An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Hazelwood College,

Dromcollogher, County Limerick

Roll number: 71850B

 

 

Date of inspection: 29 September 2006

Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007

 

Whole School Evaluation report

1. Introduction

2. The quality of school management

2.1 Characteristic spirit of the school

2.2 School ownership and management

2.3 In-school management

2.4 Management of resources

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of curriculum provision

4.1 Curriculum planning and organisation

4.2 Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

4.3 Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

5.1 Planning and preparation

5.2 Teaching and learning

5.3 Assessment

6. Quality of support for students

6.1 Students with special educational needs

6.2 Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

6.3 Guidance

6.4 Pastoral care

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

8.    Related subject inspection reports

9.    School Response to the Report

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Hazelwood College. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal and the deputy principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management.  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.         Introduction

 

Two post-primary schools, a vocational school, Hazelwood College, and a voluntary secondary school, Scoil Mhuire, originally served the town of Dromcollogher. The vocational school was established in 1941 on a site located on the Tullylease Road in Dromcollogher. Over time the number of students attending the secondary school declined and the numbers attending the vocational school increased. The secondary school stopped enrolling students in 2000 and finally closed in 2005.

 

Hazelwood College opened in 2002 on its present location, with a new school building, just off the main road from Dromcollogher to Charleville. The school is located approximately fourteen kilometres south east of Newcastle West and two kilometres from the county border with Cork. The original school site is now used to house “An tIonad Glas”, an Organic College that comprises the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) wing of the school.

 

Hazelwood College is the sole second-level educational provider in the locality. The school is conscious of its responsibilities to students of all abilities and backgrounds and strives to provide a broad, balanced education that is accessible to all and that meets the learning needs of each student as an individual.

 

Students are drawn from a wide geographic area. Students from approximately fifteen different primary schools attend Hazelwood College. It is noted that the number of students attending the school has increased very significantly in the last ten years and correspondingly so has the number of teachers. It is further noted that students from outside the school’s catchment area attend the school. The school explains that this is necessary to sustain the number of students needed to support an allocation that allows for the breadth of curricular choice offered. The VEC is examining the issue to ensure sustainability on an ongoing basis. In the interim, the school has mooted the idea of capping its current enrolment. The most commonly expressed view for the future enrolment of Hazelwood College is a school population of five hundred students. The school regarded this as sustainable and as providing a teacher allocation that would support a broad and balanced curriculum.

 

Most students come to school by bus. The school operates two private buses. It was observed that the first students start to arrive around 8a.m. each morning. The school is open from 7.30a.m. each morning to receive students. The buses make two circuits after school. Some students depart immediately while other students are engaged in supervised study, usually for a little over an hour, while waiting for the return of the buses to bring them home. This means that some students may leave home around 7.30a.m. and may not return until around 5.00p.m.

 

Since 1990, the school has benefited from supports arising from being designated disadvantaged. However, with the consolidation of all support programmes within the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative and the subsequent reappraisal of the needs of schools it was identified that Hazelwood College did not require resourcing within the DEIS Schools Support Programme (SSP). In the time from 1990 to the present, the school has changed considerably and it is likely that the resources gained and used over that time have had a positive impact in shaping and supporting this change.

 

The school has an active Parents’ Association and has a long history of active parental involvement in the school. The elected representatives of the association meet regularly and discussion with representatives of the association showed that they hold the school in high regard and are committed to supporting it.

 

 

2.         The quality of school management

 

2.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The school’s mission statement refers to providing education in a “safe and nurturing environment”, to generating the aims and values from “a good atmosphere and positive spirit” and to providing each student with a “well-balanced education”. The mission statement says that “A clear and continuing focus on learning exists within Hazelwood College”, that “In Hazelwood College our priority is our students” and it refers to extra-curricular activities as broadening students’ interests and experiences.

 

The atmosphere in the school is positive. The daily interactions on the corridors, between staff and students, are good natured and respectful. It was observed that the interactions among staff are positive and collegial and this supports a good working environment. This atmosphere was also reflected in interviews that took place in the Organic College. The atmosphere is in good accord with that described in the mission statement.

 

The Organic College has a tradition of welcoming local groups and visitors and has hosted a variety of tours by schools. The college has been involved in a range of voluntary activities and has received local and national recognition for its work.

 

Each school day in Hazelwood College starts with an assembly where attendance is recorded. This provides an opportunity for senior school management to address students and allows management to notice potential issues with individual students at an early stage in the day. The fact that students are known by name supports an atmosphere of caring for students as individuals. Observations and interviews showed that the work of staff is characterised by a fundamental care and concern for each student. It was recorded during interviews with parents and with students that they feel that the school is a safe and caring place. The high level of support that staff offers students was also recorded. This exemplifies the nurturing environment referred to in the mission statement.

 

The school places particular importance on maintaining a safe environment for students and to this end there is a “zero-tolerance” approach to bullying. This is supported by a high level of awareness among staff and a proactive approach to dealing with this issue. This proactive approach was exemplified by the school in running an “Anti-bullying Week” where awareness of the issue of bullying was raised through a variety of media. Interview with students showed that they are appreciative of this and that they value the work of the school in maintaining a safe environment for them. The use of a closed-circuit television system enables management to track students’ belongings should they go missing and accordingly it was noted that students feel comfortable storing their belongings within the school. Thus, the school creates a sense of a secure and safe environment for students and this is highly commended.

 

The school has worked to provide a balanced education relevant to the needs of the community. This is exemplified in the various positive responses of the school in adding specific subjects to its curriculum based on needs that emerged because of the location of industries in the environs of Dromcollogher. Analysis of the curriculum showed it to be broad and diverse.

 

 

2.2          School ownership and management

 

The school is under the management of County Limerick VEC. The board functions as a sub-committee of County Limerick VEC subject to the provisions of Part IV of the Education Act, 1998, and section 31 of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act, 2001.

 

The school is designated as a vocational school. At the time when the new school building was being progressed, the idea of creating a model agreement community college was proposed. As a result, a decision was taken to create a board of management that would reflect the composition of the board of a community college. The composition of the board is in accord with the requirements of the relevant management agreements and the Education Act 1998.

 

The board is supportive of the work done by the school staff. The board maintains ongoing communication with the school through the principal and the chairperson of the board. Various members of the board show their support for the school by attending school events and award days and some of the non-teaching staff members of the board visit the school on a regular basis. This support is commended.

 

Board members identified a need for training within their role and it is recommended that they seek training to continue to support them in their work. It is noted that the VEC described its intention to provide such training.

 

The board reported that it is aware of its statutory obligations and meets periodically. Meetings additional to those normally scheduled have occurred and demonstrate the board’s commitment to supporting the school in its operation. The board identified that there is not always a full attendance at meetings but that a quorum is satisfied.

 

The board reports that it does not deal frequently with matters concerning the Organic College. It is reported that the Organic College has put in place its own advisory board. The board of Hazelwood College has overall responsibility for the operation of the school and all its elements, and is advised to ensure on an ongoing basis that appropriate procedures regarding school development planning, decision-making processes and accountability are in place and continue to operate for the Organic College.

 

An annual report is issued to the VEC on the operation of the school and this is appropriate. The board, as appropriate, keeps minutes of decisions taken at its meetings. Board members report informally to their nominating bodies. There is scope for the dissemination of an agreed report by the board to the parent bodies of the partners represented on the board, staff, parents, VEC, and others. This is recommended.

 

It is reported that there is general awareness among the school community of the work and composition of the board. Further developing this awareness would be beneficial. Using the various school publications and the school’s web site could facilitate this.

 

The working priorities identified by the board relate to consideration and ratification of policies, the schedule of posts of responsibility, and issues concerning facilities. The main impetus for policy development has come through the school management and staff. From this impetus, priorities for school development planning have been identified. The board has been involved in the policy development process through discussion of policies that are presented for adoption and through consideration of views offered by board members. Such inputs into the policy development process are beneficial.

 

The board reports that it has not yet considered the subject inspection reports issued in Business and in Geography and any issues arising from these reports. It is recommended that these reports be considered to inform and assist the board in prioritising school development planning activities.

 

The board takes pride in the successes of students in the State examinations and of staff in preparing students for the examinations. In building on the good atmosphere of partnership and collaboration, it may be of use for the board to consider how it will acknowledge such successes formally.

 

 

2.3          In-school management

 

The work of the principal and deputy principal is carried out in a dedicated and highly effective manner. The principal and deputy principal work collaboratively. Their work is characterised by a high degree of mutual respect and trust supported by collegiality and complementarity in their work. They meet regularly during the school day to plan for their work, to agree a common approach to issues and to discuss relevant matters. This is good practice. They have a high level of visibility around the school. They work in a proactive manner, using their on-the-ground knowledge to foresee and prevent problems and to lead and manage developments and change in the school. They show a high level of awareness and responsiveness to issues as they arise. The focus for their work is centred on providing an inclusive and wide-ranging education for students in a safe and caring environment. One area in which this is exemplified is in their participation in and support for a range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

 

It was evident that there is a high level of respect among the school community for the roles of principal and deputy principal. The school community views the roles of principal and deputy principal as interchangeable. The view of interchangeability of the roles of principal and deputy principal is supported by the role holders and this exemplifies a cohesive and focused management approach.

 

While overall responsibility for the management of the Organic College resides with the principal, a Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) co-ordinator based in the college undertakes the day-to-day management. Communication is maintained, as appropriate, with Hazelwood College and the VEC.

 

The school is well served by a post of responsibility structure consisting of Assistant Principals (APs) and Special Duties Teachers (SDTs). The range of posts is appropriate to the needs of the school and derives, appropriately, from consultation among school management, post-holders, and the teaching staff. This practice is commended.

 

It is noted that there is general awareness among parents of the in-school management structures and the posts of responsibility held by teachers. Fostering this awareness is good practice and it is encouraged that this awareness continue to be fostered by referring to the posts held by teachers and by including details of the individual posts held in the information available to parents.

 

It was significant that all post-holders interviewed described a sense of personal responsibility for providing leadership within the school. This is in keeping with the vision of a shared management structure with relevant management duties and is a key indicator of staff engaging in providing educational leadership. It is noteworthy that all post-holders interviewed also performed many other management roles within the school, on a voluntary basis. There was evidence of unstinting cooperation and dedication in the fulfilment of the roles assigned within the posts of responsibility structure and the same cooperation and dedication was equally evident in the additional voluntary work undertaken by staff.

 

It was noted during interviews that the school’s support staff plays a vital role in the efficient operation of the school. The work of the school’s support staff was commented on positively throughout the evaluation. Their work is acknowledged and commended.

 

Post holders and teachers meet regularly in relation to their assigned duties and the majority of these meetings are not timetabled and take place outside of formal school hours. This exemplifies the goodwill and commitment shown by staff on an ongoing basis.

 

Staff welfare is an issue that is afforded consideration by the school. There is a good atmosphere of collegiality and this is supported by periodic staff social outings. Staff life-events are acknowledged by the school. Additionally, the contribution of individual staff members has been recognised and acknowledged by the school. It is reported that staff from Hazelwood College are invited to awards ceremonies in the Organic College and some staff teaching in Hazelwood College also teach in the Organic College. This acts to further develop collegiality. Given the very high level of engagement in a wide range of school activities by so many school staff and the many voluntary activities undertaken it is essential that supporting staff welfare and acknowledging the contributions of staff remain priorities for the school and its management.

 

The effective management of students is a very strong feature of the school. There are considered and well-developed codes of discipline, behaviour, and good manners. There are good systems in place that facilitate sharing of information about students. A feature of nearly every interview during the evaluation was the positive description of students’ good behaviour and the manner in which the codes support and promote such good conduct. Interaction with students revealed that they were aware of the high standards of conduct expected of them and that they supported these standards. The implementation of the school rules is undertaken in a fair and even-handed manner and is characterised by care and concern for each student. This was evident from the caring manner in which staff spoke about students and from observation of the interactions between staff and students, in classrooms and in the school corridors.

 

The school has a disciplinary committee system in place. This committee consists of three staff members who meet with students regarding disciplinary problems. It was reported that students are asked if they would like to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at the initial meeting with the committee but that few students avail of this facility. In continuing to support student welfare, it is advised that students be encouraged to avail of this facility and the school may wish to communicate directly with parents to encourage their attendance or may wish to assign a staff member to accompany a student to a disciplinary committee meeting.

 

Each class group has its own class tutor. The work of class tutors is supported by a system of year heads. The roles undertaken by class tutors and year heads require significant ongoing communication and this happens informally among the role holders. Individual teachers undertake the role of class tutor on a voluntary basis. There is a significant workload associated with the role, monitoring of students’ diaries, involvement in disciplinary issues when they arise, and pastoral support for students. Class tutors develop personal relationships with each class group and where possible class tutors retain the class group as they move from year to year. This continuity is encouraged. Teachers carry out the work of class tutor in a committed and conscientious manner and their very good work in this voluntary role is acknowledged and commended. The ongoing efficient operation of the class tutor system is a vital component in the effective management and support of students and is commended. Similarly, the role of year head also carries a significant workload and each year head, except in the case of Transition Year, is an AP. There are six year heads, one for each year group. Year heads generally retain the same year group from year-to-year, except in sixth year. One of the guidance counsellors has the role of year head for sixth-year students. This enables students to benefit from access to a high level of individual guidance counselling. There is a high level of individual expertise evident among the class tutors and the year heads but it was reported that neither the class tutors nor the year heads have, as groups, received formal training specific to their roles. The school is advised to consider the provision of training relevant to the requirements of the role holders.

 

The school has a Parents’ Association which meets regularly. The school is informed and advised by the Parents’ Association of relevant issues and has due regard to its advice and this is appropriate.

 

Each student is provided with a school diary that is used to record homework and to facilitate contact between school and home. A copy of the school diary was viewed. It contained valuable information on the operation of the school and useful advice on study skills, essay writing, healthy lifestyle, subject information, links to useful websites and school rules and policies. The production of the diary and its use in assisting students in their learning are commended. Parents are required to view diaries weekly and to sign them. The students’ class tutor monitors this. This is a beneficial system and is commended. The school has a well developed website that provides useful information and there is a periodic newsletter that documents achievements in the life of the school. These good practices are commended. Parent-teacher meetings are held regularly and arrangements for these are in keeping with the relevant Department circulars. Parents who miss the year-group meeting for their son or daughter may be facilitated at other meetings. Management and staff are available to meet with parents by appointment and such contact is reported as occurring regularly. The work of the school in supporting and informing parental involvement in the education of their children is acknowledged and commended.

 

 

2.4          Management of resources

 

The timetable for the current academic year was created externally but in consultation with and under the direction of the principal. It is noted that the school intends to create a post at AP level for the construction of the timetable. This development is welcomed.

 

Discussion with teachers showed that at a subject department level a system of rotation is used in allocating teachers to classes and levels. This is a fair method of allocating classes and levels. Classes at senior and junior cycles generally retain the same teacher for each subject. This is encouraged as it supports continuity of student learning.

 

Staff meetings take place once per term and documentation showed that their timing is in accord with relevant circulars. The principal or deputy principal meet formally with the permanent staff of the Organic College at least once each week.

 

It is noted that the school secretary and caretaker, in consultation with the principal, set individual, annual performance goals and that there is a system of reviewing performance annually. This is a beneficial process and is in accordance with national agreements.

 

The very high level of voluntary activity by staff is acknowledged and this means that between timetabled and voluntary activities many teachers contribute well in excess of twenty-two hours weekly. However, it was noted that the current timetabling arrangements fall short of what is required to ensure that all students have access to 28 class-contact hours. The school indicated that it would be addressing this matter and making adjustment to the timetable for future years or seeking additional resources to address the matter if adjustments would compromise essential course provision.

 

It is noted that some subjects are taught outside of regular timetabled hours, such as at lunchtime. This arises due to insufficient time available currently within the formal school timetable. It is envisaged that the adjustments to the timetable referred to above will address this situation.

 

The school runs an open day for parents of first-year students on a Saturday in September. All teachers attend this open day and it was reported that the day provides a valuable opportunity for teachers and parents to share information about first-year students. From documentation supplied, it was noted that the school is in compliance with the (minimum) requirement for 167 days of teaching time annually. It was noted in the school calendar that a day in lieu is given to staff for attendance at the open day. It is recommended that the school communicate this in its official returns to the Department.

 

Analysis of individual timetables revealed that all whole-time teachers are timetabled for at least a minimum of eighteen hours class contact in a recognised subject. This is appropriate. Some teachers are timetabled for games at lunchtime. This is in addition to their timetabled classes. It should be noted that while Physical Education is a recognised component of the curriculum that games is not a recognised component of the curriculum. Should it arise that a teacher’s timetable is less than eighteen hours of class contact in a recognised subject this would have implications in relation to payment of incremental salary.

 

The deputy principal provides a high level of availability for individual counselling as needs arise. It is noted that the school currently has an allocation of seventeen hours per week for provision of Guidance. It is reported that fifteen hours weekly are allocated to the personnel involved in Guidance provision. It is recommended that the school use its full allocation of hours for Guidance. Further details may be found in the report Subject Inspection of Guidance.

 

Teachers are released for relevant in-service education courses with due regard given to the effect that teacher absence has on student learning. The VEC has provided training for all APs in the area of management skills and it is intended that similar training be provided for special duties teachers. This is encouraged. New teachers in Hazelwood College benefit from a formal VEC induction day and a separate induction run by the school. The provision of induction for new teachers is of value and is commended. A copy of Leabhrán Foirne, the staff handbook was viewed and it provides useful information for both new and established teachers. The school has shown a high level of support for teachers’ continuing professional development by inviting outside experts to facilitate staff development days. The VEC reports that it encourages staff members to plan for their own professional development in consultation with the principal. It is noted that a significant number of teachers in the school have engaged in postgraduate study. The VEC provides a measure of financial support for teachers in pursuing relevant further study. This demonstrates good support for teachers’ continuing professional development.

 

The school is allocated a budget by the VEC. It was recorded that requests for resources from individual subject areas are generally met. In continuing to support subject departments in their work when planning for teaching and learning it is recommended that subject departments be informed of the budget available to them as this would be helpful when planning for the purchase of resources.

 

The school and its grounds are well maintained. An anti-litter initiative and Green Schools initiative have begun in the school. These initiatives are commended and encouraged. The school building benefits from good use of natural light and is clean, bright, and spacious. The foyer area is clean and spacious. In the foyer area there is a display of trophies won by students. This reflects the spirit within the school where high standards of achievement are expected and recognised. In addition, there is an electronic notice board that gives details of school activities and achievements. Updating of the notice board occurs periodically. Regular updating on an ongoing basis is useful in continuing to create a sense of community and to recognise students’ and staff achievements. There are a number of notice boards located in the corridors and notices on these are changed regularly. This reflects the high level of curricular and extra-curricular activity within the school.

 

While the building is quite new and is in generally good repair there are some issues with leaks in the roof. It was not possible during the WSE to observe the full extent of the difficulties. The board is aware of the issues and has endeavoured for the last four years to address them. It is recommended that board of management in cooperation with the VEC continue to prioritise the remediation of the leaks.

 

It is reported that each student has his/her own locker for which he/she pays a nominal fee. The lockers are located in the corridors. Observation showed that students are familiar with the efficient use of the locker system and it was apparent that very few students missed lesson time owing to having to go to their locker.

 

Classrooms are, for the most part, teacher based. This enables teachers to develop the learning environment to suit the needs of their subjects. The classrooms are clean and many have a very well-developed visual learning environment. It is encouraged that the visual learning environment of all classrooms be enhanced with displays of students’ work, posters, charts and visual aids.

 

Two rooms are used for learning support and resource teaching. These rooms are well equipped.

 

The specialist rooms are well maintained. Some issues have been raised regarding individual machines and these issues have been forwarded to the VEC for action. There is ample storage available for materials.

 

The school has two ICT laboratories and one language laboratory. Good use of ICT is noted in the facility that the school has created for online applications for enrolment. One of the laboratories is used solely for ICT lessons while the other is available if teachers wish to bring their classes there for subject-related work. Students may, with permission, access computers located in the library during lunchtime and after school. Each student has his/her own user account and this is commended as it enables traceability of user activity. The school raised issues concerning the speed and resulting effectiveness of its broadband internet access. The school is advised to maintain liaison with its service provider and the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE), www.ncte.ie.

 

The music room has the flexibility, by virtue of its design, to act as a stage for the performance of musicals, plays, and concerts. This is a creative use of space and it is noted that a school concert, which is a highlight of the school year, takes place annually. The work done in supporting and celebrating students’ creative abilities is commended.

 

The school has a large and well-lit gym. The gym storage area was viewed and it is equipped with apparatus necessary to support students’ participation in a variety of physical education activities. The external sporting facilities are sufficient for the needs of the school and it is reported that the school has the use of additional pitches in the locality as needed. This demonstrates good links via sport with local sporting organisations.

 

A “management room” is available to teachers for use in connection with their work as part of their post of responsibility.

 

It was evident by the provision of seating for students in the corridors and an external seated area that consideration has been given to students’ needs and comfort. This is commended.

 

The facilities in the Organic College have benefited from work undertaken cooperatively by staff and students. This demonstrates the positive atmosphere in the college. Good work has been done in painting and refurbishing some of the facilities. The roof of the sports hall that attaches to the college is leaking in places. It is recommended that the board address this. The ICT laboratory and network in the Organic College demonstrate very good and efficient use of resources. The good work done in developing this facility is commended.

 

An ongoing issue within the Organic College is that of maintenance of the grounds during the summer when college staff members are on leave. It is recommended that the board address this issue.

 

The school has a health and safety statement. This is appropriate. The school’s health and safety statement shows that it was last revised on 09 February 2004. Annual review and revision of the health and safety statement is good practice. Thus, it is recommended that the health and safety statement be reviewed and revised as needed. The review process should also provide an opportunity to implement the recommendation contained in the Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Science undertaken on 17 May 2006. Documentation showed that regular fire drills take place and this is appropriate.

 

The school operates a book rental scheme. The school has considered the issue of students carrying heavy schoolbooks and has initiated a system of book purchase whereby students have two copies of their textbooks, one for home and one for school. This removes the necessity for students to carry heavy bags. This is a proactive initiative and is commended.

 

The presence of a number of vending machines containing sweets and soft drinks was noted. The students’ council have liaised with the principal concerning the provision of healthy eating alternatives. This is a welcome development and the provision of healthy eating choices is encouraged.

 

 

3.         Quality of school planning

 

The school has engaged in school development planning. The process commenced with a review of relevant issues during 2000. This is a constructive method of initiating planning activities. Action plans were drawn up and significant progress has been achieved in the realisation of the targets set. This good work is acknowledged and commended. The view that it may now be opportune for a further review was expressed during the evaluation. Such a review is encouraged.

 

There is a well-developed school development planning process in operation. The process mainly involves teachers working in task groups. It was evident that there is a high level of participation by staff in the school development planning process and that very good work has been done in a collaborative and collegial manner. This is commended. The process is led by a co-ordinator. Documentation supplied showed that the role of co-ordinator is fulfilled in a dedicated and committed manner. It was noted that the co-ordinator chairs all staff meetings. As co-ordination of school development planning activities requires a specific focus, consideration should be given to separating the roles of school development planning co-ordinator and chair of staff meetings. Chairing of staff meetings could be undertaken on a rotation basis by all staff and this would serve to enhance collegiality in the school.

 

As well as working in task groups on whole-school issues, teachers are also actively involved in subject planning. Documentation showed that work has taken place in subject planning with subject co-ordinators in place in subject areas across the curriculum. The use of subject co-ordinators is good practice. The good work done by teachers in planning for the teaching and learning of the subjects they teach is acknowledged and commended.

 

Parents are consulted through the Parents’ Association on the content of policy documents and due regard is given to their input. Students are consulted through the Student Council on the content of relevant policies and their inputs are duly regarded. The VEC supports the planning process by providing legal advice on the content of policies prior to ratification. The board discusses and ratifies policies as appropriate.

 

Comprehensive planning documentation was viewed. The school plan has been divided into a permanent section and a developmental section. This is a useful approach and is in keeping with the recommendations of the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) support service.

 

It is noted that the school plan folder includes copies of VEC policies relevant to school staff. The school policies that form the permanent section of the school plan were reviewed. They are comprehensive documents and good work has been done in their development. They deal with the areas of admissions, code of discipline, code of behaviour, code of good manners, substance misuse, and anti-bullying. The board has ratified these policies. The rationale for prioritising these policies was that they impact most frequently on the operation of the school. This is a sound basis on which to prioritise. The policies themselves are in keeping with the ethos and spirit of the school. The school has identified the areas of health and safety, special educational needs, homework and study, pastoral care, and attendance, for further developmental work by the various task groups.

 

It is noted that the admissions policy includes a section dealing with the enrolment of students with special educational needs and the requirements of these students. This is commended. It is noted that a registration fee attaches to a student’s application to enrol in the school. It was explained that the presence of the fee was to ensure that students who apply for enrolment take up a place if offered a place. It is recommended that the registration fee be abolished as it could prove an impediment to students applying for enrolment. The admissions policy refers to the enrolment of students transferring from another post-primary school and requires such students to serve a probationary period. The policy should be amended to remove this requirement.

 

A document entitled Draft Development Plan 2006-2011 for Hazelwood College was viewed. This document describes a vision for the continuing development of the school. It identifies key issues and it outlines the objectives to be achieved on a year-by-year basis across a range of curricular and non-curricular areas. This is a valuable approach to development planning. The use of the document as an initial focus for discussion within the planning process with all partners is encouraged.

 

Draft policies were viewed in the areas of special educational needs, pastoral care, attendance, homework, SPHE and RSE, information and communication, code of practice, student motivation, email and internet, and campus security. These showed that good work has been done in addressing the various areas and indicate a beneficial staged approach to policy development.

 

It was reported that a draft policy has been developed in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). It is recommended that as a matter of urgency the board of management and staff take appropriate steps to ratify the policy. It was noted that a designated liaison person and a deputy designated liaison person have been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

For the most part, the Organic College plans independently of Hazelwood College. Review and evaluation is central to its planning process and this is good practice. It is reported that an atmosphere of partnership prevails where students and the community are involved in the planning process. Currently, a five-year strategic plan is being developed. The development of such a plan is commended and shows the progressive nature of the work undertaken in the college.

 

 

4.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

4.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The school has a history of involvement in curriculum innovation and is seen as responsive to the needs of its students and the local community. The school offers the Junior Certificate (JC), Transition Year (TY) programme, Established Leaving Certificate (ELC), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA). The JC, ELC and LCA curricula offered by the school are wide and varied relative to the number of students enrolled in the school. This means that students have access to a broad and diverse curriculum.

 

At senior cycle, the general practice is for students to take a maximum of seven subjects for their Leaving Certificate. However, interview revealed that where students express a desire to take more than seven subjects they are facilitated to the greatest possible extent.

 

The TY programme is well documented and good work has been done in developing its various components. Good work has also been done in polling students for their views on completion of the TY programme and the subsequent incorporation of these views. It is noted however, that the programme is weighted more towards some subject areas, such as Science. It is recommended that the content of the programme and the relative weightings of the components be re-examined. In conjunction with this, the introduction of modular courses should be considered. The introduction of a module in Business has been achieved as recommended in Subject Inspection Report on the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Business dated 28 February 2005. Consideration should be given to developing modules in subjects not currently represented in the TY programme, as this would give students beneficial exposure to these subjects prior to making their senior-cycle subject choices. Any review of TY should also afford an opportunity for teachers to plan for cross-curricular linkages. An example of this is contained in the report on Subject Inspection of English. Examination of the various subject plans showed that in some subject areas the subject matter used with students is particularly creative. This is in keeping with the spirit of TY and is commended. In some subject areas more traditional subject matter is used with students. It is encouraged that all subject areas continue to offer students as great a variety of learning experiences as possible without excessive recourse to material contained in Leaving Certificate subject syllabuses.

 

The LCA offers five vocational specialisms. These specialisms are broad and diverse in nature, providing opportunities for boys and girls to select from a range of electives. Take up in these specialisms tends to follow traditional gender lines. Similar issues in some other programmes in relation to uptake of some subjects following traditional gender trends were noted. The school records that it has given substantial consideration to encouraging a gender-balanced take up in the vocational specialisms. In continuing to encourage gender-balanced uptake across the curriculum it is recommended that the school devise and implement a formal strategy to encourage gender balance in subject uptake. Such a strategy might usefully involve the introduction of a taster programme for first-year students, use of timetabled guidance counselling lessons, and use of internal and external speakers as role models in the subject areas. The development of a subject information booklet that contains information on the course content and career possibilities for each subject area could be undertaken and this could be disseminated to students and parents in advance of students making their subject choices. The TY programme could also provide a suitable vehicle for addressing the gender bias towards some subjects.

 

The Organic College delivers two Further Education, Training and Awards Council (FETAC) certified courses which are also certified by the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA) as well as short courses and special interest courses. 

 

Currently, two adult education night classes, yoga and computers for beginners, are running and it is reported that these are driven by demand within the local community. The development of courses based on demand from the community is commended. It is noted from documentation supplied that the school endeavoured to run literacy classes for adults in the past. Based on information supplied by the school, it would be worth polling the level of interest in such a course currently and investigating how it could run at minimal cost to the participants.

 

The school has considered the introduction of Spanish, Technology, and an additional Business subject at senior cycle. Recommendations and advice in relation to Spanish within the context of modern language provision are contained in the report on Subject Inspection of German. Recommendations and advice in relation to Business are contained in the report Subject Inspection Report on the Quality of Teaching and Learning in Business dated 28 February 2005. In the case of Technology, the issue of available space and overlap with the three technology subjects already offered by the school should be considered. In the context of an already diverse curriculum and some lessons being held outside of timetabled hours, it is advisable that the school carefully consider the staffing implications and the sustainability of class groups as well as the impact on current subject options before introducing new subjects to the curriculum.

 

Currently, all first-year classes are of mixed ability. In second year, classes in English, Gaeilge, Mathematics, French and Science are streamed. Classes in optional subjects continue as mixed ability groupings. It is reported that movement between classes is facilitated so that students might study at whatever level is appropriate to them. This is commended as it seeks to meet students’ individual needs. The school advises students on the level to take for the State examinations. However, the final decision rests with the student and his/her parent(s)/guardian(s). This is appropriate.

 

The running of the TY programme, LCA and LCVP is facilitated through the appointment of co-ordinators for each of these programmes. It was noted that the work of the co-ordinators is undertaken in a committed and dedicated manner. This is commended. It is noted that the school has appointed a Programme Co-ordinator as provided for by circular PPT19/02. It is noted that the Programme Co-ordinator’s duties relate to technical support and that the assigned duties do not relate to programme co-ordination. The school is advised to address this matter.

 

The individual co-ordinators take complete responsibility for the individual programme to which they are assigned. In continuing to support staff in its work, facilitating any newly appointed co-ordinators in attending relevant in-service education courses is advised and encouraged. Liaison with the overall Programme Co-ordinator is also advised and the programme co-ordinators should agree with the overall Programme Co-ordinator the areas of responsibility that each will undertake.

 

Outside of the core learning support team, the tradition in the deployment of teachers in the areas of learning support and resource teaching has been that it takes place after the teachers’ main timetable is drafted. This results in some students having a range of teachers for supplementary teaching and this may create difficulties in relation to continuity of learning and similarity of methodologies and approach. The school is mindful of these issues and is encouraged in its work to minimise these issues when constructing the timetable.

 

 

4.2           Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students benefit from a broad range of subject choices for the ELC. This exemplifies the desire of the school to ensure that all students have access to the broadest possible range of educational opportunities. The subject choices made by students for the ELC are selected primarily from predetermined subject option bands. Interview revealed that there is generally good satisfaction that students achieve their desired subject choices. In continuing to support the work of the school in this area, a system based on open choice of subjects with subsequent construction of the option bands would assure ongoing optimal satisfaction and the school should endeavour to implement this system.

 

SPHE is an integral part of the curriculum at junior cycle and there is a team of trained teachers involved in teaching the programme. The subject is timetabled for one lesson period weekly for each year of junior cycle. This is appropriate.

 

It is noted that currently there is no provision for Physical Education during either fifth or sixth year. Reports such as National Task Force on Obesity Report 2005, and School Children and Sport in Ireland, ESRI, 2005 have highlighted the increased drop-out rate from physical activity among teenagers. Schools therefore have a large role to play in encouraging students to remain active and healthy throughout their lives. It is acknowledged that provision of a wide range of extra-curricular physical activities by the school does support many students in remaining physically active. However, in supporting the physical activity of all students it is recommended that the school address the matter by providing Physical Education during students’ fifth and sixth years. In some subjects, there is a generous allocation of lesson periods. Review of this allocation could facilitate the introduction of Physical Education for all senior-cycle students. Some useful advice and reference may be found in the Department of Education and Science Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools.

 

The school has a well-developed system to gather information on students prior to their enrolling in the school. This involves school personnel visiting the feeder primary schools. The Home-School-Community Liaison (HSCL) officer and the deputy principal who both have roles as guidance counsellors undertake these visits. In some cases, the learning support co-ordinator is also involved. The involvement of these personnel means that the attention is given to the guidance, pastoral, academic, and learning support needs of students in advance of enrolment. This is a supportive measure and is commended. This system also serves to inform students and their parents of the subject options available to them. They are supported in their choice of subjects by information offered to parents during open days and open nights and by information disseminated during visits by school personnel to the feeder primary schools. This is commended.

 

 

3.          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

The school offers a wide range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. These activities encompass both sporting and non-sporting endeavours. During the evaluation, first-year students were engaged in a visit to Capanalea Outdoor Centre. This was reported as a very important part of the induction programme for first year students. Discussion with some of the students revealed that the visit was both highly enjoyable and very useful as it provided opportunities to make friends and to bond as a year group. Such opportunities for bonding are very important as students are drawn from a wide geographic area and from some fifteen different primary schools.

 

A very significant feature of the school is the very high level of voluntary participation by staff in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Teachers’ participation in supporting students in pursuing extra-curricular and co-curricular activities is acknowledged. Without the generous goodwill of teachers the fabric of school life and the extent of its co-curricular and extra-curricular provision would be markedly different. It is noted that school management is highly appreciative of the excellent work done and the very high level of commitment shown by teachers in supporting students’ participation in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

 

Because of the transport system many activities take place at lunchtime and all students are encouraged to participate. It is noted that teachers who are involved in lunchtime games may at times have limited opportunity to have lunch themselves. Ongoing consideration in relation to timetabling may be of use in these cases.

 

The school has established codes in relation to student behaviour that apply on campus and off campus when representing the school. The school also has established protocols when travelling with students to off-campus events. In building on this work, it is recommended that the school formalise in writing these practices and protocols.

 

The school has developed good links with the local community and local firms have provided financial support for students’ participation in extra-curricular activities. Parents of students have also provided support in the form of transporting students to and from events. Local sporting organisations have also been supportive of students’ endeavours in extra-curricular activities. The VEC continues to support the school and students in the wide range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities offered in Hazelwood College.

 

 

5.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

5.1          Planning and preparation

 

Subject department planning has been a feature of school development planning in Hazelwood College for a number of years. Subject departments meet formally on a number of occasions throughout the school year with informal meetings taking place as required. Subject departments retain minutes of meetings that detail the key decisions taken and action points. These minutes are copied to in-school management. The subject department structures and procedures are to be commended as very good practice as in addition to keeping the school management informed of issues arising in each subject department they also assist in promoting professional collaboration among subject teachers.

 

In each of the subjects evaluated a comprehensive subject plan had been developed. It was outlined to inspectors during the course of the evaluation that subject plans are under continuous development and review and this is commended as best practice. Inspectors made a number of recommendations and suggestions in the development and future review of subject plans and schemes of work in each subject area to further enhance teaching and learning and these can be found in the subject inspection reports within this report.

 

 

5.2          Teaching and learning

 

In all lessons evaluated there was evidence of short-term planning and the content being taught was in line with syllabus requirements. Most lessons observed had clear aims and objectives and these were in some cases communicated to students at the outset of the lesson. This good practice should be extended to all classes to facilitate students in evaluating their own learning and to share responsibility for the lesson.

 

Teachers employed a variety of teaching methodologies that was effective in engaging students and supporting their understanding of the topics under study. However, in the context of mixed-ability classes there is potential for the increased inclusion of differentiated strategies to help all students achieve to the best of their ability within such class structures. Directed questioning and open questioning were used to structure and progress learning activities, assess comprehension and revise topics. In all lessons a good balance was maintained between teacher-led discussion and student activity through the use of teacher demonstrations, student project work, note-taking, student reading, in-class writing and listening comprehensions. In the practical lessons observed classroom routines were evidenced, instruction was clear and precise, demonstrations were of a high standard, students used tools and equipment effectively and proper safety practices were at all times employed. These good practices contributed to a well-organised and managed learning environment. In language lessons some commendable use of the target language was observed, however its usage should be extended to all aspects of classroom instruction and transactional communications. 

 

Use of a range of resources such as handouts, ICT, textbooks, gap-tests, multi-media projector presentations, print stimulus materials and whiteboard was effective as an aid to teaching and learning. Most classrooms had print-rich and visually appealing environments and there was good use of display materials that facilitated the development of students’ thinking from concrete materials through to the abstract representation of concepts.

 

Classroom management was very good in all lessons observed. Discipline was maintained in all lessons in a positive and secure learning environment. 

 

In some lessons teachers moved constantly around the room assessing students’ progress and assisting individuals with any difficulties that emerged. Excellent student-teacher rapport based on mutual respect was evident. Students were affirmed and encouraged in all of their efforts and their responses were integrated into the lessons. Students were attentive, motivated, and engaged in their learning. Observation of students’ classwork, homework, notebooks, and portfolios indicated a good standard of knowledge and understanding consistent with the range of abilities.

 

 

5.3          Assessment

 

Prior to entry to the school, the AH 2/3 and the Cloze Reading Test are administered to the incoming first years in the preceding November. The tests are used to identify students who may require additional support when they come to the school. It is recommended that the school review the use of the AH tests as these tests do not have Irish norms and have not been updated. 

 

Formal assessments take place for all non-examination class groups periodically. In addition, different year groups are assessed at random throughout the year and examination students sit ‘mock’ examinations. This is appropriate. Reports on student progress and attainment, which follow a well-developed template, are sent home periodically for all year groups. These progress records are kept and are used in the annual parent-teacher meetings for each year group, and in the writing of reports. The standard formal structures for parent-teacher meetings and for reporting to parents through homework journals are in place. Parents also receive regular letters providing information about school events. Maintaining home-school communication is beneficial and is commended.

 

Appropriate modes of assessment were used in the subject areas evaluated. Concurrent testing for all year groups in various subjects is used where practicable and this is commended. For non-examination classes, in one practical subject, the overall grade awarded for examination reports is based on a combination of marks for the projects students have completed and an end-of-term written examination. This is commended as it helps to encourage students to complete projects to a high standard. It also assesses both theory and practical activities and therefore is an accurate indicator of overall ability. It is encouraged that this practice be extended to other subject areas where possible.

 

From a review of student homework copybooks it was evident that homework is checked and feedback provided regularly in nearly all subject areas. It is recommended that homework form a regular part of student learning for all subject areas. Review of student work showed examples of formative assessment being provided to students. This good practice should be extended to all students and should include areas of commendation and suggested areas for improvement. Further reference and advice on assessment for learning may be obtained from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), www.ncca.ie.

 

An analysis of student outcomes based on Junior and Leaving Certificate examination results is undertaken each year and used to inform the staff with regard to planning and review. Overall, the quality of record keeping of student attendance is of a high standard and the results of student assessments are recorded systematically. These practices are commended.

 

A computerised system is used for reports and this lends the reports a professional appearance. In the past, however, the manual completion of reports afforded teachers the opportunity to compare student progress across a range of subjects. Some valuable insights could be obtained from such comparisons. The practice of performing such comparisons across the subject areas studied by students is encouraged.

 

 

6.         Quality of support for students

 

6.1          Students with special educational needs

 

There is strong awareness of and commitment to students with learning support, language support, and/or special educational needs in Hazelwood College. The school applies to the National Council for Special Education and the Department, as appropriate, for resources to support the education of these students. The school has a significant number of hours allocated for learning support. It is reported that all students who have an individual allocation are given this allocation in full. This is appropriate. There is a well-developed procedure in place for the gathering of information in relation to students enrolling in Hazelwood College and there is a concerted effort to ensure that each student’s needs are met. Work is ongoing at minimising any potential time lag between when a first-year student is identified as needing supplementary teaching and when that support is activated. This is encouraged.

 

There is a learning support co-ordinator in place and this is appropriate. Staff is made aware of the students who have special educational needs and teachers are advised in planning for the teaching and learning of these students. The teachers involved in providing learning support met regularly to plan for their work during the 2005/2006 school year. This is good practice. There are four teachers trained in learning support and one teacher currently undertaking training. This means that there is a high level of expertise within the school. Discussion of issues in the area of special educational needs has featured at a whole-staff level and this maintains a high level of awareness of the situation.

 

The Organic College has a cohort of international, adult students. For some of these students English is not their first language. However, the practical nature of the courses offered and a high level of personal tuition assist students experiencing language difficulties.

 

Teachers have benefited from whole-school in-service education in the area of learning support and this has linked with school development planning. This is appropriate and beneficial. The school has developed a draft Special Needs policy. The good work done in developing this policy is commended. Given that there are two other types of supplementary teaching being provided in the school at present (learning support and language support), it is suggested that the team include descriptions in the policy of those two other types of supplementary educational support. Individual education plans (IEPs) have been drawn up for students with special educational needs and these plans are available to teachers in drawing up their subject-specific plans. The drawing up of IEPs is best practice and is commended. There is a high level of awareness among teachers of the importance of supporting and building students’ confidence and self-esteem. Thus, positive feedback is a beneficial feature of the approach used with students.

 

The school shows support for students with special learning needs as it is reported that any students who are identified as requiring an educational psychological assessment are facilitated and where necessary the school funds this assessment.

 

The school shows good support in the area of enabling students to develop and enhance their study skills by provision of a study skills seminar. Additionally, the school has supported students in undertaking supplementary study in Gaeilge and this is commended.

 

A number of students with special learning needs have recognised exemptions from the study of Gaeilge. The usual practice is to withdraw students from Gaeilge classes for learning support/resource teaching. However, this is not always the case. Where students remain in the classes, ongoing consideration should be given to how they can best use this time.

 

Small classes and withdrawal are the main methods used to support students with learning, language, and resource support needs in Hazelwood College. It is noted that in some cases students are withdrawn from English classes to receive supplementary tuition in English. It is recommended that this issue be addressed by re-considering the times at which students are withdrawn for supplementary tuition.

 

It was reported that, in some cases, more than one teacher provides supplementary withdrawal support to a student/group of students. This may raise issues of communication and consistency. To minimise this, it is recommended that the school work toward limiting the number of teachers providing supplementary support to a particular student/group of students during each school year.

 

In recent times, the school has been participating in a pilot “homework club” project funded by West Limerick Resources. Building on the positive outcomes achieved by that pilot project, the school has also started a homework club for first-year students (supported by the parents’ council) and for students with language-support needs (supported by the DES allocation of resource hours to those students). School management and the education support team are highly commended for making whole-school supports of this type available to students.

 

As well as informal liaison with the co-ordinator and learning support teachers there is valuable support for all teachers in the form of documentation on individual students’ needs and printed matter on methodologies and strategies for dealing with these needs. There is regular liaison among the HSCL officer, year heads, and learning support team. This is commended. Communication with parents takes place generally during the open night for first year students, open days, and parent-teacher meetings. In addition, there is a high level of availability of the learning support staff to discuss students’ progress, either by telephone or in person by appointment. This is commended.

 

In the subject inspection of English that was conducted as part of this WSE, a whole-school approach to literacy development was recommended. It is suggested that the education support team and English department collaborate on devising such a programme as part of the subject department planning process. This process should also include consideration of the learning needs of students in the Organic College and collaboration with college personnel in this is advised. The programme could then be presented to the whole staff for comment, suggestion, amendment, and finally implementation. Ultimately, such a whole-campus approach to literacy development would benefit all students, and especially those with learning, language, or special educational needs.

 

 

 

6.2          Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

 

As outlined earlier, the school was until recently, designated as a disadvantaged school and thus benefited from participation in an access programme with the University of Limerick (UL) and Mary Immaculate College (MIC). This programme was of particular benefit to students from the school that wished to proceed to third-level education. The access link with UL and MIC provided a range of benefits for students, not least access to training in leadership skills. It was reported that this training benefited students in their own personal development as well as supporting their work as mentors with first year students. The school should consider how its previous experiences with the leadership skills training programme and existing internal expertise could be used to create an alternative programme for students.

 

The school has participated in a special project in cooperation with West Limerick Resources, the VEC, and MIC. This project provided financial supports for resources targeted at students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The key aim of the project was to reduce absenteeism and to promote positive thinking and increase self esteem among the selected students. A review of the project showed that it worked well. The work of the school and its partners in this project is commended.

 

The role of the HSCL officer is acknowledged as providing valuable support for students and their families. The HSCL officer is involved in a local education committee that works to support the education of students from a variety of backgrounds. The good work done by the HSCL officer is acknowledged and commended.

 

The school provides financial support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and examples of this support were offered during the evaluation. The good work done by the school in supporting students in this manner is commended.

 

 

6.3          Guidance

 

This section outlines aspects of whole-school Guidance provision. Further details may be found by referring to the report Subject Inspection of Guidance.

 

Three staff members are involved in the provision of guidance and counselling in the school. One staff member deals exclusively with the students in the Organic College. Two staff members provide guidance and counselling in Hazelwood College. There was a strong sense of satisfaction among the parents interviewed about the high level of individual availability to students of the guidance counsellors. It is reported that the school-based guidance counsellors are attending in-service education on whole-school guidance planning and this is encouraged and commended.

 

Currently, the only timetabled provision for guidance and counselling exists at senior cycle within the LCA programme where the programme requires that a qualified guidance counsellor teach the Guidance module of the Vocational Preparation and Guidance component. However, interview revealed that there are informal arrangements for Guidance and Counselling provision across the various year groups. It is noted that first, fifth, and sixth-year students, in particular, benefit from a high level of individual guidance. In addition, third year students are met individually before they sit the Junior Certificate examination. It is noted that the personnel undertaking the role of guidance counsellors also undertake other very significant roles with significant workloads within the school. In supporting the school in its delivery of Guidance and Counselling to students, it is recommended that formal timetabled provision be created for Guidance and Counselling at junior and senior cycles. This will facilitate the dissemination of information to students, enable continuity of provision, and assure regular student exposure to guidance and counselling. Further details are contained in the report Subject Inspection of Guidance.

 

The guidance counsellors are instrumental in administering and interpreting the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) for third-year students and the AH2/3 assessments for incoming students. They are always available to parents and students during the open days and at the open nights on programme and subject choices. This commitment and good work is acknowledged and commended.

 

In the last school year, an induction and orientation course was run for enrolling first-year students. This course was organised and run by personnel external to the school. The provision of an induction course for enrolling students is a positive measure and is commended. As part of ongoing review, it would be beneficial if teachers were polled for their input on the various components of the induction course. This input could help to continue to shape the induction course so that it is specific to the nature of the school. A review process could also serve to inform teachers on the guidance that students receive in advance of attending the school and to seek their input on subject-specific matters.

 

 

6.4          Pastoral care

 

A common vision of the school as a caring and safe place was recorded among all groups interviewed during the evaluation. Formally, a pastoral care policy is being developed and this is encouraged. It is advised that development of this policy at draft stage should actively seek input from the HSCL officer, learning support team, and guidance and counselling team. This is advised as the task group involved in formulation of the policy does not currently have representation from these staff members.

 

The school views the transition from primary to post-primary school as a crucial time for students. To this end, the school organises a bonding trip to Capanalea Outdoor Centre for first year students. All TY students also go on the trip. Each TY student acts as a mentor for a small group of first year students. This initiative is reported as working well and as supporting first year students in their introduction to life in post-primary school. This is commended.

 

The school has a Student Services Support Team (SSST) in place. The SSST meets twice each week to discuss and deal with a wide range of issues affecting students. Records of these meetings are maintained and this is appropriate. The records for an academic year were viewed and these showed that the school is proactive and caring in its approach to dealing with students who are experiencing personal difficulties. The work of the SSST is commended.

 

The school holds an annual awards day at which it recognises the academic, sporting and personal achievements and improvements of students from all year groups. Such an awards day is beneficial in affirming student attainment and achievement and its holistic nature promotes inclusivity.

 

The school does not have an assigned chaplain. As a vocational school, there is no formal provision for such an assignment. The school recognises the need to provide for the combined pastoral and spiritual care of its students. To this end, it is reported that an inter-denominational service is held annually within the school. It is noted that the school is investigating how it may provide students with access to a chaplaincy service.

 

There are links with the Health Services Executive (HSE), West Limerick Resources, and an external counselling facility. These support students’ and teachers’ work in dealing with students who have difficulties.

 

An indicator of the level of practical consideration given to student welfare is that three years ago all staff undertook first aid training. This initiative is highly commended.

 

A democratically elected student council is in place in the school. The council meets regularly and is supported in its work by a teacher who attends the meetings. The council members are representative of the year groups in the school and the council is gender balanced. The secretary of the council meets with the principal after each meeting to discuss the outcomes of the meetings. Minutes of council meetings were viewed and these showed the council to be proactive and involved in life of the school in a practical manner. The council has been active in a number of areas and has achieved progress in having resolutions and ideas adopted and implemented. The school shows good support for the work of the council by allocating students official class time in which to conduct the business of the council. There are good systems in place to inform other students of the outcomes of elections to the council and of the work accomplished at council meetings. Interviews showed an evident sense of mutual respect for the work of the council and the work of school staff.

 

 

7.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

8.    Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board is pleased that the school has been evaluated at this time. It is most impressed by the thorough nature of the evaluation. Many of the observations made are in keeping with the Board’s vision for the school. The acknowledgement of the fact that it is a very caring school is heartening. The comments on policy and planning are helpful to the Board as an indication that the college is very much up to date in its interpretation of the guidelines laid down by the most recent pieces of legislation.

 

The recognition of the diligence and hard work of the staff, while not surprising, is most welcome. The recognition of the fact that many staff members give willingly of their time is an indication of the thorough nature of the evaluation. The general affirmation of staff and students is most welcome.

 

The Board of Management would like to convey to the members of the evaluation team their sincere thanks for a job very well done.

 

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

 

The Board is mindful of its own responsibilities and in the coming months and years it will, in consultation with staff, parents and students, evaluate the findings and recommendations with a view to their implementation.