An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Coláiste Bhríde Community College

Carnew, County Wicklow

Roll number: 70790E

 

Date of inspection: 26 – 30 November 2007

 

 

 

 

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 Coláiste Bhríde, Carnew Co. Wicklow was undertaken in November 2007. 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 Transition Year 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.

 

Introduction

 

Coláiste Bhríde Carnew was established in 1936 under the auspices of Co. Wicklow Vocational Education Committee (VEC) to support the educational and training needs of the students living in the surrounding areas and to thereby influence the development of the locality in a meaningful way.  The school has since expanded from an initial intake of twenty students to its current cohort of over six hundred students comprising young people from both the immediate environs and beyond the school’s traditional catchment area.  It has also broadened its curriculum and overall educational provision in order to maintain the objective for which the school was established. 

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

Coláiste Bhríde, according to its mission statement, endeavours to provide quality education for all students in a caring, disciplined and respectful environment.  Its objective is to prepare students for life and responsible citizenship and to motivate them towards the achievement of their full potential.

 

The policies and practices in Coláiste Bhríde indicate that the school is true to its mission statement.  Care, trust and respect were words used to describe the overall school environment by all members of the school community during the course of the evaluation.  The members of the VEC described the school as inclusive.  Members of the board of management spoke of senior management and staff assisting students of all abilities in every way, motivating and supporting them to reach their full potential.  According to the board, each student is valued for who he or she is.  Representatives from the parents’ association commented that life in the school revolved around the student.  They found senior management to be very approachable and said that nobody felt isolated.  Students highlighted how senior management knew the names of all the students in the school and reported very favourably on the quality of the pastoral care in the school.

 

The vision for the school is shared by all members of the school community.  The VEC upholds the ethos of the school through the work of its chief executive officer (CEO) and education officer in supporting ongoing school improvement, through the development of an education plan for all VEC schools in the county, and through the provision of supports and inservice for continuous professional development and school development planning.  The welcome provided by the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) students to members of the VEC at a recent meeting held in the school was highlighted by the CEO as an indicator of the school’s ethos in action.  Members of the teaching staff described the school as a good place to work in.  Many spoke of their high regard for senior management and there was clear evidence of teachers’ willingness to contribute to the life of the school.  The active involvement of parents in fundraising, financing and co-ordinating the school’s awards night and the students’ contribution to providing a safe and caring school environment through the Meitheal and senior prefect programmes are further indication of a shared vision for the school.

 

In the interests of reinforcing the values inherent in the school’s educational principles and characteristic spirit, it is recommended that the school’s mission statement be displayed in a prominent place in the school and included in the student journal.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

The board of management is properly constituted and comprises eleven members: three VEC nominees, three community representatives, two parent nominees and two nominees from the permanent teaching staff.  The principal is secretary to the board.  New members to the board are provided with the school handbook, which outlines all policies and practices in the school.  Current members of the board have not received any training for their role although it was reported that this is shortly to be provided.  The current board is in the second year of a three-year cycle and generally meets once each term.  The board should review the frequency of these meetings in order to ensure full compliance with the Instrument of Management for VEC schools.  A principal’s report, outlining all developments in the school, is provided at each board meeting. 

 

Members of the board reported being fully cognisant of their roles and responsibilities.  They see their primary function as supporting the principal in the execution of his / her work and promoting and progressing standards of excellence.  The board is currently in the second year of a two year plan which has prioritised the raising of academic standards, attention to special educational needs, improved facilities and the further development of information and communications technology (ICT).  The practical outcomes of some of these priorities are evident in the board’s encouragement of teachers to engage as examiners in the correction of state examination papers.  The board also supported the recent changes in the format for parent-teacher meetings, whereby certificate examination students now attend the meetings with their parents.  In addition, the board affirms all major student achievements in writing, and its members attend the Transition Year graduation and the annual school awards evening.  The board’s attention to students’ achievements is commended.

 

The board is also aware of its statutory obligations in relation to the development of school policies and planning.  Policies and planning in the school are generally instigated and developed at staff level and by the steering committee for school development planning before being brought to the board for review and ratification.  Board members reported initiating new ideas, discussing draft policies and, where necessary, proposing amendments before final ratification.  An example of this is the recently revised admissions policy, which went through several drafts before its final ratification.  The board also reported learning from other schools.  They cited the example of the new critical incident policy developed for the school, and their proposed work with members of County Limerick VEC to provide appropriate training for teachers to implement the policy.

 

The board also emphasised the importance of parental involvement in the life of the school and acknowledged the work carried out by parents to support senior management and staff in their efforts to provide an optimum educational experience for all students.

 

The work of the board is communicated to parents and staff through the publication of a school newsletter.  However, it is recommended that an agreed report be drawn up at the end of each meeting and communicated to parents through the parents’ association. The same report should also be communicated to the staff.

 

According to its members, the strengths of the current board of management lie in the skills which they bring to the board from the business world, their knowledge of the educational system and the active participation and collaboration by all in carrying out the work of the board.

 

1.3          In-school management

Senior management presents as a united and effective team, benefiting from the complementary skills and expertise of its respective members.  The principal and deputy principal have a formal meeting every Monday, but meet informally on a daily basis to discuss all that is happening in the school.  They work collaboratively, each to his or her individual strengths.  The principal has responsibility for all major decisions.  She plans the timetable, while the deputy principal draws it up.  He also organises supervision rotas for absent teachers and for in-house examinations.  They work together on matters of discipline.  The principal described her role as generating ideas, but facilitating others to bring them to fruition.  This leadership style has contributed to a sense of shared ownership between senior management and staff and is highly commended.

 

Senior management has a clear vision for the future of the school which is imparted to the staff and students through the work of middle management and school development planning initiatives. Assistant principals, in their work as year heads, support senior management in the effective implementation of the discipline code, while those with administrative functions also contribute to the effective day-to-day running of the school.  These administrative duties include the co-ordination of Transition Year, and responsibility for areas such as student reports, the book rental scheme and awards day.  Other duties include examinations secretary, ICT, management of the school shop and school uniform.  There is also an overall programme co-ordinator who has an equivalence of an assistant principal’s post.  Senior management reported that they try to allocate post-holder duties that will best respond to teachers’ individual strengths.  Assistant principals are required to provide an annual written review in which they can suggest areas for development or negotiate changes in their duties.  This is good practice.

 

Assistant principals reported that they see themselves as a middle management team actively contributing to the effective running of the school.  Their opinions are sought and respected.  They meet regularly as a team and they all take on responsibilities to support senior management, to liaise effectively with the general body of staff and to encourage students.  While the good work currently being carried out by assistant principals is acknowledged, it is recommended that some of their duties be reviewed in order to make their role more fulfilling as members of middle management.  Postholders should be accorded opportunities to engage in instructional leadership or curriculum development in accordance with circular PPT29/02.  The expertise deployed in some of the administrative duties might open up teaching and learning opportunities for colleagues: for example, the good work being carried out in the area of ICT could be shared with teachers to help them build up expertise in the use of ICT to organise and manage their own work. Consideration should also be given to a collective end-of-year review of middle management structures and duties in addition to the individual review currently in place, to ensure that they correspond to the ongoing needs of the school.

 

Special duties teachers also participate effectively in the middle management structure in that their duties involve the co-ordination of different areas including curricular programmes such as Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA).  The co-ordination of learning support, public relations, first aid and extra-curricular activities such as music and sport also forms part of the special duties posts.  Special duties postholders meet as a middle management group once or twice a year, and this is commendable practice.

 

The senior management team encourages and enables non-postholders to make a positive contribution to school life through a variety of initiatives, including school development planning committees and extra-curricular activities.  They also encourage them to avail of in-career development opportunities and to participate in the different projects and programmes running in the school.

 

The class teacher role, which is voluntary, is to support the year head in the management of students by looking after their pastoral needs as they progress through their life in Coláiste Bhríde.  This involves meeting the class group each morning for registration, checking attendance and behaviour, signing journals, meeting with students and monitoring their progress with the aim of building up their self-esteem.  They are responsible for organising class events or outings.  The class teacher deals with minor offences reported to them and ensures that all the appropriate paperwork related to these offences is in order.  They report to the year head in relation to students’ attendance and more serious issues of discipline.  Class teachers may also meet with parents to discuss concerns relating to students in their class.  The work carried out by the class teacher indicates a high level of commitment to the holistic development of the students and is warmly commended.

 

A comprehensive staff handbook is issued annually to all teachers comprising information of relevance to them in their daily work and in their interactions with senior management and students.  The provision of a handbook is good practice as full knowledge of rules and protocols supports fair and consistent practices when dealing with all members of the school community.  In recent years, the handbook has been disseminated on a USB key. The key is returned at the end of the year for updating.  This practice is highly commended as it is time-efficient and economical, and also contributes admirably to the school’s green policies.  A handbook containing guidelines to support teachers involved in the induction programme for incoming first-year students is also disseminated.  Senior management also compiles and disseminates a daily newsletter to all members of staff thereby ensuring that they are kept up to date on all relevant news and events.  A handbook entitled Guide for Parents is disseminated to all parents of the incoming first years.  The book contains the school’s mission statement, the calendar of events, information regarding subject choices and practical advice to support students in their first year in the school.  School management is highly commended for its support of and practical advice for both the incoming first year students and their parents.  The student journal is well laid out and contains information on the calendar of events, the code of behaviour, the names of the Meitheal leaders and senior prefects and some practical advice in relation to optimum student lifestyle. These initiatives which promote effective channels of communication between school management and the school community are highly commended.

 

There is very good support for continued professional development from both senior management and the Co. Wicklow VEC education office.  Many of the teachers have completed or are engaged in the graduate diploma course in school development planning.  Other teachers are currently training for work in the area of resource and special educational needs (SEN). There was also evidence of a willingness by senior management to support all reasonable requests to attend inservice training.

 

The school’s code of behaviour policy document encompasses seven broad areas, including respect and consideration, attendance and punctuality, uniform, equipment, school property and environment, class work and homework and conduct.  This policy is commended for the manner in which it addresses the issue of student behaviour in a positive way and translates expectations of good behaviour into a code of conduct.  The policy also includes the sanctions for breaches of the code of behaviour.  It is recommended that the protocols surrounding suspension and expulsion, including the student’s right of appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, should be included in the code of behaviour policy document.  The school handbook outlines the teachers’ roles and responsibilities in ensuring effective discipline and appropriate behaviour.  It contains practical advice relating to the effective management of students and delineates the steps to be taken in cases of a breach of discipline, thereby ensuring fairness and consistency in dealing with disciplinary issues.  In 2004 the school introduced the Éacht Suntasach awards in recognition of student responsibility, initiative and effort in all areas of school life.  Students can be nominated by any members of the school community, and parents are involved in the selection of students for awards which can be Bronze, Silver or Gold. The school is commended for its emphasis on acknowledging and rewarding students’ positive contributions to upholding the code of conduct and thereby living out in practice the school’s mission statement.  It is recommended that the policy and practices relating to the Éacht Suntasach awards be included in the school’s behaviour policy in acknowledgement of the school’s focus on positive discipline.

 

There is an active student council comprising twenty-four members.  First-year students are represented by their Meitheal leaders.  The council meets every fortnight and reported that through their work they act as a voice for the general body of students. Members of the student council spoke of the positive relations that exist with the various school partners including senior management, the parents’ association and the VEC, and the pastoral care system which they hold in high esteem.  They are consulted on matters of relevance to students and they are listened to.  They also coordinate a range of activities to support local charities and the ‘Kenyan experience’ where one student and a teacher worked in Africa for a month last summer with the Self-Help group.

 

Student attendance is monitored at registration time each morning through the use of the e-portal system introduced at the beginning of the academic year.  Students who are absent are required on their return to school to provide written explanation for their absence.  Class teachers are expected to check students’ attendance at the end of each month and make contact in writing with parents in the case of absences of three or more days.  All absences of twenty or more days are communicated to the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB). The school’s attendance and participation policy also includes a statement of strategy promoting good attendance and participation by students.  Parents are informed of the impact of part-time employment, late-night socialising and the abuse of alcohol and drugs on student attendance and performance.  Parents are also advised of the negative consequences for student progress of taking their children away on holidays during the school term.  The school is commended for giving such sound advice to parents.  Every effort is made to identify and support students at risk of poor attendance.

 

There is a very proactive parents’ association which was established in 1982 and is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council.  The committee meets once a month and all meetings are attended by the principal and deputy principal.  There is also a teacher representative on the committee.  Parents spoke of the positive relationships with school management and praised its leadership in effecting ongoing school improvement.  Structures are in place to ensure representation from the entire catchment area of the school and committee members receive a copy of the staff handbook.  The parents’ association has engaged in fundraising to support the book rental scheme and to subsidise or fund school activities such as sports, participation in the Young Scientist competition and the provision of musical instruments for the school band.  Commendably, parental involvement is not confined to fundraising.  The parents association is consulted in relation to school policy development and parents are also involved in the selection for the Éacht Suntasach awards.  The association organises talks for parents on matters of relevance or interest to them.  Parents reported satisfaction with the subject choices offered to students, with teaching and learning in the school and with the pastoral care system.  They also expressed satisfaction with the new format for parent-teacher meetings where there are two parent-teacher meetings for Leaving Certificate students and one for Junior Certificate students where these students attend the meetings with their parents.

 

The school provides Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses in conjunction with the Carnew Enterprise Centre which is beside the school.  The course on offer this year to PLC students is FETAC Level 5 Business Studies and there are currently eighteen students taking the course including some with impaired mobility.  Other links with the community include the use of the school for craft classes which take place on a Wednesday afternoon when there are no students.  These classes are attended by a number of senior citizens who reported that they were very appreciative of the opportunity to pursue their craft in the school.  Transition Year students, as part of their activities, undertake the very innovative Health Services Executive Initiative entitled the Home First Project.  This involves forging relationships with senior citizens in the local daycare centre through activities such as accompanying them on outings and drama.  Good relations are fostered with the primary schools in the locality through GAA coaching which is provided on Wednesday afternoons by TY students.  Students have also taught German in some of the primary schools as a means of arousing greater interest in the language and influencing an increase in the uptake of German in first year.  These efforts are reciprocated through the support provided by the local business community for students seeking work experience as part of their programmes of study. The school is highly commended for its efforts to foster meaningful links with the local community. 

 

1.4          Management of resources

Coláiste Bhríde has a teacher allocation of 44.6 teachers, including three ex quota positions for the principal, deputy principal and for learning support and a 1.09 ex quota position for guidance.  In addition, the school receives an allocation of 7.06 teachers for LCVP and 2.5 teachers for LCA.  It receives a 0.27 allocation for programme co-ordinator and allocations of 5.48 teachers for special needs, 0.28 teachers for newcomer students, 1.31 teachers for VPTP and 1 teacher for disadvantage.  There are currently 45 permanent teachers on the staff.  Four special needs assistants (SNA) are employed, some in a full-time and some in a part-time capacity to support individual students in the school. Non-teaching staff include one full-time secretary, two caretakers, and five cleaning staff, one of whom also acts as part-time school librarian.

 

The school provides twenty-six hours and five minutes instruction time each week.  In addition, ten minutes is allocated each day for registration.  This means that the school is currently not in compliance with the circular M29/95 Time in School which stipulates twenty eight hours instruction time.  Time in school needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.  In addition, the use of registration time needs to be assessed to ensure that it contains elements of instruction in order to be fully compliant with the circular.  The current arrangements for registration should also be reviewed as there is significant time lost in the movement from the classroom where teachers and students go for registration to the classrooms they are in for the first lesson.

 

The teachers who have committed themselves to the substitution and supervision contracts engage in the supervision of students at break time and lunchtime. There is no formal rota for supervision at either the beginning or end of the school day.  The senior management team reported that they take these slots or nominate an assistant principal to cover in their absence.  This practice however, does not necessarily ensure adequate supervision in the event of senior management being unexpectedly absent or detained.  It is recommended that the supervision rota either be extended to cover supervision at the beginning or end of the school day or cater for the systematic provision of adequate supervision should senior management be absent or unavoidably detained elsewhere.

 

Teachers are deployed in terms of their subject specialisms and the wide range of teaching backgrounds and experience in all subject areas supports the mutual benefits of enthusiasm and reflection.  A review of timetabling however indicated that some teachers’ timetables fall below the required minimum teaching hours.  It was reported that these teachers are involved in activities which bring them above the required minimum teaching hours.  However, these activities must involve formal instruction and must be reflected in the teachers’ timetables in order to be fully compliant with Circular Letter 1/75.

 

New teachers spoke very positively about the school and the support that they have received since their appointment.  Co. Wicklow VEC offers induction to all new teachers within its remit and new teachers reported this to be very beneficial.  Coláiste Bhríde also provides induction for new teachers.  The school participated in the National Teacher Induction Pilot Project organised by University College Dublin (UCD) in 2006 and some of the teachers who took part in the project are now passing on the benefits of their learning by means of induction to the newly-appointed teachers in the current year.  This is commended.

 

The rapid expansion of recent years necessitated an extension to the school building which was completed in 2004.  In addition, five new prefabs have just been delivered to the school to meet the ever increasing demand for space.  The extension along with this additional classroom space has enabled school management to improve general facilities in the school.  Grants received from the summer works schemes have also supported improvements to the school building.  The school is well maintained and the interior visually attractive with paintings on the corridors and displays and photographs of former school personnel, events, celebrations and achievements.  Most teachers have their own base classroom, which is commended. 

 

Classrooms are locked during break and lunchtime and the practice has developed whereby students leave their bags along some of the corridors.  This practice needs to be reviewed as it has implications for health and safety.  It is recommended that consideration be given to providing lockers for students which can hold their bags, or allowing students leave them in classrooms during break and lunchtime.  Failing this, designated areas should be considered to ensure that bags do not create a hazard.

 

The school funds a part-time librarian and all books are bar coded in an effort to facilitate a lending system which affords greater access to reading materials for all students. All students have a library card and can borrow books. Students can use the school library at lunchtime three days a week and teachers can also bring their classes to the library.  Some ICT facilities are also available.  Competitions aimed at encouraging reading are organised in the library.  The development of the school library and its commitment to promoting reading and literacy is commended.

 

All classrooms have had computers installed in recent years to support teaching and learning and school administration.  There are two computer rooms; one is for general use and the second, which is smaller, is designated for use by Leaving Certificate Applied students. A number of data projectors and interactive whiteboards have also been installed and many of the staff have laptop computers for use during their lessons. The work involved in maintaining and further developing the ICT facility in the school is carried out by an assistant principal.  An e-portal system has been installed for registration and attendance purposes and it is hoped that in time teachers will also be able to include or access information on line concerning students’ progress, behaviour and achievements, and that some information will also be available on line to parents.  Two teachers with involvement and experience in ICT have taken on responsibility for promoting and developing its whole-school use in teaching and learning.  Current initiatives which include the introduction of IC3 arose from a needs assessment in the school as to how teachers and students can be best supported in relation to ICT. IC3 is a self-directed programme aimed at extending teachers’ computer literacy.  Inservice training for ICT was provided in the school in the previous academic year to support teachers in their work and peer support is available to any individual or group of teachers requesting it.  The teachers have also made hard copies of the IC3 on-line modules and these are available in the staff-room. There is an ICT policy and there is ongoing vigilance to ensure that no issues arise concerning inappropriate use of the internet by students. The school’s website, which is reviewed and updated regularly, provides a very comprehensive overview of all that is happening in the school, including its policies and code of behaviour.  The school’s commitment to ICT and to continued development in this area is highly commended.

 

The school has been very proactive in recent years in relation to environmental responsibility.  There is a vibrant and highly committed Green Schools committee whose members have already been awarded two green flags for litter and energy and are currently working on achieving one for water.  Whole-school commitment to the promotion of the Green School is evident in the involvement of a number of teachers in addition to the students on the committee.  There is also a Green stand at the school’s annual open evening, and student awareness of the importance of environmental responsibility is promoted through the inclusion of the school’s Green code in the student handbook.  As part of their awareness campaign the committee has also liaised with Co. Wicklow County Council, the primary schools in the locality and another second level school nearby.  The work carried out to date by the committee has raised awareness among all members of the school community of the importance of turning off lights in vacant classrooms, conserving water, recycling and putting litter in the bins.  Students spoke of how this awareness has also influenced their sense of environmental responsibility at home.  The work and commitment of all those involved in the Green school’s committee is warmly commended.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

Coláiste Bhríde has been proactive in collaborative school development planning (SDP) since 2000 and significant progress has been achieved since 2004. 

 

There is an active SDP steering committee for school development planning and many of its members have completed or are currently doing School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) courses or diplomas.  The committee is a testament to senior management’s view that the leadership for SDP should emanate from the staff rather than senior management.  The school does not currently have a discrete post of SDP co-ordinator.

 

A new format has been introduced for staff meetings whereby teachers break up into working groups and reflect on specific issues raised by management and staff, with a view to initiating policy development or review. This has contributed to a more dynamic and collaborative approach to planning and has enabled senior management and staff to identify needs and priorities for the future development of the school.  The steering committee then meets three or four times a year and works to draw up proposals for the translation of these priorities into practice.

 

School development planning has focused in recent years on the review of selected policies, the raising of academic standards, and subject planning.  The introduction of a Transition Year (TY) programme in 2001 was one recommendation arising from this process and has, according to the teachers, contributed to improved academic standards.  The school has identified four areas for development in the current academic year: Assessment for Learning (AFL), ICT, a review of custom and practice, and subject planning reviews.  Assessment for Learning has been targeted as the main priority and inservice on this approach to teaching and learning has been provided for the entire staff.  The recommended strategies have been explained to the students and piloted by teachers in three designated subject areas.  These strategies are currently being extended to other subject areas.  It is envisaged that the findings from the work already completed by teachers in the area of Assessment for Learning will be compiled and used to support whole-school improvement in teaching and learning.  The creation and contribution of the steering committee to whole school development planning and improvement is highly commended.  It is suggested that the time constraints, which were considered an issue, could be overcome by creating a post of responsibility for the overall coordination of school development planning, thereby affording the time needed to bring this valuable work to full fruition.

 

The school plan comprises a permanent and developmental section and most policies developed or reviewed to date have been ratified and dated by the board of management. This ongoing attention to policy development and review is commended.  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.

 

Coláiste Bhríde has compiled a very comprehensive school plan containing discrete permanent and developmental sections.  These are kept in the school in hard copy and disseminated on USB keys to the staff, the board of management and the parents’ association.  The permanent section outlines the school’s mission statement, its aims and objectives and its historical and operating context.  The developmental section reflects the school’s current priorities which include fulfilling the objectives contained in the Co. Wicklow VEC’s education plan.  The school is also focusing on the raising of academic standards, subject planning and the development and integration of ICT into all aspects of teaching and learning.  In addition to ongoing policy development, the school engages in a review of policies to respond to the changing circumstances of the school.  Changes that have occurred in the school following a review of policies and practices include the introduction of teaching to mixed-ability groups where possible, the changing of the timetable to facilitate a greater number of classes for each subject and greater sampling and student-based subject choices at junior cycle.  A review of all that is custom and practice in the school has been instigated in the current academic year.

 

The school has recently reviewed its admissions policy in order to best respond to the changing needs and demands of the student population. While the school’s efforts to review and update this policy are acknowledged, there is need for some further amendment in relation to students with special educational needs (SEN). The current policy, which allows for deferred enrolment for students with SEN until appropriate resources are put in place, needs to be amended in order to bring it in line with current legislation.

 

The school has an anti-bullying policy, in accordance with legislative requirements.  This policy was reviewed in recent years.  An examination of the policy indicates a need for further review: the term ‘bully’ should be changed to take cognisance of bullying as a behaviour which can be modified rather than as an aspect of personality.  Supports should also be put in place for both the individual who is being bullied and the individual who is bullying and these should be included in the policy.

 

The school has a health and safety policy which is endorsed by the CEO of Co. Wicklow VEC who has ultimate responsibility for the direction of the health and safety policy in the school.  There is a named health and safety representative from the staff who has responsibility for safety and fire drill as part of an assistant principal’s post. The responsibilities of the named relevant school personnel in relation to health and safety are also outlined in the policy along with the safety regulations and protocols related to specific subjects.  It is recommended that the use of the term ‘handicapped’ in the general policy statement to refer to students with disabilities be changed to reflect the changed societal attitudes to disability.

 

The practices that have been established in relation to the process of school development planning are highly commended as they have enabled the staff to take ownership of the process which has resulted in significant advances in the development of whole school planning as a dynamic and collaborative process.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

Coláiste Bhríde offers a broad and comprehensive curriculum aimed at responding to the varied needs of the student cohort from every section of the community it serves.  Five programmes are offered in the school, including Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY), the established Leaving Certificate, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA).  There is an overall programme coordinator with an equivalence of an assistant principal’s post, while the co-ordination of the individual programmes is carried out by special duties post holders.

 

Transition Year (TY) is optional in Coláiste Bhríde.  The programme is jointly co-ordinated in an effective manner by the overall programme co-ordinator and the TY co-ordinator, and they are helped in their work by a core TY team.  In addition to the core subjects offered, students complete a series of modules including the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).  Non-academic activities which are core to the programme include work experience, voluntary work in the local community, outdoor pursuits, a variety of modules to support their personal development and a range of co-curricular activities.  The success of the TY programme in recent years has manifested itself in the need to create a second TY class group in the current academic year.  A discrete evaluation of the programme was completed as part of the Whole School Evaluation.

 

The majority of senior cycle students take the LCVP.  They are strongly encouraged to opt for the programme once they have the required subject combinations.  Teachers reported that the LCVP has been successful in promoting independent learning and that the practical components of the programme suit many of the students who have found it very useful for gaining points for entry into third level institutions.  The co-ordination of the programme is part of a special duties post.  However, other teachers involved in the teaching of the LCVP are active in supporting the co-ordinator’s efforts to further develop the programme.  Commendably, this involves reviewing current provision in order to improve teaching and learning within the programme.  A core LCVP team meets at least three times a year to co-ordinate mock interviews and student portfolios and to prepare for the certificate examinations.

 

LCVP students have three periods a week for the completion of the Link Modules.  They organise and complete the required work experience during the school holidays.  However, any students experiencing difficulties in sourcing work experience can seek help from the coordinator. 

 

Many of the students are taking a modern language as a mainstream subject but no language module is currently provided for those students who have not studied a language at junior cycle.  This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to ensure full compliance with the LCVP requirements that the language module must comprise one period per week over two years. It was reported that there were plans to hold the modern language module at lunchtime or on Wednesday afternoon.  However, given that the study of a modern European language is a core component of the LCVP programme every effort should be made to incorporate it into the regular school timetable.  To this end consideration should be given to including the study of a modern European language as a core subject at junior cycle thereby enabling LCVP students to pursue the language as a mainstream subject for Leaving Certificate.

 

Students who wish to follow the entirely academic route or who do not have the required subject combinations for LCVP take the established Leaving Certificate (LC) programme.  However, they are currently obliged to follow the LCVP modules of Enterprise Education and Preparation for the World of Work along with the LCVP students in fifth year.  Sixth-year LC students are also timetabled for the LCVP modules.  However, it was reported that they can be afforded study periods during some of these link module times.  Curriculum provision for LC students raises some concerns.  The Preparation for the World of Work module which constitutes the whole-class guidance provision at senior cycle may not fully meet the specific guidance needs of the established Leaving Certificate students.  Furthermore, participation in the other Link Modules inevitably reduces the allocation of lesson time for their Leaving Certificate subjects.  This cumulative loss of time over two years compromises optimal provision for these students and should be addressed without delay. 

 

Students apply for a place on the LCA programme.  Their application is discussed prior to acceptance, in order to ascertain whether or not the programme is best suited to their individual needs, and this is good practice.  For example, some students have been advised against taking the LCA programme as it would not have met the academic requirements for their chosen careers.  As part of the programme, fifth-year students engage in a block of work experience while sixth years do one day’s work experience per week throughout the year.  Local businesses and services are generally very supportive of students seeking work experience and many students have proceeded to apprenticeships or other employment as a result of their work experience.  The success of the programme is evident in the formation of a second LCA class in the current fifth year cohort.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

All incoming first-year students study Irish English, Mathematics, Science, Business Studies, Religion, Physical Education, Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE) Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Computers.  In addition, they are required to choose four other subjects from a range of subject option blocks.  Optional subjects include French, German, Home Economics, Technical Graphics, Woodwork, Metalwork, History, Geography, Art and Music.  The study of a modern language is optional at junior cycle.  However, mindful of entry requirements at third level, students are advised to take a language at least up to Junior Certificate level.  While there is no formal taster programme in first year, there is some scope for subject sampling during the first few weeks of the term.

 

Senior cycle subject options are determined by students’ needs and preferences.  These choices are informed by the supports and careers related information provided to both the students and their parents by the guidance service.  The supports provided to students when choosing their subjects is to be commended. 

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

There is a strong commitment to co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in Coláiste Bhríde.  The school involves itself in a variety of subject-related activities including trips to the theatre, the cinema, museums and art galleries.  Students of art participate in art competitions and exhibitions, while science students have undertaken projects for the Young Scientist exhibition.  Educational tours are organised both in Ireland and abroad, and a very successful French exchange has been in operation since 2000.  A much-loved day trip is organised annually for each year group in acknowledgement of good behaviour throughout the school year.  A number of VEC scholarships for attendance at summer courses are offered each year to students to support them in their language learning.  The English department promotes debating and public speaking and the co-ordinator of these activities prepares teams and enters them in a range of regional and national competitions.  It was reported that this integrated approach has contributed to improved writing skills among students.  Transition Year students organise class debates which are adjudicated by a team comprising two students and one teacher, thereby enhancing students’ confidence and evaluation skills. 

 

There is a strong tradition of music in the school as a subject and as a co- and extra-curricular activity.  A vibrant school choir practises at lunchtime and takes part in choral competitions.  In recent years a very successful concert band has also been formed and its members have taken part in competitions and performed with the Garda Band.  In the autumn of 2007 the band travelled to Finland where they gave a series of three public performances.  A traditional music group has also been formed in the school. The music department is commended for its commitment to the promotion of music appreciation and the fostering of talent among the students.

 

The production of a school musical entitled West Wicklowside Story has been a key activity in the current year generating enthusiasm, involvement and support from both students and staff.  The production of a school drama is a TY activity organised between the students and the senior citizens involved in the Home First project.

 

The school’s ethos of promoting responsible citizenship is evident in activities such as the Transition Year ‘Home First’ project, the pursuit of the Gaisce awards and the school’s involvement in the Self-Help International Kenyan project promoting students’ concern for others in local, national and international communities.  This is highly commended.

 

The school plan refers to the importance of physical education and fitness and the learning of self-discipline, team spirit, co-operation and organisational skills as part of the holistic development of each student.  These principles are communicated to the students through the provision of a wide range of both individual and team sports.  The sports offered include Gaelic football, hurling, camogie and ladies football, handball, rugby, athletics and ladies basketball, tennis, table tennis, badminton and golf.  Teachers reported that over 90% of students are involved in some sporting activity.  The wide range of sports offered is commended since it offers opportunities for students to participate both at a competitive level or for personal enjoyment.  Swimming and orienteering are offered as TY modules. The school has also established a very successful equestrian club with teams experiencing significant success in recent times.

 

The co-ordination of many of the extra-curricular activities is included as part of the duties of assistant principals and special duties post holders.  Activities are timetabled, where possible, for Wednesday afternoon, thereby avoiding undue absence from class.  Teachers reported trying to arrange competitive sporting events in such a way as to minimise student absence from class. This is good practice.  Financial support for extra-curricular events taking place away from the school is obtained through school funds and some fundraising by parents and through some of the profits from the school shop.  Students themselves pay for the buses to bring them to and from events.

 

The commitment to the wide range of co- and extra-curricular activities is highly commended as it promotes positive student relationships with their peers and their teachers and creates a sense of pride in one’s school.  Many of the students acknowledged the work and commitment of the teachers and senior management in providing enjoyable and memorable learning experiences through their involvement in co-and extra-curricular activities.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

The quality of both individual and collaborative planning at a subject department level is very good.  All subject departments have a coordinator who is appointed on a rotational basis.  This is good practice as it allows all teachers to take responsibility for the organisation of the subject.  Management provides three formal subject planning meetings each year and teachers also meet together formally and informally on other occasions.

 

Short term plans are well developed.  It is noteworthy that the Physical Education department has adopted the Junior Cycle Physical Education (JCPE) planning framework for the subject.  Many of these plans set out the policies and practices of the subject department in relation to the organisation, provision, planning, teaching and learning and assessment.  Some plans would be enhanced by the inclusion of development priorities for all aspects of learning and teaching in the subject.

 

Some suggested teaching methodologies are included in the classwork sections of the plans.  To further develop this very good planning, it is recommended that teachers make a combined list of their teaching methodologies, in order to share the many excellent teaching strategies observed during the evaluation.  Teachers should also create a list of suggested course content for each year group.

 

In addition to subject planning, a range of other planning committees is in operation in the school.  A number of teachers are on the library development committee and great progress has been made in this area.  A number of teachers sit on the subject planning and development committee, which is looking at strategies to raise student attainment and assessment for learning.  This level of strategic planning is indicative of a dedicated team of teachers and management who are constantly moving forward.

 

The quality of planning for students with special education needs and learning support needs is also very good.  Subject teachers are informed of students with special educational needs and those requiring additional educational support at the start of each year.  Students are provided with literacy support either through team teaching or withdrawal.  As a result a high level of co-operation between the support teachers and mainstream English teachers is required to ensure that there is continuity in the learning experiences of these students.  There was evidence that such continuity exists and that there is good liaison between the SEN and learning support teachers and English teachers.  Students also receive extra support in English if they have exemptions from Irish.

 

The engagement of the Physical Education department in a consultative process with senior students to develop the modular approach to the senior cycle programme is good practice.  This allows students to assume some ownership of the programme and should result in improved participation and attainment.

 

TY lessons observed were well planned.  A written yearly plan was available for the vast majority of subjects evaluated.  Where this was not the case, it is recommended that it be included in the TY written plan.  Short-term planning was also good with many teachers having weekly plans and in some cases lesson plans.  In some ten-week modules, teachers had already evaluated their first experience and delivery of the module, in advance of offering it to the next class group.  This is very good practice and should be extended to other modules.

 

Subject teachers have identified and developed a number of resources for the teaching of their subject, including handouts and ICT resources.  These were used to good effect in many of the lessons visited.  Materials for practical activities were well organised and prepared. Good preparation and planning led to a smooth delivery of lessons and enhanced the learning experience for students.  This is highly commended.  However, there is some scope in the planning documents to identify opportunities for the expansion of ICT as part of the teaching and learning process.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

A very good student-teacher relationship was in evidence in all lessons. Teachers were well prepared and in some cases they shared the intended learning outcomes with their students.  This good practice should be extended to all lessons as it helps ensure that students remain focused during the lesson and enables them to gauge their progress against the established criteria for success. The majority of the lessons observed were delivered in subject relevant classrooms. This enhanced the learning experience for students and is commended.  A sense of enjoyment and enthusiasm was created and student motivation was generally high.  Students’ work and contributions were frequently affirmed, and they generally responded very positively.

 

Teachers showed good awareness of the range of abilities in their class groups and of their reading ages and, in most cases, differentiated their teaching effectively as a result.  This was mainly achieved through giving individual help to students discreetly when this was appropriate and by writing class and homework on the board for all students to record.  There was some good use of subject specific terminology and it is recommended that all teachers extend its use as appropriate. In a small number of lessons, however, where student participation could have been greater, more open-ended tasks should be set to engage the students and best meet their differentiated needs and abilities. In some cases, revised student seating arrangements would also support better classroom management.

 

Learning objectives were achieved in the vast majority of lessons observed. Student assignments and lively discussions contributed to good and active learning practices.  There was evidence of progression in learning. Links were created with previous learning and it was clear that lesson content would be developed further in future lessons.  

 

A range of effective teaching and learning methodologies was used in lessons observed and many teachers were very creative in their teaching styles.  Methodologies included pair and group work, use of role play, discussion, prediction of endings and writing alternative endings, students critiquing each other’s work, looking for students’ personal responses, reading for meaning and reading aloud, and poetry writing.  Teachers asked both closed and open-ended questions of all students as appropriate, in order to recall and to instil interest and motivation into various topics being presented.  Students were also encouraged to back up and develop their answers. Sometimes students’ questions acted as a focus for discussion. Such methodologies ensured that students not only participated in their learning but that verbal and listening skills were also being developed in tandem with reading and writing skills. There were some lessons however, where better use of more varied methodologies is recommended to enhance the learning experience for students.

 

Students carried out many practical tasks in the course of the evaluation.  This gave them the opportunity to work collaboratively.  Teachers circulated giving support and help to groups and individuals thereby enabling all students to complete the task assigned. This is commended.  Good health and safety practices were observed during practical activities observed.  Specialist room notices reminded students of health and safety guidelines.  Relevant safety equipment was in place. The theory underpinning a particular skill was introduced at the start of some practical lessons. Teachers used demonstrations to develop students’ understanding of manufacturing processes and to model best practice.  In some instances students were asked to suggest subsequent stages in the demonstration.  To ensure that lessons are optimally paced it is important that there is an appropriate balance between time spent on demonstration and instruction and student engagement with the tasks. It is recommended that some strategies be developed to optimise this balance.

 

Students learned useful life skills during many TY lessons observed.  These included cooking skills and road safety.  In some TY lessons, students learned about themselves as individuals, their attitudes and emotions, and gained confidence in talking about these issues.  This is highly commended as it fulfils the school’s TY mission of personal development and maturity.

 

Very good use was made of resources such as the board, the overhead projector, time-lines of events in texts, laptops, textbooks, and newspapers, audio-versions of texts and key words which made lessons varied and enhanced learning.  Key points and terminology were written on the board for students to record.  Worksheets were distributed in most lessons and served as a means of focusing students’ attention on the material being investigated and discussed.  It is recommended that this practice be extended across all appropriate lessons.  ICT was used very effectively in many lessons and commendable practice was observed in many cases.  A computer and data-projector was used in some lessons observed as an effective aid to teaching and learning.  The effective methodologies in place and the effective use of resources led to students being actively involved in their learning.

 

 

4.3          Assessment

Reports are sent to parents following Christmas and summer examinations.  These reports not only carry grades and comments but also information on participation and attainment for TY students.  This is commended.  Individual progress reports are sent as requested.  There is ongoing communication with parents by means of the student journal and there is an annual parent-teacher meeting.  Examination students attend these meetings with their parents.  Examination students also receive seminars on study skills and examination techniques and first-year students attend study skills seminars.  This is very good practice.

 

Assessment at Coláiste Bhríde includes continuous assessment by teachers, setting and marking of assignments, timetabled examinations and assessment of the TY students’ folder of achievement.  Evidence gathered during the course of the evaluation confirms that these folders are generally maintained to a very high standard.  However, it is recommended that the planned student folder of achievement interview be implemented to extend the self-assessment which is promoted through this folder  In addition, self-assessment has been introduced for some first-year students as part of an assessment for learning strategy. Common papers are usually set for students of similar ability.  Examination classes sit ‘mock’ examinations which are internally corrected, and this is good practice.  The Physical Education department has begun to develop a system of retaining the work completed by students in each module so that it can be used to formulate a portfolio of learning.  This is good practice.

 

TY students are encouraged to develop a sense of pride in their work through the folder of achievement.  Students choose some of the best samples of their work and some enhance their folder with photographs of their enjoyable experiences.  Project work is monitored carefully and students’ progress is individually profiled with oral feedback given and marks awarded.

 

The school has an agreed and comprehensive homework policy which gives guidelines and advice to teachers, parents and students on appropriate homework and is commended.  Evening study is offered for all year groups in the school.

 

The school, in conjunction with Co. Wicklow VEC, undertakes an analysis of examination results on an annual basis and compares results against national averages.  This is excellent practice. It is suggested that the school should also compare uptake of levels against national averages.  There was evidence that all teachers keep very good records of students’ results. Teachers were very aware of state examination marking schemes.

 

Students’ copies and folders were generally well maintained, in particular hardback folders which stored a range of notes and work and were divided between sections of the course. In most cases there was good correction of students’ work with students receiving formative comments in keeping with best practice.  It is recommended that this practice be followed in the case of all substantial assignments.  Some teachers give a comment only, as opposed to a grade, when marking homework initially.  This is good practice.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

As part of its school policy statement, Coláiste Bhríde Carnew strives to promote the educational requirements of the community it serves, which includes students from differing social and cultural backgrounds, who have a wide range of physical and learning abilities and educational needs.  A whole school plan for special needs education has been developed through the auspices of Co. Wicklow VEC and customised to respond to the needs of Coláiste Bhríde.  This plan outlines the aims of educational provision for all students with additional educational needs and for teachers involved in its delivery.  The plan also includes the proposed measures for identifying, screening and referring students by both class teachers and the learning support co-ordinator or resource team, the creation of individual education plans for students in need and the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in meeting the needs of these students.  The development of such a comprehensive whole school plan for students with additional educational needs is commended.

 

There is one ex quota position for learning support and an allocation of 5.48 teachers for special needs. The co-ordination of support for all students with additional educational needs is a special duties post.  The learning support teacher has six periods per week, three for co-ordination and three for classes, while the resource teacher has been allocated three periods a week, two for co-ordination and one for class.  Both teachers meet once a week and work together, overlapping in many areas to ensure optimum benefit from the resources provided.  Teachers from the general body of staff, some of whom have completed or are currently engaged in training for resource teaching, are timetabled for the remaining hours. This has meant that, in the current year, there are thirty teachers in all with responsibility for providing extra support for students with additional educational needs. In the interests of maintaining optimum continuity for these students and in line with best practice, it is recommended that the number of teachers involved in providing resource teaching or learning support be reduced to a more manageable core team.

 

The learning support co-ordinator and resource teacher work together to identify a best fit in terms of availability and subjects between students requiring additional support and the teachers timetabled for this purpose.  They sit in on the Irish, English and Mathematics subject department meetings and they distribute resources to teachers.  They also liaise with the guidance counsellor.  However, they do not currently engage in providing whole-school pedagogical advice and support.  Since there are a significant number of teachers who, through their studies, will have accrued a wealth of expertise, it is recommended that this expertise be shared with the general body of staff through the provision of in-house inservice to facilitate optimum learning outcomes for students with additional educational needs.

 

Learner needs are identified following contact with the primary schools, psychological assessments and the administration of assessment tests for incoming first-year students.  Teacher observation during the year may also identify hitherto unidentified learning needs.  Students who have exemptions from Irish and who require learning support are withdrawn from Irish lessons and given additional English lessons.  Additional Mathematics lessons are also provided for students in second and third year.  Team teaching, however, is the preferred approach for students with special educational needs and this is laudable. A variety of initiatives including paired reading, reading challenges and the provision of supplementary ICT facilities have been put in place to further support and encourage students with additional educational needs. Success in these initiatives is acknowledged at the end of year awards ceremony.  Junior Certificate students are often supported in the completion of project work, while LCA students may be given additional help with modern language learning.  Teachers working with students with additional education needs keep a record of student progress and individual education plans (IEP) have already been completed for a significant number of students. The commitment to supporting students with additional education needs in line with best practice is highly commended.

 

There are currently four special needs assistants (SNA) assigned to work with individual students. They have all received training and inservice provision is also made available to them when it arises.  One member of the SNA team is also involved in the provision of pre-service training for special needs assistants.  They have all received a copy of the staff handbook and school policies.  They all reported being welcomed into lessons and are often consulted about relevant individual students.  They reported being fully integrated into the school community and many of them are involved in the co- and extra-curricular activities offered in the school. 

 

There are currently very few students for whom English is a second language and who need additional support.  However, two teachers are attending the ESOL English for Speakers of Other Languages course. The school also links up with the Centre for Talented Youth in Dublin City University (DCU) and students who have fulfilled the requirements have attended residential courses there during holiday time.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

There is currently a guidance policy for Coláiste Bhríde outlining guidelines, general guidance activities and the work of the guidance counsellor in relation to specific year groups.  Work has been also carried out by all the guidance counsellors employed by Co. Wicklow VEC on the development of a generic whole school guidance plan.  It is now recommended that the work completed on these policies and plans be further developed and contribute to a whole school guidance plan customised to respond to the specific needs of the students in Coláiste Bhríde. This plan should be progressed as a whole school activity and incorporate all aspects of cross curricular guidance provision in the school.

 

There is an allocation of 1.09 teachers for guidance provision and delivery in the school.  There is one qualified guidance counsellor on the staff whose work involves both careers and personal counselling.  However, in recent years members of the guidance service have also been deployed in teaching mainstream subjects, and this means that the full guidance allocation is not currently being deployed for the purposes of guidance provision. This needs to be reviewed as, in addition to the loss of time for guidance provision, the frequent but necessary work-related absences by a guidance counsellor compromise class contact time for the mainstream subject taught. 

 

The work of the guidance service is furthered by the supports provided by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the Lucena Clinic.  In addition, two external counsellors are employed to work with certain students.  This is funded by the Parents’ Association.  

 

Guidance provision is divided equally between class contact and work with individual students.  Class contact involves the delivery of a specific guidance module for LCA students in addition to Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education.  Work with individuals involves both careers and personal counselling.  The guidance service also invites visiting speakers, arranges visits to third level institution open days and the Higher Options conferences. It undertakes the administration of aptitude tests, careers and interest inventories in order to fully inform students prior to making their subject choices for senior cycle and the organisation of mock interviews for sixth year students.  

 

The guidance service is commended for its significant contribution to the development of school policies which concern the social and emotional welfare of the students.  The guidance service maintains a good working relationship with parents through the organisation of information nights and the reciprocal work of the parents in helping with the organisation of mock interviews for Leaving Certificate students. 

 

It was reported that much of the work carried out by the guidance service in recent years has focused on raising the career aspirations of students. This resulted in the introduction of the earlier-mentioned TY, LCVP and LCA programmes, the development of a careers library and notice board and the use of ICT.  The study of science was promoted and chemistry has been introduced as a Leaving Certificate subject.  Many of these changes were also influenced by a desire to promote the concept of lifelong learning.

 

The guidance service reported working with the students in SPHE lessons.  However, there was evidence to suggest that this occurred more on an ad hoc basis than in a co-ordinated way.  It is suggested that in order to optimise the benefits of both the guidance and related services, members of the guidance service should work with the members of the SPHE department to plan for a more integrated approach, whereby the topics being dealt with in SPHE can be reinforced by the guidance service or vice versa.  A team teaching approach could offer mutual support and help increase students’ awareness of guidance provision as a whole school concern.

 

Teachers of SPHE support the work of the guidance service in their work promoting the holistic development of the student.  The co-ordination of SPHE which is carried out by a special duties post holder involves the preparation of lesson plans and proposed methodologies and resources to ensure that the programme is implemented in line with best practice. In the interests of providing optimum supports for students, consideration should be given to establishing a more formalised care team comprising teachers involved in the delivery of different pastoral services who can meet regularly along with the guidance counsellor and have input from the external counsellors to ensure optimum care for all students.

 

Coláiste Bhríde’s policy on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) provides for an integrated and cross-curricular approach at both junior and senior cycle.  Topics relevant to relationships and sexuality education are dealt with at junior cycle in SPHE, English and Religion, Science, Home Economics and Physical Education.  Senior cycle students have RSE in lessons on Personal Development, in Home Economics and in Religion.  This approach to the teaching of RSE is highly commended.

 

There is a very strong emphasis on care for students in Coláiste Bhríde, through the pastoral system.  Each student has a class teacher and a year head.  In addition junior cycle students are provided with a peer support system through the Meitheal leaders for first year students and the senior prefects for second and third year students.  Meitheal leaders, who are selected from the sixth year cohort, are assigned to all first year students and their role is to support them in their transition from primary to secondary school, to be vigilant in relation to issues such as bullying and to be available to students who require help.  They also represent first year students on the student council.  Senior prefects who are also sixth year students have a similar role and are an important link between school management and students. They receive leadership training relevant to their duties and they liaise with the relevant class teachers in the event of any difficulties. Both Meitheal leaders and senior prefects coordinate lunchtime activities and assist their relevant groups in activities such as fundraising.  They also take some of the registration periods for the class teachers.  While this practice of giving Meitheal leaders and senior prefects this responsibility is commendable, it is recommended that the tutor be present in the room when they are taking registration.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Coláiste Bhríde is true to its mission statement in providing a caring student-centred environment which is supportive of the students’ academic and pastoral needs.

·         County Wicklow VEC, through the variety of initiatives offered, facilitates the management and staff of Coláiste Bhríde to work towards ongoing school development and improvement. 

·         The board of management is properly constituted and members are generally cognisant of their statutory obligations and their roles and responsibilities. It establishes priorities based on the school’s needs communicated from senior management, the general body of staff and from the school development planning committee.

·         Senior management presents as a very united and enabling team whose shared vision facilitates effective direction and whose leadership style has contributed to the sense of shared ownership within the school community.  

·         Assistant principals and special duties teachers work as middle management teams contributing to the effective running of the school. Non-post holders are also encouraged and enabled to make a positive contribution to school life through a variety of initiatives.

·         There is very good communication between senior management and staff and a very strong commitment by senior management to supporting ongoing professional development for all teachers.  There is also positive collaboration with the parents’ association and the local community.

·         The code of behaviour emphasises positive behaviour in the context of respect for the individual and there are clear protocols for the effective management of students

·         Students are given opportunities for leadership and active participation in a variety of committees and programmes, including the student council, the Meitheal and senior prefect programmes and the green schools’ committee.  

·         The school is engaged in collaborative school development planning which is driven by an active steering committee committed to ongoing policy development and review.  The school plan includes all the policies required by legislation in addition to many others.

·         The school offers a broad range of subjects and programmes supporting the inclusive nature of the student cohort while the wide range of co- and extra- curricular activities supports students’ holistic development.

·         Subject planning was very good and a range of effective and creative teaching and learning methodologies was observed.

·         There is very good provision in the school for students with special educational needs or requiring learning support

·         There is good access to guidance through timetabled lessons and one-to-one interviews in addition to the provision of personal counselling for students in need.

·         The very good pastoral supports and care for the students are in evidence in all aspects of school life. 

 

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

 

·         Some of the duties currently carried out by assistant principals should be reviewed in order to facilitate opportunities to engage in instructional leadership or curriculum development in accordance with circular PPT29/02. Consideration should be also given to a collective end of year review of middle management structures and duties.

·         The school’s current provision of twenty-six hours and five minutes’ instruction time needs to be addressed in order to be fully compliant with the Department of Education and Science’s requirement of twenty-eight hours instruction.  The effectiveness of the school’s management of registration time also needs to be assessed.

·         The situation relating to teachers whose timetables are below eighteen hours needs to be addressed in order to ensure full compliance with Circular Letter 1/75

·         There is need for some further review of the admissions policy in relation to students with SEN and of the anti-bullying policy. 

·         The language module, which is a requirement for students taking LCVP who are not studying a language in mainstream, should be complied with. This language module must comprise one period per week over two years.

·         Curriculum and timetable provision for students taking the established Leaving Certificate needs to be reviewed.

·         The number of teachers assigned to classes or individuals for learning support or resource teaching should be reduced to a smaller core group.

·         The ex quota guidance allocation is currently not being fully used for the purpose of guidance.  This needs to be addressed. A whole school plan providing for the integration of all the supports in the school in order to optimise the delivery of the guidance service should be put in place.

 

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 – 13 March 2007

·         Subject Inspection of Metalwork and Engineering – 26 November 2007

·         Subject Inspection of Physical Education – 28 November 2007

·         Programme Inspection Transition Year – 21 and 23 November 2007

 

 

 

 

 

Published October 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 and Co. Wicklow V.E.C. welcome the WSE report and its endorsement that Coláiste Bhríde is a very positive place of learning.

 

The board and the V.E.C. are particularly pleased that the inspectorate found clear evidence, in the course of the evaluation, of the school’s commitment to quality education for all students in a caring, disciplined and respectful environment. In addition they welcomed the observation that the pursuit of the achievement of each student’s full potential while preparing students for life and responsible citizenship was very much in evidence within the school community. 

 

It was also rewarding to note that the inspectorate was satisfied with the manner in which the board undertook its governance and policy functions.  The unity, vision and leadership qualities that the principal and deputy principal bring to the school have been referred to by the inspectors and the board very much agrees with these observations. 

 

The board and the V.E.C. wholeheartedly accept the inspectorate’s commendation in regard to the standard of teaching and learning which are central to the effectiveness of the school.  The school community constantly strives to ensure that the teaching and learning experience is of the highest order. 

 

The board wishes to acknowledge the ongoing contribution of all educational partners in ensuring that this Co. Wicklow V.E.C. school remains a centre of educational excellence in all areas of learning. 

 

The board and the V.E.C. express their appreciation for the professional manner in which the inspectors undertook the evaluation and the quality of the final report.  They acknowledge the inspectorate’s recommendations in relation to building on the existing strengths of the school and has already initiated their implementation. On behalf of all education partners in Coláiste Bhríde, the board and the V.E.C. appreciate the sense of mutual respect, trust and positive partnership that pervaded the whole school evaluation process from start to finish.

 

 

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

 

 

1.   Quality of School Management:

 

Recommendation:  

1.       That the school’s mission statement be displayed in a prominent place in the school and included in the student journal

Response:

It had been included in the student journal and a permanent plaque which will be displayed in a prominent place is being finalised.

 

2.       That training for the Board of Management be provided & that the frequency of meetings be reviewed.

Response:

- Training for all Co. Wicklow VEC Boards of Management took place -

January 2008 and April 2008

- Board of Management Meetings 2008/2009

10th September 11th February

15th October 15th March 10th December 29th April

 

3.       That an agreed report for parents and staff be drawn up at the end of each Board of Management meeting to communicate the work of the Board of Management.

Response:

-This has been agreed by the Board and will commence from the next Board meeting, October 2008.

 

4.       That the duties of assistant principals be reviewed in order to make their roles as middle management more fulfilling. (In accordance with DES circular PPT29/02)

Response:

-          To form part of future school planning and play an integral role in promoting curriculum professional development (CPD) within designated subject areas.

 

5.       That a collective end-of-year review of middle management structures and individual review which currently takes place corresponds to the ongoing needs of the school.

Response:

- Management believes that this review does respond to the needs of the school within the parameters of existing personnel and the DES allocation towards middle management

 

6.       a) That the Code of Behaviour includes the protocols surrounding suspension and expulsion, including the student’s right of appeal under section 29 of the Education Act

b)That the policy and practices relating to the Eacht Suntasach awards be included in the school’s behaviour policy in acknowledgment of the school’s focus on positive discipline

Response:

-          An SDP task group is currently reviewing the Code of Behaviour

 

7.       That the existing 26hrs and 5 mins instruction time be extended to 28hrs. (as per circular M29/95). That elements of instruction are included in the current registration time.

Response:

From August 2008 the instruction time has been extended to 27hrs and 15mins. Registration now includes elements of student support which forms an integral part of the school’s pastoral care programme. In 2009/2010 it is envisaged that an extra 40 mins will be added.

 

8.       That a supervision rota be formalised at the beginning and end of each school day.

Response:

From August 2008 a formal supervision rota lasting 20mins has been established before school and after school in accordance with DES guidelines.

 

9.       That all teachers timetables should reflect full commitment in terms of required timetabled hours.

Response:

All resource and extra teaching hours have been included on individual teacher timetables to indicate a full teaching timetable.

 

10.   That lockers capable of holding school bags be provided for all students, that students be allowed to leave school bags in classrooms or that designated areas be allocated at breaktimes so as to avoid congestion and to promote health and safety on the corridors.

Response:

Lockers are available for all students in the school however with the lockers that are in the school it would be difficult to change them so that they would fit school bags, books & P.E. gear. All 6th Yr and 1st Yr students have been allocated base rooms where they can congregate and can leave their bags at breaktimes. 4th Yrs continue to use the room provided. This is a trial and will be monitored and reviewed.

 

11.   That the use of e-portal is highly commendable and it was hoped to be able to include or access information on line from home.

Response:

This is now possible and summer school reports in June 2008 were accessible from home.

 

 

2. Quality of School Planning:

 

 

1. That the school should have a discrete SDP co-ordinator.

Response:
The school has provided for the school SDP co-ordinator as a post of responsibility from August 2008.

 

2.       That time constraints which were considered an issue could be overcome by creating a post of responsibility for the overall coordination of SDP, thereby affording the time needed to bring this valuable work to full fruition.

Response:

Allocating the coordination of SDP as a post of responsibility to a member of staff with a post of responsibility will not allocate extra time per se. It would need to be an assistant principalship.

 

3.       That the current Admissions Policy in relation to Special Education Needs be amended so that it allows for deferred enrolment for students with SEN until appropriate resources are put in place, which meets current DES legislation.

Response:

This amendment to the Admissions Policy has been made at school and VEC level.

 

 

4.       That the term “bully” used in the Anti-bullying Policy be changed to take cognisance of bullying as a behaviour which can be modified rather than an aspect of personality.

Response:

This amendment has been made as part of a review of the Anti-bullying Policy.

 

5.       That the term “handicapped” which refers to students with disabilities be changed to reflect the changed societal attitudes to disability.

Response:

The use of this terminology was a serious oversight and has since been amended as part of a review of the school’s Health & Safety Policy.

 

 

3. Quality of Curriculum Provision:

 

 

1.       That in order to ensure full compliance with the LCVP programme requirements the language module must comprise one period per week over two years.

Response:

A review of the language requirement has taken place and from August 2008 all students undertaking the LCVP programme have provision of a modern language for at least one period each week, over the two year L.C. course.

 

2.       a) That the preparation for the World of Work module which constitutes the whole-class guidance provision at senior cycle may not fully meet the specific guidance needs of the established L.C. students.

Response:

The needs of all students are met through the provision of whole school guidance both for LCVP and traditional L.C. students. For example whole school guidance is inclusive from 1st to 6th Yr. The world of work module because of its content is covered by all LCVP teachers. The guidance time covers the C.V., career investigation and work experience portfolio items which coincidentally has and always will be an integral part of senior cycle guidance.

 

b) That this cumulative loss of time over two years compromises optimal provision for these non LCVP students and should be addressed without delay.

Response:

From August 2008 students who do not participate/qualify for the LCVP programme are catered for through tuition in subject areas in which they feel they need additional tuition.

 

 

4. Quality of Learning & Teaching in Subjects:

 

1.       That teachers make a combined list of their teaching methodologies, in order to share the many excellent teaching strategies observed during the evaluation.

Response:

This recommendation will form part of our SDP over the next two years.

 

2.       That all teachers employ the strategy of AfL (Assessment for Learning) – indicating the learning outcomes of each lesson.

Response:

AfL has formed part of the SDP strategy for the past two years and it is intended to continue its establishment as an example of best practice in relation to learning and teaching in Coláiste Bhríde. A staff training day will take place on 25th September.

 

3.       That the current awareness of differentiated teaching and the use of subject specific terminology continue to be used and extended as appropriate.

 

Response:

This has over the past two years formed part of the school SDP process and will continue to do so.

 

4.       That some lessons required more varied methodologies such as using open ended questioning and looking for personal responses.

Response:

While the WSE acknowledges and applauds the general range of effective teaching and learning methodologies used in the teaching and learning process, the school is conscious that there is always a need for evaluation & review in this area of teaching and learning.

 

5.       That in practical classes there is an appropriate balance between time spent on demonstration and instruction and student engagement with the tasks.

Response:

SDP will evaluate this recommendation in relation to the appropriate subject areas.

 

6.       While the school, in conjunction with Co. Wicklow VEC, undertakes an analysis of examination results on an annual basis it is suggested that the school should also compare uptake levels against national averages.

Response:

SDP will undertake this evaluation as part of the planning process.

 

 

5. Quality of Support for Students:

 

1.       That in the interests of maintaining optimum continuity for students with SEN and in line with best practice the number of teachers involved in providing resource teaching or learning support be reduced to a more manageable core team.

Response:

A core team to co-ordinate learning support and resource is established and continued efforts will be made to reduce the number of teachers involved in learning support and resource teaching. However, the school is conscious of the need to have teachers from all disciplines available to the L.S./Resource Dept.

 

2.       That the expertise of the Learning Support & Resource be shared with the general body of staff through the provision of in-house in-service to facilitate optimum learning outcomes for students with additional educational needs.

Response:

SDP will undertake this evaluation as part of the planning process.

 

3.       That the Guidance Policy for Coláiste Bhríde which has been established in conjunction with Co. Wicklow VEC be further developed and contribute to a whole school guidance plan customised to respond to the specific needs of the students in Coláiste Bhríde.

Response:

SDP is currently undertaking this recommendation as part of the planning process.

 

4.       That the full guidance allocation is deployed for the purposes of guidance provision.

Response:

All allocated guidance hours are currently allocated as required.

 

5.       That the Guidance Dept. works in close links on an organised basis with the SPHE Dept.

Response:

SDP is currently undertaking this recommendation as part of the planning process.

 

6.       That in the interest of providing optimum supports for students, consideration should be given to establishing a more formalised care team comprising teachers involved in the delivery of different pastoral services who can meet regularly along with the guidance counsellor and have an input from the external counsellors to ensure optimum care of all students.

Response:

SDP is currently undertaking this recommendation as part of the planning process.

 

7.       That Meitheal Leaders and Senior Prefects have a class tutor present when they are taking registration at 8.50am.

Response:

This practice has been changed in line with the WSE recommendations.

 

Once again we would like to thank the Inspectorate for its assistance in helping us move our school forwards towards the pursuit of excellence.