An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Presentation College

Askea,  County Carlow

Roll number: 61141M

 

Date of inspection: 23 January 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Presentation College Carlow was undertaken in January 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in Irish, Physical Education, Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) were evaluated in detail. An evaluation of the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL) was also completed in advance of the evaluation. Separate reports are available on these subjects/programmes. (See section 7 for details).  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction

 

Presentation College was established as a secondary school for girls in 1947 and since moving to its current location in 1982 has operated as a coeducational school. In recent years, the school has undergone considerable infrastructural change culminating in the completion of a new school extension in September 2007. In addition to this, there have been a number of changes at senior management level since 2002, the most recent of which was the appointment of the current principal in 2007.

 

The school provides the Junior Certificate, Transition Year (TY), established Leaving Certificate, LCVP and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme for its students. Student enrolment has decreased from a high point of 671 students in 2002 to the current enrolment of 469 students. The school competes for the enrolment of local students with five schools in the locality. The school has a broad intake of students with varying abilities from a wide variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 Presentation College’s mission statement outlines its commitment to preparing all of its students for the “challenges, responsibilities and experience of adult life”.  The school’s programmes provide students of all abilities with access to appropriate and relevant education that is specific to their particular needs. The provision of such a wide range of curricular programmes helps to ensure that each student can reach his or her potential and is commended.

 

Presentation College, through many of its policies and practices endeavours to reflect the core values advocated in the Catholic Education an Irish Schools Trust (CEIST) charter. Many of these values are promoted through the school’s participation in its spiritual development programmes at home and abroad. These projects help to establish and to reinforce the school’s identity as a caring, Christian, centre for learning.

 

Morale among Presentation College’s students, parents and staff is high with a very positive and welcoming atmosphere permeating throughout the school. It is evident that the school community endeavours to maintain this positive spirit during a time of significant change at management level and during the school’s recent infrastructural development.

  

1.2          School ownership and management

 Presentation College’s trustee body CEIST, provides an over-arching supportive framework for the school. An example of this support is the provision of training for new members of school boards of management. This training helps board members to become fully aware of their duties, roles and responsibilities. Education officers from CEIST attend board meetings periodically to provide information and updates from the trustee body. Additional information is also made available via the CEIST website and newsletter. The school’s original trustee body, the Presentation Order, still provides some supports to the school, for example, access to its education psychological service when required. This additional help enhances the school’s current support structures and has a positive impact on students requiring this type of assistance.

 

The board of management, currently in the first year of its three year term, is appropriately constituted with eight voting members. Meetings are held on a monthly basis and more regularly if deemed necessary. Board members contribute an appropriate blend of continuity and fresh ideas to their combined role, thereby contributing in a meaningful way to the board’s decision-making process where decisions are made by consensus for the “benefit of the students and the school”. Some board members served on previous boards and are familiar with their roles and responsibilities and their commitment to serving the school is commended. New board members have actively sought and accessed board of management training and this is commended. The chairperson of the board provides guidance and direction for the board and regularly attends school functions and celebrations. This helps to maintain a tangible link between the board and everyday school life.

 

Communication between the board and its trustee body, parents and staff is effective and a number of appropriate systems have been developed allowing accurate and relevant information to be shared among the various stakeholders. These methods include the preparation of agreed reports for parents and staff and the practice of forwarding minutes of board meetings to CEIST.

 

The board has identified a number of possible strategic priorities for the school. These priorities include the refurbishment of the original school buildings and the review of current school practices such as a proposed review of the school’s middle management structures. The review of the middle management structures was first identified as an area for development in 2007. However little progress has been made to date. It is important, in order to avoid such delays, that any identified plans or priorities be progressed within achievable timeframes in order to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.

A school plan dated 2002-2005 was presented to the evaluation team during the course of the evaluation. This plan is out of date and the board needs to ensure that a current school plans is developed. Elements of this school plan could be used as exemplars to assist in the development of a new plan with specific reference to how and when progress of specific projects can be monitored, evaluated and developed. Additional assistance should also be sought from the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) support service and the school’s trustee body CEIST in order to progress this key aspect of the board’s responsibility.

 

The board has recently reviewed a number of school policies including its admissions policy, but as of yet there is no cyclic review structure in place that would allow for the ongoing review and development of all essential school policies. It is recommended that such a review structure be developed in order to ensure that all school policies reflect current legislative requirements. While it is recognised that the school has recently undertaken an interim review of its code of behaviour the board should progress the plans to further review this code in light of the National Education Welfare Board’s (NEWB) “Developing a Code of Behaviour Guidelines for Schools” prior to the September 2010 deadline.

 

Presentation College’s admissions policy states that the school supports the principles of inclusiveness, equality of access and parental choice.  However, a number of conditions are also included in the policy that oppose these principles. One such condition is a clause whereby neither gender may have a representation in any year group of less than 40%. This clause, while rooted in the pursuit of a “truly coeducational school”, has in practice caused the board to make a decision to refuse to enrol a student. This exclusion, based on the student’s gender, directly opposes the school’s mission statement and contravenes equality legislation.  The board must guarantee the integrity of any decision on admission with specific regard to students’ right to equality of access to the school.

 

1.3          In-school management

The principal and deputy principal in Presentation College have devised clearly defined roles and both members of the senior management team presented as being fully committed to the school and to its students. The principal and deputy principal maintain a visible presence during the school day and are accessible to students, parents and staff.

 

The principal has provided much needed leadership and direction for the school and has been instrumental in bringing about a number of necessary student centred curricular changes such as de-coupling higher-level mathematics classes and the link modules in the LCVP, the provision of Physical Education for sixth-year students and the removal of study periods from the timetable. Through the reconvening of many of the school’s planning systems, such as the identification of a designated planning coordinator, and through focusing on subject department planning, the principal has also demonstrated a commitment to developing the structures that promote quality teaching and learning. These initiatives are commended.

 

The deputy principal supports and complements the principal in the achievement of their shared vision for the school and also provides a link with the established values of Presentation College. The deputy principal’s duties, as outlined during the evaluation, are varied and wide-ranging. In light of the proposed review of the middle management structures in the school it may be possible to re-examine some of the duties of the deputy principal, with a view to redistributing them to middle management personnel in order to further develop expertise among post holders.

 

There are eight assistant principals in the school.  The duties covered by assistant principals include the following:  subject department coordinator, year head, administrative duties attached to the organisation and running of the school shop, the collection of examination fees and maintaining first aid supplies. Currently the year head role has no disciplinary function. This function is assigned to the role of dean of discipline, which is undertaken, by both assistant principals and special duties teachers who receive compensatory non-class contact time for the completion of this assigned duty. It is recommended that the responsibilities assigned to the role of year head and to the role of dean of discipline be reviewed in order to achieve a more cohesive and consistent system in relation to the pastoral and disciplinary functions within the middle management team. There are sixteen special duties posts in the school.  The duties covered by these posts include the coordination of the school book scheme, the coordination of religious education, Transition Year and the LCA programme, publishing the school’s newsletter, development education, ordering school jackets for students and ensuring that staff break-time supplies are procured.

 

The evaluation team concurs with the board’s and senior management’s view that the current schedule of posts is not fully meeting the current needs of the school.  It is essential that a review of all posts be initiated and concluded as soon as possible and that all duties be commensurate with the level of post held. Some areas of responsibility discussed during the evaluation week included the coordination of Special Education Needs (SEN), attendance and the coordination of EAL.

 

Communication between staff and senior management is effective and working well. Staff are provided with the opportunity to discuss any issues promptly allowing everyday problems to be solved quickly and efficiently. Members of staff are afforded the opportunity to make presentations at board meetings and staff meetings on curricular issues, in addition to the many informal avenues available to them including staff room notice boards, informal inputs at break time and the digital notice board in the school’s foyer.

 

A number of strategies are in place to promote positive student behaviour in Presentation College. These include an end of year awards ceremony, a student of the year award based on participation and cooperation and awards for academic achievement. In addition to these rewards for positive behaviour there is also a clear system in place to deal with students whose behaviour is contrary to the school’s code of behaviour. Within this code there are a number of important intermediary steps in place before sanctions are imposed at class level. These steps are in place to provide an opportunity to students to alter their behaviour patterns before sanctions are necessary. If these steps are unsuccessful at class level there is a clear ladder of referral with appropriate sanctions at each level.

 

To achieve success in the area of improving student attendance, a biometric attendance system based on an industrial model has been introduced to record student absences. This initiative, aimed at formalising the methods of recording students’ attendance, is a welcome development and once the initial teething problems have been resolved, this system should be a useful tool in tracking and monitoring students’ attendance.

 

It is currently school practice to refuse students access to the next year in their programme where their attendance record is deemed unsatisfactory. While the “Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools” specifies that students must have not less than 100 days attendance in each year of the course to be eligible to be admitted to the Junior Certificate Examination, the procedures in place to select students in this regard are not clearly documented or communicated to the wider school community. Steps should be taken to ensure that students, parents and the relevant agencies are made fully aware of those who are at risk in ample time in order to avoid this sanction being imposed.

 

The Student Council and student prefect system are well established in the school. Currently the Student Council is not fully representative of the entire student cohort. The council has been inactive since the beginning of the 2008/09 school year and during this time a Meitheal youth leadership group has been introduced to the school. This initiative is most welcome and will complement the student council and prefect system once it is reconstituted and representative of the overall student body.

 

The parents’ association presented as positive, committed and progressive and is involved in the school and willing to assist in its future development. The principal’s attendance at parents’ association meetings demonstrates the value placed on their role in the operation of the school. Parents’ involvement in the school is encouraged and promoted at every opportunity and members of the parents’ association expressed their satisfaction in this regard during the course of the evaluation and commented positively on senior management’s and teachers’ accessibility. The parents’ association have been involved in a number of fundraising events and have had some input into school policy review and development over the years and their continued participation in school life is commended.

 

The school has fostered a number of links with a variety of local community and sporting organisations including a drama school, local businesses and charitable organisations. In addition to these school-based links, a considerable number of clubs and societies also utilise the school’s facilities thereby developing close ties within the locality.

  

1.4          Management of resources

The school currently employs forty-eight teachers on a full-time and part-time basis. It has an official allocation of 43.13 whole time teacher equivalents (WTE) and is currently operating in a supernumerary position. In utilising this allocation, senior management, through its organisation of the school week has ensured that the minimum of twenty-eight hours weekly tuition time has been achieved for Junior and Leaving Certificate students. A review of the school’s timetable indicated that not all teachers are timetabled for the minimum 18 hours class contact time. In order to maximise the resources at senior management’s disposal all teachers should be optimally deployed up to a maximum of 22 hours class contact time where possible.

 

Staff members are consulted and their interests, skills and knowledge are appropriately considered in the framing of the school’s timetable. Teachers are generally deployed in line with their subject specialism and qualifications, but this is not always the case, particularly in some practical subject areas. It is recommended that, where possible, all efforts should be made to appropriately deploy teachers according to their specific subject specialisms and qualifications.

 

Some traditions and patterns established over time have also been allowed to influence the school timetable. The current practice of providing compensation in the form of non class-contact time to teachers in lieu of the coordination of extra-curricular activities should cease. Similarly, only when Department allocations for student supports are fully accounted for and designated to their intended recipients in an optimum manner, should the practice of allocating non-class contact time as compensation for the duties attached to the role of dean of discipline be considered.

 

Continuous professional development (CPD) for staff is promoted and facilitated by senior management. A number of CPD opportunities have been availed of in recent times including presentations from School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) staff and attendance at School Development Planning (SDP) courses. The practice of teachers returning from CPD courses presenting relevant information to colleagues at staff meetings is commended.

 

Members of the support staff are enabled and encouraged to make contributions to the life of the school in addition to the completion of their assigned duties. Members of the school’s support staff expressed their satisfaction in relation to the support offered to them by school management and were complimentary of the student body.

 

The school grounds and buildings are very well maintained and well resourced. Plans to further improve the aesthetics of the school buildings through the “Per Cent for Art Scheme” are at a developmental stage and should, once completed, provide a visually attractive environment. The school is well resourced in relation to specialist rooms and facilities such as the Science and Technology areas. Other facilities include a gymnasium and an oratory. These new facilities combined with the school’s existing facilities now provide students and teachers with a modern environment where teaching and learning can prosper.

 

Information and communication technology (ICT) has been integrated effectively into school life on many curricular and administrative levels. An inventory of the school’s ICT resources has been compiled. The compilation of such an inventory contributes to the ongoing development of resources and helps with the identification of technical support requirements. The school’s timetable is fully computerised and all levels of management have access to ICT facilities. The effective integration of ICT into the daily planning and organisation of the school is commended.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

The school has been involved in school development planning for a number of years prior to the establishment of the SDPI in 1999 and had made significant progress in the area of planning culminating in the development of a school plan dated 2002-2005. Due to changes at senior management level in recent years, SDP lost some impetus. However, since the appointment of the current principal, SDP has again been identified as a priority for the future development of the school. To achieve this, a number of initiatives have been developed. These include the appointment of a planning coordinator, currently on a temporary basis, with the specific objectives of encouraging staff participation in subject department planning, offering advice and support to subject department coordinators and subject teachers and liaising with personnel from the SDPI. As a result of these interventions, combined with the allocation of a significant period of time at the beginning of the year to subject department planning and the appointment of coordinators for each subject department, much of the impetus that was previously lost has been regained. The steps that have been taken to revitalise aspects of SDP in the school are commended.

 

In order to progress subject department planning the coordinator has accessed SDP training and, in conjunction with the school’s principal, has identified areas for further development within subject department planning. One such area is the identification and implementation of additional active teaching methodologies and developing appropriate cross-curricular links in relevant subjects and programmes. These aims are laudable and should be progressed.

 

Relevant members of staff have attended a number of SDP seminars and have been given the opportunity to provide direction and guidance at subject department meetings where department plans are being discussed and generated. This is commended. In order to ensure that the steps that have been taken to promote SDP in the school are maintained, school management should ensure that every effort is made to continue the role of SDP planning coordinator on a more permanent basis.

 

Some of school’s policies are out of date and may no longer reflect its ethos or context. However, the school has recently begun to review a number of policies and has sought input from staff and the parents’ association. This form of collaboration, when extended to all members of the school community, including its students, will benefit any new or revised policies. To further develop school policy review and adoption procedures, the school’s planning coordinator should assist the board of management in their task of developing a mechanism that would allow for the cyclic review and development of essential school policies. Priority should be given to the review of the school’s admissions and enrolment policy, special educational needs policy, anti-bullying policy, code of behaviour and its relationship and sexuality education (RSE) policy.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Post-primary Circulars M45/05 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 and that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff). A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines. However the identity of the deputy designated liaison person in the school was unclear among some key staff members. The board must ensure that all members of the school community are familiar with the roles and responsibilities in relation to child protection procedures.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

Presentation College offers its students a broad curriculum at both junior and senior cycle, that provides the diversity of students with a choice of subjects from a wide variety of disciplines. All junior cycle students study English, Irish, Mathematics, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Religious Education (RE), Physical Education, CSPE, Geography and History. The school’s curriculum includes many optional subjects including Science, Home Economics, Materials Technology (Wood), Business Studies, Technology, Music and Art at junior cycle and Design and Communication Graphics (DCG), Construction Studies, Biology, Chemistry and Physics at senior cycle. These subjects are suitably diverse in order to ensure that all students’ skills, needs and aptitudes are catered for. The allocation and distribution of class periods to the various subjects in all programmes is generally in line with recommended practice although some of the class periods are only thirty minutes in duration. These shorter lessons are timetabled each Friday and may considerably shorten students’ exposure to subjects especially if timetabled for double periods. 

 

In an effort to realise the academic vision for the school, as articulated by the principal, the first-year cohort has been divided into four class groups for core subjects; one of these groups comprises of students with a high level of ability while the other groups are arranged in mixed ability groupings. This system of class formation should be closely monitored and regularly evaluated to ensure that this arrangement is beneficial to all students.

 

Transition Year is offered in Presentation College as an optional programme at senior cycle. Currently there are twenty-six students enrolled in TY, this marks a significant decline in uptake compared with previous years. It was reported during the course of the evaluation that this decline is due to changing student demography. This decline in the uptake of the programme is a cause for concern. To address this downward trend, it is recommended that the school should continue to develop the ongoing review process and make the appropriate interventions to further promote the programme among prospective third-year students.

 

Currently, planning meetings and contact between the coordinator and the TY teaching team are informal. To further improve this level of communication, it is recommended that some provision for more formal TY team meetings be made in order to keep teachers informed of current best practices and of TY specific resource materials.

 

The TY curriculum consists of a combination of core subjects, subject sampling modules and TY specific activities. It is recommended, within the available staffing resources, that as many options as possible be incorporated into the TY subject sampling provision in order to reflect the range of subject choices available to students during their Leaving Certificate programme. A number of interesting modules have been developed for TY, which include American Studies, Development Education and Spanish. TY specific events included in the programme include outdoor adventure activities, involvement in the school’s annual musical and an annual retreat to Glendalough. These provisions are in line with the spirit and philosophy of TY and are commended.

 

The LCA programme was introduced to Presentation College in 1999 and its uptake has remained constant since then. Initially a core team was established to assist in the organisation of the programme, however over time this team has increased in numbers. The steps being taken to re-establish a smaller core team and the plans to afford this team time to meet are in line with best practice and should benefit the programme. A comprehensive plan has been developed for the LCA programme. This plan includes information pertaining to admission to the programme, student induction, curriculum content and programme review and evaluation. This level of quality planning is commended.

 

The LCVP is a long established programme in the school. A new coordinator has been appointed to the programme and this has given some renewed impetus to its planning and coordination. Senior management articulated the view that the LCVP is now perceived as an enhancement to the traditional Leaving Certificate in the school and this will help to further promote the programme’s profile and its uptake among students.

 

It was articulated during the course of the evaluation that plans are in place to reconvene an advisory board of studies, made up of teaching staff, whose remit will be to review curricular issues. The advisory board of studies will assist the principal and the board of management in relation to reviewing current school practices and researching best practice. One area for review by this advisory board of studies should be the school’s timetable with particular emphasis on the suitability of the thirty-minute class periods timetabled on Fridays.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

Students and parents reported good levels of satisfaction with the availability of optional subjects and school management stated that student satisfaction rates in relation to students getting their preferred optional subjects are approximately ninety-five per cent. These success rates are commended. Most optional subject bands are devised based on student preferences, as is best practice. However, at senior cycle one option band is fixed and offered each year. This option band includes French, German and Geography. Due to the fact that many students receive their resource or learning support when French and German are offered, it can leave them with no other option but to study Geography as part of their Leaving Certificate programme. This system limits some students’ choices at senior cycle. Senior management should address this anomaly as soon as possible.

 

A number of information nights are held annually to assist students when making optional subject and programme choices. An open day event is held in the school where incoming first-year students are given relevant information and a tour of the school. This helps to provide them with the knowledge required to make more informed choices. In addition to the open day, a variety of presentations are prepared and delivered with accompanying documentation providing students and parents with up-to-date and relevant information in relation to subject and programme choices.

 

Each year a number of first-year students on enrolment state that they have not studied Irish in primary school and yet have no official exemption from the subject. School management should ensure that all students study Irish except for those students who hold an official exemption from the subject.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

A wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are on offer to students attending Presentation College that both support and enhance learning. In some cases these activities are indicative of the school’s ethos. One such project is the school’s involvement in the Presentation Order’s Zambia project. The schools ongoing commitment to this project is commended as it is intrinsically linked with its ethos.

 

Other activities such as the annual school musical, the various sporting activities including track and field athletics, Gaelic games, rugby, soccer and basketball help to develop pride in the school and a sense of ownership among students. Co-curricular activities such as the Young Scientist competition, the school choral group, school debating and public speaking competitions help to enhance learning in the associated subject areas. These co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are coordinated through an event planning system. This form of planning helps to identify where possible disruption to students’ tuition time can be avoided and also helps to ensure that appropriate supervision can be provided for school groups and teams travelling to events and fixtures. The wide variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in the school provides all students with the opportunity to get involved in out of class activities. The work carried out in organising these activities is highly commended.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

The renewed emphasis on subject department planning in the school is to be welcomed as it offers staff the opportunity to collaborate and to share best practice with their colleagues. The structures that have been put in place to facilitate and support this work are commendable. For example, work in the area of subject planning has been progressed with the establishment of subject coordinators and more regular subject department meetings. The position of co-ordinator for the subject is in many cases rotated among members of the department. This is in line with best practice as it provides opportunities for developing skills in the organisation and management of a department. Best practice was observed where subject departments retained minutes of meetings, which included subject specific details regarding student organisation, resources for the subject and in some instances the delegation of specific tasks.

 

Subject departments have made good progress in the development of long-term plans. Many of these plans included a programme of work for each year group, types of assessments and proposed methodologies. In the context of ongoing subject planning and to enhance the good work undertaken in planning to date, it is recommended that learning outcomes be developed for all subjects in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills. This planning should include resource requirements, the various methodologies employed and differentiation strategies to achieve these outcomes. Existing planning for the use of subject specific resources, and available ICT, is commended and this should be extended to all departments.

 

Subject plans presented during the evaluation outlined the programme of work for the year in various subjects. It is recommended that these plans should continue to be regularly reviewed in order to ensure that students are afforded every opportunity to engage in a broad range of learning activities.

 

Teachers’ individual planning was good and best practice was observed where teachers used their long-term departmental plans to guide their individual programmes of work.

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

In general, learning outcomes were shared with students at the beginning of the lessons observed. This is in line with best practice and should be extended to all lessons where appropriate. Most lessons observed were well managed and effective. Students’ inputs were affirmed and most students applied themselves to their work.

 

Most lessons observed were well structured and organised. However in some lessons there was a further need for greater organisation of class tasks. A variety of appropriate methodologies and strategies were used in the subjects observed including teacher instruction, demonstration and student activity. On some occasions more active learning strategies would have enhanced the students’ learning experiences.  Question and answer sessions were also effectively integrated into most of the lessons observed.

 

Resources used in lessons including ICT presentations, visual aids and various support materials accessed from the relevant support services were appropriately chosen and were in all instances suitable to the content of lessons. All resources were effectively used to progress students’ knowledge, understanding and skills. However, the increased use of a wider range of resources in some lessons would have allowed for greater student engagement and this should be encouraged.

 

Management reviews student attainment in state examinations and this is commendable. The uptake of higher level in many of the practical, science and business subject areas is good and results in these areas are in line with, and sometimes exceed, the national norms. The school should develop strategies and practices to continue to improve the uptake of higher level across all curricular areas.

 

4.3          Assessment

Students were assessed on an ongoing basis through the appropriate use of questioning in class, the assignment of homework, class tests and through formal examination. Non-examination year students are formally assessed at Christmas and summer and third and sixth-year students are examined at Christmas and in the spring during their ‘mock’ examinations. School reports are issued to parents following these formal assessments. In addition to this, parent-teacher meetings are convened for each year group during which student achievement and participation are discussed. Parents commented favourably in relation to the quality of information available to them and on the time allowed for the discussion of students’ progress. To further develop this level of communication, all subjects should be included in the school’s reporting system to ensure that parents are kept fully informed of students’ progress in both examination and non-examination subjects.

 

To ensure that all aspects of the various syllabuses are assessed effectively, subject departments should explore and implement a range of assessment methods in order to assess students’ competencies in the various strands of subjects’ syllabuses. The practice of identifying key learning outcomes and methods of assessment should be adopted by all subject departments especially those assessed in a multi-dimensional manner such as the technology and language subjects. The inclusion of a reflective journal in some non-examination subjects should be considered to log students’ ongoing contact and engagement with specific topics.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

Presentation College has a SEN policy detailing the roles and responsibilities in relation to the provision of SEN and learning support. This document should be reviewed as a matter of urgency in light of recent legislation such as the 1998 Education Act and the 2004 Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act.

 

The practices in place in the school to identify students with specific special educational needs and those who require learning support are well established and effective. Incoming students with specific educational needs are identified prior to entry to the school in order to put appropriate measures in place in a timely manner. Students who are not in receipt of a resource allocation but who do require additional learning support are identified through standardised testing prior to entry into first year and during the course of the year if they are perceived to be having difficulties in literacy or numeracy.

 

The practice of withdrawing some students from optional subjects to receive subject specific support is commended. This additional support is administered in small groups up to a maximum of three students. To further enhance this practice, any non-subject specialist teachers involved in this model of provision could provide this assistance in the specialist classes with the direction of the specialist teacher in order to further develop their own knowledge and understanding of the particular subject thus improving the support provided to students.

 

Learning support and SEN groups may include up to seventeen students. Within this system students are withdrawn from Irish or modern European languages to receive their support. This has some limitations for students who may improve with additional help or with increased use and awareness of suitable teaching and learning strategies geared to address their specific needs in the mainstream classroom. It is recommended that the results of individual students’ assessments be used to plan for specific interventions on a case-by-case basis prior to completing the school’s timetable. These supports could include; withdrawal from subjects, creating significantly smaller learning support class groups, increased use of targeted subject specific supports and the employment of alternative modes of delivery such as cooperative and team teaching.

 

The SEN and learning support team consists of sixteen teachers and personnel can vary from year to year. Currently, the team includes three teachers with specific qualifications in special education and learning support who are primarily involved in the general coordination of the supports. It is recommended, in order to streamline the coordination of SEN and learning support, that a SEN coordinator should be appointed. A small core team could then be identified to develop a whole-school SEN policy and to further develop the provision of SEN and learning support in the school. This core team could meet regularly to plan and be afforded regular opportunities to present both formally and informally to staff on their role and on appropriate strategies to support specific students with additional educational needs in mainstream classes.

 

While it is recognised that all junior cycle students are in receipt of their assigned resource allocation, this allocation may be shared with a large number of students thereby significantly reducing its benefit in some cases. To further facilitate effective SEN planning in the school, a student register should be developed to plan, organise and account for the entire SEN and learning support allocations. This register should be used when framing the SEN timetable and to ensure that all SEN and learning support resources are utilised in an optimum manner.

 

An in-school literacy initiative that requires participating students to read and review a book is promoted throughout the school particularly among students in receipt of SEN and learning support. This type of initiative is most worthwhile and similar numeracy initiatives should also be promoted where possible.

 

The school has developed an international student policy and a number of supports in response to a rapidly growing international student cohort. Examples of these supports include international student induction and specific language support. This proactive approach to a recognised need is commended. A post of responsibility has also been designated to the coordination of supports for international students. The duties attached to this post include liaison with the EAL teaching team and the dissemination of pertinent information to students, teachers and parents. Notwithstanding the fact that all teachers currently involved in delivering EAL hold qualifications in English or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), the identification of an EAL coordinator and a small core team would help to promote further continuity and specialisation in this area.

 

The school is commended for identifying the need for extra support for the school’s biggest group of EAL students, who are from Poland, and for sourcing a qualified Polish teacher to assist in the provision of subject-specific language support, translation and interpretation services. This is a valuable resource and helps to maintain good communication between the school and its diversity of parents.

 

Similarly to the SEN and learning support allocations, there is a considerable shortfall in relation to the deployment of the school’s allocation of 3 WTEs for EAL students. The school should address this situation immediately.

 

To highlight the school’s cultural diversity a variety of celebrations have been organised in recent years to promote the inter-cultural dynamic in the school including a visit from the deputy head of the Polish mission to Ireland and an international students’ day. The inclusive support structures that have been put in place for Presentation College’s international students are commended.

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

Presentation College has a guidance allocation of a 1 WTE with an additional allocation of 0.5 WTE under the Guidance Enhancement Initiative (GEI). Both of the school’s guidance counsellors are qualified and have clear roles and responsibilities in relation to specific year groups. These duties include visits to feeder primary schools, testing students, timetabled class contact time, individual and group counselling and involvement with the pastoral care team. This approach provides clarity, thus ensuring there is no overlap of duties within year groups.

 

Guidance facilities in the school are appropriate and both guidance counsellors have access to resources that help them to deliver an effective guidance programme to Presentation College’s students. The guidance offices are located in the sixth-year area and are easily accessible to students throughout the school day. ICT facilities are available to both guidance counsellors providing them and their students with access to online resources when required. In addition to this, a variety of prospectuses for various institutions of further education and higher education and career information literature is also available for students’ perusal.

 

A good quality Guidance Plan has been developed and it details the roles and responsibilities of all involved in delivering the guidance programme in the school. This plan clearly outlines a chronological sequence of guidance specific events during the year. Students’ access to the various strands of guidance is appropriate and is often determined by the time of year and by the mode of delivery. To develop this plan, further links should be identified with the career aspects of the LCVP. This could be progressed through core team involvement.

 

All students are provided with personal, academic and vocational guidance at the appropriate times. There is a good balance achieved in the provision of timetabled guidance to junior and senior cycle students. In addition to a number of workshops on societal issues like bullying, substance misuse and racism, junior cycle students also receive guidance on a modular basis for approximately eight weeks during the year and through cross-curricular links in timetabled SPHE lessons. Senior cycle students are allocated two periods of guidance per week in TY and one period per week in fifth and sixth year. All sixth-year students receive at least one scheduled guidance appointment with the appropriate counsellor. This level of timetabled guidance is commended.

 

The school’s induction programme for first-years is a further support aimed at helping students to integrate successfully into their new school. This is coordinated by the Meitheal youth leadership group who have received the appropriate training and have made this project their own under the guidance of their liaison teacher.

 

A pastoral care team meets on a weekly basis to discuss student care issues and to plan student support interventions. The care team endeavours to ensure that all students receive the care and attention commensurate with their individual circumstances. To achieve this aim the care team is constantly vigilant of particular at-risk students and ensures that the relevant class teachers, deans and year heads are fully informed where appropriate. The care team comprises of the deputy principal, guidance counsellors and other relevant personnel. This team also acts as a referral body to outside agencies including social workers, general practitioners, the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the Visiting Teacher for Travellers and the local youth counselling group Foláine. The work of the care team is commended as it complements the whole-school approach to care, guidance and student support.

 

Evidence from the evaluation shows that Presentation College makes many efforts to care for its students. These efforts can be seen in practice through the various pastoral supports in place that help to create an environment where students’ needs are catered for. Examples of these supports include the school’s breakfast club, homework club, supervised study and the guidance and pastoral structures.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Presentation College provides a wide variety of supports for its students.

·         Morale among students, parents and staff is high and a positive, welcoming atmosphere permeates throughout the school.

·         Members of the board of management contribute an effective blend of continuity and fresh ideas to their role and contribute in a meaningful way to the board’s decision-making process.

·         The principal has provided much needed leadership and direction for the school.

·         The role of parents is valued and embraced in Presentation College.

·         The school’s facilities are very well maintained and well resourced.

·         The culture of school planning has been revitalised in the school.

·         The range of subjects and programmes offered in Presentation College caters for the diversity of students’ needs and abilities.

·         An extensive range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is provided for students attending the Presentation College.

·         The school’s proactive approach to developing initiatives to support International Students adheres to its mission statement that recognises students’ “dignity, worth and individuality”.

 

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

 

·         The board of management must fulfil its statutory obligation to make arrangements for the preparation of a current school plan.

·         There should be a full review of the posts of responsibility in the school to ensure that they meet the current needs of the school and that the duties attached are commensurate with the post held.

·         The circumstances where a student can be refused enrolment to the subsequent year of their Junior Certificate programme due to a poor attendance record should be

      formalised and communicated to the wider school community.

·         In order to maximise the resources at senior management’s disposal all teachers should be optimally deployed up to a maximum of 22 hours class contact time where possible.

·         The board must ensure that all members of the school community are familiar with their roles and responsibilities in relation to child protection procedures.

·         The practice of allocating “free periods” to teachers in lieu of voluntary extra-curricular activities should cease.

·         Senior management should reconsider the allocation of compensatory non-class contact time to teachers in lieu of the duties attached to the role of dean.

·         A SEN coordinator should be appointed and a core team identified to develop a new whole-school SEN policy and to further develop the SEN and learning support practices in the school.

·         SEN, learning support and EAL student registers should be developed to fully account for and to formalise the deployment of student support allocations.

 

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

 

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

·         Subject Inspection of EAL – 3 October 2008

·         Subject Inspection of Irish - 20 January 2009

·         Subject Inspection of Physical Education - 21 January 2009

·         Subject Inspection CSPE - 22 January 2009

·         Programme Evaluation of LCVP - 23 January 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Published January 2010

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management welcomes the content of the report. The Board is particularly pleased to note the findings in relation to the school’s identity as a “caring, Christian centre for learning” with “a very positive and welcoming atmosphere permeating throughout the school” and of the school’s facilities as “providing students and teachers with a modern environment where teaching and learning can prosper”.

The Board is also pleased with the comments in relation to the management of the school at Board level, at senior management team level – which is “fully committed to the school and to its students” and particularly in relation to the Principal who “has provided much needed leadership and direction for the school” and the introduction of curricular changes to promote quality teaching and learning.

The Board also welcomes the findings in relation to the wide variety of supports for students, the strategies in place to promote continuing positive student behaviour and the recognition of the involvement of the Parents’ Council in the life of the school.

The recognition of the fact that the impetus in SDP has been regained is also welcomed as is the high commendation of the organisation of a wide variety of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities.

 

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 review of the in-school management priorities and procedures has already commenced with the assistance of the SDPI coordinator. The school’s priorities and needs in this area have been identified.

The Board accepts the need to update the school plan. This can come about through a cyclic review structure of school policies as proposed and where further clarification can be given in relation to new procedures and practices. The school plan will continue to strongly promote coeducation.

The Advisory Board of Studies has already been established and has met to prioritise its work.

The Board is happy that teaching resources as currently deployed provide more than sufficient class contact time to enable high quality teaching and learning to take place. The Board will of course consider the report’s recommendations in this area.

The SEN and EAL recommendations are accepted by the Board and some steps have already been taken in the SEN area.

The Board would like to thank the WSE inspection team for their hard work, courtesy and cooperation.