An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

  

Central Technical Institute

(Coláiste Chluain Meala & Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn)

Clonmel, County Tipperary

Roll number: 72420E

  

 

Date of inspection: 3 March 2006

Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006

 

 

Introduction

1.      Quality of School Management

1.1     Characteristic spirit of the school

1.2     School ownership and management

1.3     In-school management

1.4     Management of resources

2.      Quality of School Planning

The School Plan

3.       Quality of Curriculum Provision

3.1     Curriculum planning and organisation

3.2     Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

3.3     Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

4.      Quality of Learning and Teaching in Subjects

4.1 Planning and preparation

4.2. Teaching and learning

4.3   Assessment and achievement

5.      Quality of Support for Students

5.1    Students with special educational needs

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

5.3    Guidance

5.4    Pastoral care

6.     Summary of Findings and Recommendations for Further Development

7.    Appended Subject Inspection Reports

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood)

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Achievement

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in junior certificate science and Leaving Certificate Biology

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Achievement

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in English

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Achievement

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Guidance

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment and Achievement

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

School Response to the Report


This Whole School Evaluation Report

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of the Central Technical Institute (CTI), Clonmel, incorporating Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chluain Meala.  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 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

Introduction

 

CTI, Clonmel, operates under the auspices of Tipperary South Riding Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) and owes its origins to the foundation in 1814 of a Mechanical Society, which was established to provide education for local tradesmen.  This tradition of almost two centuries of educational provision is continued by the present school through a variety of formats.  The school has three components in the form of a senior college which provides Post Leaving Certificate and adult education courses and in the form of two schools, Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn, which provide second-level education.  CTI sees its provision across these three schools as complementary and interdependent and there is a large element of staff interchange in the delivery of the various courses.  The focus of the evaluation process and this report centres on the two providers of second-level education, namely Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn. 

 

Coláiste Chluain Meala has a designated disadvantage status and is situated on the Raheen Road, having transferred to its present location in 1981.  Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn was established in September 2004 with a three-year probationary period granted by the Department of Education and Science (DES) and is located with the senior college at the original CTI premises in the Mall.  September 2004 was also the year in which the Raheen Road School adopted the title Coláiste Chluain Meala.  Over recent years there has been an increase in enrolment in Coláiste Chluain Meala.  It is envisaged that the Gaelcholáiste will also witness increased enrolment patterns.

 

The school is the only co-educational school of the four post-primary schools in the town.  It is presently examining the possibility of extending the facilities at its Mall location while also ensuring, predominantly through summer-works schemes, the maintenance and upkeep of Coláiste Chluain Meala.  Both locations have a number of subject-specific classrooms which meet the subject choices of the students and Coláiste Chluain Meala has a general assembly area, as well as having access to a playing field and hard court area.  Currently the staff is comprised of 35 members with 21 employed on a permanent basis, one temporary whole time and a further 13 employed on pro-rata contracts.  There are five special needs assistants, two of whom are part time, two administrative personnel and three maintenance personnel.  While the school is located on two separate sites it was noted that there is a very strong sense of collegiality and ownership among the staff and all are applauded for their ongoing commitment to the pursuit and the delivery of the highest possible standard of education for the students in their care.

 

1.      Quality of School Management

 

1.1     Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The school’s mission statement states that “The role of our school is to facilitate the students of Clonmel and its environs in the acquisition of general and specialised education”. The statement adds that it seeks, to encourage the development of the full person through imparting knowledge and skills and through inculcating values, to bring students to an awareness of their identity in a multi-denominational, multi-cultural context, to enable the transition to further education, to encourage the participation of parents in the education of their children and to respond to the educational needs of the local community.

 

It was seen that such a mission was manifested and reflected in the policies, practices and atmosphere in the school.  The stated school vision “that no person who wishes to pursue the personal and social advantage of a valid education shall be excluded from such opportunity for any reason whatsoever” was seen to be given testimony by the daily interaction among all members of the school community.  Inspectors noted that the school’s central focus of attention was the welfare of the students, as witnessed in their academic, personal, spiritual, social, and civic development.  School staff clearly set high but realistic standards for their students and the level of care, interest and commitment shown by them to their students and to one another is to be applauded.  As one parent commented: “We are happy to support the school, particularly when we see the tremendous effort made by the teachers in the school.”

 

 

1.2     School ownership and management

 

The school is established, owned and controlled by Tipperary S.R. Vocational Education Committee (VEC), in accordance with the Vocational Education Act (1930) and amendments thereto.  It is recognised, financed and supported by the Department of Education and Science through its statutory instruments and current procedures and legislation.

 

The active and engaged board of management of the CTI consists of four members nominated by South Tipperary VEC.  The board also includes two parents, one female and one male, whose children are currently enrolled in Coláiste Chluain Meala and two parents of students who are currently enrolled in Gaelcholáiste Cheitinn.  The board further incorporates two members of the school’s teaching staff, one female, one male, and one member of the community nominated by the board.  The principal of the school acts as secretary to the board. 

 

The board of management meets approximately six times per school year.  An agenda for each meeting is made out and distributed prior to the meeting.  Minutes of the proceedings are kept by the secretary and are sent to the VEC for its adoption at the next VEC meeting.  The present board members were appointed in January 2005 and the VEC facilitated an induction day for all new board members in May 2005.  Board members were briefed on a number of areas including the current VEC scheme, the legal obligations attaching to the board and received a presentation on the draft VEC handbook for boards of management.  As well as having a keen awareness of their role, functions and responsibilities, the board members are very much committed to the work of the school.  It was pointed out that six members were former pupils, which lends a degree of continuity and pride to the work the board is engaged in.  The board members’ commitment and unified approach was evident in the near-full attendance at the pre-evaluation and post-evaluation meetings.  Such a high rate of attendance at board meetings was seen to be the norm and all concerned are congratulated for their ongoing commitment to the school.

 

The board has engaged in an extensive range of activities, including recent contributions to the VEC’s five-year education plan, and is of the opinion that the school is developing in a positive way, allowing the board to increasingly adopt a proactive approach to  its work.  Priorities of late have included the continued maintenance of both school sites and the proposed expansion of the Mall premises to accommodate the needs of the gaelcholáiste and the senior college.  The board has engaged in ratifying an extensive range of policies, including policies relating to admissions, Code of Behaviour, attendance, anti-bullying, drug use, health and safety, staff welfare, communications, information and communication technology (ICT), school uniform, book rental scheme, Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA) and School Completion Programme (SCP).  The board has also prioritised, the ratification of policies that reflect the school’s practice in relation to child protection, guidance, pastoral care and homework.  It was indicated that these policies have already formed the focus for the school planning team and it was evident that work had already commenced in these areas. 

 

The board is involved in all policy development, approval and review and possesses a clear and collective understanding that the process of policy making is an important factor in determining the implementation and subsequent effectiveness of such policies.  It was commented that the formal board meetings are also supplemented by ongoing informal communication between board members and that the diversity of experience which members bring to the meetings facilitate open and fruitful discussion. The observation by one of the board members that ‘Nobody shows up for the sake of showing up’ was evidenced by the members’ dedication to their responsibilities. The board members liaise with their respective groups and the involvement of parents is further supplemented by the work of the school’s co-ordinator of the home school community liaison (HSCL) scheme who has facilitated the establishment of a parents’ group.  The HSCL co-ordinator communicates relevant information to parents through the parents’ group and through daily interaction with parents. 

 

Members of the board of management are commended for their enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to supporting the school.  Such support is in no small way due to the energetic, consultative and open style of leadership demonstrated by the school principal.

 

 

1.3     In-school management

 

There is a high degree of leadership, co-operation and collaboration among teachers and other staff members in the school.  The principal and deputy principal play a key role in the in-school management of the school and bring together the various strands and personnel that go to make up the CTI.  The principal adopts a very hands-on approach to the running of the school, in particular Coláiste Chluain Meala, and is ably assisted in this regard by the deputy principal.  Both members of senior management have clearly-defined roles which often overlap to complement and support the other’s work and further support the smooth running of the school.  There is a strong degree of devolved leadership among teachers and morale is good in the school as staff are allowed to engage in school life in a manner that promotes their personal and professional development.

 

The principal is very keen to engage all members of the school community in adopting a whole-school approach to ensure the goals as laid down in the school’s mission statement are achieved.  Efforts to enhance the self-esteem of the pupils are always to the fore as reflected in the celebration of student achievements and in the efforts to maintain high standards with regard to school uniform and the overall environment in which the school operates.  Senior management is aware of their role in the management of change and as key agents are very much involved in the pastoral, professional and pedagogical developments that take place in the school and are continuously seeking to find ways in which to improve the school.

 

The desire to continuously enhance the quality of the education delivered by the school is shared by the school’s middle-management team.  There are nine assistant principals in the school and 12 special duties post-holders.  An examination of the schedule of posts reveal that they are clearly defined, well utilised and well thought out.  A recent review and realignment of posts has ensured that the duties conducted by the post-holders attend to the pastoral, administrative and curricular needs of the school at present and are positioned to assist in meeting anticipated needs in the future.  The assistant principals’ roles include that of class tutor and also senior college PLC co-ordinators.  Their responsibilities include attending to school development planning, school uniform, school discipline, provision for special education needs, co-ordination of Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn, adult education, State examinations, ICT, school lockers, school tours, PLC registration and school data such as October returns.  It was noted that for four of the nine assistant principals, co-ordination of senior college PLC programmes formed part of their duties and another was engaged in co-ordinating the gaelcholáiste as múinteoir i bhfeighil.  The special duties post-holders’ responsibilities include the co-ordination of PLC programmes, Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA), student council, and in meeting the needs of the school in such areas as health and safety, transport, book scheme, sports, insurance, in-house exams, stocktaking and the newsletter.  Six of these twelve post-holders also acted as class tutors.  Members of the middle-management group expressed the view that they were happy with the schedule of posts and appreciated the trust and support provided by senior management. 

 

It was clear that senior management appreciated the extensive work being undertaken by the assistant principals and special-duties teachers.  The inspectorate applauds the professional manner in which all concerned were able to meet the needs of two, and in some cases all three, of the strands that make up the CTI.  In order to build on the good work and to add to the informal communication already taking place, it is suggested that an opportunity for assistant principals to meet formally once a term with senior management would prove beneficial in devising and achieving the immediate and more long-term needs of the school.  This is deemed all the more necessary in light of continued school growth and the dual location of the school.

 

The reflective approach adopted by the school has resulted in the school examining the many ways in which it can engage in partnership with other members of the community.  Feeder schools are visited and the transition from primary to post-primary level is closely monitored.  Representatives of other agencies, including health board officials, education welfare officers, special education needs organisers and visiting teachers, are consulted where appropriate.  The school is very aware of the important role that home plays in achieving set targets and actively seeks to involve parents in their children’s education.  An ‘open-door policy’ to parents facilitates interaction between home and school, as has the establishment of the parents’ group, which is seen to be an ever-increasing, vibrant and active body since first meeting in February 2003. The group meets regularly, organising guest speakers, partaking in discussions surrounding school policies, practices and other aspects of school life as well as obtaining information on parent classes and courses.  The parents’ group gives a voice to its members and its continued development is promoted by involvement in the local committee, which focuses on educational issues relevant to the area.  All involved in such activity are deserving of much praise.  The promotion of lifelong learning is a key facet of the work engaged in by the school and the effective and cooperative links between school, home and outside agencies is commended.  The impact of these links is best outlined by one parent, who describes the involvement of parents and students in activities such as, in this case, the organised Arts Days. 

 

“I would hope that, as a parent, with the cooperation and commitment from other agencies within the community, we would work together to maintain the teaching of arts and culture to our children because children that are involved in the community, evolve in the community and they, in turn, will give back what has been given to them.  That is why, as a parent, it is important for me to sustain these in the long term.”

 

 

1.4     Management of resources

 

The greatest resource in any school is its teachers and the school is fortunate to have a collegial, dynamic and energetic staff who are committed to providing a quality education to their students, both within and outside class-contact time.  The mixture of experience and gender in the staff profile assists in providing an atmosphere in the school that is conducive to learning for both staff and students.

 

Staff are deployed so as to maximise their impact upon the quality of teaching and learning in the school.  The school encourages staff to engage in continuing professional development and all are acutely aware that teaching is very much the learning profession.  Ongoing development at both a personal and professional level is seen as integral to the school’s successful engagement with teaching and learning.  As well as attending the subject-based in-service courses, as provided by the Department of Education and Science, staff have engaged in a wide degree of activities, ranging from improving language and ICT skills to engaging in personal development programmes. In the commendable spirit of self-review and self-evaluation, staff were recently surveyed to elicit prioritised areas for future professional development.  Topics that came to the fore included multi-disciplinary and whole-school approaches to behavioural problems.  Another key priority centred on strategies for specific learning difficulties.  Given the wealth of talent available among the staff, it is recommended  that the school initially engage in accessing its own context-sensitive expertise around these areas and then seek further external assistance when deemed necessary.  Such practice will help to advance the already well-established learning community that is the school.

 

The imaginative use of school resources has resulted in the school devising its On Track and Star programmes which provide supports for students who are at risk of leaving Coláiste Chluain Meala and the education system early.  As well as teaching staff and School Completion Programme (SCP) personnel, other non-teaching staff such as special needs assistants (SNAs), school secretary, caretaker and cleaning staff are effectively deployed.  Their diligence and valuable contribution in carrying out their duties is duly acknowledged.  It was observed that the secretary and caretakers are listed by name, in the well-presented and informative school brochure, as among the ‘key people first-years need to know’.  The support received by the staff from the SNAs was commented upon on a number of occasions, as was the reciprocal support received by the SNAs from the weekly meetings with the deputy principal and their interaction with the special education needs (SEN) co-ordinator and other teachers.  The alignment of purpose and consolidation of effort by all school personnel is praiseworthy.

 

As stated earlier, the school strives to maintain a high-quality environment.  The Raheen school benefits from summer work schemes and the Mall premises is planning to extend its facilities to accommodate the growing numbers in both the senior college and gaelcholáiste.  As pointed out by both students and staff, changing and showering facilities would be of great benefit to Coláiste Chluain Meala.  The school is actively engaged in discussion with local sports clubs to see if a temporary arrangement can be reached in which such facilities can be provided.  Of course the lack of a designated PE hall also impacts negatively upon the quality of the school’s provision.  Ever mindful of striving to be as inclusive as possible, the Mall has also obtained quotations for the instalment of a lift to improve access.  At school-subject level budgeting is on a needs basis and, as section four of this report alerts, there is a need for further investment in some of the specialist rooms and in particular, the science laboratories.  The school has a health and safety policy in place which is regularly and, on occasions, externally reviewed.

 

Classrooms are generally well appointed with a range of audio-visual aids.  The school numbers presently facilitate teacher-based classrooms and such practice is to be encouraged as it allows teachers to store their own and their students’ resources, as well as display work.  Currently Coláiste Chluain Meala has a specialised ICT room and there are two specialised ICT rooms in the Senior College Mall building.  All the junior classes and both LCA classes are timetabled for ICT and the room is made available to other subject groups to use when the room is not timetabled.  Five ICT units have been installed which allow access to programmes which facilitate learning among students with SEN.  ICT is also available in other classroom settings, such as the technology subjects and the continued expansion of such practice will facilitate learning by motivating students to engage in their school work, present their learning in a variety of modes and also assist in allowing students work independently and cooperatively as the needs arise.  This will in short facilitate the promotion of the ‘3 rs’ of reading, writing and arithmetic with the interlocking ‘3 ts’ of teamwork, thinking and technology.  ICT is also very much a feature of the general administration of the school.    Broadband has already been installed and it is now hoped to establish a wireless connection between the two school sites.  The use of laptops on a pilot basis to monitor attendance in real time may also prove beneficial at this time.

 

Overall it was found that the quality of school management was of a very high standard. 

 

 

2.      Quality of School Planning

 

          The School Plan

 

The school is at a very advanced stage in school planning.  The school’s commitment to planning is expressed by the fact that it has an appointed planning co-ordinator who in turn is assisted by a colleague.  A school plan with a comprehensive list of policies and practices has been compiled and credit is due to those involved in its composition.  Like all good plans the school plan is continuously evolving to respond to current needs and to prepare for anticipated needs.  A collaborative and whole-school approach is adopted in relation to school planning which results in the school being able to respond and to initiate change.  Ownership is taken of not only the plan, but also of its implementation and subsequent review.  All the partners in the school community are engaged in the process, which attends to legislative, administrative, pastoral, curricular and teaching and learning aspects of school planning. 

 

Following participation in the Mol an Óige initiative, the present cycle of planning began in 2002 with a review of the school’s strengths and challenges as well as the prioritisation of areas that were deemed to require improvement.  Assisted by external facilitation through the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and through the appointment of a school planning co-ordinator, the school commenced the process of action planning.  Voluntary working groups comprising interested members have met regularly since 2003 and policies relating to drugs, admissions, attendance, ICT, health and safety, discipline, bullying, uniform, Book Rental Scheme, Leaving Certificate Applied and learning support have been drawn up, implemented and reviewed. 

 

Currently the school is focused on establishing a homework policy and, as in the case of other policy formation, the working group has surveyed the views of other staff, board members, parents and students.  Such an inclusive approach is commendable and very much contributes to successful policy implementation.  It is clear that to secure such a high standard of planning required meetings to also take place outside of school time and this commitment and dedication is duly acknowledged.  Self-review at individual teacher level and school level is embedded in the culture of the school and the target policies for the coming academic year focus on child protection guidelines, Guidance, pastoral care, bereavement support, and subject 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, September 1999) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004).  A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.  It is envisaged that a major review of all planning work to date will be undertaken in January 2007.  Methods of evaluation will be decided upon in consultation with staff.  It is recommended that the good practice of working groups continues to be adopted throughout all stages of planning to ensure that the voices of all stakeholders continue to be heard. 

 

The school has recently been invited to become involved in the DES-led action plan, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS).  The focus of the initiative is to further promote educational inclusion.  As a school visibly committed to, and actively engaged in, the promotion of inclusion, it is recommended that the DEIS initiative be incorporated into school planning with a particular focus on the promotion of inclusive learning and teaching strategies which seek to allow students obtain higher levels of success and rewards from their time in school.  The schemes of work presented during the whole school evaluation reveal that planning in this area is already well underway and the visit of the SDPI facilitator in May to address subject planning will assist further the good work being done.

 

The school is deserving of praise for its very school-specific and up-to-date school journal and it is suggested that a publication for staff would also prove beneficial, given the considerable amount of activity engaged in by the school community.  It is recommended therefore that the various aspects of school planning and school life should be made available to staff in the form of a staff handbook.  Such a publication would serve to communicate all school activities and clarify roles and routines as well as outline areas developed and ear-marked for development.  It would also assist in informing the wider community of the work engaged in by the school and further support efforts to raise the profile of the school.  Generic VEC publications such as the booklet on staff induction and other documentation, for example, the school’s recent contribution to the VEC’s five year plan, could be appended as required. 

 

The school is deserving of much praise for its inclusive approach to education and is complimented in turn for its open admissions policy towards all students who wish to attend.  However, in light of the recent enactment of certain sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (EPSEN ACT) it is recommended that the enrolment procedure be amended and updated. 

 

 

3.       Quality of Curriculum Provision

 

3.1     Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The school’s curriculum is in line with the requirements of the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.  Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn offers a forty-nine period week with four of the five school days having ten lessons and the remaining day having nine lessons.  Lessons are of 35 minutes duration commencing at 09.00 and continuing until 12.45.  Afternoon lessons run from 13.30 to 15.50.  This gives a class contact time of 29.8 hours per week.  Coláiste Chluain Meala offers a forty-five period week.  Each school day has nine lesson periods of 35 minutes duration which gives a weekly class contact time of 27.5 hours.  It is recommended that the timetabling provision be reviewed by the school and that any review should take cognisance of the Time in School directive, Circular M29/95, which stipulates that 28 hours is the minimum number of instruction hours per week.

 

 

3.2     Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

The school’s junior curriculum revolves exclusively around the established Junior Certificate although it is envisaged that increased enrolment and the involvement of the school in the School Support Programme will facilitate the introduction of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) in Coláiste Chluain Meala.  The JCSP is an intervention within the Junior Certificate and will very much assist the good work being done already in the school.  During their three-year junior cycle students in Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn study the following subjects; Gaeilge, English, Maths, French, History, Geography, Business, Science, Materials Technology (Wood), Materials Technology (Metal), Technical Graphics, Art, Music, Physical Education, Religion, CSPE and SPHE.  At the end of first year, optional subjects are chosen.  Two pathways are made available at senior cycle.  Students can follow the more traditional Leaving Certificate programme and study Gaeilge, English, Maths and four subjects from Art, Engineering, Construction, Home Economics, Geography and Biology. In light of the subjects being taught among the current third-year group it is expected that the subject choice will expand next year to include History, Technical Graphics and French.  The second option offered at senior cycle is the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.  The subjects studied in this programme include Gaeilge Chumarsáideach, English and Communications, Mathematical Applications, Social Studies, Italian, Hotel and Catering, Leisure and Recreation, Guidance, Construction Studies and Art.  In line with good practice, the school sees its curricular planning as being determined mainly by the desire to accommodate students’ needs and preferences, while also taking account of entry requirements for third-level courses.  It is school policy that all students are afforded the opportunity to study the technology and craft subjects, with a high practical content, Materials Technology (Wood), Construction Studies, Metalwork, Engineering, Technical Graphics and Art.  The school has a strong tradition in this area and many students secure apprenticeships through links with local employers, some of whom are past pupils of the school.

 

The school is congratulated for the wide range of subject choice provided and for the equity and diversity displayed in framing the curriculum.  It is recommended that best practice continue to be followed with regard to prioritising the views of the students when designing subject-option groups, keeping in mind their broad educational welfare and the teaching resources at the school’s disposal. It was also noted that the PLC and adult programmes have a positive influence on the learning environment within the school and give expression to the concept of lifelong learning. 

 

 

3.3     Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

All staff members are very aware of the value of engaging with students through co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.  Such engagement allows for the development, consolidation and demonstration of skills and talents which may not always be apparent and which in turn can enhance pupil self-esteem and sense of place as a valued member of the school community.  The school is very conscious of ‘catching the student being good’ and strives to create opportunities for students to succeed both within and outside the classroom.  Staff are rightly proud of the achievements of their students and are aware that the quality of learning among their students is, in part, dependent upon the quality of the relationship between student and teacher and between student and student.  The wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities provided very much adds to the quality of the learning in the school and all involved are congratulated for their efforts and for their willingness to give of their own time to support this important dimension of the school curriculum.

 

Co-curricular activities include organising Sports Day, Arts Day and art competitions, reading competitions, public speaking, speech and drama, quizzes, cookery competitions, fundraising for local and national charities, visiting authors, engaging in European exchange projects with other schools in Europe including Spain, Norway and Austria.  The school partakes in a variety of educational tours and outings, including visits to Mountjoy Prison, historical sites such as Ferrycarrig, Co. Wexford and attending science exhibitions.  The school also travels annually to Oakwood, Wales.  The SPHE programme is innovatively taught in part through drama and the homework club incorporates other activities such as basketball, self-defence workshops and soccer.  The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students engage in a range of activities including organising a soccer blitz for their fellow students and pursuing other task assignments as part of their studies.  A fine example of co-curricular and cross-curricular activity was captured recently with the unveiling of a wonderful piece of sculpture entitled ‘Tri-elements’.  This work, which is of a very high standard, was completed by year one LCA students with the assistance of their Engineering and Art teachers as well as others, including the local Arts Centre.  The piece is displayed proudly at the entrance to the school and all concerned are deserving of much praise.  The school also boasts an impressive list of extra-curricular provision which includes hurling, soccer, football, basketball, hill walking, table tennis, volleyball, swimming, badminton, board games i.e. chess, self-defence, dance, art and athletics.  The very good practice of celebrating success through the local press, school newsletter and photographic displays in the school is commended.

 

 

4.      Quality of Learning and Teaching in Subjects

 

4.1 Planning and preparation

 

The explicit mission of the school is values based and seeks to facilitate students ‘… in the acquisition of general and specialised education’.  General school planning, led by the principal, is very much a work in progress but has had a remarkable effect not only on the layout and resources of the school but also on staff morale and ownership of the process.  Consolidation of the school’s three entities has been largely achieved.  Some issues will need to be addressed in the planning process such as safety signage, the modernisation of the science laboratories, the division between the care and vocational elements of Guidance and access to computerised systems, particularly in the technology subjects. 

 

The size of the school allows regular and informal contact between nearly all staff within each of the constituent schools, although the distance between the campuses has some isolating effects.  Individual planning was seen to be of a high standard as witnessed by the schemes of work presented during the evaluation.  Subject department planning is largely informal, though regular.  Similarly, interdepartmental and cross-curricular communication is a feature of school life and mostly informal.  Staff members bring plans and issues to the attention of others, including management, and action follows.  Examples of such collaborative action have been the installation of dust extraction units in rooms dedicated to technology subjects, work on key assignments in the LCA programme, the provision of learning support across the school and the excellent work of all involved in or associated with the School Completion Programme.  There is some evidence of common approaches to lesson planning and to the synchronisation of syllabus delivery.  Continued formalisation of subject department planning is recommended to facilitate common approaches and practices, to encourage the sharing of expertise and to prepare for the anticipated rise in enrolment.  This might involve the arrangement of more regular meetings, an agreed agenda for meetings, the keeping of minutes and agreed procedures for reporting to management and staff.  Similarly, the good practice of appointing a team member to chair meetings or to act as subject department coordinator on a rotating basis should be extended to all subject areas. 

 

Clear evidence of good short-term preparation and planning was seen in all lessons observed.  Teachers were accomplished in their subjects, used differentiated teaching methods, achieved a balance between written, practical, theoretical and experiential approaches to learning and had good rapport with students.  Teachers showed a commitment to continuing professional development.   The development of new subject syllabuses in recent years has necessitated teacher in-service and most have availed of it.  Those interested in school development in all its aspects have participated in courses related to the curricular, administrative and care functions of the school.  The encouragement and facilitation of continuing professional development by school management as an important element of school improvement is highly commended.

 

 

4.2. Teaching and learning

 

The teaching methodologies used in the lessons visited in the course of the inspection were varied and were generally appropriate to the abilities of the students and the small size of many of the classes. Commendable use was made of student practical work in science and the technologies.  Teacher-led demonstration was well employed.  It is suggested, where appropriate, that some student involvement in such demonstrations be considered to further ensure student engagement.  The practice whereby teachers circulated when students were engaged in practical work is commended.  This allowed guidance to be given easily, feedback to be received and questions to be dealt with while taking the opportunity to gauge the level of student understanding.  The variety in lessons included group work, effective use of prepared handout materials and correct and effective use of texts. 

 

A wide range of teaching resources was very effectively used.  In addition to the chalkboard, whiteboard, overhead projector and various prepared photocopied materials, creative use was made of ICT and music on audio cassette on occasion, notably to create a suitable atmosphere for learning in English.  The reinforcing of learning in science and the technologies by means of carefully prepared worksheets is commended.  In science, in particular, these helped to focus students on the task being undertaken, to ensure active engagement and to help highlight potential difficulty.  The considerable work that has gone into these aids is commended.  It is suggested that their dissemination to the whole subject team be considered. 

 

While the use of visual material to impart abstract concepts in science was particularly worthwhile, there was some very good practice regarding the display of relevant visually stimulating materials in all the subjects visited.  It is recommended that this practice become universal and, where appropriate, that the use of the visual be increased.  This includes not only pictorial but also text-based materials both in English and Gaeilge as appropriate.  It is also suggested that the display of subject-appropriate materials not be limited to the classroom but be used on the approaches to the classrooms, laboratories and workshops to create interest and a wider presence for the subjects. 

 

Very effective use was made of the complete range of questioning techniques in the lessons visited, often in a small-group setting.  Classes were often initiated by a session of questions and answers to revise previous work and to check the knowledge and understanding of the students.  On one occasion, in an English class, revision of the ballad form was initiated by mention of artists with whom the students were familiar.  This provided a link to student knowledge and achieved full student involvement.  Questioning techniques were used as both teaching and evaluative tools.  Being directed to individual students, on occasion, particularly in English, questions were very effectively used to lead students to appreciate the need for evidence in support of points being made.  On occasion the use of more directed questioning could have improved students’ capacity to develop ideas and to listen attentively to their peers’ opinions.  It is suggested that full consideration be given to the power of questioning as a teaching technique. 

 

The successful use of strategies for differentiated learning is commended.  The use of a quiz when dealing with English comprehension facilitated the development of oral communicative skills, engaged students and provided opportunities for differentiated learning.  The design process was exploited, particularly in Construction Studies, to support students’ experience of independent learning at a level appropriate to their individual needs, interests and abilities.  In general, work was within the ability range of students while presenting a suitable challenge. 

 

 

Objectives were clear from the outset in all classes.  In general, lessons were well structured.  It was clear that lessons often followed a pattern with which students were familiar and comfortable.  In general, all practical lessons were initiated by the background being set and the students being alerted to the expected outcomes and thus focus students on the learning about to take place.  Commonly this was followed by a teacher-led demonstration.  It is suggested that, particularly in Science classes, the students could be asked to posit a hypothesis on the expected outcomes, to be confirmed or rejected through experiment.  It is further suggested that the use of a plenary recall stage should be considered towards the end of such classes to provide opportunities for students to share and discuss outcomes, guided by the teacher.  This might support more active student involvement in the learning process and their recording of individual investigative work.  A similar method might also be applied to reinforce learning in theory.  Lessons were appropriately paced and this, together with their structure, facilitated learning.  Commendably, students in design-based technologies classes were encouraged to discover solutions to the problems they encountered for themselves.

 

The placing of students at the centre of class activities is commended.  Good practice was seen in English classes which were begun with students reading their own work.  The teacher availed of the opportunity to affirm students’ efforts and the students were helped to discover the audience potential of their peers.  Reading aloud from novels and plays in class, allowing the various personae encountered to be adopted, brought the pieces to life and, in particular, emphasised the theatrical nature of the latter.

 

The use of ‘word banks’ in senior-cycle classes is commended and increased use of dictionaries and thesauri is encouraged.  It is suggested when recording practical work in Science classes that students should be encouraged to use their own words for recording procedures and outcomes rather than relying on those of texts or handouts.  In general, the potential to consolidate learning through personal note taking should be exploited.

 

The classrooms visited were well managed.  Student seating arrangements were effective and suited the various teaching styles being adopted from time to time.  When students were involved in the retrieval and storage of their work, this was achieved with a minimum of bother.  In general, students were involved in setting up the equipment being used for practical work and, in most instances, cleaning up on completion.  This is commendable for the development of responsibility and practical skills.  Students were aware of, and comfortable with, workshop procedures.  Teachers are commended for maintaining a neat, stable, well-ordered classroom environment.

 

Teachers are commended for reinforcing safety precautions.  In some cases, however, the placing of students’ bags needs to be considered, especially when practical work is being undertaken, to facilitate ease and safety of movement within rooms.

 

In most classes visited, students, on occasion, worked in pairs or small groups.  This is commended.  Where it is not already the practice it is recommended that opportunities for cooperative working and learning are sought and exploited.

 

Students in general were engaged and willing to ask and answer questions.  Discipline, which was based on a clear and fair code of behaviour, was intrinsic to students and was willingly supported by them.   

 

Good relationships between teachers and students did much to maintain the atmosphere encountered in the classrooms visited.  This was conducive to learning.  Students were secure and relaxed and displayed quiet confidence in their dealings with their teachers.  Teachers were affirming of their students.  There was a discernable level of mutual respect and interactions were at all times respectful.  Teachers and special needs assistants are commended for maintaining this positive learning environment.

 

There was clear evidence of a high standard of learning taking place in the classes visited.  In a number of English classes, students displayed good knowledge of the texts being studied.  In Materials Technology (Wood) and in Construction Studies, students identified with the project work in which they were involved and showed deep interest, understanding and ownership when engaged in conversation about it.  Students in Science classes generally also showed good understanding of the tasks in hand.  The amount of practical and project-design work being done is commended for the interest and creativity it is developing in students.  Also commended is the approach of integrating the teaching of theoretical content with the practical as far as possible.

 

4.3   Assessment and achievement

 

Students were enthusiastic and generally engaged with the subjects inspected.  Affirmation of student achievement and success was also observed which helped to create a positive learning environment.

 

Formal in-school assessments are held for all classes at Christmas and summer in Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn.  Students studying for their State examination have pre-examinations in the spring of their examination year, which are externally marked.  Other assessments are administered at the discretion of the teacher during class time.  

 

Evidence of these assessments can be seen in teachers’ files.  This current practice could be developed more formally into a method of continuous assessment for the students, with the results used in the early identification of students experiencing difficulties in achievement in the subject.  In addition, the current practice in Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies where student project work forms a component of the student examination mark is worth noting.  The inclusion in examinations of practical work, course work or project work could be discussed and developed in other subject areas, with agreed criteria decided between members of each subject department team.  Formal reports are sent to parents/guardians following Christmas, summer and pre-examinations.  In addition to reports, parent-teacher meetings, which convey student progress, are held for all classes annually. 

 

Commendable correction and assignment of regular homework in the classes observed was noted.  An examination of a selection of copybooks showed that a broad range of exercises had been set as homework according to the requirements of the syllabuses.  It is noted that the school is working on a homework policy.  Each subject department is encouraged, through discussion, to further develop the school homework policy, while formulating a policy with particular reference to their own subject area.  This would provide consistency and build on the good practice that already exists.  In addition, good records of student attendance, homework, assessment results and general progress were observed, which is to be commended. 

 

Formative assessment was generally conducted through ongoing questioning in class, through regularly-assigned homework and a variety of class-work activities, which facilitate and reinforce student learning. 

 

 

 

5.      Quality of Support for Students

 

5.1    Students with special educational needs

 

The school staff is committed individually and collectively to all its students including those students presenting with special education needs (SEN).  The school is a welcoming inclusive school with a clear and insightful learning-support policy which sees “each child as unique, having his/her own gifts and the potential to learn at a pace and in a manner commensurate with his/her ability.”  Furthermore the school states among its objectives that “….students benefit from each day of schooling.  Mere physical presence is not enough.” and while acknowledging the goal of success in State examinations, the policy also correctly recognises that “…pupil success is measured, not necessarily just in terms of achieving a Junior Certificate, but also in the learning which proves ultimately of value to students in meeting their needs and empowering them to have the basic skills of reading and writing.”  The provision of support “does not run ad infinitum for every student.  It continues until, in the professional opinion of the team, it is no longer required…”  Again the SEN team and school management are deserving of much praise for the stated SEN policy and its implementation.

 

The range of resources made available to the school to meet students’ needs include an ex-quota learning-support teacher and a large allocation of resource hours as determined by individually-assessed student needs.  The allocation is used to good effect and the school management ensures that best practice is followed by employing a core team in providing for SEN students.  The core SEN team includes a qualified learning-support teacher who has engaged in a variety of national and international SEN projects.  At present, another staff member is pursuing a course of study in the area and this will very much complement the good work the school is engaged in.  Other staff members have also expressed an interest in partaking in similar studies and it is recommended that they be supported in such endeavours, as it is becoming increasingly recognised that all teachers need to perceive themselves as SEN teachers and have the necessary skills to meet all students’ needs. 

 

The school is very aware of the need to employ a whole-school approach in providing for SEN students and, in this regard, it is recommended that the SEN team in the school invite staff members to engage in in-school training.  The advantage of in-school training is that it is context sensitive and action-based, thus ensuring the continued engagement in the process of improving the quality of the learning and teaching in the school.  It was noted that learning-support personnel had met with the SNAs and such good practice is commended.  Examining the best use of individual education plans or investigating new and ongoing whole-school strategies in relation to literacy and numeracy might also prove beneficial.  The visible cooperation among staff members is commended and the informal support structures could be further enhanced by some form of formal staff development, where staff share good practice with one another.  If such were to occur, the informal would be supported, rather than replaced, by the formal.

 

As set out in the school plan, a system of small-group withdrawal from certain subjects operates, where appropriate, to assist with compensatory work in literacy, numeracy, concentration skills, study skills and social and communication skills.  One-to-one support is used only when deemed necessary and the school also engages in team-teaching.  As witnessed by the continuing good work of the SNAs assigned to Coláiste Chluain Meala, the presence of two adults in the classroom can bring many benefits. It is suggested that the use of collaborative teaching practices among teachers, such as team-teaching be expanded and placed on a more formal footing.  Such expansion would enhance the quality of the learning environment and would be in tune with a more integrated and inclusive model of support for SEN students.  As already outlined, the school works in partnership with parents and the SEN team encourage parents to support their children with homework, paired reading and, in so far as is possible, to adopt the school’s approach of “Praise the effort, see the response.  Avoid all discouragement”.

 

Student profiles and individual educational plans are drawn up with the assistance of parents, primary-school personnel and others where appropriate. The enrolment form is both well thought out and well laid out and gives an insight to the school’s philosophy, in that it seeks, among other things, information regarding the prospective student’s hobbies, interests and achievements.  A variety of appropriate norm-referenced assessments are undertaken and further assessment, including educational psychological assessments occur when deemed appropriate.  As with all good provision, the SEN policy is delivered in such a manner as to support other stated school policies such as the promotion of student attendance and good behaviour. 

The SEN team work closely with the SCP team and the SEN provision in the school also includes a designated room where students can access a range of up-to-date literacy- and numeracy-related materials including age- and interest-appropriate reading material, ICT facilities and mathematical games and puzzles.  Students are encouraged to engage in the class and, as in all good teaching, every effort is made to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust where teaching utilises students’ strengths to advance their learning.

 

In more recent times the arrival of ESL (English as a Second Language) students has been welcomed and they have been facilitated with extra English classes and with supports to facilitate them in sitting higher-level papers in State examinations.  Staff, again, have shown commitment to their own learning and subsequent teaching by partaking in the Integrate Ireland Language and Training programme and are deserving of much credit for doing so.

 

The SEN policy and provision in the school is of a very high standard and the SEN team and the school staff in general are commended for providing quality support to students with SEN in their care. 

 

 

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

 

As an inclusive school it was found that every effort is made to attend to diverse needs through diverse methods.  Resources are deployed appropriately and wisely and the dedication and moral purpose shown by teachers in attending to all the students in their care is applauded.

 

 

5.3    Guidance

 

In the area of Guidance the care and support of students is also given priority with Guidance, SCP and HSCL personnel playing a pivotal role in the school’s support structure.  The links with external agencies are well established and the networking with these agencies is exemplary.  Communication among staff is very good, as is the communication with parents.  Two class periods per week are devoted to Guidance in fifth and sixth years for established Leaving Certificate students, while LCA students avail of five periods per week which include guidance and work-experience preparation.  One-to-one sessions are available to all students on request.  Guidance is earmarked as an area of school development planning to be addressed in the 2006/2007 academic year. 

 

The planned review of Guidance in the school will be informed by recent publications including, Guidelines for second-level schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act (1998) relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance and the NGCE (2004) document Planning the School Guidance Programme.  The Guidance roles and responsibilities of all staff in the three major areas of Guidance, namely, personal and social, educational and vocational should be clarified as part of the review and it is recommended that the integration of the support and vocational elements of Guidance provision be given serious consideration.  Professional learning and development is seen as very important in the school and it is recommended that the professional learning needs and qualification of staff be determined and progressed in accordance with the needs of the school and in line with the conditions laid down in Circular PPT12/05.

 

 

5.4    Pastoral care

 

The very high quality of pastoral care is one of the school’s most defining characteristics and one of its greatest strengths.  Pastoral care permeates all aspects of school life and it is to the credit of the school community that it is perceived as being important enough to be everybody’s responsibility.  As with all aspects of school life the staff endeavour to operate in a spirit of partnership and cooperation with one another and with the wider school community.  As outlined earlier, parents are actively encouraged to play a role in the life of the school thus advancing their own learning and that of their children.  Every effort is made to keep the lines of communication open with all involved in the school and the spirit of mutual respect as manifested in the way students and teachers go about their work, results in the school being a school that listens, reflects and strives to provide the best pastoral-care provision possible.  All staff are acutely aware of the need to attend to the affective as well as the cognitive development of students. Staff are also alert to the daily pressures faced by young people, as recently outlined by the Clonmel Project[1] . The level of interest and care devoted to this aspect of education is reflected in the school facilitating the research team during their stay in Clonmel.

 

All school actions and policies are devised and implemented with a view to enhancing the quality of pastoral care in the school.  The lynchpins of the organisation of pastoral care are the class tutors who attend to students’ needs on a class and individual basis.  Their pastoral and administrative role combine with their teaching role to ensure that ‘no student is left out’.  Every effort is made to allow for the development of trusting and respectful relations between staff and students and, where possible, staff continuity between class tutor and a particular class is maintained.  The highly-organised discipline system and clearly-outlined and implemented Code of Behaviour allow for behaviour to be monitored on a daily basis, which in turn facilitates early and staged intervention.  The combination of pastoral and disciplinary roles is seen as crucial to the success of the school and the student journal draws particular attention to school attendance, the school rules and to the expectations of the school.  The school is complimented, not only on the clear and positive language used to explain what is expected of the students, but also on the integration and implementation of school policies, such as attendance (including the school’s attendance strategy School Matters), code of behaviour,  and anti-bullying policies.

 

The SCP team and HSCL co-ordinator play complementary and key roles in the school’s provision of pastoral care.  Indeed the provision of pastoral care begins even before the students leave their respective primary schools.  The transfer programme with the local primary schools facilitates ease of movement for pupils transferring from primary to post-primary schooling.  Based at the Coláiste Chluain Meala campus the SCP programme includes meal provision, academic support, therapeutic support, after-school support, holiday support and provision, parental support, profiling/monitoring and policy involvement as well as interagency work and counselling.  The meal provision located at Coláiste Chluain Meala has proved a huge success and it is reported that the provision of meals at breakfast and lunch time have resulted in a marked improvement in attendance and in levels of concentration among the student population.  Staff also highlighted how the breakfast club allows them to interact with the students even before the day begins.  Inspectors were also impressed by the school’s On Track and Star programmes, which are designed to provide support to students who are at risk of leaving the school system early due to behavioural difficulties.  This, allied with the preventative as well as supportive measures in place in the school, result in an integrated, flexible and responsive pastoral care system which is deserving of the utmost praise. 

 

To further develop the excellent work in this area it is recommended that the school pursue its intention of formally collating the documentation surrounding the school’s pastoral care policy.  It is recommended that the possibility of a formal weekly timetabled meeting between members of the pastoral care team and class tutors be examined.  Such meetings would facilitate and support what is already a very successful whole-school approach to the provision of pastoral care.  The adoption of a systematic whole-school approach to rewarding students on a regular basis merits consideration, as it would do much to support the good practice already in place and support the school in its efforts to “catch the student being good.” 

 

The ethos of the school is very much centred on making a positive difference to the life of the students in the school.  The school motto, as outlined in the school brochure, reads “Our School makes all the difference” and it is highlighted in the school journal that students also have a role to play in their own destiny.

 

“We seek to set you on the road to reaching your potential………..But you must play your part too in your education.  While you are in our school, we are your present.  You however are the creator of your tomorrow”

 

The promotion of student involvement in school life and the subsequent enhancement of pupil self-esteem was very obvious when the officers of the student council, in the company of their teacher, were met by the evaluation team.  The present and past members of the council are to be congratulated for their selection by their peers on to the council and for the good work that they have been engaged in since its establishment in 1995.  The students met were articulate and rightly proud of their role and of their school.  The council has engaged in a number of fund-raising activities, including quizzes and a no-uniform day, which have resulted in sports equipment being purchased for the school as well as supporting charities such as the Chernobyl Children’s Project.  The student council has also been consulted on the following policy-related areas: breakfast club, school lunch, change of school name and new school uniform, drugs policy, discipline policy and, at present, the formation of a homework policy.  All concerned are congratulated for supporting and engaging in the important work being undertaken by the student council.  It is suggested that any plans to further expand the school’s reward system should be done in consultation with the student body and in particular with the active and committed student council.

 

 

6.     Summary of Findings and Recommendations for Further Development

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The stated school vision “that no person who wishes to pursue the personal and social advantage of a valid education shall be excluded from such opportunity for any reason whatsoever” was seen to be given testimony by the daily interaction among all members of this inclusive school community.
  • Members of the board of management are commended for their enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to supporting the school.  Such support is in no small way due to the energetic, consultative and open style of leadership demonstrated by the school principal.
  • There is a high degree of leadership, cooperation and collaboration among senior management, teachers and other staff members in the school.
  • The desire to continuously enhance the quality of the education delivered by the school is shared by the school’s middle-management team.  An examination of the schedule of posts reveals that they are clearly defined, well utilised and well thought out.
  • All staff are deployed so as to maximise their impact upon the quality of teaching and learning in the school.  
  • The reflective approach adopted by the school has resulted in the school examining the many ways in which it can engage in partnership with other members of the community.
  • School planning is of a very high quality in both process and product.
  • Investment in the school is ongoing and the environment in both school sites is conducive to learning though further development is required in some subject areas.
  • The school’s curriculum is in line with the requirements of the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.
  • There is a wide range of subject choice provided.
  • The wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities provided very much adds to the quality of the learning in the school and all involved are congratulated for their efforts and for their willingness to give of their own time to support this important dimension of the school curriculum.
  • The encouragement and facilitation of continuing professional development by school management as an important element of school improvement is highly commended.
  • A high level of individual planning and informal collaborative planning was seen.
  • Lessons observed were well planned, had clear objectives and were structured and paced appropriately.
  • The quality of the learning and the teaching was of a high standard.
  • A variety of modes are employed to support assessment for learning as well as of learning.
  • The alignment of purpose and consolidation of effort by all school personnel is praiseworthy.
  • The quality of supports for students and their needs is excellent.

 

 

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

 

  • An opportunity for assistant principals to meet formally once a term with senior management would prove beneficial in devising and achieving the immediate and more long-term needs of the school.  This is deemed all the more necessary in light of continued school growth and the dual location of the school.
  • Ongoing investment is recommended particularly in certain subject areas.
  • It is recommended that the timetabling provision be reviewed by the school and that any review should take cognisance of the Time in School Directive, Circular M29/95, which stipulates that 28 hours is the minimum number of instruction hours per week. 
  • It is recommended that best practice continue to be followed with regard to prioritising the views of the students when designing subject-option groups, keeping in mind their broad educational welfare and the teaching resources at the school’s disposal. 
  • It is recommended that the various aspects of school planning and school life should be made available to staff in the form of a staff handbook.
  • In light of the recent enactment of certain sections of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 (EPSEN ACT) it is recommended that the enrolment procedure be amended and updated. 
  • The development of subject department planning should be further advanced.
  • It is recommended that a review of Guidance and the formation of a guidance policy be undertaken.
  • It is recommended that the possibility of a formal weekly timetabled meeting between members of the pastoral care team and class tutors be examined.  Such meetings would facilitate and support what is already a very successful whole-school approach to the provision of pastoral care.

 

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

 

 

 

7.    Appended Subject Inspection Reports

 

Subject inspection reports in Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood), Science and Biology, English and Guidance are appended to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood)

 

 

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

 

Coláiste Chluain Meala, in its premises on Raheen Road, has two wood workshops.  These are assigned, one to each of the Construction Studies (CS) and Materials Technology (Wood) (MTW) teachers.  Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn which is sited in the older CTI building on The Mall has use of the single wood workshop there. 

 

Apart from a formal meeting at the beginning of the year, at which the subject teaching team agrees on such issues as the materials and equipment to be sought, most subject development planning takes place on an informal basis.  There being just two teachers of the subjects, the outcomes of these meetings are not recorded.  The work being done by different classes and related matters, such as choosing suitable projects, are often the focus of such informal meetings.  It is suggested that there would be merit in adding some formality to this good practice.  This might be achieved by providing time for collaborative planning.  This would ideally have a broad focus.  Issues such as teaching and learning, the discussion of the methodologies found to be most effective in the teaching of the subjects and the support of learning would form the agenda.  A very brief minute of the outcomes would provide continuity.   

 

Such a structure would provide opportunities for the co-ordination, not only of the subjects which form the focus of this report but of the wider group of subjects which define the study of the technologies in the school.  Of particular value would be the co-ordination of shared curricular areas such as computer-aided design and draughting (CAD) across the technology subjects. 

 

MTW and Graphics and Construction Studies (GCS) are allocated four class periods per week in Coláiste Chluain Meala while CS is allocated six.  This allocation is in line with expectations and is sufficient for the effective teaching of the respective syllabuses.  The allocation of five periods for MTW in second year in Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn is commended and it is urged that this allocation be continued in third year.  It is the practice to timetable for all the focus subjects in double periods.  These are particularly suitable for the teaching of practical lessons and the practice is commended.  

 

It is the practice at present for all junior-cycle students in Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn to study MTW.  While it is likewise the practice for most senior-cycle students to study CS or GCS in Coláiste Chluain Meala, in the current fifth year, three female students in the established Leaving Certificate have opted to study Biology.  It is commended that the school has responded to the subject choice of these students.  With the expected rise in student numbers in the coming years, it will become increasingly important that appropriate mechanisms have been put in place to provide students with their chosen subjects.  While being governed by the availability of resources, these mechanisms will need to respond to the diversity of student choice and guard against the danger of stereotyping on the basis of gender or perceived ability.  The first step in a fair and balanced process of choosing subjects will probably involve the students selecting from the full list of available subjects, in order of choice, without constraint.  The subjects may then be grouped to satisfy the wishes of as many students as possible.  It is recommended that best practice continue to be followed with regard to allowing students as much freedom and support as possible in deciding their subject choices.  It is recommended that their views be given priority when designing subject option groups, taking cognisance of their broad educational welfare and the available teaching resources. 

 

A commendable level of collaboration and cooperation exists between the special needs assistants (SNAs) and the CS and MTW teaching team.  While class sizes at present are generally not sufficient to warrant collaborative teaching, it is likely that the positive experience of the subject teaching team of working with SNAs will ease the introduction of collaborative teaching should this become desirable as enrolment increases.   

 

The three wood workshops in Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn were well maintained and were found to be neat and tidy when visited.  Dust control is by means of centralised systems.  Hand tools were safely stored and were easily and safely accessed by the students.  The subject teaching team is commended for its commitment to maintaining the equipment to a high standard.  Worthy of particular commendation is the total refurbishment, bracing and covering of work benches which have been returned to a condition that enhances the workshop and makes it a much more welcoming learning environment than before.  The storage of materials in the workshops in Coláiste Chluain Meala was unavoidable.  It was done safely, despite the inevitable reduction of teaching space that resulted.  It is commended that this problem has been identified by the subject teaching team and management and that development of a large store adjacent to the workshops is imminent.   

 

The school’s health and safety (H&S) statement was reviewed in 2003.  It is recommended that this good practice be continued and that an annual H&S plan be produced in line with the recommendations of the Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools[2], section 3.6.  

 

There are very good Information and Communications Technology (ICT) facilities available to students in both of the school campuses.  The subject teaching team is urged to plan for the inclusion of ICT at an appropriate level in the teaching of the technologies and to arrange for the use of the ICT facilities when timetables are being drawn up in preparation for the school year.

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

Planning in the CS/MTW subject department tends to be done for the most part at informal meetings which take place as the need arises.  The subject teaching team works closely on developing long-term plans which focus to a large extent on the development of facilities.  The response to the shortage of storage space, arising in part from the installation of dust extraction units, is one example of such planning.  The imminent conversion of space adjacent to the workshops marks the culmination of effective, sustained cooperative effort.  Given the good practice that already exists, there is much to be gained by bringing some formality to bear to enhance the informal.  In recent years, the refurbishment of the workshop in Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn and the upgrading of the workshops in Coláiste Chluain Meala with the installation of dust extraction have benefited from careful planning by the subject teaching team and in-school management.  

 

There was ample evidence of careful short-term planning in the classes visited in the course of the inspection.  Lessons were well structured and the aim of each was made clear at the outset.  Materials and equipment were prepared and to hand.  Some very good planning for programmes of work was seen.  This took account of the range of ability and diverse interests of the students and was in line with the requirements of the relevant syllabuses.  The subject teaching team is commended for very good practice in programme and class planning  and also for the timely sourcing and preparation of class materials and the maintenance and making available of  tools and equipment for students.

 

As Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn move towards the next phase of school development planning (SDP), it is recommended that the subject department planning structure around CS, GCS and MTW be enhanced.  One way in which this might be achieved is by the team of teachers of all the technologies agreeing on a co-ordinator or chairperson for one year on a rotating basis.  The chairperson might take responsibility for convening and chairing meetings and recording summary results.  It is desirable that the planning meetings involve consideration of all issues that impact on the quality of the service provided for the students, including learning and teaching.  In this way collaborative planning for the subject area may be facilitated, the outcome of discussions will be recorded and continuity may be assured.  The adoption of this or a similar structure will also equalise the workload and help to develop further expertise in collaborative planning within the team of teachers of the technologies.  By developing a subject department planning structure, the very good informal practice already in place will be enhanced and opportunities for affirmation of good practice will be provided.  

 

Apart from the GCS course in Leaving Certificate Applied, students were not involved with ICT to any appreciable extent.  Considering the extent to which ICT has become central to so many areas of life, and particularly to the technologies, in recent years, it is important that it form part of the studies of each student.  In junior cycle, in addition to the word processing of design books, each student of MTW might produce a simple CAD drawing as part of the design process.  In Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn, where students also study Technical Graphics, it may be desirable to develop a cross-curricular approach to the teaching of CAD.  In general, it is suggested that the provision of CAD in the teaching of the technologies be developed through the vehicle of subject-department planning, involving Technical Graphics and Metalwork as well as MTW.  The use of CAD in senior cycle should follow naturally as students work with design projects in CS and GCS and provision for it should form part of subject department planning. 

 

In addition to the creation and maintenance of a safe working environment for all users of the workshop, there is an added responsibility to make students aware of the huge importance of safe work procedures and practices.  In addition to the direct teaching of this within the curriculum, it is obviously desirable to take every opportunity to reinforce teaching with examples of best practice wherever possible.  Particularly in light of this, it is recommended that safety signage, the general safety rules and the principal safe operating procedures for individual machines be given more prominence in the workshops through the erecting of appropriate signs and notices.

 

Each machine, whether reserved for teacher use or also used by students, should be included.  The signage should cover the main safe operating procedures and control measures for the machine.  It should impart information in a standardised format on an ongoing basis.  Standard iconic signage may be used to indicate personal protective equipment (PPE) and be supplemented by laminated printouts of instructions and workshop safety rules.  It is recommended, in addition, that safe operational areas be identified around machines in the workshop.  These are areas which allow the operator to use the machine safely and prevent inadvertent contact from others within the workshop.  Markings should be set down on the floor demarcating each safe operational area.  While it is acknowledged that the size of two of the workshops puts space at a premium, it is highly desirable that the opportunity is taken to make students aware of the concept of using safe operational areas to control hazards.  Explanatory notices may be erected to draw students’ attention to their purpose.

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

The methodology adopted in many of the practical lessons visited was particularly suited to the small class sizes involved.  Students worked at their benches and the teacher moved from one to another, offering help and guidance as required.  When students encountered difficulty they requested help which was immediately supplied.  These lessons followed a set pattern with which the students were familiar.  It is the practice to teach the theory elements of MTW, as far as possible, as they arise in the course of practical lessons in first and second year.  A more formal approach to these elements of the syllabus is reserved for later in the course when they are, to a great extent, revision of what has been covered earlier in a less formal way.  This is particularly commended for the part it plays in keeping those students whose overwhelming interest is in practical work engaged and committed.  In some senior-cycle classes, where students were at different stages of the design process, a variety of practical and theory tasks were being undertaken by different students.  Prepared worksheets, covering modules of theory, were used to good effect to allow independent work by students who were not immediately engaged in project realisation.  This approach is commended.  In general the methodologies adopted were appropriate to the abilities of the students.  Varied questioning techniques were used, often in small groups of students. The students were encouraged to discover solutions to the problems they encountered. 

 

Discipline, which was present in all the classes visited, was intrinsic to the students and willingly supported by them.  There was never a sense of good behaviour being forced or in doubt.  Students were focused and used the time available to progress their work.  The retrieval of work pieces at the beginning of class and their tidying away and storage at the end were achieved with a minimum of bother.  It was clear that the students were aware of and comfortable with the agreed workshop procedures and code of behaviour.  The subject teaching team, and the students, are commended for maintaining such a stable and well-ordered learning environment. 

 

While care was taken to ensure that the work undertaken by the students was within their capability, it also presented an appropriate challenge.  There was a commendable range of projects being undertaken in most of the classes visited.  This allowed each student to progress both in management of the design process and in skill level.  When a whole class was involved in the same piece of work, prior to applying the skills learned to an individual design project, the difficulty of the piece was appropriate to the abilities of the students involved.  In all classes visited, the students were fully motivated by the work being done.  The teaching team is commended for setting students’ work at a level of difficulty which appropriately brings the satisfaction of successful completion within their grasp, while providing a suitable challenge for each. 

 

The atmosphere encountered in all of the classes visited was conducive to learning.  The students were at all times secure and relaxed in their work and there was a discernible level of mutual respect between them and their teacher.  Interaction between all parties was at all times respectful and the students displayed a quiet confidence in their dealings with their teacher.  The teaching team is commended for maintaining a very good learning environment by having developed the atmosphere of trust and mutual respect observed in the classes visited.

 

A stimulating learning environment is a major resource for the teaching of any subject.  Such an environment can be achieved by providing suitably inspiring and interesting images within the workshop and the classroom.  There was some very good practice observed at Coláiste Chluain Meala in this regard, when charts and posters were displayed on the workshop walls.  The subject teaching team is commended for this.  Where it is not yet the case, it is recommended that visual stimulation in the workshops be enhanced by increasing the display of charts, posters and other subject-related material, including the display of subject vocabulary and terminology, particularly as Gaeilge where appropriate.

 

It was clear from the knowledge and understanding displayed by the students that a high level of learning was taking place.  Students in general identified with the project work in which they were involved.  They displayed a deep interest and sense of ownership of the work when engaged in conversation about it.  While there were varying degrees of student initiative and creativity displayed in their design work, it is commended that this was encouraged and affirmed to the fullest extent.  The teaching team is commended for placing appropriate emphasis on the design process in teaching each of the syllabuses and for supporting all the students in the development of their potential in this area.

 

 

Assessment and Achievement

 

Formal, in-school examinations are held at Christmas and summer in Coláiste Chluain Meala and Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn.  In addition to this, all student project work in MTW and CS is assessed on completion.  There is also regular assessment of class work.  All assessments are carefully recorded by the subject teachers.  At Christmas and summer, the assessment marks are aggregated with the examination marks to arrive at the respective grade.  This practice of regular assessment and the aggregating of assessments with Christmas and summer test marks approximates to the assessment modes employed in State examinations in MTW, CS and GCS and is commended.  It is suggested, as part of subject-department planning, that agreed structures be developed, in MTW, CS and GCS, for the assessment of student work, the aggregation and weighting of the assessments with in-house examination marks and feedback to students.  A common agreed system of assessment can provide an increased incentive for improved performance.  It is urged that design work be given suitable emphasis in the continuous assessment of MTW in light of its central position in the syllabus.  Students should be kept informed of their progress and of its likely effect on their end-of-term results as an aid to their continued motivation and success.

 

Student progress is regularly conveyed to parents at parent teacher meetings.  When completed, projects are taken home by the students.  This provides a very real indicator of progress.  It is the practice of the subject teaching team whenever possible, in the course of their teaching, to affirm the students in their success.  This is commended. 

 

It was clear in the course of the classroom visits that the students were hugely enthusiastic and engaged with the subjects of this inspection.  In general, students were performing at a level consistent with and in many cases beyond expectations. 

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The in-school management and Tipperary South Vocational Educational Committee are commended for the high level of support, in terms of equipment, materials and teaching spaces they provide for the teaching of Construction Studies, Graphics and Construction Studies and Materials Technology (Wood).
  • In-school management is also commended for the allocation of sufficient teaching time to allow the respective syllabuses to be covered effectively in each of the subjects.
  • It is commended that the problem of material and project storage has been identified by the subject teaching team and management and that development of a large store adjacent to the workshops in Coláiste Chluain Meala is imminent.  
  • The subject teaching team is commended for very good practice in programme and class planning.
  • The subject teaching team is also commended for the timely sourcing and preparation of class materials and the maintenance and making available of tools and equipment for students.
  • The teaching team is commended for setting students’ work at a level of difficulty which appropriately brings the satisfaction of successful completion within their grasp while providing a suitable challenge for each. 
  • The teaching team is commended for maintaining a very good learning environment by having developed the atmosphere of trust and mutual respect observed in the classes visited.
  • The teaching team is commended for placing appropriate emphasis on the design process in teaching each of the syllabuses and for supporting all the students in the development of their potential in this area.
  • The practice of regular assessment, on completion of projects and of class work, and the aggregating of these assessments with Christmas and summer test marks is commended and would be further improved by the development of agreed common structures.

 

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

 

  • It is suggested that the possibility of providing the subject department with an annual budget for materials and other consumables, be investigated. 
  • It is recommended that best practice continue to be followed with regard to allowing students as much freedom and support as possible in deciding their subject choices and that their views be given priority when designing subject-option groups, taking cognisance of their broad educational welfare and the available teaching resources.  
  • It is suggested that the provision of CAD in the teaching of the technologies be developed through the vehicle of subject-department planning, involving Technical Drawing, in Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn, and Metalwork as well as the subjects which form the focus of this report.
  • It is recommended that the subject department structure be enhanced, perhaps with a wider technologies focus, and involve consideration of all issues that impact on the quality of the service provided for the students, including learning and teaching.
  • It is recommended that safety signage, the general safety rules and the principal safe operating procedures for individual machines be given more prominence in the workshops through the erecting of appropriate signs and notices.
  • It is also recommended, where not already done, that safe operational areas be clearly marked around all machines in the workshops and that explanatory notices be erected to draw students’ attention to their purpose.
  • It is recommended that visual stimulation in the workshops be enhanced by increasing the display of charts, posters and other subject-related material, including the display of subject vocabulary and terminology, particularly as Gaeilge where appropriate.
  • It is suggested, as part of subject department planning, that agreed structures be developed for the assessment of student work, the aggregation of the assessments with in-house examination marks and feedback to students as an incentive for improved performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in junior certificate science and Leaving Certificate Biology

 

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

 

Almost all students study Junior Certificate Science, which is to be commended.  All Science classes are of mixed-ability students.  Most junior Science classes have a weekly time allocation of one double class and two single classes, which is within curriculum guidelines.  This practice should be extended to all science classes in the school for the future.  Management might also consider the possibility of classes retaining the same teacher throughout junior cycle.  Currently the school offers Biology as an optional subject to Leaving Certificate.  Leaving Certificate Biology is allocated five classes weekly (one double and three single classes).  At present only students in year one of Leaving Certificate study the subject.  Fewer than half of this cohort of students study Biology.  Student-based practical work is an important feature of both the revised Science and Biology syllabuses and the current provision of a double class each week for most groups facilitates the organisation of practical work as required by each syllabus, which is to be commended.  The laboratories are used exclusively for Science classes with the majority of Science classes taking place in a laboratory, which is to be commended and of great benefit to the students.  However, the need for a second laboratory in the gaelcholáiste will need to be considered, to facilitate the existing Junior Science programme and the planned expansion into Leaving Certificate Science subjects in this part of the school in the future.

 

There are four teachers of Science subjects in the school.  At present, one teacher is delivering the Leaving Certificate Biology programme with all four engaged in the delivery of Junior Certificate Science.  The Science teachers are committed and adopt a professional approach to their work.  The school has three designated Science laboratories between two buildings.  The second-level school has two laboratories, which share a preparation or storage area.  The third laboratory is situated in the gaelcholáiste and has its own preparation or storage area across the corridor.  Currently the organisation of these preparation or storage areas is under review by the science staff.  As a result of the Junior Certificate Science grant, a lot of new materials and equipment has arrived in the school recently.  A scheme for storage of these materials and equipment needs to be implemented.  All obsolete material and equipment should be removed to make way for the new materials and equipment.  A systematic method of chemical storage is also being implemented, which is to be commended.  To further this, it is recommended that the system put forward by the Physical Sciences Initiative be adopted.  It is not recommended that chemicals be stored in a laboratory.  It is recommended that each chemical be marked with the correct colour code in order to facilitate correct storage on a continuing basis.  Information on the storage of chemicals can be obtained on the physical sciences website, http://www.psi-net.org/chemistry.  A list of contents of this area could be formulated, which could be further developed into a scheme for recording and reordering of materials and equipment in terms of breakages and for stock control.  Management might consider purchasing a flammable press for the storage of flammable chemicals.  In order to minimise sunlight and heat in the chemical store, the fixing of a black-out blind to the window should also be considered.  The school has a health and safety statement.  Health and safety equipment, fire extinguishers and fire blankets are located in the laboratories.  Copies of the published guidelines on safety – Safety in School Science and Safety in the School Laboratory, published by the Department of Education and Science in 1996, should be available in the laboratories.  Copies, if required, can be downloaded from the Internet at http://www.psi-net.org/chemistry.

 

All laboratories are in need of a considerable amount of modernisation.  The laboratories’ fixed benches have been removed and have been replaced by freestanding tables.  Inadequate student access to gas, water and electricity in the laboratories poses difficulties for the completion of the mandatory practical components of the Science and Biology syllabuses.  There is little or no storage available for equipment in two of the laboratories, which increases the pressure for space in the preparation or storage area.  There is also no functioning fume cupboard in any of the laboratories or preparation areas, with no water supply in one of the preparation areas.  The presence of a carpet in one of the laboratories would also need to be reviewed in light of its suitability as a floor covering in a laboratory where practical work will be completed.  All of these structural and service issues need to be addressed in order to have school laboratories which are adequate to facilitate the completion of the student-based practical work which is demanded by the junior and senior science syllabuses.  The teaching staff must be commended for the professional manner in which they are coping with the current facilities and the strategies they are employing to overcome the major difficulties which the laboratories and preparation or storage areas present.

 

The provision of resources in the school is good.  The Science staff have access to the use of overhead projectors, computers, data projector, television and video.  Some of these are permanent resources within the Science facilities, which is to be commended and will support the teaching and learning process.  All of the laboratories viewed had some visual stimuli present, including a range of charts and models, which will help in the student-learning process.  Some of this visual stimulus was of student origin, which is to be commended.  The display of student material could also contribute greatly to making the rooms more inviting to both current and potential science students.  The use of display boards, which contain for example, charts, diagrams and recent science-related articles, in the laboratories could be considered.  This could be further developed to include display boards on the corridors near the science laboratories as an initiative to raise the profile of Science in the school. 

 

Opportunities for continual professional development in Science have been availed of and endorsed by management, which is to be commended. 

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

The school has been engaged in the process of school development planning.  A cooperative approach to the co-ordination of Science exists in the school.  The Science team might consider having a more formal co-ordinator of Science in the school, which could be rotated yearly among the members of the team.  Co-ordination and communication is conducted informally among the teachers on an ongoing basis, with a more formal meeting time scheduled by management in September and March.  In this way, collaboration is established and maintained.  An agenda and the keeping of minutes could be considered for future meetings of the Science team. 

 

The Science team could consider a common programme for junior Science, which will provide a consistency of approach to Science in the school.  This approach could be formalised under the school development planning initiative.  Resources to assist planning can be accessed on www.sdpi.ie.   Within the SDP process, teachers could plan for common programmes in junior Science classes and develop this process into Leaving Certificate.  This would aid the sequencing of material, the sharing of teaching methodologies and promote continuity.  Teachers could also share teaching resources, ideas for practical investigations, alternative forms of assessment and the integration of ICT.  Ideas regarding resources for dealing effectively with mixed-ability groups and students with special educational needs within the classroom could also be discussed and implemented.  The individual planning material presented should help to influence and direct the development of this long-term planning document.  Any plan that is created will require regular review and should be modified to meet the needs of the students.  The planning document should also highlight any further resource implications presented by the revised syllabuses and include procedures to acquire and access these resources in the future.  A list of possible resources for Biology is to be found in Support Materials - Laboratory Handbook for Teachers, produced by the National Biology Support Service (NBSS) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), with further information located on their web site, www.nbsstralee.ie.  An indicative list of resources for Junior Certificate Science can be found on the junior science support-service web site www.juniorscience.ie.  

 

In the lessons observed, there was substantial evidence of short-term planning.  This was evidenced by a familiarity with the subject matter, a coherent theme running through the lessons and prior preparation of the materials necessary for the lesson, with chemicals and apparatus required for student-centred investigative work available.  In addition, the use of the board and prepared handouts also helped contribute to student learning.  Opportunities to extend student experience of Science and Biology have also been planned through field trips. 

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

The classes observed had a disciplined atmosphere with a clear and fair code of behaviour.  There was a positive teacher rapport throughout the classes which contributed to a constructive learning environment, which is to be commended.  The presence of a special needs assistant (SNA) in the junior classes observed contributed to this positive atmosphere within each of the classes, which is also to be commended.  Students were generally attentive, interested and anxious to participate well in the learning processes.  Generally, students had a good understanding of the task in hand and displayed good teamwork skills in practical work.  In general, there was an appropriate pace to the lessons observed which facilitated student learning.  Water treatment, acids and bases, blood, rubber ball investigation and the investigation of a dicot stem were the topics of study in the lessons observed.  

 

Methodologies observed included student practical work, teacher-led demonstration, group work, questioning, explanation of material, board work, the use of handouts and textbook.  It is commendable that practical work was observed in a number of classes.  Students worked individually, in pairs or groups of three during their practical activities.  At all times, safety precautions were observed during the practical work and reinforced by the teacher.  However, it is important that the position of student material and bags be considered and reviewed prior to any activity.  This should be done as a matter of routine to facilitate safe movement of the teacher, special needs assistants and students around the laboratory.  In all instances, the teacher had the materials required for student practical work at workstations.  Students were required to set up, complete and, in most instances, clean up on completion of their work.  This approach will help students in the development of their practical skills.  The engagement of the students in their practical work allowed the teacher to circulate among the students more easily to provide guidance, feedback and deal with any questions the students wished to ask.  This would also be an ideal time to investigate the extent of the students’ own understanding of the subject matter under investigation, through observing and asking them questions on the work they were about to do and were completing.  The practical activity was reinforced by the provision of a worksheet for the recording of findings and answering of related questions, which is to be commended.  This helps to focus the students on their task and to ensure they are actively engaged, while also serving to help to highlight potential difficulties they may be experiencing.  It is commendable that a lot of work has been invested into the development of these teaching aids.  Further use of such an approach could be developed by the dissemination of this material between colleagues.  All observed practical work began with a degree of teacher instruction or demonstration and guidance.  It is important that students receive an appropriate level of instruction to complete the task or tasks.  However, reference to actual results should be avoided at this time, as this is one of the reasons for the students’ engagement in the activity.  Students could be asked for their opinion or hypothesis, which they can accept or reject, on completion of their practical investigation.  The use of a plenary recall session near the completion of a practical class could be considered. Guided by the teacher, students would have the opportunity to share and discuss their results and conclusions.  This would allow the students to become more actively engaged in the learning process and would also help them to make a record of their own investigative work.  A similar approach could also be adopted to summarise material delivered during a theory class, for example. 

 

The use of teacher-led demonstration was also observed.  In order for this method to be successful, all students need to have a clear view of what is happening and, where possible, some student participation should be considered.  However, where used, the visual impact of the demonstration greatly helped student learning, which is to be commended.

 

Whole-class teaching was used effectively at the start of a class in order to set the scene and provide students with clear instructions for the class activities.  This could be further developed to inform students about what they will be expected to know at the end of the class in the form of an objective or question.  This could help to focus the student learning by giving them a goal to achieve.  To achieve this, work should be constructed in small achievable units.  Each unit of activity could be followed by the successful completion, by the student, of a short written task on a carefully-designed worksheet.  Student knowledge should grow as they pass from unit to unit, until they can answer the objective or question and therefore gain a real sense of achievement.  Whole-class teaching was also used effectively at the end of some of the lessons.  This helped to draw together key points under the guidance of the teacher, and was very effective.  The use of a plenary session on completion of any lesson, either practical or theory, could assess student progress against the learning objectives.  This could also have the effect of focusing the students, so that they become more actively engaged in the learning process and help them to make a record of their own investigative work. 

 

Questioning to named students was observed in all classes, which is to be commended.  In some classes visited, initial lesson development centred on teacher-led question-and-answer sessions on material previously covered.  This helped to check on levels of students’ previous knowledge and understanding, which is to be commended.  Teacher affirmation and encouragement was very much in evidence, which had the effect of encouraging the active participation of students in the class.  Questioning didn’t vary in style and focus, however, and many of the questions asked were at a factual level, testing knowledge recall only.  As all classes observed were of mixed-ability students, it is recommended that questioning should vary in style and focus, to encourage the active participation of students who are less able and to provide a challenge for students who are more familiar with the subject matter.  Questioning also helps to evaluate student learning.  The use of more probing techniques could be considered, for example, with adequate time afforded to a student to answer.  Chorus answering to questioning should be discouraged as it will be very difficult to know how well individual students understand the material.  It is also important to ensure that all students are engaged through questioning at different points throughout the class to ensure that their learning does not become purely passive.  Teacher movement among the students was also apparent in most classes and it is recommended that this practice be used on a frequent basis to assist and encourage students, to enhance the level of two-way communication within the classroom and also give the teacher a better indication of the level of student achievement. 

 

The use of the blackboard and a wide range of handout material were observed during theory delivery.  The use of these resources was very valuable and enhanced the learning environment for the student, especially when used effectively to build up a concept under study by the students.  The observed use of visual material in the delivery of more abstract concepts was very worthwhile for the students’ understanding.  The integration of ICT where appropriate, to stimulate student interest and enhance student learning should also be considered.  Students also have a textbook and this should only be used to supplement and reinforce the learning and teaching which has already been completed during the class.  The familiarity of the teacher with the subject matter was evidenced by a non-reliance on the textbook.  Textbooks were for the most part used as student background reading and for homework.  This is to be commended.  Consideration could be given as to whether students have their textbook open during the delivery of new material and during the questioning of material.  All students had a laboratory notebook or file in which they recorded all of their investigative work.   Some monitoring of student notebooks was noted and is commended.  When writing the procedures for practical work, students should be encouraged, over time, to use their own words rather than using the “recipe” in their textbooks or handout, or as dictated by the teacher.  Monitoring of this on a regular basis is to be encouraged to assure the quality of work presented by students and it will inform students of the need to make any required corrections to their work.  The inclusion of practical work in the current scheme of assessment would be beneficial, as it would provide further motivation for engagement by all students with the practical element of the course.  Homework given was appropriate to the class material and was designed to assist the student in learning and retaining the topic.

 

 

Assessment and Achievement

 

The students have a good attitude towards Science and Biology as displayed by the interest and level of engagement observed during lessons.  Formative assessment of the students’ understanding is assessed through questioning in the classroom and through homework.  Class tests at the end of units are administered at the discretion of the teacher during lesson time.  The Science team could formalise the number of tests they administer to their classes in each year group.  This could be further developed to incorporate a method of continuous assessment.  The inclusion of practical work in the scheme of continuous assessment is recommended, as it provides motivation for engagement by all students with the practical element of the course and ensures regular monitoring of student laboratory notebooks.  This could be considered especially for students not sitting the certificate examinations in a particular year, acting as a stimulus for learning and a means of reward for hard work.  It could incorporate a percentage of marks for the inclusion of practical investigations completed by the student.  The Science team should consider adopting common practices regarding the monitoring and evaluation of homework in all classes.

 

Formal assessments are held for all classes at Christmas and summer.  State examination classes have mock examinations in the spring of their examination year, which are externally marked.  Formal reports are sent to parents following Christmas, summer and mock examinations.  In addition to reports, parent-teacher meetings are held for all classes annually.

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

  • There is a professional approach taken to the teaching of Junior Certificate Science and Leaving Certificate Biology in Coláiste Chluain Meala.  This was evident from the level of individual preparation for the classes observed and the commitment displayed to the students in their care.
  • Lessons observed were planned to ensure continuity and progression of work with careful advanced preparation of the required resource material, which is to be commended.
  • Opportunities for continual professional development in Science and Biology have been availed of and endorsed by management, which is to be commended.
  • There is a caring and supportive learning environment with discipline sensitively maintained in all classes.
  • Student practical work was observed with further evidence to be found in the student laboratory notebooks.  This is to be commended, as it is a very important component in the learning and teaching of these subjects.  Regular monitoring and annotation of this work will be very beneficial to student learning.
  • Practical work is given a high priority in the school with double classes currently allocated to the majority of Junior Certificate Science classes and all Biology classes.  There needs to be an allocation of a weekly double class for Science to students in the Gael Coláiste.
  • The science staff are commended on the work they have done to date in the organisation and development of the laboratories and preparation areas.

 

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

 

  • The inclusion of practical work in the scheme of continuous assessment is
  • recommended, as it provides motivation for engagement by all students with the practical element of the course and ensures regular monitoring of student laboratory notebooks.
  • The individual curricular plans in Science and Biology should be discussed, reviewed
  • and developed into a plan for Science and Biology for the school.  Items for consideration in these plans could for example be a policy regarding practical work, organisation of resources, the use and monitoring of practical laboratory notebooks, homework, planning of courses, integration of ICT, and the number of assessments in each term for each year group.  Further review, evaluation and adaptation of plans could occur annually.  The science staff could also consider formally sharing their written resources, by setting up a filling cabinet for their handouts / tests etc. which can be added to and accessed by all teachers of science.
  • The development of a more formal science team in the school could be considered,
  • with each member having the opportunity of acting as convenor.  This could be
  • pursued through the school’s existing school development plan initiative.  Further
  • information can be found on the Internet at www.sdpi.ie
  • Strategies need to be put in place in relation to the structural and service issues outlined with regard to the laboratories and preparation areas.  This will require collaboration and consultation between the science staff and management.  Also the need for additional laboratory space in the Gaelcholáiste in the future will need to be pursued now so that it will be in place when required.
  • The ICT which is on order for the science department should be integrated into classes, which will serve to vary the stimulus for the students.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers and principal at the conclusion of the evaluation at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in English

 

 

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

 

In Colaiste Chluain Meala there are two English classes in first year, three in second year, one English class in third year and one in each of fifth year and sixth years.  There is one LCA1 class and one LCA2 class.  Classes in first year have five English lessons per week, which is good provision.  One class in second year has six English lessons per week and two classes in second year have five English lessons per week.  This is good provision.  Classes in third and sixth year have six English lessons per week, which is also good provision.  Classes in fifth year have five English lessons per week and this is good provision.  Classes in Leaving Certificate Applied years one and two are provided with four English lessons per week and this is good provision.  In the case of first-, third-, fifth- and sixth-year classes, along with one second-year class, it is suggested that a greater spread of lessons across the week might be of benefit, allowing for the maximum number of contact points between students and the subject to be achieved.  It should be stressed, however, that this suggestion is made with an acknowledgement towards the difficulties inherent in any timetabling process and should be viewed in terms of what is practicable within the school’s current context.  English teachers are rotated between levels and year groups.  This is good practice, allowing for the development of a wide skills base throughout the department.  Classes generally retain the same English teacher for the duration of their junior- or senior-cycle programme.  Again, this is good practice, allowing for the development of consistent pedagogical strategies over a number of years in dealing with particular groups of students.  Classes in all year groups are of mixed ability.  Students’ levels in the State examinations are decided through teacher input and discussion with students and parents.

 

The school does not have a library.  However, English teachers have been most diligent in collecting a wide range of reading materials for use by their classes.  Class libraries were in evidence in a number of English classrooms.  Texts available for use by students include high-interest/low reading-ability books, sets of novels and taped books which are used with a listening station in one teacher’s room.  Other high-interest reading material is also kept in the resource room.  It is reported that the provision of some DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time is also made available in English classes and one teacher models reading in concert with the class’s efforts.  The storage and use of these resources as a means of enhancing student literacy is commendable. 

 

There is an ICT room in Coláiste Chluain Meala, along with a suite of computers in the resource room.  ICT is used in some English classes as a means of encouraging student literacy and engagement with writing tasks.  Word-processing packages are utilised to enhance students’ sense of ownership of and responsibility for their written work and also serve to facilitate the development of an awareness of the need for drafting and redrafting as key parts of the writing process.  A number of coaching programmes are also used in some English classes.  A further resource which might be of benefit for use with junior-cycle classes is the setting of webquest projects to be explored using the internet.  English teachers are commended for their current use of ICT as a motivational tool in the cultivation of literacy among the student body and the English department is further encouraged to expand its use of ICT where practicable.

 

There is good access to audio-visual equipment for English teachers.  This is positive, given the important role that film now plays in the Leaving Certificate English syllabus. 

 

There are good informal processes for the induction of new English teachers.  A member of the English department discusses texts, the syllabus, and various suitable methodologies with the new teacher.  The use of team-teaching, classroom support or classroom observation have also been explored in the past.  It is suggested that these induction processes should be included in the subject plan as a means of consolidating and securing this good work.

 

The school is supportive of teachers’ continuing professional development.  This is commendable.  English teachers have attended workshops on film, creative writing and poetry in the past.  English teachers have also maintained links with their subject association in the past, where practicable, and this is positive.

 

English teachers are involved in the organisation of a number of co-curricular activities, some of which include visits to the theatre, Arts centre activities and visits from writers in residence.  Of particular note was a recent exercise assigned to a group of junior-cycle students in which they were expected to create graphic responses to a novel by the author Nigel Hinton.  These exercises were then brought to a lecture, which the author was presenting, by their teacher and were signed by Nigel Hinton with comments on each student’s efforts.  This spoke of a high level of diligence on the part of the teacher involved and, overall, teachers’ efforts in the area of co-curricular activities are to be praised.

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

There are two co-ordinators of English who store resources and distribute them to other teachers.  This is a positive arrangement.  There are two formal meetings, one at the start of the academic year, to establish available resources, and one meeting in May to decide on texts to be used in the following year.  There are also informal contacts between English teachers regarding the teaching of the subject throughout the year.  There is a collaborative atmosphere between teachers in the school. 

 

Subject planning is in the early stages of development.  In-service training in this area is scheduled to take place later in this academic year.  It is recommended that the English department continue to develop the subject plan on a collaborative basis, involving all English teachers.  Typical areas for exploration could include: common, skills-based termly plans; analysis of State examination results and uptake versus national norms; use of ICT as a tool in the promotion of literacy; a list of methodologies used in the teaching of English and links with the learning-support department. 

 

Texts are varied at junior- and senior-cycle from year to year to suit class context and interests and within syllabus guidelines.  Teachers share information regarding ‘texts that work’ but each teacher decides on what novels or plays particularly suit their own classes.  First-year texts are selected on the basis of incoming students’ abilities and interests.  This flexible approach towards the selection of texts not only meets the aspirations of the syllabus, but also serves to increase students’ engagement in English lessons and is to be commended.  A large range of class sets of novels is maintained by teachers to facilitate this variation in text choice.  In junior cycle, students study up to five novels and two plays.  This exposure to a wide range of texts serves to expand students’ experiences of literature and is most worthwhile. 

 

There was evidence of planning for the LCA programme, along with a selection of key assignments.  Evidence of planning was presented in all classes.

 

A member of the English department also serves as the learning-support co-ordinator.  There are strong links between the English teachers and the learning-support department.  A first-year literacy project where students are challenged to read five books over five weeks is organised each year and parental involvement in this project is encouraged.  The learning-support teacher also provides input to staff regularly and there has been a significant amount of in-service training for staff in the area of special educational needs.  Teachers have developed a book of keywords in recent years and a paired-reading programme involving parents is regularly organised.  Peer tutoring has also been facilitated in the past.  All of these efforts with regard to the improvement of students’ literacy levels are highly commendable.  Consequently, it is recommended that they should be consolidated through the establishment of a whole-school literacy committee, comprising a number of members from different subject departments, one of which should be the English department.  This committee would serve to enhance and highlight whole-school approaches towards improving student literacy. 

 

One English teacher and a number of other staff members have received training in the area of language support.  The school has made contact with Integrate Ireland Language and Training, which is most positive.

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

Objectives were clear in all lessons and lessons were well structured.

 

A wide range of resources was used in English classes.  Some of these included the blackboard, the whiteboard, overhead projector, photocopies, tape recorder and ICT.  The use of wedding music in one class to introduce the study of a comprehension piece was worthwhile, adding to students’ imaginative engagement with the piece.  In another class, the same approach might have been adopted, allowing for a musical introduction to the poem Down by the Sally Gardens.  It is acknowledged, however, that the use of music was planned, to be used later in the study of the poem.  ICT was used in a junior-cycle class, with a number of students working on literacy programmes independently and diligently.  Blackboard and whiteboard work was clear in all classes.  The use of a brainstorm in connection with a creative-writing exercise in one lesson was sound practice and the impact might have been extended still further through students consolidating the work they had done through the use of notes copies.  In a senior-cycle class, the use of the overhead projector to display diagrammatic representations of creative writing techniques was beneficial.  However, this work was somewhat hampered by the lack of blinds in the classroom.  Given the benefits which can accrue from the use of audio-visual equipment in English classes, it is recommended that the possibility of purchasing blinds for some English classrooms should be explored.  In another lesson, an exploration of an excerpt concerning the life of the explorer Tom Crean might have been enhanced through linking written and oral work with visual representations of his adventures.  In general, it is suggested that the English department should expand its use of visual resources where appropriate.  Sets of dictionaries and thesauri were available in some English classrooms.  English teachers are encouraged to ensure that students use dictionaries and thesauruses as part of their normal classroom practice wherever this is possible.  Such a strategy will not only emphasise to students the central role which vocabulary plays in the subject, but will also familiarise them with the skills required for the utilisation of such texts.  In this context, the provision of ‘word banks’ by teachers for senior-cycle students was diligent and most worthwhile.

 

Teachers began classes in a variety of ways, often with the reading aloud of students’ homework.  This was well managed, providing affirmation for students with regard to work done, while simultaneously encouraging an awareness of their peers as a potential audience for their writing.  Other classes began with a revision of topics previously encountered and this approach often served as a gateway to new knowledge for students.  In one instance, a teacher linked the class’s study of the ballad form to students’ own interests through the mention of musical artists and balladeers with whom students were familiar.  This was beneficial as a means of engaging students with the area being investigated. 

 

Questioning was used frequently in classes as an evaluative and teaching tool.  This was most effective where the need for evidence in support of students’ points was emphasised.  In one instance a greater use of directed questioning would have impacted on the capacity of students to develop their ideas and listen more attentively to their peers’ opinions.  There was also the potential in one class to further consolidate students’ answers through notetaking. 

 

Students were often encouraged to read aloud in class.  In the case of novels and plays this allowed for greater engagement from students with the characters being encountered and, in the latter type of text, it emphasised the theatrical nature of the piece through students’ adoption of the various personae they encountered.

 

In most classes, students were encouraged to write at one point or another.  This was good practice as ‘students learn to write by writing.’  In a number of classes, teachers provided examples of their own work for students in order to facilitate creative modelling.  This diligent and worthwhile approach is to be commended. 

 

In one class, group work was used as part of a quiz regarding a comprehension piece that the class had encountered.  This was positive as an aid to differentiation in a mixed-ability class context and also encouraged the development of students’ oral communicative skills.  The teacher facilitated this work well and students were excited and engaged by the activity.  The possibility of integrating comprehension work with other exercises, where students are encouraged to explore the language of the piece, might be an area worth exploring in future lessons.  In general, however, there was not a significant amount of group or pair work used in the teaching of English and it is recommended that the use of these approaches should be expanded across the department.  Other active methodologies, which might add to students’ appreciation of characters and language in the texts being studied, include ‘hot-seating’ and ‘freeze-framing’.

 

The integration of the language and literature elements of the syllabus was evident in a number of classes with one group of students writing the thoughts of a character in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in class.  This was positive, not only as a means of increasing students’ engagement with texts, but also as such a strategy enhances the language skills which the syllabus demands.  The English department is encouraged to continue to use this approach in the teaching of the subject. 

 

Students were generally engaged by class work.  Students were willing to ask and answer questions during lessons, when appropriate.  In a number of classes, students displayed knowledge of the texts they had studied.  In a junior-cycle class, students displayed good understanding of the ideas of ‘rhyme’ and ‘rhythm’ and were able to provide examples of both.  In another, senior-cycle, class, the potential provision of a set of novels for students might be explored.  These could serve as a focus around which to consolidate points made during lessons, through activities such as text-marking and notetaking. 

 

Good discipline was maintained in all classes.  Teachers displayed good classroom management skills.  Particularly expert classroom management was observed in one lesson where potential areas for conflict were avoided while the teacher maintained a positive atmosphere, along with steady progress in students’ learning.  The use of varied methodologies throughout the lesson was also of benefit in this regard, along with a clear consciousness of the importance of students’ seating arrangements.  In another class, the teacher sat amongst senior-cycle students, thus enhancing the interaction between teacher and students.  There was a good relationship between teachers and students and teachers were affirming towards the students. 

 

A number of English classes were conducted in print- and text-rich environments.  These consisted of displays of students’ genre work, media posters and students’ work using ICT.  All of these strategies served to enhance students’ exposure to different texts while simultaneously increasing their sense of audience and ownership of their own written work.  In one room, a ‘news-box’ was maintained for students to explore at their own discretion.  Suggestions towards the further development of print-rich environments in English classrooms might include the possibility of students creating keyword and character displays in connection with texts they are studying.  It should be pointed out, however, that this is a tentative suggestion in the context of the very good work which is already being carried out.  The print-rich environments in a number of English classrooms are highly commendable and should be adopted across the English department.

 

 

Assessment and Achievement

 

Homework was regularly assigned and corrected in most classes.  The use of ICT in the completion of assignments in a senior cycle class was very positive.  In another class, the high expectations displayed by the teacher with regard to students’ homework were particularly notable.  A number of teachers kept records of student achievement and this was worthwhile.  There was some evidence of the use of comment-based, formative assessment in English classes.  Teachers are encouraged to expand this practice where possible.  In one instance, a particularly imaginative approach towards peer marking was planned, using the marking criteria of the State examinations to inform students’ correction of each others’ exercises.  This innovative approach towards formative assessment is to be praised, as it places ownership of and responsibility for learning on students’ shoulders.  It is reported that the school is working towards the creation of a homework policy.  The English department is encouraged to formulate such a policy with regard to the assigning of English homework in order to consolidate the good practice which already exists.  The department is referred to the website of the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment), www.ncca.ie, and its area dealing with assessment for learning as a further resource in this regard. 

 

There was evidence of the integration of the language and literature elements of the syllabus in students’ homework in a number of classes.  This was most positive, allowing for written exercises to use the texts being studied as ‘springboards’ to the language element of the syllabus.  Teachers are encouraged to continue with this practice and expand it as a key methodology across the department.

Examinations are held for all year groups at Christmas.  First-, second- and fifth-year students sit examinations at the end of the academic year.  Students who will participate in the State examinations in June sit mock examinations in either February or March. 

 

The school holds parents’ nights for first-year parents and parents of prospective first years where information regarding homework and cooperation between school and home is distributed.  Parents are also involved in a paired-reading scheme and there are regular parent-teacher meetings for each year group.  This is commendable. 

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

  • There is a good relationship between teachers and students.
  • Good discipline was maintained in all classes.
  • There is a collaborative atmosphere between English teachers in the school.
  • There were excellent examples of print and text-rich environments in a number of English classrooms.
  • There are good links between the learning-support department and the English department.
  • Subject department planning is in the early stages of development and should continue to be advanced.
  • In one English classroom the impact of the use of audio-visual equipment was hampered due to a lack of blinds for the windows.
  • There was evidence of ICT use in English classes.
  • The school has been proactive in accessing resources and training for the teaching of language-support students.
  • A number of strategies towards the improvement of students’ literacy have been adopted in the school. Steps towards the consolidation and advancement of this commendable work should be taken.
  • Texts are varied in junior and senior cycle.
  • The integration of the language and literature elements of the syllabus was observed in a number of classes.
  • There was some use of group- and pair- work in the English department.  However, in general there was not a significant amount of group- and pair-work used in the teaching of English.

 

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

 

  • The subject department plan should continue to be developed.
  • The possibility of purchasing blinds for some English classrooms should be explored.
  • A whole-school literacy committee should be formed, comprising of representatives from a range of subject departments, including the English department.
  • The use of active methodologies and group work should be expanded across the department.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the teachers of English and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 


Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Guidance

 

 

 

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

 

Coláiste Chluain Meala is one part of the tripartite Clonmel Central Technical Institute.  The Institute is in a phase of major planning and consolidation.  The principal was appointed three years ago and has taken a strong leadership role in the encouragement of collaborative practice, especially in planning, at Coláiste Chluain Meala.  This continuing work has quickly borne fruit in the form of staff teams with responsibility for student care and support, learning support and school development planning.  An active pastoral team comprises staff members who share a vision of student support and guidance. 

 

The school is entitled to an allocation of eight hours in accordance with circular PPT12/05.  Careers Guidance is currently a subject on the timetable.  Eight hours and ten minutes are allocated to the subject on the timetable – five periods each to LCA1 and LCA2 and two periods each to fifth- and sixth-year classes.  A comprehensive and well-considered programme has been planned for these classes and is being delivered by a staff member who is employed on a part-time basis.  Recommendations regarding the integration of the various aspects of a Guidance programme will be made below.  A small library of literature related to colleges and careers is situated in the room used for Careers Guidance classes.  Posters and other vocationally-oriented materials are also on display in the room.  It is suggested that visually stimulating materials could be placed in other areas and rooms by subject teachers as part of the process of integrating Guidance into all programmes and highlighting the connections between, for example, subject choice, decision making, values, life plans, personal characteristics and specific occupations. 

 

Of particular interest are the activities of the School Completion Programme (SCP) which is pivotal to the school’s support structure and facilitates exemplary initiatives in student care.  SCP staff members, including a counsellor, are available in a room identified, decorated and assigned for SCP use in the school development planning process.  The team operates from 8:15 a.m. to 17:15 p.m. each school day and run a breakfast club and a homework club.  A clinical psychologist attends the school on one day each week, a post-graduate student of psychology is currently on work placement in the school and access to other social services is available through the Health Service Executive in consultation with the SCP.  Current focus is on students in the junior cycle.  The transition from primary to secondary school and student retention are among the issues being dealt with on an ongoing basis in collaboration with teaching staff, particularly with those responsible for learning support. 

 

The SCP team and three teachers have had training for the Social, Personal and Health Education programme.  Modular inputs to SPHE have been designed in collaboration with the teachers of the subject.  The programme also has close links with other social and educational services in the region.  The services provided by the SCP are excellent.  The programme team works closely with teachers with specific responsibilities in the area of student discipline.  Members of the team are occasionally invited to act as advocates at meetings between school management, students and parents in disciplinary proceedings.  A multifaceted approach is taken in dealing with all students whose behaviour warrants intervention.  The On Track programme has been set up, for example, to deal in a non-confrontational way with the small number of students identified as having difficulties in adhering to the Code of Behaviour.  Early school leavers are tracked by the team in cooperation with the teacher responsible for home-school-community liaison.  Plans are being drawn up to appoint a youth worker with responsibility for encouraging early leavers to return to the educational system.  A weekly review of the operation of the SCP takes place during a meeting attended by the principal, deputy principal and members of the SCP staff.

 

In addition to, and in conjunction with, the work of the SCP, junior-cycle Guidance is provided through Social, Personal and Health Education classes and activities.  The programme is based on the health education programme designed by the North Western Health Board.  Speakers are occasionally invited to present to classes and the involvement of parents is encouraged.  This collaboration is lauded.

 

A number of staff members have attended training sessions run by Integrate Ireland Language and Training.

 

First year is a so-called ‘taster’ year during which all available subjects are experienced by students.  Junior Certificate subjects are determined in the spring term of first year in consultation with students.  The inclusion of Science as a core subject is commended, as is the decision to include a language on the programme for the 2006-2007 school year.  At senior level, students are consulted as to their Leaving Certificate subject preferences and every effort is made to enable students to study their chosen subjects.  Students expressed satisfaction with the system of subject choice. 

 

There is, currently, little integration of the personal/social, vocational and educational aspects of Guidance and Counselling.  The confinement of Guidance on the one hand to Careers Guidance classes at senior level and on the other to student care is understandable in the context of the plans and systems currently under development in the school.  The exemplary system of care and support and its links within the school and with agencies external to the school are excellent.  The generous input of time and the well-documented schemes of work for senior cycle classes is evidence of the support and concern for those about to embark on their chosen careers.  It is recommended that the integration of the support and vocational elements of Guidance provision be given serious consideration.

 

Students expressed satisfaction with their schooling, their choices and the opportunities given them in their career investigation.  Work experience, access to electronic and paper-based information, visits to open days and the availability of staff for consultation were among the opportunities available.  Work experience is co-ordinated by the LCA co-ordinator and is monitored by the guidance counsellor.  Access to information and communications technology (ICT) is by arrangement with members of staff.  The facilitation of ICT access, now an essential part of the decision-making process, is commended. 

 

Progression of students is mapped by the principal.

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

The school benefits from its size, especially in the continuous informal communication which was observed during the inspection.  Communication between staff is very good and it is recognised that some formality can add value to an already good process.  This is being achieved by engagement with the process of school development planning.  School development planning is focused and well co-ordinated.  Planning strategies have been used which reveal a thorough understanding of the planning cycle.

 

Coláiste Chluain Meala is an interesting example of the benefits of formal planning in determining a school’s response to analysed and prioritised needs.  Three years ago, following a review of the school’s needs, it was decided that a focus on student support be given highest priority.  The school plan is being developed incrementally, with emphasis, to date, on policies and procedures.  Guidance planning, so far, has been largely focused on its personal-social aspects.  The process has been exemplary, although there is little integration of the personal/social, vocational and educational aspects of Guidance and Counselling.  A staff member was appointed as school development planning co-ordinator, a team was formed, a review and analysis of needs was carried out and these needs were prioritised.  The primary priority in Guidance and student support was the setting up, under the School Completion Programme (SCP), of a comprehensive suite of services to counteract the effects of social disadvantage.  This has been achieved to a remarkable degree, as has the setting up of a class tutor system, another planning priority.  Further work in formalising the Guidance, welfare and support aspects of the plan is to be undertaken during the 2006-2007 school year.

 

Student aspirations are rising and projected enrolments have begun to show an increase.  The teams and structures now in the school are well placed to cater for the anticipated changes over the coming years.  It is now necessary to focus on the integration of the educational and vocational aspects of Guidance into the whole-school Guidance plan and programme.

 

It might be useful here to distinguish between the different aspects of the Guidance plan and programme.  It is the responsibility of management to make arrangements for the preparation of a plan.  The whole-school Guidance plan should be an integral part of the school plan.  The school plan should outline its Guidance policy and programme.  The school Guidance programme includes those aspects of the curriculum such as Social, Personal and Health Education, learning support, home-school-community liaison, School Completion, Leaving Certificate Applied programmes, elements of the Religious Studies programme etc. which have a direct bearing on student support, development, decision making and transitions from childhood to adult life.  The links between these Guidance elements and between those whose function it is to co-ordinate and teach them, such as the guidance counsellor, class tutors, middle management, those with responsibilities specific to student conduct etc., should be clarified and noted.  Similarly, those with responsibility for aspects of programmes, which are directly related to a guidance counsellor’s programme, should be noted as part of the guidance counsellor’s plan and programme.  Those aspects of the Guidance programme which require specific skills and training, such as psychometric testing and counselling, should be delivered by a qualified guidance counsellor. 

 

The proposed review of the school’s Guidance functions of the school should be carried out in the light of the Inspectorate (2005) document Guidelines for second-level schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act (1998), relating to students' access to appropriate guidance and the NCGE (2004) document Planning the School Guidance Programme. Other useful material will be found at http://www.ncge.ie/documents/Guide_Counselling.pdf .  The review should ascertain the needs of students and should be based, as in all school planning, on the values espoused by the school in its stated philosophy or mission.  Openness to the range of possibilities available to students is an important concomitant of rising aspirations.  Students will be aware of the wide range of life choices available to them.  Anticipation of student needs related to greater perceived choice will be a necessary feature of the Guidance planning process.  Reference should be made to the Guidance roles and responsibilities of all staff in the subsequent plan.

 

Staff inservice was identified as a prerequisite of the support structures prioritised three years ago in the original school plan.  Professional learning is an important component of the planning process and is encouraged and facilitated in Coláiste Chluain Meala.  This is highly commended.  It is recommended that the learning needs of all staff be determined and progressed in accordance with identified staff needs, particularly in Guidance-related areas.  The local branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors is a most useful resource for guidance counsellors, providing access to other guidance practitioners, professional development and documentation.

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

One sixth-year Leaving Certificate class was observed in the process of the inspection.  Two main topics were dealt with during the lesson, namely, apprenticeship and Post Leaving Certificate Courses.  Good use was made of the white board and of handouts prepared in advance of the lesson.  The lesson was pitched at a level appropriate to the students.  Students responded well to the teacher and to questions asked.  Students showed by their responses that the issues discussed had been absorbed and understood.  Clarification was sought occasionally by students and the teacher responded with useful information and suggestions as to the access of further information.  The use of first names when referring to students is lauded.  The session ended with a summary of the material and directions for further action.  Discussion with students revealed a thorough preparedness for life after school.  Students showed good grounding in their respective areas of choice, awareness of the opportunities available to them and optimism for the future.

 

 

Assessment and Achievement

 

Some assessment of incoming students is carried out for diagnostic purposes by the learning-support co-ordinator.  Student monitoring continues through the school in consultation with staff, the pastoral team and the SCP team.  Individual assessments are requested in response to identified needs.  Referrals are normally made through the School Completion Programme.

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The care and support of students is given high priority.
  • The School Completion Programme is pivotal to the school’s support structure and facilitates exemplary initiatives in student care.
  • Links to, and networking with external support agencies is excellent.
  • An active and well coordinated pastoral team comprises staff members who share a vision of student support and guidance.
  • School development planning is focused and well coordinated.  Planning strategies have been used which reveal a thorough understanding of the planning cycle.
  • The school plan is being developed incrementally with emphasis to date on policies and procedures.  Further work in formalising the Guidance, welfare, support aspects of the plan is to be undertaken during the 2006-2007 school year.
  • There is, currently, little integration of the personal, social, vocational and educational aspects of Guidance and Counselling.  Some integration of these areas is a necessary feature of whole-school Guidance and should be an important feature of future Guidance planning.
  • Professional learning and development is a priority for most staff members and is encouraged and facilitated by management.
  • Communication is very good.  Informal communication is continuous and structures are being developed to bring some formality to the process.

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that the Guidance functions of the school be reviewed in the light of the Inspectorate (2005) document Guidelines for second-level schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act (1998), relating to students' access to appropriate guidance and the NCGE (2004) document Planning the School Guidance Programme. 
  • This review should be carried out in the context of school development planning and should ascertain the needs of students.
  • The Guidance roles and responsibilities of all staff in the three major areas of Guidance, namely, personal and social, educational and vocational should be clarified as part of the review.
  • It is recommended that the integration of the support and vocational elements of Guidance provision be given serious consideration.
  • Professional development is an essential component of the planning process and it is recommended that the professional learning needs and qualifications of staff be determined and progressed in accord with the needs of the school and in accordance with the conditions laid down in Circular PPT12/05.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal and with the guidance counsellor at the conclusion of the evaluation at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Area 1      Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

 

For the past number of years our school, Coláiste Chluain Meala, has been involved in a process of self-review and self-evaluation across all strands of school life with a view to developing the school to respond effectively to the educational needs of the local community.  When the WSE was announced we saw it as an opportunity to have an external and objective evaluation of our work.

 

As can be seen from this WSE Report, the team of inspectors having examined every aspect of our school, has acknowledged, validated and highly commended all that this school is about.

 

The inspection was thorough and in-depth and the inspectors certainly captured the spirit of our school, our sense of community, our care for students’ holistic development which is at the core of this school: “the very high quality of pastoral care is one of the school’s most defining characteristics and one of its greatest strengths”.

 

Inspectors noted our inclusiveness, our willingness to imaginatively cater for the diverse needs of needs of students.  The quality of teaching and learning was found to be of a high standard.  They observed good student teacher relationships, mutual respect in all encounters, teachers affirming students and students responding positively to our clear and fair Code of Behaviour.  They found that school planning is at a very advance stage and is of a very high quality in both process and product.  They affirmed the excellent and pastoral role of the SCP,   Home School Community Liaison and Guidance personnel in supporting our school.  They praised the commitment of parents to their children’s education and the involvement as active partners with a school community.  They commended highly the dedication, interest and support of our board of management.

 

While the inspectors’ findings came as no surprise to us, we very much appreciate that the Inspectorate were able to go beyond externals which can be easily measured and see the soul, humanity and commitment at the heart of our school and convey this so effectively through the medium of this report.  They were our guests for a few weeks and they entered into the spirit of our school, being so courteous, unobtrusive and genuinely committed to their task.

 

 

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

 

We thank the inspectors for their thoughtful recommendations.  We have already prioritised these, seeing their value and intend to implement these over time since they will empower to further develop our school such that we can continue to “make all the difference” to all the students entrusted to our care.  To date, as indicated to the inspectors, we have embarked on subject planning with an in-service day (19 May 2006) for all staff facilitated by Jim O’Leary.  Further in-service in this area is planned.  Preliminary work has commenced on a staff handbook.  We are conscious that it is relatively easy to attend to the instrumental issues.  Recommendations such as signage, extending print-rich environments and suggestions for minor alterations, for instance, have all already been implemented.  Dealing with affective issues is always more complex.  They will be incorporated, with a view to implementation, into the on-going organic, consultative and reflective process which characterises our whole school development and planning programme.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Clonmel Project.  The Mental Health Service Needs of Children and Adolescents in the South East Region of Ireland, Martin & Carr(2005)

[2] Review of Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in Post-primary Schools – State Claims Agency, Department of Education and Science, 2005