An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Roll number: 81014R
Date of inspection: 24 October 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. was undertaken in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The quality of teaching and learning in five 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.
From the outset inspectors understood that all
involved with Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. feel a great sense of pride
in the history and tradition of the school. In 1859 at the request of the
Its sense of continuity and history is evident by the
planting of a twig of a maple tree from
The school’s mission statement is clearly written down, is highly visible to all visitors and it has been communicated to the school community. It states that the school “seeks to develop a community of learning and academic excellence comprising teachers and parents collaborating to fulfil the potential of each individual pupil.” Of particular note is the inclusion of parents in this statement as it embodies the very active involvement of parents as partners in the work of the school.
The school is committed to the holistic development of its students. During the evaluation it was evident that the care system seeks to support the school’s students in a friendly and comfortable environment. The school aspires to provide for the needs of students and the Catholic ethos is reflected by special events such as Masses and other liturgies. These activities concur with another element of the mission statement which is to “identify and develop openness to religious, moral, social, intellectual, cultural and physical experience and to the word of God in all its dimensions.”
The school’s motto encapsulating the Jesuit identity is included on all Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. documentation and communications, thus promoting and preserving the Jesuit identity among all groups involved in the school. In addition the Jesuit identity of the school is preserved through the work of the ethos committee within the school, supported by the Jesuit Provincial. The staff is provided with the opportunity to attend training in Jesuit reflective practice, which is a core element of the Ignatian paradigm. Funding from the Jesuit Provincial, called ethos funding in the school, supports activities such as the Arrupé project in Africa and the work done in the Cheshire home by Transition Year students.
A school vision statement is to be devised as part of the implementation of the school’s strategic plan for 2008-18. It is planned that this will encapsulate the values inherent in the future goals of the school.
The joint trustees of Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. are the Department of Education and Science and the Provincial of the Jesuit Order. The Jesuits have been very active in supporting the development of the school and currently provide financial support through the ethos fund. Close contact is achieved by means of an annual visit by the Father Provincial to the school and there are Jesuit representatives on the board of management. The Jesuit education delegate receives copies of all policies and is in ongoing close communication with the principal. The Department of Education and Science supports the school through payment of capitation grants, teacher salaries and building grants.
The current board of management completes its term in December 2008. The nominees to the new board have been identified. The board, which is constituted in accordance with the school’s indenture, is supported by the trustees. The principal acts as secretary to the board but does not have voting rights. This is in line with the instruments and articles of management for comprehensive schools and with the school’s indenture. The position of chair of the board is filled by one of the Jesuit nominees. The board is facilitated in its work through regular meetings with agendas and draft minutes circulated prior to each meeting. This is good practice.
A commendable amount of energy and thought went into structuring the hiring process of a school principal in 2008.
Decision-making procedures are open, clear and shared, and decisions are determined taking cognisance of the best interests of the whole-school community. The board discusses, contributes to and ratifies all school policies. The board is urged to remediate the gaps that exist in the development of policies as part of its strategic plan. The board’s commitment to the ongoing work of the school is exemplified by its willingness to provide training for the incoming board. It sees this as necessary because training from the nominating bodies will not commence until the 2009/2010 academic year.
Significantly, the Jesuit trustees ensure that the boards of all its schools understand the Jesuit ethos. The board of Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. is provided with the opportunity to meet the boards from other Jesuit schools.
As part of its role, the board supports senior management and demonstrates awareness of the legislation that underpins the running of a school. Commendably, it has identified developmental priorities for the school and these are set out in a strategic plan. Communication between the board and its nominating bodies is facilitated through dissemination of minutes to trustees, the Jesuit Provincial and the Department of Education and Science and the chair of staff. It is recommended that an agreed report be disseminated to the chair of staff, as is the case for the whole staff and the parents. The board is strongly advised to lead the implementation of the recommendations in the accompanying inspection reports, incorporating them into the strategic plan 2008-2018.
The school has a new senior management team following the recent appointment of a new principal. It is suggested that the school use gender-neutral alternatives such as ‘Principal’ and ‘Deputy Principal’ rather than ‘Headmaster’ and ‘Deputy Headmaster’, which are currently used in the school. The deputy principal is supportive of the new principal and has offered great assistance to the principal as he familiarises himself with the structures, protocols and procedures of Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. The principal and deputy principal demonstrate a good working relationship and a partnership approach to the management of the school. Daily meetings foster and promote successful collaboration. The principal has a visible presence in the school and a clear division of tasks exists between the principal and the deputy principal.
The recent appointment of the new principal provides an opportunity to assess the in-school management process, including the identification of responsibilities for specific members of the in-school management team. To assist in this assessment, it is recommended that the role of the principal be clarified for all of the school’s education partners. Reference should be made to the 1998 Education Act, Section 23, which states that “the principal has the responsibilities and power to carry out functions as determined by the board” and that “the principal should have a leadership role in the school”. It is timely to reassess the individual and combined tasks of senior management and the manner in which these tasks are linked to the roles of middle management.
The middle management team comprises assistant principals and special duties teachers. The duties assigned to these posts of responsibility were individually agreed with the principal in September 2008. In accordance with the senior management’s expressed views and in line with the school’s strategic plan a whole-staff review of the schedule of posts is recommended to meet the current and emerging needs of the school, and to maximise teachers’ expertise and interests. Care should be taken to ensure balance and equity in the distribution of tasks. The assistant principals and special duties teachers are committed in the manner in which they approach their responsibilities. There is regular communication between senior and some middle management. For example, there are weekly year head meetings. It was reported that a number of meetings with all the assistant principals in attendance took place of late. This is good practice. The school should build on this good practice to develop the management roles of these teachers. It is desirable that each post-holder furnish an annual written report in relation to the work completed, the challenges that presented during the year and the resources required for the coming year. In addition, post-holders should identify any support and training needs in order that the duties may be carried out to as high a standard as possible.
The practice for assigning posts of responsibility should be reviewed so that appointments to posts are structured in line with the protocols outlined in circular letters 15/97 and 24/98.
There is ongoing informal communication in the school in an open and friendly atmosphere. Formal lines of communication are facilitated through staff notice boards and the planning period during which teachers discuss aspects of school policy and procedures in small groups. In respect of whole-staff communication, there is a legacy issue dating back to a school-specific historical context: individual members of staff meet regularly as a group to discuss school-related issues after school. No formal agenda or minutes of these meetings were available to the Inspectorate during the evaluation. No whole-staff meetings are held currently. It is recommended that in line with the school’s core values of “openness to growth” and “reflective practice,” whole-staff communication and discussion should be supported in line with circular letter M58/04 and the principal should convene meetings of the teaching staff. It has been reported that this approach has been implemented since the whole-school evaluation.
Teachers play a key role in the development of various aspects of the life in the school. These include discipline, care, teaching and learning, co-curricular and extracurricular activities and policy development. The board and senior management are very supportive of the teachers’ continuing professional development. Requests to attend in-service are never refused and, if at all possible, actively facilitated. Whole-staff continuing professional development also takes place. It was reported that the public affirmation of the teachers’ work by the principal is appreciated.
There is an effective teacher induction programme in the school, organised by an assistant principal. This post holder, the deputy principal and the principal meet the teachers before the start of the school year. In addition to explaining the college’s processes and procedures, an examination of teaching practices in relation to Ignatian pedagogy is a component of the induction. Furthermore, mentors in the subject areas of the new teachers are also appointed. This is commended. The Jesuit Director of Education holds an annual seminar for the new teachers in all the Jesuit schools in the country. This is laudable.
The school follows the procedures outlined as part of
the common application system for entry into post-primary schools in
The policy on behaviour and discipline that operates in parallel with the student support systems is currently under review. As per good practice the existing policy is linked to other relevant policies. The roles of the principal, deputy principal, form tutor, year head, assistant deputy head, class teacher, students and parents are outlined in the current policy. Sanctions are listed but not linked to specific behaviours. School recording systems are in place. Task groups have been set up to investigate and review different elements of the code. It is recommended that the school refer to the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) guidelines when conducting this review, as it provides advice on auditing and reviewing the code of behaviour and explains the principles underpinning an effective code of behaviour. Care should be taken to ensure that any anomalies that exist between the students’ journal and the policy are removed. Consideration should be given to the development of a written positive behaviour policy that would be complementary with the school’s policy on behaviour and discipline. This positive behaviour policy could include for example class awards for appropriate behaviour and achievement awards. Currently, academic awards are given to sixth-year students on graduation night as is the ethos medal.
Attendance is monitored by the class tutors, some of whom use the e-portal system. Students provide absence notes and the school completion programme (SCP) personnel also monitor the attendance of those students who participate in the programme. Subject teachers also monitor attendance. The increased use of e-portal for taking attendance is recommended. In addition there is a post at assistant principal level for monitoring attendance. While acknowledging that attendance is monitored, the system needs to be streamlined. Incomplete returns were furnished to the NEWB. It is recommended that complete returns be made in accordance with NEWB guidelines.
The structures and approaches used in the management and care of students are very good. All teachers attend to students’ welfare. The year heads, the class tutors, the care team, the guidance counsellors and the chaplain have a particular role in this regard. The pastoral role of year heads and class tutors complement their discipline roles. Of particular note is the role of the class tutors who act in a voluntary capacity. Care and discipline procedures and academic progress are monitored.
The school also has a system of assistant deputy heads (ADH), a role that is specific to this school which is not part of the duties of a post holder. Teachers can apply to act as an ADH, but being placed in the position is dependent on the teaching resource needs of the school. Therefore all teachers cannot act in the ADH position. The duties of the ADHs include recording students who are late and subsequently generating reports for year heads, doing payroll slips for the office staff if the deputy principal is out of school, recording accidents, administering first aid and despite the ADH post not being a middle management position, running the school in the absence of senior management. It is imperative that management identifies and eliminates the duplication of the roles among year heads, assistant year heads, deputy principal, the post holder for attendance and the ADHs.
The evaluation team welcomes the recent establishment of the students’ council and the long tradition of the prefect system in the school. They create a formal structure for the recognition of the students’ voice and a facility to support students’ involvement in the operation of the school. Prefects play a prominent role in school affairs, are active in the management of life in the school and are ably led by the elected school captains. Policies such as the previous code of behaviour and discipline have been ratified by the prefects’ council. The school captains and sixth-year prefects provide an element of support for first-year students on their first day. This role could be extended into the role of peer mentor or buddy. Should the school decide to adopt this approach, the prefects should access appropriate training. The students involved in this system demonstrated a high level of maturity, leadership and loyalty to the school and they demonstrate an eagerness to continue to influence the development of the school.
Significant work resulted in the setting up of a representative students’ council two years ago. Where feasible, elections for representatives from a number of year groups for the 2008/2009 students’ council took place prior to the summer of 2008. This forward planning is good practice. However, it was reported that elections for the remaining year groups were postponed until after the autumn midterm due to discussions around posts in the school. It is recommended that the remaining elections take place as a matter of priority to ensure that the council is representative of all year groups. The students’ council could then fulfil its role in school affairs. Given that the school has an effective prefects’ system in place, the role of the students’ council as the student representative education partner in school life should be clarified and communicated to students. It is suggested that council members undertake training.
TY students are also afforded the opportunity to develop their leadership and organisational skills through the management of school events. This is commended.
Partnership with parents is central to the school’s ethos. Parents are actively engaged in the school through the parents’ association, parents’ council and sub-committees. The work of the social and cultural committee was particularly praised by teachers during the evaluation. It was stated that the large number of school events that take place are supported by the work of this committee. Parents are also involved in other activities, for example coaching and other extracurricular activities. The dedication, commitment and work of the parents in many aspects of the school contribute to the success of these activities and are commended.
The collection of the voluntary contributions from the parent body is co-ordinated by the parents’ council. A good level of contact is maintained between the school and parents with through very regular newsletters, an extensive school web site and the annual parent-teacher meetings. In addition individual parental contact is facilitated. This is praiseworthy. A good level of liaison exists with various outside agencies.
The school is aware that students currently do not have access to a minimum of twenty-eight instruction hours per week as outlined in circular letter M29/95. It has recently set up a timetable committee to examine ways of addressing this issue. Activities such as study classes, the morning class tutor roll call and the planning period do not qualify as instruction time. It is understood that instruction time will be in accordance with that outlined in Circular Letter M29/95 in future timetabling.
All timetables should be amended in line with Department of Education and Science regulations. Available timetables indicate that a number of permanent whole-time teachers are timetabled for less than the required eighteen hours class contact time. A number of teachers are timetabled for the work of the ‘assistant deputy head’, a post specific to this school’s structure. All permanent whole-time teachers, unless specific Department circulars govern their work, should be timetabled for eighteen hours of class contact. This issue should be addressed immediately. During the course of the evaluation concern was expressed with regard to the large class sizes that exist in the school. Safety could become problematic when class sizes in the practical subjects are too big. Not withstanding that a number of teachers are job sharing and others are assistant principals; most of the other fulltime teachers are not timetabled for twenty-two hours. It is therefore recommended that the deployment of teaching hours be reviewed to ensure that the resources are being used in the most effective manner that may help reduce class sizes.
The teachers are generally appropriately deployed according to their qualifications, skills and interests and their access to teaching subjects at different levels is facilitated by collaboration within subject departments. This is commended. Currently teachers are encouraged to inform the deputy principal of any additional qualifications they have received. Notwithstanding that, it is suggested that a skills’ grid be drawn up to inform management of individual staff members’ further qualifications and interests, which could then with the agreement of the teachers be solicited to support the work of the school. For example the significant progress in whole-school planning led by the previous principal and one teacher might have been augmented by the assistance of the other members of staff who have completed or are completing the school-planning diploma. Consideration could be given to developing a policy on the operation of continuing professional development. Utilisation of internal expertise is further encouraged and more whole-staff input on special educational needs and effective teaching methodologies is suggested.
The school is well served by its administrative and cleaning staff, grounds man, special needs assistants and caretakers. These support staff members have defined roles and responsibilities, are consulted in relation to some school policies and procedures affecting their work. Different personnel report to senior management or different teachers on aspects of their work. Almost all of the staff undertook training in health and safety and first aid with the teachers and management. This is good practice. They are fully integrated into the social life of the school staff.
The school building is a single-storey construction whose focal point is the central assembly area. The maintenance of the school buildings and grounds is generally to a good standard. However, management reported that there are specific difficulties. In the technology areas there is a leaking roof that causes concern with regard to health and safety. In addition it was reported that there is a shortage of classroom space that impinges on the availability of facilities to provide learning support and resource teaching and on the teaching and learning environment in general. While acknowledging that a fume cupboard exists in the preparation area, it is recommended that the school investigate the installation of a fume cupboard in one of the laboratories in accordance with health and safety practice. The school has a well-developed, high quality, on-site, sports complex that includes a PE hall. In addition a students’ dining room is housed in another building. The school librarian effectively manages the school library and this room provides a relaxing atmosphere that is conducive to learning. The subject departments involved in the WSE are generally appropriately resourced and equipped.
From the outset, management has continued to enhance the school’s facilities, the funding being obtained from the Department of Education and Science and it was reported from the generous contributions of parents. A grit pitch for hockey was developed when the college became co-educational in 1974. The technical block was refurbished in the mid 1980s and a metalwork room, two classrooms, and the circulation area were added in the 1990s. Following a fire in 1998, the junior corridor consisting of eight classrooms, a music room, a tuck shop and store, toilets and the circulation area were rebuilt. The science laboratories and the physical education (PE) hall were refurbished in 2003 and since then a new library, astro-turf pitch and a new dining hall were constructed. The school undertook a major drainage programme and completely refurbished the changing rooms. Currently, the school’s oratory project is being completed. The commitment, dedication and effort involved over the years in enhancing the school’s facilities are commended. The school has also prioritised the further development of the school infrastructure as part of its strategic plan. This is commended.
The display of students’ work and the celebration of students’ sporting, academic and cultural achievements are highly commended. The walls of a number of classrooms, workrooms and laboratories are decorated with subject-specific posters, thus providing a stimulating learning environment. These efforts to acknowledge students’ work are praiseworthy. Communication with the general student body is maintained through the school intercom system and the notice boards that hang in the assembly area.
The stocktaking of resources has been a post of responsibility in the past. Currently, one teacher oversees the ICT provision, while another teacher has a significant role overseeing accommodation and buildings. The extensive work involved in this regard is commended. It is advised that an audit of all the stock in the school takes place and that a formal collaborative system for stocktaking be put in place in the manner suggested by management.
The school’s health and safety policy that includes accident and emergency procedures is currently under review. It is recommended that the school build on the good work to date and expand the existing health and safety policy to include all areas of the school premises, including classrooms and offices. In addition the roles and responsibilities of all staff members in relation to health and safety should be identified. Furthermore a formal, ongoing, whole-school risk assessment system needs to be established by the school. It is suggested in line with management’s thinking that all subject departments plan for and monitor health and safety issues pertinent to their specific areas. Management could refer to sections nineteen and twenty of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 for further information.
The integration of information and communications
technologies (ICT) into learning and teaching has been prioritised as part of
the strategic plan. To date the school has made significant progress on the
enhancement of the ICT infrastructure and the provision of ICT resources under
the effective leadership of the ICT co-ordinator, assisted by an ICT steering
team. This includes the provision of a broadband enabled school, data
projectors and DVDs in all classrooms and well-resourced computer rooms. The
staff has received training in the use of ICT. A comprehensive ICT plan, which
was updated in September, supports the work in this area. The school has
devised a vision statement on the role of ICT that states it is a “tool to
extend, enhance and enrich learning”. This focus is commended.
An active Green Schools’ committee is in operation in the school. The prominent role that all the partners, including the parents, play in this school is once again illustrated by the composition of the Green Schools’ committee that comprises of students, teachers, caretakers, a grounds-person and parents. This is commended. The school is to be congratulated on receiving its first green flag in May 2008. Communication with the whole school community is achieved by means of the Green Schools’ notice board that is displayed in the central assembly area. This is good practice.
A significant amount of progress has been made since the school started formal whole-school planning in 2003. The school has engaged with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI), benefiting from input by SDPI personnel, as well as other qualified personnel. This is commended. The active involvement of senior management and the willingness of staff, in particular those who have completed or are currently in the process of completing the School Development Planning (SDP) diploma have helped to drive the process forward.
The principal in conjunction with the deputy principal should continue to play a significant role in leading school planning. It is recommended that a representative school-planning staff group be put in place to co-ordinate all aspects of school planning. Task groups have been set up to examine various aspects of planning and these groups convey their progress to management. This is good practice.
The school community has worked with an external consultant to develop a strategic plan that identifies priority areas for development in school life. This is praiseworthy. It was reported that the school has identified short-term planning priorities. This strategic plan outlines the development plans of the school for the period 2008-2018. The plan has a number of over-arching themes. These include the Jesuit identity and comprehensive ethos, campus upgrade and development, management structures, intake policies and curriculum relevance. The process of developing this plan was consultative.
Moving forward with the strategic plan, it is proposed that a planning steering working group, reporting to the board be put in place. It is recommended that the short-term action plans based on the strategic plan identified by the school, be implemented. The recommendations arising from this whole-school-evaluation process should be included in the strategic planning process. It is further recommended that the strategic planning process seek to build capacity within the school so that future school planning can be co-ordinated and led internally, perhaps by an internal chairperson, supported by external expertise, in leading the implementation of the current strategic plan.
Significant work has been done in developing the school plan. Many elements are in place. For example documents have been developed outlining the school’s profile and the provision for student support that include the policies on special educational needs, substance abuse and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). It is recommended that all elements of the plan be arranged together into distinct permanent, developmental and action-planning sections.
Much time and energy have been devoted to the development of school policies. It was reported that the basis for every policy is the mission statement and that all policies undergo “ethos proofing”. Different groups of personnel draft policies. In accordance with recommended practices the school consults all partners in the development of its policies. The policies are discussed by the board, the parents’ council and the prefects prior to further discussion and ratification by the board. While acknowledging that consultation with the prefects is good practice given the significant role they have in the school, nevertheless the students’ council must also be consulted as outlined in the Education Act. Consideration could be given to the circulation of all policies to all parents through the school’s web site.
It is good to note that policies have dates of ratification included. Building on this good practice, it is suggested that review dates also be included. This would assist the school in organising its future work.
The school should continue with policy development in the priority areas that have been identified. These include the development of a strategy for attendance and participation and a critical incident policy. During the evaluation it was reported that the current action priority for the care team is the development of a critical incident management plan. The school is encouraged to proceed with this plan at the earliest opportunity.
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.
The management and staff of the school are commended for supporting the process of formal subject department planning. Subject co-ordinators have been put in place for all subject departments. These co-ordinators act on a voluntary basis and the position is rotated among the teachers in the departments, a practice that is commended. The foreign languages department has adopted a very good model for subject planning and a common programme of work has been developed for the different languages. This is very good practice. Single teacher departments are encouraged to link with other single teacher departments in planning common issues. These common planning elements could be then integrated into specific subject department plans. Care should be taken to ensure that in these instances time is also factored in for subject-specific planning in areas that are not common among the subjects.
The curriculum offered in Crescent College Comprehensive S. J. seeks to meet the diverse needs and interests of its student body, and reflects the aspirations of parents and the profile of the student intake in general. A wide-ranging curriculum is offered that addresses the requirements of the general student population in terms of the development of moral, spiritual, emotional, social, physical and intellectual growth. The Junior Certificate and established Leaving Certificate and the subjects on the curriculum are delivered in line with Department circulars, the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools’, programme requirements and guidelines.
Whole-school support for the provision of subjects at all levels is good. Particularly noteworthy is the provision of PE for all students, which is in accordance with the school’s philosophy in providing a holistic education. All subjects have an adequate time allocation and the distribution of lessons across the week is appropriate in almost all instances. This is good practice. Double lesson periods have been allocated for practical lessons in some subjects and for some year groups. It is recommended that Science and other practical subjects be allocated a minimum of one double lesson per week in each year to facilitate the development of students’ practical skills to the greatest extent in a safe environment.
First-year classes in all subjects are of mixed ability. Setting/concurrent timetabling operates in both second and third year for Irish and Mathematics, and for all core subjects for the Leaving Certificate, thus facilitating student access to all levels. This is commended.
To advance curriculum planning as a whole-school activity, a curriculum subcommittee will be put in place in accordance with the 2008-2018 strategic plans. It is advised that the guidance counsellor(s) be included on this committee.
TY is offered as an optional programme for students. The uptake is very good. TY offers a good educational experience for the students and deals appropriately with the overall aims and philosophy of the programme, as outlined in the relevant circular letters. The programme, which is managed by a programme co-ordinator and class co-ordinators, has been modified following a review during the 2007-2008 academic year that involved consultation with all the partners. This is good practice. Students and parents indicated that work experience, the ‘Anois’ module and the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) module were very beneficial aspects of the programme. Some parents expressed concern about the perceived lack of structure of the programme. It is noted that recommendations arising out of the review such as the timetabling of the “Steer Clear” module and enhancing communication through the recently updated web site have been implemented. One teacher up skilled himself in order to teach the Steer Clear module. This response to students’ interests and the commitment to upskilling in order to successfully implement the programme is commended.
The co-ordinator and class co-ordinators demonstrate a good knowledge of the programme and communication is facilitated through regular minuted meetings. The minutes of the 2008/2009 meetings are retained in a TY folder. Building on this good practice, it is suggested that in the future minutes be retained to form a permanent record of decisions made.
The core subjects in the TY curriculum comprise Religion, PE, ICT, Guidance, Science, a foreign language, and Business in addition to Irish, English and Mathematics. Some subjects are half-year modules and others third-of-year modules. This mechanism is to be praised, as it helps to ensure that students get to sample the Leaving Certificate optional subjects. Best practice is a balanced taster system of all optional subjects. In the interest of fairness and equity it is recommended that the sampling of optional subjects should be balanced and that all students have the same exposure to all optional subjects to facilitate the making of informed subject choices for the Leaving Certificate.
In keeping with TY philosophy, the TY curriculum contains a fine range of complementary activities and experiential modules. These include work experience, Steer Clear, chess and outdoor activities including a cross-curricular trip to north Clare. As previously mentioned, the involvement of TY students in organising events such as the hockey blitz and the first-year soccer league facilitates the enhancement of their leadership and organisational skills. The social consciousness of students is developed through their links with, for example, St Gabriel’s Centre.
It is recommended that the TY teachers and co-ordinators plan the full TY programme for the year at minuted meetings. This strategy in addition to the regular updating of the TY calendar on the TY web site would help address some parents’ concern about a perceived lack of structure. The written TY programme should be further developed to encompass the format and suggestions outlined in the brochure Writing the Transition Year Programme. This would essentially mean writing an introduction to the TY programme (Part 1) and documenting the organisational details (Part 3). Part 2 is already documented in the form of the subject and modular plans. However, the subject and modular plans should be written using the common format similar to that provided in the brochure Writing the Transition Year Programme. Alternative assessment modes and feedback from inspections could be included.
The commitment and dedication of the adult education department to lifelong learning is evident in the diverse range of innovative evening classes offered. Sixty-four courses were offered this Autumn, including ICT, set and ballroom dancing, art and design for children, Irish and foreign languages and cookery. The success of this all-encompassing programme is a consequence in part of the team approach, which is clearly evident in the active department. Duties include the design of the programme, advertising and employment of tutors.
The school is to be congratulated for the provision of a wide choice of subjects and levels for students. All junior cycle students study Irish; English; Mathematics; Religion; History; Geography; Science; a foreign language (French, Spanish or German); Civic, Social and Political Education(CSPE); Social, Personal and Health Education(SPHE), and PE. The remaining subjects are optional subjects and include Art, Business, Home Economics, Materials Technology (Wood), Metalwork, Music, and Technical Graphics. Although the option blocks are set, students can choose from among a large number of subjects. The effort to develop a suitable taster system in first year is commended as participation in a taster system assists students in making informed subject choices. Notwithstanding that, given the short timeframe for the operation of the taster system, it is recommended that the school investigate the current length of the taster system in terms of its usefulness and effectiveness.
While acknowledging that TY and the established Leaving Certificate are offered in Crescent College Comprehensive S.J., nevertheless the senior curriculum lacks breadth in the area of programmes. It is recommended that in addition to the planned examination of the implementation of the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA) in terms of the school’s needs, the school should strongly consider the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) as this programme endeavours to foster in students a spirit of enterprise and initiative and to develop their interpersonal, vocational and technological skills. In addition, the LCVP would complement the Guidance programme on offer and enhance cross-curricular work.
The school offers Spanish, French and German. However students do not currently have the opportunity to study more than one language and they choose this in advance of entry into first year. The school is strongly encouraged to explore the feasibility of enabling students to study two foreign languages. The optional subjects offered by the school for Leaving Certificate are Accounting; Economics; History; Geography; Art; Biology; Business; Chemistry; Construction Studies; Engineering; Home Economics; Physics; Agricultural Science; Technical Graphics; and Design and Communication Graphics in addition to the foreign language studied for Junior Certificate. The optional subjects are not chosen in advance of TY. This is in line with best practice and is commended. The option blocks are generally the same for Leaving Certificate. It is recommended, in line with the recommendations in subject inspections that the school utilise a ‘student driven’ model where the option blocks are based on students’ preferences.
The school offers a good level of support and Guidance to students and their parents when subject and programme choices are being made.
The opportunities offered to students in co-curricular and extracurricular provision endorse a component of the school’s mission statement, ‘to fulfil the potential of each individual pupil.’ A wide range of co- and extracurricular activities that support and enhance learning is provided across the curriculum and the level of provision is very good. These activities include cultural, aesthetic, community, social and sporting activities. A healthy level of student interest and participation in the various activities is reported. Co-curricular activities include school tours in sports such as soccer, rugby, and hockey. Students interested or talented in debating and music are well provided for. Students participate in debates such as those organised by Concern and Gael Linn. Input from the local branch of the Toastmasters is a component of the TY curriculum. Students’ musical interests are developed through the school choir and the orchestra, and their skills are utilised in whole-school events.
Students can partake in a range of sports, on both a recreational and competitive basis. The school has experienced significant sporting success in various sports. The range of sports provided is well organised through the work of the extracurricular committee. A timetable of the sporting activities has been devised to facilitate students in participating in a range of team sports including rugby, hockey, soccer, hurling, football, camogie and basketball. Individual sports such as tennis, athletics and golf are also facilitated. It was reported that a large number of students have progressed to study PE in third level. This is testament to the importance placed on these activities in the school.
As in other aspects of life in Crescent College Comprehensive S.J., parents have an important role in the provision of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. One parent is a member of the extracurricular committee that holds meetings throughout the year. A significant number of sports coaches are past pupils. All involved, parents and teachers, are encouraged to take training courses organised by teachers in the school. This is commended. Links with outside agencies are established and developed to supplement the range of learning environments available to students. For example, the school has use of the local tennis club.
The school has a sports officer who organises minority sports, including personal training programmes and the ‘Five Alive Club’, which promotes aerobics and healthy nutrition in a positive manner. An outdoor pursuits day is a mandatory component of both the first-year and fifth-year curriculum. This is praiseworthy, as in addition to providing students with the opportunity to experience other sporting activities, it also assists students in their personal and social development. Activities such as the first-year class leagues, the talent competition and the first-year quiz competitions enhance the development of leadership and organisational skills of TY students. This is commended.
Spiritual development and the development of community awareness is an important facet of Jesuit education and is a noteworthy feature of education in the school.
Staff and students are very aware of the positive impact of the co-curricular and extracurricular provision. There is a strong belief that these extra dimensions to school life help improve students’ attitudes to school and assist in the building of very positive relationships between teachers and students.
Newsletters and notice boards acknowledge, and promote these additional school activities and this very important feature of school life. Staff and management are highly commended on the excellent level of provision and on their commitment, enthusiasm and voluntary contributions in terms of time to this very valuable aspect of education in Crescent College Comprehensive S.J.
Subject departments have been established, the process of planning was well developed in the subjects evaluated and there are regular formal departmental meetings. Records of these meetings were retained as part of subject documentation in some subjects evaluated. Formal meetings are supplemented by frequent informal meetings throughout the school year. These arrangements are commended. A co-ordinator has been agreed for each subject department and this position is rotated among teachers at intervals in line with good practice. Cross-curricular and cross-departmental links were strong in the languages evaluated. It is recommended that this good practice be extended to ensure that all teachers be afforded the opportunity to discuss and share best practice with other colleagues. Also commendable is the liaison between some subject departments and the learning-support team to plan for the inclusion of students with additional educational needs.
Detailed subject planning documentation has been developed collaboratively by the departments evaluated and their work to date is commended. In building on the commitment shown to subject planning, it is recommended that subject plans be regularly reviewed and refined and take cognisance of the recommendations made in the individual subject inspection reports. Common curricular plans for teaching and learning across all subjects should be articulated in terms of students’ learning outcomes within specified timeframes and include detail on the methodologies employed, resources used and the type and frequency of assessment procedures.
An extensive range of resources to support teaching and learning has been developed by many departments, including progressive learning aids in the area of ICT. This is highly commended.
A Transition Year (TY) plan was included in the documentation provided for all subjects. Although the TY programmes designed for delivery in the school are comprehensive and wide-ranging, it is recommended that curriculum content be broadened to offer a different learning experience to that afforded to students in the established Junior and Leaving Certificate syllabuses. Recommendations in this regard in the individual subject inspections attached will also assist in guiding this development.
Very good teaching and learning methodologies were employed in the majority of lessons including the use of the data projector in many lessons. While in many lessons students were introduced to the theme of each lesson from the outset, it is recommended that teachers should share the planned learning outcomes with the students at the beginning of each lesson. This would provide a focus and a structure for the lesson and help students to take responsibility for what they should understand and be able to do at the end of the lesson. The textbook was used appropriately in lessons to complement and support the topic being covered in the lesson.
It is evident that the use of ICT in presentation is pervasive with reference in several reports to its use in many of the lessons observed. While in many lessons observed, opportunities were provided for students to work collaboratively there is scope, particularly in language lessons, for a greater use of active learning methodologies, in particular pair and group work activities. There was good use of the target language by the teacher in the language lessons observed. Teachers should encourage and support the use of the target language in the classroom by giving students the linguistic strategies needed to ask questions, make requests or express difficulties in the target language. In some lessons there was need for a more integrated approach attributing equal importance to the development of all the language skills, in particular oral skills development. Teachers are commended on their approach to student practical work in the subjects evaluated.
Teachers employed individual and global questioning techniques during lessons. Higher-order questions were used to advance students’ understanding of the concepts being dealt with during the lessons. Questioning also served to focus students' attention and to support and reinforce their learning. This approach is commended.
In all lessons, there was a supportive and affirming learning environment. Discipline was firmly but sensitively maintained. In all lessons observed there was very good student-teacher rapport and student discipline was well maintained. Very high expectations were set for the students in all lessons observed and there was good evidence of students’ achievement in each subject.
Homework featured at the beginning and the end of many lessons and helped to ensure continuity with previous and future lessons.
Students’ progress in Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. is monitored in a variety of ways and these are informed by the school's assessment and homework policies. End-of-term and mock examinations are scheduled each year and include written, practical, aural and oral components. These formal examinations are supplemented by regular class tests throughout the year.
Continuous assessment of all students' written, aural, oral and practical class work is also undertaken and regular written and oral feedback is provided for students.
Homework is regularly assigned and monitored by teachers. Random samples of students' copies showed a comprehensive amount of work in line with the requirements of the syllabuses. Homework also included frequent examples of developmental corrections and affirmation of students’ work.
The results of all assessments are recorded systematically and parents are regularly informed of the nature of students’ progress. Regular school reports, comments in the student's journal, telephone calls, letters, information evenings and parent-teacher meetings are used for this purpose.
There is good informal communication among the team. Building on this good practice, it is recommended that the core team meet on a regular basis to enhance ongoing planning, to review students’ progress and to revise students’ learning plans based on students’ achievement. Care should be taken to ensure that sufficient time is allocated for co-ordination.
The Department’s allocation for special educational needs is used specifically for the educational requirements of students with special educational needs. Support for students is generally provided on an individual basis or through group withdrawal. In addition to withdrawal and small groups, further engagement with in-class supports, such as team-teaching strategies should be considered. For example, team-teaching could be used in instances where students are withdrawn from French to study French or from German to study German.
A large number of teachers, twenty-one have been assigned by the deputy principal to assist in the delivery of learning support/resource. It is recommended that a smaller core teaching team be established. This team should be composed of self-selected teachers, who are interested in the delivery of learning support and who are committed to obtaining the necessary training and qualifications designed to assist and support them in their work. Best practice is where this team is representative of a cross section of subjects offered in a school, as is currently the case.
To utilise the allocated staff to optimal effect, every effort is made by the co-ordinator to match the students’ needs with the expertise of the available staff. In almost all instances the same teacher administers support to identified students in specific subjects. This is good practice.
There are a few minor issues with timetabling. To assist in resolving these issues, it is recommended that as far as possible the construction of the timetable for special educational needs take place in conjunction with the construction of the main timetable for the school. Collaboration between management and the co-ordinator at this stage would assist in the delivery of optimal provision for special educational needs students.
Considerable work has been done in developing a student register detailing the additional hours of support provided to each student, the teachers and subjects involved. This is commended. With some additional information this register will serve to inform and guide all staff in their engagements with individual students. Additional information could include an outline of students’ learning styles and strengths, the progress made, when further progress will be reviewed, and by whom.
The special educational needs assistants (SNAs) actively support students’ learning. The development of school guidelines outlining the work of SNAs as non-teaching roles is good practice. The school actively seeks additional material resources and reasonable accommodations in State examinations to meet the physical and educational requirements of students with additional educational needs. This is praiseworthy. It was reported that individual and group learning plans have been developed and that the school is currently working towards the development of learning plans for individual students. This is commended.
The accommodation allocated to special educational needs consists of a base office and small room, with notice boards, resource books, ICT and appropriate software to facilitate support to students with special educational needs. Consideration could be given to the allocation of a specific classroom for special educational needs to enhance the learning environment for these students. It was reported that lack of accommodation is a concern that can affect the effective delivery of support to students. Strategies such as team teaching could help alleviate this difficulty.
The special educational needs policy is in draft form. The roles and responsibilities of the special education needs co-ordinator, the learning-support teacher and the resource teacher in addition to those of management, subject teachers, parents and students are outlined in the policy. This good practice is in accordance with the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) guidelines 2005. The reviewed draft policy for special educational needs should be extended in line with the Department’s publication Inclusion of Students with Special Educational Needs Post-Primary Guidelines. For example, the written policy should specify circumstances in which students with special educational needs may be withdrawn from mainstream and the school’s arrangements for allocating resources for teaching and learning.
The development of a whole-school policy on literacy and numeracy is recommended. It is suggested that the school further utilise the online support provided by the Special Educational Needs Support Service (SESS). The school’s internal expertise could also be a valuable tool in extending the knowledge of the mainstream teachers with regard to for example effective teaching methodologies. It is suggested that a member of the special educational needs core team attend subject department meetings occasionally to share best practice.
The school has accessed the appropriate resources and available supports to aid the full inclusion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The School Completion Programme (SCP) operates in the school for students at risk of early school leaving and from disadvantaged backgrounds. The link teacher to the local cluster is effectively supported in her work by the assistant who performs a range of duties to help the target students in the school. This is praiseworthy.
These personnel provide effective support for students with additional educational needs in areas such as transfer, induction, progression and retention. The targeted students apply for entry to the school in line with the procedures of the common application system, but have a dedicated induction programme to smooth the transition from primary school. This is good practice.
Very close links exist between the school and the local SCP cluster. The link teacher from Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. currently chairs the local cluster. Project staff mainly provide outside school supports such as holiday programmes.
The role of the in-school SCP personnel and their work with students in the school is to be highly commended. Mentors play a very important role in supporting and building up relationships with these students. They act in a voluntary capacity and give of their time and expertise in caring for these students. This is highly commended. Training should be provided to assist these volunteers in their very worthwhile work. In line with the school’s Jesuit ethos, it is recommended that the school proactively enrol the SCP students in the after-school homework club.
The delivery of the programme should be planned at a whole-school level. Strategies should be devised to enhance the approaches and skills of the whole staff in relation to the education and expectations of these disadvantaged young people.
Currently there is no breakfast club in school. As a means of addressing this, consideration should be given to the provision of breakfast and lunch vouchers for SCP students, thus deploying existing resources in the school in accordance with the programme.
The SCP personnel have developed links with the access
office in the
The guidance department shows commitment to its work. The school’s guidance allocation is effectively used by two dedicated guidance counsellors to provide personal, educational and vocational guidance. A satisfactory level of contact is facilitated with all class groups, both timetabled and non-timetabled contact. A guidance programme of work has been devised for all year groups. This is commended. Building on this good work, it is recommended that the guidance department develop links with the SPHE department to co-ordinate the delivery of guidance at junior cycle.
A range of activities, including the use of ICT, mock interviews and visits to external agencies assists students in making choices and transitions in the personal, educational and career areas. This is commended. Significantly, access to ICT facilities is provided for guidance lessons. The level of resources is applauded.
The school houses two appropriately resourced guidance offices, which include a guidance library.
There is currently no whole-school written guidance plan. As the development of such a plan is mandatory, it is recommended that the issue be addressed immediately. Its development should be co-ordinated by the care team. While developing this plan, reference should be made to recently published documents on whole-school guidance planning, such as the document produced by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science (2005): Guidelines for second-level schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act (1998), relating to students' access to appropriate guidance and relevant circular letters.
The guidance department has strong links with the SCP personnel, the chaplain, form tutors, year heads, senior management and outside agencies. This is good practice. Counselling takes place as necessary, and communication with and referral to the appropriate professional bodies is maintained. Referral services are used sensitively. Consideration could be given to the involvement of the guidance counsellor(s) with the first-year open night.
Commendably, the guidance counsellors participate in information sessions arranged for parents entering senior cycle and in this way provide information and support for parents to assist them in helping their son or daughter to make subject or programme choices.
The school sets a high priority on the care of its students. The school has a well-established and comprehensive student support structure that involves a significant number of staff. A very good level of care for students is reflected in the important role played by class tutors, assistant year heads, year heads, the chaplain, guidance counsellors, the learning-support team, SCP personnel and management in monitoring each student’s development and providing appropriate support when necessary.
A care team that meets on a weekly basis co-ordinates the student support system. It is recommended that the care team be extended to include the special educational needs co-ordinator and the co-ordinator of SPHE. Senior management and the guidance counsellors provide effective and formal links between the care team and year heads.
The year head, assistant year head and class tutor structures contribute in a significant manner to the school’s provision for student support. The year head and class tutor roles are clearly outlined in the teacher induction book. It is recommended that the various roles and responsibilities of all staff involved in student care be clarified and subsequently included in the whole-school guidance plan. This review should involve the roles of senior management, guidance counsellors, chaplain, year heads, assistant year heads, class tutors and others who play a significant role in the care of students.
The voluntary work performed by class tutors is a vital support to students’ emotional and academic development and is highly commended. Class tutors meet their class groups for the morning roll call. This daily contact assists in developing a good rapport between the teacher and the students and provides an opportunity for the creation of a class spirit. The class tutor’s role in pastoral care complements his or her discipline role. They are available to advise and support students as well as liaise with the subject teachers, assistant year heads and year heads.
The informal care role played by all staff, teaching and non-teaching in the lives of students is acknowledged and affirmed.
Students’ involvement in a range of community and
caring activities fosters their social and personal development. These
activities include the ‘Fast Friends’ programme and the Arrupé Project in
SPHE is recognised as contributing to the students’ personal and social development.
The bishop nominates the school chaplain. The role of
chaplain is integrated into the work of the care team, collaborating and
working with others in the school community. In addition to the work engaged in
as a member of the care team, the chaplain also seeks to respond to the
spiritual and religious needs of the members of the school community.
Activities that are more specifically focused on the spiritual development of
students include a school Mass in September, the retreat Mass for sixth-year
students, the Christmas carols service, the Ash Wednesday Mass and the
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 principal, deputy principal, staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:
Published, June 2009
School Response to the Report
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management is pleased that the report reflects the hard work and commitment of the teaching staff and warmly welcomes the Inspectors’ validation of Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. as a caring community of learning and academic excellence.
The Board of Management is particularly pleased that the report recognises and affirms the great sense of pride that all who work at Crescent College S.J. have in the history, the ethos and the Jesuit tradition of the school. In this regard the Board wishes to acknowledge the invaluable and multi-faceted role the Jesuit order has played for over a century and a half and continues to play in the college’s day to day life.
The Board would not wish the opportunity of the Whole School Evaluation process to pass without due recognition being given to the valuable and generous financial support of both the Jesuits and Parent body. In addition to this ongoing funding the Board estimates that a figure in excess of €4 million has been raised by the Jesuits and the Parents in recent years for capital projects which could not have been undertaken without their support.
The Board of Management commends the inspectors for emphasising the key role of parents in the life of the school as acknowledged in the Mission Statement of the School.
The Board of Management welcomes the acknowledgement and commendations of the inspectors with regard to the high priority set by Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. on the care of its students and the manner in which the school seeks to support its students.
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 of Management of Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. is happy to continue to lead the implementation of the recommendations contained in the WSE as outlined in the key recommendations of the inspectors.
The Board is confident that the recommendations complement the objectives and goals of the school’s Strategic Action Plan 2008-2018.
The Board is committed to using the feedback from the WSE to help guide us in the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan as recommended by the Inspectors.
The Board expresses its appreciation to the members of the Inspectorate for their courtesy and professionalism in the course of the evaluation. The Board would like to commend all the constituent groups – pupils, teachers and parents for their ongoing commitment to the delivery of the highest standards of education as evidenced by this report.