An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Cross and Passion College
Kilcullen, County Kildare
Roll number: 61690W
Date of inspection: September 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Cross and Passion College was undertaken in September 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in five subjects were evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects/programmes. (See section 7 of this report 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.
Cross and Passion College serves the children of the town of Kilcullen and enrols all students from the local feeder primary schools. There are five main feeder primary schools and pupils also enrol from further afield. Kilcullen is situated twelve kilometres from Naas, on the former Naas to Carlow road. The town has a large rural hinterland and there are a number of small villages nearby. The population of Kilcullen has increased significantly in recent years, growing from just under two thousand in 1986 to almost five thousand today.
The school offers the Junior Certificate at junior cycle. For senior cycle, a range of programmes is provided to suit the abilities and aptitudes of students, including the Transition Year (TY) programme, which all students are required to follow, the Leaving Certificate (established), the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). A broad range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities is included in the curriculum. Both cultural and sporting interests are catered for, and there are activities to promote and highlight moral and social issues.
The current teaching staff consists of forty permanent whole-time teachers, including the principal, deputy principal and guidance counsellor. There are fifteen other teachers, including temporary whole time, substitute and part-time teachers, and those on contracts of indefinite duration (CIDs). The school has also appointed a permanent member of staff to the role of a home-school-community liaison officer, on a part-time basis, to fulfil a recognised need within the school and local community.
Through active partnership with the wider community, the Sisters of the Cross and Passion have provided land on which a community sports hall, all-weather pitches, and a pitch-and-putt course have been built, with community support. The school’s sports programmes, and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities can avail of this facility. It is available to the school during the day and to local sports and other groups in the evenings and at weekends. There are also playing fields located within the school grounds.
The mission statement of Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, is grounded in the best traditions and practices within the school. It recognises the central importance of caring relationships as the basis upon which learning and growth are enabled, in an environment of respect for self and others. It was drawn up following a detailed examination of these practices and procedures. It is lived out on a daily basis, especially in the operation of the pastoral element of school’s mission, resulting in a Christian, caring and supportive learning environment.
The principal and deputy principal are very much aware of, and supportive of, the ethos of the school and work very hard to ensure it is the basis of all their work. They have a clear vision of what they want the school to be. They show strong leadership and they work in a systematic manner. The manner in which they carry out their functions exemplifies the open and inclusive approach to care and education that the school strives to implement.
The school strives to be a centre of academic excellence. At all levels, management and staff take great pride in their school and in the achievements of its students, and have a strong sense of ownership of the school. There is a notable sense of community in the school and a high level of collegiality among the staff.
A warm, welcoming and open atmosphere can be felt throughout the school. Respect for students is evident in all interactions between staff and students and in the manner in which the school is managed for the benefit of the students.
There is a strong focus on the holistic development of students, with a strong and caring pastoral system to support students in their learning and development. The school strives to give its students the skills they need to succeed in society and to be independent young adults. Teachers are very obviously committed to the pastoral support of their students as a foundation for enabling teaching and learning to take place in a secure environment.
Parents interviewed by the inspectors were very positive regarding the school and the level of care and support given to their children here.
The strengths of the school are the quality of organisation that was evident to the inspectors during the evaluation and the level of planning and reflection, both immediate and strategic that takes place to support this organisation.
The board of management of Cross and Passion College is properly constituted and all members of the board have received training for their role. The board is aware of its responsibilities and obligations. There is a high level of trustee awareness and input into the work of the board. The board demonstrated an obvious commitment to the school as evidenced by all members attending the initial meeting with the inspectors. The board demonstrated that it is in touch with events within the school and is very well informed of issues in school and among students. The board works in a pro-active manner, takes a strategic approach to issues that come before it, and is constantly looking to the future. The board meets regularly and members are active in school events.
Decision-making at board meetings is by consensus. The board is action oriented and gets things done. The board sometimes forms sub-committees to examine specific issues and has also made use of outside expertise when necessary. The board has demonstrated good practice in relation to consultation with the partners in education.
The board is very involved in policy making and planning within the school. It initiates some policies, will support the development of others and, after the relevant partners have been consulted, will give final approval and ratification to policies.
The board has an excellent relationship with senior management and is very supportive of them. In addition, the chairperson has an excellent working relationship with the principal. There is frequent contact between them and the principal keeps the chairperson and the board fully briefed at all times.
Current priorities for the board include the completion of the sacred space of worship in the school to replace the former convent chapel, the provision of an extension to the school to accommodate the increase in student numbers, expanding information and communication technology (ICT) facilities, continued staff development and the provision of access for students with disabilities.
The means by which different members of the board communicate with those they represent are somewhat varied and arbitrary. In order to implement a consistent approach and to establish communication channels, more definite procedures should be put in place. It is recommended that the board issues an agreed report to all partners its meetings.
There is a long history of parental involvement in the school through the parents’ association and parents view the school, its management and teaching staff in a very positive light. The parents’ association has an excellent relationship with the principal. The principal keeps the parents’ association fully briefed at all times and parents are aware of whom to contact in cases of difficulty. Parents are very supportive of the school and organise an annual summer fair to help with fundraising, provide support during the annual musical and organise mock interviews for sixth-year students.
The principal and deputy principal work very much as a team. They share a common vision of what the school should do and where it is going. They see their function as facilitating the work of both staff and students in the school. They are also very concerned to maintain the ethos of the school in all its daily routines and operations and to plan and prepare in a manner that supports this. They have clearly defined roles. The leadership style adopted is one of openness and consultation, where the leadership function is shared and a collaborative culture is fostered and encouraged.
With some small exceptions, there is good communication between all the various groups working within the school and management, as appropriate, for example the weekly meeting of year heads with the principal and deputy principal, and monthly meetings with the assistant principals. Much information is communicated informally but there are also good formal channels of communication.
A high level of collegiality, mutual respect and support was evident among the teaching staff at all times. The level of affirmation that was observed among staff members during the evaluation was noted as a very positive element of the interpersonal interactions that took place. This is indicative of the positive attitude to teaching and learning that was evident throughout the school. Staff give generously of their time and energy to support the school, for the ultimate benefit of students.
In view of the pace at which change is taking place in the school community, it is now timely that the school is beginning a review of the range of duties attached to posts which is mindful of the changing needs of the school. It is recommended that scope for post-holders to develop posts in an agreed and relevant manner should be built in to the system as part of the review. An appropriate balance between administrative, curricular and pastoral responsibilities should be maintained. It is also recommended that post-holders be encouraged to identify their own training and support needs in order to enable them to implement their duties efficiently and effectively.
Management is positive towards continuous professional development (CPD) of staff and has disseminated information and facilitated attendance at in-service meetings. There have been a number of CPD events held in the school, for example the ICT training provided by Kildare Education Centre and a number of school planning events. These are examples of the level of support for staff development within the school.
There is a very good induction programme for newly qualified teachers and a short introduction programme for new staff members. The principal also meets with all newly qualified teachers on several occasions during the year to support and advise them. These meetings are positive and forward-looking in nature and teachers have acknowledged the value of them. In accordance with expressed needs, the school should consider the provision of training and support for newly qualified teachers to assist them in areas such as addressing parents’ meetings and in conducting parent-teacher meetings.
The school operates an open-door policy in relation to communication with parents and contact is as frequent and detailed as circumstances demand. A variety of means are used by the school to maintain contact with parents, including progress reports, occasional newsletters, themed nights for each year group, parent-teacher meetings, letters, phone calls, text messages, notes in students’ journals and direct links involving the home-school-community liaison officer, the guidance counsellor and other staff members as required.
Staff meetings and parent-teacher meetings are held in accordance with Department of Education and Science regulations. Minutes of staff meetings are kept.
There is a students’ council and a prefect system currently in existence. Students are very positive about the school. They express a great sense of community and of belonging. The willingness of students to put themselves forward to take up these roles is a positive reflection of the work being done in the school to empower students. Only senior students are involved in the council. This approach to maintaining a students’ council is not conducive to democracy. The council meets weekly and there is good attendance. Minutes of meetings are recorded and kept. The council sees its role as communicating the views of students on a variety of issues to management and helping students with problems. Management and teachers are very supportive of the students’ council. While the council has been consulted with regard to the code of behaviour, members feel that they should be consulted in relation to a wider range of issues that affect students. The prefects fulfil a pastoral role with first-year students and also a role in helping staff in specific areas such as the library. Due to the atypical structure of the students’ council, and in order to clarify and define roles and representation, it is recommended that a complete re-structuring of the students’ council and prefect system be researched and implemented, to address issues such as roles and functions, representation for all students, structures and meetings. The work of students can be grounded in the classroom through their study of issues such as democracy in CSPE. Relevant information and support materials can be found in the Department of Education and Science publication Student Councils: a voice for students (2002).
There has been a large increase in the number of teachers applying for job sharing recently. The school, in compliance with Department of Education and Science guidelines, has always put the needs of the students first when dealing with job-sharing issues and when drawing up timetables. In order to provide a basis for a consistent approach to dealing with such applications, it is recommended that a policy on job sharing be researched by the board, in conjunction with relevant interested parties, and implemented. It must be borne in mind by job-sharers that their teaching hours are the subject of the job-sharing arrangements, and that all duties attached to posts of responsibility held by job-sharers must still be carried out in full. This issue must also be addressed in the context of the review of the posts of responsibility.
The school timetable provides for twenty-eight hours of tuition time each week. The school is also open for the required minimum number of days each year. The school is exactly on quota with regard to staffing levels this year, and in general, teaching time is efficiently utilised. It is recommended that teachers be deployed so as to maximise the use of their specialist subjects in all cases. Four special needs assistants (SNAs) are also currently employed in the school. There are two secretarial staff, one caretaker and six cleaning staff. In addition, school funds are used to pay for three extra teachers in order to maintain a wide range of subjects on the curriculum and to keep class sizes as small as possible. The board, in conjunction with the trustees, also share the cost of providing a home-school-community liaison officer as part of the pastoral care system in the school. This is a commendable initiative.
The administrative staff, the caretaker and the cleaning staff are very positive about the school, and its staff and students. They have all have had training in health and safety procedures. It was reported that management and staff are always supportive and inclusive, and that they feel part of the staff. The school community places a high value on the work of ancillary staff. The high level of co-operation displayed by these staff supports the work of the school and guarantees that a pleasant and safe environment is provided for students. In order to further support the work of these staff members, it is recommended that there should be more consistency in encouraging students to assist in closing windows, picking up litter and putting chairs up on tables at the end of the school day. Classroom rules should be displayed on the walls also.
In addition, it is recommended that all doors at the two main entrances to the school should be unlocked for the full extent of the school day, in case of emergency. While many of the school corridors are brightly lit and are wide, there are some bottlenecks and some narrow spaces. In order to facilitate the movement of people, it is recommended that notices reminding students to keep to one side of the corridors be displayed throughout the school and that specific areas of difficulty, such as the entrance area to the old kitchen, be highlighted by appropriate signage.
The school’s buildings include a relatively modern block, built in 1986, consisting of a number of classrooms, a library and some specialist rooms, along with some office space. This building is in good repair, is well maintained and is adequate for its purpose. In addition, a significant portion of the school is housed in part of the original Cross and Passion convent building. This building requires a higher level of ongoing maintenance but is also in a good general state of repair. This building is listed for conservation and therefore making alterations in order to maintain its usefulness can sometimes be a difficult and costly process. There are a number of classrooms along with some specialist rooms in this section of the school. New windows have been fitted in this building, under the summer works scheme, this summer.
In order to meet running costs, the school requests a voluntary subscription of €100 per family each year. Appropriate consideration is given to families that may have difficulty paying this fee. The school also levies a once-off registration fee of €135 for incoming first-year students. The purpose of this fee is to discourage frivolous applications and for those students who are accepted for enrolment, the fee covers the cost of a school journal, a PE tracksuit, photocopying, woodwork materials if required, personal accident insurance, and library, sports and locker facilities. It is important that the board and senior management continues to engage in ongoing review to ensure that this fee is applied with appropriate discretion, and that no student who is entitled to admission, under the terms of the schools admission policy, is excluded.
The ICT infrastructure in the school is excellent in some areas and somewhat basic in others. There is one modern ICT room available for student use. There are twenty-four networked computers in this room and all are internet enabled by means of the broadband system available throughout the school. In addition to the computers used for administration, there are a variety of other computers, of various ages and capabilities, in other rooms around the school. Some of these are modern and broadband enabled while many of them are obsolete and are simply operating in a stand-alone capacity. It is intended, as soon as possible, to set up another computer room for student access. A room has already been chosen and the school is in the process of acquiring suitable computers to equip the room. The science laboratories and demonstration room have all had data projectors installed. The school is also awaiting the delivery of computers for the Materials Technology room and the new Design and Communications Technology room. This latter subject has just been added to the curriculum, as has Construction Studies.
There is an effective ICT team in place and a very good draft ICT plan is also in operation. All staff members have had some level of ICT training. An internet acceptable users’ policy is also at draft stage. It is recommended that this policy be reviewed, before ratification, to include reference to all users of the internet in the school. In addition, key statements from the policy should be displayed on the walls of the ICT room.
The board of management has generously provided finance to support teachers in the purchase of laptop computers in line with its policy of integrating ICT into teaching and learning. To this end, ten data projectors have recently been purchased and are being commissioned at present. It is recommended that there should be a balance between fixed and mobile deployment of these in order to maximise their use and that of the teachers’ laptop computers.
The school has the legally required health and safety statement in place. This is reviewed annually and is certified by outside consultants.
The board of management and the principal have demonstrated a very pro-active approach to strategic management and to planning. The school has demonstrated a culture of planning, at both strategic and immediate levels, over a number of years and has engaged with the School Development Planning Initiative. As a result, all the legally required policies have been developed and put in place. Planning is seen as a valuable and necessary process and it is intended to continue with this as necessary for the foreseeable future. There is recognition of planning as a developmental process, which is ongoing and evolutionary.
The mission statement and ethos of the school, which arise from the ethos of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion and from custom and practise within the school, are fundamental to the planning process as well as to the daily operation of the school.
A number of committees are currently active and have produced relevant and appropriate policy documents, some of which have already been sanctioned by the board of management, and many of which are already being implemented. This work is still underway in a number of areas. Due to their involvement in planning and management issues, teaching staff have a strong ownership of the school and what goes on within it.
The planning process begins with identifying the need for a policy or plan in a given area. This may come from a number of different places in the school community: the board, in-school management, staff, students, or as a result of an event, for example when the Cross and Passion Sisters left the school.
There are two groups in the school whose purpose is to oversee and monitor the planning function. Firstly, the steering group oversees subject department planning, arranges speakers on specific topics of relevance and highlights issues that subject departments need to be aware of when engaging in their planning processes. The second planning group is the assistant principals’ group that oversees planning in relation to policies and procedures at the whole-school level and some strategic planning also, for example curriculum planning and student supports. This group works by appointing task committees to research identified issues and formulate draft plans for consultation. The board then examines draft plans and consults all stakeholders, including management, staff, parents and, on occasion, the students via the students’ council. In addition, there is some level of school planning at all staff meetings.
A document entitled Our School Plan was presented to the inspectors. This excellent document outlines the established features of the school, including the mission statement and ethos of the school, curriculum provision at junior and senior levels, provision for student support and the school’s review and evaluation practices. The developmental section of the plan sets the context for the development needs of the school. These needs are listed and prioritised and the goals for the current school year are listed. Some current planning priorities include reviewing the operation and make up of the student council, the completion of school policies and continuing to develop subject department planning.
The following comments are made in relation to specific planning documents and policies presented to the inspectors and in relation to policies in general.
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) as school policy. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines. However, child protection training has still to be provided for all school staff, including ancillary staff, and it is recommended that this be done as a matter of urgency.
The admissions policy should be reviewed, due to difficulties with regard to the non-conditional acceptance of students with additional educational needs. The school has agreed to reword the policy to ensure compliance with Section 7(2)(a) of the Equal Status Act of 2000 and Sections 6(c) and 9(m) of the Education Act of 1998.
A number of plans, policies and procedures are at different stages of completion. All draft documents should be progressed to completion and ratification by the board as soon as is reasonably possible.
The draft homework policy is good, in particular as it makes reference to the role of the teacher in both setting homework and in correcting this homework.
Procedures for monitoring and a time frame for evaluating, reviewing and updating all plans, procedures and their implementation, should be an integral part of all plans. Dating of all plans, procedures and policy documents should be carried out so that the most recent draft of the document may be clearly identified and to ensure that documents are reviewed in accordance with procedures.
Parents, through the parents’ association, and students, through the students’ council, along with other stakeholders, should be involved in planning and review processes at as early a stage as possible and not just at the draft stage. Consultation with, and the increased involvement of, non post-holders should always be facilitated where people have a desire for further engagement.
As Cross and Passion College is a co-educational school, it is important that all plans and policies are gender proofed.
It is suggested that the school give consideration to the preparation of policies and procedures in relation to school tours and outings, as these have become a significant part of many courses and it is important that consistent procedures are in place to ensure that they are run safely and in a manner that maximises student learning. The school should also give consideration to a policy on the management of students of the Higher Diploma in Education, to ensure that student teachers are adequately supervised and that the classes involved continue to receive quality teaching.
In keeping with its pro-active approach to planning, it is suggested that the school should carry out a survey of the number of newcomer pupils in the feeder primary schools, and of those who may need language support, in order to be prepared for a possible increase in the number of such students in the future. The planning teams are referred to the publication Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School (NCCA, 2006) as a source of relevant information.
It is the policy of Cross and Passion College, as stated in the policy on subject choice, to provide a wide range of subjects and courses for students. The school offers the Junior Certificate programme in junior cycle. The Transition Year (TY) programme, the Leaving Certificate (established), the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme are available in senior cycle. This broad curriculum is provided in response to the needs of the student cohort. The board of management has expressed satisfaction that the programmes and subjects offered by the school cater for the needs of the students.
Incoming first-year students choose between French and German. Then, in addition to a broad range of core subjects, they must choose two subjects from Business Studies, Home Economics, Art, Music, Materials Technology (wood), and Technical Graphics, to study for Junior Certificate. They are given the opportunity to sample all of these subjects until Christmas of their first year. This is good practice. It is recommended that the taster programme be extended to allow students to sample both French and German, before choosing between these subjects also. Mathematics, Irish and English are timetabled so as to facilitate division into higher-level and ordinary-level classes, Mathematics during first year, Irish during second year and English for third year. All other subjects are taught in mixed-ability settings. Junior cycle students also follow courses in Religious Education (RE), Physical Education (PE), Career Guidance, Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE).
SPHE is timetabled once each week for all junior cycle students, as recommended. Classes in CSPE are only provided weekly for first-year students. In second and third year, CSPE classes are provided in three blocks of two weeks duration, to a total of ten class periods on each occasion, during English, Mathematics and RE time. This is not in line with best practice. It is important to provide for continuity of instruction, to include teachers’ interest in CSPE as one of the main criteria used when selecting teachers to teach the subject and also to ensure, as far as possible, that each class group is assigned the same teacher of CSPE, particularly in second year and third year, so as to allow continuity in programme planning and to facilitate the organisation of action projects. It is recommended that provision of class times for CSPE be reviewed with these points in mind.
A good TY programme is in place and all students follow a common programme. In general, it is compulsory for students to follow this programme before beginning their Leaving Certificate programme. A small number of students, subject to circumstances, may be allowed to progress directly from third year to the LCA programme. There is a focus, in TY, on the development of skills that will facilitate participation in the subsequent programmes chosen by students. A wide-ranging choice of modules and a variety of other opportunities are available in addition to the core subjects. The programme is run with the best ideals of the transition year to the forefront. However, a stronger sense of team is needed among the TY teachers and, commendably, this is now being promoted by the new co-ordinator. It is recommended that more detailed and specific subject planning documents are developed in some individual subject areas within TY, to include more detailed content, methodologies and assessment, and more details of timing. Care must be taken to minimise overlap with Leaving Certificate subjects in some modules and to ensure that active and non-traditional teaching and learning methodologies are used at all available opportunities. In addition, more specific statements with regard to the cross-curricular elements of TY plans are needed. It is also recommended that the TY review, arising out of the school’s self-evaluation, be carried out at an early date, in order that the outcomes of the review can be implemented in the next school year, and that specific success criteria are developed to facilitate this review. The website of the TY support service at http://ty.slss.ie/ will be of assistance.
Following TY, students opt for the LCA programme or for the Leaving Certificate (established) or the LCVP. The core curriculum for Leaving Certificate consists of Irish, English, Mathematics and either French or German. These are timetabled to facilitate higher-level and ordinary-level classes. Three subjects are then selected from a wide range of available subjects to complement these, giving seven examination subjects in total. Senior cycle students also follow courses in RE, PE, Singing and Career Guidance.
Students with an appropriate subject combination are also invited to follow the LCVP, where they study two Link Modules in addition to the Leaving Certificate subjects listed above. At present, the time allocation for Link Modules classes is not in line with either syllabus recommendations or best practice and this needs to be reviewed. Some good links are maintained with the local community and with outside agencies, as necessary. These links are useful in organising work experience for students, in sourcing speakers for a variety of class groups (for example LCVP, RE, LCA and TY classes), in providing in-service for staff members, and for student support purposes, for example Kildare Youth Service (KYS). It is important that a previous link with Kildare Enterprise Board is re-established, as such a link is of great value in sourcing resources, classroom visitors and a range of other benefits for the LCVP classes.
All fifth-year students, including those who are following the LCA programme, are timetabled together for RE and PE. This is an excellent initiative as it supports inclusion. The arrangement is also carried out for sixth-year students.
In order to ensure continuity, and that all teachers are exposed to the full range of classes in their subject areas, a system of rotation is used to assign teachers to classes, except where circumstances dictate otherwise. This practice is commendable.
A guidance programme has recently been introduced for junior cycle students as part of a whole-school approach to Guidance and Counselling. This is a positive intervention. More detail on this topic is to be found in section 5.2 of this report, below.
Due to the availability of only one ICT room for student use, appropriate access to the school’s ICT facilities is problematic for many students. At present the TY classes are allocated a major proportion of this available time. This needs to be re-examined. It is recommended that a co-ordinated plan be drawn up to address the allocation of ICT time to all years and classes to ensure that, subject to the availability of provision, all students receive a minimum level of ICT instruction appropriate to the subject in question.
Incoming first-year students are given information regarding subject choices, school uniform, and the school’s code of behaviour along with other relevant information. They are encouraged to discuss this information with their parents. All students sit entrance assessments in February. The purpose of these assessments is to identify students who may have additional educational needs, in order that the required supports can be put in place for them as early as possible. It is reported that they are not used for selection of students. In addition, the home-school-community liaison officer and the learning-support teacher visit the feeder primary schools to gather information on incoming students as part of a transfer programme.
A meeting of parents is held in March each year, before students enter first year, to inform parents of subject choices and to make arrangements for admission. A second meeting of first-year parents in held during the first term. The purpose of this meeting is to keep parents informed as to how their children are settling into secondary school and to deal with any issues that may have arisen.
A parents’ night is held for parents of TY students. It is at this meeting that subject and programme options for fifth year are presented and explained.
Every reasonable attempt is made to identify students for whom the LCA is considered the most appropriate programme for fifth year and sixth year. Both these students and their parents are informed of this. The parents of those who do not take up the offer of LCA may be advised further at parent-teacher meetings during TY. However, it is recognised that, ultimately, the students and their parents make the final decision.
It is evident that the school works hard to ensure that parents are consulted with regard to all subject and programme choices that students have to make. This is done in an open and timely manner on all occasions. Appropriate advice, guidance and support are given to all students and their parents. The guidance counsellor meets with TY students individually to assist them with their choice of programme and subjects. Teachers are also facilitated to present their subjects to TY students before subject choices are made for fifth year. This is a helpful initiative. When choosing subjects, no restrictions are placed on students and choices are accommodated insofar as possible within the constraints of class size. A ‘best-fit’ model of subject lines is drawn up in order to accommodate as many students as possible at both first-year and fifth-year level. Provision is also made at junior level for students with additional educational needs. This provision is detailed in section 5.1 of this report, below.
A wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is offered and supported, involving all areas of instruction within the school. These areas include sporting activities, cultural activities, social and charity-based activities and a number of other activities that are linked to programmes and subjects. All activities are inclusive except where numbers are limited or when an activity is related to a specific class or group of students.
Students can participate in sporting activities such as Gaelic football, soccer, volleyball, basketball and hockey. Cultural activities available to students include musicals, music lessons, choir, Gaisce, religious events and charity work, running an annual senior citizens party, and trips to foreign and more local destinations.
A variety of other subject-related and programme-related activities are or have been supported by the school, including study skills, visits to career exhibitions, mini-companies, TY, LCVP and LCA work experience, public speaking, and the Young Scientist Exhibition.
The board of management has expressed approval of the range of activities being provided. No restrictions are placed on students participating in activities, except to ensure that no one is so involved as to suffer academically. It is recognised that there is a cost, in personal terms, to teachers in providing these opportunities for students and their efforts to provide a high level of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities are indeed praiseworthy.
Management and staff have stated the benefits that both teachers and students gain from participating in these activities. These include increased self-confidence, the development of non-academic skills and leadership skills, helping students to find their niche, contributing to the holistic development of students and improved relationships between teachers and students. These activities are an example of the mission statement of the school in action.
The individual subjects evaluated by the inspectors indicated that collaborative subject planning is embedded in Cross and Passion College. There are regular meetings of subject departments and the role of co-ordinator rotates in most cases. This distributes responsibility. Records of meetings are kept. Good practice was noted where there was a culture of review and where subject teams collaborated to share resources, to assess existing provision and to identify priorities for future development. To build on this good practice, subject teams should also be encouraged to suggest ways of addressing identified needs.
Subject plans had been written up in all the subjects evaluated. The School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) template informed these and was adapted to the various subjects. Planning was recognised as an ongoing process. Folders contained a range of subject-specific resources. There were plans for each year group. Good practice was noted where aims and objectives were included and assessment procedures and methodologies were documented. Schemes of work should indicate a focus on learning outcomes. Texts and other resources chosen should be linked to planned outcomes. The time taken for each topic to be taught should be documented in plans. Potential areas for development are active learning methodologies to suit mixed-ability groups, cross-curricular planning and the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Further reference should be made to individual subject inspection reports. Planning for TY indicated some interesting material. There is a need to build on the Junior Certificate syllabus but not to duplicate it; similarly, planning for TY should take cognisance of the Leaving Certificate programme to see how best to form a bridge from the TY programme.
Lessons observed indicated a good level of individual lesson planning. There was general awareness of syllabus content, and lessons showed evidence of clear objectives and continuity from previous lessons. Some very good practice was observed at an individual level.
In some subjects, planning for team teaching was noted, as was planning for students with additional educational needs. In some lessons, very good practice was noted with regard to planning for inclusion. There was evidence of collaboration with school care teams and teaching strategies were adapted to take account of individual learning plans.
An appropriate range of resources had been prepared in advance in all subjects evaluated. This is good practice.
Teaching and learning was evaluated in English, French, History, Home Economics and Music. There was very good advance planning and preparation for the lessons observed across all the subject areas evaluated. All lessons had a clear focus and connections with prior learning were clearly made where appropriate. The exploration of lesson content was well managed. Very good practice was evident where there was effective integration of related syllabus areas as the lessons progressed. In a number of instances the teachers’ lesson plans carefully outlined the key learning outcomes for the lesson. In some cases these planned learning outcomes were clearly differentiated to accommodate the range of student abilities that are evident in mixed-ability settings. This is highly commendable practice. Lessons were generally appropriately paced and pitched. All lessons began with a statement of the topics to be covered and in some cases these were framed in terms of what the students themselves would be doing and why. This is good practice and should be followed in all lessons, as it helps students to focus and consolidate their learning.
There was evidence of good quality teaching and learning in the lessons observed. A good range of resource materials, which were prepared in advance, were used effectively to support student learning. A commendable range of teaching strategies was deployed to engage the students and include them in all aspects of the learning process. Questioning was used to good effect to support learning. To assist students’ understanding some good use was made of the classroom board to highlight key points of information or reinforce vocabulary and spelling. In some instances the board was used skilfully and productively in conjunction with overhead transparencies or posters. The further use of audio and visual resources is encouraged to support students’ learning.
Commendably, many of the teaching strategies deployed facilitated the active engagement of students in their own learning. A collaborative learning atmosphere permeated many lessons resulting in much constructive student interaction through group and pair work. Some very good group-work practice was seen. Particularly impressive was the practice where each member of the group was involved in a short presentation, and students were learning from and listening to each other to a marked degree. In other instances pair work was used to good effect as a language-teaching tool. The preparation for pair and group work is crucial to its success. It is important that all group work involves the setting of a clear task which is time bound and that a ‘reporting back’ phase is incorporated to process the information gathered and ensure that learning occurred.
Classroom management was very good in all the lessons observed. Teachers were affirming and encouraging and created a supportive learning environment in which students worked productively. The learning environment of many classrooms is enhanced by displays of students’ project work and a variety of appropriate educational posters and additional resource material. These good practices create a stimulating learning environment.
Students are challenged to reach their full potential in lessons and high expectations are set. There was good monitoring of students’ work and levels of engagement in the lessons observed. Interaction with students and observations of notebooks and coursework indicated that good progress is being made in all the subject areas evaluated.
The monitoring of the students’ progress is an integral part of teaching and learning in Cross and Passion College. The teachers incorporate a variety of assessment modes, such as oral questioning, class tasks, homework assignments and the setting of class tests, into the structure of lessons. Moreover, there is ongoing monitoring and assessment of the students’ progress in completing the practical requisites of their coursework in subjects such as Music and Home Economics for example. Records of student attendance are kept.
Homework is regularly assigned to class groups. The range of homework tasks set for the students includes written, aural and practical work. The teachers’ practice of providing useful feedback comments to students on their work is commended. The provision of a written comment on a student’s written homework is strongly supported because it is an important means of enhancing student learning. The good use being made of setting assignments that challenge students to develop their skills in writing extended answers is also lauded. It is advocated that where a subject department is presently engaged in developing an assessment and homework policy, the policy indicates how students will be afforded the opportunity to develop their skills in writing extended composition exercises.
Formal assessments are organised at Christmas and at the end of the academic year for most students. Continuous assessment is used to monitor students’ progress in some instances such as the first-year students during their first term in secondary school. Third-year and sixth-year students sit trial certificate examinations during the spring term in order to help them to prepare for the state examinations. The subject teachers collaborate in preparing common examination papers for their respective year groups sitting the Christmas and summer examinations where this is feasible. In TY it is advocated that emphasis be placed on oral work and oral assessment in the teaching and study of the inspected continental language. It is also advocated that a short oral examination in the target language be organised for each year group.
School reports are posted to the students’ homes following each of the school’s formal examination sessions. A parent-teacher meeting is organised annually for each year group to keep parents informed of progress.
Students who are in need of learning support (LS) are well catered for in Cross and Passion College. The LS team has demonstrated a commendable level of initiative and has been very progressive in its efforts to support students with additional educational needs. A draft policy on supports for students with special educational needs is in operation, complemented by procedures to identify first-year students in need of support, as detailed in section 3.2 of this report, above. The LS team consists of two qualified learning-support teachers, assisted by a number of other members of staff. In addition, four special needs assistants (SNAs) are currently in place. They have become an integral part of the special education team. This is good practice. They accompany their respective students each day and have become an accepted part of the school and classroom landscape. Subject teachers and year heads also work closely with the LS team. The entire LS team meet once a month. The school has been in contact with the local special education needs organiser (SENO) for allocation of resources.
Students with additional educational needs are distributed evenly across class groups at junior cycle. Specific support is provided in the areas of English and Mathematics. Subject teachers know who the students with additional educational needs are and are encouraged to differentiate their approach to teaching to help them. There is good awareness in general of these students among staff members. Information for other staff members is disseminated at staff meetings and by notices in the staff room. A ‘key teacher’ system is in place where one resource teacher or learning-support teacher monitors a specific student. Student progress is tracked by LS teachers and full records are kept. This is good practice.
Withdrawal is the main form of support provided in second, third and fourth years, mostly from Irish language classes as most of the students receiving assistance have exemptions from studying Irish. Some withdrawal also takes place from French and German classes. In general, it has been found that LS can be more difficult to implement with senior students, due to their growing self-awareness and sensitivities, and it is mainly provided for LCA and TY students at present.
There are no Traveller students in the school at present. There are fewer than ten newcomer students with language support needs and hours have been allocated to provide language support for them.
Wheelchair access to many parts of the school is difficult. The principal has engaged with Enable Ireland to arrange for the installation of a lift and good progress has been made to date.
The school has one full time guidance counsellor and an allocation of approximately six additional hours for guidance and counselling. A comprehensive range of guidance and counselling services is made available to students at all levels. Guidance is delivered as an integrated model with counselling. A comprehensive and detailed school guidance plan, entitled the draft Whole School Student Care Plan, has been formulated and implemented to address the provision of guidance and counselling services to students at all levels. This includes all year groups, students with additional educational needs and all school programmes. The plan has been drafted in consultation with other staff members. It is recommended that this draft plan be finalised and circulated to management, staff, the board, parents and students for consultation and then ratified at an early date. The whole school guidance and care plan should then be reviewed regularly to meet new and emerging needs
The guidance department is involved in the transfer programme of students from primary schools and in helping both first year students and their parents with subject choices. The guidance department also assists in the provision and correction of entrance assessments. All junior cycle students have guidance class once a month and time is also available for counselling of junior students. A full and appropriate programme is in place for these students and there is good liaison with both class teachers and year heads.
The guidance department is also deeply involved with senior cycle students, helping in the provision of information to them on various career and college options, interviewing them, helping them to fill in forms, organising mock interviews, and organising in-school and out-of-school visits and trips. All students have class weekly. During TY, arrangements are made to inform students and their parents of both programme and subject options for fifth year. Assistance is also provided in relation to work experience for TY students. A full and appropriate programme is in place for senior cycle students and, once again, there is good liaison with both class teachers and year heads.
Personal counselling is also available for both junior and senior students and referrals can come from the students, teachers or other sources. Where necessary, students may be referred to outside agencies for more appropriate support.
The guidance, pastoral care and learning support systems within the school are also linked, to ensure that students who are in need of assistance are given specific support in accordance with their needs. Guidance is also linked to the LCVP programme, as evidenced by the use of some guidance time to support students in preparing their curricula vitae (CVs) and in the area of career investigations.
The formal pastoral care policy in place in Cross and Passion College is underpinned by the mission statement of the school, and linked to many other areas of activity. Pastoral care is seen as a whole school activity and each individual member of the school community is valued. This policy, which is at draft stage at present, should be progressed to ratification at an early date.
The policy details the roles and responsibilities of the year heads, the class teachers, the school principal and other relevant members of staff. The procedures to be followed in relation to record keeping are detailed in the document also. Issues in relation to counselling, bereavement, parental contact and critical incidents are addressed. While much of the work done by year heads is reactive and cannot be planned, a scheduled programme for all year heads and year groups is included in the policy. This is commendable practice. Frequent and meaningful contact is maintained between the year heads and class teachers with their complementary roles. This provides an excellent framework for the management of a variety of in-school issues, ranging from discipline to the identification and support of students whose needs are of a more personal nature. It is recognised that the role of class teacher is a voluntary one and all involved are to be commended for their work in ensuring the students of Cross and Passion College receive the best possible support.
There are two posts of responsibility related to the pastoral care system, one for junior cycle and one for senior cycle. The remit of the posts is to look at pastoral care strategically. A number of key areas have been examined recently, for example the anti-bullying policy. The two post holders meet weekly and are now examining the area of mobile phone bullying.
The needs of newcomer students are catered for by the same pastoral care system as other students. As these are a small and very diverse group, the school has stated that there is not a need, as yet, to have specific policy documents and procedures in relation to them. Refer to section 2.1 of this report, above, for further details.
It is recommended that there be some level of co-ordination in the delivery of aspects of the Science, RE, Home Economics, SPHE and CSPE programmes to provide students with a more complete and integrated view of certain issues in their personal education. One example of this is the teaching of human reproduction, a topic in Science, which is also related to topics and issues that arise in the other subject areas mentioned.
The school does not have a healthy eating policy. It is suggested that such a policy be researched and implemented. Work had already been carried out in this area in a Home Economics TY module and this module could be built on and expanded to encompass a whole-school approach.
In order to streamline services and to clarify roles, responsibilities and relationships, it is recommended that a review of existing pastoral care provision be carried out. The system as it currently exists has evolved. There is a need to re-examine it in the light of the changing needs of the school and of students, with reference to current views of what constitutes best practice, to plan for issues in an efficient and coherent way and to ensure that a shared understanding is being implemented. Planning should also allow for evaluation and review of the system.
Some specific issues need to be considered as part of this review, and in the greater context of the general review of posts, to include issues such as the composition of the care team, the role of the LS department in relation to the care team and the number of posts in the area of pastoral care. While the year heads and the class teachers are the main points of contact for students, more formal procedures are needed to reflect the necessary inclusion in the care team of other teachers such as the home-school-community liaison officer, the guidance counsellors, the school attendance officer and the RE teachers.
A wide range of personnel, groups and procedures are involved in the implementation of pastoral care in Cross and Passion College. Each element of the system works very well and overall outcomes are very positive. However, it is recommended that an overarching pastoral care policy document be drafted in order to tie all the various strands together and present them as an integrated process. This will ensure that a systematic approach is taken and will help to identify any blind spots in existing provision. A formal plan will also help develop the identity of the pastoral care team more clearly, define their functions and interactions with other staff members and outline clearly the procedures to be followed in such difficult cases as may arise from time to time and where set procedures must be followed.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The board and staff of the school were very happy with the process of the whole school evaluation and the inspection report. We felt that it reflected well on the school and that the approach was very respectful of the character of our school, its ethos, its management, curriculum, teaching and learning, policies and involvement of the stakeholders. It also appreciated the amount of development work that has been ongoing in the school over the last number of years. It was a very fair analysis of the school’s strengths and challenges and the collaborative, painstaking approach of the inspectors through a number of meetings with staff and board led to the production of a report which the board and staff could own.
The recommendations which were suggested, whether in relation to the overall running of the school or in subject areas, made a lot of sense and in many cases were issues which staff and management were already aware of. They were seen as constructive suggestions and provided a spur to action. All the recommendations made in the report have been accepted by staff and board and will be implemented in due course.
A very positive aspect of the whole process and of the report was that it did not attempt to grade, rate or categorise the school according to a predetermined schema. This seems to us to be a very important dimension of this process as it avoids the temptation to set up comparisons between schools.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.