An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Scienc

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Ringsend Technical Institute

Cambridge Rd, Dublin 4

Roll number: 70200D

 

Date of inspection: 25 January 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

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Ringsend Technical Institute was undertaken in January, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in four subjects were evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section 7 for details).  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

Introduction

 

Ringsend Technical Institute, located on the south bank of the River Liffey, is a co-educational, second-level and continuing education school run under the auspices of the City of Dublin Vocational Educational Committee (CDVEC) since 1930. The school has a long history of serving the community. It was originally established in 1893 by the Earl of Pembroke as a school for fishermen in Ringsend and later became a school for automotive engineering, a metalwork teacher training centre and finally a second-level school. A new building was opened on the original site in 1982 and the school became well known for its repeat Leaving Certificate programme which, until recently, drew students from all over the city. This programme no longer operates in the school. In addition, the school had been a provider of Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses but currently there are no such courses in the school.  In both cases, a drop in numbers sitting the Leaving Certificate nationally, an increase in available places at third level and competition from other schools were cited as the reasons for the decline of these courses.

 

The school has, in recent years, struggled with maintaining numbers due to a declining student population in the area but will see an increase in incoming first-year students for the coming school year. CDVEC is committed to keeping it and their other second-level schools open as they are aware of their value to the communities they serve. The VEC and school management have completed an in-depth analysis of the long-term potential of the area and are very aware of demographic changes. Their analysis suggests that in the next few years the numbers entering the school will remain fairly small but that in the future, due to urban regeneration, increased social housing and the City Plan, there will be a large increase in the local population. Talks have taken place about a possible amalgamation with another second-level school in the south inner city and discussions are ongoing.

 

The management of the school is aware of the importance of planning for its future development and is aware of the challenges of maintaining the existing subject choice within a second-level school with relatively low numbers. Management has examined the potential for increased enrolment onto various further education programmes and has sought to identify new programmes and courses. Enrolment in the second-level school is mainly drawn from the immediate vicinity of Ringsend and the wider inner-city area. The school benefits from participation in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) and the School Completion Programme (SCP).

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The school philosophy or mission states that “the college aims to provide an education which contributes toward the development of all aspects of the individual – aesthetic, creative, cultural, emotional, intellectual, moral, physical, political, religious, social and spiritual – for personal and family life, for living in the community and for work and leisure.” Evidence from the evaluation suggests that every effort is made by the school community to ensure that this mission is lived out in practice. However, the school community is aware of the need to revisit the school’s mission statement to ensure that it incorporates the work of the school in the areas of further education and adult education provision. The revisiting of the school’s mission statement is to be encouraged as the current mission statement is very broad and not a reflection of the distinctiveness of Rinsgend Technical Institute.

 

A noticeable feature of the school is the strong community spirit and the sense that the school is part of the fabric of the area. Many of the members of staff have given years of service to the school and know the community they serve very well. The school provides a secure educational environment for its students. Teachers spoke of instilling trust and respect into their students and there was evidence that this was succeeding. There is a strong sense of trust at all levels in the school. Students and parents have trust and confidence in the teachers, who in turn have a deep trust and respect for management.

 

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

A high level of support in the form of human, material and financial resources is allocated to the school by the CDVEC, the school patron. In addition, CDVEC operates an overarching support structure for all its second-level schools. CDVEC has specified a number of policies to be ratified by all its boards of management and has developed guidelines on writing Admissions policies and Codes of Behaviour. It provides an induction programme to all teachers entering the scheme and the education officer attends all board of management meetings to advise the board and inform it about educational matters. The principals of all CDVEC schools meet on a monthly basis with the chief executive officer (CEO); the VEC communications officer is made available to assist schools with promotion and a range of continuing professional development courses are made available to staff employed in CDVEC schools. All board of managements are sub-committees of the VEC and minutes of board meetings are approved by the CDVEC and recommendations from the board are also made to CDVEC meetings.  

 

The priorities for the school articulated by the CEO and the education officer were to secure enrolment and improve academic standards. They also see potential for Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) and other further education courses in the school. These priorities are shared by the board of management and senior management in the school which leads to a shared vision for the future of Ringsend Technical Institute.

 

The board of management of Ringsend Technical Institute has a five-year term of office and meets four times a year and more often for specific issues. The board currently has nine voting members although there are a number of vacancies on the board to be filled. The principal and the education officer are non-voting members of the board. The board has an eclectic mix of skills which enhances it and brings different perspectives to the school. This includes VEC representatives and representatives from industry, the local community and a local primary school. At present there is just one teacher representative and one parent representative on the board. Plans are underway to rectify this situation. It was articulated by the education officer that recommendations from other whole school evaluation (WSE) reports about board of management matters are being implemented in all CDVEC schools. This includes the matter of an agreed report between the board and staff. These planned changes are to be welcomed; as is the plan for all boards to meet five times each year.

 

The board fulfils its statutory requirements but, more than that, it presented as having direction and vision for the future of the school, often provided by the chair of the board, a past pupil of the school who is also the chair of the VEC. It has identified priority areas for the school’s development including: maximising enrolment; developing further education courses; developing links with the primary schools, links with the community and links between the school and the parents. There was evidence that many of these areas have been or are being currently addressed by the school. The board is also involved in strategies to address these priority areas and has, in the past, set up a sub-committee to examine ways to develop links with industry. It examines strategies to promote the school and identifies potential areas of development for the school; for example, the board is hoping to explore the creation of a link between a large Engineering company in the area and the school. The board is currently considering the possibility of establishing an autism unit in the school. Overall, the board is very well informed about all aspects of the school. It has been involved in discipline of students and is also involved in examining, developing and ratifying policy documents.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The senior management team in the school, consisting of the principal and deputy principal, has clearly defined roles and presented as a strong management team that is hugely committed to the school. Both principal and deputy principal have great knowledge of their students and of the local community. The principal deals with the long-term, strategic issues and plans for the future of the school, including: increasing enrolments; promoting the school; researching the school’ future direction; school development planning and developing new programmes. The deputy principal deals with more day-to-day matters including: supervision and substitution; arrangement for ‘mock’ and school examinations; liaison with feeder primary schools; communication with students and staff and he also chairs the student support meetings. Both are involved in the drawing up of the school timetable. Both members of the senior management team have a consultative approach, facilitate new ideas and were described as approachable and open by staff members. Both have an ‘on the ground’ presence. They meet formally and informally together each day, and, on each Wednesday afternoon, they meet to discuss and plan for the coming week.

 

The middle management team in the school consists of the four assistant principals and the director of adult education, (the equivalent of a deputy principal position). These post-holders meet together with the principal and deputy principal once a month and have a clear role in the management of the school. Two of the assistant principals are heads of cycle; one for junior and one for senior. The other assistant principal posts involve responsibility for the co-ordination and development of all further education programmes, which is a newly created post, and responsibility for all matters relating to public examinations and the school magazine. There was evidence that the middle management team makes a large contribution to the school. The special duties posts cover a range of duties including Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) co-ordinator, first-year head and special needs co-ordinator, second year head and JCSP co-ordinator, night school and teacher induction, responsibility for outdoor pursuits equipment, and responsibility for statistical returns, a post that is no longer in operation.

 

All posts have a written job description which is good practice. Management has articulated the view that a review of posts in now timely and this item has appeared on the agenda of senior management meetings. The evaluation team concurs with the view that it is very timely to have a review of the posts of responsibility. This is because some posts have become redundant and others may no longer be necessary given the numbers in the school. Management are considering the creation of posts of responsibility in the areas of health and safety and school development planning and these would be appropriate for the school. In addition, a post for promotion of the school and a post for management of the school library are possibilities to be considered into the future.

 

Staff meetings are held at least four times a year and, overall, the communication system in the school is highly effective. The staff is consulted on all matters and is facilitated to attend in-service courses and continuous professional development courses as necessary.

 

The school has done an in-depth analysis of retention figures. There was evidence that the retention of students from third year through to fifth year and to their Leaving Certificate has improved greatly over the years. The success of the school in this regard is laudable. The SCP funds the provision of an attendance officer in the school who records all lateness and absenteeism and forwards these to class teachers, year heads and heads of cycles. A same day response system is operated so that parents of absentees are contacted immediately. An early warning system to alert parents of poor attenders is also in place and teachers and heads of cycle are proactive about contacting home if students are regularly late or absent. Awards are presented for good attendance three times a year. While absenteeism among some students is still a problem in the school, the efforts made by the school to combat this problem are highly commended. The Admissions Policy deals with admissions to all courses offered by the school. The clause in this policy requiring the Department of Education and Science to provide additional resources to special educational needs (SEN) students prior to enrolment into the school must be reviewed.

 

 There is a very good structure in place for the management of students in the school and students appreciated the systems in place for their management. Students were all in uniform and were seen to behave well around the school. The Code of Conduct has reportedly been used as a template of good practice for other schools. The subject teacher has initial responsibility for discipline in the class room. The next step in the clear ladder of referral is the class teacher who deals with low level incidents of discipline and has a pastoral role. The need to define this role has been discussed by the school and a definition of this valuable role is encouraged. There is also a year head for each of the junior years who deals with more serious discipline issues and co-ordinates JCSP profiling for their particular year group. The heads of cycles deal with discipline issues of a more serious nature, oversee the induction of students into their cycle, oversee subject choices of students, make referrals to the guidance counsellor and, overall, play a prominent part in the management of students and in the overall management of the school, and their work is highly commended. However, it was articulated that one of their roles is to suspend students. This is a role that should only be carried out by senior management and a review of this aspect of their role must be undertaken.

 

The Student Council is in operation in the school since 2004. The Council is made up of representatives from each mainstream class who are elected by students from that class. The Council meets once every half term and a member of staff attends all Council meetings. A constitution defining the functions and composition of the Council is available and, as there was no knowledge of this constitution among the students on the Council met as part of the evaluation, it is suggested that the constitution be tabled at the next Council meeting. The Council has lobbied successfully for lockers for sixth-year students, for the continuation of Technical Graphics into senior cycle and other issues. A good system of communication has developed between the Council and principal and there was evidence that the Council is gaining a greater voice in the school. The Council has been consulted around some policies such as “punishment homework” and it is recommended that in the future it be consulted around relevant curriculum review matters and relevant policies.

 

Over the years there has always been a parents’ group in the school although it has reportedly been quite difficult to get parents to join this group. In recent years, under school development planning, the school prioritised developing links with parents and an action plan was devised to put this priority into practice. The successful strategies of the school to involve parents more in the school are highly commended. One result is that a parents’ group has been re-established. Evidence suggests that this group is consulted on various issues including the recently changed timetable and that it and the general parent body are well informed about all matters in the school. Good practice takes place in that the school calendar is sent to all parents and parents receive regular letters from the school informing them about different events and practices. Parents are also kept well informed through the very effective Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) system and through the praiseworthy, annual publication ‘Ringtones’. However, a further shorter newsletter should be considered for parents, perhaps at the time of the issue of Christmas and summer reports. The parents group is also considering ways of communicating with the general parents’ body. The group was aware of the structures within the school and there was evidence that parents are encouraged to sign the student journal on a weekly basis. The school has successfully increased attendance at parent-teacher meetings by arranging these meetings on an appointment basis and following up on all non-attenders. This strategy is highly commended. There are two parent-teacher meetings held annually for examination classes and one parent-teacher meeting held annually for all other class groups.

 

The school has fostered strong links with local primary schools; for example, through organising inter-school activities between sixth classes from the local primary schools and first year in Ringsend Technical Institute, through hosting primary school activities in the school and through the school’s open day where primary school students visit the school. The school is commended for the many strong links it has created over the years with the wider community. These include strong links with Dublin Schools Business Partnership which creates links with local companies and businesses. For example, a multi-international company, Cisco, provides staff for mentoring of fifth-year students in terms of career choices and developing their self-esteem. This programme was observed to be highly effective. There are strong links with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) which provides support in the form of extra-curricular activities, funding of psychological reports and awards to the school. Students from the school participate in a tutorial programme with Trinity College and the school is linked with Dublin Institute of Technology’s access programme. Local facilities, including Irishtown stadium, are made available to the school.

 

The school also facilitates many activities, with the aim of enhancing the education of the local community and beyond and promoting the school. A new initiative in the school is that a SKILLVEC programme is hosted from the school which provides training for Health Service Executive (HSE) workers. The CDVEC Adult Education Service for the South East is based in the school. The school runs a Back To Education Initiative (BTEI) Drama course in an outreach centre in Pearse Street. The school also hosts the Ringsend Adult Literacy Service.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

The school currently employs twenty-six teachers on a full or part time basis; four of these are involved in teaching VTOS only, while two teach both mainstream and VTOS. The remaining teachers teach only in the second-level school. The school has an official allocation of 12.87 teachers and is therefore almost five teachers over quota. There is scope for the more effective deployment of teaching staff to the second-level school. Few teachers teach twenty-two hours and a number of teachers teach less than eighteen hours. The school timetables administration and ‘lateness’ duty as part of most teachers’ hours. The fact that a number of teachers do not teach the required amount of hours as stipulated in circular 01/75 needs to be addressed.  Teachers should not be timetabled for administrative duties unless there is a specific allocation granted for these duties from the Department of Education and Science. Section 3.3 of circular M39/02 stipulates that “teachers should be timetabled for the full contracted teaching hours or as close as possible thereto”. This issue must be rectified as soon as possible.

 

The school has a resource allocation of 2.2 whole-time teacher equivalents as well as an allocation of 1.26 for learning support. This allocation is used to create SEN classes in some subjects and for withdrawal of students for extra support on a one-to-one or small group basis. The current situation is that students in receipt of SEN teaching may have a number of teachers providing them with SEN tuition. The co-ordinator of SEN and the deputy principal assign students to teachers for extra support if the teachers are available to teach these students. The SEN co-ordinator indicates to SEN teachers the areas to teach and each SEN teacher then liaises with the subject teacher of the student receiving SEN support to ensure no overlap in provision. While it is acknowledged that the timetabling of a large group of teachers to teach SEN spreads experience in this area, such timetabling is rarely to the students’ advantage as it deters the development of a core team of experienced teachers able to provide effective support teaching to students with SEN or learning support needs.  The ideal situation is that a smaller number of staff would teach SEN and that these would plan together on a regular basis. Therefore, it is recommended that a review of the deployment of staff for the provision of SEN takes place.

 

There is an induction programme for new staff but the reality is that few new teachers are employed by the school because of its over-quota position.

 

The school employs one full-time secretary who has responsibility for a range of duties. The attendance officer, funded mainly by the SCP, also looks after the book rental scheme.

 

The school building is very well maintained by a number of ancillary staff employed directly by CDVEC. The school is involved in the Green School Project and has been awarded the Green Flag. This project was instigated by teachers in the school and is highly commended. Displays of pictures of students and year groups, both past and present, on the corridors of the school would greatly enhance the school and reflect its long history.

 

There is a comprehensive health and safety statement available. However, a health and safety issue that came to light during the evaluation was the fact that some students are allowed unsupervised access to the gym hall during free classes. This contravenes the school’s own safety statement. This practice must cease immediately.

 

Teaching and learning resources were readily available in the four subjects evaluated. In addition, the school is well resourced in relation to specialist rooms and facilities and includes such interesting features as a greenhouse, a pottery room, a lecture theatre, a photography room and a music room. In an effort to attract adult learners, there are plans to convert some classrooms into an adult social area in the school. This is possible as there are unused areas in the school. There is also a well-stocked library in the school. Although a system of book boxes is commendably deployed by English teachers in each classroom, regular and effective use of this library is recommended.

 

Most of the school is wired for broadband and there are four computer rooms in the school. Two of these are dedicated to further education programmes and two are available for second-level access. There are also data projectors and laptops available for use in classrooms. Computers are available in the library, specialist classrooms and staffroom and the school has an up-to-date website. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) support is available to staff. Members of staff were recently surveyed about their ICT needs in learning and teaching in an effort to improve training and facilities for them. This is commended.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

Planning to increase enrolments is ongoing: a first-year enrolment plan was discussed early this year, the new college brochure was distributed by post to over 30,000 homes in the vicinity and the school magazine ‘Ringtones’ was delivered to thousands of homes and businesses in the area. These efforts by the school to increase enrolment are highly commended. An open day where students from feeder primary schools visit the school and participate in classes is also organised on an annual basis.

 

As part of school development planning, the board and staff identified two areas which were in need of development: parental involvement in the school and communications. A list of goals was created for each area of development; action planning took place which identified: the task to be completed for the achievement of each goal; the resources needed; the success criteria and the monitoring and evaluation procedures. The outcome of this planning is that very effective policies are in place and that all of the goals set are completed or in the process of completion.

 

Currently, the school principal oversees the school development planning process in the school. School management facilitates two half days during the school year for development planning. The staff has recently identified priority areas for planning which include: completion of the guidance plan; review of the mission statement; the development of a policy for SEN and a review of the role of the class teacher. The FETAC Quality Assurance plan has also been agreed and the work involved in developing this plan is commended. Evidence suggests that considerable work has been undertaken by management in planning for the introduction of new programmes such as BTEI and PLC.

 

The permanent section of the school plan i.e. policies are well developed while the developmental section is ongoing with priorities identified, action plans created and policies written. Overarching policy documents such as policies on Substance Misuse, Dealing with Complaints, Computer and Network Usage and the Health and Safety Statement are often created by the CDVEC and adapted and then adopted by the school. One good example of this is the Crisis Management policy. The Safety Statement was drawn up in October 2006 and is commended for outlining, among other things, general safety guidelines for each area of the school. The school has developed a relationships and sexuality education (RSE) policy. In devising this policy, two parents and two members of the board were involved, which is good practice.

 

It is recommended that key policies be dated and that formal dates for review be also noted on the policies. Key policies which affect students are communicated to parents and students in the students’ journal. The journal also includes tips for effective study, contains sheets for teachers’ comments at the end of each week and for parents to communicate students’ absences. Evidence suggests that, on the whole, the journal is well used by most parents, students and teachers.

 

A priority area for development, articulated by the CEO, the board and the senior management team and mentioned in the School Development Action Plan is the continuation of the promotion of high standards of achievement in the school. There was evidence that individual members of staff are promoting this aim and, in addition, many school-wide initiatives are taking place to raise students’ self-esteem and aspirations. Such initiatives include: Cisco mentoring; the school’s awards scheme and the Junior Achievement programme. Students have achieved well in their chosen level in many subject areas. In other subjects the results indicate that students are taking these subjects at ordinary or foundation level only. From examination of subject plans there was evidence that in a few subject areas students were deemed to taking be ordinary level from first year. The choice of level for state examinations should be delayed for as long as possible to ensure that students are sitting the examination at the correct level in all subjects. There is a need for a whole school approach to be taken to further achieve the aim of raising standards. The further development of subject planning in the school should help in this regard.

 

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 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.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The school provides the Junior Certificate, Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) for its mainstream second-level students. It also has an extensive adult education programme and provides two full-time Fastrack to Information Technology (FIT)/Vocational Training and Opportunities (VTOS) programmes as well as a BTEI course, operated in an outreach centre.

 

Students in the school benefit from a broad curriculum at both junior and senior cycle. Many of the optional subjects are practical which is a strength identified by the Student Council and others. First-year students experience a taster programme of all subjects until the end of October, before they make their final subject choices. This is good practice. All junior cycle students study English, Irish, Mathematics, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Religious Education (RE), Physical Education (PE) and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE). Music is also offered as a non-examination subject to some students at junior cycle, and first-year students have two classes of ICT each week.

 

While the core subjects of English and Mathematics are allocated five periods a week in junior cycle, Irish is allocated just three periods a week in first year, extending to four in second and third year. It is recommended that the number of periods for Irish be increased. While the distribution of lesson periods is even across the week in many subjects there are times at junior and senior cycle when some subjects are timetabled twice on one day; these include French, Mathematics and Irish. A more even distribution throughout the week of lesson periods is recommended.

 

Although the school timetable indicates a twenty-eight hour week, there are a large number of senior cycle students who do not receive this amount of instruction time. Those students who followed the JCSP in junior cycle sometimes do not choose three options in senior cycle. French, ab initio French, Biology and Business are timetabled as standalone subjects so those students not choosing either one of these options are timetabled for SEN or have free periods. There are five periods allocated for Home Economics (HE) on the timetable as stipulated in the HE syllabus, and five periods allocated to Biology, but four periods allocated for the other optional subjects which means that those not studying HE or Biology have one period less on their timetable. Again these students have a free period or else SEN is timetabled. In addition, those studying foundation-level Irish have four periods a week as opposed to ordinary-level students who have five periods a week of Irish. Students with these free periods first or last class or before or after lunchtime are sometimes permitted to arrive late or leave the school early, which is a practice which must be discontinued. In addition, management should endeavour to timetable all subjects within the normal school day.

 

In junior cycle, students have the choice of studying French or Environmental and Social Studies (ESS), Metalwork or Home Economics, Business Studies or Technical Graphics, Materials Technology Wood (MTW) or Art. The optional subjects at senior cycle are Biology, Business, Engineering or Home Economics and Art or Technical Drawing. A number of students take up subjects in fifth year that they had not previously studied, in particular Business. A review of these option bands is recommended at both junior and senior cycle and students should be given a more open choice of options where at all possible. In addition, the fact that there is no follow on of History, Geography, Physical Education (PE) and Constructions Studies into Leaving Certificate should be reviewed. Students and parents identified the lack of PE provision into senior cycle as an area they would like to see reviewed.

 

The above timetabling anomalies need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency and it is recommended that a major curriculum review be undertaken in order to: tighten up the school day; ensure that students receives their entitlement of twenty-eight hours instruction; review the timetabling of options, including continuation of subjects from junior to senior cycle, and review the number of periods for each subject. Within the current allocation of teaching resources the resolution of these issues should be possible.

 

The school operates a night school four evenings a week and offers a broad range of night classes for adults which are regularly reviewed and changed in line with public demand. Enrolments have declined this school year although it was reported that generally the courses are supported by the local community and beyond. Management, the VEC and the board are keen to promote PLC, BTEI and VTOS programmes in the school in order to raise the profile of education in the community and this is to be encouraged. Regular meetings are held of the FIT coordination group. These courses are well promoted and well organised and there is an annual presentation of certificates for these students. VTOS students embark on work experience each June. Those teachers charged with exploring further education and PLC courses need to up-skill themselves in these areas and find opportunities for the school to offer courses in a competitive environment. However, the needs of the second-level students should not be compromised in organising new courses.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students are placed in mixed-ability class groups in first year although setting occurs in Mathematics with management providing three teachers to teach the subject at the appropriate level. Students are set for English at the beginning of second year. Students are placed in class groups on an alphabetical basis in fifth year but core subjects are once again set.

 

The JCSP and LCVP are well co-ordinated programmes within the school. Students who participate in the JCSP are generally three years or more behind in reading to their chronological age. Each year head takes responsibility for chairing the JCSP profiling meetings for their particular year group which are held three times each year. JCSP students are integrated with other junior cycle students from first year through to third year but receive four extra periods of literacy support in first year and five extra periods of literacy support in both second and third year.

 

In the past the school offered the Transition Year programme but this was discontinued as it was found that students did not subsequently complete senior cycle. School management would like to reintroduce this when the culture of completing senior cycle has become further established.

 

At senior cycle, all students follow the LCVP. The school has explored the possibility of introducing the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme but numbers are currently too small to continue with both programmes. The fact that students follow and achieve well in the LCVP is commended and there was evidence that many students use the points gained from their Link Modules when applying for further education courses. In addition, students in the school place high value on their work experience and the work done in their Link Modules.

 

The heads of cycle have responsibility for advising students about subject choices. A parents’ morning is held for parents of first-year students at the start of the first term. The head of junior cycle meets each student on an individual basis in first year and the head of senior cycle meets each third-year student on an individual basis at the end of third year regarding subject choice. Parents are also met prior to their child’s commencement of fifth year to discuss curriculum choices available. Individual teachers also advise students about making subject choices. It is recommended that third-year students sit a careers inventory test or aptitude test in order for their strengths to be identified before making their final subject choices so that their subjects are chosen based on career options. The role of the guidance counsellor may need to be developed in this area.

 

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

A range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are on offer to students attending the school. Many of these are organised at VEC level, and include the CDVEC sports days and sports competitions and field trips organised by the Curriculum Development Unit. Outside agencies also arrange extra-curricular activities such as Dragon Boat racing. Some students also participate in the Zambian Project as part of the DDDA Schools IT Africa Project and in the Docklands Schools Radio Project where a team of fifth-year students prepare a series of broadcasts for local radio. Many students are involved in fundraising for charity. Students are awarded through the Docklands Schools Attitude and Attendance Programme with trips abroad for good attendance. Good practice is seen in that students are invited to write articles for school publications. Anti-bullying drama workshops and other workshops are organised for first-year students. Teachers also bring students on trips to exhibitions, the theatre and to places of interest in Dublin to enhance their particular subjects. Students participate in a Dublin-Belfast and Dublin-France exchange programme. The work carried out in organising these trips is highly commended.

 

Sporting opportunities for students include participation in badminton competitions, bouldering, athletics, girls’ soccer, and a summer sailing programme. The small numbers in some year groups militates against school teams being easily organised and it was cited by some teachers that students often are unwilling to get involved in teams because of part-time jobs. However, the lack of extra-curricular activities organised at school level, especially the lack of teams, is a real issue in the school. This is an issue that should be explored with a view to maintaining an identity and spirit among students in the school.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

Subject planning in all subject areas has commenced in recent years and is more advanced in some subject areas than others. Informal meetings between subject department colleagues take place on a regular basis and this level of interaction is commended. Where small numbers are involved in the teaching of specific subjects, co-operation between similar subject areas is encouraged.

 

In all subject areas evaluated curricular planning was evident. Best practice was observed where these curricular plans were agreed at subject department level and where a designated convenor assisted in the planning for the teaching and learning of the subject at subject department meetings. It is recommended, to further build on this good planning, that all subject departments develop a long-term subject plan. Each plan should identify priorities such as increasing uptake of higher level and achieving agreed learning outcomes and key skills for each year group, and should outline the strategies required to achieve these goals.

 

Appropriate individual lesson planning was evident in all lessons observed. Quality planning for the implementation of ICT was especially evident in Technical Graphics (TG) and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG)/Technical Drawing (TD), where a web-based graphics resource has been developed by the subject department. The use of ICT in other subject areas would further enhance teaching and learning.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

Teaching and learning was generally of a good standard in the four subject areas evaluated. Lessons were generally well structured and appropriately paced. A variety of teaching strategies was evident during the evaluation. These included individual and group demonstrations, peer learning, pair work and experiential learning. Small class groups were seen to be working to the advantage of students in all cases.

 

Best practice was observed where lessons were interactive. This was facilitated by skilful questioning, by providing opportunities for independent learning and by constantly challenging students to offer suggestions and opinions. This led to enjoyable and interesting lessons. In the language subjects evaluated some opportunities were missed to encourage student dialogue and discussion. It is suggested that appropriate methodologies be adopted to promote the development of students’ oral skills and vocabulary.  A student-centred and investigative approach was observed in many lessons.

 

Questioning was frequently used in all subjects evaluated to consolidate and to review students’ understanding. The commendable practice of using differentiated tasks and questioning techniques to cater for students of all abilities was adopted in many lessons. This practice should be adopted by all teachers given the range of abilities among students in the school.

 

The subject departments have accumulated a variety of resources and when integrated into lessons their use was effective. These resources included dictionaries, worksheets, flash cards, verb charts, posters, ICT resources and audiotapes. Plans are afoot to centralise the storage of such resources in some subject departments. This initiative is a welcome development which should be extended to all subject departments.

 

Very good classroom management was evident in most lessons; especially in lessons where a seating plan was observed. Student-teacher interactions were warm and supportive and a positive learning atmosphere was mainly evident. In some classrooms, student work was displayed and some posters were used to support learning. This creates a stimulating learning environment for students and also underpins the subjects’ identity within the school.


Generally, students demonstrated a level of understanding of the subject matter and the application of relevant skills commensurate with their age and ability. This was evident when students showed the ability to apply their knowledge to problem solving exercises and, in practical areas, where students implemented sound experimental practices.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

Different standards were observed around the allocation of homework, the correction of homework, the maintenance of work and the use of the student journal. Some teachers assigned homework on a regular basis and some assigned homework less frequently. Good practice was noted where formative comments were used to inform student learning and understanding. Homework was corrected to a different standard depending on the subject and teacher. It is advised, where not already the norm, that teachers’ review of homework and portfolio work should include an element of constructive comment in relation to how students might improve their work. Although there is a homework policy in place, a whole school approach to its implementation is needed.

 

The assessment modes in place in the school include bi-annual, formal, in-house examinations for non-examination classes at Christmas and summer, and ‘mock’ examinations for examination year classes in the spring. These formal assessments are supplemented by a variety of other assessment methods such as regular spelling, vocabulary and grammar tests in the language areas. Where appropriate a percentage of coursework is also included in the terminal exam grade. This is good practice as it prepares students for the coursework elements of State Examinations.

 

Contact with parents and communication of student assessments is supported formally at parent-teacher meetings, by means of school reports issued following formal examinations and by constant communication through the student journal. JCSP students are monitored regularly by some teachers and their progress is sensitively managed.

 

The school undertakes an analysis of state examination results on an annual basis which is very good practice. Students were seen to be achieving very well at higher level in some subject areas.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

All incoming first-year students are assessed using a reading test, a maths test, the AH2 test and by writing an essay, to determine their specific needs and reading ages. The deputy principal and HSCL teacher visit feeder primary schools to gain information on incoming first-year students. The guidance counsellor also contacts primary schools regarding individual first years that have enrolled. A large number of students have or are awaiting psychological assessments or are receiving extra learning support in the school. The CDVEC psychologist supports the school and is available for conducting psychological assessments.

 

The school is commended for partaking in many JCSP literacy initiatives including ‘Readalong’, ‘Make a Book’ and the ‘Reading Challenge’ and has recently received funding for the development of a reading corner. The school also hopes to introduce ‘Drop Everything and Read’ this year and is also involved in the Science initiative and the Field Trip initiative. Some of these initiatives, such as the ‘Reading Challenge’ are introduced to all junior cycle students which is good practice. Students’ reading ages are formally retested after the six-week ‘Reading Challenge’ and evidence suggests that reading ages have improved as a result. It is recommended that more numeracy initiatives be introduced for JCSP students also. Evidence suggests that the JCSP profiling meetings work well and students have access to their learning statements in the learning support room so they can monitor their own progress. JCSP celebrations are held and students are rewarded for improvements. It was reported that the transfer rate of JCSP students from junior to senior cycle was very high. This is commended.

 

There is no SEN/learning support policy in the school, although it was reported that work has commenced on developing this policy and that the school is working with the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) in developing a strategy for provision involving the preparation of individual education plans (IEPs). It is strongly recommended that an SEN/learning support policy be drawn up as soon as possible. There is good practice in that teachers in the school have received in-service on teaching students with SEN. The SEN policy should deal with issues including timetabling of SEN, the possibility of a smaller team delivering SEN, alternative models of provision and a co-ordinated approach to planning for students with SEN. A small number of students have official exemptions from Irish in the school although other students are withdrawn from Irish for extra support. This practice must be discontinued, especially given that first-year students have just three periods of Irish. Students are also withdrawn from Religion for extra support. Students did appreciate the extra support they received in some subjects, in particular the Link Modules and, in addition, there is good practice in that extra help is also given to more able students.

 

There are currently just two newcomer students in the school who receive extra language support. This support is currently arranged through the SEN provision. It is recommended that SEN and support for English as an additional language be decoupled.

 

There is a student support team in the school which consists of the guidance counsellor, the learning-support teacher, the HSCL coordinator, the heads of junior and senior cycle and the deputy principal as chair. This team meets on a weekly basis. Students who are identified as being at risk, of having difficulties in or outside the school or who are not applying themselves in school are identified and a strategy is put in place to deal with each student. This may include special interventions, disciplinary measures, referrals, counselling, additional tuition, mentoring or home visits. There was evidence from observing one such meeting that the support team adopt a student-centred approach and that issues are sensitively and confidentially discussed.

 

The HSCL service is commended for the strong links it creates between the school and the wider community. The co-ordinator is proactive in visiting homes, arranging courses for parents, creating links with the parent group, a local education committee and with community groups. There was evidence that this work is productive and worthwhile for the school and the wider community.

 

There is a strong pastoral care system established in the school. Parents and students knew where to turn to in times of crisis or what the consequences were in terms of breaking the rules. Class teachers retain class groups from first year through to sixth year which is a successful strategy in this school. In addition, students are appointed a teacher-mentor in certain circumstances. Many members of staff in the school give of their own voluntary effort; for example, to supervise the after-school study provided by the school from the beginning of the second term. The success of these systems in the school can be seen from the school’s success in keeping students in school. The school celebrates awards and achievements including attendance awards, JCSP celebrations and student of the year awards.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The school has a guidance allocation of 0.36 WTEs and also benefits from the Guidance Enhancement Initiative and so has a total allocation of thirteen hours each week for guidance and counselling. A draft Guidance Plan is available which needs to be completed and ratified. The guidance and counselling service available to students is outlined in this plan. There is scope for expanding the plan to describe the many relevant links with other staff and with outside agencies, including links with SPHE, with the heads of cycle, the LCVP teachers and other key players inside and outside the school who deliver aspects of the guidance service.

 

The guidance counsellor has a specific role definition in the school, which is good practice. There are no timetabled lessons for guidance; instead lessons are borrowed from other subjects. Students can also make one-to-one appointments with the guidance counsellor or can be referred to the guidance counsellor by the heads of cycle. Much of the guidance and counselling service available at junior cycle involves individual counselling and anger management. The guidance counsellor also administers the entrance examination to incoming first-year students and conducts Circle Time with first-year students once a week for the laudable purpose of self-esteem building and problem solving. One-to-one career interviews are conducted by the guidance counsellor with each sixth-year student. Together with the examinations’ secretary the guidance counsellor also makes application for reasonable accommodations in state examinations. It is suggested that the school consider the possibility of providing a careers library for students in the school.

 

Students are well supported in the school from first year up. There is an induction programme for all first-year students and a Leadership Development programme is in operation for third-year students; both are highly commended. The latter programme teaches assertiveness and appropriate behaviour. In senior cycle, fifth-year students undertake a personal development programme before embarking on work experience and are involved in a debriefing session after work experience. Examination class groups follow a study skills programme. Junior cycle students are also involved in the ‘Junior Achievement Programme’ which introduce students to the ‘economics of staying in school’ and develops their personal skills. Heads of cycle and the guidance counsellor organise many speakers from business or industry to encourage students to stay in school. ‘Mock’ interviews are conducted with help from local businesses. Students are also brought to some open days and exhibitions if appropriate and there is liaison with access officers from relevant colleges. Bereavement counselling is also organised for students. All students are tracked after they leave the school and some of the school’s considerable successes in terms of careers are well promoted through various brochures.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         A noticeable feature of the school is the strong community spirit and the sense that the school is part of the fabric of the area.

·         Ringsend Technical Institute provides a secure educational environment for its students. There is a strong sense of trust at all levels in the school.

·         A high level of support in the form of human, material and financial resources is allocated to the school by the CDVEC.

·         All board of management members have an eclectic mix of skills which enhances the board and brings different perspectives to the school. The board presented as having direction and vision for the future of the school.

·         The senior management team in the school has clearly defined roles and presented as a strong management team that is hugely committed to the school. Both members of the senior management team

      have a consultative approach, facilitate new ideas and were described as approachable and open by staff members.

·         The retention of students to Leaving Certificate has improved greatly over the years. The success of the school in this regard is laudable.

·         There is a very good structure in place for the management of students in the school.

·         The heads of cycles play a prominent role in the management of students and in the overall management of the school.

·         The school has fostered strong links with local primary schools and the wider community.

·         The outcome of school action planning is that very effective policies are in place and that all of the goals set are completed or in the process of completion.

·         Students in the school benefit from a broad curriculum at both junior and senior cycle.

·         The two full-time Fastrack to Information Technology (FIT)/Vocational Training and Opportunities (VTOS) programmes are well promoted and well organised.

·         The JCSP and LCVP are well co-ordinated programmes within the school.

·         Generally, students demonstrated a level of understanding of their subject matter and the application of relevant skills commensurate with their age and ability.

·         Students are well supported in the school from first year up with a range of programmes and initiatives put in place for them.

 

 

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

 

·         The deployment of teachers needs review. They should not be timetabled for administrative duties unless there is a specific allocation granted for these duties from the Department of Education and Science. This issue must be rectified as soon as possible.

·         A major review of the curriculum should be undertaken: to tighten up the school day; to ensure that each student receives their entitlement of twenty-eight hours instruction; to review the timetabling of options, including the continuation of subjects from junior to senior cycle; and to review the number of periods available for each subject.

·         There is a need for whole school approach to be taken to further achieve the articulated aim of raising standards in the school.

·         There is a need for a policy for catering for students with SEN and learning support needs to be drawn up as soon as possible to deal with issues including timetabling of SEN provision, the possibility of a smaller team teaching students with SEN, alternative models of provision and a coordinated approach to planning for these students.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

·         Subject Inspection of English –30 November 2007

·         Subject Inspection of Science/Biology – 21 January 2008

·         Subject Inspection of French– 22 January 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics and Technical Drawing/Design and Communication Graphics – 24 January 2008

 

 

 

 

Published December 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

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 Ringsend Technical Institute welcomes the WSE report and its very positive and affirming findings regarding the school.

The report acknowledges that the school provides a secure educational environment for its student and it recognises the high level of support given by the school patron, the CDVEC, to the school.  The Board is pleased that, apart from fulfilling its statutory requirements, it is viewed as having a direction and vision for the school.  It notes with satisfaction the observations regarding the strength and commitment of the Senior Management Team and their consultative and facilitative approach and also the large contribution made by the middle management team to the school.  The Board is heartened that the communication system in the school is seen as highly effective by the inspection team.  It is delighted that the successful strategies of the school to involve parents more in the school and the many strong links which it has created over the years with the wider community are highly commended.  The Board if happy that the success of the school is retaining students from 3rd Year through to Leaving Cert has been noted.  The inspection team’s positive comments on the broad curriculum offered to students, the co-curricular and extra curricular provision, the organisation of the JCSP and LCVP programmes, the HSCL service, the strong pastoral care system and voluntary activities undertaken by staff are greatly appreciated.  In relation to students, the inspection team has noted that students were well behaved around the school and demonstrated an understanding of their subject matter commensurate with age and ability.  This has been very affirming for students and staff.  Finally the Board is pleased that the report has identified that, arising out of school planning, very effective policies were in place and that goals set were completed.

 

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 has commenced consideration of the WSE and will draw up an implementation plan in response to the recommendations contained in the report.