An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

     Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Saint Brendan’s College

Belmullet, County Mayo

Roll number: 72050U

 

Date of inspection: 28 September 2006

Date of issue of report: 26 April  2007

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

1. Introduction

2. The quality of school management

2.1 Characteristic spirit of the school

2.2 School ownership and management

2.3 In-school management

2.4 Management of resources

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of curriculum provision

4.1 Curriculum planning and organisation

4.2 Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

4.3 Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

5.1 Planning and preparation

5.2 Teaching and learning

5.3 Assessment

6. Quality of support for students

6.1 Students with special educational needs

6.2 Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

6.3 Guidance

6.4 Pastoral care

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

8. Related subject inspection reports

9. School Response to the Report

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Brendan’s College, Belmullet, Co Mayo. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, the acting CEO of Co Mayo Vocational Education Committee, and parents. 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

 

1.         Introduction

 

St Brendan’s College, is a second-level school under the auspices of Co Mayo Vocational Education Committee. As well as second-level programmes, the school also offers a post-Leaving Certificate course and adult education. Vocational education came to Belmullet in 1936 and the present school building was opened in 1982. The school is located on the outskirts of the town of Belmullet, which in recent years has developed with new tourism facilities being built including a new hotel and much new housing suitable for holiday rental. There is little industry in the area and many young people leave each year for college or for employment in the cities.

 

Belmullet is benefiting from an increase in tourism to the area, which is wild and rugged and very beautiful. As with many of the more scenic areas of this country the land in Erris is poor and the principal ways of life are fishing and sheep farming. The discovery of gas in the Atlantic about eighty kilometres offshore has in recent times provided a somewhat turbulent backdrop to the work of the school. Although little has changed as yet as a result of the gas find, the potential is there for considerable change in coming years.

 

As well as St Brendan’s college, the barony of Erris, greater in area than County Louth and with a population of about twelve thousand, is served by two other second-level schools. One of these schools, Our Lady’s Secondary School, is adjacent to St Brendan’s College. The Belmullet catchment area has fifteen primary schools and, due principally to a decline in average family size, the number of sixth-class pupils in these schools has declined since the 1990s, with a resulting impact on the enrolment of the Belmullet second-level schools. At the time of the evaluation there were no international or Traveller students in the school although there is a Polish community of over two hundred living in Belmullet. Some Polish children were reported to be attending the local national schools. St Brendan’s College is at present awaiting the construction of a large extension, which will include a new PE hall, and which will more than double the size of its buildings. Work on this is expected to be underway by autumn 2007 and is eagerly awaited by all in the school community.

 

A final context issue for St Brendan’s College is its recently-announced inclusion in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) which has the potential to underpin further development for the school in the areas of home-school links, curriculum, and guidance. At the time of the evaluation the impact of DEIS on the school was not yet apparent.

 

2.         The quality of school management

 

2.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The mission statement of St Brendan’s College expresses its commitment to providing the highest educational standards and facilities for its students. The school sets out to build a partnership with all involved, including the VEC, the school management, teachers, parents, and students. Through this partnership, the school aims to enable its students to reach their full potential and to prepare them for participation as good citizens in society. There is a strong sense of history and pride in the school with the sentiments expressed in its mission statement being fundamental to all of its activities. The board of management interprets the school’s characteristic spirit as being to provide its students with a value system for full and productive lives and to develop fully the potential of each student in the academic and the non-academic arenas.

 

Fundamental to the daily living out of the characteristic spirit of the school is the dedication of the staff of the school to the students and to excellence in teaching and learning. A key feature immediately evident to any visitor to the school is the sense of happiness and contentment of the school community. Evidence of the commitment of staff to the school is the fact that most members of staff travel long distances each day to work in the school.

 

The school community is characterised by the excellence of relations among members of staff and between staff and students. Members of staff readily participate in school activities and are available always to assist each other when required. The existence of this informal support network must be borne in mind as a context for the following sections of this report which deal with management and leadership in the school.

 

2.2          School ownership and management

 

The school is owned by Co Mayo VEC and managed through the board of management, which is a sub-committee of the VEC. The management of the school is shared between the chief executive officer of Co Mayo VEC, who has overall executive responsibility for the school and the school’s board of management. The powers of the board of management of the school are limited in that they do not deal with staffing or financial issues. The board is composed of four representatives of the VEC, two representatives of parents of the school and two representatives of staff, with the school principal acting as secretary to the board. Some of the VEC representatives on the board have been on this board since the inception of such boards. The board meets about four times each year and last year it broke new ground when for the first time a report to parents was prepared. The board and the school are commended on this initiative, which accords with Section 20 of the Education Act. The secretary of the board and the chairperson of the board maintain a high level of contact between meetings.

 

While they are not within its executive remit the board discusses financial and staffing issues at meetings as part of its role in the governance of the school. The board is strongly supportive of the school and the VEC representatives on the board present the school’s case on issues at VEC level. The minutes of board meetings are adopted by the VEC. While training for membership of the board has taken place in the case of previous boards, this board has not received training through the VEC although the teacher members have received training from their union. It is recommended that suitable training should be made available to all members of the board. The chairperson and the secretary set the agenda for meetings and each member can have items included. The board does not prepare an agreed report of its meetings and, while the staff is reported back to by one of the staff representatives, there is no provision for such reporting to the parent body. The board should consider the preparation of a brief agreed report on each of its meetings, which would be issued to parents and staff.

 

The board of management is strongly supportive of the school and is effective in carrying out its role. The most frequently discussed issues at meetings are the school’s facilities, maintenance, and curriculum issues. The board sees its role as being a supportive voice, monitoring progress, supporting development of the school, and ensuring that students remain as the central focus. It does all this in a spirit of consultation with decision-making being by consensus. The late CEO of Co Mayo was very supportive of the school, and as part of his role he visited the school each term and attended its graduation ceremonies on an annual basis. This level of contact and support was much valued by all in the school community.

 

There is openness on the part of the board to promoting the development of all aspects of the school. The school’s board of management has identified the following priorities for development: completion of the school’s attendance and participation policy; development of sports for girls; and, increasing the amount of training in practical work skills for students going directly from school to employment. The board has been active in school planning to date at two levels. It has initiated planning and policy development in the areas of extra-curricular activities, and health and safety through the preparation of a fire evacuation plan, and has arranged for the provision of a Safe Pass course and an ECDL course. As well as this, all school policies come before the board of management for discussion and amendment as necessary before adoption.

 

As of now the school does not have a parents’ association. It is noted in this regard that the Co. Mayo VEC Education Plan 2006 – 2010 prepared under the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act 2001 has as a strategic objective the promotion of partnership initiatives in service development and delivery and one of the goals of this strategy is the establishment of a parents’ association in each school. It is recommended that the board of management should arrange for the setting up of a parents’ association so as to enable the views of parents to find full expression within the school community. The parents of students in the school are also encouraged to find their voice in the affairs of the school through participating in such an association, which would act as a consultative structure for parents. The school communicates with parents in a number of ways. The annual report to parents by the board of management gives parents a comprehensive account of school activities in the previous year. The school also reports to parents on the progress of their children twice each year and parents receive written communications throughout the school year, which keep them informed of school policies, activities and curriculum matters. The school brochure, which parents of incoming students receive each year, provides them with a comprehensive and carefully-prepared guide to most aspects of the school. The school is commended on the quality of this publication and the effort that goes into preparing it each year. The brochure also serves another purpose. Having read it parents of incoming students could be in no doubt as to the openness and welcome offered by the school. Another important way in which parents are helped in this school is through a well-organised book-rental scheme that almost eliminates the burden of the annual cost of schoolbooks on family finances. For this the school is highly commended.

 

The evaluation team met with parents’ representatives on the board of management together with a number of other parents. Great satisfaction with and appreciation of the work of the school was expressed, and the easy communication with the school management and staff was praised. The parents were pleased that the school has two parent-teacher meetings each year and feel that they are fully aware of what is going on. Parents however have not been directly involved in policy development except through their representatives on the board of management.

 

The school has very strong links with its community. Students from the school participate in locally-organised activities and in turn the local community makes use of school facilities for sports and for externally-organised adult education activities. The school’s own adult education activities have also served as a resource for the local community as well as its well-regarded post-Leaving Certificate course which, it is suggested, has the potential to be further developed as an educational resource for the Erris area. Students in the school raise money for many voluntary organizations, thus giving them insights into their local community.

 

 

2.3          In-school management

 

The principal and the deputy principal are in their respective positions for just two years. The principal took over a school that had been led for about thirty-two years by its previous principal and the sense of continuity resulting from a term of this length forms a considerable part of the context of the school, particularly as regards the leadership function. The fact that both principal and deputy principal took up their positions at about the same time represented a great opportunity for them and for the school. From the start they placed care and respect for students at the core of their work and focused on having good discipline in the school through the development of the code of student behaviour. Their other principal priorities were good working relationships among staff, academic excellence, and an attractive physical environment for the school.

 

The principal is justifiably very well respected among her colleagues and her leadership together with her values, which are shared by the teachers in the school, are responsible for the calm caring atmosphere of hard work which pervades the school. At the core of these values is the high priority set on the care of the students and on developing their academic and other abilities to the greatest extent. The principal has successfully led the school in major change. As well as building on the high reputation which it enjoyed under its former principal, the school has embraced in a wholehearted manner the changes required by new legislation. It has also adapted to the changing needs and demands of its student population and their parents. In doing this the principal has had the support of a dedicated staff including several members who have spent their entire teaching careers in the school.

 

The roles performed by the principal and the deputy principal are complementary. The principal takes the chief responsibility for the administration of the school and the deputy sees his role as the creation of a good school environment and ensuring the smooth flow of the school day. While the principal’s concerns are mainly in the areas of policy and management and leadership of the teaching staff and the school as a whole, the primary concern of the deputy is with the welfare and supervision of the students and monitoring of structural and other issues with regard to the school building. Both roles are carried out in a totally committed manner and they lead the school by example. Principal and deputy have a very good working relationship and are mutually supportive. Both share an absolute dedication to the students of the school and to continual improvement in the school’s resources. Although both carry a teaching load this has not impaired their ability to provide effective leadership. However, in order to ensure that they continue to provide the existing level of leadership, it is suggested that in future they do not go beyond their present levels of teaching activity.

 

Both principal and deputy have a significant presence in the school and see it as part of each of their roles to be aware of what is going on. Between them they have a day-to-day involvement with much of what goes on in the school. This high degree of involvement is of course of huge benefit to the school and was especially needed in guiding the school through the big changes over the past two years. However it is not without its potential drawbacks. It may, along with the teaching loads referred to earlier, reduce the time available for the leadership activities that will be necessary as the school continues its development.

 

A feature of the management of staff in this school is the quality of communication, the extent of co-operation, and the shared aims that underpin the running of the school. A series of staff meetings at which the operation of the school is planned and evaluated are held at the beginning and end of the school year and brief monthly staff meetings are held at break time where feasible. In addition to the monthly staff meetings, it is suggested that one or two formal staff meetings should be held in the course of the school year to allow for ongoing review and monitoring of the activities of the school.

 

New members of staff are provided with a brief induction programme to assist them in becoming effective members of the school community. As part of this they are provided with the teachers’ manual for the school. This very useful document provides teachers with information on the school and its key policies as well as background information on the organisation of the school. Teachers are encouraged and facilitated by school management in regard to continuing professional development.

 

It is evident that there is a whole-staff approach to the day-to-day operation of the school. The management of the school is shared between the senior management team and the post holders, who constitute the middle-management layer of school staff. However, leadership opportunities are open to all teachers and many members of staff have shown exemplary qualities of leadership, commitment, knowledge and skills in carrying out the roles they have been assigned both inside and outside the post-holder system. Teachers are appointed to posts of responsibility at central VEC level and the principal in consultation with the post-holder group assigns duties taking into account the needs of the school and the interests and skills of each post holder. There are minor changes from year to year as new post holders are appointed. Each post holder, including the principal and deputy, has a written contract and there is provision on this for an end-of-year review. Review and evaluation of the work of middle management by senior management is informal. The members of the school’s middle management carry out their roles and duties in a committed and effective manner.

 

The duties assigned to middle management cover a wide range and are indicative of the co-operative manner in which the school is run. The duty of student supervision features in many of post descriptions, while other duties undertaken by more than one post holder are: assisting at lunchtime, checking uniform, assisting in the school shop, responsibility for maintenance, and membership of the school’s critical incident response team. The wide range of duties for individual posts, while beneficial to the school, may act to reduce the extent to which significant other duties can be assigned to individual members of the group. There are other duties that are carried out by the school principal and deputy principal, which could be assigned to members of middle management. It is suggested that the duties assigned to posts be reviewed in the context of the challenges facing the school and the need to reduce the level of day-to-day involvement of the principal in particular in so many different areas of school activity. These are referred to elsewhere in this report. Such a transfer of duties would assist senior management in carrying out its principal role of giving leadership to the school community. This role will be of increasing importance in the future as the school addresses the developmental and other challenges facing it. Looked at from the point of view of the principal and deputy, it is necessary that they delegate responsibilities and duties to a greater extent. While the assistant principals meet each year as a separate group in September, to enable this further sharing of responsibility to be carried out they need to meet at regular intervals with senior management, perhaps initially on a monthly basis.

The school takes great care in the manner in which it addresses the enrolment of students. Applications for enrolment follow the distribution of the school’s prospectus in the feeder primary schools and an open day for sixth-class students. All students are accepted and the school’s pre-entry assessment day has the purpose of providing the school with information on the needs of incoming students. Supervision of students is an area that is taken very seriously by the management and staff of the school. It is suggested that students might be involved in this area, perhaps through the development of a prefect system. This could be another way, along with duties already carried out by them, of giving students, in particular senior students, a greater role in the operation of the school. In this co-educational school boys and girls are sometimes treated differently, for example, in the curricular, organisational, and pastoral areas. Examples of such differentiation are separate classes for boys and girls, different subject options available to boys and to girls, and separate posts of responsibility for anti-bullying for boys and for girls. Such differentiation, which is difficult to justify in the current climate, appears to result from outdated tradition in the school and it should be reviewed.

 

The school is active in its communication with parents. As well as regular communications directly to the homes of students, local media frequently carry news of school activities. Parents receive school reports twice yearly and attend parent-teacher meetings. They are free and welcome to telephone or call to the school and the welcome that is there for them and the importance that the school assigns to their role is made very clear in the school prospectus. The school co-operates with the neighbouring school in regard to school closures and scheduling of parent-teacher meetings.

 

Self-review and evaluation by school management of its work takes place on an informal level mainly with more formal review taking place at the beginning of each school year as the allocation of duties is reviewed. It is suggested that as well as the school’s existing review mechanisms the review of the middle-management recommended in this report would also be the basis for regular self review and evaluation of management in the school.

 

2.4          Management of resources

 

School staff is appointed and deployed by Co Mayo VEC on a countywide basis in line with individual school allocations determined by the Department of Education and Science. The school is also in receipt of additional resources for special educational needs and as a result of the level of disadvantage in its catchment area. At the time of the evaluation the school had not yet received its full complement of teaching and other staff. Although it will have a large new sports hall within the next two years, the school does not have a PE teacher. Over the next few years a number of key staff in the school will be considering retirement. It is necessary now that staff planning should take place so that this fine school will continue to have the appropriate staffing to carry out its role in the present excellent manner. This planning should be addressed in a coherent manner at VEC level, in consultation with the school’s board of management and with the advice of the school’s internal management,

 

Teaching staff is deployed in accordance with qualifications and there is a commendable policy within the school of rotation of staff where there are higher and ordinary level classes within a subject area. Teaching time for subjects is allocated generally in accordance with the needs of the subjects although there is scope for a rebalancing of time allocations in the case of one or two subjects. This should result in making available the time to allow for the future inclusion of Physical Education on the school’s curriculum for classes other than Transition Year. It was noted that the current timetabling arrangements fall short of what is required to ensure that all students have access to 28 class-contact hours. The school indicated that it would be addressing this matter and making adjustment to the timetable for future years or seeking additional resources to address the matter if this adjustment would compromise essential course provision. The school has two special needs assistants who are fully integrated into the school community and fulfil a major role in meeting the needs of some students of the school. Care taking and administrative staff report to the principal. The administrative and caretaking functions in the school are carried out in an effective manner. In particular the school secretary performs a valuable and a demanding role in an extremely competent manner.

The school’s accommodation, with some minor changes over the years, is the same as that which was originally built in 1982. The principal strong point of the school facilities is the care taken in their upkeep and décor. The principal deficit is the absence of an indoor facility for Physical Education. The school is commended on the manner in which, despite this adverse circumstance, it has encouraged student use of its outdoor facilities for games and the success that teams from the school have achieved over the years. The members of staff, often assisted by students, who have played such an active role in this area, are commended also. The commitment that they have shown, given the frequently adverse conditions in which they work, is an indication of their care and concern for their students. The new extension will improve the school’s ability to cater for games and PE and for many other areas of the curriculum. The building project, as well as extending the school, will also upgrade other aspects of the school’s existing building thus addressing some of the issues referred to below.

 

The school building is well looked after and maintained and all involved are commended on the quality of their work. In particular the level of decoration of the building and the cleanliness of all areas are particularly noteworthy and the result of the determination of the school management and staff to provide the students with accommodation of the highest standard. There are problems with the roof of the building and, because of a combination of poor insulation and an expensive heat source, a considerable proportion of the school’s budget is spent on heating. At the time of the evaluation the school management had not received clarity as to the extent of upgrading of existing accommodation to be included in the ongoing building project. Once this clarity is obtained it is recommended that the school draw up a strategy and plan for the further upgrading required with a view to seeking further resources, perhaps through the Department of Education and Science Summer Works Scheme.

 

The school does not have subject-specific budgets as funding for necessary materials is supplied on demand. Subject departments inspected reported satisfaction with regard to receiving funding for necessary supplies. The school has been equipped recently with internal wireless broadband and a substantial number of new computers have been delivered. As well as two computer suites, stand-alone computers have also been dispersed to classrooms throughout the school and at the time of the evaluation these were awaiting connection to the Internet. The school plans to develop an internal information and communication technology (ICT) network and to incorporate ICT in teaching and learning. It is recommended that the school should contact the local ICT advisor at Mayo Education Centre for further advice in this area. 

 

The school has drafted a safety statement which includes a hazard analysis and risk assessment for all areas of the school together with a description of the responsibilities of the staff of the school in relation to health and safety. In addition the practical subjects inspected have each developed their own safety statements. The school will be able to further develop its safety statement by establishing a school safety committee and reviewing the draft safety statement in the context of the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools, published by the Department of Education and Science and the State Claims Agency.

 

The school is in receipt of additional resources for students with special educational needs and these are being used appropriately. The school also has an ex-quota guidance and learning-support allocation.

 

 

3.         Quality of school planning

 

The school has established a strong culture for school development planning (SDP) over a number of years. Prior to 2004, effective use was made of external facilitation skills, provided by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI), to initiate the process. Since then, the school has availed of the resources and services of SDPI, and, more importantly, has built planning into all areas of school activity. Strong leadership at senior management level has created the motivation and momentum for planning for development in the school since 2004, so that at present there are procedures in place for policy development through voluntary task groups. These groups have progressively worked through selected issues, and have kept records of their progress.

 

The planning groups are made up of teachers, who have displayed particular interest and expertise in selected areas for development. This is a commendable approach to planning, as it ensures that the process becomes part of normal school business and thus has the potential to ensure ongoing school improvement in a systematic way. In order to sustain the momentum of the planning process within the school and to reduce the workload on senior school management in this area a group should be established to co-ordinate school planning. This should result in a sharing of responsibility for planning and a distribution of leadership in the school. Useful information in this regard may be obtained through the SDPI at www.sdpi.ie and the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) at www.lds21.ie.  

 

While the board of management has had an active role in school planning through the initiation of some policies and through the discussion and adoption of all school policies, there is scope for the board to engage more fully in school planning by promoting the active participation of the other partners in the school planning process, especially the parents, through a parents’ association and the students, through the students’ council. This should be considered at board level.

 

There is well-structured school plan in place, with the school’s mission, vision, and aims forming the central part of the plan.  A wide range of policies supports the fulfilment of the school’s mission, vision and aims, as well as the smooth and efficient running of the school in an open and transparent way. The plan consists of a permanent section and a developmental section.

 

The permanent section contains a significant number of policies across the five areas of Looking at our School: An aid to self-evaluation in second-level schools (Department of Education and Science, 2003). Policies arising from statutory obligations include admissions and participation, discipline and behaviour, substance abuse, anti-bullying, and special education. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). 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.

 

Other policies include pastoral care, career guidance, homework, relationships and sexuality education, critical incidents, and Internet use. Policies are being developed on students’ council, staff induction, anti-bullying, school environment, health and safety, school tours, public relations, and contact with children.

 

Planning by individual subject departments reflects a strong emphasis on learning and teaching and this aspect of the school plan is given high priority within the school. As well as very good planning for individual subjects, subject teachers meet regularly to review progress in the various subject plans in regard to implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.              

 

The developmental section of the school plan consists of a statement of the contextual factors influencing the school and associated priorities for development over a specific time period. Apart from priorities relating to the planned extension and refurbishment to the school, and future staffing and curricular needs, the school is actively pursuing other planning and development priorities including student attendance, mobile phones, and job sharing. These priorities have associated actions plans with in-built arrangements for monitoring implementation and evaluating outcomes. The school has identified language development for international students as a longer term priority in preparation for the probable enrolment of such students in due course. There was only limited engagement of the school community in the process of developing the Co Mayo VEC education plan. It is suggested as a longer-term planning objective that the school’s developmental priorities be included in the VEC education plan when it is reviewed.

 

Self-review and self-evaluation at whole-staff level in the school has taken place mainly at staff meetings. These review and evaluation activities have been undertaken in the context of planning for change in the school, developing the school’s curriculum, and preparing policies to govern the school’s actions in a wide range of areas. The school is aware of other areas in the school that remain to be addressed. It is expected that this work will also be done in the same effective manner as heretofore. It is suggested that this work would benefit from a greater incorporation of the views and needs of the school’s parent body along with a devolution of responsibility for such review through a revamped middle management structure following the review recommended earlier in this report. In particular the review of the internal management structures in the school should take account of the school plan, especially in the area of policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation. At this stage also the school should consider beginning to evaluate and review its policies through assessing their impact.

 

 

4.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

4.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The curriculum of St Brendan’s College is broad and balanced with a strong core of subjects taken by all students and a range of optional subjects and programmes. The highlights of the curriculum this year is the introduction of Music at junior-cycle level and Transition Year (TY) at senior-cycle level.  The curriculum includes almost all of the technological subjects. French is a core subject throughout the school and Science is a core subject at junior-cycle level. PE, with the exception of Transition Year, does not appear on the curriculum. All classes take Computer Studies and the school is commended on the quality of its junior-cycle curriculum in the subject.

 

The school has a post-Leaving Certificate Business Studies course (PLC) that is accredited by FETAC as a Level 5 course. The course is well regarded and its graduates readily secure employment as the course is geared to meeting local training needs. There would appear to be potential for further development of this successful PLC perhaps through developing its emerging focus as a course for medical or legal secretaries and also as a link to adult and further education. The school’s adult education provision in the past year consisted of a programme on Autocad that was successful in linking to a need in the construction industry in the area. As well as providing for adult education itself, the school also acts as a base for externally-provided adult education. It is suggested that in the medium term the school might consider carrying out a survey to determine adult education needs in the Erris area with the assistance of the VEC.

  

At senior-cycle level the school offers the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the established Leaving Certificate. Almost all students are in the LCVP due to the wide range of the school’s senior-cycle curriculum and the fact that each student chooses eight subjects to take to Leaving Certificate level. Students in the school achieve well in the LCVP. Work experience in the LCVP is co-ordinated by the guidance counsellor and the LCVP co-ordinator takes responsibility for organising the links modules and for the development of students’ portfolios.

 

The board of management was responsible for initiating the introduction of Transition Year into the school this year with two class groups taking this programme. As TY is only in its earliest stages at present it is too early to make a judgement on its success. However, the level and quality of planning that has been put into this programme to date by its co-ordinator and by the teachers involved gives every reason for optimism regarding its success. The programme itself is well documented with evidence of planning for it and for all of its constituent parts. In planning its TY programme the school has benefited from its location in a Gaeltacht area with assistance being provided by Údarás na Gaeltachta for a number of programmes which will be delivered through Irish. TY has also been used as an opportunity to introduce Music into senior cycle. Parents have been very supportive of including TY on the school’s curriculum and welcome its introduction.

 

The co-ordinator for TY, who also co-ordinates LCVP, is responsible for work experience in TY and is year head for that group. The programme document for TY, which is in the course of development, gives a comprehensive overview of what the TY programme entails. Students embarking on TY are required to sign a contract that commits them to fulfilling the school’s expectations of them and to meeting a challenge that they set themselves. This is a commendable approach to TY and could in time be further developed through the inclusion of some specific commitments by the school to TY students. As the programme develops students could also be asked to evaluate parts of the TY. The commendable commitment and co-operation of all involved in the school’s TY could be further developed through the formation of a TY core group of teachers to assist the co-ordinator in running the programme. A similar team could usefully also be formed for the LCVP.

 

The school is co-educational but, while the school is active in its encouragement of boys and girls taking non-stereotypical subjects, in second and third year in particular there are significant differences in the curricula for boys and for girls. On the other hand at senior cycle boys and girls have an open choice and in one Engineering class boys are well outnumbered by girls. The different curricular treatment of boys and girls in junior cycle arises from tradition and the school has already taken steps to address it. It is strongly recommended that the school continue to move rapidly to a situation where all subjects are equally available to boys and girls.  

 

It is a core value in the school that students are encouraged to take subjects at the highest level possible. This encouragement is supported by the individual interest shown by teachers in the progress of each student. The school’s special education and learning-support provision also have a major role to play in this regard. Another way in which this core value of the school is supported is through the range of subjects and open choice offered to students including the unusually high number of subjects taken by senior-cycle students.

 

The school timetable is the means by which the available teaching resources of the school are distributed so as to meet the needs of students. It is accepted that because of its location and size and the fact that some teachers are shared with other Co Mayo VEC schools, there are constraints on the school’s timetable. There are however some issues that need to be addressed. It is considered best practice that classes should be reasonably evenly distributed throughout the school week and that classes in languages, in particular, should be allocated in single classes. This does not always happen in this school. There are also differences in time allocation for the same subject for different class groups. It is accepted that some of these discrepancies will be resolved as the school changes its curriculum at junior-cycle level to accommodate an open choice in each year. Some others will be resolved as the school adjusts to accommodate Physical Education in the curriculum. It is recommended that the school should ensure equitable allocation of time for subjects, reasonably even allocation of classes in subjects throughout the school week, and equal treatment of boys and girls in relation to subject choice in all years.

 

 

4.2           Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students select their subjects on entry to the school and for senior cycle subject choices are made at two stages. In third year they decide whether they are going to do Transition Year and, if going on to Leaving Certificate, what subjects they will take. Students with suitable combinations of Leaving Certificate subjects take the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme. The school makes available tuition in French for the small number of students taking LCVP who do not take French otherwise. The small numbers of students not taking LCVP also take the link modules as a preparation for life and work. In recent years the school has reduced the extent to which subject choices are gender based. In senior cycle the decision of the school to remove the restriction on students taking the two technological subjects has proved popular with students.

 

Prior to enrolment, potential students on their first introductory day in the school are given a taste of the subjects on the school’s curriculum. After entry an information evening gives information to students and their parents about the career potential of subjects and the entry requirements for third-level courses. This year students were given a free choice of optional subjects for senior cycle. It is planned that this will happen also in future when students are choosing their optional subjects on entry. This is commendable in that it places the needs and wishes of students at the centre of the subject choice process.

 

Parents of students expressed their satisfaction with the policy of the school which encourages all students to take their subjects at highest level feasible, the improved choice of technological subjects at senior level and the level of advice and support and information given to students in making subject choices. They also praised the quality of the information provided to students on third level and careers.

 

 

 

 

4.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

The school has large grounds that are used for sports activities and these will be further developed as part of the building project. The school’s programme of sporting activities is supported by the commitment of the many members of school staff directly and indirectly involved. Teachers supervise and train the school teams in a range of sports including Gaelic football and soccer for boys and girls, golf, cross-country and basketball for girls. These activities generally take place at lunchtime. The school encourages participation in sport and brings students on outdoor activities and swimming trips. Transition Year students from the school use the local community centre for their Physical Education activities. A feature of the school’s provision for its students is the Games Room which opens at lunchtime and provides a venue for playing board games and socialising and is especially valuable on the wet and windy days when outdoor activity is very demanding. The staff and management are highly commended on their commitment to developing their students through sporting activities.

 

Although parents expressed the view that the good range of sports available compensates for the lack of PE, school management, staff, and parents share the aspiration that each student would have an involvement in some sport. Among the other sports that the school would hope to introduce are volleyball, badminton and table tennis. Both school staff and parents see the provision of indoor sporting facilities as developmental priorities of the school. The school allows local sports clubs to use its facilities and in turn the school makes use of the local community for sponsorship and to provide referees for matches. Overall the school gets a lot of support from the local soccer and GAA clubs. To add a cross-curricular flavour to sports in the school, students prepare reports on matches and submit them for use by the local media. 

 

A range of extra-curricular activities is organised for students, including debating in Irish and in English, and public speaking. The school enters table quizzes and every other year it has an Oíche Gaelach, to which parents and the public are invited. On this occasion the cultural heritage of this Gaeltacht area is celebrated in music and song. Students from the school visit the local day care centre for wheelchair-bound people and also the local home for senior citizens. Overall the school views the extra-curricular activities of its students as being a valuable part of their education through providing them with a rounded experience.

 

 

5.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

5.1          Planning and preparation

 

There is a well-established culture and structure of subject-department planning. Planning meetings are held once each month and also during staff planning days. Each meeting has an agenda and has a record kept of its outcomes. Teachers are commended on their high levels of co-operation and collaborative planning.

 

Comprehensive subject department policy documents, which include short term and long term plans, have been developed. They include details on the organisation, planning, teaching and learning, and assessment of subjects. For practical subjects the plans provide a clear outline of the course content including relevant practical and project work. There is also evidence of good practice in planning for common content and assessment. The teachers generally make good use of the syllabuses, official teacher guidelines and State Examination Commission materials as planning resources. In the case of Irish, planning is used to promote the language in a positive and enjoyable way. Teachers reported that subject plans are reviewed regularly.

 

The facilities available to support the subjects are well organised and maintained. Teachers have accumulated a range of resources and good use is made of the overhead projector and classes have access to a television and video when required. Teachers plan and develop extra-curricular and co-curricular activities for TY and LCVP that are aimed at enhancing students’ experience and enjoyment of subjects and extending learning beyond the classroom.

 

5.2          Teaching and learning

 

The structure, pace, and continuity of each lesson observed reflected very good planning and preparation. Lessons had clear aims and objectives and in one subject area an outline of the course of study had been prepared for students. This very good practice is commended. 

 

Effective use was made of a variety of teaching and learning strategies including whole class and individual instruction, demonstrations, questioning and active-learning methodologies. Examples of active-learning methodologies were paired work, group work, role-play, brainstorming and diary entry. Use of these methodologies was found to be consistent with student engagement with and understanding of subject matter. While good use was made of information and communication technology (ICT) and audio visual resources to increase student’s engagement with the subject matter in some subject areas evaluated, there is scope for a greater incorporation of ICT in teaching and learning in other subject areas.

 

Classroom management was very good in all lessons observed with excellent rapport evident between teachers and students. Affirmation was a feature of teachers’ interaction with students. There was a strong sense of care for students and this was reciprocated with a high level of respect for teachers. Students were purposeful, positively motivated, attentive, and engaged in their learning in all of the classes observed. In general students displayed a high level of knowledge, and understanding, and in a number of subjects evaluated they showed a very good ability to apply this knowledge to practical situations. Parents commented on their high level of satisfaction with teaching and learning in the school.

 

5.3          Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes, both formative and summative, is used effectively to monitor student progress. Assessment processes observed during the subject inspections included oral questioning, homework assignments, group work, individual work and continuous monitoring of students’ practical and project work.

 

St. Brendan’s College adopted a whole school policy for homework in September 2005. The homework policy document is very clear in the manner in which it lays out the responsibilities of all involved in the effective management of homework, - student, parent, and teacher. A review of homework journals indicated that there is variety in the type of homework given on a regular basis to all year groups. Journals are monitored regularly by subject teachers and are signed or stamped weekly by class tutors. Some good practice was observed with regard to providing constructive feedback in student copybooks, highlighting strengths in students’ work, and indicating areas for improvement. The practice of giving formative feedback to students was observed in all subjects. Further information on formative assessment may be obtained from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) at www.ncca.ie.

 

Regular in-class assessments take place either at the end of units of work or at key intervals during the school year. In-class assessments in Home Economics and Metalwork and Engineering, include both theory and practical activities. Teachers record all assessment outcomes systematically. This is to be commended as best practice. The grade awarded for examination reports is an aggregate of all types of assessment result completed during that term. Teachers of Irish assess the four main language skills regularly and an overall grade for skills is recorded on examination reports.

 

The non-examination students of St. Brendan’s College take formal house examinations at Christmas and again prior to the summer holiday. In some subjects common year group assessments and agreed marking schemes are used. Mock examinations, which are externally sourced, are taken by Junior and Leaving Certificate students during the second term. Formal reports are sent to parents/guardians after each examination. There are two parent-teacher meetings for each year group each year. An analysis of the school’s State examination results is undertaken each year.  This analysis evaluates student outcomes in the context of national norms and informs future planning.

 

 

6.         Quality of support for students

 

 

6.1          Students with special educational needs

 

Information on students is transferred effectively from the primary schools in the school’s catchment area, especially in regard to students with special educational needs. On entry students with special educational needs are fully included in the activities of the school. The aspirations in the school’s mission statement form the backdrop to the school’s provision for students with special educational needs. The school’s brochure informs parents of incoming students that help is available for students with difficulties in particular subjects and also students who were receiving additional help across the curriculum in primary school. This provision is co-ordinated through the school’s qualified resource and special needs co-ordinator.

 

The school’s approach to students with special educational needs or learning-support requirements is based on its special educational needs policy. This policy has recently been documented and it is comprehensive in scope. In it the school commits itself to the identification of the special educational needs of all of its incoming students, to providing for their needs and to monitoring their progress. The policy sets out how the school provides for students with special educational needs and the role of the staff members involved. It also recognises the role of other professionals in the education of students with special educational needs. It is suggested that in the future, when revising the policy, provision be made in it for ongoing informal review of the school’s provision and a formal evaluation and review every few years. Such evaluation and review should include the views of all involved, including parents and students.

 

The quality of co-ordination of special educational needs and learning support in St Brendan’s College is very high. As well as a full teaching load, much of it in the special educational needs area, the co-ordinator carries out the tasks associated with co-ordination in an exemplary manner. Each year in May aptitude tests are carried out on all incoming first-year students and contact is made with the feeder primary schools to determine those students who may need support after entry to St Brendan’s college. Students are given diagnostic assessments in September following which some are withdrawn for additional support. This support is principally given through withdrawal from students’ base classes. It is reported that once they commence receiving support students rarely cease availing of it and that they always benefit from the intervention. The overall aim in such interventions is to assist students in working towards the SEC examinations through assistance with reading, writing, and basic mathematical operations. A number of students in the school are receiving this assistance, including several who have received psychological assessments.

 

Co-ordination of special education provision involves arranging for withdrawals and also liaising with teachers who provide the additional assistance and the students who receive it. Each teacher involved is given written information on the students being withdrawn and of the objectives of their withdrawal class. It was reported that some students require psychological assessments and that the school has considerable difficulty in accessing these assessments.  The school also reports being well supported by the NEPS psychologist in difficult circumstances. The demand for psychological assessments is reported to be increasing annually and, because of the limits on the number of assessments allowed to it each year, the school must prioritise those most in need.

 

At the start of each school year teachers in the school are made aware of students receiving additional support and in some cases the particular difficulties they have. All teachers in the school are given clear and extremely useful guidance on the inclusion of students with special educational needs in their classrooms. Meetings of the special needs co-ordinator with individual subject-planning groups enhance this guidance. Students are assisted in class in a variety of ways including the provision of photocopied notes where they have difficulty with writing and provision of outlines of their courses so as to help them to put structure on them. As well as this all of the teachers who take those students withdrawn for extra support meet the co-ordinator and she is available for advice and guidance when required. The co-ordinator has an office and meets parents at parent-teacher meetings and by appointment.

 

Students with special educational needs benefit from the school’s admission procedures in that twice before they come to the school they have an opportunity to visit it. They also benefit from the school’s care system. The success of the school’s system of support for students is borne out each year in the accomplishments of students in the State examinations. A number of students are also supported by the school’s special needs assistants, who both report to the learning-support co-ordinator. They approach their work in a professional manner and as part of this they have undertaken regular professional development to enhance their existing special education qualifications. They are flexible in their approach to their work and at the time of the evaluation were successfully filling in until the school’s third special needs assistant was appointed.   

 

The organisation and delivery of student special education support in St Brendan’s meets the highest standards. To secure this into the future, the school needs to plan for the short, medium, and long term in this area. Firstly in the short term the co-ordinator needs to be relieved of some of her current teaching load so as to allow more time for the heavy administrative load which she must carry.  In the medium term there is a need for a greater number of staff to become directly involved so as to continue and develop the present high level of support. It is suggested that this may be possible as part of the review of the posts of responsibility suggested earlier by incorporating the duty of administering learning support and special needs into one of the posts. Such a duty could include responsibility for arranging assessments and for arranging of special accommodations at State examinations.

 

It is recommended that a student support team be formed to include the post-holder involved in the administration of learning support and special educational needs provision and the resource and special needs co-ordinator. As well it should include one or two of the teachers who have a large role in this area, the school principal or deputy principal, and the special needs assistants. In the longer term there is a need for more members of staff to obtain qualifications in special education. The school is advised also to make a greater use of the support that has become available through the Special Education Support Service www.sess.ie.  

 

6.2          Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

 

Although a large number of foreign nationals now live in Belmullet, at the time of the evaluation there were no international students enrolled in St Brendan’s College, nor were any Travellers enrolled. From time to time students arrive in the school whose families have come from England and in these cases the school makes sure that such students are introduced to a group of students when they first come to the school. The school also provides information to families moving into the area on facilities in the area. The school’s book rental scheme benefits students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through fundraising the school supports students on school trips so as to subsidise students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Finally the school makes contact with local voluntary organisations where necessary in support of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

The school is included in DEIS and will in time benefit from a range of measures to encourage attainment and attendance. This inclusion will assist the school in its commitment to the students in its care. The school is encouraged to include in its planning the implications of the additional resources which will become available to it as this programme is rolled out.

 

6.3          Guidance

 

The school has an additional guidance allocation under DEIS and it is stipulated that a specific amount of this allocation is to be directed at junior-cycle students. At the time of the evaluation and due to circumstances entirely outside the control of the school the school was temporarily without the services of a guidance counsellor but had one in position from the following week. The school has a guidance policy that describes the work of the guidance counsellor, outlining the guidance exposure of students from first year through to sixth year. The school’s guidance programme is comprehensive and involves contact with students, parents of students, and other school staff including year heads, tutors, student-support team, and school management. As well as providing a comprehensive service to students when making choices the guidance counsellor meets with individual students and liaises with year heads, tutors, and SPHE teachers. Guidance in the school also involves linking the role of the guidance counsellor with the work of teachers of Religion, SPHE, and Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE). In delivering the Guidance programme there is an emphasis on making students aware of the third-level and potential career path outcomes of the subject choices that they make. Each senior-cycle class group has a Guidance class each week and a Guidance service is also given at junior cycle. Students are provided with individual personal counselling through a qualified counsellor on the staff of the school. That such a service is available in the school is another example of the caring attitude to students within the school and the commitment of staff. The guidance function has access to ICT and broadband.  Parents reported satisfaction with the guidance service offered within the school and school management sees it as a vital part of the effective functioning of the school.

 

 

6.4          Pastoral care

 

The school’s pastoral care policy is supported by its critical incident management plan, its code of behaviour and code of discipline, its anti-bullying policy, its internet use policy, and its substance misuse policy. The school also has a policy on relationships and sexuality education (RSE) and a homework policy document, both of which have a pastoral care dimension. The school is commended for the care with which these interrelated policy documents have been prepared. The pastoral care policy document is a framework document that gives the aims and principles of the school’s provision for pastoral care.

 

As well as the responsibility of each member of staff in relation to the care of students, the school assigns particular pastoral care responsibilities to class tutors and to the year heads. The primary role of class tutors, who are appointed on a voluntary basis, is summarised as to convey information to and from the class for which they are responsible. The sole function of year heads is to monitor attendances, keep a record of absences, and to report and follow up on these. Most teachers, including those with assistant principal and special duties teacher posts of responsibility and the deputy principal, are tutors. Only assistant principals and the deputy principal have been appointed to the role of year head; however this role is not included in the contract of the individual assistant principals. It is suggested that following one or two years of its operation, the role of year head could be reviewed with a view to its further development.

 

The class tutor is the person with primary responsibility for the pastoral care of students. The class tutor monitors students’ homework diaries, is involved as necessary when disciplinary matters arise, and is a source of support to which a student can turn when necessary. Class tutors are responsible for liasing with other teachers regarding student discipline and keeping the files of individual students up to date. They have a role along with the principal and the deputy principal on disciplinary issues. The school prospectus spells out to parents the class tutor’s responsibility for the welfare of students. Twice each year they see the report of each student before it is issued to parents, but they do not sign it. Class tutors may also contact parents directly. Parents reported that the direct link that each tutor has with each student is very effective. It is evident that the role of class tutor is a major and fundamental one in the school and the fact that the role has been developed by the staff working together helps in its consistent application.

 

Two teachers, one the principal SPHE teacher and the other the principal Religion teacher lead the school’s pastoral care provision, under the supportive management of the principal and deputy. Issues of concern regarding students are usually referred to them. Although both also meet with tutors and other members of staff regularly, such meetings are informal. While not formally set up as a care team, they work closely together. It is recommended that a care team be set up in the school on a formal basis, which would include, as well as the two staff members currently involved, the guidance counsellor, the principal and deputy principal. Representatives of class tutors and of year heads should also be included in the team that would meet on a regular basis. As part of the review of the school’s middle management a post should be designated as co-ordinator or leader of the school’s care team. The effect of such an initiative would be to bring continuity and perhaps additional much-needed staff time to the delivery of a service that is already very effective and to share the responsibility of delivering this service.

 

Year heads have been appointed in the school for the first time this year. Their appointment was a response by the school to a problem of student absenteeism, particularly in the pre-Leaving Certificate year. They collate the student absence records of the class tutors of the year for which they have this responsibility. Their work links to that of the post-holder who has the duty of attendance officer and who liaises with the National Educational Welfare Board.

 

The school’s code of behaviour, which is linked with the code of discipline, is clear as to how the school deals with student behaviour and discipline. Students are made of aware of the code of behaviour through the student journal. The school has a policy of encouragement, recognition, and reward of good behaviour and as part of this students gain awards for attendance, effort, sports, extra-curricular activities, manners, and demeanour. In line with best practice the school has a policy of documentation in respect of all disciplinary issues.

 

Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is part of the school’s junior-cycle curriculum. SPHE is seen in the school as linking to pastoral care and teaching. The practice of having available in the school a full teaching plan for SPHE, which is accessible to any teacher taking the subject, accords with best practice. The members of staff who have prepared the guidance for staff on this subject and in others such as Religion and CSPE are highly commended for their commitment and professionalism. Parents are positively disposed towards SPHE and reported as an outcome that children were less afraid to highlight issues and were more assertive

 

The school’s critical incidents management plan has regrettably had to be applied in the past year. Its application proved highly effective in difficult and traumatic situations for all in the school community. The plan was evaluated and reviewed following implementation.

 

The school has recently inaugurated a first-years’ mentoring system whereby students are mentored by sixth year students. This is proving highly effective in helping new students, many of whom come from small primary schools, to adjust to and settle in St Brendan’s College. Another area in which students in St Brendan’s College are active is the student council, which is now in its second year of operation and is still developing its structure and procedures. It is noted that the student council is currently fulfilling a very useful role in relation to the development of the role of students in the school. Even at this early stage of its existence it has made an impact with a number of thoughtful and effective initiatives for the benefit of students and the school as a whole. The members of the student council are highly commended on the work that they have done and the maturity and responsibility that they display as they carry out their role. Given the effectiveness of students’ existing contributions in this and other areas it is suggested that consideration be given to extending their role in the operation of the school such as in the development and review of school policies and helping with supervision in the school, as suggested earlier in this report.

 

Throughout the evaluation the extent of open and informal communication among members of staff was emphasised and there were many instances of this referred to and observed. The high level of collegiality and co-operation that exists in the school community aids this communication.  The quality of communication is reflected also in the welcome for parents in the school. There is a consistent push for achievement on the part of the students and a tradition of celebration of success and encouragement of all. It is a characteristic of the school, along with many others in which all in the school community can take pride.

 

 

 

7.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         There is a strong history and sense of pride in the school with the school’s characteristic spirit being fundamental to all of its activities

 

·         A key feature of this school is the sense of happiness and contentment of the school community.

 

·         Fundamental to the daily living out of the characteristic spirit of the school is the dedication of the staff to their students and to excellence in teaching and learning.

 

·         The school community is characterised by the excellence of relationships among its staff (including in-school management and non-teaching staff) and between its staff and its students.

 

·         The board of management is strongly supportive of the school and is effective in carrying out its role.

 

·         The leadership and direction given by the school’s senior management is of a high order.

 

·         The members of the school’s internal management carry out their roles and their duties in a committed and effective manner.

 

·         The leadership and management of the school staff and the school community by the principal and deputy are highly effective and are helped by the support and respect that they are accorded.

 

·         Members of school staff have shown exemplary qualities of leadership, commitment, knowledge and skills in carrying out the roles they have been assigned both inside and outside the post-holder system.

 

·         The school has set a high priority on moving quickly towards equality between boys and girls in the provision of subjects.

 

·         Teachers are encouraged and facilitated by school management in regard to continuing professional development.

 

·         The administrative and caretaking functions are carried out in an effective manner.

 

·         The book-rental scheme is a highly commendable initiative that is effectively managed.

 

·         The school has engaged in a substantial amount of whole-school planning over the past two years in which most members of staff have been involved.

 

·         There is a well-structured school plan in place.

 

·         The school has a wide curriculum that is meeting the needs of its students.

 

·         The school’s new TY programme has been developed and is being implemented in a most effective and thoughtful manner, through the high quality work of its co-ordinator and team.

 

·         The school’s PLC is well regarded and its graduates readily secure employment.

 

·         The school has regard to the Irish language and to the music and the culture of this Gaeltacht area in its activities and strongly promotes Irish outside the classroom.

 

·         Many members of staff contribute in a dedicated and selfless manner to extra-curricular activities and sport.

 

·         Teaching and learning in the subjects inspected is of a uniformly very high quality

 

·         There is a well-established culture and structure for subject planning with teachers co-operating in collaborative planning. Comprehensive subject department policy documents have been developed.

 

·         Classroom management was very good in all lessons observed with excellent rapport between teachers and students evident in all classrooms.

 

·         Students were purposeful, positively motivated, attentive, and engaged in their learning in all of the classes observed. 

 

·         Students in general displayed a high level of knowledge and understanding in the lessons observed and a very good ability to apply this knowledge to practical situations in a number of subjects evaluated.

 

·         A range of assessment modes, both formative and summative, is used effectively to monitor student progress.

 

·         Some good practice was observed with regard to constructive feedback provided in student copybooks, highlighting strengths in students’ work and also indicating areas for improvement.

 

·         Teachers record all assessment outcomes systematically and advise students regularly on their progress in subjects. This is commended as very good practice.

 

·         Pastoral care for students in the school is of a very high standard and is characterised by informal caring supportive arrangements in which all members of staff participate. This is strongly led by the school principal and deputy principal.

 

·         The special education and learning-support functions in the school are a significant strength of the school. Both include a high proportion of school staff as well as those members of staff, including SNAs, directly involved.

 

·         Very good practice in SPHE is underpinned by the support that exists for teachers of SPHE, in particular their access to guidance notes and to teaching plans.

 

·         The student council, the first-year mentoring programme, and the role of students in assisting in sports training and in the school shop make a valuable contribution to the overall development of students in the school. 

 

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

 

·         The role of parents in the school needs to be formalised through arranging for the setting up of a parents’ association, provision by the board of management of agreed reports of its meetings to representatives of parents, and through involving parents in policy development in the school’s planning process.

 

 

·         The organisation of the school’s internal management team should be reviewed by distributing formal leadership within the school through refining and streamlining the duties associated with posts at all levels of in-school management. As part of this the range of responsibilities carried by the school’s senior management team should be reduced.

·         The school should formalise student care in the school through setting up a group to co-ordinate and deliver this function.

·         The school’s excellent provision for learning support and special education should be further developed through the formation of a group led by the existing co-ordinator.

 

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.

 

 

8.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

9.         School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

On behalf of the Board of Management I welcome the positive reports enclosed herein and I wish to thank the Inspectorate for their professionalism and rational approach to the W.S.E. in our school.   I am pleased to congratulate the Principal and staff of the school for their work in the centre of learning that is St. Brendan’s.

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The findings and recommendations of the Inspectorate will be implemented as soon as practically possible with the aim of making St. Brendan’s the best in the country.