An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Coláiste Phádraig CBS

Lucan, County Dublin

Roll number: 60264A

 

Date of inspection: 25 January 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

School response to the report

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

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

 

 

 

Introduction

 

In 1969, Coláiste Phádraig Christian Brothers School (CBS) opened in Lucan, County Dublin in direct response to a request from parents of boys in the growing Dublin suburb. After years of temporary accommodation, the first permanent building was opened in 1978. Further alterations took place in the 1990s. A new wing and well-fitted sports hall opened in 2004. The school’s first lay principal was appointed in 1988, the year in which the school instituted its first board of management. The present principal was appointed in 2002.

 

While the school saw a slight decline in its enrolment in the more recent past, this trend is now reversed and the school has a current enrolment of 565 boys with an additional forty-eight students in the school’s co-educational Leaving Certificate (LC) repeat programme. The immediate locale that the school previously served is now mature. However, the wider hinterland of Lucan has a burgeoning population, and in keeping with changing demographic trends in Ireland nationally, the composition of the local population is increasingly more culturally diverse. This is reflected in the school’s enrolment and there is now a significant minority of students from a very wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, with as many as twenty-nine different nationalities contributing to the cultural richness of Coláiste Phádraig’s student population. The school has embraced this change and, for example, currently Coláiste Phádraig is one of the few non-fee paying schools that fields a cricket team in national competitions. The school staff is also undergoing significant change with the retirement of a number of highly valued teachers in the last few years. The arrival of a number of younger teachers has brought balance both in age and gender. The school is well positioned therefore, to deliver a quality education service in keeping with its tradition of serving the needs of the local population. The school has excellent sporting facilities including a spacious well-equipped sports hall, playing fields and courts. The main entrance to the school has posed problems over the years but this is set to be resolved in the short term. Local residents have a right-of-way through the school. The status of this is not clear. It is a matter that should be examined carefully since casual passers-by can walk directly beside the windows of classrooms and it is reported that this is very distracting for the students. Moreover, there may be insurance and security issues around the ease of access that this right-of-way affords. The school and grounds are generally well maintained.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

Coláiste Phádraig is a Catholic school and, in line with its mission statement, it seeks to create a Christian caring community that respects diversity and the rights of all students to learn. A very strong emphasis is placed on discipline. The view is held that all students and staff within the school, irrespective of origin, culture or religion, are expected to show and receive respect from all others. The school is commended for the emphasis it places on the importance of engagement in the full life of the school, and students are encouraged to become involved in extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

 

While there is awareness among some stakeholders of the mission statement, the degree to which it is communicated, understood and shared by all is not clear. There is no documentation to indicate who developed it and by what process. There is no evidence that it has been reviewed at any time. The mission statement does not appear on any current school policies and on other key documentation nor is it visibly displayed at a focal point in the school, such as the main entrance. While everyday school activities may implicitly reflect the mission statement, there are no explicit links. Some policies and procedures are at variance with some aspects of the mission statement and do not fully express the caring Christian ethos that the school claims to have. There are, however, plans to include the mission statement when updating the student journal. It will also be found in the new prospectus, currently with the printers.

 

There is a consciousness at some levels within the school that the mission statement should be revisited. This would be a positive step, particularly in view of the school’s changing context. There is scope to develop clear, strong links between the schools vision and its policies and practices across a number of key areas. As a preliminary to all planning, it is recommended that the school prioritise a review of its mission statement to ensure that it reflects the school’s core values as a place of learning in the context of its Christian caring ethos. This should take place in full collaboration with all stakeholders, to include students, parents and teachers so that all feel ownership of and share the school’s vision.

 

The role of the trustees is important and the school follows the Edmund Rice School Trust (ERST) charter. The trustees are supportive of the school and the principal in many ways and minutes of board meetings are sent to the trustees. In a variety of meetings and consultations held as part of the whole-school evaluation, there was consensus among stakeholders that the school had a very good spirit and it was reported that there was a good level of co-operation among stakeholders in general. The board expressed the view that staff care for students in a holistic way and that this bears out the school’s caring ethos. Younger staff members receive help and advice from established teachers. Support for the school’s Christian ethos was articulated. Students felt that sport was a force for uniting and including students, and for capturing, developing and reflecting the school’s strong esprit de corps. Parents and students expressed satisfaction with the curriculum, the range of extra-curricular activities on offer and the general level of support and service they received from staff and from the school principal.

 

Student achievement and activity are highlighted in some areas around the school and the area around the careers office is well used for this purpose. However, wall space is generally under utilised as a way of representing and celebrating the fullness of the school’s learning experience and of conveying the school’s characteristic spirit. This is particularly noticeable at the school’s main entrance point. Consideration should be given to locating display cabinets for trophies, notice boards featuring students work and campaigns such as anti-bullying, the student council notice board and other relevant displays, in prominent positions around the school but particularly in the main entrance which is open and spacious.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The board is correctly constituted and endeavours to use its powers and meet its responsibilities in line with legislation and to ensure that the school’s ethos is in accordance with the religious and educational philosophy of the trustees. Various boards have overseen curricular and staff change, along with changes in traditional enrolment patterns, in recent years. The board is strongly supportive of the school and conscious of the onerous responsibility attached to its own role. Some members of the board have received training for their role. Those who have not should seek training as soon as is practicable.

 

In recent years, various boards have focused attention on the development of the school buildings and resources. The current board is aware of the need to process policies and has been doing this slowly. Along with senior management and staff, the board is conscious of the challenges involved in dealing with the school’s changing context and is aware of the constant pressure on existing resources and the need to find additional resources to meet day-to-day needs. The board and senior management acknowledge the support of parents in this regard. In addition, the board has dedicated a great deal of time and effort, often during the summer holidays, to disciplinary matters in connection with a very small minority of students. The board has identified the following as key issues that need to be addressed: the development of school accommodation and facilities, streaming versus mixed-ability settings, inclusivity and the possible provision of two Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) classes in each year of the programme to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse range of abilities in the senior cycle.

 

Moving forward, there is a pressing need for the board to clearly define a broad range of developmental priorities to include student supports, curriculum and teaching and learning. The board should take a proactive role in overseeing the preparation of a comprehensive school plan. It should ensure that there are structures in place to support this, and that there are procedures in place for reviewing, updating and circulating the plan to all stakeholders. In addition, the board should prioritise review of the existing enrolment policy and discipline and suspension procedures. It should, in collaboration with senior management, ensure that all staff receive training in Child Protection procedures. It should ensure that there is an effective student support (pastoral care) structure in place and that this is underpinned by an overarching pastoral care policy.

 

There is a very good relationship between the board and the principal and the board is very supportive of the principal. There is good informal collaboration and co-operation between the board and other stakeholders involved in Coláiste Phádraig. This should be put on a formal and regular footing to strengthen communication across all areas and among all stakeholders. There is great willingness on the part of the board to improve the level of communication and consultation with all stakeholders in line with its obligations under the Education Act (1998) and the Education Welfare Act (2000). More mechanisms for formal consultation with all stakeholders, including parents and students need to be put in place. While there is informal contact with parents, and the principal liaises on behalf of the board, more needs to be done. An agreed statement from board meetings is brought to the staff. A verbal report is made to the parents’ association. An agreed formal report should be given to parents and to teaching staff, informing them of board decisions. More use could be made of the school newsletter to inform parents. The proposed website, when this is established, will also be a way of communicating with a large number of parents and students.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The principal is very heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the school, in the management of the non-teaching staff, and in liaising with the board, the Department of Education and Science and parents. He has overseen the development of school resources and facilities, including the building extension and sports hall. Since undertaking the role, the principal has implemented curricular change. The LCA programme was introduced in 2003 and last year, a new subject, Technology, was introduced in first year. There have been significant improvements in the provision of information and communications technology (ICT), and other facilities including those for students with additional learning needs, in recent years. The principal undertakes a pastoral and a disciplinary role, imposes sanctions and adjudicates on and recommends suspension arising out of recommendations from staff, where deemed appropriate. With the deputy, he monitors attendance and punctuality and is a constant presence on corridors and in the yard. He is readily available to students and their parents, and students are regularly sent to the principal. The principal also introduces new staff members to the school and ensures that they settle into their new roles. Excessive administrative duties in conjunction with a very onerous involvement in the management of students on a daily basis have left the principal with limited time for his leadership role in key areas.

 

The deputy principal, in conjunction with a special duties post-holder, is responsible for monitoring student punctuality and the swipe-card attendance system. He monitors discipline, but his role is not clearly formalised in the order of referral. He is responsible for the school timetable and teaches two senior Mathematics classes, one of which is for repeat students. He interviews students who apply to repeat their Leaving Certificate. He also deputises for the principal in his absence. He attends the weekly meeting of the year heads. This group is referred to as a disciplinary committee in some documents. There are no records associated with these meetings and the terms of reference of this group are not explicit. There is scope for the development of this structure and its functions should be reviewed.

 

The principal and deputy have had some degree of training, including self-learning, for their roles. Neither has been involved in the Leadership Development for Schools Programme, a Department initiative that provides support for principals and deputies. The division of duties between the principal and deputy principal, which has evolved in an unplanned fashion, is evident in some areas but there are overlaps and to some extent, a lack of definition of the two roles. While the principal and deputy meet regularly in the course of their work, there are no planning meetings and no records are kept. Consideration should be given to relieving the deputy principal of his teaching responsibility in order to allow him to undertake more responsibilities in his role as deputy. In conjunction with this, there is an urgent need to distribute leadership among post-holders and to build capacity in the middle management team. More responsibility should be devolved to post-holders. To facilitate the development of leadership capacity in the senior management team, it is recommended that the board support the principal and deputy to engage with the Leadership Development for Schools Programme.

 

At a variety of meetings that took place as part of the whole-school evaluation process, staff expressed considerable enthusiasm and willingness to undertake roles and this represents a very positive spirit of engagement. Enabling this to take place should be a priority. Great effort has been expended on reviewing posts of responsibility in Coláiste Phádraig. The post of responsibility schedule has been drawn up in line with the perceived needs of the school and was fully reviewed two years ago. A useful review structure has been put in place, where a representative group from the staff, including non-post-holders meet on an ad hoc basis. Of the eight assistant principal (AP) posts, five are assigned to the role of year head, a sixth to co-ordination of ICT, and a seventh to co-ordinator of Science and development of the school shop and canteen. The eighth has yet to be filled. There is a programme co-ordinator post and the role provides overarching co-ordination for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme and the Transition Year (TY) programme. This academic year, it was possible to support year heads to carry out the demanding tasks associated with their duties by allocating three concessionary periods on the timetable. One of the three periods is assigned to the weekly meeting that is also attended by the deputy. In addition, year heads are now empowered to deal with parents. It is also a duty of the year heads to present reports to management. These represent positive steps towards the devolution of greater responsibilities to year heads.

 

Special duties (SD) posts are for the most part administrative in nature and the functions are discharged appropriately in accordance with the agreed terms of the post. At the time of the evaluation, one post had yet to be ratified, and one had to be filled. In the course of the evaluation, it was noted that there is some imbalance and overlap in the duties assigned to posts and it is recommended that this be reviewed and the structure of posts be streamlined subject to negotiation. Posts should maintain a balance between curricular, administrative and pastoral duties as outlined in circular 05/98. It is strongly recommended that any posts assigned in the future should prioritise the co-ordination of supports for students. Post-holders acknowledged that there is scope for individuals to develop their roles, and some reported having done so. This is positive. Where a role needs to be undertaken that does not fall within the current post structure, newer members of staff should be encouraged to undertake such responsibilities without posts, in order to get a full experience of school life and to help them develop personal competencies in a variety of roles in preparation for leadership. This should only take place with their full cooperation. At present members of middle management do not report on the administration of their duties. It is recommended that all post-holders present formal written reports to senior management on an annual basis. All post-holders should meet with senior management to review the administration of their posts. A beginning has been made in the development of team building among post-holders. Management is commended in this regard.

 

Communication with staff takes place through a variety of mechanisms such as the notice board in the staff room or short meetings at lunchtime. Year heads report on their meetings if there is a specific issue that needs to be highlighted. There are three staff meetings per year. While there is a fair level of communication, there is scope for development. Examples are a designated management notice board, a short weekly bulletin and a staff handbook.

 

Coláiste Phádraig has an open enrolment policy. It is commendable that the school welcomes students from a wide variety of backgrounds including minority and disadvantaged groups. Most students come from the local catchment area. The school also has a long tradition of taking students from feeder national schools in Palmestown and Chapelizod. Enrolment takes place while the students are pupils in fifth class in primary school. There is effective liaison with the feeder primary schools. Pre-entry assessment is currently being used to stream students. However, as the school is considering moving towards a mixed-ability setting, the likelihood is that this undesirable practice will be discontinued. (See section three of this report). There is a need to address some issues in relation to the school’s enrolment policy and procedures. The wording of the policy should be reviewed to ensure that it is in line with the school’s ethos and with equality and other legislation. A letter is sent to parents requiring students to re-enrol in the school on an annual basis and acceptance is conditional on payment of a contribution and on the individual student’s record. The practice should be reviewed both in relation to annual re-enrolment and so that parents and guardians do not feel obliged to pay what should be a voluntary sum.

 

The school is proud of its caring ethos and its defence of the right of every student to learn. The vast majority of students comply with the school’s rules and are supportive of the school. At all levels some considerable effort has been invested in the development of the school’s discipline system and this has been reviewed regularly in line with changing context or experience. It is commendable that the student journal lists the school rules and provides a rationale for each. It is also commendable that individual staff members reinforce good behaviour and that management celebrates and affirms positive patterns of behaviour. However, the existing tiered system of sanctions attached to the school rules is not consistently implemented. The school does not have a code of behaviour written up in line with the Education Act and circular 33/91. It is recommended that the school develop a comprehensive code of behaviour in consultation with all stakeholders. The policy should articulate an emphasis on positive behaviour. The procedural steps involved at various stages of the sanction system should be clearly documented, and the line of referral should be detailed. The school should investigate the concept of Restorative Justice in order to inform its code of behaviour and its practice. Information is available through the Irish Association of Pastoral Care in Education (IAPCE) website at www.iapce.ie. It is understood that the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is to issue Guidelines for Developing School Codes of Behaviour to all schools. This could prove to be a very useful document in assisting the school when it becomes available.

 

The school has a higher than average number of suspensions. Suspension procedures are not always consistently implemented. In addition, suspension is over used as a way of modifying behaviour. The school’s response is disproportionate in some instances, for example with regard to forgetting sports equipment. Creative solutions should be sought in consultation with the sports department. It is strongly recommended that suspension only be considered in the most extreme circumstances and only in full consultation with parents, guidance and pastoral care staff and after a full range of interventions has taken place. A system should be put in place to integrate suspended students into school life on their return. The process, and individual students, should be managed by a school care team. The school is conscious of the need to develop alternative strategies and a behaviour modification room has been suggested. Since this could amount to in-house suspension and could represent a considerable strain on the school’s resources if it were to be developed in line with best practice, very careful consideration would need to be given to this initiative. At the present time, this does not seem to be necessary, given that other more obvious strategies and policies are not yet in place.

 

The majority of students attend school on a regular basis. The school registers and monitors attendance in a number of ways and is conscientious in this regard. There is an electronic system that requires students to swipe in at the student entry point. Nonetheless, a small number of students have a higher than average absentee rate. A particular negative pattern was noted in Transition Year and in the lower streams in the junior cycle. The school should develop an attendance strategy. In the repeat programme, there are very good practices. For example, attendance reports are regularly sent to parents and parents are invited to the school to discuss issues that might arise in some cases. The attendance report document highlights student absence in all subjects and the full number of days absent to date. It is recommended that this good practice be extended throughout the school targeting individuals who have developed a discernible pattern. In the case of all students, the number of absences should be included on all reports sent home to parents after Christmas and summer in-house examinations.

 

Supervision of students during wet weather poses challenges since a very large number of students are confined to the canteen area. Repeat students are currently occupying a very large study hall and at lunchtime this is under utilised. Consideration should be given to using the repeat study area as an additional space for monitoring students at lunchtime as need arises. The principal patrols corridors. Year heads monitor activity around their respective classroom areas. Teachers who have signed on for supervision also monitor corridors and areas, as do the sixth-year prefects. Lack of punctuality is an issue especially after lunchtime, and this was particularly related to returning from extra-curricular activities. It is reported that the recent introduction of a warning bell has had a salutary effect on punctuality. It is also reported that most teachers are in their classrooms promptly. This is very important as unsupervised classes present health and safety risks. While the school’s signing-out book is positioned near the staff room, it is in a dark corner. Consideration should be given to moving the book to the open area within view of office personnel so that they can have an increased role in monitoring students who are leaving the school. If necessary, further assistance should be recruited in the area of office administration.

 

Coláiste Phádraig has a well-established student council that has taken an active role in school life over the last number of years. Student representatives from each year group are democratically elected. Part of a special duties post is attached to the role of teacher liaison officer. The council has a notice board that is useful for the dissemination of information and representatives also can communicate with their constituents at lesson time, on a very occasional basis, provided they seek permission from teachers. The council meets on a semi-regular basis. To make the student council more effective, students should examine the self-evaluation checklist attached to the student council journal that was issued to them immediately before the whole-school evaluation. The council should set targets based on their self-evaluation. There is a need for more formalised meeting times. The student council should be a consultative body in policy areas that directly affect students and should be involved at all levels in the process. The council should also have a stronger role in support structures, particularly in the area of anti-bullying initiatives. There should be strong and formal links with Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) in the junior cycle. The student council should have well-developed communication links to the parents’ association, the board of management, senior management and staff in general. They should also develop links with the appropriate national organisations and should seek the assistance of the liaison officer and management to achieve this.

 

Parents have a strong commitment to the school and it is reported that there is an active parents’ association. Significant funds have been raised and recently, parents contributed a substantial part of the twenty thousand euro cost of a new, well-equipped resource room for students with additional learning needs. This level of support is highly commended. Parents’ representatives on the board of management are very supportive of the school.

 

The school communicates with parents directly and indirectly. The newsletter is a very useful mechanism for communication. Unfortunately, it is not published on a predictable or regular basis and there is considerable scope for developing its content. It is recommended that this be re-examined in the context of the revision of post-holders’ duties and that the newsletter be expanded and published on a regular basis. Consideration should be given to attaching responsibility for the school’s newsletter to an existing post, subject to negotiation. The school also has a yearbook that details student achievement and is particularly strong in the area of sport. The school should develop the yearbook further to ensure that it represents the fullness of students’ experience in the school and that it is more balanced in content. The proposed development of a website presents more opportunities to communicate with parents and the general public.

 

The school’s management should seek to develop additional ways of involving parents in all aspects of school life and of finding meaningful roles that would forge even stronger links with the community and involve the full diversity of parents. Assistance in the setting up and staffing of the school library, currently under development, is one such role. Assistance with homework clubs is another. A number of options should be explored in conjunction with in-school management and teaching staff.

 

There are some well-developed links between the school and outside agencies. A private enterprise provides music lessons in the school. There are links with local sporting interests. Through the various senior cycle programmes, long established business links are in place. There is a particularly good relationship with a local newspaper. Coláiste Phádraig encourages students to contribute articles and there are also work placements arranged there. This level of interaction with the community is highly commended.

 

 

 

 

1.4         Management of resources

 

The school is compliant with department regulations and provides twenty-eight hours of instruction time per week, the minimum requirement as outlined in circular 29/95. The deployment of staff is in line with regulations. Staff members are facilitated to attend training courses and in-service courses provided, for example, by the Department. The school should develop a continuous professional development (CPD) policy in cooperation with all staff members. Staff members should be encouraged to identify their own training needs and to be proactive in seeking ways of developing their roles. They should be supported in this regard.

 

Each year, the school deploys a number of student teachers. There is a policy on Higher Diploma in Education students, and in addition, a useful guide is available for student teachers who are engaged in teaching practice in the school. While the policy makes brief reference to the role of co-operating teachers, there is no clearly defined mentoring programme in place. At present, there is no formal induction process in place for new teachers, either students or fully qualified, but some good practice exists. For example, the principal meets new teachers and introduces them to the school. Experienced teachers support new teachers on an informal basis. An induction programme should be developed for all teachers and supports should be formalised. The school could examine teacher-education mentoring programmes attached to the third-level institutions.

 

Resources in a number of areas are very good in Coláiste Phádraig. Care should be taken to ensure that they are shared equitably among all subject departments. School accommodation has been upgraded in recent years. ICT provision is also very good and all senior cycle students can do the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). The school has a very good language laboratory. While Coláiste Phádraig has broadband it is reported that connectivity is very slow. Resources are generally good in the area of special educational needs (SEN), learning support and guidance. Currently, a staff member is attempting to establish a library. The school would find it helpful to liaise with local library services and become a member of the School Library Association in the Republic of Ireland (SLARI); useful information can be accessed at www.slari.ie. The development of a modern, interactive library with well-developed ICT resources and references would be a great advantage to the students of Coláiste Phádraig. The acquisition of collections of outdated encyclopaedias should be avoided.

 

The new extension has enhanced provision of specialist rooms. There are excellent sporting facilities. Some maintenance areas are currently posing challenges, in particular the school’s roof and the science laboratories. LCA students do not have a dedicated room in which to make full use of ICT and to store projects. Additional pressure is therefore placed on existing ICT facilities in the school. This is a matter that should be addressed, particularly since Coláiste Phádraig is considering providing the LCA programme for a second class group. While the repeat programme was valued by the school and community in the past, it represents a strain on resources in excess of the contribution it currently makes to the school. However, its viability is under review by management and staff, and it is envisaged that the programme will eventually be phased out as enrolment in the junior cycle continues to increase.

 

The school has a health and safety statement. However, there have been no fire drills this academic year due to technical difficulties. The school is conscious of this and is in the process of addressing it. Holding fire drills is a priority and notwithstanding technical difficulties, one should be carried out as a matter of urgency. Regular audits should be carried out.

 

Coláiste Phádraig is anxious to improve the environment. The school could consider entering the Green Schools Competition, forging stronger links between the environment and CSPE in the junior cycle and formalising the Transition Year group’s gardening project as an environmental module within the Transition Year programme.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1         The school plan

 

A beginning was made in school planning some years ago. Self-review was facilitated through ERST in 2001 and some priorities were identified by discrete groups of stakeholders. The school was briefly involved with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) in 2004 and this led to a period of review of posts of responsibility. In addition to the examination of existing posts and some readjustment, a post of responsibility review group drawn from members of staff, both post-holders and non-post-holders, was established. Some staff days were planned after this and progress was made in the area of post review.

 

Although there has been an absence of formal whole-school planning processes and structures, informal planning has taken place. There is evidence that the school has prioritised some areas for development, and has made significant progress in the development of its infrastructure. The school has developed policies in the following areas: suspension and expulsion, enrolment, health and safety, child protection, out of school visits, student teacher induction, acceptable use policy for ICT, guidance, students with special educational needs, critical incidents, dignity in the work place, substance use and abuse, bullying and homework. It is also understood that the school has a policy on photographic images but this was not presented to the evaluation team. The order in which these policies was designed and developed is not explicit, nor is there formal documentation indicating the process that supported their development and the stage at which they are currently, whether ratified, implemented or reviewed (except in a small number of cases). The process involved in the development of policies is not clearly documented. Partners in education, for example, parents and students, have been involved only to a very limited extent in the consultation process and there has been no involvement in the design of existing policies. There are no clear links between the school’s mission statement and policies.

 

Management recognises that formal whole-school planning now needs to be addressed as a priority and a culture of whole-school planning is beginning to be established in Coláiste Phádraig. The school is developing planning structures. Evidence of this was shown in the organisation of recent staff days and in the fact that individual post-holders have undertaken additional responsibilities in the area of planning. Moreover, the principal and board have, through more recent appointments, sought to augment existing expertise on the staff. There is a great willingness on the part of staff at all levels to engage in planning. The principal recognises the need to involve all stakeholders in the process. To harness these synergies, and to give direction to planning endeavour, it is very strongly recommended that the school re-engage with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) at the earliest possible date. Effective structures should be put in place, clear developmental priorities agreed and action plans developed. In the recent past, the school has prioritised subject planning and has begun to develop subject department structures. Already in this academic year, two formal subject department meetings have taken place. However, the inspection of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) that forms part of the whole-school evaluation has found that teachers of this compulsory subject in the junior cycle have not made optimal use of allocated time for collaborative planning. Subject plans in all subject and programme areas were presented by the school. Some show evidence that a good deal of collaborative planning has taken place and these plans are at a considerably more advanced stage of development than others. Good practice should be shared in this regard.

 

To date, the school has not developed a Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy although there is a programme in place and some good practice was noted. It is strongly recommended that the board, in collaboration with senior management, staff and parents, through the Parents’ Association, ensure the development of this policy at the earliest opportunity.

 

In the context of future planning the school should examine the wording of all documentation and the terminology used in all structures and processes to ensure that the language used accurately reflects its ethos and that it is equality and gender proofed. Wording such as “remedial” for example, should be replaced by “learning support”; the terms, “form master” and “class master” are not in keeping with either gender equality or actual practice in the school, where increasingly, women are involved in teaching and management roles

 

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). While it has been established that most staff members have received appropriate training and information, this is not true in the case of all recently appointed staff members. Child protection procedures should be brought to the attention of all stakeholders to include management, school staff and parents. It is recommended that all staff members whether teaching or non-teaching, receive training in child protection procedures and copies of the procedures should be provided to all staff, including all new staff. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1         Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The school offers a rich curriculum that reflects both breadth and balance. A very good range of subjects is available at all levels in both the junior and senior cycles and students’ interests are taken into consideration. All students, including those with special educational needs have access to a full curriculum and this is highly commended. An area that could be considered for long-term planning is Music, perhaps in partnership with the music school that currently operates on a private basis in the school.

 

Coláiste Phádraig currently practises streaming from first year onwards and classes are designated in such a way as to make the order of ability explicit. The school recognises that this is not good practice nor is it in line with the caring ethos that the school claims to have. Discussions have taken place with a view to moving to a mixed-ability setting in first year, and changing the names of the classes to reflect a more sensitive and caring approach. It is strongly recommended that the school abandon streaming in favour of mixed-ability setting in first year, at the very minimum, since all the evidence points to the fact that this will not disadvantage able students and will aid the full inclusion of all students, including those with additional learning needs and those from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds. During the evaluation it was particularly noted that the absentee rate increased in lower streams in all junior cycle class groups. Streaming also raises concerns about social inclusion.

 

A good range of programmes is offered to include the Junior Certificate (JC), Leaving Certificate (LC), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), the LCA and the Transition Year programme. A climate of openness, enthusiasm and co-operation characterises programme provision and co-ordination. However, there is a need for more formal planning meetings. All LCA students have work experience on Wednesdays of every week and this is proving very successful. Work experience in all programmes is well organised and carefully monitored by staff and this is commended. There is good liaison between the school and employers.

 

In addition to the standard subjects available in the LC programme, the Transition Year programme is student centred and offers students a different set of learning experiences. There are courses in Leisure and Recreation, and Media and European Studies. Students do the ECDL as an integral part of the programme. In addition, students participate in a variety of activities such as drama and music, the President’s Award and Young Social Innovators. They go on a variety of outings and take driving lessons. Transition Year students also do work experience. A group of Transition Year students made a presentation to the inspectors detailing their work experience and their interest, enthusiasm and confidence were particularly observed. Career guidance is provided. Talks are arranged, for example, on drugs awareness and depression. These activities are highly commended. Some areas of the programme require review. It is noted, for example, that the plan for English lists texts widely studied in the junior cycle (The Field, Romeo and Juliet). European Studies duplicates aspects of the CSPE syllabus. Subject content of the Transition Year programme should be sufficiently challenging and appropriate to the senior cycle. The term “pastoral”, abbreviated to PAS, is used in the Transition Year timetable to cover three consecutive periods on Tuesday afternoon that are devoted to a variety of activities including outings. Since this designation is misleading, the term should be changed to reflect the reality of students’ learning experiences and to distinguish these periods from an actual pastoral care period that is correctly labelled.

 

The school also provides the LCVP programme. The LCVP plan should be updated to reflect changes in the syllabus and there is also a need for more guidance in the programme.

 

Timetabling of subjects is appropriate for the most part. However, the practice of allocating six periods per week in each year of the LC programme to Mathematics should be reviewed since it is of benefit to a very small minority of students. A more equitable allocation should be considered and the extra periods could be allocated on a rotating basis to the core subjects of English, Irish and Mathematics, or additional periods could be given to other subjects or to Guidance and pastoral care. The distribution of lessons was found to be poor in the case of Irish and this is a matter that needs to be addressed. Further details are available in the Gaeilge report that forms part of this whole-school evaluation.

 

Erosion of lesson time is an issue because of punctuality, absenteeism, the need for tutors to undertake pastoral duties in the absence of appropriate time being allocated, and the excessive and unnecessary use of the intercommunication system. The erosion of lesson time should be investigated to establish its degree and its causes and to devise strategies to deal with it. Alternative methods of communicating with staff and students should be developed instead of the intercommunication system and its use should be limited to a very short interval during the day.

 

Deployment of staff is, for the most part, in line with subject specialisms, skills and competencies. Every effort should be taken to ensure that teachers are deployed in all cases in line with subject specialisms and that all teachers have training or are facilitated to avail of training in curricular areas in which they are deployed. As streaming is currently practised, care should be taken to ensure that the students in the lower streams and those who are in ordinary-level classes benefit consistently from experienced and skilled teaching since this is where there is the most pressing need. In the interests of strategic planning, care should be taken to ensure that all teachers are given an opportunity to gain experience of all levels. Additional mentoring and other arrangements can be put in place, as need dictates. The deployment of highly motivated and enthusiastic staff in the LCA programme was praised in one of the whole-school evaluation meetings. The need for the development of a core team of specialist SPHE teachers with subject expertise is highlighted in the subject evaluation (see report).

 

 

3.2         Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Good arrangements are in place to help students to choose subjects and programmes and the guidance department plays a key role in this. In-coming first years and their parents are provided with information about the school and subject choices at an open night. Information nights about programme and subject choices in the senior cycle are also held for parents. To further disseminate information about subject and programme options, it is recommended that a booklet containing all relevant information be developed by the school for parents. This should be placed on the school’s website once it has been developed. This information should be updated regularly in line with school planning and the range of subject options available to students. There is greater need for liaison between Guidance and all subjects and programmes. The Transition Year programme is available to one group only. The school tries to ensure that students most likely to benefit from Transition Year have access to it; selection criteria include age and maturity, work application and discipline record of applicants. Consultation takes place with the year head, tutors and subject teachers and students are interviewed. It is desirable that these criteria are carefully explained to parents and students at pre-entry level so that they are known well in advance. It is commendable that the school is actively considering the extension of the LCA programme and that two class groups may be provided in the future. 

 

Although a good range of subject options is available in the junior cycle, choice is restricted since, in addition to the standard range of obligatory core subjects, Coláiste Phádraig makes two additional subjects, Science and Business, compulsory. The rationale for this practice is not clear. In practice students are able to choose only two additional subjects from two pre-set option bands. The school recognises that choices made at pre-entry level are not well informed in all cases. Management and staff have been discussing the possibility of introducing a taster programme. This would be a very positive development. To progress the development of a taster programme, the school could consider liaising with schools that already implement one. The taster would need to have very clear guidelines in order that students receive a realistic experience of all optional subjects. A timeframe would need to be agreed. In tandem with this, the school should review its provision of core subjects to ensure that it is meeting all students’ needs and interests. The compulsory study of Business in particular should be reviewed.

 

In the senior cycle, students can choose from a very good range of subjects. However, it is noted that Art is not timetabled in the Transition Year or the LCA programme. This may be due to issues in relation to the deployment of staff. An identified need for additional teaching resources in a particular subject area should be factored into planning. It was noted that students in the Art class fall into the lower spectrum of ability. This should be addressed through the school’s Guidance programme. The range of options against which Art is set should also be reviewed. All students should have equality of opportunity and of learning experience. 

 

An earlier subject inspection report highlighted the fact that a considerable number of students do not study a modern European language in Coláiste Phádraig, despite the fact that both French and German are offered as optional subjects. The school reports that all those who wish to do a language are facilitated. In 2007, a small majority of Coláiste Phádraig’s students sat a European language examination in the JC. This has significant implications for both senior cycle uptake and career paths later on. The school should develop an overarching language policy. The matter should also be addressed through the Guidance programme and the option bands could also be reviewed to ensure that as many students as possible are encouraged to study a European language.

 

In the course of many meetings staff expressed concern that the school may be offering too many subjects and that this is diluting resources. In the context of re-engagement with SDPI the school should establish a curriculum review group that should conduct an analysis of current curricular provision, engage in wide consultation with all stakeholders and report back its findings in order to plan strategically for the future. The group should act under the auspices of a school planning team, when it is formally established. It should have clearly defined terms of reference, task description and reporting mechanisms. CPD in the area could be sought by interested individuals.

 

Students from disadvantaged and minority groups have access to the full curriculum and this is commended.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

The school offers a very good range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, particularly in the area of sport. Students can participate in soccer, rugby, athletics, basketball and cricket. The school liaises with and receives support from the GAA, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Irish Cricket Union and the local newspaper. In some curricular areas there are also very good activities. For example, students are encouraged to take part in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition and they go on ecology trips. Students also participate in debating, in the President’s Award (Gaisce) and Young Entrepreneurs. Additional activities are available to Transition Year students as part of the programme. Resource provision is very good. These activities are made possible because teachers voluntarily give their time to enrich students’ experience of learning. They also provide informal supports for students. This is highly commended. Students and parents are appreciative of the range of activities on offer. Some years ago, the school organised tours but these have not taken place in recent times. Parents have expressed regret concerning this. Parents would like to see a greater range of activities for those students who are not interested in sport. In general, the school would benefit from a greater balance in activities, particularly in the area of art, drama and music. A computer club would be another useful addition to the range. Management should factor these areas into planning for future needs.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1         Planning and preparation

 

A start has been made on subject department planning across a range of subjects. Formal planning structures have been established (some relatively recently) in most subjects and this is commended. The principal is supportive of subject department planning and this academic year, two formal meetings have been facilitated for most subjects. The evaluation of Guidance points up the need for a planning group in this area and this should be linked to the need for strengthening supports for students in all areas.

 

Subject department plans were presented in all subjects, in addition to those that were specifically evaluated as part of the whole-school evaluation process. There was evidence of collaborative planning in most subjects and some plans are at a more advanced stage than others. It is recommended that good practice be disseminated and that all subject departments meet on a regular basis for formal collaborative subject planning.

 

To ensure that a clear record is kept so that planning can be monitored and progressed, minutes of all department meetings should be maintained and made available both to all members of the team and to senior management. Plans in draft stage should be amended and completed and brought for consultation to the relevant interest groups before final ratification by the board. In all cases, plans should be dated and review dates included in documentation.

 

There is scope for development in the content of plans across all the subjects evaluated. A common thread is the need to focus on learning outcomes and the development of planning for the inclusion of skills across all syllabus areas. There is a need to develop cross-curricular links in subject areas and this is of particular importance in the areas of SPHE and Guidance where such links have not been established. In contrast, there are some well established links between SPHE and Religious Education.

 

In the subjects evaluated some teachers presented individual planning documents outlining their schemes of work for the year and good practice was noted in this regard. Planning for individual lessons was generally good and excellent practice was noted in some cases. Particularly commended is planning for practical lessons and planning that ensured a balance between teacher and student input.

 

In the area of SPHE, there is a need to develop a central storage area for resources; these should be developed further and, ideally, be catalogued to inform all members of the team and to assist them in planning resources for individual lessons. Support materials should be displayed in classrooms.

 

4.2 Learning and teaching

Good classroom management observed during the course of the inspections created a supportive environment for students. Clarity of communication was notable in many of the classes inspected, and students benefited from apt feedback and regular affirmation. A good learning atmosphere was almost universal in the classrooms visited.

 

In general, good standards of delivery were noted for the subjects and programmes inspected. Good use was made of ICT in the art and guidance classes and this is highly commended. The methodologies used to present and develop the lessons observed were well chosen and appropriate. Effective methods to motivate students and promote active learning were observed in a number of instances. Contributions from students were integrated into the teaching and learning process. In many classes teachers shared the learning objectives with the students, and several returned to these objectives to summarise learning; this is good practice. Good short-term planning supported learning.  

 

During the course of the school year co-curricular activities have been integrated into the delivery of the subjects inspected. An awareness of the standards and procedures of the state examinations inform course delivery.

 

It is recommended that differentiated learning be further developed in order to build on current good practice in all the subjects inspected.

 

It is recommended that, in order to support teaching and learning, ongoing training in the use of ICT be made available to teachers, and that access to classroom-based ICT resources for students be improved over time. Interruptions to classes as a result of intercom announcements should be minimised. It is recommended that the pattern of use of this facility be reviewed.

 

In SPHE, short-term planning for most lessons was very good. Some of the teaching and learning strategies observed correspond closely to those recommended for the delivery of SPHE. The range of methodologies provided students with opportunities for active, participatory and experiential learning. This approach to teaching and learning is commended. Student engagement was at its best when the teacher acted as facilitator, when students were given clear instructions and when the lesson was accompanied by well-planned and effectively used methodologies. Opportunities to share good practice among the team, in relation to the use of methodologies and resources, could be considered as part of the team’s subject planning meetings. To the detriment of the programme’s effectiveness for engaging students, ground rules had not been agreed for any SPHE class, a useful behaviour management tool. Ideally, ground rules should be set and adhered to in all SPHE classes. Classroom management strategies in SPHE should be reviewed and some sharing of practice in this area, and perhaps at a whole-school level, might be useful.

 

4.3 Assessment

 

Students enrolling in the school undergo an assessment process to ascertain learning needs. While appropriate use is being made of assessment modes, tests and other instruments to assess students’ learning and individuals’ needs, there is also evidence to suggest that at pre-entry level, it is currently used for steaming. The use to which pre-entry assessment is put should be reviewed and information gathered should be used only to put in place appropriate supports and to assist guidance personnel. In Guidance students are well assisted to explore individual aptitudes and plan suitable career paths. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) are administered annually to all students in Transition Year and they receive individual feedback on their results. Results are being used effectively to assist students to make subject and programme choices in senior cycle. Other aptitude tests and interest inventories are selected and administered to meet particular students’ needs. However, the tests currently used in the area of learning support should be reviewed and reference should be made particularly to circular 0099/07 in this regard.

 

A variety of assessment procedures are in use across subjects, including questioning, mid-class reviews, continuous assessment based on class work, projects, assignments and homework, grading of practical work and formal written examinations. A strong consciousness of State Examinations Commission (SEC) assessment criteria was evident in some subject areas. Some opportunities are provided for assessment of learning and assessment for learning, although this practice varies somewhat between teachers. In Irish, all of the language skills are included in the assessment of students’ work in the senior cycle. Mock examinations are held for examination classes early in the second term. Transition Year students undergo in-house examinations in all subjects. It is recommended that some form of self-assessment procedure be included among the students’ experiences. Assessment criteria were communicated to students during several of the lessons inspected, and this practice should be continued and developed further. Student reflection and self-assessment could inform programme planning and review of teaching and learning in all subject areas.

 

Assessment criteria need to be developed and documented in some subject areas. The sharing of practice in relation to the forms of assessment used by different teachers, and particularly assessment for learning, could be included in discussions at subject department meetings. Planning for the assessment of students’ progress should always be incorporated with planning for teaching and learning. This planning should be developed further to include more detailed aims, objectives and learning outcomes, and to become assessment criteria. Thus, it is recommended that the good work done in planning, in some subject areas, be developed into the assessment area, and it is recommended that the links between outcomes and assessment criteria be made overt in the planning for assessment.

 

Systematic records are kept of students’ assessment and examination results. These records provide a means of tracking students’ progress and of informing judgements. End of term and end of year results are communicated to parents and guardians. In the area of guidance and counselling, good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students are being kept and all follow-up actions to be taken are fully recorded. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support on an ongoing basis. All meetings held with staff and management are recorded.

 

In some classes visited it was evident that a system has been developed for students to file and store personal materials from the SPHE lessons; this took the form of a folder, or a student workbook or a combination of these. The materials are generally stored securely in the classroom and are distributed to students at the beginning of each lesson. This excellent practice is commended as it ensures that students and their parents have a tangible record of work and achievement for the year, it provides a tool for assessment and it guarantees that students’ work, which might be of a personal nature, is not lost. The inclusion of SPHE as part of the regular student progress reports will assist in the assessment of the subject and as such, is recommended. Regular parent-teacher meetings are held to report on student progress. The school report issued after formal in-house examinations at present does not convey much information to parents. An exception to this practice is the Transition Year report where a personal comment is entered and the co-ordinator and assistant co-ordinator are congratulated in this regard. It is strongly recommended that the school report be reviewed and that tutors and year heads, or the principal or deputy principal, sign reports as appropriate. More information of an individual nature should be conveyed to parents on the school report.

 

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1         Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

The Department of Education and Science provides the school with one full time learning-support teaching post (twenty-two hours) in addition to just under three additional whole-time equivalent posts for special educational needs. The school also has an allocation of four special needs assistants (SNAs) three of whom are deployed. The principal and board have focused on developing staff competency in the area of learning support and the school is currently building a team of teachers to deliver an effective learning-support service. Coláiste Phádraig has developed a special educational needs policy. The school strives to include all students with SEN and it is commendable that additional supports and provision have been targeted at this area. Students have access to the full curriculum. The school is accessible to students who might have mobility difficulties since the entire structure is built on one level. Resources for SEN are good on the whole and lately have been considerably enhanced with the provision of a resource room that has good ICT provision. It is commendable that there are five learning spaces for students requiring additional educational supports. Some of these are rooms for small groups or individuals. One is a small tiered room that is not suitable for students requiring learning support or students with SEN, being designed as a demonstration room or small lecture theatre. Its use for learning support should be reviewed. The lighting in some of the other spaces also requires improvements and the smaller rooms would benefit in some instances from additional storage and shelving. To build on existing good practice, all those involved in learning support and resource teaching should be supported and encouraged to develop skills and knowledge in their professional areas through CPD. All teaching staff would benefit from additional training in the area of mixed-ability teaching, differentiation and teaching those with additional learning and language needs. The learning-support department could, on occasion, inform staff about relevant pedagogical issues. It is reported that there is good liaison between the learning-support teachers and other subject teachers. Some departments have very good practice in relation to inclusion in their planning documents and the work of the Mathematics department is particularly commended in this regard. SNAs deployed have good experience but would also benefit from specific training. Students with learning needs generally tend to progress to the LCA in the senior cycle. However, arrangements are put in place to support students in other senior cycle programmes as required.

 

Individual education plans are currently being developed for students with psychological assessments and approximately eighteen percent have now been completed. The learning-support department has identified the need to review assessment tests currently in use.

 

Learning support is organised either through the creation of smaller classes, through the withdrawal of individual students, for example from Irish for those who have exemptions, and the creation of small groups up to a maximum of ten. It is noted that students are also being withdrawn from English and Mathematics for additional learning support. While efforts are made to ensure that individual needs are met and that students in the small groups formed have common levels of attainment, the withdrawal of students from English and Mathematics is not ideal practice. It is recommended that school management and the learning-support team refer to the Learning Support Guidelines published by the Department (particular note could be taken of pages twenty-nine and forty-six). Where at all possible, students with literacy and numeracy needs should receive their full complement of lessons along with their classmates in order to aid full inclusion. Ideally, where supplementary teaching is required, the learning-support teacher should provide this in the classroom with the full co-operation of the class teacher. Where withdrawal is deemed necessary, students with literacy and numeracy needs could receive appropriate interventions targeted at their individual needs. Current practice, in some cases, amounts to the sharing of classes between two teachers so that students have some lessons with one teacher and other lessons with a different teacher. Such arrangements require careful management and a very intense level of liaison and collaborative planning; they run the risk of lack of continuity and consistency. In general there is scope for the development of targeted supports to aid the full inclusion of students with special educational needs.

 

There are at present no social or other supports in place that are specifically targeted at students who may be exceptionally able. The academic needs of these students are met through existing curricular provision and through extra-curricular and co-curricular activities. Such students find opportunities to participate, for example in debating, and some also represent the school at competitive level, for example in the Chemistry Olympiad at Dublin City University. In the course of developing policies and practices around the area of special needs and specifically, those who are exceptionally able, the school should consult the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) website for information. The document, Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guidelines for Teachers, could prove useful for planning and practice.

 

The school is very conscious of the need to develop policies and a comprehensive range of supports for its growing cohort of newcomer students, some of whom have additional language needs. Good informal practices exist and the school is attempting to foster inclusivity. Staff have commented on the school’s increasing cultural richness that has resulted from its diverse intake and have observed the growing acceptance of difference, particularly in the junior cycle. There is recognition also of the contribution many of these students are making to school life academically as well as culturally. Sport is identified as a particular interest for many of the newcomer students and their enthusiasm and dedication is highlighted by staff. However, there is a real need for a policy on inclusivity and interculturalism. The school should institute specific structures to support students and their parents and should be proactive in soliciting the views of such parents and of involving them fully in school life. While cognisance is taken of cultural difference, the school’s existing enrolment policy does not reflect the inclusive ethos noted in the mission statement. Enrolment for non-Christian students is conditional on their attendance at RE classes, the spirit of which is specifically Christian and Catholic in line with the school’s religious ethos. RE is compulsory for both senior and junior cycle students irrespective of faith. It is acknowledged that the reason for this condition is the supervision of students, and this is a very important and necessary consideration for the school. However, the conditional nature of the school’s enrolment policy should be reviewed and amended to comply with equality legislation and the school’s avowed ethos of respect for diversity. Good practice in regard to respect for religious diversity is observed informally.

 

Language support is an area that requires considerable development and it is recommended that this be prioritised for planning and provision purposes. A significant minority of students require language support. At present, the Department provides a specific allocation of four whole-time equivalent posts, that is, eighty-eight teaching hours for this purpose. The teachers deployed in the area have experience of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), and it is reported that some have done TEFL courses. There is no one with a specific brief for co-ordinating services and provision for newcomer students in general, and in the area of language support in particular. This falls under the general umbrella of the learning-support department. There is a need to develop resources, including ICT, in the area of language support. It is reported that individual teachers develop and use their own resources and their initiative is commended. There has been some contact with Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT). It is reported that the European benchmark portfolio is available and is being used for assessing students who arrive at different times during the school year. In general, others needs are identified at pre-entry level but it is not clear how this takes place. To deal with the challenge of provision for students with language needs, and to aid the provision of a comprehensive service, it is recommended that formal structures, procedures and planning be established in the area of provision for students who are newcomers and whose mother tongue is not English. Liaison with a full range of external services and agencies and with other schools that have developed good practice should take place.

 

The school reports that communication with the diversity of parents takes place through a number of mechanisms that include letters, personal meetings and the use of interpreters. Parents are also encouraged to attend English classes at a local language school. Given the changing nature of the student intake, there is wide recognition of a need for a policy on inclusion and interculturalism and this should be regarded as a priority area. All staff would benefit from training in the area of inclusive practice  and this should be facilitated at future staff-development days and through subject department and programme planning. A useful resource is Intercultural Education in the Post-primary School: Guidelines for Schools published by the NCCA that was issued to all schools .

 

There is a small cohort of traveller students in the school and the school has a special allocation of just under fourteen teaching hours. The school maintains contact with the visiting teacher for travellers at an administrative level. There are no policies or supports that are specifically targeted at Traveller students.

 

The school maintains links with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) attached to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the visiting teacher for travellers

 

 

 

 

 

5.2         Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

An inspection of Guidance formed part of the whole-school evaluation and full details can be accessed in the report. The guidance department makes a significant and highly valued contribution to school life. A competent team delivers guidance and all students can avail of personal counselling on a one-to-one basis. Students can access a good range of supports through the programme and a good quality service is available. Up until now, guidance personnel were involved in assessing students with learning needs. However, this role is more appropriate for the learning-support department and the school has been developing personnel in this area. Learning-support personnel will visit feeder schools in this academic year. Facilities and resources, including ICT, are good. Record keeping is also good. The school has a draft guidance plan. To progress the planning of Guidance quickly in a whole-school context a small planning group headed by guidance personnel should be established immediately. Consultation with the whole-school community should also be arranged to identify the general needs of students in Coláiste Phádraig and the areas requiring particular targeting. Timetabling for guidance in second year also needs to be reviewed.

 

Supports are provided to students mainly through the guidance department and the tutor and year-head system. The school is commended for the care it takes of first year students; the guidance counsellor is always the year head of first years. In addition, a mentoring programme called Treoir has been established and is proving very successful. Fifth-year students provide support to incoming first years. This initiative is highly commended.

 

The school does not have a pastoral care policy. There is no evidence of an integrated approach towards the provision of personal supports, for example, links involving SPHE, Guidance and pastoral care personnel in the school. Referral procedures are informal. The school should aim to maximise contact with Guidance for the highest number of students possible from the time they enter the school.

 

Coláiste Phádraig has a year-head and tutor system to which reference has already been made. Transition Year comes under the auspices of the year head in fifth year but it also appears to have its own tutor who has a special duties post, the main role of which is to monitor school uniform. In the vast majority of cases the role of tutor is voluntary and staff members are highly commended for their dedication to students in this regard. Frequently, tutors give additional time to students outside their contractual obligations. There is no definition of the tutor’s role and this leads to lack of clarity and consistency. This should be addressed. Some good practices exist on the ground to support students. In the junior cycle, tutors meet their tutor groups once a fortnight (classes are shortened to facilitate this) while senior cycle students have a timetabled period for pastoral care once a week. Efforts are made to ensure that the tutor also teaches the class group a curricular subject in order to increase contact time. As a result, tutors are often drawn from the same pool while others may not engage in the role at all. Tutors monitor journals and liaise with year heads, management and other personnel as need requires. Meeting students once a fortnight in the junior cycle militates against the regular monitoring of students and the building up of meaningful relationships. Under the present system, tutors may therefore feel the need to carry out duties attached to their role during lesson time in the subject that they teach. Such an eventuality runs the risk of eroding lesson time with a consequent negative impact on teaching and learning and on syllabus delivery and this could place unnecessary strain on teachers and students. To address these issues, it is strongly recommended that tutors have daily contact with their groups for a short period. Regular assemblies with year heads should also take place.

 

It is strongly recommended that the school develop a student support or pastoral care team to assist and support the development of a full range of student services for all students. There should be a pastoral care co-ordinator and this role should, ideally, be allocated to an assistant principal’s post. The provision of personal counselling would then be more fully integrated within a much wider whole-school, student-support system. The school should seek ways in which to involve more of the non-teaching personnel in the area of supports for students. It is clear that non-teaching staff are already performing pastoral roles in an informal way and have the capacity to do so. This role should be formalised within the pastoral care structure. Parents could also be involved. As the school does not have disadvantaged status, it does not have a School Completion Programme (SCP) or a home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. At a number of meetings, the view was expressed that such a role would be very valuable for the students and parents in Coláiste Phádraig. It may be possible to seek support from parents and trustees to fund, on a part-time basis, a HSCL co-ordinator. The school could also consider accessing the School Completion Programme publication, Guidelines to Best Practice that can be downloaded from the Department’s website. The advice and information therein could be useful in informing planning, in helping with the development of closer links between the school, homes and the community and in the development of a range of supports for students.

 

In order to provide a comprehensive service for individual students who require particular supports and specific interventions, either on an occasional or ongoing basis according to need, it is strongly recommended that the school establish a care team. The team should draw personnel from the guidance department, learning-support department, SEN department, senior management, year heads, tutors, a HSCL co-ordinator (if available) and a chaplain (if available). On an occasional basis, professionals such as a NEPS representative could attend. The care team should manage students on suspension. Tutors and year heads should be empowered to refer students to the care team and it should also be possible for students to self-refer.

 

A suggestion from staff members to establish a breakfast club has been put forward and there are plans to implement the scheme in a small way; this is highly commended. The school attempts to promote healthy eating through its shop where sandwiches and rolls can be purchased at lunchtime.

 

Coláiste Phádraig has a prefect system. Prefects are appointed and drawn from the sixth-year cohort at present. Their role involves student management and supervision. Prefects supervise in the junior locker areas and the main entrance doors at lunchtime. A post-holder is allocated to oversee the prefects and student council in the school. It is important that all prefects have adequate training for their roles. It is recommended that the role of prefects be reviewed to reflect a greater balance between administrative and pastoral duties so that the prefects are also trained to undertake a role in the network of student supports. The Treoir programme should be a model.

 

The school celebrates student achievement in a variety of ways. The school magazine, the newsletter, the local newspaper and announcements are among the media used to highlight achievement. The board seeks ways of affirming students, for example participants in the Young Scientist competition. The school has an annual awards ceremony. Transition Year students have an award ceremony and are presented with certificates of achievement.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Coláiste Phádraig aims  to create a Christian community that respects diversity and the rights of all students to learn. A strong emphasis is placed on discipline and on participation in a very good range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

·         The trustees are strongly supportive of the school, there is a very good relationship between the board and the principal and the board is very supportive of the principal.

·         The principal plays a central role in the running of the school, has overseen considerable development in the area of resources, has implemented curricular change and has begun the process of policy development, team building and the devolution  of responsibilities to post-holders.

·         The school’s buildings have recently been enhanced with an extension and a fine sports hall. Resources are good across a number of areas including ICT.

·         Coláiste Phádraig welcomes students from a wide variety of backgrounds and abilities and recognises the value of sport as a means of inclusion. The school is very conscious of the need to develop policies and supports for all students.

·         Coláiste Phádraig has developed a set of rules governing behaviour and there are good practices at an informal level on a day to day basis regarding the reinforcement of positive behaviour patterns.

·         Management and staff recognise that whole-school planning is a matter that needs to be addressed as a priority, formal subject department planning has commenced and some key policies have been developed.

·         The school offers a rich curriculum that reflects both breadth and balance. A wide range of programmes and subject options is available, guidance is in place to help students choose subjects and programmes and students from disadvantaged and minority groups have access to the full curriculum. The school is considering the introduction of a taster programme for optional subjects in the junior cycle.

·         The quality of teaching and learning was found to be good in the subjects inspected as part of the whole-school evaluation.

·         The guidance department makes a significant and highly valued contribution to school life. A competent team delivers guidance and all students can avail of personal counselling on a one-to-one basis. The Treoir initiative, introduced this year, represents a very positive addition to the school’s supports for students.

 

 

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

 

·              It is strongly recommended that a student-support policy be developed and that a student-support team be established to implement an integrated system of guidance and supports.

·              A care team should be established to co-ordinate supports for individual students in need of specific, targeted interventions on either a continuous or occasional basis. The additional role of the care team should be to manage students on suspension.

·              The area of language support should be developed and the school should formulate a policy on interculturalism and inclusion.

·              The school should develop a code of behaviour in line with circular 33/91 in consultation with all stakeholders. The code should be informed by the Restorative Justice process and be rigorously and consistently implemented. In parallel with this, it is strongly recommended that the school review its current practice and procedures in relation to suspension.

·              It is recommended that the school re-engage with the School Development Planning Initiative at the earliest possible date. Effective structures should be put in place to review the mission statement, to agree priorities and to develop action plans.

·              A review of posts of responsibility should be undertaken. More responsibilities should be devolved to the deputy principal and to post-holders to enable the principal to undertake a leadership role and to build capacity in the middle management team. The board should support the principal and deputy to engage with the Leadership Development for Schools Programme.

·              The school should aim to implement mixed-ability setting in first year in the 2008/09 academic year.

·              In the interests of health and safety fire drills should be carried out without delay notwithstanding technical difficulties.

·              It is recommended that all staff members, whether teaching or non-teaching, receive training in child protection procedures.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal and deputy, 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 Art – xx January 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Gaeilge – 25 January 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Guidance – 25 January 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) –31 January 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Published November 2008

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    

 

 

Coláiste Phádraig, CBS Lucan underwent a Whole School Evaluation (WSE) in January 2008.  The recommendations suggested in the report have been read carefully and discussed by board and staff.  The Board of Management, staff and parents of Coláiste Phádraig consider the report to be fair, clear and helpful. We have addressed positively the recommendations made by the inspectorate.  Practical areas have been addressed immediately.  Long term recommendations will be given our continued attention with review elements contained within its structure.

 

 

 

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

 

 

We would like to outline the positive steps which the school has taken to meet the recommendations suggested.

 

Since the WSE the development of a Pastoral Care Team in the school has been promoted vigorously.  Our existing student support network has been helped with the assistance of a more structured plan as follows:

 

An Assistant Principals position has been allocated for the development of a structured Pastoral Care Team and work has begun, with the advice and guidance of the Iriah Pastoral Care association.

 

A core group of teachers has been established and in-service for this group is ongoing.  All policies will be inclusive of all groups within the school community.

 

A second recommendation of the WSE report was for the development of a Code of Behaviour in line with the Department of Education and Science Circular 33/91, in consultation with all stakeholders.  This has been undertaken under the guidance of the Deputy Principal following the guidelines of the DES publication “Developing a Code of Behaviour- Guidelines for Schools” and being inclusive of all school parties.

 

Mixed ability classes were introduced in September 2008.  The Schools Development Planning Initiative has been engaged to help with this planning process.  Three In-service programmes have already taken place with further inservice planned for 2009.  There has been an increased level of subject choices for incoming 1st Year students.

 

We have increased the percentage of students who take a European language and we have ensured that they have language periods on four days of the week.

 

On the recommendations regarding a review of our Post of Responsibility, a review group has been established from within the teaching staff of:

 

·         2 Non post holders

·         2 Special Duties teachers

·         2 Assistant Principals

·         Deputy Principal

·         Principal

 

The remit is to assess all posts.  To devolve more responsibilities to the Deputy Principal and Post Holders and to evolve new posts which will meet the challenges posed by our ever changing school situation.  It is hoped to have this review completed by the end of September 2008 – mid-term at the latest.

 

During Summer 2008, with the benefit of a DES grant, a modern fire alarm system was installed in the “old” building.  This system marries with the system in the “new”.  The entire system was commissioned in August.  Fire drills have been set for September 2008.

 

All new staff members have been given manuals relating to child protection policies as adapted by the Board of Management in 2006 and each has been spoken to by the designated liaison person.

 

Improved communication structures between the Board of Management and both staff and parents association have been established and maintained.