An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
CBS James Street
James’s Street, Dublin 8
Roll number: 60410I
Date of inspection: 24 – 29 November 2008
A whole-school evaluation of CBS James St. was undertaken in November 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in four subjects were evaluated in detail, 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.
CBS James Street was founded by Blessed Edmund Rice in 1820. The school house was originally located at the back of number 69 James’s Street. The school moved to its present location on Basin Lane behind James’s Street in 1869. The current school building was built in the 1970’s.
The school is located between Guinness’s Brewery and St. James Hospital. Students mainly come from local feeder primary schools in the nearby environs. However, a number of students come from Inchicore, Rialto, Kilmainham, the Liberties and from further afield. There is a strong sense of community in the area and the school plays a central role in that community. CBS James Street is a participant in the DEIS initiative (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools).
The school is located close to the city centre in an area which has experienced both social and economic disadvantage over the years. In recent years, a significant number of newcomer students have contributed to the diversity of the student population. There has been some decline in these numbers this year due to the relocation of many newcomer families to the suburbs of North Dublin.
CBS James Street is one of the schools established by Blessed Edmund Rice who had a particular mission to minister to and provide education for the disadvantaged. The school community is very proud of the fact that it has never deviated from that mission to this day. The mission statement of the school as outlined in school documentation is “to provide Catholic education in the Edmund Rice tradition ….Our school recognises that each student is unique and has different gifts and needs. Our wish is to enable the release of positive potential within each student by offering a relevant curriculum in a school community characterised by care and justice”. There was significant evidence during the evaluation to show that the mission statement is being lived out in all areas of school life and that the characteristic spirit of the school, as outlined in the mission statement, is reflected in the policies and practices of the school. There is a very caring positive atmosphere in the school and staff morale is very high. The school welcomes parents and students and provides a supportive and safe environment for all. Staff members feel valued and supported by management and are consequently well positioned to support and value the students. There is a palpable atmosphere of respect and trust in all areas of the school’s provision.
The trusteeship of the school has transferred recently from the Christian Brothers to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST). Both the board of management and the principal expressed confidence that the trustees and the education office of ERST will have a significant role in the governance of the school in years to come when the transition period from one type of trusteeship to another has been fully completed. Work is underway in the religious education department in the school to fuse the mission statement of CBS James Street with the new ERST mission statement. The four trustee representatives on the board of management showed a full awareness of the many aspects to the running of the school and saw their role as supporting the school management and helping to support the mission statement of the school in any way possible.
The first board of management was established in CBS James Street in 1992. The current board is in its second year of operation and is properly constituted with two teacher nominees, two parent nominees and four trustee members. There is an element of continuity on the board in that all the trustee members are serving for a second or third time. The parent representatives are new this year having replaced former board members who no longer have children in the school. The board meets once a month, is very aware of its legal responsibilities and has had considerable training over the years on the role and responsibility of the board of management from the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) and from the Education Office of the Christian Brothers. Training for teacher representatives on the board was provided last year by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI).
The board of management sees its role as supporting the principal in the management of the school in general. Trustee members are aware of their particular role in relation to maintaining the school ethos. The board is well briefed by the principal on all issues relating to the school. A priority for the board is to maintain the good education that is being provided for boys in their local area. Board members stated their commitment to supporting school management in preserving the very good reputation of the school and maintaining the school as a viable and vibrant educational provider. The school has small class sizes and a good range of programmes both of which facilitate the provision of education for the school’s cohort of students. The school’s current enrolment is two hundred and seventy four students. The board is particularly mindful of the need to maintain and even modestly increase the numbers of students. The optimum number of students in the school would be in the region of three hundred and twenty as articulated by the principal during the course of the evaluation.
The board of management brings a genuine commitment and professional expertise to its management role and functions most effectively. The board has been very active in the area of policy development in the school. A wide range of policies has been developed and the board has rightly been instrumental in driving this development and ratifying the policies. The work completed to date is excellent. Some of those policies are now in the process of revision: for example, the Health and Safety Policy is being reviewed at the moment as is the Religious Education Policy in the context of the change of school trusteeship.
The school has an inclusive enrolment policy and provides for the integration of all students in the school. The need for a specific policy for the integration of newcomer students does not arise for the school due to the inclusive nature of its policy and practice. There is zero tolerance in the school for any kind of racism as there is for bullying. Some consideration might be given to the drafting of an inclusion policy in the school which would record the school’s good practice.
It was reported that a developer is interested in building a new school for CBS James Street in return for certain access arrangements which would free up building land for development. Dublin City Council is broadly supportive of these plans and, while there is no definite timescale for any of these developments, the school community hopes that these will materialise in the not too distant future. While the board is ready to drive this development, progress is beyond the board’s control at the moment. The principal remains in close contact with the developers and keeps board members fully briefed on any progress.
The board is enthusiastic about the range of initiatives to support students’ progress in the school and special mention was made of the benefits of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) demonstration library, the homework club and the breakfast club. Members also referred appreciatively to the positive relationship between staff and students and the fact that students view the school as a safe and protected environment. The code of behaviour has been effective in improving student behaviour in recent years. While suspension is used as a sanction for a range of infractions of the code of behaviour, expulsions are rare and the board of management are seldom called on to arbitrate in matters of discipline.
The board of management is anxious to maintain and to foster good communication links with parents and staff, and an effective communications strategy is in place whereby both parents and staff are kept well informed. The parents’ representatives on the board give an agreed report to the parents’ council and the principal also issues an agreed report to teaching staff. The students’ council is a relatively new development in the school. The board of management should look at ways of supporting the students’ council, for example, an annual invitation for the officers of the council to meet with the board of management. This would be a valuable way of encouraging and valuing the work of the council.
The parents’ council has been active in the school for over thirty years. The council members meet once a month and are actively encouraged and facilitated by senior management in their contribution. The parent council meetings are attended by the principal and by the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Co-ordinator. The council holds an AGM and is affiliated to the Federation of Parents Councils in Christian Brothers Schools. The parents’ council is a dedicated group which makes continued efforts to involve as many parents as possible in school events and activities, and their work is recognised and acknowledged. It is recommended that the council should continue to seek further parental involvement in the council and school events. Parents were very supportive of the school management and staff and reported that they were very happy with the education their sons were getting. They described the school as having a welcoming ethos, a comfortable and caring atmosphere and felt that there was an open door policy in the school. Parents commented on the accessibility of the school principal and the helpfulness of school staff in general including the office staff who are the first interface between the school and the wider school community.
The principal and deputy principal work extremely well together and operate as an effective senior management team. The roles of senior management are clearly delineated with the principal taking responsibility for the timetable, for curriculum development and for driving school development planning. The principal is also centrally involved in a range of local community initiatives which support the school, for example, The Links Community, The Second Level Schools Network and the Dublin Inner City Partnership. The deputy principal takes responsibility for the following areas: supervision and substitution, school trips, extra-curricular activities, discipline and a study skills programme. The principal and deputy principal meet formally every morning and afternoon to discuss issues arising in the school. They also meet regularly to discuss issues in relation to school development planning.
Senior management are effective leaders in the school. Shared management and distributed leadership characterise the management style adopted by senior management. They have a shared vision for the school which focuses on ensuring that the mission statement is lived out in the day to day running of the school. Management is supportive of staff and there was evidence of a high level of mutual respect between all staff and senior management during the evaluation. While staff members are very aware of their responsibilities in relation to teaching duties, there was considerable evidence also of a shared collective responsibility for all areas of school management. All staff members take some responsibility for areas of school organisation, such as punctuality, school attendance, discipline and school uniform. This leads to effective student management. The line from the mission statement which states “The atmosphere within the school energises teachers to fully use their gifts and talents in the best interests of the school” was observed to be fully realised during the evaluation. Staff was also observed to be pro-active in developing different areas of planning and development. Staff is encouraged to take on areas of responsibility, something which is done with complete commitment to the school and the students. For example, in recent years, student behaviour was a cause of some concern to staff. As a result of this concern, a number of teaching staff investigated positive behaviour strategies and visited local primary schools to better inform their deliberations. The principal put ensuing recommendations into effect with significant improvements. A code of behaviour was also designed a number of years ago in order to manage student behaviour more effectively. The code is structured in such a way that teachers can intervene at certain stages during the process and precipitate students appearance before the discipline committee if they are seen to be at risk of suspension or expulsion. There was clear evidence during the evaluation to show that the code of behaviour is fair, transparent and effective. Students were observed to be polite, disciplined and working well in a calm orderly atmosphere, in classes observed and during other school activities.
Some staff members described the school as a “talking school” in that staff is encouraged to bring any issues or concerns to management at any time. Management has an open door policy for staff and parents and there was considerable evidence to indicate that senior management are fully cognisant of all that happens in the school and respond quickly and effectively to any issue which might arise. There was clear evidence of a sense of teamwork in the school and staff and management work well as a co-ordinated and focused team. Both senior management and teaching staff are supported by an extremely capable and committed ancillary staff, who have links with the local community, which is a valuable asset to the school.
The school has an allocation of eight assistant principal (AP) posts and eleven special duties teachers (SDT). A wide range of responsibilities have been effectively delegated to assistant principals and to special duties post holders. The roles of the APs include the roles of year head, responsibility for various aspects of discipline, the administration of exams and first year assessments, liaison with parents and other responsibilities in relation to aspects of school organisation and support systems. All APs take on two or three roles as part of their post. SDTs are responsible for a range of duties including co-ordination roles, student supports and work programmes including links with charitable organisations. All SDTs also take on two or more duties as part of their post. The school had a review of school posts two years ago and, while many of the posts remained the same, there was alteration in some areas. All staff members reported satisfaction with their areas of responsibility and felt that, if they wished to change or amend their duties, senior management was always willing to listen. Both staff and senior management reported that the schedule of posts at present is meeting the needs of the school and there was significant evidence during the evaluation to support this view.
Those assistant principals who have responsibilities as year heads meet formally once a month in order to discuss common issues. The principal meets with assistant principals, who have duties other than that of year head, mainly on an individual basis. For example, the principal meets with the HSCL co-ordinator and the guidance team on a regular basis and with the programme co-ordinators as needed. While individual assistant principals see themselves as middle management by virtue of their duties, seniority and length of time in the school, they do not function as a middle management structure in the school. It is recommended that all assistant principals as a group meet with senior management on a regular basis in order to consolidate this important layer of the school management structure.
Many of the communication channels in the school are informal as the school is relatively small. Staff and management report that communication between all staff is excellent and takes place on an ongoing basis every day. For example, year heads meet informally with all of their class tutors on a daily basis in order to fully inform themselves of any issues in relation to students. The communication system is effective in the context of a small school and the immediate needs of the students. It was observed to be a robust and flexible system which embraces even relatively new members of staff.
There is an effective mentoring programme in place in CBS James Street for new teachers. Newly appointed teachers reported high levels of satisfaction with the supports in place when they first joined the school. New teachers are advised on all aspects of school organisation, including the discipline procedures which are central to the smooth and effective running of the school. They are also given clear guidance and support in relation to effective classroom management. Consideration might be given to peer mentoring including observation of classes in order to observe classroom management practices in the school.
Senior management and the HSCL co-ordinator have considerable links with the local primary schools and these schools are visited by different school personnel on a regular basis. CBS James Street has an attendance officer whose post is funded by the School Completion Programme (SCP). The work in relation to attendance over the past seven years has proven to be effective and has almost eliminated any serious truancy. This work, as well as the inputs from HSCL service and the effective pastoral care system in the school, has impacted very favourably on school attendance.
The role of the students’ council is developing in the school. Members of the council showed an awareness of their collective role and responsibilities in representing their respective cohorts of students. All classes are given the opportunity to vote for their chosen representatives and this is seen as a very positive activity for students in relation to canvassing votes and in relation to the voting process itself. It is recommended that the development of the students’ council continue in order that the attainments of the students’ council are clear to all at the end of the year and that students are given the opportunity to be proud of their achievements as a student council. It is recommended that the CSPE website be accessed by the student council liaison teacher in order to source relevant materials.
CBS James Street has an allocation of 31.75 whole time teacher equivalents (WTEs). This includes ex quota posts for the principal, a learning support teacher, a resource teacher, two disadvantaged area posts, one guidance teacher under the Guidance Enhancement Initiative, 0.5 of an allowance for a guidance counsellor and 0.5 of an allowance for a HSCL Co-ordinator. The pupil teacher allocation includes 14 WTEs for ordinary enrolment, 1.5 WTE for Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), 0.5 WTE for the Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP) and 2.13 for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The school also receives allocations for curricular concessions, for newcomer students and for special needs education. Senior management ensures that the resources allocated to CBS James Street are used effectively and for the purposes for which they were intended.
Planning for the timetable in general is satisfactory. Staff members were effectively deployed within their subject areas in the main, although specific issues pertain to the deployment in English and Physical Education (P.E.). For example, there is no qualified teacher of P.E. in the school. Priority should be given to the appointment of a P.E. teacher with other subjects, when appointments are being made in the school in the future. The team of teachers teaching English in the school is too large and should be reduced in order to ensure a smaller and more cohesive teaching cohort for this subject. Where possible, class groups retain the same teacher in their various subjects from first year to third year and again in fifth year to sixth year. This is seen as being particularly important for the school’s cohort of students, for whom continuity is essential. Teachers are assigned to classes by rotation and all teachers are given the opportunity to teach all levels and age groups. This is good practice.
The length of the school week falls just over one hour short of the twenty eight hours contact time for students. It is essential that the school address this shortfall in order to be fully compliant with circular M29/95 Time in School. Senior management could consider allocating an extra two classes on Wednesday morning in order to address this anomaly. Within the allocation of teaching hours available, the principal would have an opportunity to address issues in relation to provision of time for some subjects such as P.E.
The school has a comprehensive Health and Safety Policy which has been identified for review at present. The reviewed policy must refer to all individual rooms in the school in relation to risk assessment and description. All subject areas should be asked to submit their own surveys of relevant laboratories, practical rooms and classrooms. A health and safety statement should also be included for the teaching of P.E. which currently takes place in a range of different areas inside and outside the school grounds. Reference to school tours and outside activities should also be detailed in the policy.
The school has two computer rooms at present which are well equipped with computers and printers. The school has two interactive whiteboards which are extensively used. All classrooms have a computer or laptop, and data projectors and there has been staff in-service provided in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). One of the teaching staff is acting as ICT co-ordinator in the school on a voluntary basis. Senior management and the ICT co-ordinator reported that an ever increasing number of teachers are using ICT in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning. This was borne out to a large extent by evidence from the subject inspections. It is recommended that senior management continue to encourage and promote the use of ICT in teaching and learning across all subject areas.
In 2007 the school was included in the JCSP demonstration library project which has been a wonderful addition to the school and to the overall literacy focus in the school. During the evaluation, the library was a hive of activity and an extremely welcoming environment for students. All classes visit the library on a regular basis and this resource is used to optimum effect. The homework club which takes place after school three afternoons a week as part of the SCP, also takes place in the library and teachers from a range of subject areas give extra tuition to students during these times. The club is a valuable asset to the school and all teachers endeavour to persuade students to avail of the service. The school also runs a breakfast club for students from 8.00 a.m. This ensures that all students have access to a healthy breakfast and it is also a valuable social outlet for students. Most students live in the school environs and go home for lunch. For those who do not a lunchroom is available and the school has secured a small grant from the Department of Education and Science (DES) to further develop this room into a small canteen which would provide some hot meals for students at lunchtime. This is a very welcome development for the school in relation to providing healthy hot eating options for students.
The school building which was built in the 1970’s is carefully maintained. It has benefited from the summer works scheme in relation to electrical works, maintenance of laboratories and new windows. The school has also had a new roof in recent years. Further applications to the DES are being considered for the refurbishment of toilets, science laboratories and an internal passageway in the school which is need of some upgrading. Although there may be developments in the future in relation to a new school building, there is no certainty around these plans and school management are commended for the manner in which the current building is being maintained and developed. Teachers have their own classrooms, many of which are decorated with posters and other materials relevant to their subject areas. There has also been a whole school focus on literacy and all areas of the school have dedicated literacy materials on display. There are also commendable displays of student progress and achievement on prominent display on corridors and general purpose areas. These include student work references from work experience carried out as part of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). All of this affirms students’ achievements and boosts students’ aspirations and hopes for the future and is commended.
The school has been involved in the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) for at least ten years. The school has focussed largely over the years on drafting and ratifying a comprehensive range of policies including those required by legislation. These policies have been customised for the needs of the school which is good practice. The school is commended for its work on policy development in general and also for its work on specific policies such as a gifted and talented student policy, an I.C.T. policy, and a learning support policy. The school also has a comprehensive guidance plan which is being reviewed in the context of whole school planning and the guidance initiative. The code of behaviour is being reviewed in light of recommendations from the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB).
There was evidence to support senior management’s statement that school development planning (SDP) is a collaborative and collective responsibility in CBS James Street. For example, a self evaluation and analysis exercise was recently undertaken by staff in order to identify and prioritise needs. Staff members rightly described the school as a “reflective school” and this is to their credit given the number of issues which demand constant and immediate attention. The allocation of a special duties post to the area of SDP last year is a welcome development in the school. Relevant staff members have attended in-service with SDPI earlier this year and have come back to the school with the responsibility for progressing the area of school development planning. Staff members were surveyed for their opinions on the top five areas in the school that needed to be addressed in terms of further action planning. As a result of this survey and subsequent discussions with staff and management three key areas were identified for development; Discipline, assessment for learning and revision of curricular provision for students. This is excellent practice.
A range of planning committees has been set up to look at the areas identified by staff. It is envisaged that these planning committees will inform the needs of the school in relation to school development planning in the short and long term. This range of committees includes a SDP steering committee, a pastoral care team, a committee to look at the role of the class teacher, a school discipline committee and a code of behaviour review committee. The SDP steering committee will meet with subject convenors in early 2009 in order to look at developing assessment for learning. It is intended to ask all teaching staff to implement two strategies from assessment for learning to begin with and to gradually build on that approach. Senior management are commended for taking a pro-active role in stimulating and developing action planning in relation to overall school development planning.
It was reported that the board of management contributes to, ratifies and reviews all policies as needed. The students’ council and the parents’ council have also contributed significantly to relevant policies such as the anti-bullying policy, the substance abuse policy and the homework policy. The full range of school policies are provided to all staff members including newly appointed staff, in electronic format, as needed. This good practice provides for revision and review of policies on an ongoing basis. Hard copies of policies are also contained in the Teacher Handbook for newly appointed teachers.
It is recommended that senior management and relevant staff members continue to support, direct and progress action planning in relation to school development planning. It is further recommended that the developmental aspect of the school plan be located with the permanent section of the school plan i.e. the school policies and that these policies be dated in relation to board of management ratification. The school plan should accurately reflect the current position of school development planning and should also reflect key areas for development in the future.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Post-primary Circulars M44/05 and 0062/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). 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.
The range and comprehensive nature of the school policies has had a very positive impact on effective school organisation in recent years particularly in relation to student behaviour. There is zero tolerance for bullying in the school and both staff and students reported that bullying is not a regular issue in the school. This is due to a concerted and concentrated effort by staff over the years to eradicate bullying. The schools’ stance on bullying is supported by its involvement in the Cool School Programme. The code of behaviour, which was carefully designed by staff over the years to address certain issues in the school, has been successful and effective in improving student behaviour. The area of student behaviour however is under constant review and all staff takes collective responsibility for this issue which is highly commendable.
The curriculum in CBS James Street has been adapted carefully over time in order to best meet the needs of the school’s cohort of students within the resources of the school. Students are offered the general range of subjects in junior cycle including Irish, English, Mathematics, Science, Business, French, History, Geography, Art, Materials Technology, Information Technology (I.T.) and Physical Education (P.E.). Students are also timetabled for CSPE and SPHE. Efforts are made to provide for three periods of Religious Education (R.E.) a week for all students in junior cycle in line with the school’s religious ethos. Students who are participating in the JCSP do Environmental and Social Studies (ESS). While the school endeavours to provide a wide range of subjects for junior cycle students, a modern European language is not currently available to students in JCSP classes. Art is not available to students in certain junior cycle class groups. It is recommended that management explore the range of options available in the context of the provision of extra tuition time arising from a longer school week.
Senior cycle students are offered a range of subjects as well as the core subjects of Irish, English and Mathematics: French, Business Organisation, Accounting, Physics-Chemistry, Biology, Art, Construction, History, Geography, Links modules and I.T. Students are also timetabled for three periods of R.E. and one period of Guidance. In senior cycle P.E. is available to LCA students only. Senior management is strongly urged to seek to rectify this situation for next year.
Time allocation for subjects is very good in general with class periods spread evenly across the week. Depending on whether the intake in first year is sufficient for three class groups or four, students are assigned to two classes which are following the junior cycle programme or to one or two classes which are involved in the JCSP. Class formation is based on the principle of optimally meeting the needs of the student cohort. The two classes involved in the junior cycle programme are streamed in order to build the academic achievement of students who are in a position to benefit from being placed in the top class. The fact that all class groups are small in number is of benefit to all students. Class groups are reformed in senior cycle depending on the programme students choose to follow.
Classes are generally taught at ordinary level for the two classes in the junior certificate programme with some students taking a small number of subjects at higher level. Mathematics has been identified as an area in which some students can do very well. Consequently, there is extra support provided in Mathematics in the form of higher level classes, when students are at an appropriate level to be able to avail of these. Students also have six periods of Mathematics in senior cycle in order to support numeracy in general and also to support students who are striving for higher grades. This provision is commended, as it is targeted very carefully at a cohort of students who will benefit and for whom it may make the difference in accessing third level education or not. The possibility of providing a similar level of support to encourage greater uptake and attainment in higher level English should also be investigated.
Commendable whole-school efforts have been made to support and develop students’ literacy skills, and these include a range of reading initiatives, the creation of a print-rich environment and classroom displays of key words and terms in a wide range of subjects. However, evaluations in subject areas that require a good level of writing skills have identified difficulties experienced by many of the student cohort in successfully managing extended writing tasks. A whole-school approach to the development of students’ writing skills is recommended. To this end the use of writing frames or scaffolds along with the strategy of creative modelling or imitation should be developed and applied consistently so that key aspects of structure, sequencing and layout are constantly reinforced. It is also recommended that the print-rich environment be extended to support the development of numeracy skills by displaying numbers, dimensions and calculations throughout the school. Subject planning in all areas should embrace both numeracy and literacy development wherever possible. These approaches to the development of numeracy and literacy should help to significantly boost student attainment in coming years.
CBS James Street has made commendable efforts over the years to provide a range of programmes which will best suit the needs of its students. The school offers JCSP at junior cycle and both Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) as well as the established Leaving Certificate at senior cycle. It was reported that students benefit from the range of programmes available and the provision of JCSP and the LCA has been successful in retaining some students in school. Transition Year (TY) has not been offered in the school since the 1970s. While staff and management recognise the benefits of TY in relation to student development and maturity, they feel that a six-year second level programme would pose difficulties in relation to student retention.
LCA is a long established and successful programme in the school. However, staff members expressed a need for some review of the LCA programme during the evaluation. For example, staff members in consultation with the guidance department have identified the need for a specialism in Hotel and Catering instead of Office Management as so many students go into the service industries after school. It is also intended to timetable the LCA co-ordinator for a tutorial class with both fifth and sixth year LCA students. The lack of a timetabled period for the personal reflection task within LCA has also been identified as an issue to be rectified for next year. Staff are commended for their review of the organisation of LCA and for their plans to develop literacy within the classes on a cross curricular basis.
LCVP is also an effective programme within the school. It is of particular benefit to many of the students in CBS James Street because of the benefits of preparation for work. Some review priorities have been identified for LCVP for next year: review of appropriate subject choices to enable more students to fulfil LCVP requirements, raising the profile of the programme among the wider school community, extending possibilities in relation to work experience and ensuring LCVP provision is continually reviewed. Senior management must ensure that a modern language course is provided in order to fulfil the requirements of the LCVP.
Teachers and the guidance team involved in the LCA and LCVP programmes make concerted efforts to encourage and motivate students to access their own work experience placements. However, given the difficulties that some students have in relation to sourcing work placements, it is necessary for staff to get involved to ensure that placements are productive and relevant. It is a priority for teachers to raise the aspirations of students in relation to work experience and to encourage them to move further afield than the immediate environs of the school. Staff members are commended in relation to their periodic review of the programmes and their dedication to ensuring that the programmes are meeting the needs of the student cohort.
There are very good arrangements in place in CBS James Street to inform and consult parents in relation to: subject choices; school programmes; career options; third level and the pastoral care programme. School management and staff are commended for their constant efforts to include and inform parents. Contact with parents begins with the induction day for first year students where a booklet for students and parents is given to all. This booklet includes information on the pastoral care programme and the school completion programme. Its also covers the Trinity Access Programme (TAP) and the first year mentoring programme in the school An additional booklet giving information on Junior Certificate subjects is also available. Parents of students being placed in JCSP classes are informed and consulted fully on this choice. Parents are continually informed of choices to be made in relation to subjects, career options and study skills and requirements during their son’s time in school. The guidance counsellors are also available to meet with parents on a personal basis, when necessary.
Co-curricular and extra-curricular events are a central strand of the school curriculum in CBS James St. Students are encouraged to take part in school sports as far as is possible. It is difficult to organise regular training in soccer, hurling and football as there are no easily accessible pitches but the school organises regular matches with other schools and training sessions beforehand. Links have been forged with a local sports hall and students are taken there for various games and for some P.E. classes. Many students play rugby for the local St. James Club. Various activities are organised for students who stay in school at lunchtime, such as table tennis, chess and board games.
The school encourages students to develop a sense of citizenship in line with the ethos of the school. Some fundraising is done in the school for various charitable organisations. The most significant of these charities is the India immersion project. The school has sent teachers and students to India in recent years to work on mission projects and hopes to do so again. There is a considerable amount of fundraising and organisation involved in this project and it is an ambitious and commendable undertaking for the school.
The school organises a commendable number of school tours and outings for students. These events are seen as a valuable and important part of the school co-curricular and extra-curricular programme. Teachers hope to develop students’ awareness of the world around them and of the many possibilities beyond the small community in which students live. Many of these outings are undertaken as part of the JCSP programme and this is highly commended. Class tutors also take their individual class groups on a local tour every year. Students are reported to be well behaved and responsible on these outings, further evidence of the mutual respect between students and teachers.
A day school tour is also organised as an incentive for good behaviour. Fifty or so students are taken on a bus tour to sites of historical interest every year from all class groups in the school. A place on the tour is given as a reward for good behaviour. The positive incentive rewards for good behaviour are seen to be effective in the school. A school tour abroad is organised every year. This is a tour that students pay for and thirty five or so students go to destinations such as Barcelona or Paris. The tour is seen to be important in terms of broadening students’ horizons and taking them to destinations which they might never otherwise reach.
Students are also involved in computer courses, speech and drama, digital storytelling with Digital Hub, bodhrán playing, and cooking. The school produces a C.D. with students and teachers singing Christmas carols and festive songs annually. This project is being developed this year with the production of a D.V.D. and C.D. package together and is commended. Teachers are highly commended for their level of dedication to introducing the students to a range of activities in order to broaden their life experiences.
Subject planning in the four subjects evaluated is at different stages of development in CBS James Street, with different practices in relation to co-ordination, formal collaboration and written planning.
Most subjects have a co-ordinator operating on a voluntary and rotating basis, whose role entails maintaining the planning folder, convening meetings and keeping records of decisions made. It is recommended that all subject areas have a co-ordinator, and furthermore that the role of the co-ordinator be agreed and included in the subject plan, and that it encompass the promotion and sharing of good practice within the subject department. Agreeing a rota and term of office for the role is also recommended as good practice, as it ensures that all members of the teaching team have an opportunity to contribute to the organisation and development of their subject.
In most subject departments, formal collaboration is facilitated through meetings twice or three times a year, and regular ongoing contact is reported to take place among teachers in all subject areas. The school management is commended for its support of formal subject collaboration, and the usefulness of informal contact is also recognised. However, the recommendations made with regard to the development of subject planning in a number of subject areas necessitate a more targeted and structured approach. For example, the need to develop a coherent and comprehensive subject plan in some subjects, and the need to identify detailed and achievable learning outcomes in other subjects, requires an organised collaborative approach to subject planning.
Subject plans broadly based on the SDPI template have been prepared in most of the subjects evaluated, and similar plans for other subjects were made available during the evaluation process. In most cases, plans included stated aims and objectives taken from the various syllabus documents and gave details of materials and resources to be used, and many also contained plans for each year group in varying levels of detail. Some good practice in relation to more developed plans was noted, and strengths observed included the identification of key skills and the development of shared resources, both in electronic and hard copy format. This good practice should be extended to all subject planning, with a particular emphasis on skills development and the shared preparation of the resources necessary to impart these skills. It is recommended that all subject planning reflect a focus on clearly stated learning outcomes. All reports commented on generally good levels of individual planning and preparation.
The quality of teaching and learning in the four subject areas observed was satisfactory, and many instances of good quality teaching and learning were noted and commended. Inspectors commented favourably on the practice of sharing the learning intention with students through a statement of the lesson topic at the beginning of the lesson. This should be done consistently so that students understand the purpose of the lesson and what they should know or be able to do at its conclusion. Good structure and pace were noted in many lessons and smooth transitions from one activity to the next were commended. Occasionally, too much material had been planned for the lesson or too much time was spent reviewing previous learning before progressing to new topics.
A range of methodologies was observed, including task-based learning, experiential learning, whole-class teaching and pair and group work. Approaches that encourage active and independent learning are especially to be encouraged. Elements of discovery learning, whereby students are given the material and assisted to find information or draw conclusions themselves, were identified and commended, and the greater use of this approach is recommended, as it leads to considerable learner satisfaction.
All subject inspection reports praised methods that were seen to focus on the development of skills: among those noted were methods that encouraged higher-order reasoning and analysis, extended students’ linguistic ability both in spoken and written language, and developed physical skills. Methods that involved the use of authentic materials and situations were also seen to work successfully, as they grounded and contextualised students’ learning. An integrated approach to the acquisition of skills is recommended, so that students have an opportunity to see links between various aspects of a subject, and can see how skills can be applied.
The subject inspection reports refer to good questioning strategies, demonstrating a progression from closed, factual questions to those that allow for a more speculative or varied response. Question and answer sessions were used to establish students’ recall before progressing to new learning, and more in-depth questioning prompted students to engage with key concepts. Teachers are encouraged to ensure that they allow students time to grapple with and respond to more complex questions, and should guard against answering their own questions. Leading questions or other forms of prompt should be used wherever appropriate to help students to make connections themselves, in accordance with the principles of discovery learning.
Teaching and learning resources were generally well chosen and effectively used. Teachers are commended on the stimulating use of ICT in a number of subjects. It was observed to enhance students’ understanding of complex material and to clarify and reinforce certain concepts. Very good print resources were also prepared, and their timely introduction into the course of the lessons was commented on favourably. Inspectors noted good and varied use of the board to record key terms and new vocabulary and to gather points for use in writing assignments. Greater use of the board for these purposes is recommended in some subjects.
All reports commented on good management of students and a positive learning environment. Students were regularly affirmed and encouraged, and a firm yet friendly control was exercised. Teachers expected students to be co-operative, and very good student behaviour was noted by all inspectors and is warmly commended as it reflects students’ pride in and loyalty to their school.
Good levels of learning were noted in many instances, and students’ willingness to engage in activities and participate was commended. Students were observed to ask questions readily, and to enter into whole-class discussion where appropriate. It was noted that engagement and reinforcement were principally through spoken exchanges. A greater focus on learning through writing would assist in developing students’ ability to complete written assignments successfully and therefore, to manage written examinations effectively. This should be seen as part of the whole-school approach to the development of writing skills recommended in the previous section of this report.
Good practices for monitoring students’ participation and progress in lessons were observed, and teachers are commended on their vigilance in the classroom. Questioning was used effectively to test recall and understanding, and teachers observed students’ work and level of application in class, and assisted them where there were difficulties.
The school has a homework policy, and subject departments have amended or refined it to suit particular subject requirements. The policy sets out a commitment to the regular setting and monitoring of homework and this policy was substantially borne out in a review of students’ work in the subjects inspected. A good volume of work has been completed by many classes, and teachers generally date or initial homework, giving a mark, short comment or more extended written feedback. Developmental feedback, a key aspect of assessment for learning, is recommended for all substantial written work, both to affirm student effort and to assist improvement. The setting of imaginative assignments in some instances was noted and is commended, and care should be taken to avoid overuse of assignments of more limited value, including translation or comprehension work without a clear context. Good progress with project work was observed and is commended.
A homework club takes place three times a week in the library, and this is a commendable initiative. Observation during the evaluation and reports from teachers suggest that, while the students who attend the club derive great benefit from it, many students do not avail of the facility. In the context of the school’s commitment to the raising of student attainment, ways of encouraging greater participation in the homework club should be considered.
Students sit formal in-house examinations twice yearly, and examination classes sit mock examinations. In many subjects, end-of-topic tests are also set. Teachers keep records of their students’ progress, and also mark attendance books at the commencement of each lesson. This is good practice and also contributes to good classroom management.
Parent-teacher meetings are held for each year group and were observed during the evaluation to be well attended.
Supports for students with special educational needs (SEN) and other additional educational needs have a very broad focus in CBS James Street. Learning support is closely allied in the school with social and personal development. This holistic and empathetic approach is most commendable.
There are two qualified learning support teachers in the school and there is a well resourced learning support area available. Some of the learning support resources are used to provide small classes. This is seen as being vital for the particular cohort of students in the school. The majority of students, for example, have a reading age lower than their chronological age. Students are also withdrawn in small groups of two and three for additional supports in all subject areas. Mathematics, English and other subject teachers also withdraw students for extra support.
Much of the learning support work is concentrated on the JCSP classes. Students who have come from JCSP classes into the established Leaving Certificate class also receive additional support in fifth year and this is commended. An example of effective networking in the school is the close liaison between the learning support team, the guidance team and the Home School Community Liaison co-ordinator in relation to learning support needs.
The school has two Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). They help with paired reading and with student assignments under the direction of a learning support teacher. The work of the SNAs is rightly appreciated and valued in the school.
The school has a significant number of newcomer students, many of whom would be students with English as an Additional Language (EAL). The school has an allocation of a fulltime teacher for language support. Parents of newcomer students are interviewed by the language support teacher. Students who need to access language support in the school are withdrawn in pairs, groups or on a one to one basis, in first, second, third and fifth year during Irish classes. If students want to learn Irish, this is facilitated and they are taken out of other classes. The language support room is admirably print-rich and affirms students’ varied cultural backgrounds. Students have access to a wide range of resources and to a computer. The use of visual aids and key words is evident and the importance of visual reinforcement is emphasised.
The school has very good links with the psychological services and with a wide range of state and voluntary agencies which support the identified needs of particular students. The HSCL and the guidance services in the school are particularly active and well informed in these areas.
The guidance provision in the school is excellent with a very strong whole school focus and a commendable adherence to the mission statement of the school. The guidance plan outlines the mission of the school as follows “to create a safe learning environment within the community, which acknowledges diversity, fosters mutual respect, celebrates achievement, recognises the needs of the individual, challenging all to reach their potential.” This mission statement was seen to be lived out in every aspect of the guidance programme and provision.
The school has a 1.5 allocation for guidance which includes a guidance counsellor under the Guidance Enhancement Initiative (GEI). There was clear evidence during the evaluation that this allocation is being comprehensively and effectively used in the school. An integral part of the guidance programme is the mentoring system between first year and fifth year students. This programme is designed to ensure the positive transition between primary school and secondary school for first years and to develop leadership skills for fifth years. Every year third year students are invited to apply to join the mentoring scheme. These mentors are carefully selected under strict criteria and are given full training in key mentoring skills prior to entering fifth year. Meetings are held once a week before Christmas and the mentor group is fully briefed before and after this meeting. A mentoring session observed during the evaluation was seen to be genuinely focussed on student participation and development. Fifth year mentors are given an opportunity to go on and join the sixth year mentoring programme which continues student development through links with adult mentors in local businesses. Both mentoring programmes are very successful and are highly commended as a valuable and integral part of the school provision for students.
Guidance is given to second years on a one to one basis. Each student is interviewed and his results in first year are discussed. Disaffection with school and education often sets in during second year and guidance counsellors work closely with the SPHE teachers in order to boost self esteem. Entrepreneurial learning is promoted in the JSCP classes through a Christmas logs project. Third years are seen as a critical group for guidance and counselling due to the dangers of a drift after the Junior Certificate. Students are taken in half class groups from R.E. classes and there is a full guidance programme provided culminating in a visit to a third level college. Even though students are quite young to be involved in third level visits, it was reported that the CBS James St. cohort of students need to be encouraged and shown that third level is a realistic option at an earlier stage than students in other schools.
A modular programme of guidance is provided for fifth year students who are not involved in LCVP. Students are seen during some classes which are timetabled for R.E. Students are taken out of LCVP classes for one to one guidance. The DATS assessments are carried out on students in fifth year in this school due to the relatively young age of student in fifth year. Results are given on a one to one basis with a focus on the higher scores in order to boost student confidence. Study skills are covered in fifth year and there is close contact with individual class teachers in relation to student needs. Vocational guidance is a strong focus in fifth year with students being brought to various training days and preparation for career choices after school. The newcomer students are a particular focus for guidance in fifth year as some of them do not have the requisite documentation to access third level. Guidance counsellors spend a lot of time helping these students to access the documentation that they need, so that they can go on to third level colleges. This is highly commended.
Sixth years are timetabled once a week for a vocational and educational guidance programme. The school endeavours to bring a wide range of role model speakers in to speak to them. Students are helped with study skills and with CAO forms. School staff makes a concerted effort to raise expectations for students, and there is a whole school guidance approach to encouraging students to develop aspirations beyond finishing school. The contact between class teachers and the guidance counsellors in this respect is commended. The school has been instrumental in accessing a large number of annual scholarships for students to both private colleges and state universities. This work is ongoing and takes a significant amount of time and effort. However, without these scholarships and bursaries many students would never go on to access third level education. This work is recognised and commended. The school is also commended for its success in sending significant numbers of students on to third level courses in recent years. Thirty seven percent of the 2008 Leaving Certificate year group went on to access third level education last year.
Students are tracked effectively after they leave school and many maintain links with CBS James Street. Senior management constantly refer to successful students and their achievements in order to boost students’ aspirations and hopes for the future. The guidance counsellors offer a service to post-leaving certificate students on a one-to-one basis in relation to career advice and help with the preparation of curriculum vitae. It is hoped to establish a past pupils union in the near future. A past pupils union would be a valuable resource to the school in relation to providing work experience opportunities, providing role models and participation in the sixth year mentoring programmes.
Students are referred for one to one counselling by all teachers in the school, including the HSCL co-ordinator and other members of the pastoral care team, as the need arises. Students are helped with behavioural attributes and with other issues that might disrupt and affect their lives. There was significant evidence to show that all staff is aware of and understand the difficulties faced by some of the students in their lives outside of school. Their collective empathy and determination to help students overcome these difficulties are laudable.
There is an excellent pastoral care system in CBS James Street, which underpins all learning activities in the school. The pastoral care system starts with the class tutors who are the first point of reference for students, parents and other teachers in case of any difficulties. Class tutors refer pastoral issues to the guidance team and disciplinary issues to the year heads. Class tutors stay with their class from first year to junior certificate at least. This element of continuity is of particular importance for the school’s cohort of students. A local curate is a voluntary chaplain for the school and is centrally involved in supporting the Catholic ethos of the school. His participation in commemorative and celebratory services, such as the remembrance service, is especially valued by the school community.
There is a whole school focus on pastoral care in general and all teachers take collective responsibility for the welfare of students. The code of behaviour is viewed as central to the school’s pastoral care mission and this is very much in keeping with the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) guidelines. Staff members are encouraged to impose their own sanctions on students for minor infractions of the code of behaviour but the ladder of referral for more serious breaches is very clear. The pastoral care team meet once every three weeks or so to discuss areas of concern. However, teachers and the pastoral team are in daily contact so that all immediate issues are dealt with and resolved quickly. Staff articulated the importance of the informal communication network in the school. There is an effective information system in the school which ensures that relevant staff members are alerted in relation to students experiencing difficulty and to those needing particular attention. The constant vigilance of all staff members in relation to matters pertaining to the care and wellbeing of students was evident during the evaluation and is highly commended.
There is a range of initiatives in the school to support good behaviour and student management. These are ably directed and supported by all staff members especially the guidance counsellors, the Home School Community Liaison co-ordinator, class tutors, year heads and relevant programme co-ordinators. The HSCL service provides a valuable link between the school and students’ homes.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There was significant evidence during the evaluation to show that the mission statement is being lived out in all areas of school life in CBS James Street and that the
characteristic spirit of the school, as outlined in the mission statement, is reflected in the policies and practices of the school.
· The board of management brings professional expertise and a genuine commitment to its management role and functions most effectively. The board is commended
for its very good work on policy development in the school.
· Senior management are effective leaders in the school. Shared management and distributed leadership characterise the management style adopted by senior management.
They have a shared vision for the school which focuses on ensuring that the mission statement is lived out in the day to day running of the school.
· While staff members are very aware of their responsibilities in relation to teaching duties, there was significant evidence also of a shared collective responsibility for
all areas of school management.
· School management and staff are commended for their constant efforts to include and inform parents.
· The quality of teaching and learning in the four subject areas observed was satisfactory, and many instances of good quality teaching and learning were noted and
commended. Teaching and learning resources were generally well chosen and effectively used. Teachers are commended for the stimulating use of ICT in a number of subjects.
· The guidance provision in the school is excellent with a very strong whole school focus and there was clear evidence during the evaluation that the guidance allocation is
being comprehensively and effectively used.
· The constant vigilance of all staff members in relation to matters pertaining to the care and wellbeing of students was evident during the evaluation and is highly commended.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that all assistant principals, as a group, meet with senior management on a regular basis in order to consolidate this important layer of the school management structure.
· The length of the school week falls just over one hour short of the twenty eight hours contact time for students. The school must comply with circular M29/95 Time in School. Senior
management could consider allocating an extra two classes on Wednesday morning in order to address this anomaly.
· It is recommended that senior management and relevant staff members continue to support, direct and progress action planning in relation to school development planning.
· A whole-school approach to the development of students’ writing skills is recommended. To this end the use of writing frames or scaffolds along with the strategy of creative modelling
or imitation should be developed and applied consistently so that key aspects of structure, sequencing and layout are constantly reinforced.
· In the context of the school’s commitment to the raising of student attainment, ways of encouraging greater participation in the homework club should be considered.
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 – 26 November 2008
· Subject Inspection of French – 3 November 2008
· Subject Inspection of History – 28 November 2008
· Subject Inspection of Physical Education – 28 November 2008
Published November 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of CBS James’s St welcomes the positive report of the Whole School Evaluation recently conducted in our school. The Board wishes to thank the inspectors involved for the professional and friendly manner in which the evaluation was conducted.