An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Terenure, Dublin 6W
Roll number: 76092K
Date of inspection: 5 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This Whole School Evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Presentation College, Terenure. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
The Presentation Congregation has a long tradition of involvement in providing education in Terenure beginning with the establishment of a primary school in the locality in 1866. In the 1940’s a ‘secondary top’ was added to the primary school and in 1968 a voluntary secondary school was established. Initially housed in prefabricated buildings, the first phase of a new secondary school was completed in 1973 and in 1976 the second phase was finished. The school was formally opened and blessed by Archbishop Dermot Ryan in 1977. In the late 1970’s an oratory was built and a few years later a sports hall was added. A lay principal was appointed in 1990 and the trusteeship of the college was transferred to the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC) in September 2004.
The college is located close to the centre of Terenure. Students attending the college come from a very wide catchment area. The largest group of students comes from the Presentation Primary School which is located alongside the second-level school, with students also travelling from further afield from areas such as Firhouse, Templeogue, Tallaght and Harold’s Cross. The college’s enrolment has declined steadily over a number of years, with a further drop expected in next year’s intake.
Students attending the college come from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities. It was reported that the overall cohort of students has changed somewhat over the years as students now present with a wider range of abilities.
The college has gone through a period of major change in the past two years since ownership was transferred to the CDVEC. This change was completed without causing any significant disruption or changes to the curriculum provided in the college or students’ experience of school life. The successful facilitation of a smooth transfer of ownership and settling-in phase is to be commended.
Through its mission statement the college aspires to providing ‘a high quality education within a caring, creative and Christian community, where relationships matter, where high self-esteem, tolerance and participation are promoted and where the emphasis is on the development of the individual’. It was evident throughout the visit that this aspiration is achieved with respect to the students’ experience of the daily life of the college. The students presented as friendly, courteous, well-behaved and confident young people. Parents spoke of the care taken to ensure the development of the whole person and commended the college for the holistic and inclusive approach taken to their daughters’ care. A strong focus on the reinforcement of positive behaviour and the affirmation of students’ achievements support the caring approach adopted in the college. Though coming from two different traditions, the ethos of the college as developed over many years is in harmony with the educational philosophy of both the Presentation Congregation and the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC). The appointment of a school chaplain by the CDVEC has provided valuable support to the college in maintaining the ethos of the college.
The staff is highly committed to working with the students of the college in the delivery of the curriculum and in the provision of many extra-curricular activities. Several teachers spoke of how much they enjoy working in the school. However, there are some significant difficulties in respect of staff working relationships. These need to be addressed as a matter of urgency in the interest of the future development of the college and for the ultimate benefit of the students.
Trusteeship of Presentation Secondary School was transferred to the CDVEC in September 2004. The change in trusteeship has been welcomed by all partners in the school community and is seen as a positive step for the college. Relationships between the CDVEC and the board of management are good. The resources, expertise and support structures available within the CDVEC are now available to the college. For example, the CDVEC psychological service has been found to be a great support for the school. The CDVEC is very aware of the issues and challenges within the school community and has adopted a positive strategy for progressing issues within the college. For instance, personnel from the CDVEC have facilitated some of the recent initiatives in the college, such as the development of a Guidance Plan and a review of the posts of responsibility. The commitment of the VEC to assist the college by facilitating progress augers well for its future. However, it is suggested that some further clarification around the respective roles, duties and responsibilities of the VEC and the college would be helpful for the staff.
The board of management is properly constituted and operates effectively within the framework laid down in the model agreement governing community colleges in the Archdiocese of Dublin. The board is representative of the school community and has a clear view of its role. Since the transfer of ownership to the CDVEC, the board has focussed on facilitating the changeover from a voluntary secondary school to a community college. This focus has resulted in a smooth transition and the continuation of the ethos of the college. Several areas of the college’s operation such as the preparation of the Guidance Plan, a review of the posts of responsibility and the completion of a health and safety audit have been prioritised for attention by the board. The college’s admissions policy has also been updated and ratified by the board.
The board is aware of the challenges facing the college, such as declining enrolment, changing cohort, difficulties in staff working relationships, and the need for upgrading of the college’s buildings and resources, and is beginning to explore and address these issues. In order to facilitate a planned approach to the work of addressing these challenges and to promote the future development of the college, it is recommended that the board consider formulating a strategic vision or long-term plan for the college. In this regard, the recently developed CDVEC Education Plan 2005-2010 would provide a valuable framework and guide for such work. Consideration could be given to re-launching the college in its new context as a school which can provide the best of both the CDVEC and Presentation Congregation traditions.
Some members of the board have received relevant training and it is envisaged that all members will receive such support following the implementation of the Irish Vocational Education Association agreed guidelines for boards of management of community colleges. Communication within the board is good, with agenda and minutes circulated in advance of each meeting. The principal acts as permanent secretary of the board. Good practice is evident in the reaching of decisions by consensus following discussion of the relevant issues. It is suggested that in order to further facilitate good communication with the groups represented on the board that an agreed report be prepared for dissemination after each meeting.
The senior management team consists of the principal and deputy-principal. Senior management have a very good working relationship. The principal and deputy-principal work closely together and meet regularly to discuss issues relating to the operation of the college. Both the principal and deputy-principal have a close involvement with the students of Presentation College through class contact and initiatives such as the student leadership team and the student awards system. The roles of senior management are clearly described in the staff manual.
The principal’s overall role is described in terms of providing leadership in determining the college’s educational aims and formulating the necessary strategies to achieve them. Day to day duties are described as the creation of a climate which promotes shared goals, purposeful learning and good relationships between staff and students, and initiating school review and reform. The principal has instituted many positive initiatives in the college and has a good working relationship with the majority of staff. However, some significant difficulties in respect of staff working relationships, for example communication and effectiveness of meetings, which are presently being addressed by the CDVEC, need to be continuously addressed as a matter of urgency.
The deputy-principal provides strong support to the principal and liaises between the staff and the principal in many respects. The duties of deputy-principal are carried out efficiently and include a visible ‘on-the-ground’ presence. For example, the deputy-principal plays a key role in the college’s discipline system and has responsibility for organising supervision and substitution.
Staff meetings are scheduled throughout the school year and management is to be commended for the manner in which these are organised. For example, staff are invited to submit items for the agenda and are requested to prepare brief written reports outlining proposals and suggestions which are circulated to staff in advance of the meeting. However, it was reported that difficulties in working relationships mentioned earlier impinge on the effectiveness of meetings. For example, progress on issues arising from school development planning has been limited in recent years. Other issues such as poor student punctuality with a small number of students and low-level discipline problems are not being adequately addressed. In addition, the school calendar should reflect the reality of school meetings on the ground. Such issues need to be addressed as a matter of priority.
Middle management in Presentation College consists of eight assistant principals (including one coordinator of programmes) and ten special duties posts. Following an extensive consultation process, facilitated by an external expert appointed by the CDVEC, a review of the post structure was completed during the current school year. In this way a range of posts appropriate to the needs of the college has been established. Although the appointment of staff to the new positions has only been completed fairly recently, it is clear that in the majority of cases the duties assigned to the posts are well delivered and contribute to the effective running of the college. For example the role of year head which is given assistant principal status is clearly defined and is a key position in the daily operation of the college. Other posts such as examination secretary play an important role in the life of the college at various stages of the school year. However, in some cases there was a lack of clarity around the scope and extent of the roles assigned to the posts. In order to build on the valuable contribution made by middle management to the operation of the school, it is recommended that the nature and extent of such posts be clarified so that post-holders are aware of their duties and responsibilities and are able to carry these out effectively.
It was evident that, apart from the year heads, post-holders have not had a collective role in the operation of the college. Meetings between senior management and the year heads are organised occasionally throughout the school year, though none have been held in recent months. Neither assistant principals nor special duties teachers meet as a group and thus do not have an opportunity to have a consultative role in the management of the college. However, it is planned to institute regular meetings of middle management in the 2006/07 school year. This initiative is to be welcomed as a means of giving middle management a more formal consultative role in relation to management issues.
In order to effectively address the significant challenges facing the college and to facilitate the future development of the college, it is recommended that senior management, in collaboration with the board of management and the CDVEC, explore means of enhancing and developing the leadership and management roles at all levels within the college. In this regard, senior management should continue to draw on the support structures of the CDVEC such as the provision of external expertise and facilitation services, and the principals’ networks established within the scheme. In addition, the leadership role of all staff should be enhanced through more formal consultation, delegation and the continued development of a team approach by staff to particular areas. The establishment of a staff council as outlined in the model agreement for CDVEC Community Colleges and the creation of a consultative role for middle management would be useful steps in this regard.
A strong focus on promoting a positive student response and participation of students in the life of the college is evident in initiatives such as the student leadership team, the student mentoring programme, the assignment of special duties, the student awards scheme and in the pastoral care and discipline structures within the college. The staff manual includes extensive advice for teachers on issues such as creating a positive climate with a class group and how to handle first encounters with students. The college’s approach to caring for students is illustrated in a very public manner in the entrance hall to the college which contains several displays of photographs, certificates, trophies and other commendations of students’ achievements. The student awards scheme affirms students for their efforts and achievements in both academic and non-academic areas.
A clear code of discipline has been established which includes a well structured ladder of referral from subject teacher to class tutor to year head to deputy principal. The majority of students are well behaved, punctual and work well. Discipline problems were reported to be of a low-level disruptive nature, nevertheless a source of ongoing concern in some cases. Inconsistency in the implementation of the discipline policy was reported on a number of occasions during the evaluation. For example, parents spoke of inconsistent use of the discipline slips. In addition, the lack of references in the code to the roles of the principal and the board of management, and to procedures for the expulsion of a student is an omission which should be addressed. It is timely for a review of the code to occur which should involve all stakeholders including parents, students, staff and management. Such a review should ensure that the college’s policy is consistent with the CDVEC’s policy in this regard.
Clear procedures for staff absences are outlined in the staff manual and teachers are requested to arrange suitable work for their classes in such situations. However, parents expressed a concern regarding the number of periods during the school week in which students were simply supervised instead of being taught. It is suggested that subject departments would, over time, compile a bank of subject-related resources which could be used to ensure that students are productively occupied during such periods.
Clear and effective systems for monitoring student attendance and punctuality are in place and work well in terms of recording which students are absent or late during the school day. However, it was evident during the visit and from examination of the records that attendance and punctuality are an ongoing problem. The college’s returns to the National Educational Welfare Board show that non-attendance has increased. Hence, it is recommended that the college review the current arrangements with a view to ensuring that appropriate actions are taken to address this issue as poor attendance and punctuality has a detrimental effect on students’ progress.
Strong relationships with the parents of students in Presentation College have been established over many years. The Parents’ Association was originally founded in the late 1960’s and it has played an active role in many areas of school life. Following the transfer of trusteeship to the CDVEC, the association reviewed its constitution and has developed clearly defined objectives which include assisting the college authorities in every way possible towards promoting the education and general welfare of the students. The parents’ representatives on the board of management are members of the executive committee of the association. The principal attends meetings of the association and provides an extensive report on college activities and issues. The Parents’ association expressed a great willingness to become more involved in the college in areas such as policy development and dissemination of information to the general body of parents and liaising with the college for individuals and groups.
Good communication structures are in place to keep parents informed of school activities and students’ progress. For example, during the school year parents are invited to a range of meetings including parent-teacher meetings and an open night, a newsletter is produced on several occasions during the school year, and direct contact with parents is made when necessary by class tutors, year heads or senior management. It is suggested that more use could be made of the school journal as a means of keeping parents informed of relevant issues. The development of a college website would also assist in ensuring that parents are aware of the many activities and services available in the college.
A number of links with the local community have been created over the years. For example, local sporting organisations use the college’s gymnasium in the evening and during school holidays and students have been involved in fundraising for local charities. Students from the college put on a carol service in the local church at Christmas. However, there is room for further development of such links. It is recommended that the college make greater efforts to promote itself by developing further links with the local and wider community. Some consideration has already been given to the development of adult education or evening courses. This would be a good way of serving the needs of the local community while also raising the profile of the college generally. The college newsletter could be distributed to a wider audience and a college website could be developed. The formation of a past-pupils association could provide a valuable support to the college.
Good efforts have been made by the college to create a relationship with Presentation Primary School. For example, some Transition Year students complete their work experience in the primary school. Fifth and sixth-class students are invited to attend an annual art exhibition and the college’s open day. The staff of the primary school is invited to attend the college’s annual Awards Ceremony. The college is aware that the relationship it has with the Presentation Primary School is a key link for the college and is anxious to further develop this link. It is recommended that the college actively pursue the further development of its links with Presentation Primary School and all of its other feeder primary schools.
The college’s allocation of 28.58 whole-time equivalents from the CDVEC includes provision for an ex-quota principal, a school chaplain and half of a whole-time equivalent for both guidance and learning support. Some additional resource hours are available for students with particular needs, and for language support. Thirty-five teachers, including three trainee teachers, work in the college. A number of ancillary staff play a valuable role in the operation of the college in the administrative, caretaking and maintenance areas.
The deployment of staff for most subjects is generally appropriate in terms of the number of lesson periods per week and the scheduling of those lessons. The college is welcoming of Higher Diploma in Education students and provides them with opportunities to become involved in the life of the college. Such experiences are a valuable component of their training.
The college is to be commended for the ongoing focus on providing for the continuing professional development of the staff. Many outside speakers and seminars have been organised over the years. During the current school year, staff have received inputs from the CDVEC Psychological Service, the Blackrock Education Centre and the School Development Planning Initiative. Staff are also encouraged to make presentations to their colleagues at staff meetings on issues such as learning support, the role of the school chaplain and curricular programmes.
Though space around the college buildings is limited, the college is situated in an attractive environment. Areas for improvement within the college building have been identified and prioritised. It is planned to address these on a phased basis over a number of years. For instance, windows and doors will be replaced as part of the Department of Education and Science’s summer works scheme. Plans for upgrading specialist rooms such as the Home Economics rooms and the Science laboratories are also under consideration.
A health and safety audit of the college, carried out in November 2005, highlighted many areas of serious concern for the college. The trustees and board of management are very aware of the need to address these issues as a matter of priority and plans to address the issues are in place. The development of a new health and safety statement has been prioritised.
Most teachers are classroom based while others use specialist rooms relevant to their subject area. Each class group has a base room where they meet with their class tutors and where their lockers are located. The college is to be commended for creating an attractive print-rich environment in the entrance hallway and in the general purpose area. It is suggested that this approach could be extended to other areas by displaying materials such as class photographs, posters, and student-materials in the classrooms and corridors.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities in the college have been enhanced through the upgrading of the computer room and the installation of broadband internet access. Apart from scheduled lessons for first, fourth and fifth years, students are allowed access to the computer during lunch time and after school once they have permission from a teacher. However, access to the computer room for use of ICT in the teaching and learning of general subjects is limited as the room is occupied with either Computer or Music lessons for most of the week. It is recommended that the college explore ways of further enhancing the access to and use of ICT in teaching and learning.
The college is fortunate to possess a large library space. At present this room is used for a variety of purposes such as meetings, a study area and as a classroom. The planned development of the library and the assignment of a post of responsibility to coordinate this area is to be welcomed. A functioning library is an invaluable resource for students and staff in the delivery of the college’s curriculum. The oratory is a valuable space and provides an appropriate space for liturgical and spiritual events throughout the school year. Parents would like to see some canteen facilities being made available and the college has already given some consideration to this. This proposal is to be welcomed as the introduction of canteen facilities would be an important amenity for students.
The sports hall is an excellent facility in the college and is used for several sports such as basketball, volleyball and table tennis. The lack of outdoor facilities for sports within the school grounds has been a concern to the school community for some time. However, the college is fortunate to have access to the CDVEC sports grounds which are located within a few minutes walk of the college. Several playing fields and changing facilities are available at these grounds which the CDVEC is planning to upgrade over the coming years. However, use of these facilities during the school day is somewhat limited by the scheduling of most Physical Education classes for single periods only. Greater use of the sports grounds would be possible if Physical Education classes were timetabled for double periods. It also appeared that students generally remain in their classrooms during break times. Hence, it is suggested that the college would examine the outdoor spaces surrounding the college itself with a view to identifying any areas which could be used at break times to better effect.
The school is well resourced in terms of audio-visual equipment used for teaching and learning. However, in some instances it was reported by teachers that resources were in short supply.
Specific subject budgets for the resource needs of subject departments are not allocated and are instead met by the college on an ongoing basis. It is recommended that each subject department would identify and prioritise its resource needs as part of subject department planning and submit these to management on an annual basis. This would allow subject departments to plan, prioritise and purchase resources in a more systematic way.
The management and staff of Presentation College are to be commended for their long-term involvement in the process of school development planning. Such planning was formally initiated in the college in 1990 and has continued in the college on a phased basis over the intervening years. Key features of the process which have contributed to its success are the support provided by the involvement of external expertise, and the shared ownership of the process created though the creation of staff sub-committees to consider particular areas.
The initial phase of school development planning commenced with a staff seminar, in September 1990, with the theme of ‘making a creative response to the educational needs of students in a changing environment’. A ten-member ‘staff action committee’ coordinated the overall implementation of a range of recommendations each of which had been investigated by elected sub-committees. The introduction of the Transition Year Programme, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, a Student Council, a students’ awards system, and a staff handbook are some of the concrete actions which occurred in the initial phase. The completion of what had been envisaged as a five-year plan in three years is to be commended.
A second phase of school development planning commenced in 1999 and again external expertise proved to be very useful in terms of facilitating the process of self-review and planning. At the outset of the process staff identified key strategic issues, the main goals, the main barriers and strategies for improvement. Aspects of school life such as staff development, curriculum changes, ICT, demographic trends, and social and economic changes were further explored and discussed at workshops and staff meetings. Arising from this work many recommendations and ideas for the development of the college were formulated. While some of the issues identified through this stage of school development planning have been progressed and while others are no longer relevant, many of the issues are still applicable today. It was reported that progress on these issues and of overall school development planning has been constrained in recent years by difficulties in staff working relationships.
A board of management has been reinstated since the college was transferred to the CDVEC in 2004 and a new phase of school development planning has been initiated. On this occasion the services of the School Development Planning Initiative have been availed of to facilitate the process. The development of subject department planning is the focus of this phase and work in this area is progressing. The value and importance of organised meetings to facilitate such planning were highlighted by staff. A schedule of subject department meetings is indicated on the school calendar. However, it was reported that these meetings do not generally take place. Hence, it is recommended that the college support the ongoing development of subject department planning, particularly in its early stages, by facilitating meetings for the relevant groups.
Presentation College has already developed a number of policies and practices as part of the permanent section of the school plan. These include the college’s admissions policy, a code of behaviour, anti-bullying code, dignity at work charter and homework policy. The college is to be commended for the development of the staff manual which contains information on many of the college’s policies and practices. Presentation College is bound by all CDVEC policies and practices. Over time, all current policies will have to be reviewed in order to ensure that that they are in line with CDVEC guidelines and new policies will have to be developed in areas not yet addressed. For example, the admissions policy has been recently updated and ratified by the board of management. The development of the college’s Guidance Plan, which will include a critical incident plan, is ongoing and revision of the health and safety statement has been prioritised following the recently completed safety audit of the college. Other areas for future development include revision of the code of discipline and the development of a substance use policy. In light of the changing cohort of students, it would be worthwhile for the college to develop a policy on cultural diversity and inclusiveness. The collaborative approach and widespread consultation of management, staff, students and parents adopted in the development of the college’s Guidance Plan is good practice and should serve as a model for future work in the review or development of college policies.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
It is clear that many positive outcomes have been achieved from the college’s long-term engagement with school development planning. The college is to be commended for its current involvement in developing subject department planning and on the work completed to date on the review and adaptation of school policies. In order to build on the good work already completed, it is recommended that the college re-engage with the work completed during the second phase of school development planning, completed in 2000, with a view to formulating specific action plans and timeframes for progressing the issues and recommendations identified in that work. Progress on completing the permanent section of the school plan would be facilitated by developing a clear schedule for the work of reviewing current policies and the development of new policies in some areas in line with CDVEC guidelines. In order to create a shared sense of ownership and to ensure their effectiveness it would be desirable to adopt the collaborative approach used in the development of the college’s Guidance Plan in the development of all policies.
The college provides a broad and wide ranging curriculum with over twenty subjects available to students in the Junior Certificate, Transition Year, Leaving Certificate, and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes. The aim of the college to provide as wide a choice as possible to students is to be commended. For example, three modern languages are available on the curriculum and the college endeavours to maintain subjects even in cases where the numbers choosing the subject are low. The innovation of introducing new subjects such as Japanese and Russian in Transition Year is also to be commended. The care taken to ensure that all students’ needs are met is shown in the ongoing consideration given to the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. Students and parents are kept informed about this programme though the numbers who may opt for it are not sufficient at present for it to be introduced.
Twenty subjects are provided in the first-year curriculum and students must study all of these. This wide range of subjects provides students with a broad experience and may assist them in making appropriate choices when they enter second year. However, it also has negative effects on the delivery of the overall curriculum including: some subjects have only two periods per week in first year; students also have to deal with a large numbers of teachers and learning experiences during the week; students have to purchase textbooks for subjects they will not continue. In the context of declining enrolment the college’s capacity to carry such a wide range of subjects may not be sustainable. For instance, French could not be offered to the current second year cohort due to insufficient demand. Therefore, it is recommended that the college review its current policy with regard to the number of subjects taken by first-year students. Alternative ways could be found for ensuring that students make an informed choice about their subject choices for Junior Certificate.
Junior Certificate Science is divided into its three main components in Presentation College, i.e. the Biology, Chemistry and Physics components are taught separately by different teachers and students have in effect three separate Science lessons during the week. This arrangement has led to difficulties in delivering the course. For instance, each component is taught during a single period per week for two of the three years of junior cycle. This results in a lack of continuity as there can be a considerable gap between lessons. There is also a lack of coordination with respect to the delivery of the coursework elements of the syllabus. It is recommended that the college reconsider this arrangement and instead arrange for the delivery of Junior Certificate Science as a single subject taught to each class group by one teacher. This will facilitate an integrated approach to the teaching and learning of Science and avoid any of the problems regarding coordination of the present system.
Students entering senior cycle may opt for Leaving Certificate or the Transition Year (TY) programme. The TY programme has a good uptake with approximately half of the third-year students choosing it. The programme is designed around subject areas, work experience and involvement in a wide range of activities. Good practice is evident in the development of a programme for each subject and in the inclusion of both students and parents in an annual evaluation of the programme. A variety of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities promote the personal, social, educational and vocational development of students. For example students participate in visits to educational centres and they compete in many competitions and challenges. Staff are to be commended for the commitment shown in organising such a diverse programme. However, as students are timetabled for subject lessons for the full school week a great deal of flexibility is required to facilitate participation in such activities. Thus, it is suggested that the school consider allocating a specific weekly slot in the Transition Year timetable for non-traditional areas such as visiting speakers, and modular courses. A team approach to the planning of the TY programme is facilitated by some meetings of the entire team of relevant staff at the start of the school year. However, though recorded in the school calendar it was reported that a schedule of further meetings does not occur. Furthermore, the school does not allocate a budget for TY and thus costs for activities have to be recouped from students on an ongoing basis. It is recommended that more regular meetings of the TY team be organised so that issues such as costs, budgeting, timetabling, and future development of the programme can be explored.
The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) was introduced to the college in 1996. The LCVP is offered at the start of the school year to all senior cycle students who meet the programme requirements as set out by the Department of Education and Science. The majority of eligible students choose to participate in the programme. The programme is well organised with an appropriate emphasis on the preparation of students for the world of work and future careers. Good practice is evident in the preparation of a scheme of work for each of the link modules. The coordination of the programme has been supported by attendance at annual inservice courses and participation in the LCVP support network.
The caring approach to all students’ needs is evident in the college’s policy in relation to the grouping of students. The college’s policy is to group students in mixed-ability class groups as much as possible while also allowing for banding in some subjects such as Irish and Mathematics. The rationale and benefits of this approach are outlined in the staff manual and a considerable amount of professional development has been provided by the college to support this policy. For example, at the start of the current school year a staff seminar on practical teaching strategies in a mixed-ability context was organised with the assistance of the Second Level Support Service. During the year, staff were invited to attend a workshop on differentiation in the classroom organised by the CDVEC Curriculum Development Unit. In view of the reported changes in the cohort of students attending Presentation College, the college’s policy and practices with respect to the organisation of class groups should be regularly reviewed in order to ensure that students of all abilities are adequately catered for. It is suggested that each subject department would, as part of their ongoing subject department planning, review the current arrangements in their subject area with a view to identifying any adjustments which may be required.
In general, the timetabling arrangements for subjects are appropriate. However, analysis of the college’s timetable shows that the total instruction hours being provided, twenty-six hours thirty-five minutes, not including fifty minutes of tutorial time, is not in line with the requirements of Circular M29/95 Time in School. It is recommended that the college review the present timetabling arrangements in order to comply with the requirements of Circular M29/95. Some issues such as the allocation of mainly single periods for Physical Education, and the timetabling of learning-support lessons mentioned previously should also be addressed.
Students are well supported in making educational choices throughout their school life in Presentation College. This support is provided by subject teachers, class tutors, year heads, the guidance department and management. First, fourth, fifth and sixth years are timetabled for one period of careers education per week. Provision is also made for one-to-one support which is formally scheduled for students from second to sixth year. Parents are invited to attend an information evening at which the various options available are explained and discussed. Parents are required to validate/confirm their daughters’ choices by countersigning the relevant forms. Support materials which guide students through the process of identifying the most appropriate choices, subjects or programmes have been developed. These materials are also distributed to parents, and the students are encouraged to discuss their choices with their parents. Subject teachers are requested to discuss their subject areas with the relevant class groups as part of the process. Class tutors and year heads also support students with advice and guidance.
The college is to be commended for adopting a policy of providing students with as open a choice as possible with respect to the available subjects and programmes. Within the available resources the college endeavours to provide as many students as possible with their first choices. The college also tries to be as flexible as possible in allowing students to change their choices at a later date.
The college’s policy of encouraging students to take subjects at the highest level appropriate is to be commended.
Presentation College provides a very good level of co-curricular and extra curricular activities. A wide range of sporting, cultural and social activities are available and accessible to all students. The majority of students participate in one or more of such activities. This provision is supported by the allocation of a post of responsibility for the coordination of extra-curricular activities.
The college has had many successes in sports such as basketball, badminton, camogie, Gaelic football, table tennis, volleyball and athletics. The senior volleyball team were All-Ireland champions in 2004 and the college team has won numerous awards at the CDVEC swimming galas in recent years. Students are also taken on outdoor pursuits’ trips which give students an opportunity to try new sports such as sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. The college has a strong tradition of involvement in cultural activities such as the Dublin Secondary Schoolgirls’ Choir, Irish music and dance, art and drama. The college’s commitment to a caring community is evident in students’ involvement in the Presentation order’s ‘Challenge to Change’ project and in fundraising activities such as the Trocaire Fast, the People in Need telethon, and hamper collections at Christmas.
Students have participated in many competitions such as Gaisce – The President’s Award, and the Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. The college has had great success in debating and public speaking competitions. The college won the regional final of this year’s national Forum on Europe public speaking competition. School tours for junior and for senior students are among the highlights of the school year. These are very well organised and provide students with an opportunity to experience other cultures in a safe and structured environment. Links with the wider community at home and abroad have also been fostered through the college’s involvement in the Belfast and Dublin Education Exchange Programme and in exchange programmes with schools on the continent. The college has been ‘twinned’ with a school in Belfast. Groups from both schools have visited each other and attended lessons and social events.
The commitment of staff as shown in their efforts to ensure the holistic development of students through the organisation of voluntary activities is to be highly commended. The recognition given to students’ achievements through the awards system and through the school newsletter further supports this commitment.
Formal subject planning has been introduced into the college since 2005 and a facilitator from the School Development Planning Initiative has guided subject planning in the college. Each subject department has a subject coordinator appointed on a rotating basis annually. The role of subject coordinator is clearly defined and subject teachers have begun to record the outcomes of formal subject meetings which are disseminated to the deputy principal. It is important that an agenda and clear minutes of all meetings are kept. Subject teachers also meet frequently on an informal basis to discuss their subject.
While two formal meetings for subject planning have been facilitated by management this year the practice of holding regular meetings for subject planning has fallen into abeyance.
Good progress has been made on the development of a common long-term plan in some subject areas although there is a need over time to develop these plans further and include for example, learning outcomes to be achieved by each year group and suggested teaching methodologies. In addition, the plans should be based on syllabus content and objectives as opposed to textbooks. Individual teachers had developed very comprehensive schemes of work.
Difficulties were reported in acquiring basic resources such as photocopying paper and acetates. In addition, the need for a bank of resources for Mathematics and French was recommended. As part of the planning process subject departments should meet to identify required resources to enhance the teaching and learning of their subjects. In addition, they should frequently review the system of student placement in their classes in order to ensure that all students’ needs are adequately catered for.
A TY programme has been developed for each subject area in the school. Care should be taken in some areas to ensure that topics are explored in an original and stimulating way that is significantly different from the way in which they would have been treated in the two years to Leaving Certificate.
There was good use of audio-visual resources observed in all subject areas. For example, the overhead projector was used to good effect. The board was also well used to record key points in many subjects. Teachers were well prepared in all lessons and many had developed good resources for use with their students. Worksheets were well used in Mathematics although they could be used more in Science.
The purpose of all lessons in all subject areas was shared with students from the outset which is good practice. In general the pace of most lessons was appropriate. Teachers displayed good linguistic competence in French and the use of the target language was observed in some lessons. Links were created between topics covered and between topics being taught and everyday life which is good practice as it puts learning into context for students.
Best practice was seen when questions were asked of individuals as well as of the class as a whole. Open-ended questions encouraged students to think more clearly about topics and led to good discussions.
Students were involved in their lessons in English and Science where there was an appropriate balance between student and teacher input. There was a clear emphasis on the investigative approach to learning in Science. There is a need for more student participation in some Mathematics and French lessons where there was an inclination for students to become passive instead of active participants in their classes. Active student involvement was achieved in other subject areas through the effective use of group and pair work for example. Therefore, it is recommended that, in order to ensure that all students’ learning styles are catered for, a greater variety of methodologies be used in all subject areas. There was some good evidence of the practice of differentiation in some areas but not in all. Care must be taken to include all students in all lessons and to choose texts, particularly in English, that are suitably challenging for the entire cohort of students. In general, teachers were sensitive to the needs of individual students.
There was evidence of some wall displays and of students being surrounded by a stimulating learning environment in some classes and subject areas. However, the provision of a print-rich stimulating learning environment with posters pertaining to the subject area and samples of students’ work on display could be enhanced across all subjects. There is a need for health and safety issues to be prioritised in Science lessons.
There was evidence of a good rapport between students and teachers and a good atmosphere of learning in a caring environment. Students presented as being well motivated in all lessons.
The college’s policy of encouraging as many as possible to take higher level in their subject is successfully implemented. Students’ outcomes in the state examinations are very good.
The college has developed a homework policy and there was evidence of good correction of homework in most subject areas with constructive written feedback given on areas where students should improve. Students’ copies and folders were generally well maintained, although there was some variety in terms of maintenance of copies in Science.
Parents are well informed of their daughter’s progress, receiving reports three times each year. An annual parent-teacher meeting is held for each year group in the school. A report based on continuous assessment marks is sent home in November. All students in the school with the exception of Transition Year students sit house examinations in February. Examination classes sit mock examinations at this time while non-examination classes sit formal examinations. First, second and fifth-year students also sit formal examinations in May. Reports are sent home based on the results of formal examinations. It is recommended that Science teachers assess, and give some credit in examinations for students’ practical work. All French tests include an aural and oral component as appropriate which is commended. Common assessments are used by some Mathematics teachers. This is good practice and should be extended to other subject areas.
Students are assessed informally though frequent homework and informal class-based tests. Awards are regularly given to students who excel in certain areas of school life.
The college makes very good provision for students with special educational needs. For example, the college supplements its standard allocation for learning-support and resource hours from within the overall resources available. The provision of learning support is very well organised and coordinated. For example, all incoming students take a range of assessment tests in the February prior to entry and the college also liaises closely with the feeder primary schools in order to identify and plan for any particular needs.
Support is provided by means of withdrawal from mainstream classes either individually or in small groups. Special needs assistants provide valuable support to students with particular needs. The college’s participation in the CDVEC piloting of Individual Education Plans in second-level schools is to be commended. Team teaching, which is not used at present, could also be considered as an extra strategy for providing support.
At present, the learning-support team consists of the learning-support coordinator and several other teachers who each take a relatively small number of learning-support lessons per week. The planned introduction of a care team which will bring together the specialist expertise of the learning support and resource teachers, and guidance counsellors is to be commended. Examination of the timetables provided by the college showed that many learning-support lessons had been rearranged from the formally scheduled time to more suitable times of the week. Such flexibility to cater for the needs of students is to be commended. However, the official college timetables should be adjusted to show the new arrangements and should also indicate clearly which lessons are for the provision of learning support. Some learning-support classes are organised independently without reference to the learning-support coordinator. In order to ensure that management are aware of who is in receipt of learning-support, it is recommended that all learning support classes are organised through the learning-support coordinator.
Within their subject areas, teachers are encouraged to support students by differentiating the lesson content and by liaising with the learning-support team. Keeping classes as small as possible and the building of good relationships between staff and students are seen by the school as important supports for all students. Staff have been supported by the provision of many opportunities for professional development.
The approach taken by Presentation College to caring for the needs of students from disadvantaged, minority or other groups is encompassed within the overall pastoral care structures of the college. Financial support, such as the provision of uniforms and textbooks in cases of difficulty, is provided discreetly in a sensitive manner.
A small number of students from an international background, including a number of exchange students, attend Presentation College. Provision for language support is made for such students throughout the school year. During the first half of the year they are given an intensive programme, undertaken by part-time teachers who have experience of teaching English as a second language. They are also given assistance and support in their subject areas. The college endeavours to ensure that students from all religious backgrounds are fully included in school activities.
It is suggested that the college consider appointing a coordinator to oversee the provision for minority groups. In order to build on the good practice already in place, the college should consider developing a policy on cultural diversity and inclusiveness as part of school development planning. The development of links with outside agencies such as Integrate Ireland Language and Training could also be used as a means of supporting such initiatives
Presentation College has made good provision for guidance support for students. For example, extra provision for guidance support has been made from within the college’s overall allocation over and above the allocation from the CDVEC of 0.5 of a guidance counsellor. Guidance counsellors provide formally timetabled career guidance lessons for all first, fourth, fifth and sixth-year classes. In addition to these lessons, one-to-one sessions are scheduled for all students from second to sixth year.
The guidance counsellors and the school chaplain play an important role in providing counselling support to students when required. The guidance team liaise well in this regard with class tutors and year heads as part of the college’s pastoral care system. The CDVEC Psychological Service has been found to be an excellent support to the team and has also made several presentations to the whole staff.
A Guidance Plan is currently being developed with the assistance of an outside facilitator from the CDVEC. The collaborative approach and the widespread consultation involved in this development are to be commended. For example, students, parents and staff were all surveyed as part of the process.
It was apparent that some clarification around individual roles and communication structures in terms of the provision of guidance and counselling services is required, and that a team approach needs to be enhanced. It is hoped that the development of the Guidance Plan will address these issues. At present, all one-to-one sessions with a guidance counsellor are scheduled by senior management. The benefits of this system are that all students are met and that staff know which students are to be out of class at a particular time. However, it is suggested that responsibility for the planning of such scheduling, and reporting of the arrangements and outcomes to management, could be delegated to the relevant teachers without losing the benefits of the present system.
Presentation College places great importance on providing appropriate care for all students. This approach is very much in line with the stated aim of the college to ‘cater for the total – not merely the academic – needs of the individual student’ and to ‘value and develop the young person at every level’. Though clear structures are in place to ensure that all students’ pastoral needs are met, the college also views the provision of pastoral care as being a whole school responsibility in which all staff play an important role. For example, a number of staff have completed training in bereavement counselling and a large number of staff have completed a year long course in Counselling Skills for Teachers in the Marino Institute of Education.
The roles of class tutor and year head are key aspects of the college’s pastoral care system. Each class is assigned a class tutor who cares for a particular class group in conjunction with a year head who takes overall responsibility for the year group. Class tutors meet their group on a daily basis, while year heads meet each class group in their charge once a week, at tutorial time. This frequent formal contact, which is further supplemented by a great deal of informal contact, ensures that any problems or issues are quickly noted and actions to deal with them can be implemented. The college’s focus on developing a positive relationship with the students is to be commended as it facilitates the growth of students’ self-confidence and their social and academic development. For example, class tutors are encouraged to acknowledge effort and success and to create a class atmosphere that enables students to talk freely about their difficulties. Special events such as class coffee mornings or excursions add to the creation of a positive atmosphere.
The duties and responsibilities of year heads are clearly outlined in the staff manual. These duties are wide ranging and require considerable effort and commitment. Good practice is evident in the holding of regular meetings of the year head and class tutors for a particular year group and in the continuation of a year head with the group as they move up through the school. Year heads and class tutors are to be commended for their commitment and for the effective operation of the college’s pastoral care system.
When necessary, class tutors and year heads can draw on a wider range of supports within the college. The guidance counsellors, school chaplain, other staff, and school management can all be consulted or involved in dealing with particular issues. This approach works well and is very much in line with the policy of the CDVEC to introduce care teams in their schools which will be introduced in the college next year. Parents play an important role in the college’s pastoral care system and are informed and consulted by year heads and class tutors on relevant issues.
The CDVEC have made provision for a school chaplain whose role includes a specific mission towards the spiritual and pastoral care and faith development of the entire school community. An open-door policy ensures easy access for students to the chaplaincy service.
Opportunities for including students in the operation of the college are evident in the creation of a Student Leadership Team for sixth-year students, the allocation of special duties to fifth-year students and the appointment of prefects and assistant prefects for each class group. Responsibility for the introduction and coordination of a student council has been assigned to a post of responsibility and plans for the introduction of a council are well developed. Prefects have responsibility for encouraging classmates to keep their rooms neat and tidy and liaise with the class tutors.
The Student Leadership Team gives sixth-year students an opportunity to give something back to the college. For example, they help out with school events such as the open day, liaise with and represent class groups, and mentor first-year students through a ‘buddy system’. They also organise charity events such as the Trocaire Lenten fast. The officers of the Student Leadership Team meet regularly with the senior management of the school. The confidence and maturity displayed by the representatives of the Student Leadership Team reflect well on the college.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
§ The college’s mission statement is achieved with respect to the students’ experience of the daily life of the college. The staff is highly committed to working with the students of the college in the delivery of the curriculum and in the provision of many extra-curricular activities.
§ The board of management operates effectively and is beginning to address, the challenges facing the college such as declining enrolment, changing cohort of students, working relationships, resources and upgrading of the college buildings.
§ Senior management have a very good working relationship and work closely together as a team. However, it was evident that some significant difficulties in respect of staff working relationships need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
§ In the majority of cases the duties assigned to the posts of responsibility are well delivered. However, in some cases there was a lack of clarity around the scope and extent of the assigned roles. It was also evident that, apart from the Year Heads, post-holders have not had a collective role in the operation of the college.
§ A clear code of discipline has been established. However, there are no references in the code to the roles of the principal and the board of management, and to procedures for the expulsion of a student. The majority of students are well behaved, punctual and work well. Clear systems for monitoring and recording student attendance and punctuality are in place. However, poor attendance and punctuality are ongoing problems in some cases.
§ There is room for further development of links between the college and the local community and its feeder primary schools.
§ The deployment of staff for most subjects is generally appropriate and the college is to be commended for the strong focus on the continuing professional development of the staff.
§ Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities in the college have been enhanced. However, access to the computer room for use of ICT in the teaching and learning of general subjects is limited.
§ A number of policies and practices have been developed as part of the permanent section of the school plan. However, progress on the developmental section of the school plan has been constrained in recent years.
§ The college provides a broad and wide ranging curriculum. However, first-year students must study all twenty subjects on the curriculum. This is having some negative effects on the delivery of the overall curriculum. The delivery of Junior Certificate Science in three separate elements has led to difficulties in the effective delivery of the course.
§ The Transition Year programme has a good uptake and includes a wide variety of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme is well organised with an appropriate emphasis on the world of work and future careers.
§ In general, the timetabling arrangements are appropriate. However, the school is not in compliance with Circular M29/95 Time in School.
§ Students and parents are well supported in making educational choices throughout their school life in Presentation College.
§ Presentation College provides a very good level of co-curricular and extra curricular activities.
§ Formal subject planning is underway in the college. Good progress has been made on the development of a common long-term plan in some subject areas although there is a need over time to develop these plans further.
§ Teachers were well prepared in all lessons and many had developed good resources for use with their students. In general the pace of most lessons was appropriate. Good practice was evident in the creation of links between lesson content and everyday life. Active student involvement was achieved through effective use of group and pair work. There was some good evidence of differentiation in some lessons but not in all.
§ The college’s policy of encouraging as many students as possible to take higher level in their subject is successfully implemented.
§ Students’ outcomes in the state examinations are very good.
§ The college has a homework policy and there was evidence of good correction of homework in most subject areas.
§ Good provision is made for students with special educational needs. The provision of learning-support is very well organised and coordinated.
§ Presentation College has made good provision for guidance support and places great importance on providing appropriate pastoral care for all students.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
§ In the interests of the future development of the college and for the ultimate benefit of the students, it is strongly recommended that the issue of staff working relationships be addressed by all parties.
§ In order to facilitate a planned approach to the work of addressing the challenges facing the college and promoting the future development of the college it is recommended that the board consider formulating a strategic vision or long-term plan for the college.
§ In order to build on the valuable contribution made by middle management to the operation of the school, it is recommended that the nature and extent of each of the posts be clarified.
§ In order to effectively address the significant challenges facing the college and to facilitate the future development of the college, it is recommended that senior management, in collaboration with the board of management and the CDVEC, explore means of enhancing and developing the leadership and management roles at all levels within the college.
§ It is recommended that the college re-engage with the work completed during the second phase of school development planning with a view to formulating specific action plans and timeframes for progressing the issues and recommendations identified in that work. Progress on completing the permanent section of the school plan would be facilitated by developing a clear schedule for the work of reviewing current policies such as the code of discipline, and the development of new policies in some areas in line with CDVEC guidelines.
§ It is recommended that the college review the current arrangements for dealing with the attendance and punctuality of students.
§ It is recommended that the college make greater efforts to promote itself within the local and wider community and that it actively pursue the further development of its links with Presentation Primary School and all of its other feeder primary schools.
§ It is recommended that the college explore ways of further enhancing the access to and use of ICT for teaching and learning in all subject areas.
§ It is recommended that the college support the ongoing development of subject and programme planning by facilitating meetings of the relevant staff at which issues such as resource needs, student placement, etc., could be discussed.
§ It is recommended that the college review the first-year curriculum and reconsider the current arrangements for the teaching of Junior Certificate Science.
§ It is recommended that the college review the present timetabling arrangements in order to comply with the requirements of Circular M29/95.
§ It is recommended that a greater variety of teaching methodologies be used in all subject areas.
§ It is recommended that all learning support classes are organised through the learning support coordinator.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
The following related subject inspection reports are available
§ Subject Inspection of English – 5 May 2006
§ Subject Inspection of French - 5 May 2006
§ Subject Inspection of Mathematics – 5 May 2006
§ Subject Inspection of Science/Physics – 5 May 2006
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
This report offers the reader an opportunity to examine a particular moment in time of Presentation College, Terenure. It portrays a Board of Management and a school staff strongly committed to the development of each student’s academic, creative, spiritual, moral and sporting/active life. This report describes a college that places the education and development of each student at the centre of all its activities. It finds within Presentation College a staff dedicated to the implementation of a pastoral care system designed to facilitate the growth of students’ self-confidence and social development. It describes the girls as friendly, courteous, well-behaved and confident young people. It draws attention to the broad range of subjects available within the college. It also highlights the college’s successful policy of encouraging as many girls as possible to take higher level in their chosen subjects and to the students’ successful outcomes in the state examinations.
The report also recognises that this is a time of significant challenge and change for Presentation College, Terenure. Ownership and management of the college transferred in 2004 from the Presentation Sisters to the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC). A new Board of Management, representing all the education partners in the college has come into existence and this board is committed to developing and ensuring the future of the college. This significant transition, as stated in the report, has caused little or no disruption or change to the curriculum and education of the students. This transition has also received the full support of the Parents Association, who play a very vibrant and active role in the school and on the Board of Management. Importantly it also states that the college ethos is in harmony with the tradition of both the Presentation Congregation and the CDVEC.
The report highlights a number of issues already identified by the Board of Management and the CDVEC and praises the actions, which have already been put in place to address these. It also refers to the considerable additional resources that the CDVEC brings to the school. Amongst these are support and development structures for management, extensive in-service and training for staff, its own psychological service to address the needs of students, resources to improve the fabric and structure of the buildings, and sporting and cultural activities, which the students in the college have already successfully participated in over the last couple of years.
Like most other schools within the boundary of Dublin City, Presentation College also has to confront the impact of population shifts and changes. This situation offers opportunities and challenges to the college, which the Board of Management recognises, and which the Board is determined to use to its advantage of its students and to the local community. Over the next year, as recommended in the report, the Board will be putting in place a strategic vision and long term plan for the college.
The Board welcomes the timeliness of this report, which through its findings and recommendations has provided a clear set of goals and objectives for all involved in the education of the girls in Presentation College Terenure. The implementation of these will ensure the future development of the college and the provision of a first class education for all the girls that attend the college both now and into the future.