An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 Ballinteer Community School

Ballinteer, Dublin 16

Roll number: 91305L

 

Date of inspection: 23 - 27 October 2006

Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

1. Introduction

2. The quality of school management

2.1 Characteristic spirit of the school

2.2 School ownership and management

2.3 In-school management

2.4 Management of resources

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of curriculum provision

4.1 Curriculum planning and organisation

4.2 Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

4.3 Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

5.1 Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

6. Quality of support for students

6.1 Students with special educational needs

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

6.3 Guidance

6.4 Pastoral care

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

8. Related subject inspection reports

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Ballinteer Community School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management 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.

 

 

 

1.         Introduction

 

Ballinteer Community School is a co-educational school under the trusteeship of the Carmelite Fathers, the Brigidine Sisters and County Dublin Vocational Education Committee (VEC). The school was founded in 1974 to meet the needs of the growing population in the Dundrum and Ballinteer areas. The student population increased rapidly from its opening in 1974 to reach over 1,000 in 1980. Numbers remained high throughout the eighties but declined to around 650 in the nineties.  Numbers have further declined in recent years and the current student population is 331. School management attributes this decline to changing demographics and the impact of an arson attack on the school building in 2000.

 

In 1975, the school established a unit for students with physical disabilities. In 1995, the school also set up a unit for students with Specific Speech & Language Disorder (SSLD) in response to a request from the Department of Education and Science. In more recent years Ballinteer Community School has extended its catchment to meeting the needs of many students requiring learning support or resource teaching. In 1999 the school was granted a new building. Construction began in March 2006 and the new school, catering for an intake of approximately 600 students, is due to open in August 2007. The old school building will be demolished and an all weather pitch will be developed on its site.

 

 

2.         The quality of school management

 

2.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

“Ballinteer Community School is committed to providing quality education to its students”.

 

The mission statement of Ballinteer Community School prefaces both the student journal and the teachers’ handbook and is read out at the beginning of all staff meetings.  It is further developed in a statement of the school’s aims and values whereby teachers and staff members under the direction of the principal “share a collegiate responsibility to develop and maintain a school ethos which promotes and encourages learning, develops character, fosters respect for the individual and nurtures a caring and inclusive school community”. 

 

Ballinteer Community School’s strong commitment to inclusiveness is evidenced in its open admissions policy and the integration of students from diverse social and cultural backgrounds into the school community.  Its educational provision for students with physical disabilities and its open acceptance of students with special educational needs is further reflection of the school’s ethos in action.  However, concern was expressed by both the board of management and the parents that the school’s policy of inclusiveness may ultimately have created a situation whereby it may become exclusively a school for students with special needs.

 

The school is described by all members of the school community as welcoming and caring. The board of management reported that members of staff provide a welcome, friendly and secure environment for their students and that they maintain a culture of openness with parents. This was corroborated by the members of the parents’ association, who spoke of a holistic student-centred ambiance in the school, and the student council who reported that the atmosphere was friendly and students were given time and help.

 

As the school moves into the next phase of its development, it is suggested that the mission statement be reviewed to ensure that it remains appropriate to the future changes and location of the school community and that a copy of the statement be posted up in a prominent place in the new school building as a reminder to all of the characteristic spirit of the school.

 

 

2.2          School ownership and management

 

The board of management is constituted in accordance with the deed of trust for community schools and comprises eleven members, three nominees of the religious trustees, three nominees of the Vocational Education Committee trustees, two parent nominees, two nominees from the permanent teaching staff and the principal who acts as secretary to the board and is a non-voting member.  The current board of management is in the second year of a three year cycle and most of its members have benefited from the training and information sessions on the role and functions of boards of management provided by the Association for Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS).  Members of the board have also been given access to the ACCS website and are issued with its newsletters.  In addition, senior management provides them with information bulletins and relevant circulars issued by the Department of Education and Science.  Senior management is to be commended for facilitating the members of the board in accessing such information. Board meetings, which take place approximately six times annually, are viewed as the forum for the dissemination of information, discussion and decision making.  Minutes are retained of each meeting and minutes of recent meetings were reviewed in the course of the evaluation.

 

The board defines its role as a collective responsibility supporting the principal and staff in the regulation and management of the school.  The board also ensures that the relevant education legislation is complied with, that there is an education plan in place for the school and that it is kept updated. Members of the board are also available to sit on selection committees and are responsible for the scheduling of posts of responsibility.  Members reported being keenly aware of the importance of being familiar with the Deed of Trust, the Education Act, and other relevant legislation and working as a team rather than a collective body of individual interests.  This is to be commended.  Members are kept informed by the principal of school developments, and a report is provided at each board meeting.  There is a finance sub-committee which oversees the accounts and signs off on relevant expenditure.  Financial statements are submitted to the board.  Suspensions from school are also referred to the board and the appropriate procedures are followed. The board reported ratifying all policies required by legislation.  The work of the board is commendable in responding to issues of a pragmatic nature arising from the principal’s report and correspondence. However, there is evidence to suggest that there is a need for more proactive involvement in initiating policy development and review and monitoring progress on whole school issues such as curriculum provision and planning for all students.

 

Board members reported interest in and attendance at school events.  However, they mentioned that their contact with the teaching staff was limited.  There is no agreed report of board meetings issued to staff, which further limits regular communication and contact with staff. It is recommended that, with the support of senior management, efforts be made by the board to promote greater contact with the staff and school life. In this way the board would be provided with a better overview of issues which have relevance for them as managers of the school and further enhance positive whole-school relationships.

 

The board identified several priorities, including the maximising of resources to best meet the needs of the school, the valuing of all students and the quality of teaching and learning.  While concern was expressed about the enrolment numbers, the board were confident that the advent of the new school building would bring with it an increase in the number of students of all academic abilities. However, some of the board’s priorities appear to be aspirational rather than substantial. For example, members of the board suggested that in order to be truly inclusive there is a need to balance the current student cohort with an increased number of high achieving students. However, despite this concern about expanding and balancing the student cohort there was no evidence of specific action plans being initiated or monitored by the board as managers of the school to attract a greater number of the higher achieving students. It is recommended that the board of management instigate specific plans of action and monitor progress in response to the issue of student enrolment.

 

There is a good relationship between the board and the parents’ association. This association, although small in membership, is affiliated to the national parents’ council and meets every month. The association has a meeting with senior management approximately every six weeks. Members of the association see themselves as active participants in the life and events of the school community and have contributed to the development of some school policies.  Parent representatives on the board of management report back to the parents’ association.  However, this feedback is not in the form of an agreed report.  It is recommended that an agreed report be drawn up by the board and disseminated to staff and the parents’ association following every meeting.

 

 

2.3          In-school management

 

Senior management presents as a very united team, maintaining ongoing daily communication and consultation with each other.  The principal reported his duties to include all medium to long-term responsibilities in relation to the school, managing the finances, recruiting and employing staff, planning and health and safety. In the recent past, much of this work has revolved around the seeking, granting and building of the new school premises and the day-to-day difficulties it has presented.

 

The duties of the deputy principal which relate to the day to day running of the school are wide-ranging.  They include the management of students, all aspects of the timetable, membership of the care team, the organisation of supervision and substitution for absent teachers and for in-house examinations.   The deputy principal also undertakes responsibility for the tuck shop, the co-ordination and overseeing of the student council and dealing with day-to-day problems or complaints from either staff or students.

 

Given the arduous nature of their duties and responsibilities, senior management should take time to reflect on and evaluate in a systematic way the effectiveness of all that is happening in the school. This will enable them to respond to changing needs and to forward plan in a systematic way.  In this context and with an end in sight to some of the very onerous duties of the recent past, a review of senior management duties is recommended with the possibility of realigning some of these duties within senior management or delegating them at middle management level. 

 

The deputy principal is supported in the management of students by the deans, who are assistant principals (AP’s), and who have a combined disciplinary and pastoral role.  Other AP posts include, education officer, officer for staff / student development and director of cultural affairs.  There is also a director for the adult education sector.  Assistant principals meet weekly with senior management to discuss issues emanating from their duties. They contribute as a middle management team to the running of the school. 

 

Special duties posts have administrative responsibilities. These include responsibility for in-house examinations, state examinations secretary, publicity organiser, stock control, co-ordination of Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), co-ordination of supplementary education, attendance officer, study hall co-ordinator, business links organiser, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) co-ordination and adult education duties. Special duties teachers reported that they did not perceive themselves as part of middle management and stated that they were not treated as such.  For example, they do not meet as a body with senior management.  In order to give them greater ownership of their work and its contribution to the effective functioning of the school, it is recommended that the special duties teachers, as a team, be accorded greater recognition as part of the management structure of the school. Furthermore, their duties, while administrative in nature, should be reviewed and if necessary, redefined in terms of a middle management team.

 

Appointments to posts of responsibility are generally in accordance with the protocols and procedures laid out in the articles of management for community and comprehensive schools.  However, there is evidence to suggest that when advertised, posts do not always include a clear definition of duties as outlined in circular 23/98. This may account for the possible duplication of some posts.  For example, there were two special duties posts allocated for in-house examinations in addition to the work carried out by the deputy principal in relation to the supervision of these examinations. There was also evidence that the duties described by some post holders did not correspond to the title of their post as recorded in some of the school documentation. It is recommended that all advertised posts should carry with them a clear outline of the duties and responsibilities to be undertaken.

 

There has been no systematic review of the schedule of posts in recent years.  There was evidence that the duties of some post holders have been changed on the basis of discussion with the individual rather than undergoing any formal process of review. It is recommended that structures be put in place to allow for a regular and systematic review of posts and their associated duties to ensure that they are best meeting the needs of the school.  This review should involve senior management, the entire teaching staff and the board of management which has ultimate responsibility for the scheduling of posts. 

 

Senior management reported that five staff meetings are held annually, one at the beginning and one at the end of the academic year and, in addition, one staff meeting per term.  The agenda is discussed in advance at the weekly meeting of assistant principals. However, in order to ensure the involvement of the entire teaching staff, consideration should be given to accepting additional submissions from the general body of teachers. It is important that all members of staff are afforded the time and a forum for open discussion of all school related issues in order to move forward the process of school improvement. There is currently no formal recording of staff meetings. It is recommended that the proceedings of all staff meetings are recorded and the minutes presented at the following staff meeting for approval.

 

A comprehensive handbook is made available to staff at the beginning of each academic year.  This is good practice and to be commended. The handbook for the current academic year speaks of communications in Ballinteer Community School as multi-dimensional and says that every effort will be made to provide a rich flow of information on all developments to all clients. It is envisaged that much of this communication will be through the use of the Pinnacle system, a computerised programme for monitoring attendance, disseminating information and reporting.  All non-sensitive information concerning the students will be held on the system which is accessible to all members of staff.  Such information shall include records of attendance, the nature of absences, individual education plans where relevant and the results of students’ assessments in all subject areas.  This is a commendable development as it will help management, teachers and parents engage in more productive dialogue concerning student progress and achievement. Other information concerning individual students will be held by the class tutor, dean or counselling personnel and disseminated to the relevant people on a strictly need to know basis.  This is also good practice and to be commended.  Regular communication with parents is fostered through the use of the school journal, reports, individual meetings with parents and the formalised parent teacher meetings.  The school also produces a newsletter which is distributed to parents and other members of the local community and there is a school website which, however, is currently in need of updating.  It is suggested that the updating of the website might prove a useful initiative in promoting the school and increasing the student intake to include a broader range of ability.

 

Information of a general nature is posted up on the staffroom notice board, or placed in staff members’ individual correspondence boxes.  It is also stated in the staff handbook that extensive use of the Pinnacle system is envisaged for the dissemination of staff related information including social events and outings.  While the use of the Pinnacle system ensures that all staff members receive relevant information, it is important that this does not replace the face to face communication which is central to optimum staff management relations.

 

The school has a code of behaviour in place which was drawn up in consultation with the staff, the board of management and the parents.  It is a lengthy document which outlines the school rules and protocols in relation to attendance, general behaviour of students and the sanctions including suspension and expulsion imposed for breaches of the code.  The code also includes mention of the student’s right of appeal under section 29 of the Education Act. This is good practice and to be commended. However, there is a lack of clarity in relation to certain aspects of the document. For example, a clear distinction between suspension and exclusion is unclear. There is no reference in the code of behaviour to the concept of acknowledging or rewarding good behaviour.  However, senior management reported that the practices which have evolved in recent years in relation to discipline are more positive than what is reflected in the code of behaviour. It is recommended therefore that the code be reviewed and amended to document practices as evidenced in classroom visits and, where necessary, further embrace a more positively oriented whole school approach to discipline. It is also suggested that the revised code be written in a more user friendly presentational style.

 

An abridged version of the code of behaviour listing the school rules is contained in the student journal, while the staff handbook contains a version which outlines the procedures and the ladder of referral for dealing with discipline issues.  The inclusion of procedures in the staff handbook is good practice in promoting consistency among all members of staff in their handling of discipline issues.  The recording of all disciplinary issues in the Pinnacle grade book is also to be commended as an effective way of ensuring due process for all students.  However, these procedural steps are not contained in the overall policy document, nor in the student journal.  Furthermore, the right of appeal has been omitted from the student journal. It is recommended that cognisance be taken of these omissions when reviewing the overall code of behaviour and all related documents to ensure clarity and transparency in all aspects of discipline.

 

All suspensions in excess of five days are sent to the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) with a full outline of the reasons for suspension.  However, it was reported that in certain situations, a system of internal suspension is operated for students deemed to be ‘at risk’ if left at home unsupervised. While the school’s care for these students is to be commended, it is recommended that in the interests of equity for all students, such suspensions, if formalised, should also be reported to the NEWB. It is also important to remain cognisant of the fact that while the deputy principal and deans manage discipline within the school, the sanction of suspension or expulsion must be implemented and signed off by the principal. 

 

Attendance is monitored by a special duties post holder and through the auspices of the school completion programme.  A register which records attendance, lateness and absence is taken at the beginning of each lesson and entered onto the Pinnacle system.  An overview of a student’s profile can indicate patterns of attendance at school and at lessons, of punctuality and of absence. Every effort is made to contact parents of junior cycle students on the day of the student’s absence and it was reported that parents have responded very positively to this intervention.  The provision of a school bus for students living in one particular area has also led to improved attendance which had heretofore been problematic. A manual record is currently kept of all absences and a letter is issued to parents in the event of unexplained absences.  All cases of absences of twenty or more days are reported to the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB).  The school’s efforts to monitor and improve attendance are to be commended.

 

New teachers reported being well supported by colleagues.  While each of them has been assigned to a master teacher, they reported feeling able to approach any member of staff for help.  They also praised the pastoral care of students in the school.  They had induction at the beginning of the academic year and were au fait with disciplinary protocols and procedures.  School management and staff are to be commended for their support of new teachers.

 

The school has fostered links, over the years, with local and business communities. This has led to significant support for the school in the area of Information and Communication Technology.  In addition, the school is linked with a leading financial organisation as part of their involvement in the Business in the Community programme. This strategy supports students who have experienced disadvantage through the provision of a mentoring programme, over a period of two years, preparing students for the world of work.  This programme is co-ordinated by a special duties post holder.

 

There are good sporting links with the local community, in particular St John’s GAA club. These have been built up over the years.  It is envisaged that such links will be furthered in the years to come with the building of an all-weather sports pitch which will be made available for use by local sporting clubs.  The school also opens its doors each Wednesday night to the local L’Arche club which organises activities for adults with learning disabilities. 

 

Ballinteer Community School has also been a participant in the Trinity Access Programme (TAP), whereby eligible students interested in pursuing third level studies are supported by the programme through the provision of parent evenings, workshops, work shadowing and additional tuition.  Students from the school have also benefited from bursaries sponsored by different business organisations.  The school is to be commended for its pursuit of business and community links as a means of supporting students into and through further education and also for sharing its resources to benefit members of the local community.

 

 

2.4          Management of resources

 

In the current year Ballinteer Community School has an overall staff allocation of 36.47 teachers. This includes 20.31 whole-time equivalents for ordinary enrolment and the Leaving Certificate Applied programme. Ex-quota posts include the principal, two learning support (remedial) teachers, three resource teachers, one home school community liaison teacher, one chaplain and an equivalence of .59 for guidance.  Concessions include an allocation of .16 whole time equivalence supernumerary, 1.23 for curricular concessions, 1 for international students, 4.43 for special needs and .75 for students from the travelling community.  There is also an allocation of nine special needs assistants.  Ancillary staff includes two secretaries, one clerical officer, three caretakers, one attendant, two nursing assistants and two registration assistants who are employed under the school completion programme.  There is also a school completion co-ordinator.  There are 27 permanent whole-time teachers including the principal and deputy principal, one temporary whole-time teacher and seven regular part-time teachers.  There are four higher diploma students working in the school in the current year.

 

Senior management reported full co-operation from staff in implementing the substitution and supervision process.  However, an examination of the timetable revealed that there is no provision for supervision or substitution for the last class period or supervision at the end of the school day. This has resulted, in some instances, in students being sent home from school early.  It is recommended that this issue be resolved as a matter of urgency in line with circular PPT01/03.

 

Teachers are generally deployed in terms of their subject specialisms.  Senior management reported prioritising the curricular needs and preferences of students in descending order beginning with sixth years. This approach, however, has implications for the choice and time allocation of subjects offered to students particularly in the lowest ability stream of each year of junior cycle.  For example, following a review of the timetable, it was noted that subject option blocks at senior cycle generally have four teachers and, in some cases, five for a fifth year cohort of sixty two students and four for a sixth year cohort of forty two students. In some cases there are two teachers for the same subject in the same block. It was also noted, that students in the lowest ability streams in first and second year have been allocated fewer periods for certain subjects than those in the higher ability streams. Senior management attributed this to a shortage of subject specific personnel in these subject areas to teach the optimum quota of hours to these students. It is recommended that, in the interests of equity of educational provision for all students, the deployment of staff, particularly at senior cycle, be reviewed to ensure the necessary availability of subject specific personnel for all subjects at junior cycle.

 

Difficulties concerning the optimum deployment of special needs assistants in the classroom were reported where, on occasions, a teacher could have three or four SNA’s present in any one lesson. This can adversely impact on the overall dynamic of a class. Senior management, in consultation with staff, needs to consider how best SNA’s may be deployed to ensure appropriate support for students and subject teachers.

 

There is good support for continued professional development in Ballinteer Community School.  Teachers are released for all relevant inservice and efforts are made to support teachers who undertake further professional study or courses.  Senior management reported availing of ongoing professional development through the auspices of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD).  They also reported having attended seminars on leadership organised by outside agencies such as the ESB.  Attendance at and support for ongoing professional development by both management and staff is good practice and to be commended.

 

The school is in its last year in the current building. Members of the board of management spoke about their dilemma concerning the spending of monies on a building that is soon to be demolished while at the same time maintaining acceptable health and safety standards for the current year.  There was evidence of some health and safety issues surrounding electrical fittings in the changing rooms and a broken window in the sports hall area and it is recommended that these are dealt with as a matter of urgency. The current building also lacks clear signage in relation to entrance into the reception area of the school building.  However, it is expected that this issue will be addressed in the new school building.

 

Classrooms in Ballinteer Community School are teacher based. Most classrooms were well kept and many of them had displays of subject related posters and samples of students’ work. This is good practice as a means of affirming student effort and stimulating further interest in the subject. Art projects, particularly in the area of three dimensional work in clay, were visible from the corridors, thus facilitating a constant reminder of the high quality work that can be and has been created by the students over the years. There were displays of photographs celebrating student achievement on the walls of the corridors and an awards board listing students of the year in the entrance hall.  Notice boards for student affairs were also in evidence in different areas of the school.  Management and staff are to be commended for their efforts to maintain cheerful and stimulating classrooms and corridors in the final days of the current building. 

 

The school is well resourced in terms of Information and Communication Technology.  As mentioned earlier the school has, over the years, acquired computers from different companies and, in addition to the grants provided by the Department of Education and Science, currently has sufficient hardware to furnish an ICT room for general use and a separate computer room for LCA students.  The school is to be commended for developing the appropriate networks to access such resources. Each classroom is also equipped with a computer which can be used as a teaching tool as well as access to the Pinnacle system.

 

There are currently no department budgets for the purchasing of resources. It is suggested, however, that with the further development of subject department planning, consideration might be given to the allocation of budgets to enable subject departments identify and prioritise needs and requisition resources in a systematic and controlled way.

 

The school has a well stocked careers library.  However, the general school library is currently out of use.  It is recommended that active use of the school library be regenerated and promoted for all students on transfer to the new school building.

 

 

3.         Quality of school planning

 

Ballinteer Community School has been engaged in the school development planning process since the outset. The school was very active in the early years of the millennium with interventions from the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) where planning aims and objectives were identified for development.  In more recent years, the school has liaised with the Teaching and Learning 21 team from Maynooth to aid the staff in the areas of curricular and subject planning.  A planning day to further this development has been organised for the current academic year.  The school is to be commended for its willingness to embrace the process of school development planning from the outset.

 

The school has the policies required by the legislation in place, many of which are contained in either a full or abbreviated version in the staff handbook distributed at the beginning of the academic year.  The inclusion of relevant policies in the handbook is good practice and to be commended as it reminds all staff members of their responsibilities and of correct procedures where relevant. The school has a child protection policy which is included in the staff handbook. In addition, the Board reported having ratified the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004) for use in the school. Concerning the policy already in place by the school, senior management indicated that, where relevant, the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools would take precedence.  In order to avoid confusion it is recommended that a single whole school policy on child protection be drawn up and presented to the board for ratification and implementation. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

A development plan incorporating the school context and its characteristic spirit with its vision for the future was drawn up in 2004.  This plan identified a series of priorities including teaching and learning, general appearance and discipline of students, student morale and achievement, student intake, communications, involvement of parents and publicity. A further development plan has been drawn up for the years 2006 to 2008 in which the same priorities have been re-established with some amendments and an additional priority entitled transition and initiative included.

 

The new plan also includes a calendar for the implementation of the priorities outlined in the plan. Subcommittees have been established to respond to some of the priorities and are currently at different stages of development as evidenced in the frequency of the meetings and decisions taken and implemented.  However, while the work to date in relation to school development planning is to be commended, there is some concern as to the inclusive nature of the process. It is stated in the development plan calendar that representation on subcommittees is to be invited from all members of staff. These subcommittees however currently comprise only members of senior management, assistant principals and two special duties post holders. Furthermore, meetings of these subcommittees take place on a Wednesday at the time allocated for the weekly AP meeting.  There was also evidence to suggest that the drafting of some of the policies did not involve all the relevant education partners.  Students, for example, were not consulted in the drafting of the code of behaviour.  While it is laudable that these plans and policies, which are a statutory requirement, are in place, the manner in which they are developed is equally important. It is recommended that, when reviewing or developing new plans and policies, the process should be one of dialogue and collaboration with all the relevant partners in order to ensure whole school ownership of the school development planning process. Furthermore, any strategies for school improvement developed by the subcommittees need to be disseminated to all members of staff for active implementation to the benefit of all students. For example, there has been commendable work informed by a process of reflection and concern for motivating the higher ability students and carried out by the subcommittee on teaching and learning.  However, it is currently only implemented with certain classes and by the members of the committee.  It is recommended that the good practices emanating from the work of this subcommittee should be extended for use by all relevant teachers.

 

The transfer to the new school building may be an opportune time for initiating a review of some of the above-mentioned policies to ensure that they fully comply with all recent legislation. The current admissions policy needs to be reviewed in this context.  It is suggested then that the policies, once ratified and dated by the board of management, be incorporated into a permanent section of the school plan along with the context of the school, its characteristic spirit, and its vision for the future as outlined in the current developmental plan.  A corresponding school planning file reflecting the development nature of the school plan could include all previous drafts and minuted records of all planning meetings.  Consideration could also be given to appointing a designated co-ordinator for school planning.

 

 

4.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

4.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Ballinteer Community School currently offers four programmes, Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY), established Leaving Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA).  It operates a forty one period week which includes a half day on Wednesday and an early evening closure on Friday afternoon.  While the school operates a twenty eight hour week in terms of class contact, forty minutes is allocated to pastoral care for ten minutes on four days per week. The use of this time needs to be kept under consideration in order to be fully compliant with the time in school circular M29/95. Examination of the timetable also indicated that students in the first year of LCA finish school at 3.30pm instead of 4.10pm on three afternoons per week, while those in the second year of LCA finish early on one afternoon per week.  This issue needs to be addressed as the school is currently not in compliance with the above mentioned circular in relation to the implementation of the LCA programmes.

 

There are three class groups within each year group at junior cycle.  Senior management reported that while the numbers in Ballinteer Community School would normally warrant the formation of only two class groups, the decision was taken to create a third grouping.  The reason given was that the withdrawal system for students with special needs was not fully effective due to poor levels of attendance among these students and that a third mainstream grouping was considered a better option.  Classes at junior cycle are streamed and the trend in recent years has been to create smaller class groups in the highest and lowest ability streams.  There is concurrent timetabling for Irish and mathematics thus allowing for some movement of students and the possibility of a transfer to a higher ability stream for all subjects also exists.  However, consensus from at least five teachers is required for a student to be permanently moved up or down a stream. This requirement, along with other constraints such as subject provision, offers students in the lowest ability stream little hope of upward movement if they have been wrongly placed in their first year.  Two class groups are combined for some subjects at junior cycle.  However, where it has occurred, the tendency has been to combine the two lower ability streams.  The combining of the two lower ability streams, which in the current context, comprises the largest grouping and the class containing all the students with special educational needs (SEN) has the potential to impact negatively on the quality of teaching and learning and, as such, needs to be reviewed.  There are two class groups in TY, three in fifth year and two in sixth year. In addition there is one class group of students in each year of the LCA programme. 

 

In the interests of all students and of best practice, it is recommended that the current practice of streaming, be reviewed.  Consideration should be given to introducing mixed-ability groupings, with the possibility of concurrent timetabling for subjects where there is a need to differentiate in teaching and learning.  Consideration could also be given to accessing inservice on differentiated teaching through the Second Level Support Service (SSLS) as a means of supporting such a transition and ensuring optimum academic and social outcomes for all students.

 

Transition Year (TY) is compulsory for all students with the exception of those who intend pursuing the Leaving Certificate Applied programme or those students deemed to be in danger of leaving school early if obliged to do TY.  There is currently no whole school Transition Year plan.  The current timetable for TY students is primarily academic in orientation, offering modules of subjects which are taken at senior cycle and there was evidence to suggest that the work being carried out in some of the subjects related specifically to the Leaving Certificate programme. This runs contrary to the philosophy underpinning the TY programme. It is recommended that an annual TY plan be drawn up incorporating the curriculum principles outlined in the circular M01/00 and referenced in the document entitled Transition Year Programmes – Guidelines for Schools.

 

Transition Year students also engage in a range of leisure, cultural and charitable activities during the year for which they are withdrawn from class.  A set period of time should be allocated on the timetable for activities such as rehearsals for the TY musical or play, visiting speakers and workshops to ensure that withdrawal from other lessons is kept to a minimum.  Work experience is another activity central to the TY programme. Students are expected to find their own placements for two weeks work experience.  It was reported that some students in previous years found themselves unable to get placements and remained at home for the work experience fortnight. It is recommended that additional work placements be sourced through the school’s networks or an alternative work-related module be organised for students unable to source work placements themselves.  The effective implementation of the Transition Year programme is a whole school issue and, as such, needs to be addressed by school management as a matter of urgency.

 

On completion of Transition Year, students have the option of following the established Leaving Certificate or the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.  The LCA programme has been running in the school for several years and teachers reported good success in retaining students in school until they have completed the Leaving Certificate Applied examination.  Daily attendance, which is monitored, and general behaviour were also reported to be good among LCA students.  It was also indicated that many of these students have pursued careers in the area of the specialisms taken as part of the programme.  The same teachers tend to be involved with the programme from year to year and attendance at inservice is facilitated for all concerned.  This was reported as helpful in promoting a team approach and ambience. The co-ordination of the programme is carried out as a special duties post of responsibility and duties include the administration of the programme, recording students’ credits, collecting and retaining key assignments, ensuring that all students have work placements and co-ordinating meetings.  There is a formal team meeting at the beginning of the academic year, followed by informal meetings throughout the year.  As part of the end-of-year awards ceremony, success is celebrated through the LCA student of the year and the most improved student of the year.  It was noted that LCA students are not formally timetabled for religious education. It is important for management to address this issue to ensure that the school is not in breach of the deeds of trust for community schools concerning the provision of religious education.

 

The school aims to offer students a broad curriculum responding to their academic and pastoral needs.  This includes a range of academic, practical and pastoral subjects.  Commitment to music is facilitated by the voluntary work of a parent who organises and directs the school choir.  Students are also afforded the opportunity to learn a musical instrument as part of extra curricular activities.  The contribution of all persons involved in supporting music in the school is to be commended.

 

There is evidence of a positive gender balance in the study of subjects traditionally perceived to be male or female oriented.  This is to be commended.  However, management and staff need to be mindful as to whether this arises as a result of subject allocation rather than student choice.

 

 

4.2           Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students’ subject choices at junior cycle are dictated by the class group to which they belong. Incoming students are allocated to classes on the basis of their placement assessments.  This is communicated to parents in an information pack distributed to them at a meeting prior to entry into the school.  Students from the top two class groupings make subject choices on entry into first year.  Students in the third grouping are assigned a range of subjects with a significant emphasis on practical subjects. Science is a core subject for the top two streams at junior cycle, while the study of a modern European language is core for the top two streams in first and second year. Neither science nor a modern European language is offered to students in the lowest ability stream in any year group at junior cycle.  The failure to offer students the option of studying these subjects, as highlighted in some previous inspection reports issued to the school, needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency as it may have adverse consequences for their future.  It is also important to ensure that the parents of these students are fully cognisant of the restricted nature of their child’s curriculum.  Members of the parents’ association, for example, when asked, indicated that they were not aware of the limited curriculum offered to students in the third grouping.

 

Furthermore, first-year students in the two higher ability streams are timetabled for thirteen subjects, while those in the lowest ability stream are timetabled for fourteen.  It is recommended that this be reviewed and consideration be given to offering students with special learning needs fewer subjects with more time for each subject.  It was also noted that there is a strong emphasis on practical subjects for the students in the lowest ability streams, all of whom study art, home economics and metalwork.  It is suggested that student interest, progress and attainment in these subjects be evaluated and compared to interest, progress and attainment in other subjects to ensure that the subjects offered to these students are the best fit subjects for them. As mentioned in an earlier section, students in some of the lower ability streams do not have the same number of lesson periods per week in some subjects as those in the top ability streams. This is of concern and needs to be reviewed as all students are expected to complete the same programme for their certificate examinations. Such a review also needs to take into account the timing of lessons.  For example second-year students in the lowest ability stream currently have three periods of business studies per week, two on Thursday and one on Friday.  Best practice, however, would advocate the spacing of lesson periods at regular intervals throughout the week. 

 

Prior to entry into the established Leaving Certificate programme, students indicate their subject preferences on the basis of an open choice.  These are then put into option blocks from which they choose.  A high satisfaction rate was reported.  Alternative solutions such as offering subjects outside of school hours have also been used to respond to individual students’ needs where the uptake of the subject was not sufficient to warrant the formation of a class. Students are supported in the choosing of their subjects by the guidance service which organises careers information, visits to third level open days, guest speakers and meetings with parents.  This is to be commended.

 

 

4.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

Students in Ballinteer Community School participate in and benefit from a wide range of co- and extra-curricular activities.  Some activities are open to all students while others involve a particular student cohort.

 

There is a strong tradition of soccer and basketball with teams at both junior and senior levels experiencing good inter-school and regional success.  Practice takes place at lunchtime and after school and team successes are well publicised throughout the school.  Other organised lunchtime activities such as aerobics and dance offer students the opportunity to participate in non-competitive activities promoting physical fitness and well-being.  The school’s concern to meet the pastoral needs of all students is evident in the provision of wheelchair hurling for students with physical disabilities. The co-ordinators of co- and extra-curricular sporting activities are to be commended for their commitment to all students in the school and to the promotion of their physical well-being.

 

First-year students engage in a range of activities organised for them. Senior cycle students take part in debating and public speaking competitions sponsored by agencies such as Trócaire, the Irish Times and the Mental Health Association.  They also participate in the Gaisce awards scheme and in the Model United Nations. Involvement in such activities contributes greatly to building up students’ self-esteem and confidence for life both during and after school. Teachers are to be commended for their enthusiasm and dedication in promoting these activities which contribute to the holistic development of the student both as an individual and as a member of a team.

 

Cultural activities for TY students include the staging of an annual play or musical which invites active involvement from staff, students and parents.  They also partake in an annual French language trip.  Students reported this activity as one of the highlights of their transition year.  A French cultural exchange is also organised with a school in France.  Teachers also organise and accompany TY and senior cycle students on visits to the theatre. 

 

The tradition and organisation of co- and extra-curricular activities in Ballinteer Community School reflects the above mentioned caring and inclusive ambience reported by the students and parents. This is to be commended.

 

 

5.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

5.1          Planning and preparation

 

Management provides subject departments with the opportunity to meet formally twice a year at the beginning and again at the end of the school year. A member or members of each department undertake the position of coordinator. Should this position become vacant due to unforeseen circumstances it is suggested that another member of the department assume responsibility thus maintaining continued progress within the department.

 

Long-term planning for each of the subjects inspected is in progress. This is to be commended. However, increased collaboration is needed to integrate teachers’ individual planning into the creation of one succinct department document. Greater collaboration would also facilitate the sharing of ideas and address issues such as strategies for the uptake of subjects and levels and planning for resources.  Best practice also promotes self-review and evaluation of plans.

 

There were good examples of the integration of ICT in a number of the subjects inspected.  However, greater planning for accessing and using ICT as a teaching tool is recommended as a means of enhancing teaching and learning activities in all subjects. In certain subjects the use of such facilities has been unnecessarily deferred until the new school building is completed.

 

Short-term planning for the subjects inspected was commendable.  Some of these plans included detailed teaching and learning strategies for the lesson, learning outcomes associated with the lesson or the use of a flow diagram to illustrate the plan for a lesson.  Planning for handouts and resources used during lessons was commendable with many of the materials necessary for the teaching of the subjects prepared in advance and available to hand.

 

Teaching and learning

 

Lessons observed were well structured, appropriately paced and conducted in a positive manner. Best practice was observed when teachers began by explicitly stating the learning intention for the lesson.  It is recommended that such practice be extended to all lessons thus ensuring that students participate fully from the outset.

 

There was evidence of good classroom management throughout and any discipline issues were dealt with effectively and appropriately.  Teachers circulated, affirming students in their efforts, helping and advising them and ensuring their full attention. This supportive atmosphere contributed to a positive learning environment in all lessons.

 

A range of methodologies was observed throughout. There was very good use of question and answer sessions in many of the lessons observed.  Students were challenged in many instances, through the use of higher order questioning techniques, to develop, justify and think through their answers. This is to be commended. Pair and group work, peer review and investigative methods were effectively used in some lessons to promote active student engagement and independent learning. This is also to be commended.  Commendable attention to the differentiated needs of students through the use of tasks ensuring some level of success for all students was also observed in some lessons.  It is recommended that these good practices be extended to all lessons where they are not currently in use. 

 

There was very good use of the target language and subject specific terminology and concepts by the teacher in most of the lessons observed. This good practice is to be commended. It is suggested that the use of the target language be extended to all lessons and that greater opportunities be provided to students to practise and develop their oral skills.  Greater use of the target language by both teachers and students should help reduce the ongoing use of translation as observed in some lessons. There was good integration of the different language skills in the most of the language lessons observed.

 

Well prepared, interesting and creative resources including work sheets, cartoons, drawings, sudoku puzzles and quizzes were used in some of the lessons observed.  The use of such resources is commendable practice as a means of promoting learning as an enjoyable activity.  It is suggested that greater use of interesting, varied and up to date resources would enhance the learning in some subjects.

 

There was evidence of active student engagement and positive learning outcomes with many students presenting as confident and capable learners of their subject. 

 

Assessment

 

Assessment modes include question and answer sessions, homework, end of topic tests and formal examinations. Examination year groupings, excluding the LCA students, sit mock examinations.

 

There was evidence of good attention to the assignment and correction of homework in all subjects inspected.  A review of student copies also indicated high standards in the quality of the work being presented for correction in some subjects. This is to be commended.  The use of student self-assessment sheets in some lessons is commended as it enabled students to fully participate in their own learning. However, there is a need for vigilance when students are recording homework in their journals. While there is good attention to motivating some of the students in the top stream, there was evidence to suggest that more attention needs to be paid to student progress and uptake of levels in the certificate examinations in some subjects to ensure that all students are being challenged to reach their full potential.

 

Attendance and assessments are recorded in the diaries provided to teachers and on the Pinnacle system. Communication between the school and the home is maintained through the student journal and parents receive written reports twice per year. Parent teacher meetings are held for each year group and the Pinnacle system is being developed to further aid accurate and consistent reporting and to highlight issues such as attendance and discipline to parents. It is hoped that records of formative assessments will also be recorded on the Pinnacle system.

 

 

6.         Quality of support for students

 

6.1          Students with special educational needs

 

There is an allocation of three resource teachers and a concession which has an equivalence of 4.43 teachers for students with special educational needs.  Ballinteer Community School has been providing education for students with physical disabilities since 1975 when a special unit was established. Its purpose was to meet the educational needs of these students within a mainstream setting while at the same time responding to the limitations placed on them by their disabilities.  The initial criterion for entry into this unit was that students would have the academic ability to follow a mainstream curriculum.  However, over time this unit has broadened its intake to accept students who have both specific physical and learning needs. This is to be commended.   There are currently fourteen students in the unit, all of whom follow the mainstream curriculum.  Two resource teachers have been allocated to co-ordinate the unit and support the students in different ways to ensure their full integration into school life.  This is done through the requisitioning of appropriate resources, a mentoring process, assisted homework, and individual or group academic support where necessary.  The physical needs of these students are met by two part-time health professionals. It was reported that requests to school management for resources are rarely refused. Some of these students have special needs assistants (SNA) to further support them in their work and academic development.  School management and staff are to be commended for the supportive environment created to meet the needs of students with physical disabilities.

 

The school also has a unit for students with a specific speech and language disorder.  However, the current cohort in the unit comprises students with borderline learning disabilities, dyslexia, literacy difficulties, developmental disorders and syndromes such as Aspergers.  Entry to the unit is based on prior application or, on occasion, upon recommendation from the guidance service.  These students are in mainstream classes, but are withdrawn individually or in small groups for language and literacy support.  Withdrawal is usually from Irish as most of them have exemptions and from religion.  There may be a need to review withdrawals from religion if it is envisaged that these students will sit religion as an examination subject for Junior Certificate or if it contravenes the religious requirements contained in the deeds of trust.   

 

In addition to the allocation for students with special needs, there is an allocation of two ex-quota posts for teachers of learning support (remedial) in the school.  However, there is currently no additional provision for learning support, either individually or in small groups, for students who are eligible for learning support according to the Department of Education and Science’s (DES) established criteria, but who are not in the SSLD unit.  Apart from English which is taught by the learning support teacher, the only concession to first and second-year students requiring learning support in the current year is the provision of one extra mathematics class per week for students in the lowest ability stream.  This however, is not necessarily taught by their mainstream mathematics teacher.  Furthermore, the provision of extra mathematics does not respond to the needs of students who require literacy support.  Third-year students who do not study Irish have six periods of English per week.  There appears to be no provision for students who may require some support on a short-term basis.

 

Given the significant allocations provided for students who require learning support or have special educational needs there is a need to review the current overall curriculum provision and support in order to ensure that their academic and pastoral needs are being met.   While these students follow the mainstream programme for all their subjects, there is no formal consultation or collaboration with subject teachers in relation to the development of education plans or appropriate teaching methodologies to meet their needs. The provision for special educational needs and learning support is a whole school issue and any policies and planning should involve the entire school community.  While there was evidence of discrete policies and planning for the students with physical disabilities and the students in the SSLD unit, there is a need for a whole school approach to issues relating to special educational needs and learning support. It is recommended that a whole school policy on the provision of education for students with SEN or students requiring learning support be developed to include the involvement of the entire teaching staff, senior management, the board of management and parents, students and special needs assistants as appropriateIt is also recommended that a formal information and planning meeting between the resource, learning support and subject teachers be organised at the beginning of each academic year and that opportunities for further meetings be afforded during the year to support subject teachers in their work and to evaluate students’ progress

 

 

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

 

The school has an allocation of one teacher for international students.  This is used to provide these students with lessons in English as a second language.  These lessons take place at lunchtime. Supports for parents of international students are available through the provision of English language and literacy classes organised by the adult education section in the school.  Contacts have been initiated at local community level and with many of the relevant embassies to inform these parents of the availability of these classes.  The provision of such supports is to be commended.

 

The school participates in the home school and community liaison (HSCL) scheme.  This service has, over the years since its introduction, promoted greater contact with parents through organised meetings in the school and the provision of courses to support them in the education of their children.  The HSCL scheme in Ballinteer Community School is currently operating in a limited way.  School management needs to actively consider ways of addressing the current limitations to ensure that the full provision of this valuable service is available to the school community.

 

Many of the supports available to students experiencing disadvantage are also provided through the auspices of the school completion programme. This programme operates a very successful breakfast club each morning and subsidises the purchase of a certain number of fresh sandwiches at lunchtime. It also finances and supports organised activities at lunchtime and outside of school for students living in disadvantaged areas.  The programme also contributes to the financing of a school bus from one particular catchment area.  This has facilitated the more punctual arrival of many students, who had previously been experiencing transport difficulties coming to school. Outreach programmes provide counselling supports and promote greater contact with parents in the community.  The work of the school completion programme is to be commended.

 

 

6.3          Guidance

 

Section 9 of the Education Act, 1998 states that a school shall use its available resources to:  ensure that students have access to appropriate guidance to assist them in their educational and career choices.  In order to fulfil this legislative requirement, each school is expected to develop a guidance plan. This should be a whole school activity that is integrated into all school programmes.  There is currently no whole school plan for guidance in Ballinteer Community School.  However, plans are in place to develop one as a whole school activity in the current academic year.

Ballinteer Community School has .59 of an ex-quota position for the provision of the guidance service.  Management supplements this provision by allocating the equivalent of one fulltime post to the provision of guidance.  This time allocation is divided approximately equally between the provision of careers guidance and counselling.  The guidance service aims to meet all students during the course of the school year beginning with first and sixth- year students.  Assessments for incoming first-year students are also co-ordinated through the guidance service and, as mentioned in an earlier section, students are placed in class groups based on the outcome of these assessments, the provision of psychological reports and other relevant information accrued from parents and visits to the primary schools.  Access to appropriate guidance at junior cycle is fulfilled through the interlinking of the guidance service and the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme. The guidance service for third-year students focuses on study skills, decision making and the administration of the Differential Aptitude Tests (DAT’s) and an interest inventory to all students.  Careers information, visits to open days, invited speakers and information nights for parents underpin the TY guidance programme in preparation for students’ subject choices at senior cycle.  Senior cycle focuses on careers counselling and preparation for the world of work or further study. A guidance module for students of LCA is also taught by the guidance service.

 

There are no timetabled lessons for guidance.  Classes are borrowed from other teachers when needed.  In the absence of timetabled classes, it is essential that a detailed scheme of work outlining the programme and time allocation for each class group be drawn up and also made available to senior management in order to ensure that all classes receive the appropriate access to guidance as laid out in the Education Act. Consideration should also be given to introducing a timetabled period for guidance at senior cycle in order to maximise student access to and contact with the service. 

 

Students have access to a varied range of resources.  There is an appointment system to facilitate individual meetings with the guidance counsellor.  The careers library has recently been updated and catalogued by some of the past Transition Year students as part of their participation in the Gaisce awards scheme.  ICT facilities are also available for downloading information and applying on line to the Central Applications Office.  Open access to such resources is to be commended. 

   

Personal counselling is available to all students either though the guidance or, in certain cases, the chaplaincy services.  It was reported that there has been an increase in the numbers of students requesting personal counselling in recent years. Where necessary the guidance service liaises with the appropriate outside agencies. There is also contact between the guidance service and subject teachers in order to inform them if students are experiencing difficulty or to ensure that vulnerable students are coping in class. Members of the guidance service are also involved in the continuous professional development offered by their professional association and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). This is to be commended.

 

 

6.4          Pastoral care

 

Students in each class group in Ballinteer Community School are assigned a tutor to look after their pastoral needs.   There is a time allocation of forty minutes each week which is divided into four ten minute sessions.  There is no formal pastoral care programme.  Tutors take a roll, check on absences and use the remaining time as they deem appropriate. This can include general discussion or specific activities to help students bond or improve their learning.  This time can also be used by the deans to hold short assemblies.  For example, students in an examination year were addressed by their dean and advised as to how to make best use of their time during the mid-term break.  Such interventions are to be commended as evidence of a holistic approach to care for the students.  It is important to use this period as instructional time to provide genuine learning experiences for the students.

  

The development of a buddy system for first-year students is further evidence of the school’s efforts to meet the pastoral needs of all students.  Transition Year students are assigned to the incoming first-year students, accompanying them to their different classes at the beginning of the year, showing them around the school and supporting them throughout the year through the organisation of different activities in making a successful transition into their new school. This is commendable practice.

 

A care team, comprising the deputy principal, the guidance counsellor, the home school and community liaison co-ordinator, the chaplain and the school completion officer meet each week to discuss the care needs of the students and how best they may be met.  Information of a need to know nature is disseminated and the progress of particular students is reviewed.  Disciplinary issues of a serious nature and the sanctions accorded are brought to the attention of the care team. The provision of appropriate supports for certain students either in or out of school is also discussed.  The work of the care team is effectively supported by the earlier mentioned organised and committed school completion programme.  Members of the care team are to be commended for their strong commitment to the pastoral needs of the students.

 

The school organises a successful awards night each year to celebrate student effort and achievement.  Students of the year have their names inscribed on a roll of honour displayed at the entrance to the school.  This is to be commended.

 

The school has an active student council comprising members from Transition Year, fifth and sixth year.  Each year group represents the students in its own year and also its corresponding year group in junior cycle.  Students nominate themselves, thus indicating their interest and commitment to promoting student welfare. Members are then elected from the group of nominees.  Any member in serious breach of the code of behaviour is asked to step down from his / her position. The student council, which is co-ordinated by the deputy principal, meets every two weeks and minutes are taken of the proceedings. This is good practice and to be commended. A notice board has been provided on the corridor for the posting up of notices relating to the student council, including the list of its members. The school council coordinates fundraising and brings forward proposals from students to senior management.  For example, the student council has contributed significantly to the proposals currently being drawn up to introduce a new school uniform.  Members of the student council are to be commended for their positive contribution to their peers and to the school.

 

 

7.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Ballinteer Community School is a caring and inclusive school, accepting students of all academic abilities.

·         The board of management is properly constituted, is aware of its role and responsibilities and has identified priorities for the school.

·         Senior management present as a united team. Assistant principals contribute as a middle management team to the running of the school.

·         There is good communication between the school and parents, through the use of the school journal, newsletter, parent teacher meetings and the school completion programme. Good business and community links have also been developed over the years

·         Ballinteer Community School has the policies required by the legislation in place and the school’s developmental plan has prioritised five areas for development as they move into their new phase of school development in the new building. 

·         The school offers a broad and comprehensive curriculum and efforts are made at senior cycle to ensure that students can pursue the subjects of their choice.

·         ICT is well resourced in the school and there are computers in every classroom.  A computerised system is currently being used and developed for the purpose of record keeping and reporting.

·         The school involves itself in a broad range of co- and extra-curricular activities.

·         The evaluation of teaching and learning in the subject areas inspected indicated a strong commitment to quality in educational provision.

·         There is good whole school support and provision for students with physical disabilities in terms of material resources and academic and pastoral support.

·         There is good pastoral care and support for students.

 

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

 

·        The board of management needs to be more proactive in initiating policy development

and review, establishing specific targets and monitoring strategies to increase and expand enrolment in the new school.

·        A review of senior management duties is recommended with the possibility of realigning some of these duties within senior management or delegating them to middle management level.

·        Structures should be put in place to allow for a regular and systematic review of posts of responsibility and their associated duties to ensure that they are best meeting the emergent needs of the school.  This review should involve senior management, the entire teaching staff and the board of management who have ultimate responsibility for the scheduling of posts.

·        The code of behaviour needs to be reviewed in consultation with all relevant partners and should incorporate the concept of positive discipline which is reflected in many of the current practices in the school.

·        Tuition time and supervision and substitution arrangements need to be reviewed to ensure optimum educational provision for students as outlined in circulars M29/95 and PPT 01/03.

·        It is recommended that staff be deployed more effectively to ensure optimum use of resources in providing equity of educational provision for all students.

·        There is a need to review the planning process to include greater consultation and collaboration with the relevant partners. Some existing policies need to be reviewed in light of current legislation.

·        It is recommended that the current method of streaming and provision of subject choices be addressed to ensure a balanced curriculum and optimum social integration for all students.

·        The current Transition Year programme needs to be reviewed to take into account the need for annual planning and review, teaching methodologies appropriate to the principles of TY, timetabling and the provision of work related experiences for all students thereby ensuring optimum learning experiences for the students.

·        Ongoing vigilance is recommended in relation to the uptake of levels and standards of attainment to ensure that all students are challenged to reach their full potential.

·        Curriculum provision and supports for students with special educational needs or students requiring learning support needs to be addressed. It is recommended that a whole school policy on the provision of education for students with SEN and students requiring learning support needs be developed. There is also a need for greater collaboration and formalised planning between the resource and learning support services and subject teachers in order to best meet the needs of these students.

·        A review of the current guidance provision should be considered in order to maximise student access to and contact with the service.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

·         Subject Inspection of History– 23 October 2006

·         Subject Inspection of Irish – 23 October 2006

·         Subject Inspection of Mathematics– 26 October 2006

·         Subject Inspection of PE – 26 October 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Appendix

 

                                                            School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board accepts the report of the Department of Education and Science inspectors and is satisfied that it captures the spirit and work ethos of the school.  The Board is pleased with the many commendations contained in the report and with the acknowledgement of the strengths and unique features of the school.  These include

Ø     A caring and inclusive attitude to students of all abilities

Ø     Good communication between the school and parents

Ø     A united senior management team and well briefed Board

Ø     An integrated use of Information Technology in the classroom for Teaching and Learning

Ø     The required policies in place and a development plan with priorities

Ø     A broad range of extra curricular activities

Ø     A strong commitment to quality in education provision and in the area of teaching and learning

Ø     A broad and comprehensive curriculum

Ø     Good community relationships

 

The Board acknowledges the professionalism, diligence and sensitivity of the Inspectors.

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

The Board has decided to prioritise the recommendations with a view to their evaluation and implementation.

Ø       The Board is considering its role in regard to establishing targets for enrolment in the new school.

Ø       The schedule of Posts of Responsibility has already been reviewed.

Ø       The provision of subjects for all students is being reviewed.

Ø       The Code of Behaviour is being reviewed to incorporate recommendations of the Inspectors.

Ø       Supervision arrangements are being undertaken to ensure optimum educational provision.

Ø       The current practice of student class placement is being evaluated and reviewed

Ø       The Transition Year plan for the next school year is being prepared and reviewed incorporating the recommendations of the Inspectors.

Ø       The current overall provision and support for students who require learning support is being reviewed.

Ø       Religious Education will be provided for Leaving Certificate Applied as recommended.