that travels between classrooms, the possibility of providing such facilities in all three Irish classrooms should be explored. This recommendation reflects in particular the desire noted among teachers to promote the language in line with the range of students’ interests, interest than could be developed through regular use of well-chosen excerpts from TG4 programmes.
The plan refers to cross-curricular planning as a general guide to teachers in linking teaching content to students’ experience in all school subjects and in every aspect of school life. Teachers should agree and develop this element of the plan collaboratively during the year and monitor school events and activities in other subjects.
A freshness and sense of innovation pervades the Transition Year programme, the clear aim of which is to present the language as a living element of the life of the country by studying the Irish language broadcast media, visiting the Rath Cairn Gaeltacht and encouraging the use of Irish among students in class, including class debates.
A leaflet describing Irish language activities in the school throughout the year was noted. These activities included events within Seachtain na Gaeilge, cultural trips to see Irish language plays, a Gaeltacht trip for TY students, a radio programme competition, articles in Irish for the school magazine and a special display promoting Irish at the school open night for parents. All of these activities are to be commended and should be recorded as a core element of the Irish department plan, as their value as a contribution to presenting a positive image of the language among students and their families cannot be overstated.
The part of this plan most in need of development is reference to teaching and learning methodologies. In addition, it is recommended that teachers continue the work done at first year on agreeing common teaching programmes for each year group and every level in the subject.
Arising from the level of collaboration noted among teachers at the meeting with the inspector, it is recommended that teachers consider cooperative teaching, to the extent possible within the timetable, or occasional visits to one another’s classrooms during the year to observe colleagues’ teaching in particular areas.
Teaching and learning
In the classes visited, it was noted that Irish was the sole medium of communication used by teachers with students in everyday activities such as answering roll call or, in some case, the opening of lessons with a prayer. This approach is to be commended as it indicates to students from the beginning of first year that Irish is a language of communication in the class rather than an examination subject based solely on textbooks.
The teacher was central to the work of all classes, but in some cases students were assigned work in due course that allowed them interact with one another and to manage their own work for a short period. The standard of this work was higher in some classes than in others, reflecting students’ abilities in the subject. The amount and quality of spoken Irish was better, for example, in higher level classes than at ordinary level.
While some students were largely silent in group work, they were capable, at the same time, of completing the task set for them and to record answers, although without having discussed the work through Irish. It is acknowledged that these students were less inclined to demonstrate their limited capacity in the language than their counterparts in higher level classes who showed their greater self-confidence. Teachers are to be commended for their efforts to provide opportunities for the students to use spoken Irish regardless of the limited success of students in so doing.
In the case of mixed ability classes, as now exist in first year, account should be taken of the need to ensure that weaker students have the same opportunity to talk as other students, but also to ensure that the standard of answering required of various students is sufficiently differentiated.
All classes observed had clear aims which were shared with the students at the start of the lessons. In addition, there was a clear link with earlier lessons. Teachers’ presentation of content reflected their self-confidence and the teaching was diligent in all cases.
In a junior cycle class, stimulus cards were used to remind students of key positional words – such as ‘os comhair’ (in front of), ‘taobh thiar de’ (behind), ‘in aice’ (beside), ‘i lár’ (in the middle of), ‘ar thaobh na láimhe deise’ (on the right-hand side) - as a means of extending vocabulary. This approach is significantly preferable to the reading of such vocabulary from the textbook to be placed in sentences, and the strategy of allowing students draw cards at random from the pack provided (as in a card game) was refreshing. Students responded well to this approach, while a street-map on the board aided accurate usage of the vocabulary. Homework was then assigned as a means of practising and internalising the work done in class. Homework should also require students to practise the vocabulary orally - for example, to prepare an oral account of things in their immediate environment of home or school.
In another class, there was very good reading practice of textbook material relating to healthy and unhealthy foods. It would be beneficial to extend the textbook-based work in order to create linkages with students’ own lives as a means of encouraging talk and conversation. As it happened, one student demonstrated ability in the spoken word and was comfortable dealing with such matters. There is merit in providing other students with experience of using spoken Irish among themselves on similar topics, thus providing some freedom from the textbook and opportunities for conversation among themselves. A lack of success in this endeavour among junior students should not discourage.
Equally, an interesting drama could be based on such material; for example, an adult seeking a doctor’s advice, with the students taking the parts. Such activity would also allow the inclusion of humour in the storyline, in addition to giving various parts to students with varying oral ability. This would also facilitate students in asking questions of one another, rather than continually answering questions.
In the case of some classes at junior cycle, it was noted that students’ spoken Irish was encouraged through the use of humour by teachers and through their appreciation of students’ interests. Where, for example, the writing of a letter of complaint was being revised, the subject-matter related to a pop-music concert in the Point Depot which was not worth the price of the tickets. A well-known personality in the pop music world in Ireland at present among young people and in the media was the subject of the letter. It was evident that the students were much engaged with the writing of this letter and due attention was paid at the same time to accuracy in the writing and pronunciation of the Irish used so that the language integrity did not suffer by any setting aside of language accuracy. Background music accompanied group work. This work was very worthwhile from beginning to end and Irish was the medium of communication once group-work commenced.
Copybooks provided further evidence of the extent to which the work of this class was suited to young people – work relating to the writing of accounts or critiques of internationally renowned personalities in the world of entertainment, or relating to well-known American TV programmes much in demand in this country and to subject-matter as simple as the writing of an essay on a topic such as ‘The day my mobile phone was stolen’.
The work of senior cycle classes observed showed variety. One class was discussing a poem by Máirtín Ó Direáin and, in another, a TV news item in Irish was the basis of listening comprehension practice. In both cases the teachers strove well to encourage the students to engage actively in the lesson. In spite of these commendable efforts, many students had difficulty in expressing their understanding of the poem. This was evident in spite of the efforts made to explain the text and background of the poem in simpler terms.
Such experience underlines the advantage to be gained from considering visits to other classrooms to see different approaches in action. It is no easy task to explain the meaning of a poem by Ó Díreáin to students who, as a rule, will not have studied poems at Junior Certificate level other than those whose subject-matter and language was clear and comprehensible. In that context, much advance preparation is required in order to introduce a poem of such standard to students who have little understanding of poetic language. This preparation should include cross-curricular dimensions such as Geography and English to provide appropriate background even before the initial reading of the poem.
Availability of a recording of the poet himself, or a professional actor, reading the poem would be a great advantage. Of additional assistance would be the showing of photographs or slides of Aran in contrast to other images of busy city which the poet associated with gloominess and aloofness. A useful thematic link could be also be made with a poem from the Leaving Certificate English course. It is acknowledged that these recommendations do involve significant work that could, however, be shared among teachers as part of collaborative planning and retained permanently for use by other classes and adapted as necessary.
News-based work was innovative in the way it provided very good practice in sharpening listening comprehension as well as experience of hearing Irish spoken by someone other than the teacher. The work assigned to students (to answer questions based on the news item played a number of times) was sensible. It would be worthwhile to base an element of dictation on this work, followed in due course by distributing the actual text.
All lessons reflected good short-term preparation, provided evidence of good organisation of learning, demonstrated the diligence and commitment of teachers and their understanding and reasonableness in relation to students’ needs. In gaining satisfaction from their work and in ensuring students gain satisfaction from theirs, the greatest challenge before the teachers is the need to place greater emphasis, from the beginning of first year, on the encouragement of spoken Irish. The appropriate conditions exist in this school to ensure success in these efforts – an understanding of planning, teaching skill, cooperation among the Irish department team and a large increase in the number of students who will attend Gaeltacht colleges.
Assessment and achievement
Assignment of students to first year classes does not involve an entrance assessment in Irish as students are now placed in mixed ability classes. At the beginning of second year, students are reassigned to level-appropriate classes for the subject. This reassignment is based on the results of summer house examinations in Irish and on teachers’ ongoing reporting of students’ progress during first year.
One class in each year of junior cycle is following the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP). Most of these students study Irish and a large cohort take ordinary level at the Junior Certificate examination in preference to foundation level or Irish Cultural Studies. This latter programme was the only programme involving Irish that JCSP students would undertake up to three years ago. The Irish department undertook to teach the Junior Certificate Irish syllabus to these classes and their efforts are bearing fruit. The teachers are to be commended for taking up this challenge.
Student’s work is assessed through oral questioning in class and through homework in copybooks. Teachers maintained personal records of students’ progress in the subject through the year. During the inspection a range of copybooks and folders relating to essay-writing and vocabulary work was examined in all classes visited. The standard of work was commensurate with the class level in all cases, all work was neat and well-organised and showed evidence of monitoring by teachers. The amount of work covered during the year was impressive and it was clear that the school’s homework policy was effective.
There would be benefit in considering an allocation of marks in house examinations for homework as a means of crediting students for the quality of work observed therein. In some cases, there was over-emphasis on translation to English, especially where an English version was placed side-by-side with a letter in Irish. It is recommended that over-use of such translation be avoided.
House examinations are organised twice a year in Junior Cycle, at Christmas and Summer. In the case of senior cycle classes, class examinations are held in November and at Easter in addition to those house examinations and “mock” examinations for certificate examination classes are held in Spring. Transition Year assessment involves project work. Written reports are sent home on two occasions annually during junior cycle, three times during Transition Year and sixth year and four times during fifth year. That number of reports means comprehensive information for parents.
First years now have common examinations in Irish as a result of the agreed learning objectives for mixed ability classes. The Irish examination in Transition year includes an oral test. House examinations are mostly written. It is understood that these examinations, on occasion, include a listening comprehension test but such practice is not consistent.
It is recommended that all main language skills be assessed as part of house examinations, and that students’ spoken language abilities be an essential element of that assessment. This should be discussed as part of collaborative planning and a decision reached that would best ensure credit for students’ spoken language abilities. An individual oral test would not be necessary. Informal monitoring can be undertaken of student’s efforts to speak the language in class with the teacher or among themselves in group work, as long as that is done on a regular basis. This approach must be explained to the students at the start of the school year, as must information on the percentage of marks to be allocated to spoken Irish.
Commendably, analysis of students’ achievements in Irish house examinations and in the certificate examinations is discussed as part of the department’s collaborative planning. An examination of student participation at the various levels in the certificate examinations revealed the genuine efforts being made to increase numbers at higher level and the creditable statistics on student achievement in those same examinations. These statistics should be recorded in the department plan as reference data in relation to participation and achievement in the subject and as a guide in any review of programmes and methodologies.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and in order to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of Irish and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Subject Provision and Whole School Support
At junior cycle Geography is an optional subject and currently around a quarter of the student cohort in each year of the cycle study Geography. Students are asked to make subject choices from pre-determined option blocks, each containing four subjects. For the school year 2006/2007 Geography is included in one of these blocks. The Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP) is provided in the school and as a means of providing for the geographic education of students following this programme it is recommended that consideration be given to the introduction of the Environmental and Social Studies (ESS) syllabus.
The school offers an optional Transition Year Programme (TYP), which currently does not include the study of Geography. It is recommended that consideration be given to the introduction of a module in Geography into the TYP. Students who have not studied Geography in junior cycle could take such a module thus increasing the subject options available to them for the Established Leaving Certificate (ELC). This development would also help to increase the participation rate of students in senior cycle Geography. Such a module could focus on the development of appropriate geographical skills through the undertaking of a geographical investigation. The development of cross-curricular links would also be facilitated by such a development. For the ELC Geography is also an optional subject and students are offered a free choice of subject before subject bands are generated from which final subject choice is made. Currently students and parents are informed of the arrangements for subject choice by post. It is recommended that the school consider ways to provide further supports and guidance for parents and students around programme and subject choice at the end of the junior cycle. Apart from first year students following the JCSP, all classes are of mixed ability.
There are currently two geography teachers in the school and they form a clearly identifiable subject department. Teachers are provided with their own base classrooms and school management has provided a range of resource materials to support teaching and learning. These resources include a collection of rock samples, wall maps and charts, Ordnance Survey (OS) maps, aerial photographs and videos. The provision of these resources is commended as they contribute to the more effective delivery of the geography syllabuses.
Planning and Preparation
There was clear evidence of collaborative long term planning by the Geography teaching team. A subject department plan, using the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) template, is in place, a copy of which was provided during the evaluation process. Teachers had agreed common planned programmes of work for both junior and senior cycles within given time frames. Aims and objectives were outlined and these are in line with syllabus requirements. The department plan also contains reference to the school’s vision and mission statements. This is good practice as it provides a whole school context for the work of the individual subject department. Reference was also made to time allocation for the subject, option structure, timetabling and student access to the subject, agreed textbooks and course materials and resources, homework and assessment procedures. Periods of revision are also planned for and students are provided with plans for revision outlining topics for study and timeframes. This good practice is commended as it effectively supports students as they prepare for examinations. Teachers are encouraged to build on these good practices by developing a more comprehensive plan for the Geography Department. It is recommended that the subject department plan be further developed by focusing on a policy for the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) across all areas of the curriculum. It is also recommended that the further development of resources to support teaching and learning become part of the planning process for the geography department. Such resources might include large-scale OS maps (1:1000) and photographs of the local area, weather instruments and a soil test kit. Support for the further development of the department plan is available from materials provided during the evaluation visit, from the Geography Support Service and on the website of the Association of the Geography Teachers of Ireland (AGTI) at www.agti.ie.
It was noted during a review of the planning documents that the planned programme for first year classes contains an emphasis on the study of Geomorphology. This places challenging demands on students at this early stage in terms of the extensive range of terminology, understanding geomorphic processes and landform development. It is recommended that the Geography team review this focus on Physical Geography in first year and that greater emphasis be placed on developing map and photograph skills at this early stage perhaps by using large-scale OS maps and photographs of the rich local environment. The introduction of these key geographical skills at this early stage will facilitate their further development as they can be integrated into many sections of the Geography syllabuses.
There was clear evidence of very effective short term planning for all of the lessons observed. All lessons had a clear aim and were developed from previously taught subject matter. Homework was frequently assigned and carefully monitored and corrected. Where teachers used resource materials to support student learning they were very effectively used and were integrated into the lesson plans. Resources used included textbooks, worksheets, whiteboard, sketch maps, an OS map and flash cards. These materials were introduced into the lessons at appropriate times and made a significant contribution to reinforcing learning and to maintaining student interest throughout the lessons observed. Teachers in developing a policy for the integration of ICT across the curriculum could use the Internet to provide further resources to support teaching and learning. The provision of resource materials is commended and it reflects the commitment of the Geography teachers to providing rich learning experiences for their students.
Teaching and Learning
In the lessons observed the topics being taught included: rich and poor regions in Europe (with a focus on contrasts between the Dublin Region and the West of Ireland), Dublin as an example of a core region, and the identification of urban functions and their recognition on OS maps.
Very high quality teaching and learning was evident in all of the lessons observed and teachers employed a variety of teaching methodologies to support learning and to engage students. All of the lessons observed had clear learning objectives and these were shared with the students at the outset, thus providing students with a clear focus for their attention. Clearly established routines were in place in all of the classrooms visited. Lessons began with students obtaining their folders from storage cupboards, roll call followed and homework was then checked and corrected. Homework based on the lesson was assigned at the close of each lesson. These good practices are commended as they create a sense of security for students and this facilitates participation in planned learning activities.
Students were provided with opportunities to participate in lessons when homework was being corrected and during question and answer sessions when ‘brainstorming’ was used as a technique to elicit from students their knowledge of a topic before new subject matter was introduced. This is in line with the principles of ‘Teaching for Understanding’ and helps to develop the students’ oral skills and self-confidence and is commended. An examination of student folders indicated that they had been engaged in debates as a means of analysing geographic issues. Through focused questioning students were encouraged to offer explanations for geographic distributions and this good practice is commended as it helps to develop higher order thinking skills. Students willingly engaged in discussions and were knowledgeable about their courses. Where a lesson extended over a double period the use of group work for part of the time was particularly effective in providing variety in the teaching methodology and in affording students the opportunity to learn from each other. Prior to the group work students were introduced to the topic under investigation with the effective use of flash cards and a question and answer session. Students worked effectively in their groups in their assigned roles and willingly participated in the feedback session where their answers were recorded on a green board. Further group work allowed for the roles within the groups to be rotated thus providing students with an opportunity to record the results of deliberations or to provide feedback to the class group.
Teachers have adopted a visual approach to the teaching of Geography and lessons were clearly outlined on boards. The use of an overhead projector and a series of transparencies could add significantly to students’ grasp of Locational Geography and its use is advocated. The good practice of affording students a ‘quiet time’ in which they could copy notes from the board into their copybooks was observed in one lesson. This affords students an opportunity to reflect on and to assimilate new knowledge and is commended. The teacher moved around the classroom supporting and affirming students for their efforts during this time. In another lesson observed a ‘mind map’ was constructed on the board during a discussion between teacher and students and this provided a very visual summary of the lesson. The wider use of this technique is encouraged particularly as a means of summarising a large section of the syllabus and of enabling students to establish connections between different parts of the course. Variety in teaching methodologies caters effectively for students with different preferred learning styles and is particularly appropriate in mixed ability class settings.
Throughout all of the lessons observed there was a clear emphasis on the development of geographical skills. The use of sketch maps, an OS map and photographs were all integrated into lessons. This is highly commended and is in line with syllabus requirements. The development of such skills is also catered for by students undertaking a geographical investigation in fluvial geomorphology as part of the requirements of the Revised Leaving Certificate Geography syllabus, photographs of which were displayed in a classroom. There was also a very clear focus on teaching the language of Geography, as new terms were introduced they were clearly explained and students were encouraged to use these as appropriate. Resource materials provided as part of the JCSP were used to display lists of key words relating to particular topics in one classroom. This good practice is commended as it contributes significantly to the linguistic development of students. Limiting the number on display at any one time can increase the effectiveness of these lists. As a means of providing further support for students with special educational needs it is recommended that formal links be established between the Geography teaching team and the Learning Support Department and a policy for dealing with such students be included in the subject department plan. The Geography teachers could advise on syllabus requirements, revision plans and provide lists of key words while the learning support teachers could advise on appropriate teaching strategies.
Both of the classrooms visited provided a rich learning environment for students. Wall maps, charts, photographs, newspaper articles, students’ projects and globes all contributed to creating a stimulating milieu in which learning is encouraged. The development of a notice board to display GeoNews could be used to establish links between the study of Geography and the world outside the classroom. Students and teachers could contribute photographs and articles from the print media for display and some of this material could form the basis for the development of worksheets. There was a positive, affirming and mutually respectful atmosphere evident in all of the lessons observed as teachers and students were engaged in the learning process.
Assessment and Achievement
A variety of forms of assessment to be used is outlined in the Geography Department Plan. All students sit formal examinations at Christmas and summer and pre-examinations are held in the second term for those students in third year and Leaving Certificate 2. A notable and commendable feature of the formal assessment programme is the bi-monthly assessment of all students in the senior cycle. Reports are issued to parents following all formal assessments. Student progress is also reported on at formal parent teacher meetings.
Student learning is assessed on an ongoing basis within geography lessons through teacher questioning and the correction and monitoring of homework. Questions were directed either to individual named students or were open to the entire class group and students displayed a good understanding of their courses. Teachers also assess student progress through the holding of class tests, usually when a section of the syllabus has been completed. The results of all assessments and student attendances are recorded in teacher’s diaries and form the basis for report writing and for discussions at parent teacher meetings. A number of sample test papers were provided during the evaluation process and these conform to the layout and structure of those set by the State Examinations Commission and teachers are commended for the high quality of these test papers.
Students use folders and hard backed copybooks for notes and homework. An examination of a selection of these indicated that most students’ work was of a high standard, with neat handwriting, headings in red or underlined and neatly drawn and coloured maps and diagrams. This reflects the high standards and high expectations of their teachers as was evident during discussions. Student work is very carefully monitored, students had received constructive and affirming comments and this good practice is commended. The further development of ‘Assessment for Learning’ principles, with the use of ‘comment only’ marking is recommended. The documentation provided during the evaluation visit and accessing the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment at www.ncca.ie will assist teachers in developing assessment procedures. The further use of small-scale project work is encouraged as a means of assessment and of providing students with an opportunity to use their ICT skills and to develop as independent learners.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made:
Subject Provision and Whole School Support
At present German is offered from first to sixth year to mixed ability classes. On entry to the school, first year students are requested to indicate their modern language preference between French and German. School management is to be commended for its contribution over the years to languages forming a central strand of the curriculum and to its ongoing support for languages in the provision of a choice of languages to students. Students have access to a diverse range of languages in the different programmes on offer in the school: German and French in TY: German in LCA and LCVP, and a Spanish module in LCVP.
German was first introduced into Bush Post Primary in September 1998, while French still formed part of the core curriculum taken by Junior Cycle students. In 2001, the incoming first years were asked to choose between French and German. With this arrangement in place, German established a relatively secure position in the curriculum at Junior Cycle. However, when German was offered to the Leaving Certificate class of 2004, it was provided to the students outside of the mainstream timetable. The German teaching department is to be commended for supporting the introduction and promotion of the German language. This involved an ongoing personal and professional commitment to continuous professional development. In subsequent years, German became an integral part of the Leaving Certificate programme.
For September 2006, however, school management, in determining the educational priorities and principles of the curriculum, has decided to offer only one language to incoming first years. French will once again become core to the Junior Cycle curriculum. In the context of the school’s development planning and decision-making in relation to deployment of resources, school management should look at innovative, yet feasible arrangements which might address the continuing provision of German, such as the possibility of offering German ab initio in Transition year or ab initio as a modern language module in LCVP and/or LCA.
In the learning and teaching observed, there was evidence of the philosophy articulated in the school’s mission statement that “…each person in our school community feels secure and fulfilled, enjoying a positive educational experience” being implemented in practice in classrooms. The German department is to be commended for their personal and professional commitment to the students in their learning of the subject and for identifying as a priority the needs of the individual students in the mixed ability class setting.
Planning and Preparation
The schemes of work and long term planning documents made available at the time of the inspection contained all the required elements for good planning, outlining themes and topics to be covered: planning for the systematic integration of grammatical structures; preparation for examination related tasks; acquisition and reinforcement of vocabulary: deployment of a range of resources and of sources of appropriate material. Lesson observation provided clear evidence of meticulous preparation. The inclusion of specific learning objectives, including skills development in the planning documentation is to be commended. Such good practice facilitates the regular monitoring of student progress.
The aims and objectives for the teaching of German were clearly presented in the planning documentation. The specific aims of fostering interest and motivation for the language was particularly in evidence in the lessons observed. The teaching observed also bore witness to the stated aim of making the language accessible to all students interested in learning the language. Students were actively affirmed and encouraged in their learning throughout the lessons.
The inclusion of cross curricular links and interdisciplinary aspects to the planning for the teaching and learning in the subject is to be commended. This is particularly relevant to both the content and approach recommended for Transition year. Plans for the promotion of the German language, such as a German language activities day and the visit to language and adventure centre for first and second years are also to be commended.
A range of resources were drawn upon in the course of the lessons observed and these were integrated effectively. The provision of a teacher-based language room facilitated the optimal deployment of resources. The room was well equipped with posters, charts and examples of grammatical and vocabulary items covered. Student work and subject related material on display in classroom created an attractive learning environment. The integration of ICT and other media for use in language teaching should be explored in the future.
At present, school management facilitates planning at subject level. Language department meetings, facilitated by school management, would clearly progress collaborative planning across the languages and provide an invaluable support to the language teachers in the school. It is recommended therefore that a process of collaborative planning across the modern languages be established to facilitate the group of modern language teachers working together as a team. In this way, a whole school approach to the planning for and the implementation of the language curriculum can be both fostered and developed. This would also help to ensure that respective plans are evaluated and reviewed on a regular basis, and would help inform school management when curricular changes and decisions need to be made.
Teaching and Learning
Some of the approaches and methodologies deployed by the teacher to create an effective, stimulating learning environment for German included: active learning methodologies such as pair work/group work; effective integration of grammar; systematic vocabulary acquisition; consistent use of the target language; practice of oral work; the use of games and flash cards. In all lessons observed, a stimulating language environment was created for all students. This resulted in the achievement of a balance between language acquisition and engagement with the content and meaning of the text or topic. The focus on learning by doing reflected in planning was clearly in evidence in the lessons observed.
There was consistent use of the target language as a means of communication and for classroom management. This is excellent practice and is to be commended. The instructions in relation to tasks were given in German, with support in mother tongue only when required. It was evident that student were accustomed to hearing and using the target language and the students themselves used German to carry out simple transactions and make incidental remarks. Students also demonstrated a good awareness of sentence structure and linguistic items. Some opportunities for students to actively use the new language acquired and to consolidate their learning were not availed of and this could be achieved without much effort by both teachers and students alike.
In one lesson observed, there was an excellent example of an integrated approach to the development of the skills of speaking, reading and listening. The lesson opened with the reinforcement of material already covered, in preparation for the introduction of new activities. The preparatory phase perhaps impacted negatively on the pace of the lesson. Nevertheless, students demonstrated a good knowledge of vocabulary items covered and were reasonably accurate in their pronunciation and intonation. The work observed in vocabulary acquisition was good, with a systematic approach and judicious recourse to translation into mother tongue. The effective use of synonyms when explaining words to students, thus broadening the vocabulary base of the students, is recommended.
Students engaged with the tasks well and applied themselves to the completion of the tasks assigned. The teacher interacted with students individually and in pairs, ensuring completion of the task in the working language of German and providing the necessary linguistic and lexical scaffolding for students where necessary. There was effective use of the target language integrated at ease and in a simple way. The same systematic approach was evident in the student copies examined. There was regular correction of student work and students were developing accuracy in written expression.
The lessons observed were exemplary in their adherence to syllabus objectives and focus on student learning and attainment. In the senior lessons observed, there was an appropriate emphasis on preparation for examinations for the particular time of the school year. The challenge of preparing both ordinary and higher level students for their respective examinations was coped with admirably. There was a general introductory phase where the theme of the lesson was discussed orally. The questioning of students was inclusive and encouraging. Student interventions were affirmed and corrected sensitively. When the focus of the lesson proceeded to the preparation of strategies for the written examination, each grouping was supported separately. The ordinary level students were provided with the necessary linguistic scaffolding to complete the examination task, while the higher level students began to work independently of the teacher in addressing an examination task in question.
The approach and methodologies deployed were appropriately different for the LCA group. There was excellent practice of simple structures. The language was attainable for the students and the teacher stimulated and maintained student interest and effort effectively. The restricted range of vocabulary and the focus on one grammatical item enabled the students to experience a sense of success and achievement in their learning. This is commendable. The LCA lesson observed contained a good range of activity, where a range of meaningful teaching and learning activities to facilitate and reinforce student learning were integrated with ease.
When students were then asked to work in groups, the organisation into working groups happened effectively and quickly with teacher direction. A relaxed but purposeful working atmosphere prevailed while students participated in lesson activities. Tasks and activities were appropriate, allowed for differentiation and students applied themselves. Student behavior was exemplary and students demonstrated an interest in the subject. Classroom interactions were characterized by mutual respect and students were purposeful and committed in their work. This was due in no small way to the German department’s personal and professional commitment to the subject and to the students.
Assessment and Achievement
There is regular assessment of student progress, of student oral, aural and written competence. Progress is carefully recorded, monitored and reported. Formal in-house examinations take place for all year groups. As outlined in planning documentation, the German department has a planned and systematic approach to the assessment of student progress. Students take a short oral test at the end of each theme. Homework is assigned and corrected regularly. Grammatical items and vocabulary are tested frequently. All students sit in-house timetabled examinations in German at Christmas and at the end of the school year. This assessment includes an oral at senior level. The range of assessment modes used to monitor student progress in a language should include the testing across all the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. It is recommended that the assessment of aural and oral skills be included at both junior and senior level. Planning documentation includes specific objectives for the outcomes of student learning which is commendable. Students are also encouraged within the German department to take the level most appropriate to them and the take the higher level, if at all possible and appropriate.
The level of engagement of the students and the development of a wide range of skills was evident in the classes and activities observed in the course of the evaluation. Students in their interactions with the inspector demonstrated a good level of knowledge of language covered and responded with reasonable confidence.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 teacher of German and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Subject Provision and Whole School Support
Home Economics is well established in Bush Post Primary School, where, commendably, it is offered on all curriculum programmes available to students. It is an optional subject in junior cycle, and in senior cycle as part of the Leaving Certificate (Established). Modules in Home Economics are mandatory for all students in the Transition Year Programme (TYP), and all Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students take Hotel, Catering and Tourism as one of the vocational specialisms. Home Economics is a popular subject, particularly in junior cycle, where a healthy gender balance is also noted.
There is good provision and whole school support for the subject and teaching time allocated to classes at all levels is adequate. However, a number of issues need attention regarding the timetabling of Home Economics. In a number of cases, the total time allocation is distributed over two consecutive days each week. In the case of a junior cycle class, for example, one double period is timetabled on Monday and the second double period on Tuesday, thus resulting in a gap of almost a week between class periods. Similarly, a senior cycle class is timetabled for a double period on a Friday morning, a single period on Friday afternoon and the remaining double period is on the following Monday morning; again the class time is tightly concentrated over two days. It is recommended that consideration be given to the timetabling of Home Economics to ensure that students will benefit from a more even distribution of class contact time throughout the week in the interests of continuity in teaching and learning. In dealing with this, some thought might also be given to splitting one of the double class periods into two single periods, thus creating an additional opportunity for class contact time. It is also noted that a number of double class periods are timetabled to run over break time and lunchtime, which means that the double period is split. This is not conducive to the smooth operation of practical lessons and it is recommended that this practice be reviewed. Finally, in relation to timetabling, three single class periods are allocated to the TYP modules in Home Economics thus restricting students’ opportunities for practical work. It is recommended that at least one double period be provided for the TYP to facilitate the development of practical work.
Management is supportive of collaborative planning and some formal time has been made available for subject department planning. It is commended that the current Home Economics department began the process of collaborative planning at the beginning of the current school year and during the evaluation, minutes of subject department meetings were presented; the teachers also meet regularly on an informal basis. A subject department structure has been firmly established and it is suggested that the appointment of a subject coordinator, perhaps on a rotating basis, would ensure that all members of the team gain experience in the operation of a subject department as well as sharing the responsibility.
There are two specialist rooms for Home Economics, comprising one kitchen and a textiles room. The rooms are well maintained and resourced with an appropriate range of equipment necessary for the teaching of the subject. Each of the specialist rooms also has a computer, which is networked with Internet access, and a printer, while a data projector is in situ in the textiles room. Students are encouraged to use information and communication technologies (ICT) to research practical coursework assignments and for the presentation of project work. It is laudable that students can access their own individual work on the computers in the Home Economics classrooms or in one of the three ICT suites. There is no annual budget for Home Economics, but resources are allocated on the basis of teacher requisition. Management is very supportive of requests made for the ongoing replacement and updating of equipment. It is commendable that teachers have developed health and safety guidelines and a checklist for Home Economics; health and safety notices are on display in the specialist classrooms.
Planning and Preparation
The collaborative approach that has begun in relation to the organisation and planning of Home Economics in the school is to be commended; this will facilitate the sharing of ideas, expertise and resources and help establish a common purpose and direction for the subject. It is noted that very good progress has been made in planning to date with the development of a subject department policy that includes details on the organisation, teaching and assessment of the subject. It is laudable that the policy also refers to planning for students with special educational needs. It is commendable that the schemes of work, which have been drawn up for all year groups, are based on the syllabuses and they outline the topics and the practical work to be covered on a term-by-term basis. As part of the proposed, and ongoing, review of the subject plans, it is recommended that teachers build on and further develop the very good approach to subject planning that is already underway. The schemes of work would benefit from the inclusion of more specific timeframes for topics and should include reference to the learning outcomes in terms of students’ expected knowledge and understanding and, particularly in senior cycle, reflect the integrated approach recommended in the syllabus. The inclusion of suggested methodologies and resources for topics, as well as opportunities for revision and assessment would further enhance the schemes of work. It is suggested that this development be carried out on a phased basis, beginning, for example, with one junior and one senior year group each year. The records of work maintained by teachers might be useful in further developing the schemes and it may also be helpful to present them in tabular form to make them user-friendly.
Commendably, planning for the TYP modules follows the national guidelines for writing a TYP plan. It is also noted that teachers plan for and introduce students to the design brief process early in the first year of junior cycle and evidence of first year students working through the design brief process was available during the evaluation; this is very good practice and is commended. Some informal cross-curricular planning takes place between Home Economics and a number of other subjects, particularly in relation to the LCA and TYP. A range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, such as cookery competitions, cookery and craft classes outside of school time provides students with opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom. The teachers have built up and developed a good range of resources to support teaching and learning in Home Economics and as part of the collaborative approach, resources are shared among the team.
Teaching and Learning
The quality of the short term planning, and the preparation and organisation of materials and resources, for all of the lessons observed was very good. Lessons had clear aims and, generally, were well structured and sequenced. Good practice was noted in terms of sharing the learning outcomes with students at the start of the lessons and in summarising the lessons on completion, thus providing a focus and structure for students; this approach is commended. There were good examples of the use of questioning to check students’ knowledge and understanding from previous lessons. Questioning was most effective when questions were directed at specific students and when students were challenged to apply their previous knowledge to a variety of situations.
Teachers demonstrated a genuine concern for students’ understanding of lesson content and teacher instruction was generally very clear. Lessons included a variety of methodologies and resources that involved the use of PowerPoint presentations, acetates, handouts, case studies, group work, food and textile samples, brochures, as well as individual project work. Methodologies were most effective when they were planned to ensure optimal engagement of students in their own learning, thus ensuring a good balance between teacher input and student activity. An example of the effective engagement of students occurred in a lesson where the topic was introduced by the use of a short PowerPoint presentation, an accompanying handout and clear teacher instruction, to explain the key concepts of the lesson. Students then worked in small groups and were given a mini-project that required them to apply the information that they had been taught. Each group then presented their project to the class and in doing so explained the reasons for their choices; the task was well processed by the teacher through the use of probing questions and the introduction of new material as appropriate. In another lesson there was a good example of the use of a case study to explain and illustrate some difficult concepts related to the components of management and this also involved the application of the lesson content to the everyday experiences of the students.
In order to avoid an over-emphasis on teacher input, where students remain passive, it is important when planning lessons that, as well as considering what methodologies to use, attention should be given to how the methodologies can be used effectively. It is recommended that the Home Economics department further explore how best to use the range of methodologies to engage students actively in lessons and to foster independent learning. Opportunities to share good practice in relation to the use of methodologies should be considered as part of collaborative subject department planning.
In a practical lesson observed students were industrious and demonstrated a very good range and standard of practical skills in the design and craftwork area, in the preparation of their craft items for the Junior Certificate examination. It is evident that creativity and originality are fostered in the area of design and craftwork and this is commended. Interaction with students indicated that they were very clear about the task on hand and individual students were very impressive in how they explained the processes involved in their project to the inspector. Students worked very well during the lesson and the teacher moved around the room, assisting and challenging students as necessary. It is laudable that the written sections of the design brief are being completed in tandem with the practical work.
In some of the lessons observed the focus was on revision in preparation for the forthcoming State Examinations. As well as teacher input, students worked on revision questions which in the main involved the recall of knowledge. Whilst this is important in testing students’ knowledge, it is recommended that opportunities be used in class to work on and analyse examination style questions that require students to practise the skills of analysis, application, interpretation and evaluation of information, thus helping them develop examination techniques and the higher order thinking skills that are essential in the written examination, particularly in the Leaving Certificate.
Classroom management was excellent in all cases and students settled down to work immediately. The good practice of taking the roll call was noted. The Home Economics classrooms are attractive and stimulating, and enhanced by displays of colourful educational posters and a variety of students’ project work resulting in a print rich environment. The firm purposeful approach employed by teachers ensured that the lessons progressed in an atmosphere that was highly conducive to learning. There was very good rapport and a high level of mutual respect between teachers and students. Students responded positively to the firm and challenging, but very encouraging and affirming manner of the teachers. Students’ contributions were warmly welcomed and encouraged.
Assessment and Achievement
During the evaluation, a wide variety of students’ project work in the area of design and craftwork for Junior Certificate and in Hotel, Catering and Tourism for the LCA examinations was observed. The projects presented indicate that students have attained a high level of competence in the organisation and presentation of materials and in the appropriate craft skills. The level of creativity and originality in evidence in the craft items is to be commended.
Observation of students’ copybooks and folders indicates good progress in both theory and practical work, and students’ class notes are well organised. There is evidence of regular setting, checking and thorough monitoring of homework and there is some evidence of students being given constructive feedback about their progress. This good practice, which demonstrates some of the principles of assessment for learning (AfL), is commended and it is recommended that it be further developed and used where possible so that students can benefit from feedback on their progress and use it to enhance their own learning. Further information on AfL is available on the NCCA website, in the section on the Junior Certificate Review (www.ncca.ie). It is noted that teachers have been involved in the marking of some components of the State examinations and it is clear that the experience gained has a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning of the subject in the school.
A range of assessment modes, that reflect the assessment objectives of the syllabus, is used to assess student competence and progress. The assessment of students’ practical and project work is included and this good practice is commended and encouraged, as an aggregate mark that includes all components of the examination provides a more accurate indicator of a student’s ability in the subject. It is noted that assessment results are systematically recorded and results are communicated to parents and students on a regular basis each year and at parent-teacher meetings. Plans are in place to have a common end-of-year examination in Home Economics for first years and this is commended. Given that common programmes of work have been developed for year groups it is recommended that this practice be extended to other year groups and that the home economics department consider the possibility of a common assessment, perhaps twice a year, for first, second and fifth years. Discussions during the evaluation and an analysis of uptake rates at higher and ordinary level in the State examinations indicates that students are challenged and encouraged to take examinations at higher level where possible. It is recommended that review and analysis of uptake rates and students’ results in the State examinations should be included as part of subject development planning for Home Economics.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 teachers of Home Economics and with the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.