An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Coláiste Mhichíl, CBS

Sexton St., Limerick

Roll number: 64200R

 

Date of inspection: 27 September 2007

Date of issue of report:  22 May 2008

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Coláiste Mhichíl CBS, Sexton Street, Limerick, was undertaken in September 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in five subjects was evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section seven for details). The board of management 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.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The Christian Brothers arrived in Limerick in 1816 at the invitation of Bishop Tuohy. Working first in the old Irishtown, they moved to Sexton Street, built a monastery and school in 1828, that subsequently opened in 1829. The school is located at the junction of Sexton Street and Roxboro Road and the campus currently accommodates two schools, Coláiste Mhichíl, an all boys’ voluntary secondary school, and Scóil Iosagáin, an all boys’ primary school. The student intake has changed considerably in recent years. In the past a significant proportion of boys from rural areas would have attended the school. The vast majority of students now attending are from the Limerick city area. The school has an inclusive student intake with students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, countries and minority groups.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The Christian Brothers are in the process of transferring the trusteeship of their schools to a lay group, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST). This has involved a lengthy process of reflection and consultation on the characteristics and role of an Edmund Rice school. The new trust has published a charter in which the five key elements of an Edmund Rice school are identified; nurturing faith, promoting partnership, excelling in teaching and learning, creating a caring community, and inspiring transformational leadership. Coláiste Mhichíl has adopted this charter.

 

The characteristic spirit of Coláiste Mhichíl as outlined in the school’s mission and philosophy statements and as outlined by the school principal aims to provide a caring, inclusive and supportive school where teachers and students can achieve to their full potential in a Christian environment.

 

Coláiste Mhichíl is a school where students from all parts of society are enrolled and encouraged to participate in all school activities. It is a school that strives to support students to achieve their full potential.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The Christian Brothers will transfer their trusteeship responsibilities to the new lay trust, ERST, on 1 September 2008. The Christian Brothers have also delegated the day-to-day operation of their trusteeship responsibilities to an education office. It is through an education office that communication between the board of management and the trustee currently occurs. The education office is in regular contact with the school principal.  It is through training, undertaken by all board members, and the fact that some board members have served a number of terms of office that the board is aware of its role and responsibilities. The board of management is appropriately constituted.

 

Consultation and partnership are clearly evident at board level. Decision-making procedures are open and clear and taken with regard to the best interests of the school community and with regard to the ethos of the school. The board communicates with the wider school community through its agreed report. The agreed report is made available to all staff members and the principal, as secretary to the board, communicates with parents through the parents’ association.

 

The board is engaged in policy development and adoption and has devolved responsibility for the development of the school plan to staff members. The board has adopted legally required policies and statements on admission, attendance, behaviour, child protection and safety. The policies on guidance and special education are currently in draft format. It is recommended that these should be developed fully as a matter of urgency.

 

The board has identified a number of school development priorities. Of immediate concern to the board is the development of semi-derelict buildings on the school site. The board also sees the transfer of trusteeship as a significant priority for the school and wishes to support and nurture the five key elements of an Edmund Rice school as outlined in the ERST charter. As outlined in section two of this report clear strategies to achieve the development priorities identified by the board should be developed. It is suggested that the board and the senior in-school management in consultation with staff should develop a process for ongoing review and evaluation of key aspects of the school. The recommendations contained throughout this report should form the initial basis for such a review.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The principal and deputy principal have a strong presence in the school and are readily available to the school community. Parents, students and teachers all commented on their openness and willingness to engage in discussion on issues that arise. The principal and deputy principal have a partnership approach to school leadership and work effectively together as a team. While they both have distinct roles in the day-to-day management of the school there is a very good level of communication and collaboration on issues as they arise. The principal and deputy principal share a clear leadership vision for the school that focuses on improving outcomes for students and the wider school community.

 

The principal and deputy principal clearly articulated a vision for school improvement in areas such as school planning, supports for newcomer students and families, accommodation and additional subjects. Not all of their vision for the future of the school is articulated in the school plan or is known by the wider school community. In order to bring about their vision there is a need to develop clear strategies for its implementation and to share and develop it with the wider school community. It is further suggested that the school management should develop a culture of self-review and evaluation throughout the school and should develop a clear vision for all aspects of school life. There is some evidence of the empowerment of the middle management team through devolved responsibility for projects and initiatives. Strategies should be developed now to facilitate all of the middle management team in achieving a greater role in school leadership.

 

Clearly defined duties are assigned to post holders in accordance with agreed procedures. A formal review, among all members of the school staff, of the schedule of duties has not occurred for a considerable amount of time. As there is an imbalance among the duties assigned to post holders at each level and between levels it is recommended that a review of the schedule of duties assigned to post-holders should be carried out. Such a review should occur every few years so as to ensure that the schedule of duties continues to meet the ever-changing needs of the school. Such a review should occur in parallel with the process of ongoing review and evaluation of key aspects of the school. Senior in-school management does not have a system to review the effectiveness of middle management. It is recommended that a system of reporting to the senior management team should be developed. 

 

Continuous professional development (CPD) is facilitated by the school management through, release for attendance at in-service days, financial support for subject associations and all new teachers are encouraged to join their relevant subject association. All members of staff are encouraged to attend all in-service in their respective subject areas. The school management has also organised CPD as part of school staff and planning days. It is suggested that all staff should be surveyed to ascertain those areas in which they would benefit from CPD. Some areas that arose during the course of the evaluation include differentiation and mixed ability teaching and managing challenging behaviour.

 

Coláiste Mhichíl is part of the common application system for first year students in the Limerick region. The admissions policy of the school reflects the mission statement and philosophy of the school and is grounded in principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.

 

A clearly structured code of behaviour has been developed in collaboration with the school community. Parents, staff, teachers and school management all spoke of the positive impact the code of behaviour has had on students’ behaviour. The code of behaviour is implemented in a fair and consistent manner through subject teachers, class tutors, year heads, senior in-school management and the board of management. While discipline, rules and sanctions underpin the system, students’ support is offered at all stages of the process. The merit card system should be developed further to acknowledge and maximise students’ achievement. It is suggested that awards for students’ achievement and attendance could be incorporated into a school awards ceremony.

 

Attendance and retention of students are monitored in an organised and systematic way. The school is involved in a school completion programme and is in the process of appointing a designated school officer to work with targeted students in the school. It is recommended that a policy and programme on attendance and student absenteeism should be developed at a whole-school level. The school completion officer and the officer to be appointed to the school should be involved in this process. The publication entitled “School Completion Programme, Guidelines towards Best Practice” would be useful in this regard.

 

The students’ council liaises closely with the school management and is seen as an important line of communication with students. They have been involved in a number of school projects that directly relate to their lives in the school and they are also involved in numerous fundraising activities. They have developed a number of goals for the year and are actively working towards their implementation. The recommended development of a system of school self-review and evaluation should include a strategy to incorporate the views of the students’ council where appropriate. It is also suggested that the structure of the students’ council should be reviewed to ensure all year groups are represented.

 

Parental involvement is actively promoted in the school. An example of the quality of involvement and communication with parents was the organisation of an information evening for parents of newcomer students. This evening highlights the significant role that the school sees parents play in the education of their sons. The parents’ association was also actively involved in this information evening. The parents’ association commented on the caring atmosphere in the school and the welcome shown to all parents by the school staff. The parents’ association is actively involved in policy development, fundraising and celebrations held in the school. Regular communications in the form of newsletters, individual letters and a principal’s report at each parents’ association meeting are used to provide important information throughout the year. In addition formal parent teacher meetings are held each year and regular reports detailing individual student progress are sent home throughout the year.  It is recommended that the dates and times for all parent-teacher meetings should be included in the school calendar. It is also recommended that the school management should review the dedicated timings for third-year, fifth-year and sixth-year students’ parents to attend the parent-teacher meeting for those year groups to allow the opportunity for parents of any of those groups to attend up until 6.45pm.

 

The school has established appropriate links with outside agencies, other educational agencies, past students and the school community to support school activities and programmes. These links support work experience, student retention, student support, civic and social justice programmes and acknowledge students’ achievement in State examinations and house examinations through scholarships to third level institutions and bursaries for junior cycle subjects.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

With respect to the commencement of the school year for all class groups the school calendar does not fully comply with Department of Education and Science regulations. It is recommended that the current school calendar should be reviewed to ensure that any shortfall in the number of teaching days per year is addressed.

 

In most instances the deployment of teaching staff complies with Department of Education and Science regulations and is consistent with teachers’ qualifications, expertise, and experience. In most instances teachers are provided with the opportunity to teach a range of levels and cycles. In some instances teachers are teaching fewer than the required number of hours per week. It is recommended that this shortfall should be made up immediately and that all subject teachers should be afforded the opportunity to teach at all levels and cycles.

 

New staff members and student teachers on teaching practice receive an induction pack containing the main policies and procedures of the school. In addition new staff members receive support and advice from the school management and staff. It is suggested that the materials given to new staff should be developed into a staff handbook to be made available to all staff, and amended from year to year as required.

 

The school has accessed and been granted additional teaching resources for guidance, learning support, special educational needs, Traveller students and newcomer students.  A proportion of these additional teaching resources is being used for purposes other than for those for which they were allocated. It is recommended that the full allocation for guidance, learning support, special educational needs and newcomer students should be used for their intended purpose. It is also recommended that senior in-school management should plan for the utilisation of these resources in consultation with the post holders associated with these areas.

 

The school accommodation is maintained to a very high standard in most parts of the school. However parts of the school have fallen into disrepair, most notably the old primary school building and the building housing the canteen facilities on the Roxboro road side of the campus. School management currently has an application with the Department of Education and Science to refurbish these buildings. The school management sees these buildings as essential to maintain and develop the curriculum on offer in the school particularly in specialist areas such as Technology and Music. In addition the principal’s vision for these buildings includes providing dedicated teaching facilities for newcomer students, a parents’ room, a prayer room and rooms that can be made available to the wider school community. Strategies for the implementation of this vision should be developed fully and outlined in the school plan. It is suggested that the school could also work towards some short-term solutions to these accommodation issues. In this regard the school should look at how teacher-based classrooms impact upon the optimum utilisation of teaching spaces throughout the school.

 

Most classrooms are well presented and maintained. As the classrooms are teacher-based it is recommended that a print rich learning environment should be created in all classrooms. It is further recommended that the school management should work towards replacing the old classroom furniture that is in place in a number of rooms throughout the school and should work towards replicating the presentation of the Mary Ryan centre and library area in all corridors, stairwells and assembly areas throughout the school. There are students’ lockers available for a small percentage of the total student cohort in the school. It is suggested that the school management should give consideration to providing lockers for the majority if not all students. The school intends to implement the Green school programme in the current term with a view to achieving a Green flag.

 

Material resources are provided to support teaching and learning upon request from subject departments. The school management has also been proactive in supplying such resources as TVs, DVD players and computers in some classrooms. Procedures should be developed for the sharing of these resources among teachers and subject departments. The senior in-school management team wishes to see the effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) into learning and teaching. An ICT policy for the computer room has been developed which details rules and procedures for booking and using the room. The school has recently established a second computer room for use by students and teachers using recent funding for Design and Communication Graphics. Priority of access to this room has been given to the technology subjects. The main computer room has a number of older computers but the school management is in the process of replacing these. Subject teachers have experienced problems in accessing the internet in classrooms and in the computer room.  It is suggested that the development of a vision for ICT and the co-ordination of ICT provision in the school should be prioritised in line with guidelines from the National Centre for Technology in Education (www.ncte.ie). It is suggested that a full audit of ICT facilities in the school should be completed to inform the development of a vision for ICT in school. This could form part of the schedule of duties for middle management.

 

The school has prepared a health and safety statement, based on a risk assessment. This statement is communicated and available to all staff and students.  A number of risks were identified to inspectors during the course of the evaluation. It is suggested that risk assessments should be carried out on a regular basis by teachers in their classrooms and that these should be forwarded to the safety officer.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

The school-planning process in Coláiste Mhichíl is ongoing and involves all members of the school community. All members of the school community are appropriately enabled to contribute ideas, express concerns and make recommendations in an open and constructive way. Formal co-ordinating structures are in place to support the planning process in the school. Co-ordination of the school plan has been assigned to a special-duties post-holder. In addition individuals and groups are working on identified priorities.

 

The planning process in Coláiste Mhichíl is grounded in the mission statement of the school and aims to improve outcomes for students and the wider school community. The process is based on review and prioritisation of immediate and emerging needs. The school is not engaged in an ongoing cycle of school development planning that includes identification of strengths and areas for development leading to the development of action plans. The planning process in the school would be enhanced by the development of a comprehensive system of school self-evaluation and action planning. It is suggested that systems to monitor the effectiveness of current and emerging policy areas should be developed. The guidelines developed by the School Development Planning Initiative would be useful in this regard.

 

A range of policy documents has been developed over time and these have been ratified by the board of management. A school plan outlines the vision, mission and fundamental aims (the five key elements of an Edmund Rice school) of the school. The school plan does not have distinct permanent and developmental sections but has clearly defined policy statements and developmental priorities identified under a number of headings. It is recommended that the school plan would be enhanced by the development of a permanent section that outlines the vision, mission, fundamental aims of the school, a list of key policies developed and ratified by the board, a description of the planning process in the school and a description of the system for school self-review, evaluation, and monitoring of the school plan. The developmental section should include those priorities identified by the school community to maintain and enhance students’ learning. Action plans, a timeframe for implementation and the assignment of responsibility should be developed for each identified priority. 

 

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 collaborative approach to the development of school policies has resulted in a collective responsibility for their implementation. It is suggested that the reorganisation of the school planning process and the school plan would lead to a greater awareness among the school community of the targets set out in the plan, a greater ownership and responsibility for the implementation of the plan and a clearer understanding of the impact school planning is having on outcomes for students.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Coláiste Mhichíl offers a range of programmes. The Junior Certificate and established Leaving Certificate are delivered in line with programme requirements and guidelines. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) should be reviewed as students taking the ab-initio modern European language do not currently comply with the programme requirements. It is suggested that students should decide whether they wish to follow the LCVP when they choose their optional subjects in third year. This would allow LCVP classes to be appropriately timetabled. It is also recommended that students should experience the wide variety of subjects available in the school as part of Transition Year (TY). Given the current time allocation for each subject in TY, it is recommended that the Transition Year programme should be reviewed to ensure it complies with the aims and objectives of the programme. The TY guidelines should be consulted in this regard.

 

A wide range of subjects is taught in the school that serve the needs and interests of students. These subjects are delivered in accordance with appropriate circulars; however it is suggested that the school should review the practice of timetabling two class periods per week for some class groups in Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE). School management should introduce Physical Education (PE) into the curriculum for fifth-year and sixth-year students.

 

Curriculum provision and review have not been fully addressed by the whole-school planning process. While acknowledging the fact that the introduction of Music and Technology has been discussed and that there was some discussion about the Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), it is recommended that a full and open debate on the JCSP and LCA programmes should occur as part of the school planning process. It is recommended that the school should introduce the JCSP to support those students who are engaged in the School Completion Programme (SCP) and any other students who would benefit from the additional resources provided to the school and the teaching methodologies employed in delivering the programme. It is further suggested that the school should explore whether the LCA would be more appropriate to the needs and interests of a small cohort of students each year. The school management and staff should consult with the relevant support services and schools within the Christian Brother network who currently offer these programmes.

 

At present students are strictly streamed in all subjects upon entry to first year. Students must study subjects based on their perceived academic ability. Students do not have equality of access to all subjects. It is recommended that the policy of strict streaming in first-year should be revised. It is suggested that the school management and staff should explore all possibilities from mixed ability in some subjects to banding in others. One of the effects of organising class groups through streaming is that high expectations may not always be communicated to the class groups below the top stream. It is further suggested that core subjects should be concurrently timetabled in junior cycle to allow for student movement. The Department of Education and Science, Inspectorate publication “Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs, Post Primary Guidelines”, should be consulted in this regard.

 

While acknowledging that the needs of senior cycle students are prioritised in framing the timetable; tradition, seniority of teachers and patterns established over time influence the allocation of staff and time. A considerable proportion of teaching staff finish their teaching duties at the start of the main lunch break on a number of days throughout the week. It is recommended that senior in-school management should take greater responsibility for the planning and development of the school timetable and ensure students’ needs are given first priority. It is recommended that Guidance and LCVP classes should be designated distinct class periods.  It is also suggested that the current allocations for Mathematics, English, Irish, and some optional subjects should be reviewed at senior cycle. In order to implement these recommendations school management and staff should timetable nine class periods per day.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students do not have any subject choices in first year and they must choose subjects from preset bands for senior cycle. However, it is acknowledged that these bands are developed based on interviews between third-year students and the guidance counsellor. It is recommended that all students should be given an open choice of optional subjects for junior and senior cycle. 

 

First-year parents are invited to an information evening where subjects are discussed by the school principal. Parents can also make an appointment if they have any concern regarding the subjects students are assigned and the levels they are taking in each subject. An information evening for TY is also held for parents of third-year students interested in TY. It is suggested that an information evening for all parents of third-year students regarding subject and programme choices should be introduced. This would give the school the opportunity to better inform parents regarding each of the senior cycle subjects and programmes on offer in the school and help them in assisting their sons in making more informed choices.

 

The guidance counsellor assists students in making subject and programme choices for senior cycle. It is suggested that the guidance counsellor should also be involved in the information evening outlined above for senior cycle students.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

A wide range of activities and opportunities to support and enhance learning is provided by the school. These include cultural, aesthetic, community, social and sporting activities. Some examples include; a Pipe band, European Studies and Road Safety programmes in TY, paintballing, debating, variety shows, tours and field trips to Barcelona, the Burren, arts centres and film festivals. In addition a wide range of sporting activities is offered which includes; soccer, hurling, basketball, fishing and athletics. Management and staff encourage all students to participate fully in these activities. The teachers involved in these activities are to be highly commended. The teachers involved spoke of the value they place on students’ involvement in such activities and the benefit that accrues from these activities in enhancing students’ personal and social development.

 

Students’ achievement in sporting activities is celebrated each year. It is suggested that consideration should be given to the development of an awards ceremony for all aspects of school life.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

In the subjects evaluated, planning has progressed through a subject-department structure and nearly all teachers have been involved as part of this process. School management has undertaken to facilitate all teachers in participating in subject-department meetings and this is to be encouraged. It is recommended that these meetings should be incorporated into staff days, the school planning day or held at the same time as school house examinations.

 

In all subjects that were evaluated a subject co-ordinator was in place. This is good practice as formal co-ordination of a subject area helps to ensure that planning work progresses in a well-managed and structured manner. In some subjects, the role of co-ordinator is rotated among the subject teachers and this good practice is to be encouraged as rotation of the role helps to empower teachers in their work.

 

Most subject teachers in the subjects evaluated have done good work in devising subject plans. In some subject areas, these plans were mainly individual in nature while in other subject areas the plans were created collaboratively and used collectively. In building on the good work done in creating subject plans it is recommended that the subject plans be extended through a collaborative process that involves all subject teachers and that seeks to identify and share best practice in teaching methodologies appropriate to the diversity of learners in the school. Specific advice and recommendations relating to each of the subjects evaluated are contained in the relevant subject inspection reports.

 

Best practice was observed in a number of subjects where planning documentation included self-review and reflection on the topics taught. This practice enables teachers to improve the delivery of the topic being taught and enhance students’ learning. The extension of this practice to all subjects is to be encouraged.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

The lessons observed had been planned and prepared in advance. This planning and preparation was evident from teachers’ levels of subject-matter expertise and the fact that all requisite materials were to hand. In most lessons observed, lesson content was chosen in accordance with the needs of the learners and was appropriate to the requirements of the relevant syllabus. Teachers’ instructions and explanations were precise in almost all lessons observed.

 

Direct whole-class presentations of content by teachers and the questioning of students were the main teaching methodologies observed. This proved effective in enabling teachers to gather feedback on students’ learning and in engaging students in the lesson topic. Where best practice was observed, questions were carefully sequenced and graduated, leading students to higher-order thinking and questioning was used as a strategy to involve and engage all students in the lesson. Other strategies used less frequently included teacher and student reading, group work, brainstorming, in-class writing, and building on students’ prior knowledge. It is recommended that all students are provided with opportunities to experience a wider range of appropriate pedagogical practices and teaching strategies. The use of differentiated tasks would also be of assistance in this regard and might support students with specific learning needs.

 

Available resources were used to varied effect in the teaching and learning of subjects inspected. For example, some teachers made good use of the board to highlight key learning points and to enable students to note these points. In a small minority of classes, the use of ICT presentations was effective in aiding students’ learning. Given the wide variety of learning styles and learning abilities in the school, it is recommended that greater use of audio-visual stimuli and concrete artefacts be utilised in the teaching of subjects. For example, good practice was observed where models were used to support teaching and learning. The use of models engages students’ senses of sight and touch and is supportive of working with learners with diverse learning styles.

 

Discipline was maintained in all lessons observed and the atmosphere was generally one of mutual respect among teachers and students. Students were encouraged to participate in class and to ask questions. Frequent affirmation of students’ efforts and responses was a notable feature of lessons and this is to be commended. Almost all students observed were engaged in their learning.

 

In some of the subjects inspected teachers are to be commended for their efforts to make the classroom environments more stimulating and in providing motivational print-rich environments for their students. This was achieved by the display of posters, maps, samples of students’ written work, and, in English, student illustrations of studied texts.

 

In nearly all of the subjects inspected students received individual attention from the teacher as required. In the majority of lessons, most students showed good levels of knowledge of and interest in the lesson topics.  In supporting students’ diverse learning needs it is recommended that differentiated tasks and regular recapitulation and reinforcement be used more extensively to motivate students’ interest, reinforce their learning, and develop their knowledge of the topics under study.

 

 

4.3          Assessment

 

There are appropriate arrangements in place to assess students’ progress and to report on this progress to their parents. There are good systems in place that facilitate communication between the school and students’ parents.

 

Homework was a feature of students’ learning in all of the subjects that were evaluated. In a small number of subjects, it was recommended that a greater variety of homework exercises be assigned to students.

 

Best practice was observed where teachers frequently monitored and provided feedback to students on their work. It is recommended that each subject department agree a common approach to giving feedback on students’ work in terms of frequency and types of feedback, affirming, formative and summative.

 

Teachers in some subjects award credit as part of end-of-term examinations for prior work completed by students and skills gained during the term. This practice is to be commended as it helps to ensure a complete and informed assessment of students’ progress and it rewards students for the full range of competencies they have developed. It is recommended that this practice be extended to all subjects.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

Coláiste Mhichíl has developed its admission and enrolment policy for students with special educational needs and is in the process of developing its Learning Support and Special Needs Policy. It is recommended that the draft policy on learning support and special educational needs should be reviewed to ensure it complies with the advice and guidance set out in the Department of Education and Science, Inspectorate publication “Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs, Post Primary Guidelines”, as a matter of urgency. This document gives advice on whole school planning and organisation for special educational needs and inclusion, identifies roles and responsibilities, and advises on planning for individuals with special educational needs, the utilisation of resources and on teaching and learning strategies for the inclusive school.

 

All available resources and entitlements for these students have been accessed, however not all of these resources are used for their intended purpose. It is recommended that the special duties post-holder with responsibility for this area should be involved in the initial planning and organisation of these resources when the timetable is being developed and should be informed of the resources available to support these students. A special class group has been formed to utilise some of these resources and there is also some withdrawal of students from class. It is suggested that the SEN team should explore other interventions such as team teaching, particularly where classes might be banded or of mixed ability in the future.

 

The special educational needs team generally meets at the start of each school year and at the end of each term to identify students’ needs and monitor progress. It is recommended that school management should facilitate the core team of three special educational needs teachers more opportunities to meet and discuss students’ progress and also to lead the development of the learning support and special educational needs policy.

 

Students with special educational needs and those who require learning support are identified by the special educational needs support team through the enrolment process, through contacts with local primary schools, parents, appropriate agencies and through subject teachers in the first few weeks of the school year.

 

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have been developed for all students in receipt of additional support. The special educational needs team has developed templates for IEPs and this is to be commended as they are student specific and easily adapted.  IEPs are available to all staff. Learning targets are set and outcomes assessed through the IEPs. These are used to inform the effectiveness of students’ interventions.

 

Coláiste Mhichíl has developed a policy on inclusion for the admission and participation of students for whom English is a second language. This policy was designed to address the very diverse needs of such students. It is recommended that the school should register with Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT), www.iilt.ie , the support service established by the Department of Education and Science to support schools and students for whom English is a second language. The policy on inclusion of students for whom English is a second language should be reviewed in consultation with the guidelines produced by IILT.

 

The school has accessed most of the appropriate resources and available supports to aid the full inclusion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, minority groups and those for whom English is a second language. Coláiste Mhichíl is the lead school in the Sexton Street SCP and has a full time home-school -community Liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. The delivery of these programmes is planned at a whole-school level. As outlined previously it is recommended that the school should introduce the JCSP to support targeted students and school management should explore the possibility of establishing a book rental scheme in the school. In addition to the current grants available to the school for necessitous pupils, a special seed capital grant for the establishment of book rental schemes is available; see Department of Education and Science circular letters M54/91 and 25/2007. This would help to reduce the cost of books for all students. It is further suggested that the school management in conjunction with the post holder with responsibility for those students for whom English is a second language should review circular 0053/2007, as the school may be entitled to an additional teaching allocation depending on the language competency of those students currently enrolled in the school.

 

The needs of these students are identified during the enrolment process and in the case of students for whom English is a second language their language competency is assessed. However, these students are assigned to classes before this assessment takes place, which is at variance with the procedures outlined in the school policy. It is suggested that the procedures laid down in the policy should be followed in all instances and the students’ educational needs and placement should be determined based on their personal profiles. 

 

It is recommended that the teachers with responsibility for students for whom English is a second language, for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and for those from minority groups should meet with the school management to plan for the provision of education and utilisation of resources for such students in the school. Given the inclusive intake of the school it is suggested that the school should develop a policy on intercultural education in line with the guidelines produced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, (NCCA) “Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School”. In addition to providing whole-school advice on planning and organisation they also provide advice for each subject area.

 

The special educational needs team has been given an opportunity to speak to some staff most notably the English department and the school principal generally gives relevant information on students at staff meetings. It is suggested that the learning support team and the teachers who support students for whom English is a second language, those from minority groups and disadvantaged backgrounds should be facilitated in giving a short presentation at each staff meeting. The initial focus could be on the development of special educational needs and integration policies but could then lead to such areas as the role of the mainstream teacher in special education, inclusion and in class supports for specific students.

 

Parents of students with additional educational needs are kept informed of students’ progress through regular reports and parent teacher meetings. The HSCL co-ordinator actively supports parental involvement along with other network members through such activities as home visitation, the provision of a parents’ room, shared reading programmes and the organisation of parent/toddler groups. Such activity is to be highly commended.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The school has a qualified guidance counsellor who teaches a subject in addition to delivering the guidance programme. The full guidance allocation for Coláiste Mhichíl is not being used for its intended purpose. It is recommended that with immediate effect, the hours provided for Guidance be used for that purpose.

 

The facilities for Guidance are very good.  There is a well-appointed and equipped office with an adjacent classroom. Access by students to ICT for guidance purposes is limited.

 

The programme that is currently being delivered in classes to each year group forms a good basis for a comprehensive, developmental overall guidance programme. It is essential that students be provided with timetabled classes from first year to ensure that they receive a developmental guidance programme. This will also provide the guidance counsellor with a structured framework in which to deliver the planned guidance programme to every year group. The guidance counsellor has commenced the development of a guidance plan.  All work on the plan to date has been undertaken by the guidance counsellor only.  It is recommended that a working group or committee be established to develop the plan that should form part of the whole-school plan.  In addition to the guidance counsellor, other members of staff, representatives of parents, students and relevant sections of the community should become members of the committee.      

 

The school has good contact with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and engages the services of a counsellor to provide personal counselling as required. The counsellor also delivers a programme in self-development.  The school’s participation in outside initiatives and programmes augments the guidance programme.

 

A more detailed report on Guidance support can be found in the Guidance inspection report dated 4 October 2007 that was carried out as part of this whole school evaluation.

 

A well-organised students’ support structure is in place in the school. Class tutors have been appointed to each class to monitor attendance, behaviour and well being. A year head has also been appointed for each year group. The year head’s main area of concern is the implementation of the code of behaviour as well as ensuring the well being of each student.

 

A care team has also been established in Coláiste Mhichíl that meets on a regular basis to identify ways in which those students who are experiencing difficulties can be supported. The care team also enlists the help of individual teachers who have developed good relationships with students. The sensitive way in which the care team implements supports is to be highly commended.

 

The delivery of the Social, Personal and Health Education programme, which is appropriately provided for and delivered, forms a central element of student support.

 

A well-established referral system assists in the delivery of students’ supports in the school. There are ongoing contacts between parents and the school relating to the progress of students and their well being.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         Coláiste Mhichíl has an inclusive intake of students who are encouraged to participate in all aspects of school life.

·         Board of management decision-making procedures are open and clear and taken with regard to the best interests of the school community and with regard to the ethos of the school.

·         The principal and deputy principal have a strong presence in the school and are readily available to the school community. They have a partnership approach to school leadership and work effectively as a team.

·         Parents, staff, teachers and school management all spoke of the positive impact the code of behaviour has had on students’ behaviour.

·         The students’ council plays an active role in the life of the school.

·         Parents play a significant role in the life of the school.

·         The school has established appropriate links with outside agencies, other educational agencies, past students and the school community to support school activities and programmes.

·         Material resources are provided to support teaching and learning upon request from subject departments.

·         The school-planning process in Coláiste Mhichíl is ongoing and involves all members of the school community.

·         The planning process in Coláiste Mhichíl is grounded in the mission statement of the school and aims to improve outcomes for students and the wider school community.

·         A wide range of subjects is taught in the school that serves the needs and interests of students.

·         The school provides a wide range of activities and opportunities to support and enhance learning. These include cultural, aesthetic, community, social and sporting activities.

·         The special educational needs team meets at the start of each school year and at the end of each term to identify students’ needs and monitor progress.

·         The school management facilitates subject-department planning.

·         Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have been developed for all students in receipt of additional support.

·         A policy on the inclusion for the admission and participation of students for whom English is a second language has been developed.

·         Coláiste Mhichíl is the lead school in a school completion programme and has a full-time home-school-community liaison co-ordinator.

·         A well-organised students’ support structure is in place in the school.

 

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

 

·         A culture of and process for ongoing review and self-evaluation of all aspects of the school leading to the development of action plans should be developed in Coláiste Mhichíl.

·         A review of the schedule of duties attached to middle management should be carried out by all staff.

·         The full allocation for Guidance, learning support, special educational needs and newcomer students should be used for their intended purpose. It is also recommended that the senior in-school management should plan for the utilisation of these resources in consultation with the post holders associated with these areas.

·         The following policies and programmes should be developed and ratified by the board of management as a matter of urgency; the school guidance plan, the special educational needs and learning support policy, the attendance and student absenteeism policy and programme, the ICT vision and plan for the school and a policy on intercultural education.

·         The school should introduce the Junior Certificate Schools programme and should explore if the Leaving Certificate Applied programme is more appropriate to the needs and interests of a small cohort of students each year.

·         The school management and staff should revise the policy of streaming in all subjects in first year and should use a combination of banding and mixed ability settings.

·         The senior in-school management should take greater responsibility for the planning and development of the school timetable and ensure students’ needs are given first priority.

·         Subject planning should be extended through a collaborative process that involves all subject teachers and that seeks to identify and share best practice in teaching methodologies appropriate to the diversity of learners in the school.

 

The ERST Charter includes the guiding principles against which all schools and communities of learning in the Edmund Rice network will assess themselves. The five key elements of an Edmund Rice School, as outlined in the ERST charter, encapsulate many of the recommendations and suggestions contained throughout this report. It is suggested that when the school develops a plan of action to implement the suggestions and recommendations they should refer not only to this report but to these guiding principles.

 

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.

 

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

·         Subject Inspection of English – 27 September 2007

·         Subject Inspection of German – 26 September 2007

·         Subject Inspection of Guidance – 4 October 2007

·         Subject Inspection of Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies – 26 September 2007

·         Subject Inspection of Science an Chemistry– 25 September 2007

 

 

   

 

Appendix

 

7.1          School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of management of Coláiste Mhichíl would like to congratulate all members of our school community for their work in creating what the report recognises as “a school that strives to support students to achieve their full potential”

 

We welcome the strong affirmation of the teaching and learning, the recognition of the “atmosphere of mutual respect among teachers and students” and “the planning and preparation evident from teachers’ levels of subject-matter expertise”.

 

The hugely supportive roles of the Parents’ Council and the Student Council are rightly highlighted as are the “strong presence” of senior management and the effectiveness of their team-work approach.

 

We also welcome the recognition of our inclusivity and of the caring atmosphere in the school.  “The sensitive way in which the care team implements supports is to be highly commended”.

 

The Board is pleased to note the recognition of the highly significant involvement of staff in co-curricular and extra-curricular pursuits.  “A wide range of activities and opportunities to support and enhance learning is provided by the school.”  “The teachers involved in these are to be highly commended.”

 

The Board, management and staff of Coláiste Mhíchil appreciates the value of the Whole School Evaluation process and the direction and focus which the recommendations will give us as we continue the work of creating a caring, supportive environment in which students attain the highest standards both academically and personally.

.

 

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The process of self-evaluation is underway involving all staff.

 

Task groups are in place to address issues of timetabling and the enhancement of the curriculum particularly at junior level.

 

Action steps have been identified for the enrichment of the role of middle management and will be introduced on a phased basis.

 

Work continues on the development and ratification of policies.