An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Crana College

Buncrana, County Donegal

Roll number: 71140Q

 

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 Crana College 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 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

 

Crana College is a co-educational school under the patronage of County Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC). The school has a long history as a provider of post-primary education in Buncrana and the surrounding area. Records indicate that it was established as Buncrana Technical School around September 1925 with a twenty-year lease. A new school premises was opened in 1946. The current school building was completed in three phases between 1979 and 1988. However, there is now pressure on school space due to the increasing student population. The Leaving Certificate programme was first offered in the school in 1977.

 

Crana College is situated in the town of Buncrana on the south of the Inishowen peninsula and on the east shore of Lough Swilly. Buncrana is the main urban centre of Inishowen and it is twenty kilometres from the city of Derry. The school draws its students from ten main feeder primary schools in both the town of Buncrana and the surrounding area. The catchment area stretches almost twenty kilometres to the south, so many of the students travel to school by bus. A small number of students come from outside the catchment area, with a few students travelling across the border from Derry.

 

The current enrolment is 397 students, with an almost equal number of males and females. The school has experienced very rapid growth in enrolment figures over the last few years. Almost two-thirds of the current student population is in the junior cycle. The student cohort increased by fifty-five percent (140 students) from September 2004 to September 2007 and, based on projected figures, it is anticipated that this growth will continue. The school has a diverse student population. Crana College is included in the Department of Education and Science’s School Support Programme under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan for educational inclusion.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

“We inspire every student to learn, to think, to care and to achieve” is Crana College’s vision for its students. This vision, which guides the work of the school, is focused on the theme of Learning for Life. The aspirations of the vision are encapsulated in the mission statement which clearly articulates how the school seeks to live out its vision and its core values. The school asserts “It is our mission to create a calm, caring and creative environment where all pupils are given the best opportunities to develop their potential to the full, to acquire knowledge and to adopt a positive attitude towards work, life and their community”.

 

The vision and the mission statement are clearly communicated to the school community and feature significantly in school documentation and in the student journal. The sentiments expressed in the mission statement are emulated in the policies and draft policies, in the daily interactions and in the many activities and positive interventions that the school has put in place to support its students.

 

During the evaluation, it was clear that the characteristic spirit of the school is very much informed by its mission statement. There was evidence of a pleasant, respectful, inclusive and supportive school environment. Students described the school as a friendly and welcoming place where they are listened to, and where there are good relationships between students and teachers. They applauded their teachers for the help and support received in all areas of school life. Parents acknowledged the commitment of the teachers and the care that the students receive. They also referred to good communication and the open-door policy of senior management, the willingness to listen and the promotion of partnership.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The board of management is properly constituted and is fully cognisant of its status as a sub-committee of County Donegal VEC. Some of the board members have considerable experience having served several terms of office, thus ensuring continuity between boards. The chairperson is elected annually and it was reported that the position of chairperson is rotated between the three nominating bodies. The current board is in the final year of its three-year tenure. The board reported on the very good relationship with County Donegal VEC. In particular, the board members and senior management acknowledged the ongoing support of the chief executive officer and the education officer.

 

Commendably, board members have received training for their role from County Donegal VEC. The board meets at least five times per year and members reported that they are becoming ‘increasingly aware of their legal obligations’. The board is guided by the principal who brings ideas and proposals for consideration to the meetings. It is commendable that a financial report is presented at board meetings. It is evident that there is a good level of consultation and partnership at board level. Members reported that all decisions are reached by consensus following lively discussion. Minutes of meetings are maintained and copies of recent board meetings were made available during the evaluation process. It was apparent to the inspectors that the board is supportive, committed and keenly interested in the operation and development of Crana Colleg e.

 

Currently there is some variation in how board members report back to their nominating bodies on decisions taken at board meetings. Feedback is provided to the VEC through the draft minutes. The teacher representatives provide a verbal report that is usually agreed between themselves and currently there is no mechanism in place for reporting to parents. It is therefore recommended that, at the conclusion of each board meeting, the board should agree on the decisions to be reported back by members to their nominating bodies. This is especially important in the case of sensitive matters that may come before the board from time to time. Presently, there are no formal mechanisms for communication between the board and the parents' association. It is acknowledged that the board is aware of this and is committed to improving the situation. The board should ensure that mechanisms are put in place for effective two-way communication between the board of management and the parents' association. Consideration should also be given to the issuing of an annual report to parents on the operation and performance of the school, as proposed in section 20 of the Education Act, 1998.

 

There is very good co-operation between the board and the in-school senior management team. The board expressed its confidence in senior management and is happy to delegate responsibility for the day-to-day running of the school to that team. The board is kept fully informed about the activities of the school through the principal’s report which is an agenda item at each board meeting. In addition, the chairperson of the board keeps in close contact with the principal. It is also noted that board members attend school events such as prize giving and use these opportunities to meet with staff and students. This is good practice.

 

In recent times, the board has had an increased role in school development planning and particularly in policy development. Board members stated that great care is taken to ensure that the rights and well-being of the students are central to the development of all policies. To date, the code of behaviour and the admissions policy have been ratified. A considerable number of policies are in draft form awaiting ratification. It is acknowledged that the board had plans in place to advance the ratification process prior to receiving notification of this whole-school evaluation. In order to progress the very good work that is underway in school planning, it is recommended that the board should proceed with this work by prioritising policies for ratification and establishing time frames for policy ratification and review.

 

The board’s main development priorities relate to the challenges posed by the increasing student population and the resulting pressure on space in the school. In collaboration with County Donegal VEC, the board is anxious to ensure that adequate space and high-quality facilities are available for students and staff through the provision of a new school on a green field site.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The in-school management team comprises the senior management team of the principal and the deputy principal, and the middle management team of assistant principals and special duties teachers. Both members of the senior management team are relatively new to their positions, and they were new to the school when appointed. The principal took up office in March 2007 and the deputy principal was appointed in September 2006. Following the retirement of the previous principal in December 2006, the deputy principal took on the role of acting principal in the interim period until March 2007. During that time one of the assistant principals acted as deputy principal.

 

The principal and deputy principal form an effective and dynamic leadership team, drawing on their complementary strengths and talents. They have adopted a proactive but reflective approach and they share a clear vision of a school community where students are supported to develop their strengths and reach their full potential. In addition to their management and administrative roles, the members of the senior management team place strong emphasis on consultation and partnership. In collaboration with the teaching staff, they have identified a set of key development priorities. The willingness and commitment of staff to engage with management, and the team spirit that has developed over many years, has ensured that a significant amount of positive change and development has taken place, and this is ongoing. Evidence gathered from a range of sources, during the evaluation, indicates that the development of leadership amongst staff members and the empowerment of staff are features of the management style. It is laudable that there is also a move towards instructional leadership with a focus on the quality of teaching and learning.

 

The current schedule of posts has been in place for some time although a few changes have been made to duties in order to meet the needs of the school. An examination of the schedule of posts illustrates that there is currently an imbalance in duties attaching to some of the middle management roles. Some of the post holders have been assigned a major area of responsibility as well as a number of other duties. Since March 2007, as part of school development planning, the teaching staff has carried out a needs analysis to determine the current and future needs of Crana College. It is intended that the results of this analysis will inform a planned review of the duties assigned to post holders. It is very positive that some of the new duties identified as part of this process have recently been assigned to newly appointed post-holders. It is notable that, as far as possible, duties are assigned based on the interests and competences of staff members.

 

In carrying out the planned review of the schedule of posts and the corresponding duties, it is recommended that cognisance should be taken of Circular Letter 20/98 as well as the results of the school’s needs analysis. This circular letter gives examples of duties and responsibilities that are appropriate to posts for the middle management team. It is further recommended that attention should be given to ensuring a more even distribution of duties amongst post-holders. The proposal from management that post holders review, plan and evaluate their duties is encouraged. This process of self-evaluation in collaboration with management will provide opportunities to affirm the work of the middle management team. It will also ensure that the duties meet the current and emerging needs and policy priorities of the school.

 

All of the assistant principals are year heads and each one of them has a range of other duties. Since September 2007, management has placed emphasis on developing the role of the year heads in an effort to provide a clear and open management structure. Discussions with the year heads during the evaluation indicated that they have an awareness of their role as middle management and that they are becoming a more integral part of the in-school management team. The good practice of encouraging autonomy amongst year heads by devolving some responsibility from senior management is commended. The weekly meetings scheduled between the year heads and senior management and the clear records kept of these meetings are further examples of good practice.

 

To complement the changing role of the year heads, class tutors were introduced at the beginning of the 2007/08 school year. This is a significant development, given the current and expected growth in the student population. The class tutors work with the year heads to promote the pastoral care of students. A class tutor is assigned to each class group and the tutor meets with his or her class group for ten minutes at the beginning of each school day. A chart on the wall outside the school office clearly displays the name of the class tutor assigned to each class group, the number of the classroom in which the class tutor meets the class and the name of the relevant year head. This is useful information for students and parents. Currently communication between the class tutors and the year heads is informal and it was reported that this is working well. However, as the school population increases and the number of class tutors increases accordingly, it is recommended that the structures for the sharing of information, for example, between year heads and class tutors should be formalised.

 

There is evidence of very good communication and support among teaching staff, and between the teaching staff and senior management. Positive relationships are fostered and considerable efforts are made to involve staff in change and development. The visible presence of senior management in the staff room and on the corridors and the open-door policy of the principal and the deputy principal are indications of the open communication between management and staff. The principal’s notice board and the daily notice board in the staff room, memos to provide staff with specific information and the provision of a staff handbook are examples of the methods used to keep staff informed on school events. Staff meetings are held three to four times per year. The principal normally chairs the meeting and staff members take the minutes on a rotating basis. Copies of minutes of staff meetings were provided during the evaluation. The fact that staff members have an opportunity to add items to the agenda in advance of meetings illustrates the inclusive and open approach of management.

 

The board and senior management are hugely supportive of and facilitate continuing professional development (CPD), at both an individual and a whole-staff level. As examples, three members of staff are currently completing the Post-Graduate Diploma in School Planning while another is taking the Post-Graduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs. Three of the special-needs assistants are pursuing the Certificate in Special Education Needs. Teachers are also encouraged to join the relevant subject association or attend conferences. This approach provides evidence of senior management’s commitment to empower and build up capacity amongst all staff members. Commendably the principal and the deputy principal are participating in the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) Misneach and Tánaiste programmes, respectively.

 

There was much evidence to indicate that the school has adopted inclusive practices, and welcomes all students. In keeping with the sentiments of the mission statement, the school adopts a very positive, caring, respectful and pastoral approach to the management of students. Many members of the school community referred to the positive impact of the recently introduced Restorative Practices in reducing the numbers of suspensions, in helping students manage their own behaviour and resulting in a calm and respectful atmosphere. The whole staff is applauded for the time and commitment involved in the introduction of this very positive intervention. Three staff members have been trained as specialist facilitators for Restorative Practices. The provision of separate training sessions for the class tutors of each year group with their respective year head provides opportunities for the year heads and the class tutors to work together and focus on the students in their particular year group. The school’s commitment to Restorative Practices is another indication of how the mission statement is lived out in the everyday activities in Crana College.

 

The school has also been chosen as one of five schools under County Donegal VEC to participate in a pilot project on positive behaviour management organised by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).

 

In keeping with the positive approach to the management of students, the tenor of the code of behaviour is positive. The code of behaviour has recently been reviewed and this work is ongoing. The code is clearly laid out in the student journal and it is also presented in one of three colourful booklets which are available for prospective students and their parents, as part of the school prospectus. Parents and students in their discussions with the evaluation team indicated that the code of behaviour was fair. A referral form is used for minor breaches of the code. This form is processed through the class tutors and the year heads. Discussions with teachers indicated that there might be some inconsistency in the use of these forms and in the administration of sanctions. Currently a referral form is issued at the discretion of individual teachers. As part of the ongoing review of the code of behaviour, it would be worthwhile considering the procedures for the use of the referral forms and sanctions, to ensure consistency amongst all teachers and so that students remain clear on the procedures. The document Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools, issued by the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB), should also prove useful in reviewing the code of behaviour.

 

Management stressed the important role of each class tutor in the generation of a positive and respectful class spirit. Another commendable initiative is the introduction of positive reward cards. These creative, eye-catching cards were designed and tailored for each individual subject by the school secretary. Individual subject teachers post these cards home to commend good work.

 

A very effective system is in place for the tracking and monitoring of students’ attendance and late arrival to school, and for communicating this information to parents. An attendance tracker is employed for two hours each day under the School Completion Programme (SCP). As part of a special duties teacher’s post, an attendance officer complements this work. Attendance meetings are held once a fortnight to discuss and implement follow-up strategies for students who are at risk. This is commended. The principal, the attendance officer, the guidance counsellor and the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator attend these meetings. Many members of the school community who met with the inspectors reported that mitching is almost non-existent because of the careful tracking and monitoring of attendance. During the evaluation, the inspectors noted very high levels of punctuality amongst the student population in the morning and at the start of classes throughout the day. All of this good work to encourage students to attend school is commended.

 

A student council has been in existence since 2001. It is good to note that the current council is fully representative of the student population. Officers have been elected and a liaison teacher supports them. Good communication structures have been established between the council and senior management. Meetings are held once a month and it is commendable that the minutes of the meetings are posted on the student council notice board in the general-purpose area of the school.

 

It is clear that the student council is active in the life of the school and so far, the council has been involved in successful lobbying for the provision of lockers for the junior students and the improvement of the canteen facilities. One of the senior members was elected to represent Inishowen on the Donegal Youth Council. There are plans to link with the parents' association and this is commended. The student council does not currently have a constitution. As it is important that the council has a set of clear guidelines and rules from which to work, it is recommended that a constitution should be drawn up. The council could access the supports available at www.studentcouncil.ie in this regard. Further support is available from the student council co-ordinator on the Citizen Education Support Team (http://cspe.slss.ie).

 

Parents and students welcomed the introduction of bus prefects in the 2007/08 school year. Commendably, this came about when one of the senior students approached senior management with the idea, and the school responded positively.

 

The current parents’ association is in its first year in office. The members are enthusiastic and they are very keen to become involved in supporting the activities of the school. The parents' association and senior management reported on the large turnout (sixty-two) of parents to the annual general meeting in the current school year. The members of the parents' association praised the efforts begun by senior management to involve them further in the life of the school. In October 2007, the principal made a presentation to the parents' association outlining their role under the Education Act, 1998. They had an input on Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) from the SPHE Support Service, and a demonstration of the use of an interactive whiteboard from one of the teachers. There are plans to involve the parents' association more in policy development and review and this is encouraged.

 

The parents' association plays a valuable role in fund-raising for school activities through the organisation of events such as the ‘silver-circle’. As part of their work, the association might look at developing a plan of activities in order to reach out to all parents and especially to those who are new to the school community. The school’s plans to develop a web site could provide an opportunity for the parents' association to communicate with those whom they represent. Together with all members of the school community, the parents' association is most anxious to progress the issue of improved school facilities to cater for the demands of the increasing student population.

 

The parents' association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Association for Vocational Schools and Community Colleges (www.npavscc.ie). Members have attended a local meeting of NPAVSCC in Donegal. However, the parents reported very little communication with this organisation. Parents also cited the difficulties involved in attending the monthly national executive meetings in Portlaoise due to a round trip of 700 kilometres.

 

The student journal is a useful means of maintaining ongoing two-way contact between home and school. Communication with parents is also maintained through phone calls as necessary, the school calendar and through letters of information. Commendably, the HSCL co-ordinator provides a valuable two-way channel of communication between home and school. Parents indicated that they felt very free to make contact with the school at any time and they were very appreciative of the open-door policy of the principal and the approachability of all staff. However, it is also important that the ladder of in-school management should be used as appropriate. This means that parents need not always meet directly with the principal when dealing with school matters related to their children.

 

Crana College has forged strong links and very good relationships with a variety of agencies, organisations, businesses and support services in the local and wider community. In turn, a number of community organisations avail of the school’s facilities.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

As a result of the increasing numbers, the management of resources in terms of personnel, plant and materials, is currently the biggest challenge facing the school.

 

The school complies with the requirements of Circular Letter M22/95 with regard to time in school. In the current school year, Crana College provides twenty-seven hours and fifty-five minutes of tuition time per week plus ten minutes of pastoral care involving tutors each morning.

 

The school’s staffing allocation from the Department of Education and Science for the 2007/08 year is 28.50 wholetime teacher equivalents (WTE) and 5.72 special-needs assistants. The teacher allocation includes 0.50 WTE for learning support, 2.41 WTE for students who have been assessed as having special educational needs and 0.92 for students who do not have English as their first language. There is an allocation of 0.5 WTE for the services provided by the HSCL co-ordinator and 0.5 for Guidance. The school also benefits under the Guidance Enhancement Initiative, which involves a further allocation of 0.5 WTE.

 

Management reports that due to the increase in the student population in recent years, the challenges relating to the availability and deployment of an adequate number of qualified teachers in some curricular areas, especially in the core subjects, are very great. In order to partly deal with this situation in the short-term, it was necessary to timetable the guidance counsellors and some of the teachers with qualifications in special educational needs for some teaching hours in subjects in which they have qualifications, such as Irish and Business. However, this arrangement is impacting on the provision of some specialist services in the areas of Guidance and special educational needs. In the current school year, the full allocation for Guidance has not been fully used for the purpose intended. It is recommended that the full guidance allocation should be used for the provision of Guidance in the next and subsequent school years.

 

With regard to students who require learning support, some of the allocated hours have had to be assigned to teachers who do not have a specialist qualification in the area, while a number of teachers who have specialist qualifications in special educational needs have been assigned to teach mainstream subjects. It is recommended that those teachers who have specialist qualifications and expertise in this area should be assigned to provide the necessary support to students with additional educational needs. It is acknowledged that management is very aware of this situation and is committed to ensuring that the situation will be remedied as soon as possible. The ability to provide appropriately for students’ curricular needs is an ongoing priority for management and application has been made to the Department for curricular concessions in subject areas where there is a shortfall.

 

Currently, there is no rotation of teachers between higher level and ordinary level in the teaching of Irish, English and Mathematics. It is recommended that more teachers should have the experience of teaching their subject at all levels, on a rotating basis, in order to build capacity and to ensure that the school is not overly dependent on particular members of staff.

 

In the last few years, the number of teachers who are new to the school has increased. A member in each of the relevant subject departments currently supports these teachers on a one-to-one basis. As the school population increases, consideration should be given to the development of an induction programme for newly qualified teachers and for teachers who are new to the school. This could include a form of peer mentoring to support teaching and learning in the classroom.

 

The members of the secretarial staff and the caretaking and cleaning staff provide effective and valuable support for the day-to-day running of the school and they are commended for this work.

 

The increase in the student population in the last three years has challenged the school with regard to its facilities and space. There are 140 extra students in the school since September 2004. With the projected increase in enrolment in the coming years, it is clear that pressure on accommodation will continue to be a significant issue for the school. Recently three additional prefabs were installed on the school grounds. During the in-school evaluation week, it was noted that space both inside and outside of the school building is very limited. In terms of specialist classrooms, for example, there is one science laboratory and one art room, despite the high uptake in these subjects. There are two small general-purpose areas, one for junior students and one for seniors. Students’ lockers are also housed in these spaces. The general-purpose area for junior students serves as the seating and eating area for the school canteen and, of necessity, is sometimes used to conduct classes. From a health and safety perspective, first-year students go to the gym at break time, as the general-purpose area cannot facilitate the large number of junior students. There are no office facilities for year heads and they reported that it is sometimes difficult to find a space to meet with students and their parents. The main school office is also located in a very confined space.

 

The site on which the school is built is also restricted in terms of space. Apart from the gym, there are no other sports facilities in terms of playing fields on campus. Students and teachers have to move off-site for all training and matches for outdoor games. The number of car parking spaces is also limited.

 

The school, in collaboration with the VEC, has made an application to the Department of Education and Science for capital funding for the provision of a new school building, including an autism unit, on a new site, yet to be identified, for a projected enrolment of 500 students.

 

Commendable efforts are made to make the school building accessible and attractive. The front entrance to the school was renovated recently to make it wheelchair accessible and the walls of the school corridors were freshly painted. A very striking feature is the variety of beautiful art pieces on display on many of the corridors around the canteen area of the school. The art teachers and their students are commended for the creation of these works of art. Notice boards in the reception area of the school and on corridors are well used to announce and celebrate students’ achievements and to provide information. Classrooms are generally teacher-based and many of them contain attractive displays of students’ work and subject-specific material. The majority of classrooms are well maintained and the green area outside of the school is maintained to a high standard. Environmental responsibility is fostered and encouraged. The school is involved in the recycling of waste materials including the compacting of cardboard. This work is commended.

 

It is good to note that plans are underway to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) into teaching and learning. Commendably, this work has already begun in a small number of subjects. There are two designated computer suites in the school. Two interactive whiteboards have been installed in specialist rooms and a number of digital projectors are available. A third computer suite, albeit in a very small classroom, was opened in autumn 2007 for the new design and communication graphics syllabus. The school has also benefited from the ICT grant scheme for DEIS schools from the Dormant Accounts Fund.

 

An Ancillary Safety Statement from County Donegal VEC has been tailored for Crana College. This document, which is dated October 2007, provides a clear summary of the roles and responsibilities of key staff members as well as the practices and procedures to be followed to ensure the safety of all staff and students. As part of the duties assigned to an assistant principal’s post, a health and safety officer has been appointed. The duties, including responsibility for fire safety, are outlined in the Ancillary Safety Statement. It is commendable that four staff members have been trained as occupational first-aiders and staff members have had training on fire prevention and the use of fire extinguishers. To further develop this good work, and given the increasing student population and the challenges with regard to facilities, it is recommended that a review of health and safety should be prioritised. This should include a hazard analysis and risk assessment of all areas of the school. The results should be documented and action plans developed as necessary. As part of the review, the specialist teachers in the relevant subject departments should be consulted.

 

The recently introduced routine of controlling visitor access inside the school building, through the check-in process and the provision of visitor badges, is a very commendable practice.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

The formal process of school development planning began in March 2007 and at that time the school engaged with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). However, it is acknowledged that a number of polices had been developed and some curricular planning had taken place prior to that date. It is particularly commendable that the non-teaching staff also participated in the planning and reflection process in March 2007. Follow-up planning sessions were held in May 2007 and September 2007.

 

As part of the planning process, the staff conducted an exercise “to evaluate the issues that contribute to a positive school”. This resulted in the identification of a list of key priorities which were classified under three clear objectives. These objectives were: “(i) to assist pupils to fulfil their potential in keeping with the college’s mission statement; (ii) to establish and promote strategies to improve staff welfare so as to fulfil the potential of staff and (iii) to reinforce and develop Crana College’s reputation among parents and the wider community”. Strategies and success criteria were outlined for each objective. The objectives and the accompanying strategies and success criteria are specific, measurable, action oriented and attainable, realistic and time-bound. This work is clearly documented in tabular form in a four-page document entitled School Plan 2007-2009. This is a very commendable and systematic approach to achieving progress. Management reported that the document is being used to plan for, guide and manage change in the school in the period 2007 to 2009. There are plans to have an interim evaluation and review in May 2008 to further progress the process. It was evident to the evaluation team that a number of the strategies have already been implemented. This is truly an excellent piece of work.

 

During the evaluation, the inspectors were provided with the original records of the planning meetings. The documentation provided evidence that the planning process was reflective and focused on the needs of the students and the staff. It was also very evident that the school’s vision for its students and the mission statement provided a framework for the planning. Discussions with staff members indicated that there is a positive approach to planning and there is a sense of ownership which has resulted from the process of engagement.

 

Good progress has been made in policy development. To date the board has ratified the admissions policy and the code of behaviour. A wide array of polices focusing on the organisational, curricular and pastoral aspects of the school are in draft form and awaiting ratification. A recommendation regarding the prioritisation of polices for ratification has been made to the board of management in section 1.2 of this report. As the school has not yet developed a policy on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), this area should also be prioritised. Further details are available in the subject inspection report in SPHE that forms part of this whole-school evaluation.

 

To date, apart from the code of behaviour, the parents' association and the student council have had little involvement in the planning process. It is acknowledged that senior management is committed to ensuring their future involvement. It is recommended that parents and students, through their representative bodies, should be given the opportunity to contribute to future policy development and review.

 

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, and that management has ensured that all staff members are familiar with the procedures to be followed. However, since the most recent briefing session in May 2007, a number of new teachers have joined the staff. It is therefore recommended that the briefing session on the child protection guidelines should be provided for all new staff members, including the non-teaching staff. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

Curriculum planning in subjects and programmes is also well advanced. Many subject department plans, varying in their stages of development, were provided during the evaluation. Further information on subject planning in relation to the subjects evaluated during this whole-school evaluation is available in section 4.1 of this report. Specific details on planning in each of the four subjects are available in the subject inspection reports that accompany this report.

 

Since March 2007, senior management has steered the planning process in Crana College. However, given that three members of staff are currently completing the Post-Graduate Diploma in School Planning, consideration should now be given to delegating some of this responsibility by the appointment of a planning co-ordinator or perhaps a core planning team. This would facilitate the process of monitoring, progressing, collating and documenting, where necessary, the elements of the school plan, as part of the ongoing planning process. In close consultation with senior management and the board of management, the planning co-ordinator or the planning team should then take responsibility for progressing the planning process up to the ratification of policies. The policies, when ratified by the board, will form a major part of the relatively permanent features (part 1) of the school plan.

 

The developmental section of the school plan (part 2), as outlined above, is already progressing at a very good pace. The school’s attention to the setting of targets and the development of action plans and timeframes provides a clear focus for the school in ensuring that progress is made, while at the same time maintaining a balance between the pace of change and the enthusiasm to reach targets. It will also raise awareness of what has been achieved and provide an effective means for the school to continue with the process of self-evaluation, which commendably has already begun.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

A draft curriculum policy, which is informed by the mission statement, has been developed. The school currently offers the Junior Certificate, the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Established Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).

 

The LCVP was introduced in September 2004 and it is well established in the school. Planning is well advanced for the LCVP and there is an enthusiastic approach to the organisation of the programme. The majority of senior cycle students choose the LCVP, which provides them with opportunities to develop the skills and competencies for academic success and for coping in a changing work and business environment.

 

In May 2007, Crana College received approval to include the JCSP on the curriculum. This programme was introduced in the 2007/08 school year. The school is commended for the approach taken to the selection of students for the programme. This approach is in keeping with the principles of the JCSP. The students taking the JCSP are drawn from all of the first-year class groups and as a result, the JCSP students are not isolated as a separate class group for the majority of their subjects. While this does present a challenge in terms of the learning statements and targets, it is a very good model and it was clear during the evaluation that the JCSP students are well integrated within their year group. It is recommended that the school should keep under review the subjects from which JCSP students are withdrawn for specific JCSP activities. There is a positive and enthusiastic approach to the co-ordination, planning and implementation of this programme and the school is justifiably proud of the progress made in a short period.

 

The school provides a wide range of subjects for students in both junior cycle and senior cycle. In addition to English, Irish and Mathematics students take Spanish, History, Geography, Science, Business Studies, Technical Graphics and Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) as core subjects for the Junior Certificate. They then choose two optional subjects from Art, Home Economics, Materials Technology (Wood), Metalwork and Technology. This means that a large number of students take twelve subjects in the Junior Certificate examination. Physical Education, Religious Education and SPHE are also timetabled for all junior cycle students. Music is currently provided as a module for first years and second years only.

 

In senior cycle, students choose four optional subjects from a possible list of fourteen. This list includes Accounting, Art, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Construction Studies, Design and Communication Graphics, Economics, Engineering Geography, History, Home Economics, Physics and Spanish. The subjects offered depend on the selection by students in a particular year group and hence the subjects on the timetable vary a little from year-to-year. For example, in the current school year, Physics is not on the fourth-year timetable.

 

The challenge for the school, both currently and as the school population increases, is to balance the range of programmes and subjects that is offered with the teacher allocation and teacher qualifications available. Management is aware of the implications of such a broad curriculum, in both junior cycle and senior cycle, in terms of staffing. In particular, management and staff are conscious of the heavy load of twelve examination subjects taken by students in the Junior Certificate. A further consequence of the broad range of subjects for junior cycle is that less time is allocated on the timetable for both core and optional subjects. A large number of teachers referred to the challenges of balancing the time available with the subject requirements in terms of completing the syllabuses for the Junior Certificate. The breadth of the current curriculum was one of the issues that emerged from the school’s development planning process and, commendably, the school has begun a review of the curriculum. It is noted that when the evaluation team returned to the school for the post-evaluation meetings, the first-year students had completed a questionnaire on their experience of the curriculum to date.

 

As part of the curriculum review, the school should also consider reviewing the order of the forty-minute and thirty-five minute periods on the daily timetable to ensure an appropriate balance of time for all subjects. Currently, each of the first four periods in the morning is forty minutes duration.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

The programme and subject choice process in the school is designed to maximise access to curriculum options for all students. Every effort is made to provide students and their parents with appropriate and timely support and information when making choices at all stages.

 

Prior to enrolment, two members of the teaching staff visit the feeder primary schools in advance of an open day for prospective first years and an open night for their parents. Before students begin in first year, they also participate in a very successful transfer programme which is operated under the HSCL scheme. This begins with a two-day programme of activities in the school. It is good to note that the transfer programme includes some subject sampling. A further information night is held for parents of first years in September when they meet with teachers and key school personnel. This provides the opportunity for parents and teachers to check on how students are settling in to school.

 

The school is commended for the organisation of a taster programme for first-year students. This programme runs for the first six to eight weeks of first term and students have the opportunity to sample all five of the optional subjects, from which they then must choose two.

 

In preparation for senior cycle, an information evening is held for students and their parents towards the end of third year, to provide information on the range of programmes and subjects available for Leaving Certificate. A comprehensive booklet on subject choice and programme choice for Leaving Certificate is also provided. Parents and students are welcome to contact the guidance department to discuss students’ choices or for information to support students with decision-making.

 

Commendably, option bands in both junior cycle and senior cycle are based on students’ preferences. A perusal of the current option bands of subjects in junior cycle and senior cycle provides very good evidence that the subjects are grouped in a manner that does not reinforce gender bias in the selection of subjects.

 

All classes in first year are mixed ability. It is evident that the school is committed to facilitating students in accessing the most appropriate level in core subjects through the concurrent timetabling of lessons in Mathematics, English and Irish from second year onwards.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extracurricular provision

 

In keeping with the sentiments expressed in the school’s mission statement and as a further example of how the school lives out its characteristic spirit, all students are offered a broad variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. These activities, some of which are identified below, are heavily reliant on the voluntary participation, dedication and generosity of many staff members. The programme provides opportunities for students to engage in activities that are of a sporting, artistic, community, cultural and social nature. In their meetings with the inspectors the parents' association and the board of management acknowledged the contribution of staff to the co-curricular and extracurricular programme in the school.

 

Despite the absence of playing fields the school has a long and successful sporting tradition. The sports programme is well organised and co-ordinated through the physical education department. In addition to Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, badminton and athletics, rugby has recently been introduced, thanks to support from the Donegal Community Rugby Project. Touch rugby and indoor football are also available. The school has enjoyed success in a variety of sports at local, provincial and national level. The U-18 girls’ soccer team enjoyed recent success when they were crowned all-Ireland champions. The lack of playing fields on the school campus is challenging for students and their teachers with regard to practice and the playing of matches. It is commendable that valuable links have been established with sporting organisations in the local community, in terms of sharing resources, such as the use of facilities for training and matches. The Girls Active programme provides a supportive environment for non-competitive activities, based on students’ interests, such as salsa and hip-hop dancing.

 

Participation in a wide array of co-curricular activities enriches students’ experience of the curriculum. Many of these activities are detailed in the subject inspection reports that accompany this report. Students are encouraged to take part in a variety of art, science and cookery competitions as well quizzes, debating and public speaking. Opportunities are provided, for example, to engage in workshops, and to visit exhibitions, museums, heritage sites and Gaeltacht areas. Students have also attended the Salters’ Festival of Chemistry. The activities of the science club and Seachtain na Gaeilge give practical expression to the work in the classrooms.

 

While music provision in the school is currently limited to a module for first year and second-year students, some opportunities are available to participate in music and drama activities. Students also have the chance to avail of instrumental and vocal tuition through the County Donegal VEC Music Education Partnership.

 

GAISCE, the President’s Award, which provides students with opportunities to complete a variety of personal challenges, is well-established in the school. It is praiseworthy that since 2000, the school has raised €10,500 through participation in the Concern fast. Good relationships have been established with schools in Northern Ireland through a variety of cross-border initiatives. Senior students participate in the KEY Programme (Knowledge through Enterprise for Youth) while junior students take part in the LET Programme (Learning and Educating Together). In both of these activities students attend a series of camps and develop skills together with young people from other backgrounds and traditions. At international level students from Crana College have, for several years, taken part in the International Fund for Ireland sponsored Messines peace project in Belgium. A ski-trip is also included in the school’s programme of extracurricular events.

 

As the school’s catchment area is large and many students travel by bus, this sometimes presents challenges in relation to student participation in activities organised by the school. As a result, some of the activities are offered at lunchtime. The teachers involved in the co-curricular and extracurricular activities expressed their gratitude to the board and to the parents' association for the support and the financial help in the provision of buses when teams are representing the school in competitions.

 

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

The subjects evaluated during this whole-school evaluation were Art, English, Gaeilge and SPHE. Specific findings and recommendations for each of these subjects are included in the subject inspection reports that accompany this report. This section of the whole-school evaluation report presents the general findings on planning and preparation, learning and teaching, and assessment.

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

A subject department structure has been established for all of the subjects evaluated. This is commended as it facilitates a team approach to subject planning and to the organisation of the subject department. It is good practice that a subject co-ordinator has been appointed in each case. Management is very supportive of and facilitates the process of subject department planning through the provision of formal meeting time for this purpose. It is also noted that some of the subject departments meet on an informal basis throughout the year.

 

It was evident to the inspectors that the collaborative approach, which has been developed, has resulted in good progress in subject planning. All of the departments evaluated provided comprehensive subject planning folders. The folders contained long-term subject plans including details about the organisation, planning and delivery of the subjects. Whilst the subject plans are at different stages of development, it is commendable that common programmes of work, which are based on the syllabuses, indicate the relevant content to be taught at each stage and level of the junior cycle and senior cycle programmes. The collaborative spirit, evident in the team development of these plans, is commended.

 

All teachers presented individual planning documents that were based on the subject department plans. It is recommended that the generic content in all of the plans be further developed to include specific learning objectives in terms of expected knowledge, understanding and skills. As part of this, attention should be paid to differentiation so that the specific needs of students can be more readily met. As the planning process develops, the inclusion of relevant methodologies and resources as well as more definite timeframes should be considered.

 

Teachers are commended for the time and commitment involved in the development and compilation of a variety of resources and stimulus materials to support the teaching and learning of their subjects.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

Eighteen teachers were visited across twenty-one lessons as part of four subject inspections.

 

Short term planning was good for all of the subjects evaluated. This resulted in well-organised lessons that had a clear purpose, a logical sequence and that were well structured. Inspectors also noted that many of the lessons were tailored specifically to meet the varying learning needs of the students in the classes. Lessons generally began with the roll call followed by the correction of homework and a review of material from the previous lesson. This served to provide a context for new learning and is commended. The good practice of sharing the planned learning outcomes with the students at the outset was evident in some lessons and similarly, there were some very good examples of returning to the learning outcomes at the end of the lesson in order to summarise and check on learning. Communicating the learning outcomes or objectives of the lesson to the students provides a structure for the lesson and a clear focus for the students. This practice should be extended to all lessons.

 

There were many examples of very good quality teaching and learning in the subjects observed and inspectors noted some particular instances of excellent practice. A variety of methodologies and teaching strategies was observed in almost all lessons. These stimulated students to engage actively with the content of the lessons. In addition, the efforts made by teachers to involve students in classroom activities such as discussion, were the focus of much praise. There was some evidence of very good use of ICT in lessons. Questioning was used in many of the lessons and there were good examples of the skilful use of questioning to engage students in the learning activity.

 

Given the variety of students’ learning styles, the more extensive use of active methodologies is recommended. Consideration might be given to a whole-staff focus on the sharing of some of the very good practices observed. This could include some work on the further integration of ICT in teaching and learning.

 

Classroom management was very good and there was evidence of a good rapport between teachers and their students. The classroom atmosphere was described as being mutually respectful, warm and supportive, with friendly exchanges noted in the interactions between students and teachers. Teachers’ efforts to encourage student participation in lessons were commended. Students’ contributions were warmly welcomed and they were effectively affirmed for their work.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

A range of formative and summative assessment is used to evaluate students’ progress in the subjects observed. Informal assessments are ongoing with many teachers giving class tests on completion of syllabus topics and practical work. All students sit formal examinations at Christmas and summer, with students preparing for certificate examinations sitting mock examinations in the second term. Some subject departments use common assessments in the formal examinations. The extension of this practice to all subject departments will allow for comparison of students’ progress across mixed-ability class groups. In the in-house examinations consideration should also be given to ensuring that the relevant allocation of marks is given to all examinable components of a subject in line with the assessment objectives of the relevant syllabuses. Teachers’ are commended for the efforts made in encouraging students to study the subject at the highest possible level in the certificate examinations.

 

Some of the subject departments provide clear written details of how students’ progress is assessed and recorded. This is good practice. In a number of instances, subject departments have developed a homework policy for their subject, based on the school’s draft homework policy.

 

Homework is set and monitored by teachers. Best practice was observed when teachers provided constructive comments which offered students strategies for improvement. This excellent practice is in line with the principles of assessment for learning as recommended by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). It is recommended that this approach be adopted across all subject departments. Further information is available on the NCCA website (www.ncca.ie).

 

Teachers keep records of attendance in addition to assessments. Written reports are issued to parents following all examinations and further information is provided at the annual parent-teacher meetings that are organised for all year groups. Postcards are sent home to parents in special recognition of students’ efforts in a particular subject. This is an innovative system and is highly commended.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

Crana College welcomes all students and supports the principles of inclusion and equality of access and participation for all. In keeping with the mission statement, the school’s inclusive practices provide opportunities for students to “develop their potential to the full” by participating in and benefiting from the learning experiences provided by the curriculum.

 

The learning support and special educational needs department is co-ordinated by one of the special duties teachers who has a specialist qualification and a significant amount of expertise in the area. There is a very committed, organised and dynamic approach to the co-ordination of this department. The co-ordinator has developed a special educational needs policy. The policy outlines the roles of all key personnel and it provides clear details of how support is organised and delivered to students who require supplementary teaching in literacy and in numeracy, and to those students with special educational needs. It is recommended that when the policy is due for review, a working group should be established to support the co-ordinator with this task and to ensure that all relevant personnel contribute to the process. It is also recommended that the policy should be expanded and perhaps re-titled as a Whole-School Policy on Inclusion. In this regard, the team could refer to section 2.3 of the document Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs: Post-Primary Guidelines (Department of Education and Science, 2007).

 

The school has a team of four teachers who are trained and experienced in the area of special educational needs, as well as one teacher who is currently in training. One member of the team has specialist training and expertise in working with students who have autism. She has also worked on the Special Education Support Service. It is commendable that this teacher has provided training for the teaching staff on teaching strategies for autism and related conditions.

 

Records provided to the inspectors and discussions during the evaluation indicated that each of the five special-needs assistants is very highly qualified. It is notable that they are very committed to continuing professional development and management supports this.

 

At the beginning of the current school year, Crana College set up an autism unit, following a request from the Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO). This is an exciting but challenging development for the school. It is anticipated that this unit will provide post-primary education for students transferring from the autism unit in the local primary school.

 

Currently there are fourteen teachers involved in the delivery of support in literacy and numeracy to students. As outlined in section 1.4 of this report, the teachers with specialist qualifications do not deliver all of the support to students in this area, as they also have teaching duties in other curricular areas. A small number of teachers who have no qualification in special educational needs are currently assigned to students who require learning support. This means that some individual students may have up to four different teachers delivering support in literacy and numeracy. The co-ordinator meets with the team at the beginning of the year. Commendably, the co-ordinator works very closely with, and supports on a one-to-one basis, the teachers providing learning support who do not have a qualification in special education. A variety of resources is catalogued and systematically organised in the room that is allocated for the learning support and special education needs department. Commendably, a shelf in the staff room contains a selection of information on specific conditions in the area of special education.

 

Effective procedures are in place to identify students who require support. There is good communication with the feeder primary schools and with parents. Diagnostic testing, where this is considered necessary, follows in-school screening. Students attend learning support on the recommendation of the class teacher or their parents or they self-refer. Students receive support in literacy or numeracy or both, on a one-to-one basis or in small groups. Students are withdrawn from a range of subjects to attend learning support. When a core team is established, consideration should be given to team teaching, so that students could remain with their class group as far as possible.

 

It was reported that communication between the teachers providing learning support and the relevant mainstream teachers is informal. While students are encouraged to return to mainstream as quickly as possible, there is no formal monitoring of their progress or their readiness to return. It is therefore recommended that the school should monitor and evaluate the progress of students receiving learning support to ensure efficient and appropriate use of resources and to avoid the situation where students become over-dependent on this extra tuition.

 

Students who have been identified as having special educational needs are supported by the teachers who have qualifications in that area. Observation of some students’ files and work during the evaluation provided evidence of the very commendable practice of personalising the learning for the students. Good student profiles had been created. It is good to note that there is a close working relationship between the special education needs co-ordinator and, for example, the HSCL co-ordinator, the guidance counsellors, senior management and the year heads. Information on students with special educational needs is passed on in a sensitive manner as necessary. It is also notable that the school provides reasonable accommodation for fifth-year students in the mock examinations for those who have a reasonable accommodation in the certificate examinations. The school reports that it is not possible to provide that service for the third-year students in the mock examinations due to the unavailability of space.

 

When the school implements the recommendation made in section 1.4 of this report regarding the deployment of teachers in the special education needs department, the number of teachers from whom students receive learning support will be minimised. It will also facilitate the development of a more cohesive team and maximise consistency and the quality of learning. A smaller team will also be more feasible in terms of organising formal planning meetings. There is currently much good work going on in the learning support and special education needs department and this will be greatly enhanced when the full allocation of qualified teachers is available to work in this area.

 

There are sixteen students in the school who do not have English as their first language although the school reports that a number of them have a good command of the English language. However, currently the only provision for language support for these students is though learning support. In order to appropriately meet the language needs of these students it is important to assess students’ language proficiency and consequently plan, implement, and monitor an appropriate programme of language support for them. The school is referred to Circular 0053/2007 in this regard. The publication entitled Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School (NCCA, 2006) is a resource that teachers might find useful for their work in the classroom.

 

One of the strengths of the school is that staff members have good local knowledge of students and have an awareness of their needs.

 

The school makes effective use of the supports provided through DEIS to aid the attendance, inclusion and retention of students in school. The board of management reported that the numbers of students leaving school early has decreased significantly in the last few years. The activities organised through the SCP are focused on building students’ confidence and making school attractive for them. The school has had the services of a HSCL co-ordinator since 1999. The HSCL co-ordinator acts as a very strong link between home and school. This work is planned in a thorough manner and very good records are kept. Management reported that the strategies organised through the HSCL scheme are an important part of the school’s intervention system for many students. The home visits and the courses provided for parents are commendable ways of reaching out to parents and getting them involved in their children’s education. The Local Committee provides good opportunities for liaison between the HSCL co-ordinators in Crana College and the other post-primary school in the town as well as with the local co-ordinator of the SCP. It is commendable that the HSCL co-ordinator works very closely with senior management, the pastoral care team, the special educational needs co-ordinator and the guidance counsellors in providing supports for students. Crana College students can avail of third level education through the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) with NUI Maynooth and with Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

 

A book rental scheme is operating in the school since the early 1990s and financial assistance is provided in a sensitive and confidential manner to students where necessary. The provision of a homework club is another example of how the school tries to support its students. In order to provide students with healthy and affordable food, and to reduce the numbers of students leaving the school premises at lunchtime, the school canteen was refurbished in September 2007. The Department of Social and Family Affairs provided funding. A daily menu with a choice of hot dinners is available to students at a subsidised price. While the dining area of the canteen is relatively small, the canteen staff reported that the number of students buying hot lunches daily has risen from twenty to the current level of 200 in less than six months. This is a most commendable venture. Parents and students expressed their delight with the canteen.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The school has an allocation of twenty-two hours for Guidance. This includes eleven hours available through the Guidance Enhancement Initiative (GEI). There are two qualified guidance counsellors in Crana College. As outlined in section 1.4 of this report the full guidance allocation is not being used for the delivery of Guidance. The implementation of a recommendation to this effect in section 1.4 will ensure that the guidance allocation is used appropriately in the future.

 

The guidance counsellors form an effective team and they collaborate with many staff members in the provision of a wide range of supports for students. Both of them are members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC). It is commendable that the school facilitates the guidance counsellors to avail of the ongoing in-service available at local and national level. It is also good practice that they attend the supervision sessions organised locally to support guidance counsellors in the personal counselling elements of their work. Commendably, both members of the team are pursuing further qualifications in counselling, in their own time.

 

There are very good facilities for Guidance in the school including an office with broadband access and three computers, as well as a telephone, notice board, storage facilities and a well-stocked careers library. The guidance office is shared between both guidance counsellors. Notice boards located in the general-purpose areas are used to display information on careers.

 

A guidance planning team, led by the guidance counsellors, has been established and the guidance plan is very well advanced. Following a recommendation in a guidance subject inspection report in 2006, a student needs analysis has been carried out and the recommendations from this analysis have been implemented. This is commendable.

 

Guidance is timetabled once a week for all third year, fourth year and fifth-year students. Commendably, the senior classes have good access to the computer room during the timetabled periods. The GEI allocation of teaching hours is used for the delivery of Guidance in junior cycle. It is laudable that very good links have been established between the guidance counsellors and the SPHE team in the planning and delivery of the guidance programme for junior cycle students. The guidance programme for all year groups is detailed in the guidance plan and copies of the guidance programme for junior cycle students are also available in the SPHE planning folder. The members of the guidance team also provide support to students through a range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

 

Individual counselling is available to students in the school, and where necessary, senior management takes responsibility for referral to outside agencies. The school has developed good relationships with a number of outside agencies and support services for students, including the designated NEPS psychologist, third-level colleges, employers and community organisations. The guidance department also operates an open-door policy for parents who wish to discuss any matter regarding their children.

 

Pastoral care, supported by a high level of staff dedication and commitment, is an important component of the support structures available for students. The draft pastoral care policy clearly outlines the roles of all members of the pastoral care team. Commendably, the team meets once a fortnight. Action plans are drawn up for students identified as needing support and the school’s good practice of methodical record keeping of meetings extends to the pastoral care team. This ensures the transfer of information so that issues are followed through. The ongoing dedication and commitment of staff members in supporting students is commended. A school crisis policy has also been drafted and, commendably, a critical incident response team is available in the school.

 

A structured approach to the care of all students is evidenced by the operation of the system of class tutors and year heads. There is very good collaboration between the guidance counsellors, the pastoral care team, the co-ordinator of special educational needs, the HSCL co-ordinator and senior management. One of the guidance counsellors, who is also a year head, acts as the link between the year heads, the pastoral care team and the student council. A successful mentoring programme is in place for first-year students to help ease their transition from primary to post-primary school. Fourth-year students act as the mentors.

 

The school does not have a chaplain but the school acknowledged the role and the contribution of the local clergy in the organisation of liturgical services throughout the year. Opportunities are used effectively to celebrate and acknowledge student achievement. Overall, it was clear to the evaluation team that there is a lot of very good work going on in Crana College and it was clear that the welfare of students is at the core of that work.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         The sentiments expressed in the mission statement are emulated in the policies and draft policies, in the daily interactions and in the many activities and positive interventions that the school has put in place to

      support its students.

·         The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive, committed and keenly interested in the operation and development of the school.

·         The principal and deputy principal form an effective and dynamic leadership team, drawing on their complementary strengths and talents.

·         There is strong emphasis on partnership, on the development of leadership amongst staff members and on the empowerment of staff.

·         Positive relationships are fostered and considerable efforts are made to involve staff in change and development. There is evidence of very good communication and support among teaching staff and between the

      teaching staff and senior management.

·         The school adopts a very positive, caring, respectful and pastoral approach to the management of students. The introduction of Restorative Practices is having a positive impact on student behaviour and

      relationships in the school.

·         A very effective system is in place for the tracking and monitoring of students’ attendance and late arrival to school, and for communicating this information to parents.

·         A fully representative and effective student council is in place.

·         The recently elected parents' association is enthusiastic and is very keen to become involved in supporting the activities of the school.

·         The School Plan 2007-2009 is an excellent document and it is being used to plan for, guide and manage change in the school in the period 2007 to 2009. Teachers have developed a collaborative approach to

      subject department planning and long-term subject plans have been developed.

·         The school provides a wide range of subjects and programmes to meet the needs of its students. The JCSP is organised in a manner that is true to the principles of the programme.

·         In the lessons observed, classroom atmosphere was mutually respectful, warm and supportive with friendly exchanges noted in the interactions between students and teachers.

·         A variety of methodologies and teaching strategies was observed in almost all lessons. There were many examples of very good quality teaching and learning in the subjects observed and inspectors noted some

      particular instances of excellent practice.

·         There is a very committed, organised and dynamic approach to the co-ordination of learning support and special educational needs.

·         The school has a core team of teachers who are trained and experienced in the area of special educational needs. The special needs assistants are highly qualified for their work and are committed to ongoing

      CPD.

·         The school makes effective use of the supports provided through DEIS to aid the attendance, inclusion and retention of students in school. The book rental scheme, the homework club and the availability of

       healthy and affordable hot dinners are important supports for students.

·         The HSCL co-ordinator acts as a very strong link between home and school.

·         The guidance counsellors form an effective team and they collaborate with many staff members in the provision of a wide range of supports for students. Good links have been established between the guidance

      counsellors and the SPHE department.

·         Pastoral care, supported by a high level of staff dedication and commitment, is an important component of the support structures available for students.

 

 

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

 

·         The full guidance allocation should be used for the provision of Guidance in the next and subsequent school years.

·         Those teachers who have specialist qualifications and expertise in special educational needs should be assigned to provide the support to students in this area.

·         A review of health and safety should be prioritised. This should include a hazard analysis and risk assessment of all areas of the school. The results should be documented and action plans developed as

      necessary.

·         At the conclusion of each board meeting, the board should agree on the decisions to be reported back by members to their nominating bodies.

·         In order to progress the very good work that is underway in school planning the board should prioritise policies for ratification and establish time frames for policy ratification and review. Parents and students

      through their representative bodies should be given the opportunity to contribute to future policy development and review.

·         An RSE policy should be developed.

·         The generic content in subject plans should be further developed to include specific learning objectives in terms of expected knowledge, understanding and skills.

 

 

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 Art – 28 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of English – 26 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Gaeilge – 26 February 2008

·         Subject Inspection of SPHE – 29 February 2008

 

 

 

 

Published November 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 warmly welcomes the publication of this report which is overwhelmingly positive in its assessment of Crana College. It is very pleased to note that all sections of the report positively affirm the planning, policies, practices and procedures of the College. It would especially like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of all staff involved in what can be a tense and anxious time for a school and especially for the many teachers whose classrooms were visited by the inspectors.

 

The Board appreciates the total professionalism, courtesy and honesty which the Inspection Team brought to this process and acknowledges that their recommendations are fair, accurate and will be of great assistance in future planning and self evaluation. The many strengths evident to the Inspectors and identified by them are a source of great confidence to everyone associated with Crana College and will serve to motivate and encourage us all as we confront future challenges in the world of education.

 

 

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 all the recommendations made in this report and would like to highlight that several have already been implemented while others will be included for consideration in the School Development Plan 2008-2010. In particular the following actions have been taken:

 

At their October meeting the Board discussed effective measures to improve communication with staff and parents. As a result the Chairperson of the Board attended the next meeting of the Parents association to report on the composition and work of the Board. A copy of the minutes of each Board meeting, amended to safeguard the confidentiality of the meeting if needed, will be displayed in the staffroom in order to improve communication with the teaching staff.

 

The Board of Management have prioritized policies for ratification and at the October meeting adopted a revised Admissions Policy, a policy on Child Protection and a policy on Homework. The Parents’ Association is now consulted about the content of policies.

 

Work has begun in developing an RSE policy with a staff committee of SPHE teachers considering the appropriateness of the content. Parents will be consulted before the policy is brought to the Board for consideration. 

 

The allocation of time for the provision of Guidance has been increased in the academic year 2008/2009 and will continue to increase to its maximum as the allocation of teaching staff from the Department increases to match the number of students enrolled.

 

Students requiring learning support are identified and referred for support primarily through testing on enrolment. They are tested at other key moments, such as prior to public exams so that they can access reasonable accommodation. During the mock exams third year students are given the option of working in a separate room with a reader available to assist them. When students are identified as no longer requiring support they are encouraged to return to mainstream class. As a means of improving communication in an expanding school, the dissemination of information regarding students with special educational needs is formal with all teachers now provided with information regarding the nature of the learning difficulty. Since the inspection teachers with specialist qualifications in special educational needs have become the co-ordinators of support provision for each year group. As a result of this there are fewer but more specialist teachers involved in providing support to students. In addition a specialist teacher has been employed to teach English to those students for whom English is a second language.

 

Since the Inspection a full review of duties associated with posts of responsibility has taken place so that there is greater equity in duties carried. As a result of this review the teacher with responsibility for Health and Safety is co-ordinating a whole school approach to a review of the hazards and risks associated with all parts of the school while an induction programme for new staff is in also in place and is part of an A post holders duties.

 

Since the report there are have been two days allocated to staff training in the principles of Assessment for Learning, facilitated by the SLSS. Work in subject Departments has focused on the setting of clear objectives to each lesson, reviewing the learning outcomes of each lesson and monitoring the work of students through the effective use of formative assessment techniques. There has also been continued significant investment in the empowerment of middle management and in allowing opportunities for Year Heads to meet with their tutors with particular emphasis on the effectiveness of restorative practices in supporting student behaviour.

 

A Curriculum Committee has been set up in the school to review how effectively the curriculum is meeting the needs of all our students. Many of the curriculum issues highlighted by the Inspectors will be included in the research of this group, including the time allocation to subjects, the structure of JCSP and the possibility of introducing LCA, differentiated teaching within a mixed ability system, the benefits or otherwise of banding or streaming, the number and type of subjects on offer to Junior Cert. It is worth pointing out that there is no policy or practice at any level of the school to restrict the teaching of Higher Level to just one or two teachers. As the school increases in size and as specialist teachers are recruited in all subject areas it will be natural that all teachers will have a wide range of different types of classes to teach.

 

There has been significant investment in ICT in the classroom over the past 6 months with the efficient deployment of resources a priority. Many rooms are equipped with a computer and a Digital projector so that teachers can effectively integrate ICT into their normal classroom activities. The College has recently had huge success in winning €10,000 as part of the AIB Better Ireland Award, based on a submission that underlined the key position of ICT at the centre of learning. Plans are also in place to allow staff to study for the ECDL as a means of increasing confidence among all teachers in the use of ICT in Learning and Teaching. Teachers have been encouraged to share good practice or new ideas and many have benefited from ICT as a means of opening up this discussion on sharing of good practice.