An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

Pobalscoil Neasáin

Baldoyle, Dublin

Roll number: 91342R

  

Date of inspection: 1 December 2006

Date of issue of report:  21 June 2007

 

 

Whole School Evaluation report

1. Introduction

2. The quality of school management

2.1 Characteristic spirit of the school

2.2 School ownership and management

2.3 In-school management

2.4 Management of resources

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of curriculum provision

4.1 Curriculum planning and organisation

4.2 Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

4.3 Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

5. Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

5.1 Planning and preparation

5.2 Teaching and learning

5.3 Assessment

6. Quality of support for students

6.1 Students with special educational needs

6.2 Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

6.3 Guidance

6.4 Pastoral care

7. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

8. Related subject inspection reports

9. School Response to the Report

 


Whole School Evaluation report

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Pobalscoil Neasáin, Baldoyle. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.

 

 

 

1.         Introduction

 

Pobalscoil Neasáin is a co-educational and multi denominational Community School, located close to the village of Baldoyle. The school was established in 1980 to serve the needs of the Bayside and Baldoyle populations. The trustees are the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Charity and the City of Dublin Vocation Education Committee (VEC), although the school is no longer in the VEC’s administration area. As a school within the Howth deanery, a common enrolment policy is employed that controls admissions to its second level schools. A common assessment day also occurs for schools in the deanery

 

The main feeder schools are widespread but the large majority of the student cohort come from Baldoyle, Bayside, Raheny, Howth and Kilbarrack. Students’ abilities are wide ranging and the enrolment includes a small number of newcomer students.  Currently, building work in a housing estate immediately opposite the main building is ongoing and has impacted on the daily life of the school sporadically. This school has seen an increase in student cohort with the imminent closure of a neighbouring school. New housing developments in the area may, in time, increase the enrolment in the school.

 

Commendably, the school has established very strong links with the community it serves. For example, a programme entitled Return to Learning, aimed at providing adults with the appropriate skills to enable them attend college, has been established in the school and is tutored by staff from University College Dublin. The school also provides opportunities for student teachers from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), to use facilities within the Science Department and this programme is tutored by TCD staff. The school facilitates meetings of the local Residents’ Association and is also made available for an adult recreational course. A post holder coordinates the Adult Education Night Classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.         The quality of school management

 

2.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The school aims to provide a ‘caring and committed atmosphere in which the partnership of staff, parents and students enables our students to achieve their full potential as outlined in the mission statement’. The vision for the school is centered on the mission statement and aspires to the attainment of high academic performance and the development of each individual’s talent. All of the partners spoke of the school as a welcoming place. All teaching staff highlighted the good rapport and cooperation that exists between teacher and student. It was reported that students displayed an open willingness to give of their time to school events such as the annual open day, to ensure that the school is reflected in the best possible light. Parents spoke highly of the open door policy of the school’s senior management team to meet their needs and also praised the teachers’ readiness to meet parents.

 

To assist the promotion of its religious ethos, the school is affiliated to An Tobar, an in-service and training body under the auspices of Marino Institute of Education (MIE). Liturgical seasons are marked during the year. Masses are held at the beginning of the school year for the school and a graduation mass for sixth year students is held at the end of the year.

 

2.2          School ownership and management

 

The current Board of Management was established in 2004 and is appropriately constituted. The board meets five to six times per year and additionally if necessary. The link between the Parents’ Association and the board is tenuous. Evidence suggests that communication between the parents’ representatives on the board and the parents association could be developed further. It is recommended that the links between the board and the parents association be further strengthened by increasing the level of communication through improved attendance at meetings. Such support from the board will reinvigorate the work of the association who are important partners in the operation of the school.

 

Oral feedback from all board meetings is provided to the staff. The absence of an agreed written report of the board’s discussions does not allow for the transmission of information to all of the partners in a consistent manner. In that context, it is recommended that an agreed written report be provided to staff and the parent body after each board meeting. All members of the board have considerable expertise in education and it was stated that such proficiency has led to the ready resolution of issues. However, consideration might be given at the formation of the next board to the inclusion of persons from outside the educational sphere to provide a broader perspective on the management of the school.

 

The board stated that its role is fourfold: to ensure that the schools’ legislative requirements are being met, to ensure justice and fairness in policies, to oversee budgets and financial matters and to deal with serious disciplinary cases. Board members responsible for financial matters are provided with a statement of accounts and this is carefully scrutinised. The board reported that, at times, it has not been closely involved in the initial stages of policy development. The development of policy as part of the School Plan should involve the collaborative effort of all the partners. In addition, the expertise of this board in educational matters would benefit this process and inform policy development.  Therefore it is recommended that the board review its current practice regarding policy development and increase its involvement at an earlier stage. With few exceptions (such as the policy on Career Breaks which was requested by the board), all decisions regarding planning priorities have emerged from senior management and teaching staff. The board takes responsibility, however, for examining all draft policies thoroughly, amending where necessary prior to their ratification. 

 

At the time of the evaluation the board had not yet considered its priorities for the development of the school, apart from the continuing progression of the mission statement. The principal stated that the development of the school as a centre for learning for its community was a continuing priority and the introduction of additional subjects to the curriculum, for example, was an indicator that the school would continue to evolve with the times. Senior management feel very much supported by the board who in turn expressed confidence in the work of the senior management team.

 

The Parents’ Association (PA) has recently been reinstated and, commendably, this emerged from the tireless efforts of senior management. The commitment of its membership is acknowledged. Meetings are held every two months and all minutes are e-mailed to the parent body. Members also visit houses with copies of minutes where e-mail access is unavailable. Such diligence is commended. The association is affiliated to the Parents’ Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (PACCS) and have attended meetings, thus gaining useful insight from other members. The association has no role in fundraising but has other functions including significant input into the annual Open Night. A member of the teaching staff attends all meetings as part of a post of responsibility and is the liaison person between the school and the association thus further cementing ongoing communication. Attendance at the Annual General Meeting by the general parent body has been reported as disappointing. This is unfortunate as the association is a major stakeholder in students’ education. Consideration might be given to the provision of a talk/lecture at an appropriate time to arouse interest from the parent body, designed to provide additional support for parents and which may help to improve involvement.

 

The main channel of communication with parents is through the journal, a system which was acknowledged. A newsletter produced by TY students highlights the activities that are occurring in the school. The school website is also available at www.psn.ie and was being redeveloped at the time of the evaluation.

 

2.3          In-school management

  

The senior management team both worked in an “acting up” role for three years prior to their permanent appointments. The role of each member is very clearly defined. Some of their duties were discussed and decided upon while others emerged as awareness of individual strengths grew. The deputy principal is clearly involved in the day-to-day management of the school and has responsibility for timetabling, supervision/substitution, discipline and attendance. A constant presence on the corridor was very evident and impacts positively on the management of students. The principal is heavily involved with board of management issues, planning and policy development and curriculum issues. This commitment has impacted positively on planning and policy-making which in turn affects the daily life of the school. Both make themselves readily available to staff, parents and students, yet acknowledge the importance of a scheduled weekly meeting and have attempted to set aside time on a designated day for this purpose. This is strongly encouraged and supported as such time will allow the senior management team to plan beyond day-to-day issues and to look at the school from a global perspective. Good communication and collaboration among the senior management team was reported as a feature of their work practice.

 

No global review of the schedule of posts has occurred since its original formation. While it is acknowledged that some changes have been made to the original schedule, there is a need to globally review the schedule in consultation with staff and the board, to ensure that all current needs of the school are being met. In that context, it is recommended that a review of the schedule of posts be initiated in consultation with staff and the board.

 

The middle management team consist of 10 Assistant Principals (AP) and 12 Special Duties (SD) teachers. All year heads are AP’s. Transition Year (TY) has a dedicated year head responsible for administration and management issues in conjunction with a coordinator, thus ensuring a clear division between the two roles. Overall, the workload distributed to posts varies and clearly, some being loaded more heavily than others. As part of the review of posts of responsibility, consideration should also be given to ensuring an even distribution of workload among all post holders.

 

Special duties teachers fulfil their post duties in isolation from each other. To date, no formal sub-group or general meeting of this team has occurred. Such a meeting(s) could provide a useful support network for teachers when performing their duties. It is therefore recommended that post holders would be given an opportunity to meet and share work practices in order to support each other in carrying out individual responsibilities. In addition, opportunities to discuss and evaluate with senior management the progress made in the tasks of post-holders, as well as indications of future plans for posts, should now be explored.

 

A ladder of referral system is clearly evident for the management of students. This occurs through the implementation of the Code of Discipline, and the consistent involvement of the deputy principal in its operation with assistance from the year heads, tutors and the class teachers. Tutors are responsible for checking journals and for recording attendance. Tutors in first and second year are core subject teachers so that daily contact is maintained. Tutors report to year heads as the need arises. In senior cycle, tutors meet their class groups at a timetabled tutorial time, a system that is being phased out in favour of that which currently exists at junior cycle. Year heads are assigned a year group for the entire school cycle in order to build a thorough understanding of the students and their families. Such a strategy was welcomed by the Parents’ Association.

 

Year heads are very clear about their individual roles. Their primary functions are to build relationships with their students, liase closely with families and to take assemblies each morning. In addition, they play an integral role in working through the subject options with their students and assigning them to their respective classes. Year heads work very closely with the school chaplain. All year heads have their own notice boards and these are extensively used. A formal meeting is held between year heads and tutors at the start of the year and meetings thereafter are informal. Commendably, close links have been developed between the year head of first year students and local primary schools particularly in taking account of students’ academic abilities when assigning students to their class groupings. The school chaplain supports this work by visiting the feeder primary schools. To date, no time has been allocated for year heads to meet as a group to share best practice or to meet with other assistant principals as a cohesive middle management team. This is now an opportune time to examine ways in which this sector of the middle management team could be further strengthened to cement and reflect upon the very good work that each individual is doing in order to further support senior management and to work collectively as a solid team. It is recommended that strategies be put in place that would allow assistant principals to meet and share work practice.

 

Notice boards have been allocated to a number of post-holders including for example, SPHE coordinator, year heads and TY coordinator. These notice boards are systematically used to communicate relevant information to staff. The school intercom is used at dedicated times during the day which commendably keeps disruption to a minimum.

 

2.4          Management of resources

 

Senior management ensure that that all teachers have the opportunity to teach all programmes at all levels so as to broaden the expertise and experience available within departments. This is very good practice. In general, there is little difficulty securing qualified personnel. However, programmes within the Learning Support and Guidance departments are being delivered by non-qualified personnel. Both of these issues are further developed in section five of this report.

 

The Learning Support department has worked very diligently in developing and acquiring many resource materials for students in its care. An attractive print-rich environment enhances the good resources in the department.  Students’ profiles are stored in locked filing cabinets and access by other personnel is limited. The department is commended for all the very good work to date in this regard.

 

The Guidance allocation is not at present fully utilised as the teacher is shared between this school and another in the locality. Guidance is in a transition period regarding its personnel and the difficulty of securing a qualified person for a temporary period is acknowledged. However, once this instability has been resolved, appropriate measures should be taken to ensure the provision of Guidance from suitably qualified personnel. Nonetheless, the commitment and work of Guidance personnel is acknowledged.

 

It is laudable that the board facilitates and supports continuous professional development of teachers. For example, in-service courses have been readily attended by teachers as well as attendance at other subject related conferences. Senior management are also very supportive of the work of non-teaching staff. A canteen is available for staff, students and visitors and contributes to the welcoming atmosphere in the school.

 

The school is spacious with more than adequate accommodation available for teachers and students. However, severe difficulties with the roof have led to problems in some rooms and have prevented the development of resources in some departments due to leaks. Such problems were very evident, for example, in the newly acquired SPHE room.

 

The school has fulfilled its obligation in drafting a health and safety statement. An external risk assessor has been appointed who has provided support to the school and potential hazards have been identified. Under the Health Safety and Welfare at Work Act 1989, employers are obliged to identify hazards that exist in the workplace and to state what measures they have put in place in order to avoid accidents. It is acknowledged that the school has lodged applications to the relevant sector in the department for appropriate funding. Nevertheless, it is recommended that this issue continue to be progressed by the board to ensure the safety of all. A post-holder has been appointed as safety representative. Commendably, fire drills have been held in the school. However, it is essential that all fire drills are documented and records kept. In addition, fire evacuation procedures should be clearly identified in all classrooms and on all of the main corridors.

 

The school has an adequate supply of notice boards, which are allocated to various subjects and activities including those of the student council and prefects. The provision of an extra curricular notice board, which would contain a record of all activities would be useful as an additional mode of tracking events occurring in the school, as well as heightening awareness among all staff and students.

 

All teachers have been allocated a classroom. In many classrooms, tremendous efforts have been made to develop a vibrant atmosphere as professional print rich work complemented by student projects is an excellent support to learning. This is excellent practice and should now be extended into all classrooms. ICT facilities in the school are excellent and are coordinated by a post holder. The large and very spacious computer room will be complemented in the future by the provision of a second room and this will further support the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Senior management is very committed to ensuring that all departments are fully resourced. For example, recommendations made in a previous Music inspection were taken on board as additional print work materials, instruments and a computer have now been acquired. This commitment and support is commended.

 

An induction programme for new staff is given prior to the school reopening at the start of the academic year. The school chaplain is very supportive of new staff and has devised measures to foster a welcoming and supportive atmosphere. Both members of the senior management team share responsibility for ensuring that new staff are supported across all areas of school life.

 

 

3.         Quality of school planning

 

Planning has advanced considerably in Pobalscoil Neasáin. Staff planning days have been availed of and much good work has taken place. Clear records of the process were provided in the area of curriculum planning, one area which has been prioritised. Commendably, the School Development Planning Initiative has been optimised as guest speakers have made presentations and templates were used to guide the process.  All planning has evolved to varying degrees from the staff, the board or senior management. Currently, there is no planning coordinator responsible for steering the process and such an appointment would remove much responsibility from senior management as the coordinator could further advance the process, lead staff, and liaise with the board, parents association and the students. In that context, it is recommended that consideration be given to the appointment of a planning coordinator.

 

The current Parents’ Association has been consulted during the planning process and planning committees have included parent representatives. Students were also consulted on some policies. The board is involved in scrutinising draft policies. The school has identified Learning Support and Guidance as a priority for development and has established a clear calendar of timeframes for the review of other policies. This is good practice and is commended. In the course of the review process, it is recommended that the school would also review terminology used in policies in order to reflect the inclusive approach which the school wishes to foster. In addition, policies developed to date should be collated to form the permanent section of the plan and priorities identified to date should be evident in the development section together with an outline of how they might be achieved.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

In addition to the policies that have been identified for development, senior management have placed tremendous importance on the establishment of clearly identifiable subject departments. Department plans were available and planning was focussed on three areas: Aims, Desired Outcomes and Assessment. This is a very good start to this process and all staff is commended for the good work produced to date and are encouraged to continuously develop and monitor their planning.

 

 

4.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

4.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Pobalscoil Neasáin offers a broad curriculum. Junior certificate, (JC) Leaving certificate, (LC) Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and TY are the programmes on offer. Currently, the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA) is not available to students. This school has experienced some changes in student enrolment and may well benefit from its introduction. Therefore, it is recommended that the board and senior management, in consultation with staff, parents, and students investigate the possibility of introducing LCA into the curriculum to ensure that the needs of all students are being met. It is commendable that the school is constantly exploring new subjects to integrate into the curriculum, as evidenced by the recent addition of Japanese outside the timetable.

 

Transition Year (TY) is offered as a compulsory programme. This is a programme that is valuable and allows students experience a wide breadth of educational experiences, which would otherwise have been unobtainable. Members of staff reported that not all students benefit from the programme. This is now an opportune time to review the current provision of TY through consultation with staff, parents and students.

 

It was widely acknowledged, however, that significant advances have been made in the TY programme and this is a tribute to the work of the coordinator. A comprehensive plan was available and included plans from all subject departments. It should be borne in mind that evaluation of subject content is an important part of this process and can inform future plans. Therefore, it is recommended that a global evaluation of subject content be initiated at appropriate stages and included in the plan.

 

A wide range of optional activities are provided in TY and these are presented by external personnel. These include photography, hip hop dancing, drum circle workshops, a drug awareness talk and trips. Students who opt out of activities remain in their timetabled subject(s) at the time of the event. This is a sensitive issue as this voluntary exclusion from activities may well be due to financial difficulties and/or a lack of interest. In keeping with the spirit of inclusiveness, consideration should be given to reducing the number of activities so that the school is in a position to enable all students to participate. Work experience is carried out every week and students work in two placements for half a year each. Commendably, a core teaching team has been assigned to TY which can help to regulate programme provision. Evaluation of courses provided by external personnel is ongoing and is good practice.

 

The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) does not currently have a coordinator. No work experience module is offered during the two year programme, a situation not in keeping with the spirit of the programme. Students who wish to study LCVP are currently experiencing the modules as an “add on” to the traditional LC programme. Students access these modules by withdrawing from non-examination subjects. This programme is a discrete programme and should be timetabled appropriately. It is recommended that the school seeks guidance in this regard by contacting the Second Level Support Service at www.slss.ie. LCVP students have been involved in commendable fundraising activities including “Jump for Joy”.

 

The school timetable is generally balanced. In many cases, core subjects are timetabled to occur every day but there are a few instances when this is not the case. The rationale of requesting students to indicate subject choices in first year prior to the excellent “taster” system is ambiguous and may well be confusing for students and parents. It is important that parents and students are provided with adequate information that will enable them to choose subjects that reflect their abilities and interests rather than being guided by traditional gender choices. Therefore, account should be taken of the ongoing need to monitor option subject bands to ensure that students’ choices are open and fair and that students have open access to the full range of subjects.

 

It is very regrettable that PE is not timetabled for third year students at all and that sixth year students receive only one period per week. It is recognized that the current teacher allocation to PE creates timetabling difficulties in meeting the needs of all the students. Nevertheless, in the interest of the health and physical well-being of all the students, it is recommended that the school explore the provision of PE as part of its long term planning with a view to ensuring that all class groups receive appropriate PE time.

 

It was noted that the current timetabling arrangements fall short of what is required to ensure that all students have access to 28 class contact hours.  The school indicated that it would be addressing this matter and making adjustment to the timetable for future years; alternatively, it may seek additional resources to address the matter if essential course provision were to be affected by such an adjustment.

 

4.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

A large degree of responsibility is apportioned to Year Heads in determining the allocation of students to subjects and programmes. In the long term, Guidance must play a more central role in this allocation. It is laudable that first year students are provided with the opportunity to sample all option subjects until October when decisions are then finalised. A degree of flexibility allows students to change subject to space being available. Parents of these students are also provided with an information evening where subject content is explained. The annual open night gives parents and students the opportunity to view the school and the various subject departments.

 

Students who are entering fifth year are surveyed by their year head regarding subject options and option bands are compiled. If necessary, these bands are re-drafted if the needs of students have not been met. The importance of choosing a language to meet entry requirements for particular universities is made very clear as additional correspondence is sent to parents.  An information evening is held concurrently with a Parent/teacher meeting where subject options are explained complemented by the provision of a handout.

 

A system of banding is inherent in the system across all year groups with clearly defined top, middle and lower bands.

 

A review of certification data indicates inconsistent uptake at higher level within certain subjects. It is acknowledged that many factors can account for decisions made or options chosen in this regard. However, students (and parents) require consistent encouragement and motivation from all partners in their learning to achieve their optimum potential in examinations. It is recommended that teachers in all subject areas reflect on ways in which students can be further provided with opportunities to develop confidence in their own competence and sustain the motivation to achieve their optimum potential. The school performs an internal analysis on student achievement in state examinations and trends over a period of time are studied. This is a worthwhile exercise and could now be extended to include comparisons with national statistics.

 

 

4.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

Students are provided with opportunities to participate in a range of co and extra curricular activities including soccer, rugby, athletics, debating and choir. The absence of any pitches generally precludes students from training as a school team for various matches but nevertheless the school has commendably formed various teams. Much success has been achieved with sporting activities. Students are reliant on the training received at local clubs. All matches are played in other locations which is very regrettable. Significant work is also evident in the area of debating which has experienced considerable success. First year clubs are also available and are run by the schools’ prefects. A school exchange programme is also in place co-ordinated by a post-holder. The gym is made available to local clubs and primary schools from the area.

 

 

5.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

5.1          Planning and preparation

 

Subject departments have been established and a collaborative approach to the organisation, planning and delivery of subjects has been developed.  Management is commended for supporting this by making time available to subject teaching teams on a formal basis.  Planning documentation available of subjects inspected during the evaluation indicated that most subject departments have developed plans which outline details of the organisation, planning, delivery and assessment of their subjects in the school.

 

Teachers had prepared detailed schemes of work for all year groups, including Transition Year, based on the relevant syllabuses.  These indicated the content to be covered, methodologies to be used and resources to support teaching and learning.  The best schemes also included details of the learning outcomes and performance indicators for students and clearly indicated a developmental approach to the attainment of knowledge, understanding and skills.  This is very good practice. It is recommended that a review of teacher planning should ensure that this approach is evident in all plans. It is further recommended that, where no subject department plan has been completed, subject teaching teams should focus on developing the plan. The individual schemes available may provide a good basis for such collaborative planning.

 

5.2          Teaching and learning

 

In lessons observed as part of the associated Subject Inspections, these generally began with the roll call followed by the correction of homework and/or a review of material from the previous lesson. This served to provide a context for new learning and is commended as good practice. Good short-term planning complemented by the selection of appropriate resources was evident in all of the lessons observed. As a result, lessons had a clear structure, a logical sequence and, in general, lesson pace and content were appropriate to the abilities of the students. The good practice of sharing the planned learning outcomes with the students was noted. Commendably, in some lessons, these learning outcomes were reviewed at the close of lessons in order to summarise the learning which had taken place.

 

Teaching and learning were most effective when the content of the lessons was varied, complemented by appropriate and timely resources with a balance between active and passive student learning strategies. As a result, these strategies stimulated and motivated students and caused them to actively engage with the content of the lessons thus enabling self-directed and independent learning. This is excellent practice and is commended. This good work should now extend to all subject departments and inform future discussions on subject planning. 

 

Questioning was used in many of the lessons. Questioning was most effective when questions were directed at named students. In addition, the use of open-ended questions that challenge students to respond with a deeper understanding of the topic and the ability to apply such knowledge to a variety of situations were equally effective. Such strategies should be sustained and further developed in both oral and written work in order to support students in the development of higher order thinking skills. It is also important when posing questions that students are given sufficient time to reflect and formulate answers.

 

Classroom management was very good and there was evidence of a good rapport between teachers and their students. Student participation was encouraged and students were appropriately affirmed for their efforts. In a number of the classrooms it is admirable that a print-rich learning environment has been created through the display of a range of well-chosen educational posters and students’ project work that also serve as resources to support learning. In addition, some attractive photographic displays celebrated students’ achievement.

 

Observation of classroom activities, interaction with students and an examination of students’ work indicates good progress in teaching and learning and overall, student enjoyment of the subjects was evident.

 

5.3          Assessment

 

In general a range of assessments modes is used by teachers in Pobalscoil Neasáin to measure student competence and progress, frequently reflecting the assessment objectives of the syllabuses. These include in-class questioning and monitoring and the setting of homework exercises.  End of topic tests are also set by some departments. In-house examinations are held at Christmas and at the end of the summer term for non State examination classes and third and sixth year students are assessed by pre-examinations in February/March. Written reports are issued to parents following these formal assessments.  Parents may also meet the relevant teachers by appointment to discuss their child’s progress.

 

Teachers are commended for maintaining very good records of students’ achievement and these are communicated to parents by means of the class journal, at parent-teacher meetings and in the reports.  Some subject departments use common examination papers across a year group and they are marked to an agreed scheme.  This is commended as a model of good practice and its use throughout the school is encouraged, where possible.

 

In many lessons there was evidence of good practice with regard to the regular setting, checking and monitoring of homework, in keeping with the school’s homework policy.  This is commended as careful marking and helpful teacher comments enhance learning.  However, it was found that some students are poorly motivated to attempt homework and it is suggested that this be addressed by teachers in the context of subject department planning.

 

 


6.         Quality of support for students

 

6.1          Students with special educational needs

 

The Learning Support Department is currently in transition and is staffed at present by unqualified personnel in this area. A member of staff is undergoing training in Learning Support and will return to this department in 2007. Commendably, such training had already been facilitated by the BOM in 2006 with former staff member. In that context, it is acknowledged that the school is endeavouring to rectify the current situation. All learning support measures mirror those provided in primary school. However, there is a need to evaluate the learning support being provided once the trained member of staff returns. It is recommended that, upon the return of the trained teacher, a process of evaluation of all existing support be initiated.

 

A team of five teachers working in a resource teaching capacity form this department. This is good practice as this enables the department to operate cohesively and students are more readily enabled to build up relationships with such a small cohort of teachers. It is commendable that weekly timetabled meetings are held which all resource teachers attend. Minutes are kept and distributed to all members of staff. Students are withdrawn from Irish (if exempt), core subjects, religion and tutorials. Students have access to the full curriculum although in some cases, when appropriate, students may choose not to study a modern language. Commendably, resource teachers go into English classes as an alternative to withdrawal and this form of team teaching is very good practice.  Involvement with learning support cluster groups of other such departments in the locality will provide very useful support and this department is advised to explore such support.

 

Students’ Individual Education Plans (IEP) are currently shared with parents if requested. It would be more beneficial to students and parents if the IEP was shared from the outset so that parents would have a clear overview of the plan for their child and the opportunity to contribute if appropriate. Detailed planning documentation was presented for inspection, within which results of assessments are recorded. Such commitment by the department to the development of such plans and assessments is acknowledged and commended. To enhance this very good work, consideration could now be given to improving tracking systems from entry level to junior certificate and beyond and monitoring and recording all results. This would provide the department with an additional device to ensure that the programmes being provided meet the needs of students while concurrently serving as a useful device for self-evaluation.  

 

The five teachers devise their own schemes of work for each student in their care based on the IEP but collaboration is ongoing. Resources are available to guide them in their work. The Learning Support department plans to provide support to all staff regarding useful teaching strategies when the qualified teacher returns. This approach is supported.

 

Currently, the school does not have the services of a designated NEPS psychologist and this has resulted in delays in acquiring programme assessments.

 

 

6.2          Other supports for students: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

 

The school is proactive in providing assistance to students who may be disadvantaged. This is sensitively handled in all cases. A book grant scheme is available for students giving vouchers to families in need of this support. Two teachers are responsible for providing English language support. Planning documentation was provided and indicated that a good start has been made to provision in this area. Additional support will be gained through liaising with schools providing a similar service to enhance teacher expertise and assistance can also be obtained at www.iilt.ie.

 

After school study is held in the school as an additional support for students. Such provision is commended.

 

6.3          Guidance

 

Full details on the provision of Guidance in this school can be obtained in the separate Subject Inspection report associated with this evaluation.

 

6.4          Pastoral care

 

In Pobalscoil Neasáin, every teacher is encouraged to adopt a pastoral role in addition to their academic role. The school is very proud of the pastoral care it provides to students but currently there is no formal school care team. Pastoral care needs are met by a group comprising of Principal, year heads, SPHE coordinator and tutors which is very strongly supported by the school chaplain. This group meets as the need arises. SPHE is now established formally on the curriculum in first and second year and coordinated by a post holder. Commendably, comprehensive planning documentation for this programme was available. Parents of incoming first year students are presented with a booklet outlining the SPHE programme that will be delivered to students. 

 

A pastoral care programme in third year, TY and senior cycle is currently being delivered by tutors and the programme devised has been in existence for many years. Account should be taken of the need to ensure that the programmes being delivered by individual tutors are coordinated and monitored across and between all levels to enhance the very good work already being done. The establishment of a formal pastoral care team would assist in co-ordinating the existing work of individuals and is strongly recommended. It is further recommended that, at the appropriate time, a Pastoral Care policy would be developed which would identify and consolidate all the supports that are clearly operating to good effect in the school.

 

A school prefect system is in place and all prefects are sixth year students. Duties include supporting teachers in lunch time supervision and supporting senior management in checking that students “swipe in” at the appropriate times. A Student Council also is in place and regular weekly meetings are held which are duly minuted. This dedication by prefects and the Student Council is commended. Members of the council are from fifth year and liaise with class captains from junior cycle. In order to ensure that the Student Council is fairly representative of the full student cohort, it is recommended that students from the junior cycle and TY also play a role on the council.  An informal buddy system is in place where prefects are expected to monitor first year students. Consideration might now be given to extending this provision for the full academic year in order to further heighten awareness of the student support that is available.

 

Currently, the school does not provide an annual awards evening for the school. Such a system can motivate students while ensuring that students feel rewarded for their achievements. It is recommended that consideration would now be given to the introduction of such a system.

 

Rainbows, a counselling support network for students who have experienced bereavement, is available externally and plans are in place introduce it into the school. The school chaplain is available to students, when requested, but also meets all first year students individually, a provision which is commended.


7.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

8.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

9.         School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

2.2   Since the process of electing members to the Board of Management is set out in the Deed of Trust, the consideration as suggested is not within the gift of the Board

4.2   The strong academic performance over a long number of years, in view of the Board, is inadequately acknowledged

 

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 will systematically pursue the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report.