An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Vocational School

Abbeyfeale County Limerick

Roll number: 71870H

 

Date of inspection: 11 April 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of the Vocational School, Abbeyfeale was undertaken in April 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in four subjects was evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section 7 for details). The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction

 

Founded in 1951, the Vocational School Abbeyfeale is one of three post-primary schools in Abbeyfeale town. It is a co-educational school with an inclusive student intake, comprising students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and minority groups. One of the key supports from which the school benefits is DEIS, the educational inclusion initiative of the Department of Education and Science. In recent years, County Limerick Vocational Education Committee (VEC) has engaged in partnership talks with the other two second-level schools in the town, with a view to amalgamation. An agreed new community college is set to be delivered through a public-private-partnership project on September 2011.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The school has a clearly articulated vision that is written down in its mission statement, is communicated to the school community, and is reviewed collaboratively. Its core values are to treat each student as a unique individual to help them achieve their full potential in a caring, inclusive environment and to instil in students a respect for themselves, their fellow students, family, school staff, and for society in general. A commitment to collaboration with the education partners as the key strategy for bringing about school improvement is enshrined in the motto “Ar aghaidh mar aonad.”

 

The trustees support the school effectively to promote and foster its characteristic spirit. Also, the board of management’s visible presence at school functions such as open nights for prospective first-year students and at graduation masses concretely communicates its support of the school’s core values.

 

The characteristic spirit of the school is evident in its day-to-day running. A strong student-centred focus manifests itself in the school’s pastoral care structures, broad curriculum, array of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, and in students’ reports and reflections in the school magazine. In particular, parents praised teachers and managements’ understanding and handling of individual student situations and stated their wish to see student support continue as a key value of the new community college. Finally, the culture of openness to change that has developed in the school enables it to continually re-examine the strategies it uses to achieve its objectives.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The executive functions of the VEC as patron are performed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on behalf of County Limerick VEC. The school’s board of management is a subcommittee of County Limerick VEC.

 

County Limerick VEC actively contributes to the effective provision of education in the school. It assists the school with student support, school planning, staffing, financial, and plant and building issues. The VEC funds continuing professional development (CPD) for staff and gives final approval to school policies and procedures. Meetings of all second-level principals within the scheme are organised a number of times a year and a training weekend for all principals and deputy principals is generally organised annually. Senior management and the general school staff spoke very highly of these trustee supports for the school over the course of the evaluation. Finally, the VEC has been very supportive of the preparations for amalgamation being made by Abbeyfeale’s three second-level schools.

 

The board is appropriately constituted and is supported by the trustees to ensure the effective provision of education in the school. Communication between the board and the VEC takes place through the sending of meeting reports to the VEC by the principal, at the request of the board. In turn the VEC communicates with the board through its various staff members, and through phone calls and meetings involving the CEO and the principal.

 

The board is aware of its role and responsibility through the provision of A Handbook for Vocational Education Committees and Boards of Management of Schools and Community Colleges (2006) to all members, through training undertaken by all board members, and through the fact that all members have served at least three years on the board. Its meetings are well-attended, it reaches decisions through consensus, and it fulfils its functions and responsibilities professionally. The board has identified a number of school development priorities. Of immediate concern to the board is supporting the functioning of the existing vocational school until the new community college opens and also simultaneously supporting the integration of the staffs and cultures of the three schools in the town to facilitate an effective amalgamation. Leading the school in working through the recommendations arising from this report will also constitute one of the board’s development priorities.

 

Consultation and partnership are evident at board level. Decision-making procedures are steered by the best interests of the school community. The board’s communication mechanisms with the VEC are well-developed. However, there is scope for development in relation to its communication mechanisms with staff and parents. At present, teacher nominees on the board orally report on issues considered relevant to staff during morning or lunch breaks. It is advised that this informal mechanism be replaced and/or complemented by the provision of a formal, written report to staff on the outcomes of board meetings. Moreover, due to insufficient parental interest in sitting on a parents’ association, the board’s formal collaboration with parents is currently limited. Consultation and involvement in school policy development only takes place with the parent nominees on the board and with a few other volunteer parents. The principal communicates some outcomes of board meetings through letters home to parents. It is suggested that an agreed report from the board to parents could be posted on the school website and/or an oral report be presented by the principal at the various open, information, parent-teacher meetings, and other school events where parents are invited for the next few years. It is to be hoped that a parents’ association will successfully be established in the new community college, enabling appropriate consultation with the parent body.

 

The board has devolved responsibility for the development of the school plan to staff members and has engaged in the school planning process through policy development and adoption. The board has adopted legally required policies on admission, attendance, behaviour, bullying and harassment, child protection, and safety. While work on the whole-school guidance plan has commenced and a draft of the special educational needs policy has been prepared, it is recommended that both policies be developed fully as a matter of urgency. The school’s health and safety statement and procedures also need to be reviewed and updated, as discussed in section 1.4. To support the process of school development planning, it is recommended that the topic be included as a regular item on the agenda of board meetings. 

 

1.3          In-school management

 

In the context of this report, in-school management is taken to include senior management (principal and deputy principal), middle management (both assistant principals and special duties teachers), and other staff members who have responsibilities in relation to the effective functioning of aspects of the school’s operation.

 

The principal and deputy principal share a student-centred, community-focused vision for the school, have a strong presence in the school, and are readily available to the school community. They work together in a complementary manner, sharing day-to-day management. Also, they adopt a collaborative approach with staff in agreeing on and achieving the aims of the school. As a result of senior management’s leadership, combined with support from staff, parents, the board, students, and the community, the school has realised a number of its goals over the past decade. However, greater clarity in relation to the specific roles and responsibilities of the principal and deputy principal is needed, to ensure that their respective duties are clear to all staff members and to the school community. Also, while senior management meets informally every day and formally once a week to collaboratively plan work, it is suggested that they should also meet formally once a day to conduct this work.

 

Posts of responsibility are awarded in accordance with agreed procedures and duties are subsequently negotiated by post-holders with senior management. However, the communication of the up-to-date list of those duties to all staff members and to the school community is an area for development. In relation to the overall schedule of posts, no review cycle has been established and only limited changes have been made with new appointments over the years. Hence, it is recommended that the school’s schedule of posts and the current duties being performed by senior management be reviewed by the whole staff, to ensure that the school’s current and emerging priorities for development are being clearly targeted and addressed.

 

Post-holders provide a report on their performance of duties at the end of the school year. The combination of those post-holder reports and ongoing, informal monitoring provides management with a mechanism for ensuring that delegated responsibilities are carried out effectively.

 

Regular communication between members of senior and middle management is a strength of the school. Assistant principals meet as a group with the principal and deputy principal every week. This commendable forum enables assistant principals to contribute to the leadership of the school by acting as a sounding-board for senior management’s ideas while also bringing new ideas of staff members to senior management. The establishment of a representative school planning steering group is also commended for promoting more shared leadership in the school. In addition, the principal meets all members of middle management individually throughout the school year in relation to specific tasks they are responsible for. Finally, there is also regular communication between senior management and the whole staff through short briefings and feedback-gathering sessions during morning breaks and through staff meetings and planning days.

 

CPD is facilitated by school management through release for attendance at in-service days and by financial support from County Limerick VEC. CPD has also been organised by school management as part of school staff and planning days and as part of the conjoint planning process for the new community college. Looking toward the future, it is suggested that formal in-house inputs from staff who have attended or are delivering training days and who have engaged in further study be more systematically utilised as a form of CPD. Specific areas where it is advised that CPD be undertaken are discussed in the different sections of this report.

 

The school’s admissions policy reflects its mission statement and is grounded in the principles of equality, diversity, inclusion, and natural justice. It is suggested that the “Application form for International Students” included in the admissions policy be reviewed in line with the recommendations of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)’s publication Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School: Guidelines for Schools (pgs 31-32).

 

The school strives to include the diversity of students in all curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

 

Guidance, counselling and care strategies including the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme are in place to support all students.

 

A structured code of conduct is in operation in the school. Originally prepared as a draft policy template by County Limerick VEC, the code has been modified to some extent through consultations involving all staff, the board, and representative parents and students. Changes to the code have been incorporated at regular intervals in response to issues arising. It is recommended that the code be reviewed in line with the advice for general school policy development offered in section 2.1 and in relation to Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools (2008 National Educational Welfare Board publication). Key aspects of that review should include incorporating more whole-school strategies for promoting positive behaviour, eliminating internal contradictions and unnecessary repetitions, and producing a code that is more accessible to parents and students. In this regard, the students‘council could be invited to help translate the code into a student-oriented, accessible format. A presentation on codes of behaviour was provided to the whole staff as part of the conjoint planning process for the new community college. Other relevant professional development supports can be accessed through the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) and through Department-subsidised distance learning courses offered through the SESS by the Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe (ICEP Europe). (See http://www.sess.ie/sess/Main/Courses.htm). Also, recommendations to further enhance the consistent implementation of the school’s code of behaviour are made in relation to the school’s class tutor system in section 5.2.

 

The students’ council is seen as having an important part to play in the life and operation of the school. It has worked to bring about particular changes to school life, through a partnership approach with senior management. To enable it to fully perform its representative functions, the students’ council should be guided to draft its own constitution and should be consulted in the process of school planning, in the same manner as all education partners. Also, it is advised that the current ad hoc arrangements for calling council meetings be revised and be put on a more formal, regular basis. Finally, the school is encouraged to approach County Limerick VEC to seek formal training for its students’ council and liaison teacher.

 

Attendance and retention are monitored by senior management and by the staff member with assigned School Completion Programme (SCP) duties and are promoted through a number of strategies. For instance, contacting homes where students are absent without reason for more than three school days is the responsibility of the staff member with SCP duties. Likewise, attendance awards are presented to students at the annual awards day. In addition, home visits by the home-school-community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator and occasionally by the SCP co-ordinator are undertaken to help maximise the attendance and retention of targeted students. Closer formal collaboration between the SCP, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and Leaving certificate Applied (LCA) programme co-ordinators would also be a significant support to student retention and achievement.

 

The main channels for school-home communication are parent-teacher meetings, twice-yearly reports detailing individual student progress, information evenings organised for parents of particular year groups, student journals, letters home, home visits by the HSCL co-ordinator, and information communicated through local newspapers and local radio and read from the altar of the local church. The school also facilitates the provision of information on individual student progress to parents where required and requested. However, there is scope for more consistent whole-school use of notes in students’ journals as another communication mechanism with parents. At present, the school has no parents’ association, even though senior management organised meetings to establish an association in December 2007 and before that in December 2004. Parents support the work of the school by supporting extra-curricular activities. Also, volunteer parents, as well as the parent nominees on the board, have vetted draft school policies to date, in an attempt to ensure that parents’ issues are factored into the drafting of such policies. Effective, formal, ongoing communication with regard to the future amalgamation has been established with the parent body, by organising an information meeting for them and by the circulation of the agreed reports of the steering committee for the amalgamation to all parents.

 

A commendable network of links has been established among the school, past students, appropriate outside agencies, and the community. Those links support work experience, the guidance of students from school to higher or further education or work, civic programmes, the development of students’ multiple intelligences, and the development of teachers’ expertise.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

Teachers are generally timetabled for the requisite number of teaching hours and where a reduction in teaching hours is given, this is for appropriate management, planning and organisation or meeting purposes. Teachers are generally provided with the opportunity to teach a range of levels and cycles. Senior management should use a formal survey of teachers’ subjects, levels, programmes and on their suggestions for class organisation and timetabling to inform the deployment of teachers and the construction of the school timetable. The additional teaching resources allocated to the school for the inclusion of students with additional educational needs are being fully employed. However, their use is generally determined more by subject, programme and staffing factors within the school than by individual student learning needs at present. See section 5.1 for a more detailed discussion of this issue.

 

County Limerick VEC organises a formal induction day for new staff members at the beginning of every school year. The school also organises a brief induction for new staff members and temporary appointees, where key documents from the school plan such as a detailed school map, a visual reference guide to all staff members, and key school policies are provided.

 

The school is well served by its secretarial, caretaking, and cleaning staff. These support staff have defined roles and responsibilities, are consulted in relation to school policies and procedures affecting their work, and are encouraged by school management to suggest improvements in their areas of responsibility. They are fully integrated into the social life of the school and reported that they are always treated with respect by senior management.

 

School management, the caretaker, the former staff member who provided and continues to provide repairs and assistance, the cleaners, and the whole staff are commended for their commitment to maintaining the school to a high standard and to developing a positive teaching and learning environment for their students. The school comprises a two-storey 1951 building, a 1980s permanent block, and 1990s temporary prefabricated accommodation. Just under half of the classrooms in the school are prefabs. This situation poses ongoing maintenance issues. However, the school has put a good deal of energy and effort into maintaining and improving its facilities. Over the past ten years, for example, intercom and CCTV systems have been installed throughout the school campus and notice boards and display cabinets for student awards have been installed in the main school hallway.  Perspex overhead shelters have been attached to adjoining prefabs to protect staff and students from the elements. Secure teacher-designed storage solutions for AV equipment have been installed. A pro-active approach has been taken to adapting the campus to meet the needs of wheelchair users and to working with the students’ council to establish a games room in a former storage room. Maintenance work to some prefabs has been accomplished and trees adjacent to the campus have been inspected and thinned out. However, unsatisfactory accommodation issues continue to exist. While the school has an outdoor basketball court and a handball alley, it has no full-size playing pitch, no gym, no changing rooms and no showers. Also, it is acknowledged that the school has done good work in colour coding and separating chemicals at the back of its science laboratory. However, a dedicated preparation area or an area for secure storage is the recommended arrangement for the storage of chemicals. While the school has tried to identify a space near the laboratory for such a storage area, no such space could be found in the present campus. The monitoring of the safety of the science laboratory and its contents needs to remain a high priority for the board and for senior management.

 

Material resources are provided to support teaching and learning upon request from subject departments. School management has also been proactive in supplying such resources as TVs, DVD players, and computers in some classrooms. The school has commendably developed a formal system for keeping stock of existing resources and identifying future resource needs.

 

The school has made good progress on numerous aspects of information and communications technology (ICT) provision. The school’s ICT facilities comprise a general ICT room, a resource ICT room, and a computer-aided design (CAD) room. Also, an internet-connected computer is located in the staff room and there are ICT facilities in most offices. An ICT co-ordinator is in place, who has guided the school to develop a whole-school ICT plan and an acceptable use policy for students. The school’s main ICT focus to date has been the maintenance and development of its ICT infrastructure; the delivery of European Computer Driver Licence (ECDL) programmes to students; the integration of ICT into school administration, special educational needs support, and the teaching and learning of some subjects; and the establishment of a school website.  The next areas for development that have been identified within the school are greater integration of ICT into the teaching and learning of all subjects, the development of an ICT committee, the review of the school’s existing ICT plan, and work on specific technical issues. It is advised that ICT in Schools (2008 inspectorate publication), ICT planning advice available on the NCTE website, and forthcoming NCTE courses on the development of e-Learning plans for principals and ICT co-ordinating teachers be accessed to support this ongoing work. Also, it is suggested that a booking form for available time slots in the general and CAD ICT rooms be established and that access to ICT equipment for departments other than those currently equipped be expanded. Looking toward the future,  the school website could be further developed by the posting of school policies and procedures on it, thus enabling the school to circulate its school plan, in accordance with the requirements of the Education Act (1998). The website could also support students’ learning by directing them to useful educational websites.

 

The school’s health and safety statement is a generic document and is not related to the specific hazards and protocols in the school. The document and its provisions are in need of review and update. Also, no formal, ongoing whole-school risk assessment system has yet been established by the school. County Limerick VEC is engaged in discussions with regard to advising schools on how risk assessment systems can be set up in schools. It is recommended that this information and/or training be provided to the school as a matter of urgency. The school will find Occupational Health and Safety in the Technologies in the Post-Primary School a useful reference book in this regard.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

The school is engaged in an ongoing planning process, involving the collaboration of the board, all teachers, two representative senior students, and two representative parents. Advice in relation to the greater involvement of parents and the students’ council in this process is offered in the previous section of this report.

 

Originally, the principal co-ordinated the development of the school plan. The task was then devolved to the deputy principal in recent years. In addition, teachers have contributed to this work as individuals and as members of teams. In March 2008, the school set about establishing a more representative staff body to lead school planning, comprising the school planning co-ordinator and staff-elected representatives of assistant principals, special duties teachers, and non post-holders. The establishment of this steering group to operate as the formal co-ordinating structure leading school planning is highly commended.

 

The period 1998 to 2008 has witnessed effective whole-staff action planning and implementation in the following areas: curricular and programme development, student management, infrastructural development, co- and extra-curricular activities, student support, subject department planning, and the greater involvement of assistant principals in school planning. Prioritised changes arising from action planning have resulted in some identifiable improvements in the experiences of students. In particular, the school’s use of data in relation to students’ subject preferences, achievements in State examinations, and information recorded in homework journals for evidence-based trend identification and solution planning is good practice. Likewise, the school’s active involvement in conjoint planning for curricular and management aspects of the new community college is highly commended.

 

A key characteristic of the school’s action planning process over the past decade has been whole-staff involvement in the identification and pursuit of clear development priorities. However, the school’s policy-development process has not been as dynamic in the same period. To date, the school has tended to develop policies and procedures in a reactive manner, either in anticipation of statutory requirements or as new draft policy templates have been issued by County Limerick VEC. A number of shortcomings were noted in ratified and draft policies. For example, many of the ratified policy documents were quite lengthy and not aligned with the school planning policy headings promoted by SDPI or by the Department on its website. (This issue was discussed with relevant VEC officers during the evaluation and was accepted as an area for development by them).  In some policies, details had been continually added to by the school in response to particular issues, but those documents hadn’t then been streamlined to eliminate internal contradictions and unnecessary repetition. In addition, finer details not compatible with the school’s individual context were present in some of the school’s policies. Moreover, the understanding and ownership of some policy documents by some staff members was tentative. The school is advised to focus its efforts on preparing policies that are firmly grounded in the school’s unique context and mission, that are the fruit of whole-school involvement from the drafting stage onward, and that are written in accessible language, thus making it more likely that the policies will be effectively and consistently implemented. Essentially, the same motivation, creativity and self-evaluative approach manifested in the school’s action planning process needs to be channelled into its policy-development process.

 

It is suggested that at the start of every school year, a whole-school review of the priorities targeted and work achieved in relation to those targets in the previous year could be presented to staff and that development priorities for that school year could be agreed by the whole staff. Then task teams could be formed where a task brief, roles, responsibilities, timeframes, and success criteria would be agreed. Ideally, if the members of the school planning steering group now established were members of each of those task teams, they could then co-ordinate the work of those teams and report to the school planning steering group and to their assigned team.  Ultimately, the acquisition of even more knowledge of school planning principles and resources within the school staff will further strengthen this process.

 

The school plan that has been developed over time combines school vision, mission, and context information with some draft and ratified policy statements, descriptions of organisational arrangements within the school, and records of school planning development days. It is recommended that the school plan be organised into a ‘permanent’ section (incorporating policies and procedures ratified by the board) and a ‘developmental and action planning’ section. Also, it is recommended that the whole-school guidance plan and the special educational needs policy be fully developed as a matter of urgency and that the school’s Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and health and safety statement and procedures be reviewed and updated. (See sections 1.2, 1.4, and 5.2). Even though the school is scheduled for amalgamation in September 2011, it is recommended that it continue planning for the vocational school as a distinct entity. Not only will this help the school produce its annual report for the VEC, but clearly identified descriptions of the school’s procedures and practices will also be available to the amalgamation steering committee to aid planning for the new community college.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Post-primary Circulars M44/05 and 0062/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines. 

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Breadth of curricular provision is a strength of the school. It offers the Junior Certificate (JC), the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the established Leaving Certificate (LC), the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP),  and some adult education classes.

 

The curricular review that has taken place over the past ten years in collaboration with the school community is another one of the school’s strengths, demonstrating its recognition of the need for openness to change. Since 1998, LCA, LCVP and JCSP, and ECDL programmes have been established. Vocational specialisms have been changed to meet the needs and interests of particular LCA cohorts and a fourth-year ab initio French class was established in 2007/08 to enable those who had dropped French in junior cycle to qualify for the LCVP programme. However, particular areas of the school curriculum are in need of further review.

 

First-year students generally study thirteen examination subjects plus three additional subjects. At the end of that year, they drop two subjects. It is acknowledged and commended that the first-year programme enables students to experience new subjects, and thus helps them to make more informed subject choices for junior cycle study. However, the current timetabling arrangements for first-year students constitute a heavy load, particularly for those with low literacy levels. Hence, it is recommended that the first-year timetable and curriculum be reviewed.

 

The school’s JCSP incorporates a number of experiential activities and approaches into the learning opportunities of the target cohort. All first-year students are taught using JCSP methodologies in five subjects. After the organisation of students into second-year class groups, one class group is designated as the JCSP class for second and third year. Strengths of the school’s JCSP programme include its success in securing and implementing JCSP initiatives, the links it builds between home and school through exhibitions and celebrations, and its promotion of personal reading to JCSP and other students by operating an in-school library. There are also a number of significant areas for development in the school’s JCSP programme. First, whole-staff awareness and understanding of JCSP needs to be more explicitly developed. Secondly, it is advised that the JCSP co-ordinator, in conjunction with the core group of JCSP teachers should develop a plan to set out key areas of the school’s JCSP. Regular meetings of the JCSP core team would be very useful to help achieve this goal. Elements of the JCSP plan should include its aims and objectives, JSCP-specific timetable considerations (such as the need to timetable English and Mathematics for this cohort in the morning as much as possible), selection criteria for students, whole- school literacy and numeracy strategies, the provision of social and personal guidance focused on the individual needs of students in the JCSP cohort, meeting arrangements for the core JCSP team, and links to SCP for retention and joint project planning. The JCSP support service, the 2005 inspectorate publication Building on Success: An Evaluation of the JCSP, and JCSP evaluation reports on the Department’s website will be useful reference sources in this regard. Thirdly, all subject departments should identify, as part of subject department planning, how they will support the key objectives of the JCSP programme. Whether or not departments use learning targets and profiling statements with students, they can all highlight literacy, numeracy, personal and social development and transferable cross-curricular skills to junior cycle students in their teaching, can examine the JCSP learning targets for their subjects as an aid to lesson planning, and can use JCSP resources. Reviewing and further developing whole-school support for the school’s JCSP will inevitably raise the quality of teaching and learning in the school even higher and will infuse JCSP aims and methodologies into the new community college culture.

 

The LCA and LCVP are well-established and are fully implemented. Common strengths of the two programmes are the purposeful tasks they set for the use of ICT, their use of guest speakers, and the strong links they have established between the school and potential employers in the town. Uptake in LCVP has increased over the years, as a result of the regular promotion of the programme’s career preparation and potential CAO points benefits to students and parents. The LCA has also been a successful addition to the school’s curriculum, providing students with active and experiential learning opportunities and encouraging them to develop their interests and skills through activities such as the practical achievement task. During the evaluation, scope for maximising available hours through combined timetabling of LCA year one and year two cohorts for certain subjects was identified. Also, it is advised that the school’s formal monitoring arrangements for work experience be communicated to all students, parents, and employers and that a protocol be established for discreetly supporting students from minority or disadvantaged groups to secure work experience placements, if requested. Furthermore, the LCVP programme would be further strengthened if cross-curricular links were developed between the sequence of topics taught in the LCVP link modules and in the designated vocational subject groupings.

 

Offering a broad balance of subjects is a core value in the Vocational School, Abbeyfeale. However, the school’s capacity to offer this range is constrained by its enrolment and its staff numbers. In situations where an insufficient number of students choose an optional subject to make a viable class, senior management either decides to drop the subject for that junior or senior cycle group or to use hours allocated for additional education support to run the class. To date, school management has run some non-viable subject and programme classes from hours allocated for additional education support. In discussions with senior management, it was clear that in most cases, the subject or programme classes created directly benefit students in the target student-support group. However, while acknowledging the fact that the school seeks to provide a curriculum that meets the interests of students, a curriculum also needs to meet students’ needs and abilities. Consequently, four recommendations are offered.

 

First, the existing decision-making criteria and processes for timetable construction need to be documented. Second, consultation with the post-holder for special educational needs support (see section 5.1) and with teachers co-ordinating the support of Traveller and international students in relation to best use of the hours allocated for their support needs to be integrated into the timetable construction process. Third, decisions taken as a result of that consultative process need to be documented and added to the files of those students for whom additional support hours were allocated. Such documentation will significantly aid individual education plan (IEP) preparation. Fourth, the school’s timetable construction principles and practices should be reviewed in relation to the Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines (2007 inspectorate publication).

 

Strategies that promote equality of access to subjects and programmes are well-established in the school. (See section 3.2). However, Physical Education (PE) is a notable exception from the timetables of all junior cycle students and of senior cycle students, with the exception of the Leisure and Recreation studies modules provided for LCA students to enable them to fulfil their programme requirements. It is acknowledged that the school has poor physical resources to offer such classes and has no qualified PE teacher on staff. Tribute is paid elsewhere in this report to the work being carried out by staff and management of the school in the area of extra-curricular games and outdoor pursuits. It is recommended that planning for the new community college should ensure that all students have access to a physical education programme as part of their timetabled school hours and that the subject is delivered by a qualified PE teacher(s).

 

The school’s promotion of equality of access to levels in certain subjects is also in need of development. Although the school used different class-formation procedures when it had three first-year class groups, it placed all students with special educational needs into one first-year class group in 2007/08. As has been the tradition in the school, students are then formally streamed into class groups at the end of first year for all subjects except their optional ones, based on the aggregate of examination results in their core subjects. It is recommended that this policy of streaming students be revised. Given the school’s current context, it is advised that school management and staff explore all class-formation possibilities, from mixed ability in some subjects to setting in others. In particular, junior cycle classes in Irish, English, and Mathematics should be concurrently timetabled as appropriate, to allow for student movement between levels. Also, given that learning and resource support are generally provided opposite Irish and French classes, the concurrent timetabling of each of those two subjects will enable more effective delivery of that additional educational support.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

The school offers a high level of support to students and parents with regard to subject and programme choices.

 

Students are given an open choice of subjects and curricular programmes within the limitations of the resources available to the school. Students are also facilitated, as far as is possible, to alter their subject or programme choice. The facility provided to students to fill in choice forms and then receive feedback on the implications of their choices before filling them in for final collation was particularly praised by parents. Guidance on subject and programme choice is provided to students through ad hoc junior cycle classes, timetabled senior cycle classes, individual meetings with guidance counsellors, an impressive library of career-area focused binders, and a highly-regarded, school-organised biennial role model careers initiative. To further develop this service, it is recommended that junior guidance be planned and delivered in consultation with the SPHE department, rather than on the current basis of borrowing a class when another teacher is absent. Also, it is suggested that the guidance teacher plan the team-teaching/ borrowing of classes from teachers of junior cycle ICT, to provide students with adequate time for browsing relevant guidance websites.

 

Parents are included in the choice process and are given appropriate and timely information on the options available through the first year parent-teacher meeting, a dedicated guidance information night for the parents of third-year students, during requested appointments with the school, and through handouts that are sent home. It is suggested that such information could also be posted on the school’s website, to accommodate parents who might not be able to attend a particular information evening.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

A range of cultural, aesthetic, community, social and sporting activities and opportunities to support and enhance learning is provided by the school. Among those activities are debating, quizzes, day tours, media studies, field trips, school tours, science competitions and trips, Make-a-Book projects and exhibitions, a fun day, and a biennial experiential learning festival. In addition, a wide range of sporting activities is offered including Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, athletics, and table tennis. Management and staff encourage all students to participate fully in these activities. All those involved in organising activities for students are highly commended. The teachers involved spoke of the value they place on students’ involvement in such activities and the benefit that accrues from participation in these activities to students’ personal and social development. Students’ achievement in all aspects of school life is celebrated through photographs displayed on school walls, through the school website, in the local newspaper and on local radio, and during the annual awards day.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

The process of subject department planning is ongoing and complements existing practices of individual teachers in subject planning. Subject departments meet formally at the beginning of the school year and during some staff planning days. They also meet in their own time throughout the school year. The professional commitment and interest of the teachers involved is laudable. Records of meetings are maintained and where appropriate reports are presented to senior management outlining the issues discussed and actions taken by each department.

 

The subject departments have worked collaboratively to produce subject planning documents and the work that has been achieved to date is commended. While the subject department plans evaluated were at varying stages of development, some of them were described by inspectors as impressive or comprehensive.  In the context of ongoing subject planning with regard to some subjects evaluated, it is recommended that along with the headings outlined in the relevant SDPI template, planning should also be engaged in for the identification of learning outcomes for each year group, for methodologies, for JCSP cohorts, for the incorporation of cross-curricular and experiential learning opportunities, and for the further integration of ICT.

 

Good preparation and advance individual planning of lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation. This effective individual planning should be extended to all class groups. Teachers have developed a good variety of teaching resources to support teaching and learning. Recommendations for the future development of subject plans in the subjects evaluated are contained in the respective subject reports.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

Clear learning outcomes were shared with students at the outset of most lessons. Almost all lessons were well-structured, utilised a variety of appropriate resources, and were presented at a pace that accommodated the individual abilities of students.

 

The chalkboard/whiteboard and relevant visual and tactile materials were frequently employed to support and consolidate learning and teaching. In some lessons effective use was made of ICT to focus students’ attention and enhance learning.

 

A range of methodologies was employed across the subjects evaluated including active approaches that created opportunities for independent and collaborative learning, differentiated techniques, the integration of practical and theoretical skills, and the integration of the four language skills. Solely teacher-led approaches were seen to be less effective in engaging students and it is recommended that the aforementioned teaching and learning methodologies be employed to optimal effect in all cycles and programmes.

 

Very good questioning, explaining and modelling strategies were used in most classes observed to engage students in the learning activity, to check understanding, to support students in the development of higher-order thinking skills, and to link new information with prior learning. Students displayed a good knowledge and understanding of subjects, pertinent skills and subject-specific terminology according to their class group and level in almost all classes evaluated. To raise levels of student engagement and learning even higher, it is recommended that a more whole-school approach to the use of JCSP methods be adopted and that the school engage with the SLSS in the areas of teaching strategies and methodologies appropriate to the various class contexts and groupings.

 

There was evidence that experiential learning opportunities (either inside or outside the school) were being used to enhance students’ learning in some of the subjects evaluated and that some departments had developed cross-curricular links to support students’ learning. Those good practices are to be encouraged for all subject areas.

 

Teachers demonstrated very good health and safety practices in the completion of all their work. All practical activities that students engaged in were closely monitored. Print and visually-rich learning environments had been generated in some of the classrooms visited. This visual representation of subject-specific information is commended as very good practice. 

 

Classroom management was effective in lessons and students were courteous and respectful of their teachers and their fellow students. The classroom atmosphere in all lessons was positive and teachers are to be commended for their commitment to the care of their students.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes is used to monitor student competence and progress including formal examinations at Christmas and summer, pre-certificate examinations for third and fifth years, class tests and questioning during lessons, and project work. In addition, the practice observed in some subjects of aggregating marks for students’ performances in assessments of knowledge, skills, and coursework to arrive at an end-of-term/year result was particularly impressive, offering students more manageable targets for success and sustaining their motivation throughout a term/year. It is recommended that this approach be extended across all subject departments.

 

Sections of the school’s code of behaviour refer to the school’s policy in relation to homework and to the use of the school journal. Homework is set and monitored in the subjects evaluated. Where best practice was observed, students were given specific instructions before commencing tasks on the product they were supposed to produce. Also, some teachers commendably provided good formative feedback on students’ work, identifying strengths in their work and giving specific advice on how they could improve the work. Further information and support on the provision of formative feedback is available on the “Assessment for Learning” pages of the NCCA website (www.ncca.ie) and whole-staff/group inputs on the topic can be sourced through the SLSS.

 

The outcomes of formal and informal assessment are reported to parents through parent-teacher meetings and school reports. The school maintains records of student achievement in all formal assessments, including in State examinations. Best practice was observed where State examinations chief examiners’ reports and marking schemes were being used by teachers to inform assessment procedures employed. It is recommended that subject departments should engage formally in the analysis of students’ uptake of, and achievement within, subject levels in State examinations. They should also compare those rates to national norms, while remaining mindful of individual student abilities and achievements. 

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

Leadership in guiding the development of a fully-inclusive school has been demonstrated by senior management in a number of ways. For example, school management was very pro-active in ensuring that physical modifications were made to support the inclusion of a student with a physical disability. In response to requests from teachers providing learning support and resource support, school management timetabled a cluster of rooms for that work around a base room (where appropriate reference texts and resources are gathered together). Moreover, the school successfully sought funds to establish a small computer room for students with special educational needs, where specialist literacy-development software has been installed.

 

The admission and enrolment of students with special educational needs is detailed within the whole-school admissions and enrolment policy. Also, the school is in the process of developing a special educational needs policy. It is recommended that its draft special educational needs be reviewed to ensure it complies with the advice and guidance set out in Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines (2007 inspectorate publication), as a matter of urgency. That document gives advice on whole school planning and organisation for special educational needs and inclusion, identifies roles and responsibilities, and advises on planning for individuals with special educational needs, the utilisation of resources and on teaching and learning strategies for the inclusive school.

 

As for the whole staff’s awareness of its responsibilities towards students with special educational needs, some inputs by external providers have been organised to date, including sessions on inclusion, differentiation, and on mixed-ability teaching strategies. Also, special educational needs post-holders have informally liaised with subject teachers in the past and have been invited by school management to provide a few whole staff inputs over the years. It is advised that the support educational needs post-holder be facilitated to regularly give short presentations at staff meetings. For example, during the first staff meeting of every academic year, the post-holder could give an overview of the special educational needs of new students and on strategies for working with them. Topics the special educational needs post-holder could discuss at subsequent meetings could include the development of the school’s special educational needs policy, the role of the mainstream teacher in working with students with special educational needs, and so on. Moreover, the school should also seek support from the Special Education Support Service (SESS), either through its telephone helpline, its e-mail support service, and/or its individual/group professional development services.

 

Students with learning support and special educational needs are identified in a co-ordinated manner through the enrolment process; through contacts with parents, primary schools, and other appropriate agencies; and through the efforts of the guidance department, the post-holder for special educational needs support, and/or other staff members. The interventions used to support these students include the creation of smaller classes, the provision of some time for administrative work for the special educational needs support post-holder, and withdrawal (usually from Irish or French). While it was reported by management that resource/learning support/ language support can be timetabled opposite subjects other than French and Irish, this information should also be included in the school’s special educational needs policy and in relevant correspondence sent to parents. Also, it is strongly recommended that team teaching be developed as one of the school’s core special educational needs intervention strategies. A key benefit of team teaching will be the further development of subject teachers’ expertise in supporting students with additional educational needs.

 

All available resources to support the inclusion of students with special educational needs have been accessed. While these additional resources are being fully employed by the school, their use is generally determined more by subject, programme and staffing factors within the school than by individual student learning needs at present. It is recommended that the post-holder for special educational needs support should be more involved in the initial planning and organisation of these resources when the timetable is being developed and should be informed of the resources available to support these students. Also, as was recommended in section 3.1, more use should be made of concurrent timetabling to optimise the hours allocated for additional educational support.

 

In 2007/08, the hours allocated for additional educational supports were distributed among the special educational needs support post-holder and eight other teachers. Three of those teachers had limited involvement in the area while six were delivering a significant amount of educational support each week. It is recommended that school management identify a smaller core group of teachers to deliver all learning and resource support. This will enable more effective planning, monitoring, and evaluation of support for those students. Also, it will reduce and eliminate instances where multiple teachers provide additional educational needs support to the same student in the course of a school week. Finally, it will provide the opportunity for school management to build the professional expertise of a core group of teachers in this area. School management should facilitate that core group to meet and discuss the continuity and progress of students, to support the ongoing development of the school’s special educational needs policy and practice, and to engage in conjoint planning for the new community college with providers of additional educational support in the town’s other two schools.

 

Some learning profiles, based on psychological reports, have been developed by individual teachers. The special educational needs support team should review the Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (2006 National Council of Special Education publication) to help deepen all staff members’ understanding of the benefits of IEPs through in-school CPD. The special educational needs support team should then initiate the school’s IEP planning process, to further develop the school’s capacity to systematically identify students’ special educational needs and to deliver, monitor and evaluate additional educational supports.

 

To date, contact with external agencies such as the school’s Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO), National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist, and Health Service Executive (HSE) officials has been made by the principal. It is advised that the special educational needs support post-holder and special educational needs support team should be more involved in communicating with these external agencies. Also, it is advised that links between the school’s special educational needs team and the resource teachers of all transferring primary schools should be strengthened. Ideally, members of the team should meet with their primary counterparts by the summer term before the incoming first years arrive at the school, to discuss their particular needs and to learn about the strategies that have helped them make progress in primary school. Likewise, it would be important to note the setting in which a student received his/her primary education and to plan how that student’s transition to post-primary might best be supported.

 

The school has accessed resources and supports to aid the full inclusion of students from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds and from minority groups. As a participant in DEIS, the school benefits from SCP. Through SCP, a breakfast club and homework club for all students are operated. Day trips and summer activities have also been organised as part of the school’s SCP. Furthermore, school uniforms, equipment, books and some school trip fees are provided to economically-disadvantaged students. It is recommended that the planning, monitoring and evaluation of in-school SCP programmes be incorporated into the whole-school planning process. Including a formal SCP representative on the school’s student support and school planning teams would be one way of facilitating such inclusive planning.

 

HCSL constitutes a central support for parents/guardians and their children, including those with additional educational needs. The HSCL co-ordinator has developed a repertoire of strategies to bring about co-operation with the home, school, and relevant community agencies through her network of contacts with other HSCL co-ordinators and with community agency workers, and through her presence on the school’s student support team. She meets parents/guardians at their homes and at information, celebration, exhibition, and parent-teacher meetings and gets to know students through yard supervision.  Finally, the HSCL co-ordinator increases parents’ awareness of their own capacities to enhance their children’s educational progress by running parenting seminars and assists them in developing skills by informing them of training opportunities in the locality and by arranging fee waivers for places on night classes run by the school.

 

The school keeps parents/guardians of students with additional educational needs informed of student progress through reports home, parent-teacher meetings, and additional requested meetings.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

Guidance is viewed by all members of the school community as a whole-school support for students. The school has a guidance allocation of 0.9WTE, approximately 8.5 ex-quota hours and 11 hours through the Guidance Enhancement Initiative (GEI). Guidance is delivered by two qualified guidance counsellors, who are both facilitated and encouraged to access appropriate CPD. The school is making full and appropriate use of the hours allocated by the Department to provide personal, educational, and vocational guidance.

 

The ex-quota guidance counsellor is based in an office equipped with a computer with internet access, a filing cabinet, shelves and college/university prospectuses. The GEI guidance counsellor is based in a classroom located in a different area of the school, equipped with a computer with no internet access, a lockable cabinet, and shelving for an impressive library of binders collating information on different career areas. Students have access to ICT for guidance purposes when brought to the computer laboratory by a guidance counsellor. Guidance posters and materials are displayed along the corridor of the main teaching block. The guidance department is looking forward to the provision of an integrated guidance suite in the new community college, with adjacent offices, a classroom, notice boards, and an area where a few computers for careers browsing can be located.

 

Guidance is delivered through a range of effective methodologies including timetabled classes, individual and group guidance and counselling sessions, student surveys, and biennial experiential learning festivals and role model career fairs. It was evident from a draft document describing the work of the guidance department with every year group that there is good balance in guidance provision between junior and senior cycles and between individual and class/group guidance. A structured guidance programme is delivered to senior cycle students. Some structured guidance is also provided to junior cycle students. Implementing the recommendations made in section 3.2 with regard to collaborative planning and delivery of junior guidance with SPHE and ICT teachers will further enhance the school’s provision of junior guidance.

 

Both guidance counsellors work to their strengths, discharge their duties professionally, have an informal working relationship in relation to their guidance work, and a formal working relationship as members of the student support team. To facilitate formal sharing of information, practice, and collaborative planning, it is recommended that the guidance department schedule a formal weekly meeting for itself.

 

The guidance department has effective communication with a number of subject and programme departments and co-ordinators and ongoing communication and regular meetings with senior management. Also, strong links have been established between the guidance department and local businesses and the community, institutes of higher and further education, training bodies, and universities. The process of developing a whole-school guidance plan has been initiated. One of the guidance counsellors was completing the NCGE module on “Reviewing Whole School Guidance” at the time of the evaluation. To help communicate the need for a whole-school approach to the development and delivery of the whole-school guidance plan, it is recommended that the guidance department deliver a whole-staff briefing on this topic. Sharing the Department guidance plan templates with all staff at that briefing might be a useful support in that regard.

 

Guidance personnel organise information sessions to assist parents in helping their children to make a successful transition to post-primary education and to make subject and programme choices. Parents are also actively encouraged to make individual appointments with guidance personnel. The guidance department is encouraged to develop further channels for communicating information to parents, such as the posting of PowerPoint presentations delivered at information nights on the school’s website for parents who cannot attend those particular events. The guidance department could also develop links with parents at the Fealeside Training Centre and possibly deliver presentations to them on request.

 

A student support team is in place that meets formally each week and its minutes are recorded. It comprises senior management, the guidance counsellors, and the HSCL/ SPHE co-ordinator. Originally, the team was set up and trained for crisis response. Supported by County Limerick VEC’s student support officer, the team pro-actively resolves a good deal of potential difficulties, has dealt with crisis situations effectively in the past, and is highly commended for its continuing work in this area. This team is in close co-operation with outside agencies in relation to the pastoral care of particular students, as necessary. In recent years, the focus of the student support team has broadened to include student welfare, reports on the outcomes of academic monitoring and of students’ subject preferences, and curriculum planning. Three recommendations are offered to enhance the work being carried out by this team. First, the special educational needs support post-holder and the staff member with assigned SCP duties should be added to the student support team. Secondly, the remits of the student support team and school planning steering group should be jointly reviewed, to clarify the distinct roles and responsibilities of the two teams and thus reduce overlap. Thirdly, the student support team should take on the responsibility of developing the whole-school guidance plan. To help compile that plan, it is advised that all individuals whose work provides personal, educational or vocational guidance to students be asked to provide a short description of their work to this group. Incorporating a condensed version of those descriptions into staff induction and handbook materials would make all staff members aware of the different student supports operating in the school. The provision of that type of information to all parents is also advised. Finally, in compiling the whole-school guidance plan, it will be important that parents, students, representatives of the local community and of local businesses, NEPS, and other relevant agencies are consulted and actively involved in the process, as appropriate.

 

In relation to its anti-bullying policy and procedures, the school is commended for the pro-active approach it promoted during a whole-school anti-bullying lesson blitz in 2008. However, the school is advised to revise its anti-bullying and harassment policy in line with the relevant policy template available under “School Policies and Plans” of the “Education Personnel” section of the Department’s website.

 

Individual class teachers are asked by school management to act as tutors, responsible for monitoring the behaviour, well-being, and academic progress of students in a particular class. The voluntary work performed by these class tutors is an important support to students’ emotional and academic development, is vital to the operation of the school, and is highly commended. No year head system currently exists in the school, so the class tutors are expected to function more like year heads. It is recommended that a member of senior management formally take on responsibility for co-ordinating and liaising with all class tutors and that formal meetings of the team be held, to create opportunities for the sharing of experience and strategies and to promote greater consistency among the tutors. That senior management member should also act as a link between the student support and class tutor teams, giving the class tutors a brief report on relevant issues discussed by the student support team and formally reporting issues arising for class tutors to the student support team. Finally, the school is encouraged to approach County Limerick VEC to seek external training for its class tutors. The Irish Association of Pastoral Care in Education (www.iapce.ie) would be one possible provider of such training.

 

It is important to acknowledge and affirm the major, if informal, pastoral role played by support staff in the lives of students who often seek assistance on matters as simple as lost property, feeling unwell or other minor problems which, when dealt with immediately, do not assume greater proportions.

 

Social, Personal, and Health Education is viewed as a significant element of student support. Planning for and the delivery of SPHE is co-ordinated as a part of a post of responsibility. RSE is delivered by the SPHE department to junior cycle students and by the Religion department to senior cycle students. The SPHE department is advised to update its RSE policy as per the requirements of Circular 27/2008 and in line with the RSE policy template available under “School Policies and Plans” on the Department’s website.

 

There are ongoing contacts between the school and parents relating to the progress of students and their well-being. Destination-tracking of students who have completed their schooling is a further indication of the school’s interest in their continuing progress.


 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

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

·         The board fulfils its functions and responsibilities professionally.

·         The principal and deputy principal share a student-centred, community-focused vision for the school, have a strong presence in the school, and are readily available to

      the school community. As a result of senior management’s leadership, combined with support from staff, parents, the board, students, and the community, the school

      has realised a number of its goals over the past decade.

·         A significant number of post-holders and non post-holders fulfil management and leadership roles in the school.

·        The school has developed a number of mechanisms for communicating with parents. Also, a commendable network of links has been established among the school,

      past students, appropriate outside agencies, and the community.

·         The school has put a good deal of energy and effort into maintaining and improving its facilities.

·         The school has made good progress on numerous aspects of ICT provision.

·        Effective whole-staff action planning and implementation in a number of areas of school life during the period 1998 to 2008 has resulted in some identifiable

      improvements in the experiences of students

·         Breadth of curricular provision is a key strength of the school.

·         Students and their parents are well-supported in making subject, programme, and further study/career choices.

·         The management and staff of the school are highly commended for the range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities they provide that support and enhance

       students’ learning and that help them develop personally and socially.

·          In all four subjects evaluated, subject department planning was ongoing and good preparation and advance lesson planning was observed.

·         A range of effective methodologies was employed across the subjects evaluated, relevant visual and tactile materials were frequently used, and very good questioning

      and explaining strategies were used in most classes observed.

·        Students displayed a good knowledge and understanding of subjects, pertinent skills and subject-specific terminology according to their class group and level in

      almost all classes evaluated. Classroom management was effective in lessons and students were courteous and respectful of their teachers and their fellow students.

·       Students with learning-support or special educational needs are identified in a co-ordinated manner and a number of supports have been put in place by the school to

      support their education.

·        The school sets a very high priority on the pastoral care of its students and has established a number of in-house initiatives to achieve this goal.

 

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

 

·        The current duties being performed by senior management should be reviewed by the whole staff along with the entire schedule of posts; to ensure that the school’s

      current and emerging priorities for development are being clearly targeted and addressed.

·        The school’s student management code and procedures should be reviewed as advised in this report and a member of senior management should formally take

      responsibility for co-ordinating and liaising with all class tutors and for acting as a formal link between the student support and class tutor teams.

·        There should be a more complete implementation of JCSP in the school, so that students can reap the potential benefits of the programme. Meetings of the JCSP core

      team should be facilitated. Subject department plans should include reference to JCSP methodologies and where relevant, targets, profiles, and initiatives. The

      assistance of the JSCP support service should be sought. Finally, a whole-school JCSP plan should be developed.

·        The school’s policy-development process should be revised to overcome the types of shortcomings described in section two of this report and the students’ council,

      rather than two representative senior students, should be formally consulted in relation to school planning. With regard to specific policies, the health and safety

      statement and procedures, anti-bullying policy, and RSE policy should be revised. Also, the draft whole-school guidance plan and special educational needs policy

      should be fully developed as a matter of urgency.

·        The following aspects of curricular planning and organisation need to be reviewed: the first-year timetable, the streaming of second and third years for certain subjects,

      the inclusion of PE, the delivery of junior guidance, the use of concurrent timetabling, and the utilisation of the hours assigned to the school for students with additional

      educational needs.

·        The practice of providing formative feedback on students’ work should be consistently employed across all departments. Also, students’ uptake of, and achievement

      within, subject levels in State examinations should be consistently analysed and compared to national norms, while remaining mindful of individual student abilities and

      achievements. 

·         A smaller, core group of teachers should be timetabled to deliver all learning and resource support. Team teaching should be developed as one of the school’s core

      special educational needs intervention strategies and the post-holder for special educational needs support should be informed of the resources available to support

      these students and be more involved in the planning of the school timetable.

 

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 Irish – 8 April 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Home Economics – 4 April 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Geography – 15 April 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Materials Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies –  10 April 2008

 

 

  

 

 Published January 2009