An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Deansrath Community College
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Roll number: 70040H
Date of inspection: 24 October 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Deansrath Community College was undertaken in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in three subjects and in the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme were evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects/programmes. (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.
Deansrath Community College had its origins in Colaiste Chronáin which opened in Clondalkin n 1969. In 1986 the school transferred to a new site two miles away in the newly built urban area of Deansrath. Since then it has served the local community with conscientiousness and commitment, a community college in name and nature. It provides post-primary, adult, post-leaving certificate and FETAC courses and extensive extra-curricular programmes. Deansrath Community College (Deansrath CC) is now a mature educational establishment and is a focus for life in the local community.
Deansrath CC is part of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. It provides a stable and positive, consistent and equitable environment for all students. Consistent and long-term efforts have been put in place to make the school and the experience of being in school attractive. This has been a policy device to counter the culture of low expectations and low engagement with schooling. It is testimony to the college’s long-term efforts that progress has been made in improving retention rates, engagement of students with the schooling process and progression to further education. The school has been very successful with the local community. It has taken time and effort to establish and maintain the happy and productive community schooling resource it truly is. Recently, the Deansrath area has seen the arrival of newcomer students, changing the school demographic, requiring an additional layer of intervention and provision, and presenting the school with new opportunities.
Deansrath CC welcomes and accepts students from a range of faiths and ethnic backgrounds. Its ethos is Christian, as it operates under a deed of trust with the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin, and students’ welfare is at the core of policy decisions. The school’s avowed primary aim is to provide high quality second-level education and adult education for students of all abilities, social and cultural backgrounds. The school’s mission statement is “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 full potential” This mission statement was agreed in 2002 in consultation with staff parents and students. The school ‘reflection’, a short meditation frequently used before classes, assembly and meetings brings together Christian and humanist strands in the mission statement into a simple text.
Deansrath CC is caring and supportive of students’ needs, as evidenced by extensive and well-integrated systems that seek to enhance the students’ experience of school. The college has tailored and customised its provision to focus on personal and holistic development. A team approach has been essential in achieving improvement and there is a shared awareness and acknowledgement of the necessity of integrating the social, personal and academic aspects of educational provision by all who work in and for the school. The caring, supportive approach has been achieved through the skills and aptitudes of staff, outside agencies and the wider supports and resources of County Dublin VEC.
Deansrath CC has a cohort of students who are motivated and achieve well in educational terms. This has resulted in recent years in the availability of role models from the school’s own local community, past pupils who have returned to the school to help out with extra tuition, to supervise study, to work as student teachers and to join the staff as fulltime members.
A culture of reaching out towards the student has been developed over time. The school has put a high emphasis on co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Guidance, interpersonal skills, counselling and other activities are used as a basis for making possible what the school’s core function is: learning and academic progression. The foundation for this now exists and it is necessary to re-visualise and recreate the school’s academic-outcomes profile. Low expectations among students should now to be challenged. Appropriate strategic action should be taken to bring forward, over time, the school’s aim to attract the academically able students to the school. It is important to focus clearly on raising standards for the students currently enrolled. A better balance should be attained between care and support and academic achievement. Staff members expressed a concern that some of the vulnerable students will become alienated from participation in school because of increased academic emphasis and a focus on measurable outcomes. This is a challenge that the school should be able to overcome. Collective and concentrated effort in planning, guidance, classroom pedagogy, assessment and ICT are central to boosting the levels of student attainment. It is important for the school to fully recognise that a range of different strategies and emphases in the classroom is key to fulfilling the potential of its changed circumstances. Much to its credit, prior to the WSE, the school had begun already to look at the outcomes and measurable attainment issues, and has instigated a working group to make recommendations in this regard.
The community education dimension of the school has been notably successful and is a big part of its local profile. Adult education in Deansrath CC started with a single VTOS course. Later, PLC courses were begun. Now the range of courses offered is highly sought after in the community and their success has resulted in their being oversubscribed to the degree that a waiting list is maintained.
About two thirds of the adults are newcomers, often the parents of students in the school who largely enrol in English language and computer skills courses. Child care courses are also provided. Administration personnel in the adult section of the school report that resources are tight. In the light of this, serious thought should be given to whether the improvement of the ICT and other teaching-related resources in the second level part of the school will be disadvantaged by continued expansion of the further education and PLC sector.
The school guidance provision ensures that some students move into PLC courses after Leaving Certificate. More efforts by management, guidance and VEC should be made to retain the school’s post-primary cohort in the third level section of the school. The Flexible Learning Programme working group should be empowered to contribute strategies about making the big investment that the adult college represents work better for the students.
The board of management is properly constituted and is well informed about its role, functions, responsibilities and statutory obligations. The board’s roles and responsibilities are well understood by its members and by the school community and are effectively carried out. The board holds regular, well-attended meetings, the proceedings of which are minuted and communicated to all members. Some board members have received training for their roles. The board maintains a close and supportive relationship with school management. Management and board have attested to the role of County Dublin VEC as a support to the school. There is a particularly knowledgeable rapport between the school and its VEC education officer, who was a former staff member and principal. The education officer attends one board meeting annually, as the CEO’s delegate. County Dublin VEC has systems and networks in place which are for the benefit of its schools, to which Deansrath staff, management, board and students have access. Similarly, the Archbishop’s nominees are supportive of the school’s efforts and all the many dimensions of its activity.
There is a good level of co-operation and consultation amongst board members. The principal and the staff representatives are the main conduit of information about the school to the board. The board has consulted with parents and with the Students’ Council as part of its process of ratifying policies and continues to consult with students and staff on various issues and policies. It is recommended that this good practice continue. The board ratifies policies prepared by the school through its working groups and management. A schedule outlining the revision of policies is in place and the board will consider the revisions when these are presented. The time-frames documented for these revisions are in some cases quite long range and would be more useful to the school if they were shorter. A practice of rolling review should be applied to the policies, updating and refining them annually.
The administrative aspect of the board’s role has been good and the school has benefited from its expertise and commitment. The educational vision and leadership dimension of the board should now be developed further. Given that the school has matured as an institution and that social conditions are all the time evolving and changing, the board’s role as a support to management is of the utmost importance. The encouragement of higher academic attainment is a key issue for the school’s future development and it is recommended that the board engage with this.
The school has encouraged and supported parents to become involved with the parents’ association, which has representation on the board. Parents paid tribute to the board’s concerns in relation to parents’ needs and to the openness of the board to communications from the partners and they affirmed the role of the board in handling contentious issues and conflict. It is recommended that current parent representatives be empowered to access training if required or practicable.
There is a heavy load of work for the board in relation to code of discipline, exclusion and suspension cases and appeals of these. This has an inhibitory effect on other proactive work it might like to engage in. The board has a range of methods and procedures in helping them to make difficult decisions associated with this work.
The board has identified a list of development priorities, spanning across the full range of activities and issues related to school efficacy. The board has its input into the process and ratification of policy and planning but does not usually initiate planning. It is recommended that the board become the driving force in issues that it has a particular interest in or commitment to in materialising its vision for the school. The board’s role in setting the school’s agendas for change, improvement and development should be given consideration in the long-term. While it is acknowledged that the board is kept informed at key junctures about the work of in-house committees, and that its work load is often onerous, it is recommended that the board communicate on a regular basis with the school development-planning group.
Good leadership has been demonstrated in the management of the college and it is notable that both members of senior management see themselves as leaders of the Deansrath learning community. Participation in the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) has enhanced their practical and professional skills. Both have drawn on the course for practical and conceptual material and have adapted examples of good practice. There is a sense of new leadership in Deansrath CC which will undoubtedly enhance existing mechanisms and supports for educational provision in the college.
The deputy principal has been in Deansrath CC since the beginning and is thus very familiar with the school and its context, and is most experienced in relation to the particularities of managing the school. The principal is two years in the role and has successfully and dynamically adapted to it: one of the outcomes of this is that already new procedures in management of students and administration have been successfully put in place. Their combined experience has produced a shared vision of what is necessary in the challenging task of leading the school forward. At present there is an in-school committee looking at the needs of the school and how posts are fulfilling these needs
The approach to management is co-operative and is functioning effectively. It is practical hands-on and characterised by teamwork and is influenced by the needs of the student cohort. Some tasks of management are particular to the principal, some to the deputy and some are shared, notably attending to administrative business that emanates from the Department. Much of the administration and paperwork is done after the school day for students has ended. This facilitates principal and deputy to maintain an open door policy for staff, students and parents, and allows them to be highly visible and unequivocally present in the public areas of the college during the daytime. These methods of sharing workload and conducting administrative business are highly commended.
Structured communication provides a well-developed conduit by which senior management keep in touch with one another on important issues. The principal and deputy have a scheduled meeting every morning. In addition, informal communication and liaison is frequent throughout the day. Good communication is evident across all dimensions of management and administration. Teamwork by management personnel has been essential and key in achieving important dimensions of holistic education provision and service in Deansrath CC.
A team of assistant principals have developed a sense of their role as leaders to support the work of senior management in key areas of importance to the college. There is good distributed leadership, with individuals, groups and committees being empowered to take responsibility, create or inform policy or strategy, and find solutions to issues that need focus and action. At all levels, staff have been given, and have assumed, leadership-associated responsibilities. There is a strong sense of collegiality in Deansrath CC. The benefits of collective and distributed leadership were evident in the course of the evaluation and the students are thus the beneficiaries of a quality, well-organised learning structure. Amongst assistant principals and staff CPD is ongoing, and the board has supported individuals to pursue particular CPD routes.
The school has an inclusive admissions policy, which is open and fair. The composition of the student intake for 2008-09 indicates diversity in enrolment with students born outside Ireland, having special educational needs and from the traveller community representing over seventy per cent of total enrolment. This reflects the inclusive and welcoming nature of Deansrath Community College. The education and support needs of newcomers, students with special educational needs, Travellers and those with a physical disability are all facilitated by the college. The school’s enrolment policy should fully reflect this good practice.
The college has a code of behaviour and a discipline policy. These are communicated to parents and guardians and students are required to sign acknowledgment and agreement at the outset of the academic year. The practicalities of managing students are clearly and completely enunciated in the excellent and concise Teachers’ Handbook. The outline of behavioural expectations is displayed as a poster in every classroom, a practical and commendable way of making the fundamentals of good behaviour and engagement omnipresent in daily life. These rules are approached in a student-friendly, explanatory way and represent very good practice. The management of students is well conceived in theory and successfully implemented in practice. Inspectors found the students to be polite and well conducted both in class and in the corridors. The happy and cheerful atmosphere that permeates Deansrath CC is a direct result of the thought that has gone into finding appropriate ways of managing students and promoting social values, and in the successful implementation of these.
Teachers have paid tribute to the good behaviour of the majority, and to improved discipline and attendance in the last two years. There are recurrent incidents of very challenging behaviour from a small number of students. However, the impact of these is disproportionate. Huge energy and time is expended by management and staff in dealing with issues contingent on the behaviour of this minority. A range of procedures, strategies, supports and sanctions is in place, which aims to address the disruptive effect of poor or challenging behaviour on teaching and learning, on the safety of fellow-students and staff, and on school atmosphere. Although tutors and year heads as well as senior management have specific roles and take particular actions in relation to discipline, the work is by no means carried out solely by them. Discipline is a whole-school issue. All teaching personnel, as well as the counsellor, work with discipline issues, and a good esprit de corps ensures that staff support one another, as well as management, in discipline maintenance.
The number of suspensions in the school is high. Both management and VEC contend that this rate of suspension is warranted and that anything that can be done is being done in dealing with trouble without recourse to suspension as a discipline mode. The school is proactive in countering challenging and anti-social behaviour and has strong solution-based strategies in place, which are operated very professionally. The board spends considerable time on processing suspension and exclusion cases and this reflects the serious difficulties that arise in trying to retain a small number of enrolled students meaningfully in the education system. Sanctions, suspension and exclusion are applied in line with the code of discipline and, the school’s ethos and mission statement and are only carried out as a last resort. Great credit is due to all involved in the ongoing management of the poor behaviour of a minority of students with such resilience and professionalism.
The students’ council has been established in Deansrath CC since the early 1990s, and has fulfilled an important role in the school’s efforts to empower its students and to affirm their participation in the life of the school. Examples of the activities the council are at present engaged with are inputting into draft policies, membership of Deansrath/Bawnogue Local Committee, organising fundraising events, liaising with management in relation to the introduction of a new college jacket, providing guided tours during open day, providing refreshments at parent-teacher meetings, and representing the school in general when the need arises. The students’ council is democratically elected, with a smooth transition from year to year as new officers are installed. They are at present drawing up a constitution. They meet every Friday and keep records of meetings. The council communicate with management through a liaison teacher. Students were unsure of the role of the board of management. It is recommended that the liaison teacher give a short presentation to address this, and that if possible members of the board meet the council informally or formally, at some stage as opportunity and time might allow. This year the council has discussed the production of a student newsletter. It might be valuable if this were put up on the web site. The council believe that team building training is needed now. Student council members were very complimentary about the teachers, about the mechanism and supports for subject choice and about the school in general. They have made suggestions to school management about enhancing subject options.
Records demonstrate a pattern of poor attendance in the college in relation to national patterns. The school is highly aware of this pattern and has been proactive in countering it. A well-operated system of roll-call and marked registers tracks attendance, with tutors and teachers involved in the process. The School Completion Programme (SCP) has been embedded as part the school’s proactive response to absenteeism and lateness, and is organised in four local schools by a fulltime co-ordinator. A part-time attendance secretary supports the SCP in the school itself. Good records are kept and follow-up communication with parents plays a big role in creating an environment where unexplained absences from school are not acceptable. The involvement of the current principal has had a positive influence on attendance and the insistence on improvement of attendance is now making itself felt. Follow-up actions such as meetings with parents and the intervention of the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, practised in a consistent way, is integral to the process. These interventions have made a difference to the attendance profiles of some students. However, it is accepted that to counter the economic and social basis for some absences is extremely difficult. It is to the school’s credit that, despite low success rate with some sections of the student community, management and staff have been untiring in their efforts to affect improved attendance.
The over-arching aim of the school’s attendance strategy is to retain students. The school has been assiduous in its long-term efforts to get students to stay in school, as their link with school is important in keeping these individuals in touch with its social and personal support mechanisms. This stance has allowed the school to nurture almost universal retention throughout the junior cycle, and it is to the school’s great credit that it has reversed a previous trend of frequent dropout during junior cycle. Part of the strategy is to reward improved attendance and to strongly affirm those who are making the effort to break a pattern of absenteeism and lateness. Certificates are regularly given for best attendance and significant prizes at the end of term and the school year for best improvements made. It is recommended that the school ascertain how well the attendance strategy is working; as this is key to improvement in student learning and attainment
The most significant challenge at present facing the school is raising standards of attainment. In spite of generally good teaching in the subjects inspected, attainment is poor. A holistic approach is likely to be most effective in countering this. In October 2001 a committed was established to raise academic expectations and standards, and in 2007 the current Raising Academic Standards committee was formed and academic year monitors (AYM) were created as posts of responsibility to focus on outcomes. The role of AYMs is to track students academically. AYMs check with class tutors that homework is being done and with subject teachers that progress is being made. Teachers with concerns about a student’s academic progress or poor homework record can inform AYMs who will liaise with parents. In order to assess the effectiveness of the measures aimed at student academic improvement, it is recommended that the school conduct a thorough analysis of outcomes to see if measurable gains have been made. It is also recommended that CPD be tailored for AYMs to add to their knowledge in the area of improving outcomes.
Good outcomes and attainment are reliant on the combined input of planning, classroom practices, pedagogic approaches, ICT use, homework and assessment. A multifaceted approach to improving attainment and outcomes should be pursued. It is recommended that this now becomes the school’s primary developmental priority into which all applicable resources available to the school are directed. All subject departments should review approaches and procedures in relation to delivery of courses and pedagogic methods and techniques used in class. There is a need for all teachers to habitually use active methodologies. Differentiation in relation to the learning needs of students and a focus on the unique needs of the school cohort need to be factored into subject department planning. AYMs have a role in disseminating specific information for increasing learning. Inclusion in the teachers’ handbook of an excellent and comprehensive list of the positive measures teachers can take in order to encourage students to develop motivated learning behaviours indicates that the school is fully aware of the practical steps that are necessary for good learning outcomes. This is a most laudable inclusion in the handbook. It is recommended that a selection of the practical steps outlined be isolated and given more complete explication in future at staff meetings as the key to improved outcomes has already largely been recognised.
Progression of difficulty and challenge needs to be factored into the programmes on offer, and more expected of students in terms of attainment. Strategic thinking by management and staff about how programmes could be better delivered to students in the classroom to emphasise the need for better outcomes from all students is now necessary if the good work done in retention and socialisation is to result in more tangible and measurable educational outcomes . Issues in relation to the assignment of students to programmes should be examined by management and staff. In particular, the promotion of Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) to particular students and the level of participation in the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) should be given attention by management and guidance teams.
A parents’ association has been long established in Deansrath. It is currently overseen by the HSCL co-ordinator. It supports management and staff in the running of the school, in linking with outside community groups and in fundraising. The valuable presence it has developed is due generally to a limited number of active participants. Parents of incoming first years are encouraged to be involved, but this continues to be a challenge. It is recommended that the parents’ association consider new ways of engaging more parents in its work, perhaps by the development of a series of short-term commitments from people to do certain jobs or projects, rather than a full year-long commitment. It is recommended too that the school’s website be further developed for disseminating information from the parents’ association to other parents. The school sends newsletters home with students to inform parents about current events, outline issues and to showcase achievements and successes. It would be valuable if these could also be added to the school’s well-constructed website.
The students’ school journal is used to communicate with parents, about students’ work and behaviour. Student report forms are furnished on foot of end of term examinations and assessments, keeping parents and guardians up to date on attainment and progress. Most importantly the school encourages a practice of open and easily accessible direct communication with management, tutors, guidance personnel and teachers. School policy documents are not available in a range of languages, and given the high percentage of students born outside of Ireland on the roll, this would be useful in ensuring accurate and complete communication with parents whose first language is not English. It is recommended that management and board examine the possibility of providing translations for school policies.
Parent-teacher meetings are held annually for all year groups. Other opportunities for parents and guardians to communicate with management and teachers are well publicised, through the website and newsletter. The HSCL co-ordinator has been a strong presence for many years, with effective links to students’ homes and good local knowledge. In order to develop relationships with the parents’ association and the community at large, the HSCL co-ordinator organises and leads a weekend away for parents, which has been a successful and much lauded aspect of the school calendar for many years.
The school has strong, effective and productive links with the community it serves. It liaises with a range of local organisations, the two most important being the Clondalkin Higher Education Access Project (CHEAP) and Clondalkin Area Parents in Education (Cape). Both of these community groups contribute valuably to the work of the school, helping it to achieve its goals in relation to participation in further education and in engagement of parents with their children’s’ post-primary schooling. In terms of the care of students, the local sporting organisations provide some opportunities for student involvement during the summer holidays. The school also has links with Deansrath/Bawnogue Local Committee, the Local Employment Agency, the Salesian Community, the local primary schools and St. Ronan’s Parish.
The school has formalised and well-integrated links with outside agencies which contribute to its work in the areas of student care, referral to specialists, and cultural organisations which include Comenius, the National Education Psychological Service (NEPS), the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), the National Council For Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), Family First Therapy, County Dublin Youth Services, County Dublin County Council, Catholic Youth Care, and pharmaceutical giant Wyeth which operates a manufacturing facility in the area. The Second Level Support Service (SLSS) has been actively involved with the school, as has the SCP co-ordinator.
Subject inspectors were impressed by the good quality of students’ behaviour, attention and engagement in lessons.
There are twenty one permanent whole-time staff, and twenty part-time staff assigned to the school. This allocation is determined centrally by the VEC and at present the school is likely to be over quota in the next school year based on current projected enrolments. The school has an additional allowance equivalent to 1.64 teachers for traveller students. This year the school has an additional eleven hours for counselling.
The school is compliant with the Department of Education and Science requirements regarding the appropriate deployment of staff and the use of available resources. Staff members work effectively to support the delivery of education and make a very valuable contribution to the school by volunteering for extra duties and providing extra tuition for students. There is a very strong sense of teamwork amongst staff and a complete focus is maintained on servicing the community.
Staff resources within Deansrath CC are well managed in general. However the use of Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) students to create opportunity for full-time staff to attend CPD, meetings and for committee work should be re-examined in light of the necessity of improving students’ academic outcomes. For 2007/08 academic year, the school has adjusted its timetable to provide twenty-eight hours instruction for students as required. In the matter of the teaching days, the school is in line with requirements.
The school timetable is constructed by the principal and deputy principal with the support of information provided by the principal, VEC, post-holders, guidance personnel, and programme co-ordinator. Because the subjects are offered to senior cycle on the best fit model, the timetable varies in what it offers from year to year. Timetabling issues are given attention at staff meetings and in the work of subject departments and staff can input their concerns and aspirations in relation to the conditions that apply to the allocation of time to subjects on the timetable.
New staff are well and thoughtfully inducted and managed, and their contribution to the school is affirmed and appreciated. In the past the school developed an induction programme which has now become standard in all County Dublin VEC Schools. An excellent staff information handbook provides a detailed though user-friendly overview of how the school operates and outlines the practical mechanisms and procedures on which its organisation and the management of students is based. Established teachers provide valuable peer support to new teachers in all subject departments. The board and senior management encourage engagement in CPD.
Support and ancillary staff are well deployed and integrated into the in-school community, where their work is valued and affirmed. The HSCL teacher has developed a very visible, effective and valuable role in all aspects of helping the school and community to interact effectively on issues of importance to the education of the young people and adults of the area.
The school is attractively designed around a series of enclosed garden courtyards, corridors are wide, natural light is generally good, and there are generous public and circulation areas. The school was originally planned and built for 1000 students. Post-primary numbers did not reach that level and the excess capacity has been utilised for post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. There is an above-average availability of non-classroom accommodation such as offices for programme co-ordinators, HSCL, guidance, and counselling. A fine room has been assigned as a school oratory. Space is well managed: this facilitates and supports the schools’ many activities. Because of the modular nature of the school design, base areas have been assigned to different year groups and programmes, which help in the supervision of students. Banks of lockers are located in these areas, and there are designated toilets for various groups.
While considerable infra-structural improvements have taken place in recent years, further maintenance, up-dating and repair works are still necessary, in particular to toilets and to the roof, which gives recurrent problems. The recent improvements were funded from grants from the Department’s Summer Works Scheme: rewiring of the building took place as a result of the grant. Last summer, shutters were fitted over all exterior windows and doors, to enhance security. This and the employment of security personnel by the VEC, have brought about a reduction in vandalism. The school grounds are extensive and attractively maintained. The board’s pro-active activities recently resulted in the procurement of extensive all-weather sports facilities for the school grounds. This supports physical education and extra-curricular activities, and is a resource in linking the school further with its local community.
The school is proud to be able to provide a range of academic, practical and creative subjects for students and there is a range of classrooms and specialist rooms available. The school has three well-equipped computer rooms, one that is mostly used by the adult and PLC sector. The three rooms have web access, and have all been recently upgraded, largely through the generosity of local company Wyatt. Currently ICT resources are being upgraded with web access visualised for many of the subject departments. Recently a digital whiteboard has been procured. This is based in the geography department, and is available to other subjects by appointment. In general the levels of in-classroom technology for delivery of course materials are low, as the schools resources have had other calls on them.
Though not complete, the school’s ICT resources in general are considerable, and represent a potential that has not as yet impacted on post-primary students’ attainment and engagement to the degree that it might. Effective integration of information and communication technology into learning and the delivery of courses should be developed in tandem with other interventions focused on improving attainment levels. Subject department planning should valuably include reference to use of ICT on an ongoing basis in teaching and learning. All second-level class groupings have weekly access to a computer room, and subject departments have some limited access in addition to this. Access to computer rooms is well managed through a pre-booking system, which is known to all staff, and which is operating effectively. Most teacher offices have web access and the staff resource room has been upgraded recently to provide internet access.
The school’s health and safety policy is in accordance with requirements. This should be audited and updated regularly to continually reflect all aspects of subject requirement and syllabus changes.
The school participates in the An Taisce ‘Green Schools’ scheme, and is following the procedures that are thus entailed in relation to environmental responsibility. The education dimension of the scheme is being exploited for its motivational as well as its functional aspects in the school’s green activities, and is effective.
A very good culture of collaborative, whole-school planning is evident in Deansrath CC and from the outset of its involvement in the SDPI, the school has embraced the work, ideals and procedure involved in school development planning. There is a school development planning co-ordinator and at present many staff members are deeply and continually involved in planning groups and committees. It is recommended that timeframes be set for the deliberations of these committees and that interim recommendations be put before management and staff for consideration. While this is to some degree happening at present, a sharper focus on the work and its practical implications in terms of implementation needs to be part of management’s agenda.
The school plan is in draft form. The present document was collated in May and June 2008 and further reviewed in September and October 2008. Management regard it as a working draft and are conscious of its present incomplete state. A full range of policies is in place and a time-table for the review of these is suggested. The plan is a description of the journey the school has taken, which should now become a blue print for future action, policy and aspiration. The many policies in existence are now the permanent structure on which the school operates. To fully complete the school’s planning picture, these policies with their practical focus should be set in the larger context of aspirational and desirable ambitions for the school’s development. This would enable more progress to be achieved in all that is involved in the planning process.
The school’s culture of self-review has been demonstrated in practice by its success in addressing problems and challenges and by the change and development that have been brought about over time. These are apparent in the way the school operates its various strategies and executes its plans, and in the current roster of review-focused committees working on a range of topics.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with post-primary Circulars M45/05 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 is 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.
Review of the curriculum takes place on an ongoing basis. Deansrath CC has embraced innovations like Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) in the course of its development, and these have been a strong contributor to the way the school has risen to the challenges that have constantly confronted it. The curriculum is frequently adjusted in relation to the requirements of the student cohort, and individual student’s needs are balanced with the requirements of the many. At present this long-established review process is seen in the work being done by the Flexible Learning Modules committee. Deansrath CC is one of the schools selected by the NCCA to develop a policy for Flexible Learning Programme. A working group is examining ways that this system could be used to produce a programme of flexible learning modules to meet the school’s own needs. By looking at the guiding principles, they have identified a cohort in the school that needs a new input, namely students following the LCA, and who will benefit from the enhanced engagement and learning that flexible learning plans will provide. Commendably, consultation with students was undertaken, and a repertoire of work, including projects, assignments with short term goals and continual assessment, was done with a representative group from LCA. Because TY did not fit in with the school’s needs, the addition of some TY modules into LCA is being considered as part of the flexible learning planning. It is recommended that reference to the FLP committee work is put into the school plan.
At junior cycle the school offers Junior Certificate and the JCSP. At senior cycle, the Leaving Certificate, LCA programme and LCVP are offered. A range of post-leaving certificate courses is offered also. Transition Year has been discontinued, as the extension of post-primary education for some students had led to early drop-out. The SCP supports fuller engagement of vulnerable students in the main curricular programmes. Subjects are offered at higher, ordinary and, if available, foundation level.
Deansrath CC offers a range of academic, practical, and technological subjects, and languages. For junior cycle English, Gaeilge, Mathematics, History, Geography, Environmental and Social Studies, CSPE, French, Music and Business Studies are offered in addition to Home Economics, Metalwork, Woodwork, Science, Technical Graphics and Art. All of these are offered as state examination subjects. In junior cycle Religion, Social Personal and Health Education, computers and Physical Education are also offered.
In senior cycle, English, Gaeilge, Mathematics, History, Geography, French, Business Studies, Construction Studies, Engineering, Social and Scientific Home Economics, Art, Music, Chemistry and Biology are offered as examination subjects. Religion, Physical Education and computers are offered as non-examination subjects.
JCSP is at present utilised to accommodate students with special learning needs and is commendably effective in this regard in a range of ways, principally by delivering a reduced curriculum and special needs supports in the context of a discrete class group. Management is currently giving consideration to the discrete status of the JCSP class. One of the designated uses envisaged for JCSP was as a motivational and management tool for students without special needs who had behavioural and motivation issues. It is recommended that the use of JCSP be reviewed in the long term. In particular attention should be paid to the progression of the more able JCSP students to senior cycle courses and programmes, the lack of access to a modern language, the need for some differentiation amongst the students assigned to JCSP and the discrete class status of the programme. It is recommended that a broadened range of subjects be considered as a way of enriching JCSP for students who are capable of some additional challenge.
The basis of JCSP provision is that students on the programme study a reduced roster of subjects for their examination. JCSP students in Deansrath have access to the following subjects: Mathematics, Environmental and Social Studies, Irish, English (or English as an additional language), Home Economics, Art, Materials Technology (Wood), ICT, Civic Social and Personal Education (CSPE), Religion, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Physical Education. There are no barriers to the access of particular subjects on the basis of gender.
In relation to the non-core subjects, LCA students have access to ICT, Catering and Woodwork, Drama, Horticulture, Craft and Design, and Childcare. These subjects however can change according to gender and interest for any particular cohort. The focus in LCA is providing for the students needs and in making the programme as broad as possible.
In LCVP, very innovative pedagogy is in use and this is highly commendable. Students were involved in assignments that called on them to be very active and autonomous. Given the many high-quality approaches being taken, it is regrettable that LCVP numbers are so small, and that this good quality product is only available to a restricted group. It is recommended that student intake to the LCVP be increased, given the quality of the learning opportunities provided.
Deansrath is accommodating and flexible in relation to subject and option provision for students. The school is providing breadth and balance in the curriculum to ensure students needs are met, and to be responsive to the aspirations of individual students who want to progress towards a particular career path. Best fit model, based on students’ choices is used when assigning subjects at senior cycle. As the school examines levels of achievement, the assignment of students to particular programmes, courses or levels and its effect on attainment should be review.
A well established process for enabling students to make good subject choices in first year is in operation in the school. In-coming students attend an annual Easter camp and sample some of the subjects which will be new to them in post-primary school. Then an ‘open evening’ is organised for parents when they meet the staff who explain the subjects and the consequences of subject choice for the student in the long term. The gathering of information about individual students in the summer term before they are due to transfer to Deansrath is carried out with the help of the feeder primary schools. In this way accurate, up-to-date and detailed information forms the basis of assisting the school in deciding the best placement of students in subjects and programmes in first year. Central to this process is that the first year year-head and special needs coordinator meet all the relevant teachers in the feeder primary schools. The year head then meets all the in-coming first years and their parents to further add to the picture the school is forming about the student’s abilities, interests, strengths and weaknesses. At the start of first year all incoming students follow a taster course of all the subjects available to them. Furthermore, a coffee morning is organised for parents of first years during the school year. This provides an opportunity to discuss subject choice and possible career developments. The practices surrounding support for parents and students regarding choices of subjects and programmes are to be commended.
Late in third year, students are surveyed for their senior cycle subject preferences, and on the basis of information thus gained, senior management decide on the range of subjects to be made available. Parents and guardians are consulted during this process, and the students are briefed by subject specialists about the nature, content and requirements of their subject. The guidance counsellor meets the third years collectively and individually to support effective decision making for senior cycle and alerts students to the possible long term consequences of their subject choice.
At senior cycle students are usually asked to choose between three subjects in an option line. French is usually offered on two lines to facilitate the inclusion of a language as well as other subject choices. In its further education day courses and post-leaving certificate courses, the school provides opportunities for progression, a link with the community and a chance for parents of the post-primary cohort to re-enter formal education. Canvassing is undertaken to determine the community and parents’ educational needs and current trends, and on the basis of this, courses are offered. PLC subjects are determined by FETAC award being pursued. The co-ordinator and tutors review the subjects followed by each course annually, and appropriate changes are made, if necessary.
There is an excellent broad and balanced programme of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities available in Deansrath and there is a high level of participation in these. Field trips, visits to galleries and museums, language oriented trips abroad, musical performances and participation in all sorts of competitive events support and enhance curricular learning. Sport, arts, travel and culture are all covered by the college’s provision. There is a strong and longstanding tradition of staff giving time and expending huge effort and commitment in the service of the students’ holistic educational needs and to furthering the goals implicit in the ethos of the school. Many of the co-curricular and extra-curricular provisions available would not be possible without this most notable generosity of the staff. This culture of giving, which is acknowledged by board, parents, students and VEC alike, is highly commended. This spirit of generosity also extends to the planning process, where ten committees deliberate on a range of issues. These activities have contributed enormously to the turnaround that the school has affected in school attendance and participation since its foundation. The school boxing club, along with the gospel choir and a whole range of other sports and activities have been very successful in competition over many years.
The school has been pro-active in developing its co-curricular and extra-curricular programme, and in promoting its excellence in this area to attract students to enrol. It encourages those enrolled to participate fully to counter any local emphasis on leaving school early. It has produced a CD-ROM to present the options and to extol the successes of the sport and cultural programmes offered at Deansrath CC.
A culture of subject planning is embedded in the school. There are well-established department structures. Co-ordination is effective and the role of co-ordinator is rotated to distribute leadership and responsibility. Subject department meetings are held regularly and records are kept. Collaborative planning is working well and it is commendable that a plan had been documented for the subjects and programme evaluated. In subject areas, quality varied: in some cases, the plan was well developed while there is scope for development in others, for example, where content was presented as a list. Particularly laudable was the reflective approach highlighted in one subject area, with a strong emphasis on self- evaluation. Also commended was the regular analysis of student learning outcomes and the fact that the subject plan was available in electronic format thus facilitating amendment. Such good practices are models that should be emulated in all subject planning. The quality of planning in the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is very good.
While planning for subjects is good overall, and it is commendable that common programmes of work had been agreed, there is scope for development in specific areas. All subject and programme planning should focus on additional ways of raising academic expectations and achievement. The need to develop planning for the incremental development of skills was a common theme in the subjects evaluated and this should be a focus for future planning in all areas. Planned learning outcomes should feature in subject plans that do not currently record them. Teaching methods should be documented. Common programmes may need to be reviewed in some subjects to ensure there is sufficient focus on the integration of syllabus elements. Planning for all programmes provided by the school should be included in each subject plan. In the case of the JCSP, all subject planning should ensure that there are Profile statements. Some subject areas observed during the course of the WSE included a homework policy and this is laudable practice. As an area for development, subject-department homework polices should state that the purpose of homework is to improve student learning. In this regard, the teacher’s role in providing quality feedback (written and oral) to students should be clearly outlined and consistently implemented.
It is recommended that all subject departments plan for the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. All subject plans should include an up-to-date catalogue of resources in cases where such a list currently does not exist or has not been recently reviewed and updated. This facilitates good planning for future development needs in addition to informing teachers, especially those new to the school, of current provision and availability. An electronic version would be particularly useful.
Individual planning was good in most cases. Teachers provided plans for individual classes based on year plans and this is commended. The culture of self-evaluation and review already noted in one subject area should be seen as a model of good practice in individual planning whether for year-long schemes of work or for individual lessons.
Good practice was noted in some departments where there was effective planning for the inclusion of students with special educational needs and who were receiving support in the area of English as an additional language (EAL). However there is also considerable scope for development in other subject areas. It is recommended that particular strategies be developed for teaching EAL students and these should be fully documented in subject plans to ensure consistent implementation. The use of ICT to create a more stimulating and visual learning environment and the use of active learning methodologies are two such areas for inclusion. Lessons should be less text dependent. Such strategies would benefit all students in addition to the targeted group and should be integrated into all planning. It is commendable that one subject department has prioritised CPD in the area of differentiated learning. This was identified as a specific area for development and has general application for all subjects and programmes.
The lessons observed during the inspections proceeded in an atmosphere of mutual respect where rapport with the students was very good. Student engagement with the lessons was very good and best practice in encouraging participation was in evidence where the learning outcomes were shared explicitly with the students at the outset of the lessons. It is recommended that this practice be adopted as an agreed model in preparing and delivering lesson content.
The teachers taught with enthusiasm, were warm, patient and considerate of the needs of the students. Their approach to their work was business-like, the lessons had a clear focus and in the majority of cases good progress was observed. However, care should be taken to involve all students in the lessons and to adjust the pace, pitch and lesson content to challenge all of the students irrespective of their abilities.
Teacher planning for the lessons was good and the teaching methods chosen were appropriate. Care was taken to ensure that students understood the concepts being investigated, that the content was in line with syllabus requirements and that there was good balance between teacher-led and student-centred activities. There were some very good examples of ICT integration particularly in the use of the interactive whiteboard and where the students utilised ICT to prepare and deliver material to their classmates. An important feature of ICT integration is that it creates a visually stimulating environment and enhances student access to and understanding of the material being covered. This is particularly true where the students’ language skills are limited and where a more differentiated approach to teaching is necessary. It is therefore recommended that strategies to utilise the school’s ICT facilities in teaching and learning be developed and incorporated into curriculum planning and delivery.
Teacher questioning served to establish the students’ understanding of the material being covered, to develop the students’ oral skills, to stimulate students’ interest and to challenge the more able students. There was also good emphasis on developing the students’ literacy skills, on the correct use of subject-specific terminology and on the use of mime and gesticulation to support students’ understanding and acquisition of language.
Differentiation, which supported individual students to achieve to their abilities and which was facilitated by good teacher movement and by the use of bespoke materials prepared in advance of the lessons was evident in a number of cases. However, in order to avoid over-emphasis on teacher-led activities, to involve students in their own learning, to facilitate more direct interaction between the teacher and student and to reduce the reliance on the textbook as the primary classroom resource, it is recommend that a more differentiated approach to teaching and learning be adopted as a key whole-school strategy in lesson planning and delivery.
Homework and assessment policies have been developed in a number of subject areas and are included in the relevant subject department plans. This is good practice. It is recommended that all subject departments develop homework and assessment policies specific to the learning outcome requirements of their subjects, having due regard for the skills, knowledge and competences to be developed. It is further recommended that these policies outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents and teachers in their development, implementation, monitoring and review.
The assessment of students’ progress is based on teacher observation, questioning, homework, class tests and house and mock state examinations. An appropriate range of assessment modes was employed in most of the areas evaluated. This good practice offers a clear indication of students’ potential attainment level in specific subject areas and should be extended. Particularly noteworthy is the practice reported in one of the subject areas evaluated of setting common assessments where classes are studying a subject at a common level. This practice should be adopted in other subject areas. In a number of curriculum areas the expected learning outcomes were shared with the students at the outset of class. This practice is highly commended as it helps generate a greater awareness among students of their learning and develops their capacity to evaluate their own learning progress.
Material in the copybooks inspected during the visit accorded with the requirements of the syllabuses. It was clear that the work was regularly monitored and corrected. Occasional notes of commendation were written on the work and, in the case of a small number of classes, guidance on how students could improve their work was included. This is highly commended and should be more widely adopted. It is recommended that members of subject departments discuss and agree an approach to correcting students’ work that would be underpinned by the principles of assessment for learning (AfL).
In some instances a culture of analysing and reporting on student achievements in state examinations has been initiated. This is a praiseworthy development and it is recommended that it be extended across the curriculum. It is further recommended that the outcomes of analyses be used to inform planning for the delivery of curriculum content in the classroom with a particular focus on improving student participation at the higher levels and their outcomes in state examinations.
House examinations are held twice yearly for non-state examination classes. In addition to the house examinations at Christmas, students preparing for state examinations sit mock examinations during the second term. Formal reports on their attainment in these examinations are sent to the students’ home following these examinations. Additionally, parent-teacher meetings are organised once per year for each year group. This affords parents an opportunity to discuss student progress with teachers. Student diaries are also used in some instances to keep parents informed of student progress throughout the school year: this is good practice. In certain cases, teachers keep very accurate records of student progress. This is highly commended and should become general practice.
Management is very conscious of its role in leading and promoting inclusivity in all dimensions of its work. Students with special educational needs and students with a mother-tongue other than English are its central focus in this regard. Deansrath CC operates non-selective enrolment and has a well-developed policy for students with special educational needs. The text of the various legislative instruments which define the responsibilities of schools with regard to the provision for students with special educational needs is incorporated into the policy document. This is very effective practice, as it grounds the schools approaches firmly in reality. The special educational needs policy is being implemented and plays a big role in defining the school’s philosophy and action with regard to the needs of a high proportion of the student intake.
A well-organised and established set of procedures for actions taken by the special educational needs team and management in relation to special educational needs exists, as follows. Standardised tests supported by other relevant information from feeder primary schools are used to categorise the ability levels, and other cognitive and behavioural characteristics, of the student intake.
A copy of the prospective student medical or educational psychological report is sought, if one is available, from the parents of the child. This needs assessment is carried out months ahead of the September entry date. If the required psychological report is not available, arrangements are made to try to have an assessment undertaken. In its advance fact-finding, the school’s close connection with the two local feeder schools, and its general pro-active preparatory stance in relation to the accommodation of those with special needs, the school is exemplary. By ensuring, as far as possible, that students have been assessed prior to entry, the school is in a better position to offer a range of interventions and proposed solutions to the challenges that these students present in the post-primary setting.
The special education needs team is comprised of the principal, the deputy principal, resource teachers, a learning-support teacher, a guidance counsellor, a counsellor who is a trained psychologist, a chaplain, and a home-school-community liaison co-ordinator. There is good teamwork and communication between them and their attitude is, of necessity, progressive and effective because of the numbers of students that present with special educational needs.
This special educational needs team is augmented by an allocation of additional resource posts sanctioned from year to year by the Department based on projected figures of students with special educational needs attending Deansrath CC. A submission is made annually by management for those extra resource posts. The requirement for these posts changes from year to year based on numbers of students with SEN. If further specialised resources are required, application is made to the department by the VEC to provide such resources
The SEN team has central responsibility for devising programmes for the cohort of special educational needs students, and also supports a whole-school approach to delivering these programmes. Deansrath CC aspires to a process of involving parents positively and pro-actively in their child’s education, based on a shared sense of responsibility. A collaborative approach is encouraged with parents of special educational needs students by encouraging them to become involved with the development of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for their son or daughter.
Central to the provision for special educational needs is the JCSP. A discrete JCSP class is formed, and acts as an umbrella structure for the majority of students with special needs in the school. The LCA is also available and is largely used as an opportunity for JCSP students to progress into senior cycle. In addition, a range of programmes such as learning programmes for students with specific learning difficulties, and for mild general learning disability, are used to support the needs of students. Literacy and numeracy programmes, personal development and anger management programmes are also provided. Elements drawn from the above list of programmes may be included in the IEPs of some students. A range of methodologies is used to deliver learning experiences and programmes including one-to-one learning, learning in small groups, team teaching and circle work. One-to-one learning for students with specific difficulties is achieved by withdrawal from lessons. Home visits and liaison with outside agencies (NEPS, the HSE, the Special Education Support Service, and the VEC), referral to school counsellors, and monthly progress reviews all support the inclusion of students with special educational needs. Regular contact is maintained through the special educational needs co-ordinator with the Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) and the Visiting Teacher for the Visually Impaired.
Depending on numbers, one or two discrete JCSP classes are created. Efforts are made, if two classes are formed to ensure that a range of abilities, based on test results available, is allocated to both classes. Attention is also paid to the balance of genders between the two groups. Between twelve and fifteen students are considered to be the ideal maximum in JCSP, in order to provide the additional time and attention that progression of their learning requires. The JCSP groups have base classrooms and remain there for English, Mathematics, Religion, CSPE, SPHE and Computers. JCSP students are also given access to Home Economics. In second year, banding of English, Gaeilge and Mathematics allows classes to be offered at different levels. Home Economics, Art, Woodwork, Metalwork, Business Studies, Technical Graphics and Science are offered as options in JCSP.
The learning-support and resource personnel play a vital role in delivering education for the schools’ special educational needs cohort. The allocation of these resource teachers varies from year to year depending on the needs of those enrolled. In the plan for special needs, the role of resource teachers has been clearly defined. This is good practice. Learning-support personnel develop IEPs, set specific time-based targets for individuals and are deliverers of one-to-one and team teaching. They also advise their teaching colleagues on matters directly impacting on delivering the special educational needs curriculum. They liaise with relevant professionals such as psychologists, speech and language therapists, visiting teachers and anyone who has a role in special needs advice or provision of a service. They meet and advise parents, when required, accompanied with a class teacher. At present, two special needs assistants have been allocated, working mostly with junior cycle students.
Supports to aid the inclusion of students from disadvantaged, minority and other groups, and those for whom English is an additional language (EAL) are in place in Deansrath CC. These supports are academic and social and personal, and are designed to cover holistically the needs of the student groups enrolled. A daily breakfast club, a weekly intercultural club, a dedicated social skills programme and the regular input of a VEC sports co-ordinator all ensure a broad base to the school’s inclusion and support efforts, which are coupled with the varied specialised elements offered by care and guidance teams. Gluais and Gaisce training programmes provided by the VEC are available and the prefect system provides support in every year group. Supervised evening study for examination students and extra teaching, the SCP, SEN support and special needs assistants complete an impressive spectrum of supports.
As can be inferred from the 2008-09 enrolment statistics, a large proportion of the school’s students have EAL needs. An EAL co-ordinator spearheads a dedicated programme of EAL supports, including extra language classes. In association with guidance, the co-ordinator organises an EAL summer school with the support of the Clondalkin Partnership. Several students with special educational needs and EAL needs have been allocated places on the LCVP programme and have been fully integrated into it.
The resources on the NCCA website should be accessed and the translation of school information documents into the language of the non-English speaking parents should be investigated. Both of these aspects of provision could valuably be given attention in the effort to further support EAL students. Whilst good work is being done in the area of basic communication skills in English, a strong drive towards supporting EAL students in acquiring the register of language that they need to access the curriculum effectively should also support current efforts in creating English-language learning opportunities. In relation to the curriculum, each and every subject department policy should have a special EAL focus integrated into it, and it is recommended that this be made a priority in the coming academic year. The EAL co-ordinator has used ICT in developing language skills and this is commended.
Travellers are well supported and are totally integrated into the school community over a long period. The excellent student support ethos and practice of the school ensures that traveller students benefit from all the school has to offer. The care team and the visiting teacher for Travellers contribute greatly to the support of students from the traveller community. Due to all of the above the school has been commendably retentive of Travellers; girls are now doing Leaving Certificate and some, the LCA. In addition, the school’s excellent boxing club has been a significant element in the retention of male Travellers, whose culture is generally not accommodating of school attendance for older boys, to Leaving Certificate. Due to all the supports and to the consistent and fair nature of the school’s work, some Travellers have progressed onwards to further education, and some to Youthreach.
Students with special needs, EAL needs and traveller students all are subject to the school’s rules and general arrangements in relation to attendance and punctuality, and also to the SCP facilitation of monitoring and communication with parents and guardians. Initiatives by CHEAP in relation to third-level access have proved to be successful and are ongoing.
The school provides open and accessible communication opportunities for all parents and guardians, and these are equally there for the special educational needs, EAL and traveller parents. Tutors and co-coordinators also facilitate the two way flow of information
Students with special needs, those from minority groups and EAL students participate fully in the life of the school, benefiting from the range of academic options and the full co- curricular and extra-curricular programme available. Difference and uniqueness is affirmed, and given expression. For example a student from Russia has painted huge murals in the classrooms and during the WSE a Kenyan student won an all-Ireland school cross-country race. The achievements of all students are celebrated in a whole-school way, whether it is in sporting, cultural or academic spheres. The school has systems of affirmation in place that serves to publicise and enhance the engagement and attainment of students at every level.
A shortcoming of the special educational needs provision is that special educational needs personnel interviewed during the WSE were largely unaware of the high and above average test scores of particular high-ability students. It was noted that for these students there was nothing available other than those supports that exist generally for any students who are motivated to make the most of the educational opportunities available. This is an area of special educational needs provision that needs attention and management should ensure that special educational needs personnel look beyond disadvantage and deficit in the provisions made. It is recommended that consideration be given to ways in which the higher spectrum of ability can be supported.
In terms of future planning for special educational needs, the work of the FLP committee has positive implications for students who may be challenged by the academic demands of senior cycle curriculum.
Access to educational, personal and vocational guidance is good in Deansrath CC; all three areas are targeted and the service provided is both professional and comprehensive. Educational and vocational guidance, and personal guidance and counselling, are the responsibility of different personnel. Students have access to both these strands and know who to contact for advice and personal counselling. All students benefit from the guidance provision. Guidance is provided too for the adult education sector by another teacher. There is strong collegial support and co-operation in the guidance department, which has a key role in ensuring that the school supports students in whatever way possible to make their stay in school more productive and engaged. The guidance team is in communication with the generality of staff. For example, the programme co-ordinator has regular meetings with the counsellor and guidance personnel in relation to the needs of students, and staff keep in touch providing information and discussion in relation to students.
The linking of guidance with teaching, learning and student outcomes has been boosted by the new role of Academic Year Monitor (AYM), assigned to every year group to oversee and co-ordinate efforts to improve student learning outcomes. This includes focusing on elements of engagement, like homework and punctuality, and on all of the methodological and functional procedures that provide a framework for learning and academic progression.
Tests are administered by the guidance department to aspirant students before they leave primary school, and some other teachers provide subject-specific support in this process. A standardised assessment test and the NRIT are given. The tests in use are being reviewed at present and the intention is to use Cognitive Ability Tests (CAT), at a level yet to be determined precisely. The students are told prior to entry into first year about the school’s subject taster programme. During first year, they are met in small groups to discuss satisfaction with their choices and their long-term plans. Contact is made with first-year parents by letter in relation to this and the guidance team also communicate with parents at school coffee mornings. In addition, some parents are invited into the school to discuss options.
Tests are also administered to facilitate academic and vocational guidance. The Differential Aptitude Test (DAT) is given to fifth-year students after Christmas. Senior students are met by guidance personnel many times during their course, initially at the DAT testing and by appointment thereafter, when the specifics of individual students’ needs are given attention.
There are every good resources and facilities available for the guidance team, including offices and meeting rooms, a computer supplied by the Department as part of the Guidance Enhancement Initiative (GEI), and the Internet. Added to these resources is the advantage of effective contact with outside agencies, primarily CHEAP, which is tailored for Clondalkin and supports the work of the school in retention and in access to further and third-level education. This is an important link for parents and students to the possibilities available after post-primary education. The guidance counsellor is the school’s key link with CHEAP.
Integration is a strong part of the school’s profile and the work of the pastoral care team is a key demonstration of this, meshing as it does with the guidance facility, HSCL co-ordinator, management and staff, outside agencies, local bodies, parents, NEPS and other support services. The care team operate a range of actions and interventions which support students in ways that help them to navigate personal issues and to develop behaviours that aid them in coping with the personal and social challenges that can confront them in school, home and community. This is facilitated comprehensively through a holistic approach by the care team, comprising a chaplain, counsellor, guidance personnel, tutors and staff members. The functions and actions of the care team are by no means confined within it: the schools duty of care is seen as being the responsibility of all teachers and there is widespread engagement and contribution by them to the work of the team. The opportunities teachers have to observe students in their daily round of class, supervision, and extra-curricular activities allows teachers to note stresses and difficulties that might be having a negative impact on individual students, and in this way they are a vital link in alerting the care team and management. Deansrath CC is particularly good in its vigilant observation of students, and teachers have a strong sense of whole-school responsibility.
Very good care supports are in place for students and this has been key to the school’s continuing success in retention of students and their progression within the education system, which represents a significant cultural change in the catchment area. Long established, the care team is recognised as a key player in how the school fulfils its obligation of care to students, and in creating the safe environment aspired to in the mission statement. By acquiring, evaluating and sharing information, and by taking action based on it, the care team and the staff generally can anticipate and service students’ needs, pre-empt difficulties in the short term, and in the long term provide or at least significantly contribute to the students’ personal effectiveness and security.
Pastoral care in Deansrath has many intertwined strands. Tutor, year head and AYM all have elements of pastoral care in their roles. Year heads create links with care team, guidance, HSCL co-ordinator and senior management, and liaise with parents. In order to provide a secure and continuous support, tutors are assigned to classes for at least three years or longer. Counselling is very important in the school and the counsellor can arrange to meet the parents of students on a one-to-one basis where necessary. Referral of students is done closely with parents.
The pastoral care team meets weekly. As a basic strategy for the school’s provision of a pastoral service, this team draws up care plans for individuals, and identifies the pastoral needs and issues of particular classes and groups. On the basis of these identifications, the outside agencies then deliver appropriate programmes and interventions in the school itself. The school’s resources in the care area are deployed in a targeted way; for example the junior certificate classes have a timetabled period of pastoral care every week as it is regarded as being of special benefit to their needs profile. Very good systems of communication are in place with outside-school elements of care provision which have been developed and reviewed over time.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· In order to accelerate the effective work of the academic year monitor (AYM) group it is recommended that continuous professional development be provided to add to the collective knowledge and strategy in the whole area of outcomes improvement.
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:
Published, November 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management, senior management, staff, students and parents welcome the very affirming conclusion of the Whole School Evaluation which celebrates “the happy and productive community schooling resource it (Deansrath Community College) truly is”, where the “happy and cheerful atmosphere that permeates Deansrath CC”, is genuinely obvious.
Also the recognition of the hard work and dedication of all staff, through their “very valuable contribution to the school by volunteering for extra duties, …, and extra tuition”, is most welcome and highly merited by our dedicated and highly professional staff members who on a daily basis, show their commitment and dedication to the holistic education of the students entrusted to our care in Deansrath Community College.
The Board of Management is very pleased with the excellent subject and programme reports and wishes to congratulate the Home Economics, Irish, L.C.V.P. and Mathematics departments within the college.
The Board also thanks the entire inspectorate team for its courtesy, professionalism and thorough nature of its evaluation: its affirmation is very empowering.
Not withstanding the above however, and considering the contextual environment and D.E.I.S. designation of the college, with our inclusive ‘open-door’ enrolment policy since our foundation in 1986, the Board recognises that raising the attainment of its students is a central challenge for the college, and through consistent and persistent efforts, attainment levels have improved and will continue to do so. This enhancement is validated and verified by a statistical analysis of the 2009 Leaving Certificate results on a national basis, where Deansrath Community College’s results are statistically higher than the national average on 16 comparisons.
Furthermore, due to the dedication, professionalism and wide-spread experience of our E.A.L. Co-ordinator, the Board wishes to point out that the E.A.L. Department’s syllabus contains a range of subject – and level – specific learning outcomes, which seek to enhance our students’ B.I.C.S. (Basic Interpersonal Communications Skills) and in equal measure their C.A.L.P. (Cognitive and Academic Language Proficiency). The department plan is equally specific and wide ranging in mapping out how students of E.A.L. will achieve basic and advanced learning outcomes which address the range of skills enabling them “to access the curriculum effectively”.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
The Board of Management is committed to prioritising the recommendations of the Whole School Evaluation Report and in so doing, will continue to strive for excellence in the holistic educational activities of the college.
ü Raising academic achievement levels for all students continues to be a key working priority for management, board and staff, through continued and ongoing co-operation with, and continuous professional development from N.C.C.A., S.D.P.I. and S.L.S.S. in conjunction with the very targeted work of our Academic Year Monitors. Furthermore, our current first year J.C.S.P. group is integrated with the full year group for ten subjects, offering the J.C.S.P. students a further choice of Business Studies, French, Materials Technology Metal, Music, Science, and Technology thus “enriching J.C.S.P. for students who are capable of some additional challenge”.
ü In the area of policy development, the Board has reviewed, signed and dated a number of policies and is committed to leading further review and development of other policies.
ü As a direct result of our W.S.E., extra allocation was awarded to the college targeted at specifically developing the capabilities of our exceptionally able students. Unfortunately, due to the current economic situation, this facility is no longer available to the college’s students. However, each subject teacher is aware of the individual abilities of her/his students and is using strategies of differentiation in the teaching/learning methodologies.
ü Arrangements have been made with our local intercultural centre, to translate our key college documents for our larger linguistic communities, such as Polish, Portuguese and Russian.