An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Presentation College Athenry,

Athenry, County Galway

Roll number: 62870G

 

Date of inspection: 25 February 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 Presentation College, Athenry, Co. Galway was undertaken in February, 2008. 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. (See section 7 for details). The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction

 

Presentation College is one of three post-primary schools in the town of Athenry. It is a co-educational Catholic voluntary secondary school. The Presentation sisters came to Athenry in 1908 and this year celebrate one hundred years of educational provision at both primary and post-primary levels in the town. The school shares its site with the Presentation primary school and convent, the local church and parochial house. 

 

The school has seen a significant increase in demand for places over the past three years having grown from 549 in 2004 to 702 at present. The Trustees have requested that the number be capped at 750 overall and 727 for the 2008-2009 school year. The Commission on School Accommodation (CSA) recently completed a study of the area and advises a new school on a green field site by 2012-2013.

 

The school has an inclusive intake of students that is representative of the catchment area which it serves. The school has a significant proportion of students with additional educational needs and has had resource classes at junior and senior cycles for students with multiple-special educational needs for the past seventeen years.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The staff and management have developed a comprehensive vision statement in consultation with the school community. It is grounded in the religious and educational philosophy of the Presentation Sisters and is reflective of Nano Nagle’s mission to educate the marginalised. Its core values are: to foster a love of God and one another, to promote equality, to help realise each individual’s full potential, to promote mutual respect, personal value and self discipline, and to identify and help those most in need. The school management and staff have identified that the vision statement is in need of review given the impending transfer of trusteeship to CEIST (Catholic Education- an Irish Schools Trust) and the considerable amount of time since it was first developed.

 

The trustees play a very active role in maintaining the characteristic spirit, mission and vision. This has been achieved by the ongoing and active support from the Presentation Sisters Northern Province education office. The trustees monitor and check all aspects of the school on a monthly basis. Policies and procedures must be approved by the trustees and must be prepared and implemented with reference to the vision statement of the school.

 

The core values outlined in the vision statement are clearly visible in the day-to-day life of the school. Central to the fostering of the vision are the principal, deputy principal and staff. Their loyalty, dedication, commitment to and concern for all students are the very embodiment of the vision statement of the school. The school can pride itself on the strong emphasis it places on the pastoral care and academic supports it offers its students.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The trusteeship of Presentation College Athenry is being transferred to the new trust body CEIST. It is hoped that this will be completed by May 2008. There is regular contact between the current trustees, the Presentation Sisters, and the school through an education office and it is hoped by the board that this level of contact will continue under the new trust body. The current board of management is in its first year of a three year term of office. Some board members have served on the board for a number of years. It is through this continuity, sharing of expertise and training for new members that the board is aware of its role and responsibilities.

 

Consultation and partnership are clearly evident at board level. Decision-making procedures are open and clear and taken with regard to the best interests of the school community and with regard to the ethos of the school. The board communicates with the wider-school community through its agreed report. The agreed report is made available to all staff members and the principal as secretary to the board communicates with parents through the parents’ association. The board is to be commended for producing an annual report on the operation and performance of the school with particular reference to the objectives of the school as set out in the school plan. This report is made available to the school community and is also submitted to the trustees.

 

The board has devolved responsibility for the development of the school plan to staff members and has actively engaged in the school planning process through policy initiation, development and ratification. The board has identified a number of school development priorities. Of immediate concern to the board is the school’s capacity to deal with the increase in applications for school places and the identified need by the CSA to relocate the school to a new site. The board has had to manage the enrolment for the current school year as they have determined that there is only capacity for 750 students within the school’s current accommodation. The board is aware of the challenges it faces in the years ahead given the current accommodation limitations and the imbalance of student numbers in junior cycle when compared to senior cycle.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

While the principal and deputy principal have defined areas of responsibility they have adopted a partnership approach to school leadership and management. There is a very good level of communication and collaboration on issues as they arise. The principal and deputy principal have a shared vision for the school and work extremely well together. The deputy principal has been a valued member of the teaching staff for many years and has only recently been appointed to his current role. He is constantly developing his role and is taking on greater levels of responsibility. The principal has a wealth of experience in education which she has brought to the position and has effectively led a process of continual school improvement since her appointment. The principal has been particularly effective in developing and sustaining a culture of self-review and evaluation among the school community.

 

There is a significant level of capacity building by the senior management through the empowerment of the middle management team and teaching staff. This is evident through the constant review by the majority of post holders of their assigned duties and how they might be improved to enhance school life. In addition a significant proportion of non post-holders have taken on roles that they are constantly developing. Assistant principals regularly meet as a group with the principal and deputy principal. This is to be highly commended as it provides a forum for the principal and deputy principal to discuss school management issues with staff members who have a wealth of experience in the school. The high quality of leadership by the principal and deputy principal has helped to build a critical mass of effective leaders throughout the school. The dedication and commitment of the school principal to the students in the school and her motivation of staff members through empowerment and encouragement has been central to all recent positive developments in the school.

 

There are clearly defined duties assigned to post holders in accordance with agreed procedures. It was clear from the written descriptions provided that the workload distributed across some posts varies significantly with some appearing to be more loaded than others. It is noted however that the current schedule of duties is currently being reviewed so as to ensure an equal balance in workload and that the schedule of duties continues to meet the needs of the school.

 

Continuing professional development (CPD) is facilitated by the school management for all staff through release for attendance at in-service days. The school management has also organised CPD as part of school staff and planning days. The school management is commended for the way in which it utilises its own in-house expertise to develop the capacity of its staff. The professional development sessions in assessment for learning and information and communication technologies (ICT), for example, which were organised and delivered by members of staff are to be highly commended. A significant proportion of staff has completed or is completing a post graduate diploma in school planning. This has had a positive impact on staff professional development as well as enhancing the quality of planning in the school and ultimately teaching and learning in the school.

 

The admissions policy and enrolment procedure of the school reflects the mission statement and philosophy of the school and is grounded in principles of equality and inclusion. It is recommended however that the section on special educational needs should be reviewed to ensure that it complies fully with the Education Act (1998), the Equal Status Acts (2000-2004) and other current legislative requirements. The school has developed a number of excellent structures to support and monitor students’ performance in the school. There is an effective code of behaviour in the school that is implemented in a fair and consistent manner by class teachers, year heads and school management. Pastoral care plays a significant role in the management of student behaviour in Presentation College Athenry. The ethos of the school is lived out daily by the way in which school management and staff support students to resolve any difficulties they might have. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that there have been no suspensions or expulsions in Presentation College for many years. Students’ academic performance is closely observed by academic monitors for each year group and when students are identified as experiencing difficulties, appropriate structures are put in place. In addition the attendance and retention of students are monitored in an organised and systematic way.

 

The student council has developed its role significantly in the past year. It focuses on issues that directly relate to students lives in the school. There is a very good relationship between school management and the students’ council and school management sees the student council as having an important role to play in the life and operation of the school. 

 

Parental involvement in Presentation College Athenry is actively promoted by management and staff. There is a strong parents’ association that meets with the school principal on a regular basis to discuss issues of importance in the life of the school. Regular communications in the form of newsletters, individual letters and a principal’s report at each parents’ association meeting are used to provide important information throughout the year. In addition formal parent-teacher meetings are held each year and regular reports detailing individual students’ progress are sent home throughout the year.

 

The school management has established appropriate links with outside agencies, other schools and the wider school community. The schools involvement in a professional learning network of eight schools is to be highly commended. This has provided the opportunity for the management and staff of the schools involved to share, develop and disseminate best practice in relation to leadership, management and teaching and learning in schools. The school is also involved with a partner school in Northern Ireland in the Co-operation Ireland Civic-Link Programme. This partnership has had a very positive impact on the students involved.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

In the majority of instances the deployment of teaching staff complies with Department of Education and Science regulations and is consistent with teachers’ qualifications, expertise, and experience. Teaching staff are timetabled for the requisite number of teaching hours and where a time allocation is allowed this is used for management, planning, and organisation or meeting purposes. Teachers are provided with the opportunity to teach a range of levels and programmes. A few teachers are teaching subjects for which they hold no qualification. From discussions with management it was clear that they were aware of the current and future needs of the school in terms of teaching expertise and that strategies to secure such requirements were being developed.

 

The additional teaching resources allocated to the school for special educational needs are not being fully utilised for their intended purpose, a significant proportion of the resources available for the junior and senior resource classes are not being allocated to these class groups. It is recommended that this should be addressed as a matter of priority and that there should be a full review of how the additional resources allocated to the school are utilised by senior management and the learning support core team. Sections 1.6.2, 2.3 and 2.5.2 of the Department of Education and Science publication, Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs-Post Primary Guidelines should be consulted in this regard. These resources are discussed further in section 5.1 of this report.

 

The accommodation throughout the school is maintained to a very high standard. This has been possible through the installation of closed circuit cameras around the school buildings, the careful management and supervision of students during non-class time and through the ongoing work of the maintenance and caretaking staff. About half of the classrooms in the school are temporary prefabricated accommodation. The South Galway Development Plan published by the Commission on School Accommodation reported that in the short-to-medium term (five to seven years) the current site and accommodation at Presentation College should cater for 720 students and in the longer term, (circa 2012/13) a new school on a green field site will be required. The significant increase in enrolment in recent years has placed a strain on accommodation that in turn is affecting the curricular programme for Transition Year (TY) (see section 3.1 of this report) and the ability to cater for multi-disciplinary needs of students in a suitable environment. In this regard the school will have to carefully manage the number of students enrolled in all of its programmes.

 

The majority of classrooms are very well presented and maintained. A print-rich learning environment has been created in most classrooms. Lockers are available for students and school and sports bags are stored neatly in storage racks in the main assembly area. The school is in the process of implementing the Green Schools’ Programme with TY students.

 

Material resources are provided to support teaching and learning upon request from subject departments. The school management has also been proactive in supplying such resources as TVs, DVD players and computers in classrooms throughout the school.

 

A comprehensive information and communication technologies (ICT) policy has been developed with action plans. The main focus to date has been in the development of the ICT infrastructure and training for teachers. The next area of focus for the school is the effective integration of ICT into learning and teaching. In this regard each subject department has identified an ICT liaison person and most have developed an ICT action plan. The school has also set up a virtual teaching environment and is developing the use of ePortal for school administration. The clear vision for the development of ICT as a teaching and learning resource in the school is to be highly commended.

 

The school has prepared a health and safety statement that includes a section on risk assessments. This statement is communicated and available to the school community. It is recommended that the security risks reported by the school management during the course of the evaluation that include, the right of way for pedestrians through the school grounds and the easy access to the train station should be detailed in the risk assessment section of the health and safety statement.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

The school-planning process is ongoing and involves all members of the school community. All members of the school community are appropriately enabled to contribute ideas, express concerns and make recommendations in an open and constructive way. Formal co-ordinating structures are in place to support the planning process in the school. A small team of teachers has been identified to co-ordinate the process. In addition individuals and groups are working on identified priorities.

 

The planning process is grounded in the mission statement of the school and aims to improve outcomes for students and the wider school community. The process is based on ongoing systemic review and evaluation leading to the identification of areas for development and action planning. 

 

The school plan outlines the vision, mission and fundamental aims of the school. It has distinct permanent and developmental sections. It is a comprehensive document that contains numerous policies and a wide range of supplementary materials that could be stored separately from the school plan itself. The plan as currently developed is not an easily accessible or readable document. This has been identified by the core planning team as an area of immediate focus and it is a stated intention of the core planning team to make the school plan easily accessible to the whole-school community. It is suggested that as a starting point the core team should utilise existing documents and shorten the school plan by developing a permanent section that outlines the vision and mission of the school, a list of the policies developed and ratified by the board, a description of the planning process in the school and a description of the system for school self-review, evaluation, and monitoring of the school plan. The developmental section could include those priorities identified by the school community to maintain and enhance students’ learning for each school year and or the excellent summary statements that have been developed for the main school policies. A short summary of the action plan, a timeframe for implementation and the assignment of responsibility could be developed for each priority. A separate file could be held in the school that would contain all of the school policies and action plans. These could subsequently be made available to anyone who wished to view them.

 

The collaborative approach to the development of school policies has resulted in a collective responsibility for their implementation. In addition the engagement of individual staff members in further study in the area of school planning has contributed significantly to the quality of school planning. There is a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for the implementation of the plan and a clear understanding of the impact school planning is having on outcomes for students. School management and staff are to be highly commended for the overall quality of school planning, in particular the ongoing, systemic, collaborative and developmental nature of the process in the school.

 

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

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The school offers a broad and balanced curriculum at both junior and senior cycles. The organisation of the curriculum complies with the majority of Department of Education and Science regulations and recommendations. In this regard it is recommended that at least two class periods per week for each year group should be timetabled for the subject Physical Education. The core and foreign language subjects are timetabled concurrently in TY, thus offering the possibility of assigning students to different class groups depending on their attainment level in each of these subjects. TY students are also timetabled with fourth year Leaving Certificate students for most optional subjects. These timetabling arrangements for the core, foreign language and optional subjects are not in keeping with the spirit of TY. All subjects in TY should be organised on a mixed ability basis and TY students should not be timetabled with Leaving Certificate students as this offers the possibility for students to follow a two year programme over three years. Although school management indicated during the course of the evaluation that these arrangements only arose due to timetabling difficulties with teaching resources and accommodation, it is recommended that the curriculum organisation of TY should be reviewed immediately. This may necessitate a reduction in the number of students enrolled in the programme next year given the current accommodation issues in the school.

 

The programme co-ordinators for TY and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) are to be commended for the efficient way in which both programmes are managed. In particular the co-ordinator of TY is to be commended for the wide variety of activities organised as part of TY and the way in which they are scheduled so as to have the least possible impact on tuition time for the rest of the TY programme. The low cost associated with TY is also to be highly commended as this helps to ensure that the TY programme is fully accessible to all students.

 

The allocation of time to some of the subjects in first year is significantly below that in most schools. It is recommended that the school management and staff should review the organisation of the taster programme, in particular its duration and the time assigned to each of the subjects.

 

The school is to be commended for establishing first-year classes that are mixed ability in nature. The core subjects of Irish (from second year), English (from third year) and Mathematics (from first year) are always timetabled concurrently. This allows for the assignment of students to classes based on their attainment in each of these subjects. Students are not assigned based on attainment in Mathematics until second year; the concurrent timetabling is used to facilitate co-teaching to support students. The pupil-teacher ratio for students placed in lower sets in Junior Certificate Mathematics is kept small. Such strategies to support students’ needs are to be commended.

 

The school has developed an adult education programme to serve the needs and interests of parents and the wider school community. The primary aim of the adult education programme is to foster and develop relationships between the school, parents and students. The school is to be highly commended for the way in which the programme has been organised and developed since its establishment.

 

Curriculum provision and review has formed part of the whole-school planning process. Parents, students and staff were all included in this process. The annual review of the TY programme in particular is to be highly commended. In light of the above recommendations and in light of the findings contained throughout this report and attached appendices, it is recommended that the priority areas for further development should be; the curriculum organisation for TY, the Guidance plan and programme, the curriculum for the resource classes and the timetabled provision of Physical Education.

 

Meeting the needs of students, within the resources available, is the primary concern in framing the timetable. Concurrent timetabling of core subjects is a feature of the timetable so as to allow for students’ movement and co-teaching as appropriate. In addition the concurrent timetabling of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) facilitates the establishment of small class groups which is to be commended as good practice. The recommendations contained in this report in relation to Guidance and Physical Education will impact upon the planning and organisation of the timetable. In this regard it will be necessary to review the time allocations to subjects in senior cycle, some subjects and the timetabled provision for activities in junior cycle.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students follow a taster programme of all subjects in first year and are given an open choice of subjects at the end of first year and again for senior cycle. Students are also given an open choice with regard to the programme they wish to follow for senior cycle. The programme and subject choice process allows for maximum access to the curriculum for most students. It is noted that learning support is generally timetabled opposite the modern European languages. While acknowledging the fact that students and parents are informed of the consequences of not studying a modern European language the correspondence sent to parents should highlight that this is not the only option available for learning support in the school. School management and staff should also look at the possible benefits of offering the Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP) to a wider cohort of students.

 

Parents are invited to information evenings where subject and programme choices are discussed by members of school management and staff and outside guidance consultants. Parents can also make an appointment with the school if they have any concern regarding the subjects students are assigned and the levels they are taking in each subject.

 

Some guidance is provided to students in school time in relation to subject and programme choice.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extracurricular provision

 

A wide range of activities and opportunities to support and enhance learning is provided by the school. These include cultural, aesthetic, community, social and sporting activities. Some examples include; a school musical, European Studies, Gaelic games coaching, media studies, journalism, dancing and Road Safety programmes in TY, debating, day tours and field trips. The school has also developed a comprehensive music programme for all first-year students. In addition a wide range of sporting activities is offered that includes; hurling, camogie, football, basketball, soccer and athletics. Management and staff encourage all students to participate fully in these activities. The teachers involved in these activities are to be highly commended. The teachers involved spoke of the value they place on students’ involvement in such activities and the benefit that accrues from these activities in enhancing students’ personal and social development. The students’ council and parents’ association also commented on the value these activities have in the life of students and the appreciation they have of the commitment of school staff (teaching and non-teaching) to providing a wide range of activities in the school. Students’ achievement in all aspects of school life is celebrated throughout each year and as part of an annual awards ceremony.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

There are excellent organisational structures in place for subject-department planning. Regular subject planning meetings are held throughout the year and teachers work collaboratively in their relevant subject areas. Team leaders have been appointed in all subject areas and this is to be highly commended as it serves to facilitate the sharing of resources and the sharing of good practice in the classroom.

 

Comprehensive subject-department plans have been developed for all subjects and teachers have also developed individual plans. Best practice was observed where teachers used learning outcomes as the basis for their planning, where specific strategies to teach particular syllabus components were identified, and where they had accumulated pre-prepared print and ICT resources to support their teaching of particular syllabus components. It is recommended that such good practice in relation to individual planning should be shared and developed across all subject departments and by all teachers. In addition, individual subject planning should include elements of reflection and evaluation of class and individual student progress in each unit of study.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

Almost all lessons observed were planned to a high standard. In most lessons a range of teaching methodologies was used and these were appropriately varied. Among the very good examples of the use of active learning methodologies seen were brainstorming, games, reflection, discussion, pair work and group work. It is recommended that there is a need for further active methodologies to balance the teacher-centred nature of some lessons so as to respond to the differentiated needs and abilities of all students. In many lessons teachers used questioning to good effect to stimulate and interact with students, to check on understanding, to trigger discussion and to structure the learning activity. It is recommended that keyword charts should be used more frequently and in particular in lessons with students following the JCSP.

 

Classroom management was effective in all subject areas, students demonstrated exemplary behaviour, and were attentive and engaged in their learning. This ensured that an appropriately ordered learning environment was created during all lessons.

 

Students’ participation in many of the lessons was characterised by enthusiasm and engagement that was effectively built upon by teachers to move the lesson along at an appropriate pace. In almost all lessons students were provided with individual attention and individual affirmation and where assigned students’ work had not been performed this was followed up on. An example of good practice seen in one subject was the use of a short worksheet to enable students to give feedback on what they had learned. It also served for the teacher as an evaluation of the lesson.

 

Very good rapport between teachers and students was evident in all the classrooms visited. Efforts to create print-rich environments had been made in some classrooms. Discipline was maintained in all classes.

 

Students’ learning was evaluated through examination of their copybooks, questioning, students’ questions, the ability of students to communicate orally their ideas and knowledge, and their completion of tasks in the subject areas. It was found that achievement was fostered by formative feedback being provided by some teachers on students’ work.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

The school has agreed formal homework and assessment policies. Whilst acknowledging the good work done in this area to date, it is recommended that a more systematic approach to student assessment should be further developed in the area of JCSP.

 

A variety of assessment modes is used to assess students’ competence and progress. For example, portfolio work featured significantly in many of the subject areas inspected and this is to be commended as very good practice. The very good systems of self-review and peer-review observed in some classes when correcting class work and homework should be further developed to enhance the learning experiences of students. Students sit common examinations where relevant and this is commendable.

 

Appropriate records of students’ attendance and progress are kept. In keeping with good practice, the school regularly informs parents of students’ progress in subjects through information evenings, parent-teacher meetings and school reports.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

The school has developed its admission and enrolment policy for students with special educational needs and is in the process of revising its learning support and special needs policy. It is recommended that the revised draft policy should be reviewed to ensure it complies with the advice and guidance set out in the Department of Education and Science publication “Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines”, as a matter of urgency. At present there is no reference to the junior or senior cycle resource classes in the policy. It is recommended that this policy should reflect how the additional educational needs of all students in the school are identified, planned and catered for, including the resource classes, minority groups and newcomer students. The comprehensive action plans developed for learning support and the senior resource class would be an excellent source of reference for this task.

 

A junior-cycle resource class is established every third year for students with multiple and specific special educational needs. While it is recognised that the possibility exists for students to enrol in this class in any given year, they may not be placed in an age appropriate setting. It is recommended that in consultation with the National Council for Special Education that there should be a full review of this provision to ensure smaller designated special class groups are established each year.

 

All available resources and entitlements for students with additional educational needs have been accessed. As outlined in section 1.4 of this report not all of these resources are used for their intended purpose. It is recommended that the learning support co-ordinator should be involved in the initial planning and organisation of these resources when the timetable is being developed by school management. A variety of interventions is used to support students including co-teaching in Mathematics, and this is highly commended, withdrawal and the formation of the resource classes at junior and senior cycles. The school should look at utilising co-teaching as an intervention strategy in English and other subjects instead of withdrawal, where appropriate.

 

There are a large number of special needs assistants in the school. They are to be highly commended for the professional way in which they support students. They are also to be highly commended for the significant levels of continuing professional development they have engaged in.

 

The school has developed comprehensive procedures for identifying students who require additional educational support through the enrolment process and through contact with parents, primary schools and other appropriate agencies. It is recommended that the learning-support and special needs policy include the criteria for admission of students to the resource classes at junior and senior cycles.

 

The co-ordinator and assistant co-ordinators for learning support work closely together to plan for the additional educational needs of students who have been identified as requiring support in the mainstream and for the senior resource class. The JCSP co-ordinator has regular meetings with teachers of the junior resource class and the support/organisation team for JCSP. The school has a significant learning support and resource allocation and a large number of teachers are involved in the delivery of additional educational support in the mainstream and to both resource classes. It is recommended that school management identify a smaller core group of teachers to deliver all learning and resource support. This would allow the learning support co-ordinators to better plan for the individual educational needs of all students in the mainstream and in the resource classes. This would also provide the opportunity for school management to build the professional expertise of a core group of staff in the area of special educational needs. 

 

The school has initiated the individual education planning process for all students in receipt of additional support. It is recommended that this be developed as a matter of priority to ensure the learning needs of all students in receipt of additional support are identified and provided for, in particular those students enrolled in the junior and senior resource classes.

 

The learning-support core team and the JCSP co-ordinator have been given opportunities to speak to staff. The focus of recent presentations has been the implications for the school arising from the Departmental publication The Inclusion of students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines. In addition mainstream teachers have access to information on each student as appropriate.

 

The school has developed appropriate links with external agencies and bodies to support the inclusion of students in the mainstream and to support students in both resource classes. The school keeps parents of students with additional educational needs regularly informed of students’ progress. The school works closely with parents of students in the senior resource class and with external agencies to aid their transition to the world of work and further study. In this regard students in the senior resource class attend school for three days per week and are placed on work experience for the remaining two days.

 

The school has accessed all of the appropriate resources and available supports to aid the full inclusion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, minority groups and those for whom English is an additional language. The school as a matter of policy endeavours to ensure that these students are fully included within mainstream classroom settings.

 

It is currently an issue of concern for the school’s board of management and the senior management team, that the school has not qualified for participation in DEIS. The school has the advantage of being able to avail of the services of Presentation sisters who assist the school in varying capacities. The contribution that the sisters make to the school is significant. In addition, the school has appointed a teacher to act as a home-school-community (HSCL) co-ordinator from its general teacher allocation such is its commitment to supporting students. The school also has a homework club, a food programme, a book rental scheme and a variety of other discreet supports to aid the full inclusion of all students in the life of the school.

 

The school continually monitors the attendance and retention of all students, including those in receipt of additional educational supports. The school has also engaged with access programmes to facilitate the transfer of students to third-level institutions.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The school has started the process of developing a Guidance plan. Guidance is viewed by the school management as a whole-school support for students and in this regard action plans for each year group have been developed. These action plans set out the tasks, roles and responsibilities to ensure all students should receive a sufficient level of guidance and counselling appropriate to each year group. The whole school approach to Guidance is managed by the school principal and supported by school staff and external guidance consultants. It is recommended that the school address the factors that give rise to the dependence on external supports to provide aspects of Guidance in the school as matter of urgency given the significant guidance allocation to the school.

 

The school has qualified guidance counsellors and the full guidance allocation is timetabled for. However, not all of the timetabled hours are being fulfilled. It is recommended that this be addressed as a matter of urgency.

 

It is further recommended that the guidance department develop a comprehensive guidance programme for each year group, including the junior and senior resource classes, that covers educational, personal and vocational guidance as appropriate. In addition weekly guidance classes should be clearly timetabled for on each student’s timetable in senior cycle.

 

The facilities for Guidance are very good.  There are two well-appointed and equipped offices. Students also have access to ICT for guidance purposes.

 

The school has contact with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and has engaged the services of a counsellor to provide personal counselling as required to supplement the significant levels of counselling provided in the school.

 

As well as timetabled classes there is also individual guidance for senior cycle students to discuss post-leaving certificate career and further study options and counselling sessions for students as the need arises. Parents are encouraged to meet with the guidance counsellors and there has been a guidance counsellor presence on open nights and information evenings. The school has established good links between local third-level institutions whose representatives visit the school on an annual basis.

 

The school has a well-established and comprehensive student support structure which involves all staff. A care team is in place that comprises management personnel, year heads, guidance counsellors, the HSCL and SPHE co-ordinators, learning-support teachers and a school chaplain. The care team meets every Monday morning and have responsibility for supporting and co-ordinating the pastoral care programme. A comprehensive SPHE programme forms a core part of the pastoral care programme in the school. In addition year heads, academic monitors and class tutors play a key role in supporting students. Students are also involved in pastoral care through a first-year mentoring programme. The school is to be highly commended for the way in which it supports all students in the school.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Presentation College Athenry is an inclusive school and places a high value on pastoral care and academic support for all of its students.

·         The principal has effectively led a process of continual school improvement since her appointment and has developed a culture of self-review and evaluation among the school community.

·         A significant proportion of staff has been empowered to take on leadership roles in the school.

·         There are excellent structures to support and monitor students’ performance in the school.

·         The high levels of staff engagement in continuing professional development have contributed significantly to the life and operation of the school.

·         The school management and staff are to be highly commended for the overall quality of school planning, in particular the ongoing, systemic, collaborative and developmental nature of the process in the school.

·         Students are given an open choice of subjects and programmes in junior and senior cycles.

·         The school provides a wide range of activities and opportunities to support and enhance learning. These include cultural, aesthetic, community, social and sporting activities.

·         Team leaders have been appointed in all subject areas and subject teachers work in a collaborative manner.

·         The school has developed comprehensive procedures for identifying students with additional educational needs.

·         The school has developed a range of strategies to aid the inclusion and integration of students with additional educational needs in mainstream education.

·         A comprehensive and well-organised students’ pastoral care structure is in place in the school.

 

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

 

·         There should be a full review by senior management and the learning-support core team of how the additional resources for special educational needs allocated to the school are used to ensure they are fully utilised for their intended purpose.

·         The curriculum organisation of TY should be reviewed immediately.

·         Physical Education should be included in the curriculum for all year groups.

·         The school should address the factors that give rise to the dependence on external supports to provide aspects of Guidance in the school.

·         A comprehensive guidance programme should be developed for each year group.

·         The draft learning-support and special needs policy should be revised to reflect how the additional educational needs of all students in the school are identified, planned and catered for, including the resource classes, minority groups and newcomer students.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

·         Subject Inspection of English – 29 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of German – 25 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Junior Certificate Schools Programme – 27 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Technical Graphics, Design and Communication Graphics – 20-21 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Social, Personal and Health Education– 25-29 February 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

8.         School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of Management is delighted to receive this report which is overwhelmingly positive in its assessment of the school.  The Board wishes to acknowledge the commitment, dedication and hard work of staff and in-school management, individually and collectively, which made it possible.

 

The Board would like to thank the Inspection Team for their professionalism and unfailing courtesy throughout the process.

 

The Board notes the prevalence of the word ‘should’ in the document and suggests that’s its use may be overly prescriptive.

 

The Board would suggest that DES considers the inclusion of expertise from NCSE on inspection teams examining provision for special needs students.

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

 

 

The Board has examined the report in detail and will give serious consideration to its recommendations. A number have been implemented already (see below). The others will be considered as part of the school’s regular planning process.

 

A review of the allocation of SEN resources has been undertaken and all resources allocated are now fully utilised and dedicated to SEN.

 

The Board would like to clarify, as it did to the Inspection Team, that the arrangement linking optional subjects in Leaving Certificate Year 1 (4th Year) with Transition Year was an extraordinary once-off measure for the current school year (2007-08) only, to ensure that the small number of LC1 students would have a reasonable level of subject choice available to them for their Leaving Certificate Programme. No such link will be necessary and was never envisaged, for future years.

 

Third Year students will be timetabled for PE next year. The school will continue its development of the whole-school Guidance Plan which will detail a comprehensive programme for each year-group. The Board will initiate a review of its provision of additional external guidance support.

 

The draft SEN policy will be reviewed in the course of 2008-09. Consideration will be given to taking a smaller number of resource students each year and integrating them as much as possible into regular classes.

 

A number of the recommendations in Section 5.1 appear to refer only to practice in the JCSP class as the recommendations are already in practice in the mainstream classes.

 

 

 

 

 

30 September 2008