An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Whole School Evaluation
Roll number: 60042F
Date of inspection: 26 September 2008
A whole school evaluation was carried out on Coláiste Íosagáin in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation the quality of teaching and learning in four subjects was evaluated, French, English, Mathematics, Science and Chemistry, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section 7 for details). 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.
Coláiste Íosagáin started out on a site beside Carysfort College when parents in South Dublin went to the Mercy Sisters in Carysfort seeking an all Irish school for to their daughters. In 1975, the school moved to its current site with Coláiste Eoin. There is great co-operation between the two schools, Coláiste Íosagáin and Coláiste Eoin, especially at senior cycle.
There are four hundred and eighty one girls enrolled in Coláiste Íosagáin. The majority of them come from all Irish feeder primary schools and a certain number of girls come from local English medium primary schools. The school forms part of the free education scheme of the Department of Education and Science.
Coláiste Íosagáin provides high quality education. The main aim of Coláiste Íosagáin is to run the school as a centre of learning where, “ the worthy traditions of Ireland are nurtured, faith, language, music and every other aspect of Irish culture”. Irish is at the heart of the school and an authentic Irish environment is created, which is noticeable the moment one passes through the main door of the school. A high academic standard of language and culture is nurtured in the school. The morning assembly is an effective daily occasion where Irish is fostered, daily announcements are made, successes are celebrated, and where music and prayer are combined to start the day. This daily occasion unites the school community and fosters and preserves the school’s ethos. It is an occasion which contributes to the school’s atmosphere. During the evaluation, the inspectors had many opportunities to observe the students while engaged in activities and while engaged in learning in classrooms. The students displayed dedication to Irish, to learning and to participation as well as loyalty to the school and to its aims, which contribute to the implementation of the characteristic spirit of the school.
The aims of the school are based on the ethos of the trustees: these Christian aims are both human and educational, and the influence of the Mercy nuns on the development of those aims was clearly in evidence. When the new trusteeships, CEIST (Catholic Education an Irish Schools Trust) and ERST (Edmund Rice Schools Trust), were being established, and because Coláiste Íosagáin and Coláiste Eoin were sharing the same site, the decision was taken that the two schools should be under the same trusteeship. Therefore, since September 2008, the school is under the trusteeship of ERST. In this context, it is recommended that the school’s ethos and aims continue to be fostered and that they should be developed under the new trusteeship. The existing co-operation between the two schools will facilitate such development. The trustees are in regular contact with the school.
Central to the education provided by Coláiste Íosagáin is the fostering of Christian values among the students. In 2002, the St. Vincent de Paul Society was re-established in the school. In line with the charity work of the trustees, this society focuses on those affected by poverty. In 2007 and 2008, the school was given the opportunity to participate in the Christian Brothers’ immersion education programme for developing countries. Both students and teachers from Coláiste Íosagáin spent a few weeks living and working in a developing country. This charitable work affords students with the opportunity to reflect on the problems of poverty and on social problems. In this way, the trusteeship’s philosophy is fostered and consolidated in the students by activities which give them the chance to gain an insight into the values and the faith which are part of the school’s ethos.
The school is under the direction of a board of management which has representatives from the trustees, the teachers and the parents. A great spirit of co-operation exists between the board members and the effectiveness of the communication among the school partners was attributed by the board to the leadership of the principal. The board members and the school community have a common purpose, the fostering of Irish and the preservation of Irish culture as a principal component of that purpose. This common vision has developed as a result of communication, participation and leadership of the trustees, the board and senior management of the school. The fostering of the trustees’ ethos is very important to the board and it is recognised as the first responsibility of the trustees on the board of management.
The board of management is a supportive one, according to the board itself, and it supports school management and staff in the provision of an all-Irish catholic education. The board members have complementary skills and expertise which are clearly of benefit to the school. Board members comprise ex-principals, past pupils from Coláiste Íosagáin and Coláiste Eoin, past parents, current parents of the school and representatives of the teaching staff. It was clear that they had an appreciation for students’ needs and of the way in which the board could enhance the effective management of the school. The parents’ representatives on the board wished to give something back to the school and to be active on behalf of the school. Two officers from the Students’ Council appear before the board once a year to give an account of their activities. The formal participation granted to students is commended.
The board operates effectively and fulfils its statutory duties optimally. The board is active in the development, implementation and review of the school’s policies and ensures that the school’s ethos is reflected in its policies. The board has prepared and published its safety statement. It was clear from the board’s minutes and from school documentation examined that policies come under regular review. One of the board’s central duties is the implementation of the school’s Admission’s policy each year, and the board is aware of the importance attached to reviewing such a policy. The board of management is advised to add an introduction to the entrance policy of the school explaining the historical background and the context of the school’s catchment area. Such an introduction would further elaborate for the wider school community the criteria and the order of the entrance criteria as set out in that policy. In the interests of openness, the statement which refers to feeder primary schools in the catchment area of other second level all-Irish schools should be removed.
Staff recruitment forms a very important aspect of the board’s work. A high standard of teaching was observed during the evaluation and it was clear that the board had worked hard on their recruitment processes. The board recognised that the most valuable resource for any school is the quality of the teaching staff. The board is mindful of facilitating continuous professional development (CPD) for the teaching staff, as far as possible. Some examples of involvement of staff in recent professional development facilitated by the school include the integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into teaching and learning; Assessment for Learning (AfL); the development of middle management; and the induction of newly appointed teachers.
The board holds regular meetings during the year and it was clear from the minutes of board meetings and from discussion with the board that the board is well-organised and efficient in its operation. The board has a finance sub-committee and this committee presents an annual account to the board and the trustees. The school asks for a voluntary contribution from parents each year and the parents are informed about expenditure. At the commencement of each three year period, the board looks at the priorities which exist for that period, and at the end of the period, they assess which objectives have been achieved. Priorities include infrastructural and curricular developments, as well as developments in planning and staffing. In this way, both infrastructural and educational development are ensured. The board are to be congratulated for this approach.
The principal functions as the secretary of the board and an agreed statement is shared so that all school partners are informed about events and decisions made by the board. Communication with parents is on the basis of collaboration and co-operation and parents’ participation in the work of the school is a longstanding tradition. From the outset, one parents’ association has operated for the two schools Coláiste Íosagáin and Coláiste Eoin. According to members of the Parents’ Association, there is regular reporting between the schools and the parents and they receive good, comprehensive and timely information. The association helps with the life of the school in various ways: collecting money, organising social nights and celebrations, organising guest speakers and lectures for parents. During the evaluation, senior management praised the hard work and good-will of the parents. The major role of the parents’ association, according to the parents representatives, is to support the two schools.
The principal demonstrates effective and understanding leadership. It is of great advantage to the school that the principal has been a member of the school community since its establishment. This ensures continuity in the fostering of the good qualities and the aims of the school. The leadership of the principal is recognised and acknowledged throughout the school community. The principal is a very definite leader with excellent communication skills. Her office door is always open and both teachers and students know that they are always welcome and that the principal always has a listening ear. She is attentive and makes every effort to predict problems before they happen. It was clear from contact with the students that the principal knew all the students and that respect underpinned communication on both sides.
An effective co-operative approach to school management was observed during the evaluation. The school’s senior management team comprises the principal and the deputy principal. The senior management team functions excellently providing leadership and direction to both teachers and students and there is regular contact regarding the overall running of the school. This co-operation between the principal and the deputy principal is based on mutual respect and on regular and open communication. They meet every morning before the day begins and again at the end of the day. Efficient and effective administrational, secretarial and caretaking supports in the school contribute to the smooth running and operation of the school.
The dedication of the in-school management team to achieve the aims of Coláiste Íosagáin was clearly in evidence and the vision of the college is interwoven into the managerial structures at every level in the college. Although they work as a team, both members of the senior management team are assigned tasks and undertake both major responsibilities and daily duties. For example, the responsibility for the time table is carried out by the principal and the deputy principal takes on the responsibility of school development planning. The effectiveness of the in-school management team’s leadership and collaboration has lead to the development of self-evaluation in the school. Now, review and evaluation are firmly embedded in the school’s culture.
Senior management and the year heads are diligent in relation to monitoring punctuality, attendance and retention of students. The pastoral care system of the year heads is making a real contribution to the management of students in particular and the management of the school in general. The year heads at senior cycle are assistant principals (AP) while the year heads at junior cycle hold special duties posts (SDT). Their way of working is an example of how different levels of management can work together rather than functioning independently of each other. The deputy principal liaises with the year heads from first, second and third year while the principal liaises with the year heads in Transition Year (TY), fifth and sixth year. During their weekly meetings, senior management of the school keeps up to date about all matters of behaviour, discipline and pastoral care, which the year heads and class teachers or tutors are addressing. As a result of the effective management of students, subject teachers can concentrate on the quality of their teaching and the quality of student learning.
There are six APs and twelve teachers with special posts in Coláiste Íosagáin and post- holders are assigned responsibilities across a range of aspects of the operation of the school. Duties relating to pastoral care, curriculum, equipment, administration all fall under the post system. Certain duties are assigned to members of the teaching staff who are not post- holders. This helps all members of staff to get more experience in taking responsibility and in working co-operation with others. The duties assigned to posts include: year heads; subject area or programme co-ordinators; internal examinations and the state examinations; library duties; co-ordination of Information and Communications Technology (ICT); the Environment Committee; the Irish Committee; induction of new teachers; science equipment; school equipment; and the Students’ Council. Responsibilities are assigned to teachers according to talents, interests and abilities. The post holders fulfil their duties as set out for them and the posts of responsibility are regularly monitored and reviewed.
In 2006, a new position was created in the area of the environment to give recognition to the work being carried out and the progress that had been made in this priority area for the school. Also, in recognition of the importance of induction for new teachers, a post of responsibility has been designated for this duty. Now, an induction programme for new teachers is in operation, providing t support and continued guidance to new staff throughout the school year. At present, there are two posts dedicated to the fostering of Irish to emphasise the importance of the promotion of Irish in the school. It is not very clear, however, whether the best use is being made of the two posts and it is recommended that another post be created in respect of one of them. There are examples of posts of responsibility in the school whose work has decreased in recent years and there are also examples of posts whose workloads have increased significantly. Therefore, a fresh review of the schedule of the posts should be carried out to better serve the current needs for the school and to ensure an equitable balance between duties.
Although there is regular and effective communication between members of senior management and middle management, and although the post holders fulfil their duties well, post-holders do not all meet together as a group. The school is participating in the Leadership Development programme and at the time of the evaluation, members of middle management were working together in a focussed way to develop this aspect of middle management. This is commended. The work of the group will improve the operation of middle management and is an example of the continuing process of self-evaluation being promoted in the school. Such a review, as mentioned above, could ensure that a middle management level is created and that the post holders would operate as an integral part of school management.
School management prioritises communication. School staff are happy to accept recommendations made by in-school management and even to try out new things. Senior management also accepts ideas or suggestions from the staff which can be piloted. Teachers have the opportunity to place an item on for the agenda for staff meetings. The clarity of the comprehensive record kept of staff meetings, which helps to develop and progress the practices which the school has. There is a white notice board for daily announcements in the staff room. There is formal and necessary contact with the teaching staff of Coláiste Eoin regarding use of the sports hall, Irish, attendance and class discipline in the mixed senior classes. Also, newsletters, bilingual school handbooks and handbooks for TY are provided, as well as regular reports and letters to parents.
As previously mentioned in the report, management of students is excellent and as a result, the students display a high level of self-discipline. The students are aware that their good is the school’s primary concern. There are two school captains and a leader system is in place which operates effectively for the good of the students. The students apply for the positions as leader and are interviewed. Students who have proven leadership skills are chosen, skills such as loyalty, ablity to co-operate, reliability and positive attitude. Leaders take on responsibilities which will benefit students’ lives in general. The class leaders help to keep an eye on the students in the classrooms and to foster friendship and class spirit. Irish leaders are there to stimulate a positive attitude towards Irish and there are leaders who support music, sport and the environment. The students themselves organise and hold meetings at lunch time, for example the Irish Committee, the Environment or Green Committee and the Students’ Council. The leader and committee system furthers the development of independence among the students and it is recommended that this development be built upon in the future.
The school captain functions as a co-chair on the Irish Committee and on the Students’ Council. School captains foster school traditions, while at the same time having the opportunity to promote a change or innovation from time to time. The school’s first Students’ Council was established in 1999 and the council has gone form strength to strength since then. The duty of looking after the council is a post of responsibility now and there is communication with the students and help and advice is made available for the students while they are engaged with their activities and responsibilities. The council has a weekly meeting, has a representative on Comhairle na nÓg and representatives have taken part in Dáil na nÓg and are to be commended for their engagement and participation.
The instruction time provided for the students is appropriate and the school fulfils its duties by providing 28 hours instruction for students. Above all, it is the good of the student that determines the allocation of time and staff. The teaching staff is hardworking and diligent and are appropriately trained and qualified. The senior management team recognises the importance of the school’s educational priorities underpinning and informing timetabling decisions and arrangements. This is achieved effectively. For example, it is school policy that the same subject teacher remains with the class throughout the junior cycle in the interests of formative progress and student learning. The result of the attention to the appropriate distribution of time and allocation of staff is very evident in both the high standard of learning and in student progress.
In line with the aims of the school, an enjoyable learning environment is created in which all students can reach their potential. The accommodation and resources of the school are very good, as is the upkeep of the buildings. All partners in the school community, school management, the board and the parents have invested much time and effort in improving the school plant. A new block and a sports hall were built which opened in 2003. The parents’ association contributed a significant sum of money towards building of the new sports hall. Renovation was carried out on a block of classrooms for third and fourth year in 2005; the chemistry room was renovated and the school roof was renewed in 2006 and new doors were purchased in 2008 for the two schools. School management can be justifiably proud of the achievement of creating an enjoyable learning environment for students as well as a pleasant and safe workplace for teachers.
Another significant contribution made to the school environment has been the work of the Green Committee. This environmental committee was established in Coláiste Íosagáin in 2000 and the school has had the Green Flag since 2002. The Green Committee, comprising students and staff members, organises competitions between the classes to encourage students to take responsibility for cleaning, for leaving their classrooms neat and for correctly recycling refuse. The school succeeded in renewing the flag three times in a row fulfilling various environmental themes. The Green Flag will be renewed again in the coming year. The school is to be congratulated for the good practice.
Great strides have been taken by the school to integrate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in both teaching and learning. It was senior management’s view that the most effective way to provide the greatest access for ICT was to equip classrooms with an interactive while board and these have already been installed in many of the classrooms and were observed in use in many subjects during the course of the evaluation. There is a new and up-to-date computer room in the new block and teachers may book it for any class group. There is a post of responsibility dedicated to ICT and technical expertise is available to assist students and teachers. The regular updating of school’s website with current school news also forms part of this responsibility. The ICT structure in the school has been well developed and the progress made in this area is to be commended. There is good development of ICT in teaching and learning. Emphasis should now be placed on teacher training to ensure continued integration of ICT in classroom methodologies.
The school has been engaged with school development planning for many years and both the school plan and the school planning process have been well developed. It is commended that school planning is a standard item on the agenda of all board meetings and as previously mentioned, the priorities for development planning have been both educational and infrastructural. The planning process is based on co-operation and one of the posts of responsibility had been dedicated to leading school planning in the past. In addition, a steering committee was appointed from the school staff to determine and lead the roles and responsibilities of the staff within the process. At the outset, a facilitator from the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and the school staff steering committee supported the planning process, ensuring that all school partners were actively involved in the process and in the development of the school plan. To re-energise the planning process in recent years, the deputy principal has taken on the responsibility of co-ordinating and leading this important aspect of the school’s operation.
The school has developed a well rounded and comprehensive school plan which is in operation and whose influence is clearly visible in the school. Progress to date is to be commended. The plan begins with outlining the school’s mission statement and its aims and objectives. The plan then sets out the general structures through which these will be implemented. Monitoring and re-evaluation of the plan are regularly carried out. This is in line with best practice. It is clear that the school plan is a vibrant and important document. The school accepts that school planning is both helpful and necessary. In that context, the permanent section of the plan could now be produced in published form to facilitate dissemination of the plan and it is recommended that the school consider this.
A comprehensive number of school policies are included in the first section of the plan. The board has performed excellently in the area of policy and regular policy reviews take place in the school. Usually, an expert subcommittee is established to research and prepare a draft which is presented for discussion to all school partners. The sub-committee, which has representatives from the teachers, board members and parents, when appropriate, prepares a draft policy on a certain area which is then presented to the school community. This approach is to be commended. This work is carried out on a voluntary basis. The input and the type of input from various partners in the school depends on the policy in question. The draft policy goes back to the board for discussion. The board seeks advice and support, externally when necessary, for example, from school management bodies. When all parties reach an agreement, the draft is submitted to the board of management for ratification of the policy. This is clear evidence of the high level of co-operation which pertains.
There is a section in the plan which also includes all school action plans. For the period 2006/2007, curriculum planning was the aspect of school planning which the school intended to work upon and during that time, the focus was placed on the curriculum. A culture of reflection and collaboration among teachers has now been established in relation to curriculum planning. Evidence of this was to be seen in the subject planning documentation examined during the evaluation. The priorities of the board for the current year are the completion of the school’s Guidance plan and a review of the code of behaviour.
During the evaluation, a meeting of the working group currently involved in the code of behaviour review process was observed. The committee wishes to strengthen the link between the code of behaviour and the pastoral care policy. When reviewing the code of behaviour, it is recommended that special emphasis be placed on encouraging the students to take more responsibility for their learning and for their own self development. The approach observed is to be commended: a chairperson was appointed to the committee; all steps of the process were outlined; and various tasks were assigned to the committee members. A significant aspect of the approach was the openness and the good will displayed to seek advice from parents, students and other schools in order to develop and implement a tried and tested system and approach.
A common staff meeting takes place with teachers in fifth and sixth year from the two schools at which discipline, communication, assessment and dates of events are discussed. Moreover, there is a collaborative planning subcommittee from the two schools comprising the two deputy principals and the year heads from senior level.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Programmes available to students are the Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY) and the Established Leaving Certificate and in the current school year, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is being offered for the first time. The school provides a wide range of subjects. Students have a six year cycle in Coláiste Íosagáin. While parents are informed from the outset that TY is obligatory, it should be stated in the admissions’ policy that there will be a six year cycle for all students. As mentioned in the previous section of this report, curriculum planning is carried out comprehensively with regular curriculum reviews ensuring that the school’s provision meets the current needs of students. This good practice is commendable.
In first year, the students have a taster year in which all the subjects are studied. School management believes that the taster programme is well worthwhile as this arrangement ensures that student choice is based on some exposure to all the subjects. The breadth and range of subjects available are laudable. The co-operation with Coláiste Eoin helps to increase access to subjects especially at senior level. Timetabling is carefully executed to the last detail so as to provide time for every subject. Six periods a week are allocated to Mathematics, English and Irish in sixth year. Every class group has the opportunity to gather together once a week to form a choir. The pressure on the timetable resulting from the large number of subjects to be covered is recognised but a weekly period of physical education should be allocated to all students in sixth year. In this regard, a review of certain aspects of the school timetable is recommended.
The school serves the learning needs of all students by a mixed-ability class formation system and students remain in mixed-ability classes for all subjects in Coláiste Íosagáin. No streaming of class groups takes place as the majority of students usually take higher level in the state examinations, especially in the Junior Certificate. The objective of this arrangement is to ensure that all students attain the highest standard commensurate with their ability. Teachers, students and parents all expect a high level of achievement. An extra Mathematics class group is created in third year to support students who will sit the ordinary level paper and the classes are run concurrently in that instance. Similar support is made available to students who wish to sit the ordinary level paper in Mathematics and English at senior cycle. This practice is commendable.
The subject choices are organised in an open manner and the school gives the opportunity to parents to participate in the educational and vocational choices of students. Comprehensive information and good support is given to students and parents about subject choice and, as was reported, parents are happy with the breadth and choice of subjects. The school holds meetings with parents and students at appropriate junctures, for example, when the students enter the school, or at the end of TY, to inform them of subject and programme choices. The ongoing guidance provided by the guidance staff, the teaching staff, the year heads and school management in relation to selection programmes, subjects and levels is commendable.
The TY programme is well organised and adheres to the philosophy of the programme. There is a good written account available of the TY plan for the school. The written plan contains all the aspects of the curriculum as recommended in the Department’s guidelines and these are being implemented. This is laudable. A balance across the core subjects and the modular subjects in both traditional academic courses and modern TY courses has been achieved. This programme acts as a bridge between junior and senior levels. The students receive an effective and pleasant sampling of subjects at senior cycle. The programme prepares students for the challenges of the Leaving Certificate but at the same time it sets out to develop creativity and inquiry.
In order to foster collegiality and a team spirit among the students, an educational tour abroad is organised during the mid-term break and a musical is produced and staged. The students receive the opportunity to take part in a social rights and charity programme which is in line with the ethos of the school. These diverse activities are to be commended. A fortnight has been set aside for charity work and a fortnight for work experience. It is recommended that the time allowed for these two aspects be revisited, as currently this can require students to be away from direct class contact in school for a month.
The co-ordination of TY is good. There is a TY committee or core team, comprising the year head, the class teachers, which is lead by the co-ordinator. A weekly meeting is held and t organisational matters are discussed on a regular basis and student punctuality and student attendance are monitored. These meetings facilitate greatly the organisation of all the events, assessments, project target dates and tour dates. Record is kept of these meetings and in this way, school management and subject teachers are kept abreast of current student activities in TY.
The different modes of formative assessment carried out during the year are to be commended. In conjunction with the logbook, a diary or personal collection which the students keep during TY, reflection and self-evaluation are also fostered. A yearly review of the TY programme takes place based on feedback from students, teachers and parents. At the end of the year, the students are interviewed during which they must describe their own personal experiences and their progress during the year. Such an interview is an innovative and good idea.
At present, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) has just been offered for the first time and the demand is currently low. School management is advised to adopt as a planning target for this year, an integrated programme in line with the aims of LCVP and to serve the needs of the programme.
The co-curricular and extra-curricular provision in the school is excellent. There are many activities available to students which support and enrich learning. The range of extra-curricular activities enhances students’ personal and social development. The students display a great interest in sport and there is a very high percentage engaged in sport after school. Training for various sports takes place at lunch time also. The physical education teachers and teachers engaged in delivering the extra-curricular sport in the school offer a range of sports, for example: Gaelic football, basketball, camogie and athletics. Sporting achievements among the students are celebrated at morning assembly and are displayed throughout the school. There is a high level of co-operation between the physical education teams and the teachers from the two schools who act as trainers.
There is also a high level of participation in co-curricular activities and events which take place relating to: music, choir, drama, musical, debating and competitions of every kind. In the sample of subjects inspected, the diverse nature of the co-curricular provision is apparent and this is detailed in the subject reports. Also, many extra-curricular activities take place in the school. The TY students go to Donegal where sports events and language activities take place on a weekend course.
Music is also central to the extra-curricular provision. Music is at the heart of Irish culture and students in Coláiste Íosagáin are active in creating a music rich environment, for example, classes are provided in which the students themselves teach various musical instruments to each other. During the evaluation, the senior choir was observed from the two schools practising after school. Instruction in both singing and playing instruments is available and there are three music bands. Musical evenings take place during the year. This is to be highly commended.
Colaíste Íosagáin has received both national and international recognition in various competitions. In 2004, the school was chosen to represent the Irish Green Schools’ Scheme at an international convention in China. In 2008, it was announced that the school was selected, along with Coláiste Eoin, out of all the schools who teach German as a German Partner School in Ireland. This is a German Government initiative promoting excellence in German teaching around the world. In 2003, the school won the All Ireland in the junior debating competition hosted by Gael Linn and in 2007 the school’s senior team were in the final. In 2008, two students took part in the Business Enterprise awards and they won the regional competition for Dublin. In recent years, the tradition in the school of entering the Young Scientist Competition has become firmly established. Excellent teamwork enables the school to reach such examples of high standards.
There are good stuctures in place for collaborative planning in Coláiste Íosagáin. Formal planning meetings are organised for the teachers of the various subjects two or three times a year, especially at the beginning and end of the school year. There is a subject co-ordinator, or secretary, in every subject department, and minutes of meetings are kept. Apart from these meetings, extra meetings are organised as needed, some formal and some informal. The subject inspectors were of the view that there was a culture of collaborative planning was well established in the school and that there was a high level of co-operation among the subject teaching staff as regards planning.
In general, the quality of planning in the subjects observed was very high, and the inspectors praised the hard work teachers put into planning and the quality of the subject plans. It is certain that this planning enhances the standard of teaching and learning in different subjects. Planning files were produced during the inspection, in which long and short term schemes of work were detailed for each year group, as well as a description of the major aims in teaching and learning. Moreover, there was a description in some of the plans of the ways in which students with special learning needs were catered for. These plans are regularly reviewed, a commendable practice. In the case of one or two subjects, the inspectors recommended that plans be developed further by describing the different methodologies to be employed in teaching. The subject teachers could share and discuss their teaching methods with each other and could describe them in the written plans.
In the main, there was an excellent standard of teaching observed in the classes. Good preparations had been made, the aims of the lessons were clear and the students were informed of those aims at the outset, a commendable practice. The content of the lessons was consistent with the departmental syllabi and with the range of interests and ability of the students. The structure, pace and layout of all the lessons observed were good. In general, the teaching methods were suitable for the different subjects and there was a good range of methods in evidence. For example, in Science the focus was on practical work in the first place, while in French the use of the target language as the language of management, communication and instruction was prioritised. In English, the creative and imaginative approach of the teachers was praised. In the majority of lessons observed, it was noted that the students were active in their learning. Effective use was made of pair work and group work in some of the subjects and it is recommended that further use be made of these methods, where they would be suitable for the subject.
There was a good atmosphere and a pleasant environment in all the lessons observed. There was positive and co-operative interaction between the teachers and the students and a strong work ethic dominated each class. The teachers were caring to the students and it was clear that the students and teachers respected each other. Everyone, both teachers and students, happily set about their work diligently during the lessons observed. The students behaved very well and they were polite and friendly at all times. At times, some of them were too quiet, as observed by inspectors. In one or two cases, the inspectors were of the opinion that the students were over-dependent on teacher input. It is recommended that every effort be made to encourage students to be more active in their own learning and that particular effort be made to foster independent learning.
In the subjects observed, the standard of learning and achievement among the students was excellent. Students showed good comprehension of the lesson content and demonstrated enthusiasm and interest in the subjects. They performed well when questioned about completed work. There is a high standard evident in the students’ written work also, as was clear from their copybooks.
The school has an assessment policy operating within each subject in the school, and there is a school homework policy. Students’ work is regularly assessed to provide themselves and their parents with feedback. Students’ work is continually monitored in class, and the results of this monitoring are included in assessment. Various strategies are employed to implement formative assessment. Parents are kept up to date of the student progress and reports are sent home twice a year. The school diary is also used to keep regular contact with the parents.
There is an established practice in the school of giving students tests after each unit of work in the various subjects and students have monthly examinations in most subjects. The way in which specific marks are awarded for important skills in subjects is to be commended, for example, the skills of practical work in second and third year Science and the skill of listening comprehension in the case of languages. It is recommended that this practice be extended. The teachers in the subject departments work together to compile common agreed examinations at term and year end.
At present, there is a review being undertaken on the assessment policy resulting from the participation by the teaching staff in the Assessment for Learning (AfL) initiative. The influence of this initiative is already evident in teaching practice of some teachers, for example, the way in which teachers give the students feedback and the way in which assessment criteria are shared with the students. The teachers are to be congratulated for this good practice.
An analysis of the results of state examinations is presented to the board of management. It is recommended that each subject department perform a yearly analysis of their own results in the state examinations.
The school has developed and implemented a learning support policy. As with the other policies prepared by the school, this special needs policy begins with a statement of philosophy in line with the ethos of the school and which links the policy with the aims of the school. This is commendable. The policy recognises the statutory duties of school management regarding the fulfilment of their statutory obligations under different Acts. The learning support department works in conjunction with management, staff, students and parents, This way of working is an exemplar of good practice. The learning support system serves students’ needs. Management and staff are to be congratulated for this work.
The school receives a provision of eleven hours from the Department of Education and Science for learning support, as well as extra hours for specific students from time to time. These hours are mostly used for Irish, English and Mathematics but learning support is provided to students in other subjects also as the need arises. This approach is highly commendable. There is a dedicated learning support room and all the special education resources are kept in this room as well as the students’ work files. Appropriate resources and equipment are available and are well organised in the learning support room. The effectiveness of the support and the benefits of learning are enhanced by this bright, pleasant room and this is a clear indication of the priority given to the area by the school.
The steps which the school takes in relation to special education are well laid out in the policy and evidence from the documents and practices observed, indicate those steps are taken. Individual Education Plans (IEP) are written for each student who receives learning support and is attending extra learning-support classes. This plan is reviewed regularly to ensure that it is effective and to think about some new strategies, if necessary. In the lessons observed, the students’ progress was in line with ability. There is flexibility in the system and some extra students may be brought into groups, if necessary, while some others may be taken out. In this way, the assessment and the focus on the learning outcomes is clear and central to this process.
The school takes great care of the students. There is a direct link between the school’s care policies and its Christian, human and educational aims as set out in the school plan. Pastoral care is seen to be the foundation stone of the support system provided by the school, organised by the year heads, the class teachers and the health teachers. There are periods assigned to every class for Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and the work carried out during these periods is integrated into the system of care in the school. The qualities sought in the year heads are those of understanding, listening, patience and attentiveness. Among the most time consuming duties are monitoring student punctuality and attendance, as well as discipline, health and study. The year head meets each class group at least once a week. The year head speaks to students about examinations, study skills and ordinary everyday matters and it is an opportunity to be attentive to any potential problems or concerns.
There is a lot of interaction between the year heads and the class teachers and they meet regularly. Class teachers fulfil solely a pastoral care role. The class teacher has a good relationship and regular contact with the class and he or she continues with the same class for two years. The class teachers have the duties of monitoring of homework, the use of a school diary or student encouragement. By means of this system, the school fulfils its aim in relation to the overall personal development of the student and the students encounter values and life skills by good example, advice and friendship with the school staff. This work is carried out on a voluntary basis and communication takes place on an informal but continual basis. This shows the way in which the teaching staff has an agreed and harmonious approach to their work.
A central aspect of student care is guidance and both personal counselling and educational and career guidance are provided for them. Staff changes in the guidance area have occurred this year and the development to date is recognised. It is recommended that priority be given to this aspect of planning and of student care and that school management ensure provision in line with departmental guidelines and best practice. The school guidance plan is being drafted at present by the guidance team and it is the board’s intention to complete this work this year. The draft plan recognises the link between the guidance plan and the other policies developed, completed and implemented in the school, for example the behaviour policy, the pastoral care policy, the policy for special needs, anti-bullying and child protection. This is commended.
Guidance is divided between two teachers and the two guidance councillors are pursuing qualifications in the area at the moment. They work as a team and the duties are divided up according each one’s strengths. Correct use is made of the time allocated to guidance. The guidance provided currently in relation to selection of programmes, subjects and levels is thorough. Career guidance classes are timetabled for TY and for fifth and sixth year. There is a separate area with two rooms dedicated to career guidance, and resources, namely books and ICT materials and resources, are being gathered and organised to keep them updated. This is a welcome development. There is also a career guidance corner in the library which could be developed simultaneously, to take full advantage of the ICT facilities available. Communication and links with board members, parents and past pupils are being developed to enrich the provision of career guidance.
The following are the strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Coláiste Íosagáin provides high quality education.
· The school community has a clear vision and the policies, practices and atmosphere in the school all reflect the characteristic spirit of the school.
· The board operates efficiently and fulfils its statutory duties effectively.
· The accommodation and resources of the school are very good as is the state of the buildings. Special care is taken of the environment and safety.
· Understanding, effective, attentive leadership is reflected in the running of the school.
· The principal and the deputy principal work as a team, and their leadership is based on mutual respect and regular, open communication.
· The staff are hardworking and diligent.
· Areas of responsibility have been assigned to members of the teaching staff.
· The school’s planning process is well developed and there are good structures in place for collaborative planning.
· A significant aspect of the school’s culture is self-evaluation.
· There is excellent co-curricular and extra-curricular provision made in the school.
· The school takes great care of the students and student management is excellent.
· A high standard of teaching and was observed and student achievement was excellent in the classes observed.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the school’s ethos and aims be fostered and developed further under the new trusteeship.
· The board of management is advised to add an introduction to the entrance policy of the school explaining the historical background and the context of the school’s catchment area.
· It is recommended that a fresh review of the schedule of the posts be carried out to better serve the current needs for the school and to ensure an equitable balance across duties.
· Such a review, as mentioned above, could ensure that a middle management level is created and that the post holders would operate as an integral part of school management.
· When reviewing the code of behaviour, it is recommended that special emphasis be placed on encouraging the students to take more responsibility for their
own learning and for their self-development and in this way to develop independent learning among the students.
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 – 24 September 2008
· Subject Inspection of: Science and Chemistry – 23 September 2008
· Subject Inspection of: French – 17 September 2008
· Subject Inspection of: Mathematics – 25 September 2008
Published October 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
We would like to thank all the inspectors who spent time with us in Coláiste Íosagáin during the period of inspection. They provided a report which is fair, as far as we are concerned and which gives an accurate picture of the work of the school.
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 of management and the school staff are working on the recommendations made in the inspections reports. Some of them have been implemented already, particularly the small changes to the enrolment policy. Temporary changes have been made to the posts of responsibility for the coming school year and we will start on a complete review of these posts in September as well as looking at the time provision for the various subject areas. The final draft of the code of behaviour came before the board of management in June and was adopted as a policy.