An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

 

Coláiste Cholmcille,

Indreabhán,

County Galway

 

Roll number: 71250A

  

 

Date of inspection: 23 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

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of curriculum provision

4.1 Curriculum planning and organisation

4.2 Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

4.3 Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

5.1 Planning and preparation

5.2 Teaching and learning

5.3 Assessment

6. Quality of support for students

6.1 Students with special educational needs

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

6.3 Guidance

6.4 Pastoral care

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

8. Related subject inspection reports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

 

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Coláiste Cholmcille. 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 parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

 

1.         Introduction

 

Coláiste Cholmcille is a small, rural, co-educational vocational school under the auspices of County Galway Vocational Education Committee which is situated in Cois Fharraige in the Connemara Gaeltacht twenty four kilometres West of Galway city on the coast road. Gairmscoil Cholmcille, in the parish of An Chnoic, Indreabhán was opened on St. Brigid's day in 1955 but the school was located in the village of An Spidéal prior to this. Approximately fifty students attended the school when it first opened and today Coláiste Cholmcille meets the educational needs of 166 boys and girls from the Gaeltacht area but the number of students attending the school has been declining steadily over the last number of years. In the current school year twenty two, permanent and part-time, teachers are employed in Colaiste Cholmcille.

 

The Intermediate Certificate examination was taken in the school for the first time in 1970 and prior to that the school offered the Group Certificate. In 1975 the Leaving Certificate programme was approved and the first Leaving Certificate examination was held in 1977.

 

The school has quite a large catchment area, between An Spidéal and An Cheathrú Rua, and Coláiste Chroí Mhuire gan Smál, an Spidéal and Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráín, an Cheathrú Rua, two co-educational schools, four miles and fifteen miles west of the school respectively, are the post-primary schools nearest to Choláiste Cholmcille.

 

There is a link between Coláiste Cholmcille, the motherschool on the mainland, and Coláiste Naomh Eoin, the Unit, on Inis Meáin, Oileán Árann. Both schools operate under the direction of the same board of management, within County Galway Vocational Education Committee and this arrangement is in place for the last three years. Coláiste Naomh Eoin was founded four years ago under the auspices of the local cooperative. The aim of the local support committee at the time was to provide post-primary education on the island for the students from the island. This committee is to be commended for providing this school initially. The Unit currently has a staff of five teachers, the teacher in charge and four others. Two of the teachers spend the school week on the island and the other three spend between one and three days working in the Unit. A total of fifteen students currently attend Coláiste Naomh Eoin; six island children and nine from the mainland. For the last number of years the Junior Certificate programme was offered in Coláiste Naomh Eoin but this year there are five students in fifth year and these students will sit the Leaving Certificate examination in 2008.

 

The fifth year students from Inis Meáin travel out to the mainland every Monday in order to avail of the facilities available in the motherschool, in order to be part of a larger class group with students from the mainland, and in order that they may benefit from the social interaction of both groups of students.

 

Most of Coláiste Cholmcille's parents are past-pupils and they send their own children to the school because of their own good experiences when they attended the school, the reputation the school has for addressing the educational needs of its students, and the efforts made in the school to promote the Irish language and culture. The majority of students attending Coláiste Cholmcille come from the four main feeder primary schools, from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, and include some students with special educational needs. The parents of six students attending Coláiste Naomh Eoin are islanders and the parents of the remaining nine students are from the mainland. The island parents are seeking equality of educational opportunity for island students while they receive their post-primary education in their own community, in order that they may maintain their language and culture.

 

Cholaiste Cholmcille's main buildings, including classrooms and specialist rooms, were constructed in 1955. In 1992 the school was completely refurbished and a large two-storey extension was added, and this also included classrooms and specialist rooms. Apart from these permanent buildings other buildings are predominantly temporary classrooms and, although these are in relatively good condition because they are well maintained, these are old rooms, some of which have been on the site since the middle of the 1980s. The school does not currently have an assembly/sports hall. A temporary structure, containing three classrooms with partitions between them, is used when an assembly of all students is required or on special occasions, for example the beginning/end of year Mass. The sports hall at Scoil Náisiúnta Shailearna is used when it is possible to arrange this with the school but it is dangerous to bring students along the busy main road in order to use this facility. The school's playing field, at the rear of the main school building, is used to cater for most of the Physical Education (PE) classes and sporting activities, even during the bad, winter weather.

 

The Inis Meáin Co-operative constructed the buildings in which Coláiste Naomh Eoin is situated and this provision is commended. This is a permanent structure situated beside the co-operative's office and the local community hall. This hall is used for sporting activities and for Materials Technology (Wood) lessons and Home Economics lessons are organised in the kitchen. There are also facilities for the conduct of Science lessons. A basketball court is situated beside The Unit  and there is a Gaelic football pitch a short distance away near the air strip.

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Within these contextual factors, Coláiste Cholmcille and The Unit aim to serve the current and future special educational needs of this Gaelic community in Cois Fharraige and on the island of Inis Meáin.

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2.         The quality of school management

 

2.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

In its ethos and practices, it is the school's mission to address the educational needs of its students in order that they may achieve the best results relative to ability; address the personal needs of students in order to nurture self-confidence, self-respect and moral development; to nurture respect for Gaelic language, culture and heritage; and to promote a friendly and encouraging atmosphere in the school.

 

The school makes an exceptional effort and succeeds in its procedures, processes, actions to create an inclusive, compassionate environment in keeping with its mission to promote the holistic development of its students in every aspect of school life.

 

Choláiste Cholmcille has a professional, diligent, welcoming committed, and collegial teaching and support staff and there is an obviously respectful, collaborative, and friendly atmosphere in all contact and interactions between school management and the whole school community. This is commended.

 

 

2.2          School ownership and management<0}

 

Coláiste Cholmcille is under the trusteeship of Co. Galway Vocational Education Committee (VEC) and this committee is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in educational provision for everyone in Co. Galway and to promoting the Gaelic language and culture as primary themes which underpin the work of the scheme. Co. Galway VEC provides the resources that enable the school and The Unit to fulfill their vision. There is regular contact between the school and the VEC. This provision and contact is commended.

 

The board of management of Coláiste Cholmcille is a sub-committee of Co. Galway VEC. The composition and functioning of the board of management, on which there are eight members, is in keeping with the requirements of the Education Act, 1998 and other relevant legislation that affects the operation of schools, and its executive practices are appropriate. Four board members are nominated by the VEC, two are nominated by the school's teaching staff and there are two parents' representatives. The principal acts as secretary to the board. The current board was first constituted following the last County Council elections in 2004 and will continue to operate until the next local government elections in 2008, a five-year term. Four members of the school's board of management are currently members of the VEC including, the principal and the chairman, and the chairperson of the VEC and the VEC meets every month.

 

It was evident during the Whole School Evaluation (WSE) that the board had a clear understanding of its school management responsibilities on behalf of the trustees and the board is carrying out its responsibilities in a spirit of generosity and service to the local community. Board meetings are arranged at least once every term and more often if required and a range of topics is discussed. The principal prepares a comprehensive report prior to each board meeting and he ensures that the board is informed of any issues that may arise in the day-to-day running of the school. The chairperson of the board is a former deputy principal of the school, lives nearby, and is in almost daily contact with the principal. The teachers' representatives on the board keep the teaching staff informed of developments by means of an agreed report after each board meeting. The school's newsletter is used to keep parents informed of school activities and this is commended. There are also informal opportunities to keep parents informed at night classes that are held in the school and when they attend parent-teacher meetings.

 

Some of the board members who were nominated by the VEC have attended training courses organised by the VEC that help in the fulfillment of their role and this is commended. However, at the present time the teachers' and parents' representatives have not received training despite the organisation of courses by the VEC. Because of this, it is recommended that efforts, to ensure that these board members receive training, are made within the term of this board in order that they may function more efficiently in their intended roles.

The priorities for school development identified by the board at this time include the provision of permanent classrooms and a sports hall and to be in a position to continue providing the comprehensive range of subjects that are currently available on the school's curriculum. The board is currently examining an action plan to ensure that these issues are addressed. This is commended.

 

The board clearly reported that it has total confidence in the school's senior management team and that it is satisfied to delegate the everyday administration of the school to it. 

 

The board believes that parents are well supported and advised concerning programmes, subjects and options available to students in Coláiste Cholmcille. The board is also satisfied with the standard of teaching and learning in the school. A summary of the State examination results is brought before the board each year and the analysis of these results is used for planning purposes for the following year. This practice is commended.

 

The board is very satisfied with the manner in which the support for students with special educational needs or from disadvantaged backgrunds is organised.

 

According to the board there are a number of challenges facing it in the future. These include the duties and obligations imposed by legislation related to schooling, increased levels of administration being imposed on the school, trying to nurture and protect the Irish language and culture of the school, trying to promote respect among the students, and concern about the growing social problems that currently affect young people in the area. 

 

It is obvious, from what has been written, that the board of management of Coláiste Cholmcille has a comprehensive understanding of the daily operation of the school and of the challenges facing the school's senior management team currently and into the future.

 

The board of management, senior management team, and teaching staff of Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin acknowledge the role of parents as the primary educators of their children and they make every effort to promote cooperation between the school community and parents in a dialogue about school related issues. Coláiste Cholmcille had a parents' association up to a number of years ago and parents were very active in their support for the school. It is recommended that this type of cooperation should be rejuvinated. There is a support committee on Inis Meáin currently and this committee has parents among its members. Efforts to form a parents' association during the school year 2005/2006 failed in Coláiste Cholmcille and there is no formal parents' association in the current school year either, although individual parents continue to provide support for the school and everything that happens within it. However, in September of this year a letter was circulated to parents inviting participation in an association and during the course of the WSE steps were being taken to involve interested parents. It now appears likely that a parents' association will be formed before Christmas. This development is commended. It is recommended however, that links between Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin should be established.

 

2.3          In-school management

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The principal and deputy principal are the key personnel in the school's in-school management structure. Both have responsibilities that are clearly set out in the school's handbook and and this enables them to share the workload equitably between them. Both also have teaching responsibilities with the principal teaching English and the deputy principal teaching French. They meet regularly during the course of the school day and advise each other and discuss relevant issues as required. Both are to be seen regularly on the school's passageways and in the school yard and it was obvious that they both knew all the students personally and that there was mutual respect between students and both teachers. Both are very experienced teachers and have spent many years as colleagues during their teaching careers in Cholmcille, the principal since  1987 and the deputy principal since 1985. The principal was appointed to his post permanently in April 2005 but had been acting as principal since March 2004. Prior to this he held a special duties teacher (SDT) post between 1993 and 1998, when he was appointed as an assistant principal (AP) on the school's in-school management team. The deputy principal was appointed to his post permanently two years ago and prior to this appointment he served as an AP from the late 1990s. The senior management team members work very closely together in order to provide educational and organisational leadership, management and support for the whole school community as described in Section V of The Education Act, 1998. It is clear that the style they favour is one of consultation and agreement, but when/if required, they direct the school community in the correct direction. The principal's office door is always open and members of staff, teachers, parents, and even past students, are welcome to call in at any time. This practice is commended. The deputy principal does not currently have an office but it is possible to meet him in the staff room or around the school. There is an urgent need to provide an office space for the deputy principal and it is recommended that this be provided as soon as possible.

 

The senior management team is active in promoting the development of the leadership skills of the in-school management (ISM) team and the members work to fulfill the roles that have been assigned to them. There are four APs and five SDTs in the school's ISM structure currently and they collaborate closely with the senior management team. It is important, in a small school like Coláiste Cholmcille, that major decisions that affect the whole school community are taken only after open discussion with the partners in the school community and this practice is commended.

 

It was obvious that the APs and SDTs work efficiently as they undertake their roles. The APs' current responsibilities include: examination secretary, coordinator of report cards, and homework; after school study, the school newsletter, and coordinator of girls' sport;  career guidance, and coordinator of cultural activities; and attendance coordinator. The SDTs undertake responsibility for: sporting activities; music; the school's book scheme; maintenance and health and safety; students' lockers, the school's library, and school development planning.                

 

The four APs and five SDTs contribute significantly to the management of the school as they carry out their post of responsibility duties and the senior management team is satisfied to devolve responsibility for administration of these areas of responsibility to them. While these AP and SDT teachers are to be highly commended and the work they do is very important, they do not necessarily feel that they are part of the management structure of the school. It is recommended that efforts to change this perception are undertaken.

 

The ISM team comes together as a group at the beginning of each year  at the general staff meeting and they have regular, informal meetings with the senior management to discuss issues related to their post of responsibility work. The interactions of this group of teachers with the remainder of the school's community demonstrates the emphasis that is placed on pastoral care in the school and its efforts to create a friendly and encouraging atmosphere. These interactions are commended.

 

There has not been a formal review of the posts of responsibility since the ISM structure was first introduced at the end of the 1990s, although some of the posts have been changed from time to time in the interim period. It is important, as the ISM structure tries to focus on the current needs of the school, that there would be a formal review occasionally as was originally intended. In the spirit of good practice that was intended when the ISM structures were introduced, there should also be a balance in the levels of responsibility attached to AP and SDT posts. Therefore, when the present ISM structure in the school is reviewed, the views of the whole staff on the current needs of the school and how these can be addressed most efficiently by the ISM structure should be sought.

 

As well as the the duties that attach to teachers with posts of responsibilities there are many other roles and duties, outside the classroom situation, that are carried out by non-post holding teachers in Coláiste Cholmcille. The voluntary work carried out by these teachers also contributes significantly to the day to day management of the school and is highly commendable.

 

It was obvious during the evaluation that there are strong formal and informal links  between the senior management of Coláiste Cholmcille and the ISM structure in the school and that there was a high level of cooperation and support involving the staff.

 

Although there are no formal structures by which the work of the school's senior management can be reviewed at any level continuous informal review takes place as decisions about issues are made, when these decisions are implemented, and when the implemented decisions are evaluated. This practice is commended.

 

Great efforts are made to ensure efficient communication with the school's staff, parents, the feeder primary schools, the local community, and with various outside groups who are involved with the education process. This indicates the importance the school attaches to regular contact with all the education partners. For example, information announcements are made to the staff, and the students when necessary, at morning break time. There are regularly scheduled staff meetings, parent-teacher meetings for each year group are organised annually, a comprehensive school newsletter is issued regularly to every parent, and the school receives regular publicity on Raidio na Gaeltachta and in the local newspapers after competing in sporting competitions, or language and cultural events. 

 

 

2.4 Management of resources  

The teaching staff is the most important resource available to every school. In the current school year there are twenty two teachers employed in Coláiste Cholmcille and five teachers serve The Unit, Colaiste Naomh Eoin on Inis Meáin. The majority of these teachers have permanent posts  and many of them have spent many years in the school. The senior management deploys the allocation of teachers made to the school appropriately in order to maximise the benefit to students.

 

The senior management decides on how teachers are allocated to programmes, subjects, class groups, and subject levels according to the teachers' qualifications and the continuity of classes through the junior cycle programme and into senior cycle. A policy of teacher rotation is employed and this helps to develop teachers' skills, the professionalism of teachers, students' learning and the whole school benefits and this practice is commended. In order to emphasise the changing nature of the teaching profession over the years the teachers are encouraged to participate in professional development and inservice courses and this practice is commended.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has an induction and monitoring policy related to student teachers and the teaching staff understand the important role they have to play in the training of teachers in the  Ghaeltacht and the school cooperates with the universities and third level colleges to perfect this training. In the current school year the school is participating in a pilot programme on student teacher induction in cooperation with the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at University College Dublin and this work is commended. Although the school operates this policy, a difficulty relating to the respective roles of class teacher and student teacher was noted during the inspection of Science as part of this evaluation and this is detailed in the subject inspection report for Science appended to this report.

 

In addition the the teaching staff Coláiste Cholmcille has a permanent secretary and caretaker who have spent many years working in the school. There is also a part-time caretaker, who spent most of his working life in the school before he retired from his permanent post, and a cleaner who has also spent many years working in the school. These support staff members have made, and continue to make their own significant contribution to the life of the school and their work and loyalty to the school is highly commendable. The work of these support staff members is efficiently managed and this is also commended.

 

The main school building, the specialist classrooms, and the temporary classrooms are all maintained to a high standard and the resources that are required in them are generally available. The school's corridors are nicely decorated with examples of students' work, photographs of sports teams, school trips abroad, among other displays. The three languages taught in the school, Irish, English and French, are also emphasised. This is commended. The 'green flag' was awarded to the school, the first vocational school in Co. Galway to receive such an award, a number of years ago because of the high standard of cleanliness of the school environment and the school's community is highly commended for achieving this award. A car park for teachers was created in front of the school building in an area that was previously designated as a basketball court because of the danger associated with crossing the very busy main road in front of the school.

 

Where possible, teachers are classroom based and it was obvious that this arrangement works well in the school. The principal and the secretary both have offices. The career guidance teacher and the home, school, community, liaison (HSCL) teacher share a small room between them.  This room is arranged as an office and library of resources and is situated in a refurbished building. This room is also used as a parents' room and as a place to meet individual or small groups of students. The room is equipped with a computer and guidance-related software, it is equipped with broadband, but does not currently have a separate telephone line. It is recommended therefore, that the room should be equipped with a separate telephone line as soon as this can be organised. 

 

A large amount of investment has been made in providing computer facilities in the school for the benefit of students and the teaching staff. The school has one computer room with twenty four workstations and a multimedia projector. Timetabled computer classes usually involve cross-curricular activities and students are provided with every opportunity to complete work required during these classes. There are problems at times with the school's broadband service and this is currently being provided via a ISDN line, although the school has a satellite broadband dish fixed to one wall of the main school building.

 

The senior management team and the school secretary regularly use computer technology for administration purposes, to prepare the school's timetable, and optional subject bands and teachers use computers in the preparation of lesson materials. 

 

The school has a comprehensive health and safety policy  and this is regularly reviewed. Health and safety assessments are regularly conducted around the school and every member of staff has a responsibility to identify and report hazards around the school. Hazards when identified are reported to the health and safety representative on the staff or to the senior management team. Although the school health and safety practices that work efficiently, it is recommended that the advice provided in Occupational Health and Safety in Post-Primary Technology Rooms (2005) should be adopted in order to further enhance the school's effective practices. This will ensure that appropriate use is made of teachers' expertise, especially those who are operating in specialist classrooms, in enhancing the school's health and safety practices. The school organises, in conjunction with FÁS, a 'Safe Pass' course and a large number of students avail of it. This is commended.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille seeks all the resources that are available from the Department of Education and Science and from the VEC for the benefit of its students. The additional resources available to the school because of its participation in the DEIS initiative enhance the school's ability to provide a better service for its students. Appropriate use is made of these resources. The school has developed systems to sensitively address the needs of disadvantaged students and there are different approaches in place to implement these systems. These systems and practices are commended.

 

 

3.         Quality of school planning

 

In recent years Coláiste Cholmcille has been actively engaged in school development planning and a two-part school plan is in place since 2001. The school has already invested considerable time in the planning process the main aim of which is to improve the quality of educational provision for its students. The requirements of the Education Act, 1998, the Vocational Education Acts 1930 and 2001 and the framework of other legislation related to the education and employment processes, the policies of the VEC, and issues identified by the staff of the school affect the implementation of the school's comprehensive development planning process in Coláiste Cholmcille.

Comprehensive planning documentation that has developed through more than one planning cycle was available during the evaluation. A planning steering committee and a post of responsibility for the coordination of planning have been established this year. The senior management team and the coordinator make up the membership of the planning steering committee and meetings are held at least once per term, or more often if required. These arrangements indicate the emphasis that is being placed on school planning in Coláiste Cholmcille and are commended.

 

The extensive range of planning documents available in Coláiste Cholmcille provide a framework through which the school community can understand the complex nature of the school as an organisation. The school plan currently consists of a collection of individual documents in which the characteristic spirit of the school is detailed together with the policies that have been developed over recent years. It is recommended that a single school planning document should be developed which contains permanent and developmental sections. The permanent section could contain the history, mission, ethos, and educational philosophy of the school and the wide range of policies that have been developed could be contained in the developmental section of the plan,  as a continuous work in progress.

 

The school's comprehensive Irish plan is central to the whole school plan. This is highly commended. One of the main aims outlined in the school's mission statement is to 'develop respect for our Irish heritage, the Irish language, and the Irish culture'. The school's important role in the preservation and perpetuation of the local language and cultural traditions is recognised in the Irish plan  and this role reflects the functions of Gaeltacht schools specifically described in Part II, 9 (h) of the Education Act, 1998. The school's agreed policy is that Irish is the everyday language of the school. It is recognised in the Irish plan (Part 3.3) that the development of an action plan is essential in order to ensure the implementation of the plan. The development of such an action plan to implement the desires of the education partners for the firther development of the language is recommended.

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An annual school handbook is also developed and provided for the teachers, parents and board of management. This handbook contains the school's mission ststement, a list of the school staff and their responsibilities, advice for the education partners, the behaviour code and a selection of the school's main policies, and a calendar for the school year. This publication is commended.

 

Recently, plans in all subject areas available in Colásite Colmcille have been developed and these are commended. However, as outlined in the subject inspection reports appended to this report, the further development of these subject plans as soon as possible is recommended. One of the duties of the newly-appointed planning coordinator is to monitor the development of subject planning and the effectiveness of this monitoring was reported on during the evaluation. This mode of operating is commended.

 

Every effort is made to include all the education partners in the school planning process and this is commended. It is obvious, following the establishment of a steering committee and the appointment of a planning coordinator, that the school will be emphasising the development of the planning process into the future and this is commended.

 

Following meetings of the planning steering committee the coordinator keeps all the teachers informed of developments and this provides the staff with an opportunity to have an input into the development planning process. This type of contact is commended.   

 

The school's individual policies are reviewed when difficulties are identified or when a review is necessary because of particular circumstances. In the current year for example, the school community has recognised the need to review the code of behaviour in order to make its operation more efficient. The school's subject planning is also developing well and is being monitored periodically. The teachers realise that this is an ongoing, developmental process and that it is being undertaken for the benefit of teaching and learning. Current planning priorities in Coláiste Cholmcille's include: curriculum planning in light of steadily decreasing enrolemnt; the development of packages of related  policies; the order in which Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) modules are delivered; the development of a new handbook; the development of an new prospectus; and the continued review of existing policies.  

 

The quality of contact and cooperation between the senior management, the teaching staff, students, and parents in the planning process is very good and this is commended.  While there is a duty to develop certain important policies and planning documentation the process by which these policies are developed in the school is extremely important. This view acknowledges the ownership that ensues when the education parties engage in discussion with colleagues, read the relevant literature, and analyse the school's practices in light of the issues identified in order to ensure that best practice is available in the school.

 

The main characteristics of planning in Coláiste Cholmcille to date include the efforts to engage all the partners in the process, their ownership of the process, and the effectiveness of the work that has already been completed. The board of management, the senior management, and the school's teaching staff are commended for their cooperation, approach and the support they provide for each other as they engage with the school development process. 

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

 

4.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

4.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The curriculum in Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin is implemented each year according to the resources available to the school.

 

The deputy principal prepares  the school's timetable each year in cooperation with the principal following consultation with the staff on the mainland, the island staff, and the teacher in charge. The timetables are the principal method used to organise and deliver the curriculum. The preparation of a workable timetable requires the considerable skill of senior management and is the complex product of matching the desirable with the feasible. 

 

In the current school year there are nine timetabled class periods each day except Friday, when only eight periods are scheduled; eight forty minute periods and one thirty five minute period each day except Friday when the last thirty five minute period is not scheduled. This arrangement ensures that tuition time of 29 hours per week is provided every week and this fulfills the requirements of circular letter M29/95 'Time in School'.

 

In Coláiste Naomh Eoin on Inis Meáin, ten class periods are scheduled each day except on Monday when eight periods are scheduled. All class periods are of thirty five minutes duration and this results in 28 hours tuition time being provided on Inis Meáin. Monday morning classes begin at 10.40 a.m. in order to allow students and staff travelling from the mainland to avail of the Aer Árann flight or the ferry from Ros a Mhíl. This arrangement also fulfills the requirements of circular letter M29/95 'Time in School'.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin offer a broad and balanced curriculum for the benefit of the mainland and island community served and a range of programmes and subjects are offered that are designed to meet the needs of students from the locality, mainland and island.  In doing this, the following programmes are offered; the Junior Certificate (JC) programme, the Transition Year (TY) programme,  the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), and the Established Leaving Certificate (ELC) programme. All the subjects offered as part of the JC. LCVP and ELC programmes are offered at all levels available.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille offers an optional TY programme. The TY was first offered in 1994 and is now central to the school's curriculum. The objectives of the school's TY programme are; to develop a range of transferrable skills; to develop critical thinking; to develop students' problem solving skills; and to promote students' personal development. In the current year there is one TY class group of eighteen students; ten girls and eight boys. The school has invested heavily in the TY programme in terms of planning, time, and resources and this indicates the importance the senior management and the teaching staff attach to the provision of the programme in the school. 

 

The school's senior management encourages as many senior students as possible to register for the LCVP, and because of the importance of optional subject combinations, great care is taken when these subjects are being selected. In the current year only one sixth year student is taking the ELC. The vast majority of senior students are registered for LCVP and all these students take Link Modules for examination purposes. Currently, link modules are timetabled for two periods per week in fifth and sixth year but it is recommended that an allocation of five periods over the two years of senior cycle, in keeping with the recommendations of the LCVP guidelines (p.56 and 57), should be made in future years. All LCVP students are given the opportunity to continue studying the modern language they studied for the JC or they may study French ab initio as part of the programme. This is commended.

 

Enterprise education and work experience are very significant aspects of the school's TY and LCVP and students are placed in local businesses, for example Raidio na Gaeltachta and TG4, to fulfill the requirements of this part of their programmes. TY and fifth year LCVP work  experience has been organised for 20-30 March 2007 and 23-27 April 2007 respectively.

 

Currently, there is a post of responsibility for a coordinator of programmes in Coláiste Cholmcille  in accordance with circular letter PPT 19/02 Programme Coordinator Posts in Vocational Schools. This provides recognition of the importance of the programmes on the school's curriculum and this appointment is commended.  

 

Senior management in Coláiste Cholmcille organises the school's curriculum according to the requirements of its students in terms of programmes and subjects within the resources provided by the Department of Education and Science through Co. Galway Vocational Education Committee. The curriculum of Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin is regularly reviewed to ensure that it is addressing the requirements of the local school community, on the mainland and on Inis Meáin. This review process is commended.

 

Care for the physical development of students is emphasised in Coláiste Cholmcille and consequently, every class group in the school, from first year through to Leaving Certificate is timetabled for a double class period of Physical Education (PE) each week. A similar arrangement is operated in Coláiste Naomh Eoin. This level of provision in a small rural school (and unit on Inis Meáin) which does not have a PE teacher on the staff is highly commendable. Currently the school's senior management timetables subject teachers to take PE (Games) classes and these teachers are satisfied to undertake these classes and they are to be highly commended for doing so. However, games on the school's timetable is not equivalent to the provision of the comprehensive PE programme envisaged in the subject syllabus and consideration should be given to the provision that is envisaged in the syllabus, the teachers who deliver the current level of provision, and health and safety considerations - as they apply to students and teachers. An examination of the possibilities of providing a PE teacher for the school, even on a part-time basis, should be undertaken as part of the overall provision within the VEC scheme.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille is currently participating in the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools) programme and the additional resources that accrue from participation in this initiative should help to improve the school's ability to address issues related to social and educational inclusion.

 

4.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin provide information, support and advice for students and parents concerning programmes and subjects that are available in the school at important times in the lives of post-primary students. The school's senior management, the Career Guidance teacher, the teacher in charge of Coláiste Naomh Eoin and the whole teaching staff are part of this process and this is commended. Colaiste Cholmcille employs an open day, information sessions, contact with subject teachers, and the school's career guidance programme as strategies to deliver this assistance before students make important decisions  and choices.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille and Coláiste Naomh Eoin provide the JC and second and third year students usually study Irish, English, Mathematics, French, Science, CSPE, SPHE, Geography, Religious Education, and PE as core subjects and Materials Technology (Wood) or Business, Metalwork or Home Economics, and Technical Graphics or Art following a taster programme of fifteen subjects, including computers, in first year. Efforts are made to provide the greatest possible choice every year and the choices available are discussed with parents on the open day. Coláiste Cholmcille is a vocational school and therfore, in keeping with the educational philosophy of schools from this sector, emphasises the provision of practical subjects. Efforts are always made to provide for the choices of individual students and movement of students between optional subject classes are accommodated if possible. These arrangements are commended.

 

The school's curriculum is adjusted for students with special educational needs and learning support and resource classes are provided to meet students' needs as required. 

 

During the TY programme students are provided with the opportunity to study a range of core Leaving Certificate subjects and optional subjects are taken in modular form. Irish, English, Mathematics, French, Science, computers (ECDL), Art, Construction Studies, Crafts, Drama, Religious Education, Cooking, Career Guidance, Enterprise Education, Art, SPHE, Technology, and PE are offered. It is intended that, following exposure to and experience of this range of subjects, students will be in a position to make a more informed choice of subjects at the end of the TY programme as they prepare for the ELC or LCVP programmes.

 

All students study Science as a core subject for JC and a Science module is delivered as part of the TY programme. As part of this module Biology and Agricultural Science are emphasised and students are not exposed to Chemistry or Physics. Consequently, it is recommended that all possible Science options are addressed as part of this module in the future in order to provide students who are interested in Chemistry and Physics with an opportunity to experience these as part of the TY programme.  

 

Students in Coláiste Cholmcille study three core subjects for the ELC or LCVP; Irish, English and Mathematics. Additional optional subjects are also taken for State examination purposes; French or Geography; French or French ab initio for the LCVP; Biology or Agricultural Science;  Construction Studies or Engineering or Home Economics; and Construction Studies or Business or Art. The optional subject bands are decided following consultation with the students and their parents and this arrangement is commended. Senior students also take computers, Religious Education, PE and Career Guidance as additional subjects.  

 

Students in Coláiste Naomh Eoin on Inis Meáin take the same core and additional subjects together with Construction Studies, Technical Drawing, Agricultural Science, French and Link Modules.

 

The senior management of Coláiste Cholmcille offer the optional subjects in this way in order to make optimum use of the current teacher allocation and resources available to the school. A computer software programme is used to ensure that the most efficient system is provided for the students' benefit within the constraints placed on the operation of the timetable. This approach is commended.

 

The preservation of the broad curriculum currently provided is one of the school's main priorities. In addition, the school would like, if possible, to provide Music and Technical Drawing on the formal curriculum (the theory of Music is available as an additional subject and Technical Drawing is currently available to senior students in Coláiste Naomh Eoin). Although Music does not feature on the school's formal curriculum a whole-school policy on Music has been developed and is being implemented currently. The main aims outlined in this policy are the development of students' self-confidence, the development of students' musical talent, and the promotion of the composition of Irish language songs. The development and implementation of this policy is commended.

 

It was noted during this evaluation that the full range of optional Science subjects is not currently available in the school's senior cycle. It is recommended therefore, that efforts to address this situation are made from within the school's current resources and teacher allocation.

 

 

4.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has a long and proud tradition of participation in sporting and cultural activities. There is a wide range of extra-curricular activities available to students in the school and these activities support students' learning, personal and social development and are highly commendable.

 

This small school provides a good variety of sporting activities for its students; Gaelic football - for boys and girls under 14, 16 and 18. The boys under 18 team has recently won the Connaught championship and a number of players have been selected for the county team; soccer - boys and girls under 14, 16 and 18 and the under 18 team have recently won an All Ireland schoolboys title; basketball; athletics; table tennis; adventure activities; self-defence; walking; sailing; and kayaking among others. A sports day is organised every year and first year students take part in blitz organised for all Connemara schools  in Pairc Uí Bhreathnach. A basic coaching course under the auspices of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is organised for the TY students in order that they may become qualified to coach under eight, ten and twelve teams. This wide range of activities is commended. 

 

A wide range of other activities is also available to students: for example a branch of the local Credit Union has been set up in the school; music, musical concerts, carol services; dancing, including Sean Nós dancing; environmental activities, the 'Green Flag', tree week, a green day; science exhibitions; the bronze GAISCE award, with some students progressing to the silver award; school trips abroad, to theatres, to sites of historical interest, to outdoor pursuit centres,  art galleries, Dáil Eireann, third level colleges, agricultural colleges and factories; and visits of local personalities to the school. The students and teachers who take part in all these activities are to be highly commended.

 

Students from Coláiste Cholmcille also take part in a wide range of cultural activities every year: for example, arrangements are made for students from first to sixth year to take part in different  writing competitions and prizes are regularly won in the Cumann Forbartha Chois Fharraige, Conradh na Gaeilge, Údarás na Gaeltachta, an tOireachtas, Choiste Gairmoideachais Co. na Gaillimhe competitions; a students' writing circle is organised under the supervision of well-known writers; students take part in activities associated with Pléaráca, for example 'Léigh Leabhar Gaeilge'; The TY students recently took part in a Raidio na Gaeltachta programme when they read their own poetry on air; students are provided with opportunities to read their own poetry at events that take place in the area; a one-day writers' workshop is organised in the school and well-known writers take charge of proceedings and well-known Irish poets visit the school; drama workshops are organised; junior and senior students take part in debating competitions and the school's debating team took part in the All Ireland final two years ago; experts from Comhar Múinteoirí Gaeilge are invited to the school to speak to Leaving Certificate students about essay writing for the examinations and the oral Irish examination; special courses are organised for students who are not fluent in Irish; students take part in the Radio na Gaeltachta and Feachtas table quizzes and the Coláiste Cholmcille table quiz team won the VEC table quiz competition in 2003. The teachers and the students are to be highly commended for their participation in all these activities.

 

Students and teachers in Coláiste Cholmcille take part enthusiastically in all these activities and the school's senior management and teaching staff encourages this participation and this is commendable. The students, board of management and parents acknowledge the excellent work of teachers involved in these activities in the school.

 

Extra-curricular activities are generally organised during the school day, especially at lunch time and in students' and teachers' free time.

 

Difficulties sometimes arise when organising extra-curricular activities because the school has no assembly/sports hall. When possible, the sports hall of one of the local primary schools is used  (Scoil Shailearna) but this hall is situated quite a distance East of Coláiste Cholmcille on the opposite side of a very busy main road and there are dangers associated with bringing students to the hall because of the traffic. Facilities in Seanscoil are also used for musical and cultural activities and although this facility is closer to Choláiste Cholmcille it is still on the opposite side of the main road. One of the temporary classrooms in Coláiste Cholmcille is used occasionally to accommodate musical concerts and cultural activities but there are difficulties associated with using this room because it interferes with the scheduling of normal classes when the room is arranged as an assembly hall.

 

The school has a full-size Gaelic football pitch, developed by the school in association with parents and the VEC, behind the school on the sea side of the school buildings and this facility has been very beneficial in the delivery of sporting activities since its development a number of years ago. 

 

A basketball court was located in front of the main school building up to a couple of years ago when, because of the dangers associated with staff members parking their cars and crossing the main road, the school’s management decided to change its use to a staff car park.

 

The school makes a concerted effort to raise levels of students’ awareness of environmental issues. The school was awarded the green flag a number of years ago and students and staff are active in their continuing promotiom of recycling and a litter free environment. This is highly commended.

 

Efforts to raise students’ levels of social awareness are also undertaken. Each year the students organise a Christmas dinner for the elderly residents of the locality, there are unon-uniform days organised to raise money for different organisations, for example, the Special Olympics. Participation in these avtivities is highly commended. 

 

A range of SPHE activities is also organised for JC students during the year and these activities strongly emphasise the development of students’ social and personal skills, self-respect and self-confidence. This practice is commended.

 

The school regularly acknowledges the students’ participation in extra-curricular activities in the school, in the newsletter that is issued to the parents, in the local papers, on Raidio na Gaeltachta, at the annual prize giving day, and in any other way that it can possibly publicise the students’ achievements. This practice is commended.

 

An overnight visit to a Co. Galway outdoor pursuits centre is organised for the TY students each year together with an overseas trip and these activities are celebrated in photographic displays on the walls of the school’s corridors. The TY students take part in the President’s Award scheme (GAISCE) every year and a number of other certificates recognising their participation in a range of activities are also awarded.

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

5.1 Planning and preparation

 

The policy of the school is that all business is conducted through the medium of Irish and in implementing this policy the school recognises its central role in preserving and perpetuating the rich language and cultural heritage of the area. The school recognises the need to develop and implement an action plan to deliver the aims set out in the ‘Plean Gaeilge’. Evidence of the teamwork engaged in by the teachers in each of the subject departments as they planned together was apparent. The strength of this collaboration is the direction which it can provide for the individual planning of teachers. Where such planning has been developed between subjects cross-curricular links have been initiated and developed, for example: between Irish and Geography, ICT and French; and between Home Economics and Irish.

 

Subject department plans need also to include detail on the approaches to be used in teaching and assessing the subject. A recommendation in more than one report is that planning should include more detail on the strategies for teaching and assessment of the subjects and for differentiation within these areas. The necessity for differentiation comes from the variation in the linguistic backgrounds of students attending Coláiste Cholmchille.

 

 

5.2 Teaching and learning

 

There was evidence of thorough preparation for lessons observed, including planning of resource and equipment requirements in the case of the practical classes.

 

Discipline was sensitively maintained during lessons evaluated and classroom management was characterised by mutual respect, co-operation, attention, and very good student- teacher rapport in a friendly, motivating atmosphere where there were high expectations. A wide variety of print-rich material was displayed in classrooms and students’ achievement over the years is celebrated photographically on all corridors and the use of Irish is very visible throughout the school. This creates an environment conducive to learning and is highly commended.

 

Teaching of a high standard was noted during the evaluation. Lessons  were well-structured and paced. Appropriate teaching methodologies were used and opportunities for students to be actively engaged in their learning were created. However, there is a need to explore methods of having a greater bias towards student activity in science lessons. Teachers adopted a student-centred style and this good practice was further extended through the creation of frequent opportunities for students to express, explain and defend their views and when material being presented during lessons was linked to students' experiences. The learning intention of lessons was presented in a variety of ways which was mindful of the range of students' learning styles using resources which stimulated their interest. It is recommended however, that the possibility of incorporating  ICT into teaching and learning across the school's curriculum should be explored collaboratively by the teaching staff.

 

Students were fully engaged in the learning activities designed for them and demonstrated familiarity with and competence in using the concepts and skills necessary to complete their courses in the subjects inspected. Students were attentive, purposeful, positively motivated and encouraged to participate actively in the learning process.

 

The majority of students showed a high level of fluency in Irish and participated well in classroom activities. Teachers are challenged however, through having to cater for  a spectrum of proficiency in Irish,  while also meeting the needs of native Irish-speaking students and through having to do this with text resources which are largely in English. While some use if being made Irish-language resources for Science, prepared by COGG, these additional resources have not yet had much effect. It is recommended therefore, that the science teachers, as part of their planning for Science, should address the manner in which they are going to incorporate these new resources.

 

Teachers in Coláiste Cholmcille are committed to meeting the challenges of teaching and learning in this Gaeltacht school by providing, in line with school policy, classroom instruction through the medium of Irish and are highly commended for the  enthusiasm, effort and expertise that they bring to meeting this challenge.

 

 

5.3 Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes, both formative and summative, is used to check student learning. Ongoing informal assessment observed during the evaluations included, oral questioning, correction of homework assignments, group work, individual work and continuous monitoring of students’ practical and project work.

 

All subject departments evaluated have developed  homework and assessment procedures in line with the whole-school policy. A review of homework journals indicated that there is a variety in the type of homework given on a regular basis to all year groups. Journals are monitored regularly by class teachers, parents/guardians and are signed monthly by an assistant principal. An examination of  a sample of student homework copies revealed that a broad range of exercises had been set as homework in line with  the requirements of the syllabuses. Homework is carefully corrected and appropriate records of students’ results are maintained.  In some cases, teachers provided students with detailed, developmental feedback identifying students’ errors as well as pointing up the good points in their work. It is recommended that this focus on affirming students’ work should be extended across all classes and the NCCA Assessment for Learning website may be helpful in this regard, www.ncca.afl.ie.

 

In-class assessments are administered regularly to monitor progress in all aspects of subjects evaluated. Teachers record all assessment outcomes systematically and advise students regularly on their progress in the subjects. This practice of continual assessment assists parents and teachers in evaluating their children’s progress at school and is central to the raising of student achievement levels.

 

The non-examination students take formal Christmas and summer tests.  Examination classes sit pre-certificate examinations in the spring. In addition to during parent-teacher meetings which are held twice annually for third and sixth years, and once annually for the four other year groups, parents are kept informed of students’ progress through reports which issue twice annually.

 

 

6. Quality of support for students

 

6.1 Students with special educational needs

 

Two of the main aims of Coláiste Cholmcille are to address the educational needs of its students in order that they may achieve the best possible results according to their level of ability and to promote the personal development, especially the development of self-esteem and  self-respect.

 

During the evaluation it was clear, when considering the customs and practices of the school, that the school’s community was doing everything possible to implement these two primary aims. The school has a learning and support system in place to support students who have special educational needs and the work that is being undertaken in this area is commended.

 

A whole time teacher equivalent (WTE) of 0.5 was allocated to the school for remedial support in the current school year and a resource allocation of 0.7 WTEs was also allocated as a resource to support students with special educational needs. All these resources are appropriately allocated. Two permanent, and one part-time teacher are involved in delivering the school’s learning support and resource programme. 

 

The learning support and resource teachers collaborate closely in order to insure that the school’s learning support and resource programme is delivered and there are regular informal meetings of teachers and senior management to discuss students’ progress and this system works very effectively. A comprehensive model of learning support is operated and individual or small groups of students are withdrawn from regular classes in order to provide them with support, the curriculum is adapted for students with special educational needs, individual education plans are developed, and support designed to meet the needs of individual students is provided when needed. Good practice was noted in every aspect of the school’s system during the course of the evaluation and this is commended.

 

One special needs assistant (SNA) currently works in the school and this SNA works with an individual student. This SNA is a highly valued member of staff and her work is extremely supportive of the student who is in her care, and to the school’s staff generally, and is highly commended.

 

Two general temporary classrooms are used in the implementation of the learning support programme and an additional small, temporary classroom is used as a resource room. Access to ICT equipment is not available in these classrooms and it is sometimes difficult to arrange access to the school’s computer room for one student or small groups. It is recommended therefore, that computer facilities should be put in place, as quickly as possible, in these specialist classrooms in order that students may benefit from access to them.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has developed very strong links with its feeder primary schools and these links help to support students in the transfer from primary to post-primary school. Students standards in Irish, English and Mathematics are assessed during their first week in the school using tests and the learning support teachers also assess all students in first year. The results of these assessments, information from the primary schools, parents, and psychological assessments when these are available, help the teachers in their decision making concerning the use of available resources for those in need. The results of all these assessments are available to parents upon request. The role of the home school community liaison teacher (HSCL) is extremely helpful in the development of these links between the whole school community and the feeder primary schools and parents.

 

The school does not have a strong policy in respect of the formation of class groups and the school authorities examine each year group as they arrive in the school and then make decisions concerning the formation of class groups.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille and its teachers have developed strong links with external agencies and effective cooperation between the Special Educational Needs Organise (SENO), the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the region, and other groups concerned with education or training. This work is undertaken in order to ensure the inclusion of all students and to ensure that the services available to them are improved. Work in this area is commended.

 

Every student in Coláiste Cholmcille takes Irish as an examination subject in State examinations, including students with special educational needs and those who were raised outside the Gaeltacht or the State. Additional Irish language classes are made available to those who were not raised with Irish as their first language, who are not fluent in Irish, those who have moved into the area from other parts of the country or from abroad, and in the current year there are a number of students who have difficulties with reading and spelling in Irish. This scheme is provided with support from 'Cumas', nine students are participating in this year, and five additional hours of tuition in Irish are provided for them every week. These students are withdrawn from regular Irish classes twice per week and emphasis on the language as a means of communication is emphasised in these small classes.  The use of Irish is also encouraged using drama with these students. This additional support is available for twenty six weeks per year, thirteen prior to and thirteen after Christmas. This excellent provision and practice is highly commended.

 

 

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

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has an open and inclusive entrance policy and all students from the school’s catchment area who have the ability to follow the courses provided in the school through the medium of Irish are welcomed. Irish language support is provided (as outlined above) for students who are not fluent in Irish once they are interested and committed to learning spoken and written Irish.

 

There is a range of systems and structures in place in the school to identify disadvantaged students and to support them so that they may take a full part in the school’s activities. For example, there is a book scheme, healthy lunch scheme, parents’ room, among others and these initiatives help the students and their parents. It was reported during the evaluation that the school is recognised throughout the area for the support it provides for students. This is commended. 

 

The work undertaken by the HSCL teacher contributes significantly to the supports provided by the school for students, parents and the local community. A comprehensive HSCL policy has been developed in which the mission and aims of the programme are outlined together with the role of the HSCL teacher, the planning strategy employed, and the implementation and monitoring of the programme. The coordinator makes home visits and these help to strengthen the links between home and school and to identify and address any challenge as quickly as possible. The coordinator is in regular contact with the principal, the Career Guidance teacher, the learning support teachers, and the subject teachers. Courses for parents are organised and these also help to strengthen home school links. There is also contact with the local committee, as this group tries to  identify issues that concern the school and deal with them at a local level. This committee and the school work in close cooperation to find ways of addressing issues that arise. The coordinator meets with local agencies, State and voluntary, in order to support students and parents. Household and local meetings are held once per month and regional meetings are held once per term with the coordinators constantly trying to improve the quality of service they provide. In-service programmes for the coordinators are also organised in Dublin with the National Coordinator. Teachers, students, and parents work together in the development of different policies and all the partners in the education process retain ownership of these policies. These practices are highly commended.

 

6.3 Guidance

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has been allocated 0.14 WTEs for Guidance in the current year and an additional 0.36 WTEs because of the school's participation in the DEIS initiative. These resources are used appropriately to provide CG classes for senior students and the work that is undertaken is of a high standard but the school is not using the complete allocation for CG. It is recommended therefore, that an examination of means to address this issue should be undertaken as a priority.

 

Colaiste Cholmcille has developed a Guidance plan and there are strong links between the CG system in the school and the SPHE programme in junior cycle. These links are commended. The main aims of the Guidance Plan are to support students in their social and personal development and to ensure that educational and career guidance is available to them.  A significant number of activities are organised in the delivery of the CG programme in the school. These include a programme related to transition of students from the primary schools; information concerning optional subjects; induction and monitoring of first-year students; CG for students with special educational needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds; class contact with students from fourth, fifth and sixth years; supervised study; study skills courses; discussion of the implications of taking foundation, ordinary, or higher level in different subjects; visits to third level colleges; the development of communication and interview skills; 'higher options', 'qualifax', and 'CAO'; and the development of strong links with Údarás na Gaeltachta and the services it provides. This good work is commended.

 

Support is provided, using external counsellors, to individual students when it is required and every effort is made to identify students who are at risk at the earliest possible time. Support and advice for individual students is available if/when it is required and this is commended.

 

Even though the full WTE allocation is not currently being used by the school there is a strong emphasis on guidance and assistance, particularly at important times, for example at times of transition. Comprehensive information is made available for students and their parents concerning programmes and optional subjects offered by the school and parents are encouraged to become involved when students make decisions about what programmes to follow or optional subjects to choose. This practice is commended.

 

As part of the review of the provision of CG at the end of the current year it is recommended that the balance between junior-cycle and senior-cycle CG should be examined.

 

 

6.4 Pastoral care

 

All Coláiste Cholmcille's staff, including teachers and support staff, are responsible for the implementation of the school's pastoral care system and this practice is commended. The school's senior management, the CG teacher, and the HSCL teacher have particular roles to play in the operation of the system and these teachers meet every Friday, or more often if required, to discuss the care of students. The approach adopted by the staff is one that emphasises listening to students and trying, in every way possible, to accommodate them. Work in this area of school life is highly commended. 

 

Coláiste Cholmcille has a pastoral care policy in which school customs and practice in respect of illness and injury, accidents, death, support organisations, religious education, SPHE and CSPE,  and anti-bullying are outlined. A separate, strong anti-bullying policy has also been developed and activities related to this theme are organised. For example, an anti-bullying workshop for first year students in cooperation with the TY students is organised to highlight the issue, an awaresness of bullying package is included in the pack supplied to all new first year students,  and parents sign the school's anti-bullying policy. This good practice is commended.

 

Coláiste Cholmcille's student council was first formed in 2004 and the council has played a central role in the life of the school since then. The current council, which also served last year, has ten members, including students from every year group except Coláiste Naomh Eoin. It is recommended that an election should be held every year in future to select members for the council and that a representative from Coláiste Naomh Eoin should also be ensured. The current chairperson and treasurer of the council are senior students while the secretary and publicity officer are junior-cycle students. The sharing of officer roles among junior and senior students is commended. The council is very active and the group meets formally during a timetabled period before lunchtime once per month and sometimes meetings continue on through lunch break. One of the school's senior teachers meets the council regularly, attends all the council's meetings, and liaises with the teaching staff. The council also has regular contact with the school's senior management and this indicates the respect that the principal and deputy principal have for the work of the council and the emphasis they place on effective communication between the council and the teaching staff. A students' suggestion box is located in one of the school corridors and students can write their opinions or suggestions and place these in the box. These suggestions are discussed at the next meeting of the council and the council's view of the students' suggestions is then discussed with the principal. When the council receives the principal's decision on issues raised a notice is displayed on the council's notice board on the corridor and the class representatives report back to their class groups. Recently, issues such as the school's uniform, students' lockers, an anti-bullying campaign, sporting and leisure activities, a shop, a sports hall, the green flag, and a review of the school's code of behaviour were among the issues that the students' council discussed with the school's senior management. One of the students composed the school's motto for example - Eolas Solas an tSaoil (Knowledge, the Light of Life) and all students wear this proudly on their school uniform crest every day. It was clear during the evaluation, that Coláiste Cholmcille's students' council works effectively and that it is responsible for many improvements to the lives of students. This work is highly commended. It is recommended that a photograph of the present council should be displayed in the corridor beside the council's notice board and that this practice should be continued, providing a permanent record, into the future.

 

Formal after school study for third, fifth and sixth year students is organised every evening in Coláiste Cholmcille from 4.15 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.. Refreshments are provided beforehand and study is supervised by an AP. This programme is provided for the benefit of examination and senior students and it is highly commended. 

 

Religious education is central to the school's curriculum and this reflects one of the main aims of the school; to promote the moral development of students. Religious education falls within the remit of the school's pastoral care system. The school does not have a chaplain on the staff but the local parish priest is a regular visitor to the school where he meets with members of the school's community and provides them with spiritual advice. The chaplain works closely with the school's religious education team to promote the spiritual, moral, personal, and social development of the whole school community and this work is commended. 

 

It is very important to acknowledge the very effective, if informal, role of the school's support staff  as they care for students as they contribute to the delivery of Coláiste Cholmcille's pastoral care programme. This good work is highly commended.

 

 

 

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

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

 

 

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 reports in (list of SIRs) are appended to this report.