An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Killina Presentation Secondary School

Rahan, Tullamore, County Offaly

Roll number: 65630B

 

Date of inspection: 29 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 Killina Presentation Secondary School 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 four subjects was evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section 7 for details). The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment 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

 

Killina Presentation Secondary School is situated in a secluded rural setting to the west of  the town of Tullamore in Co. Offaly. The parish of Rahan in which the school is located includes the ruins of a prominent early medieval monastic settlement indicating that the area has a long tradition of education provision. The Presentation Sisters first settled in Killina in 1817 and established a primary school. Education provision was extended to post-primary level in 1948.

 

In 2001, the school accommodation was extended to include the Resource Centre which includes classrooms and other accommodation for students with Moderate General Learning Disabilities. This development has allowed the school to better serve the learning needs of its community and lead developments and practice regarding the inclusion of students with special educational needs in mainstream settings. The students attending the Resource Centre are known collectively and are referred to in this report as fourth years.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

Killina Presentation Secondary School is an inclusive centre for learning for all its students. The school is still infused with the founding order’s values of service to the community, educational excellence and strong focus on pastoral care. The Presentation Sisters, despite the retirement status of many, are still a dynamic presence and contribute to the life of the school. The school has a very strong community spirit and an atmosphere of mutual respect and purposeful activity was apparent in all interactions experienced in the school during the course of the evaluation.

 

The school’s mission statement is clearly articulated and is embedded in the school’s policies and practices. Development procedures and policy documents bear evidence of this along with the commitment of staff to providing for the academic and holistic needs of each student.  

 

The trustees’ representatives on the board of management (the board) have a key role in ensuring that the ethos of the trustee body, Catholic Education an Irish Schools Trust (CEIST), is sustained and embodied in the day-to-day life of the school community. Students, staff, parents and the board members met with during the course of the evaluation demonstrated a clear understanding of the school’s mission statement.  

 

 

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

As evidenced in the meeting with the board, a very positive working relationship, which benefits the whole-school community, obtains between the board and the trustees. The board is correctly constituted and members demonstrated a clear understanding of their role. It is commendable that board members have availed of training for their roles. Members of the board understand the legislative requirements of their positions.

 

The board furnishes agreed reports of its workings to the parents’ association and to the teaching staff. Newsletters in standard letter format are also issued to parents to keep them abreast of school developments and events. It is recommended that the board, in collaboration with the stakeholders, explores the possibilities of reformatting the newsletter and issuing it on a frequent basis to enhance current communication. It is also recommended that the board considers the value of uploading newsletters and other school information onto the school website in order to reach the wider parent body.

 

The board involves school teaching staff and, in some instances, the parents’ association and the student council in policy development. In the case of the parents’ association, evidence was provided that drafts of school policies on areas such as anti-bullying, code of behaviour and the school’s attendance strategy have been presented to the association. This good practice, which contributes to the development of clear communication and understanding of school management among stakeholders, should become standard practice in policy development procedures. All policies are presented to the board for ratification.

 

It is recommended that the board progresses the development of a complete school plan to include an overarching statement of their shared vision for the continued development of the school’s educational services, policies and goals. Discussions at meetings held during the course of the evaluation and documentation provided indicated that stakeholders do reflect on and evaluate the role of Killina Presentation Secondary School as an education provider and that they consider carefully its development into the future. This is highly commended and it is recommended that the stakeholders explore means by which the continued development of their capacity to reflect and to self-evaluate be made more systemic.

 

As practice demonstrated, the school is strongly committed to inclusion. However, section three of the school’s admissions policy does not fully reflect this. It is therefore recommended that the policy be reviewed to be more closely in line with legislation and the good-practice of inclusion that is already strongly established in the school. A separate admissions policy has been devised for the Resource Centre and clear procedures, which reflect a partnership approach to the education of the students, have been established for the admission of students to the Centre. This is very good practice.

 

The school’s parents’ association is well established and is proactive in its commitment to the continued development of its role in supporting the school to the educational benefit of the students and the community. The contribution of the school to the community in the past and at present was strongly affirmed by all the parents present at the meeting. The parents are clear that they are equal partners in the provision of education for their children and as such are affirmed and respected by staff.

 

The association is representative of all year groups and, where possible, of the different locales within the school’s catchment area.  Members have accessed training for their role. The role of the association is discussed and strategies are planned at the beginning of each academic year. Regular formal meetings of the association are held and these are attended by the school principal. Decisions are reached by consensus and may be postponed to allow members time to reflect on issues or seek further information and advice as required. The management and organisation of the association’s work is to be commended. Communication with the general parent body takes place through word of mouth and letters. It is recommended that the association utilises the school newsletter and website in its communication with parents and the wider school community.

 

Particularly noteworthy is the association’s vision for its activities into the future. It aspires to move away from its role as a fundraising entity and develop its capacity to contribute to the delivery of the curriculum by way of organising, for instance, visits by guest speakers in consultation with school management and relevant teachers. A range of topical issues including drugs awareness and the transfer of students to third level was mentioned. Evidence was also provided that the association supports and co-operates with student council projects, particularly in sharing financial experience, and, on occasion, funds. The purchase of a defibrillator for the school is but one example of such a very good level of collaboration. The association’s partnership approach to the care and development of the school and its community is very good and is commended.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

It was evident that an excellent open relationship obtains between the board and the senior management team. The school’s principal and deputy principal work well together and complement each other in all key areas of school management. The team has a partnership approach to school leadership and enjoys very good support from all staff and from the school community in the conduct of their roles. The principal and deputy principal are informed in their work by long established practices and by pragmatic solutions to common problems and issues for post-primary schools. Both continue to access leadership training through Leadership Development for Schools (LDS). It is recommended that the senior management team builds on its leadership experience and focuses on the strategic progression of the quality of teaching and learning and curriculum development and innovation. This should be in line with student needs into the future in Killina Presentation Secondary School.

 

The senior management team is supported in managing the day-to-day aspects of its role by a middle-management team comprising assistant principals and special duty post-holders. The day-to-day management of the school is effective. Post-holders have an input into the duties assigned and have opportunities to develop their role. This reflects senior managements’ commitment to developing distributed leadership among staff and is commendable. While posts and structures were reviewed in recent years, it is recommended that this aspect of school management be revisited, including the duties assigned to the post of deputy principal. The senior management team welcomes meetings with staff. However, meetings between the team and post-holders to discuss duties assigned and any innovations they may wish to propose occur on an informal basis. It is recommended that more formal structures be put in place and, for instance, that end of year review meetings between post-holders and senior management take place as standard practice. This would facilitate a more formal approach to the ongoing process of monitoring and reviewing of posts. The most recent review of posts led to the introduction of a year head structure. This development is commendable as it indicates the school’s willingness and flexibility in adapting to the changing needs of the school and its students. The year heads are supported in their duties by class tutors and their roles are clearly defined. This organisation in the management of students and communication with parents is commended.

 

The senior management team briefs staff on various day-to-day activities and issues at morning coffee break each Friday. Staff meetings are held once per term, notices of which are posted in the staff room. Staff is invited to contribute items to meeting agendas and present on topics including the sharing of learning from various continuous professional development (CPD) events. Minutes of staff meetings are circulated to each individual teacher. Notification of board meetings and agreed reports of board meetings are also posted in the staffroom. These practices are commended.

 

School staff is very professional, conscientious, open and committed to the provision of a holistic education for students. Staff also contributes significantly to the school community in a voluntary capacity. As evidenced at meetings with the board and in minutes of board meetings, the board supports staff participation in CPD. This includes opportunities to engage in post-graduate studies along with participation in CPD related to curricular areas as provided by the Second Level Support Services (SLSS). Staff training is also provided by the board. It was evident that, in keeping with staff openness and commitment to the continued improvement of teaching and learning, learning is shared among staff. The board is commended for the support it affords its staff in this regard.

 

The school’s code of behaviour promotes positive student behaviour. This reflects the mission statement in action in the students’ daily interactions with peers, school staff and management both on the school premises and in the community. Implementation of the code receives whole-staff support and staff affirmed that the code is a very supportive tool in the management of students.

 

A student council was first established three years ago and is guided in its activities by two members of the teaching staff. Section 5.2 contains further reference to the student council. 

 

The school has developed an attendance strategy. This has been adopted by the board and is included in the student journal. Student attendance is monitored and recorded daily and reports are furnished to the National Education Welfare Board in line with guidelines. The school has long-established links with local and national agencies which assist it in supporting students. This is commended. 

 

The school’s staff handbook is frequently updated and contains information pertinent to the day-to-day operations of the school and includes information regarding school staff and a number of school policies. New members of staff found it to be a practical and a useful reference for key areas of student management and school policies of immediate relevance to classroom activities. It is recommended that the handbook be updated in terms of the policies it contains to include, for instance, the updated pastoral care and health and safety policies together with the critical incidents policy.  

 

Parent teacher meetings are held in the case of each year group in line with circular M58/04. It is commendable that both the pastoral and academic aspects of student development and achievement are discussed at these meetings. Parents are also welcome to make arrangements for meetings with individual teachers if required, or to request updates on student progress.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

Teaching staff is deployed in accordance with qualifications and expertise in the vast majority of instances. It is recommended that the board ensures that all teachers are fully qualified to deliver the programmes assigned. The area of teacher qualifications should be considered by the board when planning ongoing CPD for staff to address the current and future needs of the school and when planning for the recruitment of teaching staff.

 

The amount of instruction time allocated in the case of the majority of classes exceeds the minimum requirement as stated in circular M29/95 by two hours. The school is highly commended for the level of provision made. Provision in the case of second year classes does however include one study period in each. It is acknowledged that at the time of this evaluation, management was considering the introduction of singing to the junior cycle curriculum for the forthcoming school year (2008/09). This reflects the management’s awareness of the need to constantly monitor provision and it is recommended that these plans be further progressed. Such a development would also be in line with recommendations concerning junior cycle curriculum as outlined in Rules and Programme for Second Level Schools (Department of Education and Science, 2004/05) and would develop and supplement the school’s existing resources in this area.  

 

It was also noted that study periods are included on individual teacher timetables in a small number of cases. It is recommended that this practice be reviewed to ensure that the hours are utilised to benefit student instruction.

 

The level of management and commitment of all stakeholders to the Resource Centre is very good. It was evident that there is a good level of support and communication between the class teacher and the learning support and resource co-ordinators and their teams. The development of the role of the special needs assistant (SNA) in the school is highly commended. Support staff are enabled and encouraged to make effective contributions to the life of the school.

 

It was evident in the meeting with new members of staff that the school’s policy on inclusion extends to staff. New members of the teaching staff spoke very positively about their induction and inclusion into the school staff and community. Those with some teaching experience prior to taking up posts in the school commented on the high level of equity they experienced in the school. The management and school staff are highly commended for generating this level of support and equality among new staff.

 

Considerable progress has been made in recent years in developing the school’s information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and resources to benefit teaching and learning. In line with recommendations in subject inspection reports contained in the appendix to this report and those completed and issued to the school prior to this evaluation, it is recommended that ICT be used more regularly as a teaching and learning tool. The school has adopted an ICT policy and an acceptable internet use policy, copies of which are issued to students and parents for signature.

 

School accommodation is maintained to a very high standard and comprises the main school building and a number of prefabricated buildings which have been provided by the board and one of which is used for Woodwork. At the beginning of the current school year, management secured the lease of a number of classrooms in the adjacent and now former girls’ primary school from the Presentation Sisters. At the time of this evaluation the school had received confirmation that the provision of a second science laboratory had been approved by the Department of Education and Science thus enhancing the resources available for the sciences. It is recommended that the board, in consultation with the staff and parents, reviews on an ongoing basis the space available to address the curricular needs of the students and that an action plan be prepared to address accommodation and facility needs. Given the changing nature of the school’s accommodation, it is also recommended that the school’s health and safety policy, currently dated 2003, be reviewed and updated as a matter of priority. It is further recommended that this policy be regularly monitored and reviewed by an outside agent. In this context, it is recommended that a risk assessment be conducted in each subject area outlining the levels of risk in each instance.

 

School accommodation includes a library which is in the process of being developed. The subject inspection report on English contains recommendations in this regard.

 

The school is in the initial stages of developing environmental awareness and responsibility among its community. It is recommended that innovations and developments in this area be further developed and that the school pursues its aim to achieve green flag status.   

 

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.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

The school planning process has been formally co-ordinated since 2002. The current school plan includes whole-school policies, annual action plans detailing policy development priorities and annual planning development reports regarding the monitoring and review of progress together with information on other aspects of the school. While the setting of targets for key areas for development is good practice, it is recommended that the board adopts a more strategic approach to the development of an overarching school plan. Such a plan should encompass the ongoing development of school policies and the development of educational leadership among all staff. Furthermore, the plan should take advantage of the notable opportunities currently present in the school and which have as their primary aim the continued improvement of learning outcomes for the students. A school plan should also be adopted for a particular cycle.

 

The school planning team comprises the senior management team and the school planning co-ordinator. While the team schedules regular meetings, it was reported that other matters that require the attention of the senior management team have on occasion taken precedence over planning meetings thus interfering with the rhythm of the work. The school planning team appreciates that the development of the plan requires a more concentrated effort. The team is commended for the establishment of working groups to work on individual policy areas. The involvement of staff members in the development and review of school policies has generated ownership of the process and has ensured the implementation of the school’s policies among members. It is recommended that senior management considers school planning as an aspect of leadership development among staff and that it extends membership of the team. Additionally, it is recommended that every effort is made to adhere to the planned schedule of meetings.

 

The planning team’s current priority is the review of policies and, in particular, an assessment of school size. The team’s vision regarding educational provision is the delivery of excellence in education for the school’s students. This is laudable. It is recommended that the team incorporates this into the overarching aims and objectives of the school plan. Very good practice is in evidence in the case of a number of policies. These clearly outline, for instance, the scope, rationale, goals and content of the policy, together with the roles and responsibilities for those involved in their development and implementation. They also state the success criteria and monitoring and review procedures and dates.

 

Best practice, as regards policy development, includes the input of all stakeholders at all stages of the process. It is general practice however in the school to communicate draft policies regarded as of immediate relevance to parents and students through the parents’ association and the student council. Examples of this include the special educational needs policy and the school graduation policy. It is recommended that clear communication structures as regards policy formulation, monitoring and review be developed to include the wider parent and student body in the process as a matter of course.

 

As regards school planning in the area of curriculum, it is recommended that the school planning team reviews the findings and recommendations in individual subject inspection reports, including those reports issued prior to this evaluation, in order to identify cross-curricular priorities. Good practice identified in the reports should be disseminated across the curriculum. A thematic approach across curricular areas should be taken to addressing recommendations. For example, the integration of ICT as a teaching and learning tool is one such theme.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Killina Presentation Secondary School offers a broad and balanced curriculum including the Junior Certificate (JC), Transition Year (TY), Leaving Certificate established (LC), and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The school also offers programmes of study for students with Moderate General Learning Disabilities (MGLD) who attend the Resource Centre. Further details on the Resource Centre are provided in section 5.2. Management is commended for continually monitoring and reviewing the provision made and is particularly commended for the level of consideration given to the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) to the school’s curriculum. This illustrates the management’s and the staff’s openness to change and development and is indicative of their commitment to addressing the learning needs of each individual student. It is recommended that the management progresses the implementation of the programme and monitors and reviews provision on an ongoing basis.

 

A review of timetabling reveals that time allocated to various curricular areas is adequate. It is also evident that student choice determines option bands indicating that timetable planning is based on student needs and choices. This is highly commended and the introduction of Physical Education (PE) and Music to the school’s curriculum in recent years bears further evidence of this. It is recommended that management monitors and reviews provision for Art in the senior cycle, a subject emphasised in particular at meetings with the parents’ association and students’ council, on an ongoing basis. This would also support a recommendation in a subject inspection report on Art which was issued to the school in 2006.

 

Both the LCVP and the TY programme are optional and are well planned and organised. Particular care is given to ensuring that students derive maximum benefit from their experiences of both programmes, including work experience and social placements. Particularly noteworthy is the good level to which both the students and their parents are involved in the comprehensive and on going monitoring and review of TY. The results of these processes inform planning for the programme and this is reflected in changes to modules and subjects offered. The partnership approach to this work, and the use of the information to improve and tailor provision to the needs of the students, is highly commended. It is recommended that the TY plan be further developed and that, for instance, the aims of the programme be drafted to incorporate its contribution to the overall mission of the school. It is further recommended that a common template is used when drafting all plans, as has been achieved in the majority of cases. It is also recommended that the learning objectives are clearly stated, as they have been in the majority of plans.

 

The delivery of TY, LCVP and other curricular areas incorporates visits by guest speakers. Given the parents’ desire to support such activities, and the importance of the role of guest speakers in students’ learning, it is recommended that the school considers developing a policy regarding such visits and that each visitor is also informed of the school’s policy on child protection.

  

The provision of individualised programmes of study for students in the Resource Centre is highly commended. This provision is constantly monitored and reviewed in order that it best addresses the needs of individual students. This is demonstrated in the changes proposed to the delivery of SPHE to students in these classes based on recently accessed training in the area by staff and its adaptation to the needs of the students in Killina.

 

Class timetables illustrate that PE is delivered in single class periods in some instances, thus limiting optimum provision for the subject. In senior cycle, fifth year students participating in LCVP and taking the computers option are limited to one single period of PE per week. PE is provided in two single periods per week in the case of sixth year students.  It is recommended that the timetabling arrangements for PE be reviewed and that optimum provision in the case of all classes is ensured. PE is also timetabled for fourth years. It is considered an important aspect of their skills development, including social skills, and is commended. It is recommended that the benefits students in the Resource Centre may derive from the Special Olympics programme be explored.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

The principal and another staff member visit a number of primary schools in the immediate vicinity and formal contact is made with other schools in the catchment area in November of each year to distribute the school prospectus and application forms and to issue formal invitations to the school’s open night. Comprehensive and up-to-date information is provided to students and their parents at the open night, including information on the guidance and counselling services offered by the school.

 

Further information sessions pertaining to subject and programme choice and their implications regarding career choices are held for students and parents at appropriate points during the students’ course of study in the school when, for instance, students are preparing to transfer to senior cycle. Individual teachers and the school’s guidance team are also available to provide advice on an individual basis when requested. The school is highly commended for its work in this area.

 

Uptake of science subjects in Killina is encouraging. The Woodworker of the Year Award, a joint initiative of the Materials Technology (Wood) and the Technical Graphics departments designed to promote these subjects and to address gender imbalance in these areas is particularly praiseworthy. It also represents the real efforts being made to achieve the aims of the school’s gender equality policy. A number of awards are presented each year and photographs of the winners are displayed in the school and also appear in local newspapers. These departments are now planning to introduce a Draughtsperson of the Year Award to raise awareness and promote the new Design and Communication Graphics syllabus.  

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

The school offers a well-planned range of activities that is linked with the school’s mission statement and ethos. A conscious effort is made to accommodate as wide a range of students’ interests as possible in the co-curricular and extra-curricular programme provided to support and enhance learning. In this the school has been successful, given its resources, and the space and time available. Maximum use is made of the school’s facilities and resources to provide the students with a well-balanced programme. The strong community spirit in Killina is reflected in the school’s access to local facilities, amenities and support from parents and the wider community in endeavouring that provision meets the needs of the students. The activities available provide for a good level of participation among the student body including students in fourth year. Most recently, fourth years have, for instance, participated in the fundraising day, Crazy Hair Day, in the Christmas Concert, and have also made and sold Halloween crafts and Christmas Logs. The school and its community are commended for their support to students in this regard.

 

Sport is particularly strong and a significant number of the students are involved in hurling, basketball, soccer, Gaelic football and athletics at school level and represent their local clubs and county teams at different levels. Lunchtime leagues, largely based on soccer and Gaelic football, prove very popular with most students. While it is acknowledged that the school operates a short lunchtime and that many students participate as spectators and that other activities such as meetings do take place at lunchtime, it is recommended that a broader range of activities be organised to include the active participation of a greater number of students. Mentors, particularly following the first term, and members of the student council could have a role in assisting the post-holder responsible in broadening this provision. It is also recommended that students participating in lunchtime activities resume classes punctually as this issue has been highlighted in a number of subject inspection reports. A school sports day is held annually and the activities chosen again aim to maximise student participation. A special awards ceremony is also held at the end of the academic year to celebrate the students’ participation and achievements in sports. This is in keeping with the school’s mission of providing for the holistic development of each individual.

 

Music and drama feature strongly among the activities offered to support learning. These include a school musical which is staged every second year, opportunities for students to write and record songs, visits to the Coleman Heritage Centre in Sligo and the National Concert Hall and to plays. The school’s choir is also called upon regularly at a variety of events.

 

In keeping with the school’s mission statement, the school’s co-curricular and extra-curricular programme also has a strong role in providing opportunities for the development of faith among the student body. Masses are attended at regular intervals during the school year to commemorate a variety of events. Retreats are organised for class groups to assist them in dealing with particular stresses they may be experiencing or may face. An annual choral service is held. The programme also includes opportunities for the development of students’ awareness and understanding of other faiths by means of organised visits to places of worship for other faiths and the invitation of guest speakers to the school. In collaboration with the parents association, the Religious Education department is involved in the delivery of the Beating the Blues programme. Work in this area is highly commended.

 

A tradition of travel abroad, mainly but not exclusively, to France and Germany, has been established in the school. It is praiseworthy that elements of other subjects such as History and Geography are incorporated into the tour activities. A European Quiz is held to celebrate the European Day of Languages and students attend screenings of French and German language films in, for instance, the Irish Film Institute (IFI) and the IMC in Athlone. At the time of this evaluation a French language assistant was working in the school and it was reported that a native French speaker, living locally, is also called upon to support students’ learning in French, particularly as regards oral and listening skills. Part of the Gaeilge TY programme includes a trip to Rath Cairn which allows students to experience Irish being used as a living language in the community. This work is commended.

 

Other co-curricular activities include participation in Mathematics quizzes locally and at county level, participation in an online ICT quiz (www.graduate.ie), digital photography, and computer programming competitions.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

A good sense of collegiality and cooperation was noted in all subject departments. In some cases, subject department structures have been formalised and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all areas. These structures should include the appointment of a subject coordinator with a defined role and term. The role of subject coordinator should be rotated regularly to ensure that all teachers share the responsibility and gain from the experience of contributing to the development of the subject in the school. Formal subject department meetings are facilitated by management once per term and in most cases the proceedings of these meetings are recorded, in keeping with good practice. Informal meetings between subject department colleagues take place on a regular basis and this level of interaction is commendable.

 

It is equally commendable that all subject departments have engaged in the planning process and have produced common curricular plans. In most cases, these plans are content-based and highlight the topics to be covered with each year group. Some aspects of the subject programmes are highly commendable, especially in respect of the approach taken to learning in TY. However, the further development of subject department plans is recommended in all cases. Subject departments should focus on expanding their plans to ensure that their content is appropriately referenced to the relevant syllabus documents. In addition, subject plans should identify the key learning outcomes that specify the knowledge, skills and understanding that students will acquire and develop as a result of studying each topic. In some subject areas, it is recommended that the content programmes be extended to ensure that students benefit from a broader experience, such as studying additional texts or a greater range of physical activities.

 

Most subject plans included references to provision for students with special educational needs. This good practice should be further developed to document the diversity of teaching and learning strategies available that differentiate for students of all abilities and learning styles. Subject planning documents should also identify the range of formative and summative methods of assessment that will be used to assess learning and support the achievement of the intended learning outcomes. Planning for the use of ICT in some subject areas is commendable. It is recommended that subject departments identify specific areas in the subject plan that may be enhanced through the use of ICT as an aid in the teaching and learning process.

 

Reflective practice was common in some subject areas, where teachers were aware of the strengths and challenges facing the development of their subject in the school. In one case, teachers engage in a regular review of their programmes and this process enables them to determine what is working well and to prioritise areas for future development. This is good practice and it is recommended that the cyclical process of planning, implementation and review be extended to all subject areas. Additionally, subject departments should include an analysis of student performances in certificate examinations regarding uptake of levels and results attained relative to student ability in the subject.

 

The planned co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in some subject areas enrich and enhance students’ learning through a diversity of experiences. Engagement in these activities is highly commended as they help students to apply and consolidate their learning and contribute to their enjoyment of the relevant subjects.

 

Planning and preparation for individual lessons was of a good standard. The topics observed being taught were in line with the planning documents. Teachers ensured that all resources and materials required to support teaching and learning were prepared in advance and this good practice contributed to the overall quality of learning. A requisition system is in place for the purchase of resources and materials and subject departments reported that management is very supportive of all requests.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

Overall, very good quality teaching and learning was evident in the lessons observed. Student learning needs were well catered for and time was well used to achieve coverage of topics and content. Learning goals were shared with the students in many instances at the outset of lessons. This is good practice. A review of previous learning and materials was integrated into some classes visited and this is commendable practice which enhances students’ learning opportunities.

 

An appropriate range of active learning methodologies was employed to benefit student learning in many of the classes visited. A good balance was achieved in these instances between teacher input and student activity. There was some evidence of learner autonomy being fostered by the processes and activities of the classes. It was evident that lesson content was differentiated to suit the academic and physical abilities of students in many of the lessons observed. This is very good practice and should be extended to all classes. Questionning strategies were frequently used to check understanding, elicit students’ opinions and ensure student engagement and participation. It is recommended that all teachers give some consideration to use of questionning as a means of enhancing learning for students. It is further recommended that management adopts a whole-school approach to the systematised sharing of good practice across all subject departments.

 

A suitable range of resources was selected and effectively used in the majority of cases. There was some evidence of the use of ICT as a learning and teaching tool. It is recommended that good practice as regards the integration of ICT into learning and teaching be shared among staff. The extension and development of the use of these processes should be front-loaded in the school plan with phased further development of current practice being prioritised within an agreed timeframe.

 

Expectations of students are high ensuring that they are challenged in their classes and in the quality of the work they present. Learning was appropriately sequenced and, in the majority of instances, a suitable balance was achieved in the development of the requisite range of skills. In many instances, the students displayed a very good level of knowledge, understanding and skills in accordance with their abilities.

 

Classroom management was very good in most instances and was underpinned by a good level of planning for the teaching and learning activities engaged in. Teacher mobility in the classrooms was good in most cases, affording individual or small groups tailored attention to help them progress with their learning activities. Management of student behaviour was good, ensuring engagement with the lessons by the majority of students. Courtesy was notable, promoting a positive learning environment, and an atmosphere of mutual respect. Communication and rapport was good between students and teachers.

 

Planning documents and copybooks indicated that a good range of materials is covered in the delivery of courses. Again, good practice in this area, if shared within and across subject departments, would ensure that existing good or improving practice become habitual and universal in the school.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

A range of assessment modes is used to monitor student achievement in the subject areas evaluated. These include oral questioning, written assignments, oral feedback on assignments, homework, teacher movement and observation of students during class, module tests as well as the monitoring of project and practical work. In some areas, participation in activities is included in assessment. A combination of continuous assessment and in-class tests that are held at the discretion of individual teachers is also used to inform assessment.

 

Common examinations, with common marking schemes, are used where possible in some subject areas. This is commendable. All subject departments should explore the possibility of implementing common assessments in order to build on the good practice already in place. This would help to harmonise syllabus delivery in the subjects as well as saving time in the preparation of examination papers.

 

Results are communicated to parents or guardians twice yearly for most students, by means of Christmas and summer reports, and also following mock examinations for third-year and sixth-year students. Communication with parents is achieved by means of parent-teacher meetings, held once per year for each class, and through parents’ nights where relevant. In addition, the student journal, that all students are required to keep, is used to communicate with parents. However, student attainment in Physical Education is not included in the formal report to parents at Christmas and summer. It is recommended that the subject be included in the school’s formal reporting process in line with other curricular subjects.

 

In some subjects, observation of student copybooks indicated some very good practice with regard to the monitoring of student work. Useful teacher comments in copybooks, in laboratory notebooks, and on tasks provided valuable feedback to students on their progress and affirmed work well done. This good practice should be implemented in all subject areas.

 

It is commendable that there was an emphasis on assessment for learning in some English lessons observed. In general, consideration should be given by all subject departments to expanding and developing Assessment for Learning (AfL) practices. Further information on AfL is available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment website at www.ncca.ie.

 

Homework is assigned regularly to all class groups. In the various subject areas, it is recommended that the types of homework assigned be monitored to ensure that all students are given regular opportunities to develop a range of appropriate skills. As part of this discussion, consideration should be given to how best to balance the amount of homework assigned with the provision of constructive feedback to students. The dating of monitored homework, as carried out by English teachers, is good practice that all teachers should replicate.

 

While all teachers kept records of some kind, and most kept accurate attendance and assessment records, the practice of good record keeping was not universal. It is recommended that all subject departments should develop a policy on record keeping and document this in their plan. It should be fully implemented by all teachers. Accurate records allow teachers to give useful information to students and parents and also inform planning and lesson delivery.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

The school has accessed appropriate resources to support the inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN). The school’s Resource Centre, is an integral part of the school and hosts two class groups. The educational provision in the Resource Centre and the learning-support provision for students in mainstream are effectively co-ordinated by suitably qualified members of staff. It was clear that the school’s learning-support team and the staff in the Resource Centre in particular, constantly strive to make best provision for their students. Members of staff are highly commended for the work being carried out in exploring the possibility of gaining validation from the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) for the programmes provided in the Centre in order that students receive formal recognition for their learning achievements.

 

Staff directly involved in the Resource Centre has identified clear goals for the development of students’ learning. Frequent contact is maintained with parents. The school management and staff have long established worthwhile links with the relevant local and national agencies to support their work with students. The school operates an excellent school transfer programme, both to the school, and continuing on to further education and training, for these students. The staff is highly commended for the level of communication achieved and maintained.

 

The development of positive student profiles together with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is highly commended. SNAs have received relevant training. They have also been empowered and supported in developing their roles and making effective contributions to the education of the students and to the school. The senior management team and the resource and learning-support co-ordinators are highly commended for this.

 

The material resources in the Resource Centre and the expertise developed by staff are regarded as a resource for the whole school. The emphasis placed on the sharing of expertise among staff is laudable. Staff involved in the delivery of programmes in the Centre and resource and learning support are briefed on the students’ needs and appropriate methodologies by the co-ordinators and staff. This helps extend best practice among staff members. Learning support and resource teaching in mainstream is provided in small groups or individually.

 

The school is highly commended for the efforts made to integrate students in the Resource Centre with their mainstream peers. The social implications of the integration of SEN students into mainstream activities are sensitively handled and indicate the staff’s willingness to explore possibilities and their ability to learn from experiences. Staff is particularly commended for the innovation of an ICT and Arts and Crafts modules delivered by TY students to their peers in the Resource Centre. It was evident in the meeting with the parents’ association and the student council that the school fosters respect for and an appreciation of individual learning needs among the student body. Furthermore, students’ socialisation skills are fostered for instance when they interact with peers at lunchtime. It was evident during the course of the visit that the Centre and its students are very much a part of the school community and that there is a strong level of interaction between both students and staff in the Resource Centre and in the mainstream school.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The school’s guidance and care team, established in April 2007, is effective in providing support for students. The team includes senior management, the guidance counsellor and the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) co-ordinator. Members of the team work closely and communication between them is good. While the team meets formally and minutes of meetings are maintained, these meetings tend to be planned on a needs basis. It is recommended that an annual schedule of meetings be organised and adhered to. The school’s guidance allocation is fully utilised and benefits the students in both cycles. Office and library spaces are provided for guidance and counselling together with a guidance notice board which is easily accessible to students and in addition, students have access to ICT facilities and resources. Planning for guidance is in its initial stages. It is recommended that its development be prioritised and that an action plan be drafted.

 

Guidance is provided to class groups, to small groups and to individuals. First-year students are given individual appointments and they are also made aware that they can consult the guidance counsellor if the need arises. Guidance is timetabled for classes in third year and in fifth and sixth year, and it is integrated into the curricular programmes as appropriate. Students are afforded opportunities to attend career conferences and open days at third level colleges best suited to their interest areas. 

 

Incoming first years are assessed using general reasoning, literacy and numeracy tests. These are administered by suitably qualified personnel in January each year. Test results are used to identify students who might need support with literacy and numeracy and students who may be gifted in particular areas. In third year, students complete Differential Aptitute Tests (DATs) and these are machine scored. This information is used to inform students of their areas of strength in order to assist them in making choices for senior cycle. Competency inventory tests are used with fifth year and sixth year. Parents are requested to attend a meeting in the school to receive and discuss the results of the tests administered. This practice is commended.

 

The school encourages and guides students who are talented to participate in the Centre for Talented Youths of Ireland, Dublin City University summer programme and in the Maths Olympiad. While it is acknowledged that provision is made in some instances to address the needs of these students at school level as illustrated in the co-curricular and extra-curricular programme, it is recommended that teachers consult Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guidelines for teachers (NCCA, 2007) when planning for their subject areas. It is recommended that the guidance team continues to explore and develop provision in this area.

 

Past-pupils are invited to address students on chosen career paths as part of the career information programme. Tracking of students’ progression on completion of school is largely informal and it is one area in which the school, for the most part, relies on its strong community links. It is recommended that the team explores ways in which the tracking of students could be more effective and, in particular, how developments in technology could benefit their efforts in this regard. Students are provided with a booklet of useful information to support them on completion of the Leaving Certificate and are invited to contact the guidance team where necessary. To encourage contact and improve accessibility to the information booklet, it is intended to make it available on the school website. Such a development is praiseworthy.

 

There is a whole-school approach to the pastoral care of students. The roles of year head and class tutor are clearly defined and outlined in the staff handbook. The school management did provide in-service training regarding the role of the year head and continues to pursue training in this area for the staff involved. This is commended. Weekly meetings are held between the senior management team and all year heads. Much of the communication between year heads and class tutors takes place on an informal basis between classes and at break times. It is recommended that management explores the possibility of providing the year heads with an opportunity to hold formal meetings with class tutors at regular intervals throughout the school year. While the school does have a pastoral care policy, it is out of date and does not include the role of the year head which was introduced at the beginning of the 2005/06 school year. A review of this pastoral care policy is therefore recommended. There is a clear referral structure. A briefing on pastoral care is provided to staff each Friday.

 

The delivery of the curriculum in the classroom is viewed as an invaluable means of supporting the pastoral care of students. Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is provided to all junior cycle and TY students. At the time of this evaluation, staff in the Resource Centre had accessed specialist training in the delivery of SPHE to the students in their care. This is commendable and illustrates how the school constantly strives to ensure equity in curricular provision for all its students. The SPHE plan demonstrates that it follows the spiral development of topics as recommended in the syllabus. It is recommended that the areas of content and the cross-curricular links be integrated and that the plan include a list of invited guest speakers and support agencies. In meetings held with parents, staff and students, it was evident that SPHE is used to support the pastoral care of students; this is commended.

 

The student council was established in 2005/06. Officers are elected annually based on interview. Along with being the voice of students in the school, members represent the school and its students at a variety of functions both in the school and outside. While the council is democratically elected and includes representation from fourth year, it does not include representation from first year and second year. It is recommended that this would be addressed in order that all year groups are represented. Currently communication with first year and second year students takes place through feedback at assemblies. Two teachers are involved with the student council. Minutes are maintained and they are posted on the student council notice board. Minutes show that a draft policy on the repeat of a year and the code of discipline were presented to council; this is good practice and is commended.

 

It was evident at the meeting with members of the council that they have a strong sense of purpose and community partnership. The council cited as its main achievements their contribution to the work of the parents’ association in upgrading the computer room, acting as ushers at the school musical, Crazy Hair Day which gained the attention of the national media, the Quizathon organised in aid of Tallaght Childern’s Hospital and they have also raised funds to support students in fourth year who participate in the Special Olympics. The council is currently overseeing the introduction of the recycling bins in the lunch room and has established a lucrative venture selling school ‘hoodies’ that sport the council’s logo. By way of healing a lot of the hurt experienced by students in recent tragedies, the student council enhanced the memorial garden and seating has been provided in a quiet area in the school in remembrance of those lost and in order to comfort their peers.

 

A student mentoring system operates with the guidance of teachers during the first school term. This involves a team of twenty senior cycle students each of whom is assigned the duty of assisting a number of first-year students to settle into the school. A number of mentors are also members of the student council but their roles are separate. Mentors are provided with training at the end of the school year before they take up duties. Management is commended for the development of leadership and the promotion of care and inclusiveness among the students attending Killina Presentation Secondary School.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

Published October 2008
 
                                                                                 

 

                                                                                      

                                                                                     Appendix

 

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 welcomes this WSE report and is very pleased with the positive affirmation that is recorded in all sections of the report.

In particular the Board appreciates the recognition that:

Killina Presentation Secondary School is an inclusive centre for learning which makes very good provision for its students

The quality of teaching and learning is very good

There is a very strong community spirit and an atmosphere of mutual respect

The Resource Centre has achieved a very good level of integration with the mainstream school

The school staff is very conscientious, professional and committed to the provision of a holistic education for the students

The Board wishes to express its thanks to the Inspectors for the professionalism and courtesy with which they carried out the Whole School Evaluation.

 

 

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 noted the recommendations made in this report.

The following have already been addressed;

Work on the development of a complete school plan is underway

The admissions policy is being reviewed

The timetabling of study periods in 2nd year will be phased out in 2009/10

A Health and Safety consultant has been engaged to draft a new Health and Safety Statement

The Pastoral Care policy is currently being reviewed

The development of the Guidance Plan is progressing

The other recommendations of the report will be considered as part of the ongoing planning process in the school.