An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Tullow Community School

The Mullawn, Tullow, County Carlow

Roll number: 91356F

 

Date of inspection: 26 September 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Tullow Community School was undertaken in September 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in three subjects: Civic, Social, Political Education (CSPE), English, and Technical Graphics/Design and Communication Graphics were evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (See section 7 for details). A previous subject inspection in Physical Education was conducted during May 2008 and this report forms part of the evidence base for the whole-school evaluation.  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

 

Tullow Community School was established in 1978 following an amalgamation of the Brigidine Convent Secondary School, the Patrician Secondary School and Tullow Vocational School. The primary reason for the establishment of the community school was to combine provision in academic and practical subjects in a single establishment with a broad curriculum. The community school also provides for adult and community education through the Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and through night classes.

 

The school is situated on a large site within the town of Tullow and is the only provider of post-primary education in the area. It has a very wide catchment area. The school is co-educational and multi-denominational but is mainly Christian in its intake.

 

The school building is a single story construction with an additional pre-fabricated building that houses two classrooms and a smaller room that is used to provide learning support. The school has a large sports hall and its grounds boast substantial playing pitches. Several renovation works have taken place recently including the replacement of school windows, upgrading the heating system and replacing some of the floor coverings. The school continues to address essential maintenance and modernisation projects. At the height of its enrolment the school accommodated over 800 students and currently has an enrolment of 658 students, which includes fifty students in the PLC courses. The PLC courses are run under the name of St. Anne’s College and classes are provided in a separate building, which is adjacent to the school. There has been a significant increase in the overall enrolment figures in the past two years.

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The school’s mission is to nurture the wellbeing of all so that they may grow in knowledge, conscience and compassion. Implicit in this mission is a focus on improving students’ learning experiences and outcomes and the creation of a caring educational community where all students are included and supported to develop to the full of their potential. This broad mission is displayed in several locations throughout Tullow Community School serving as a frequent reminder to all.

 

In a number of interviews, as part of the whole-school evaluation, stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the school and identified it as a happy and welcoming place. Members of the parents’ association, the board of management and the student council described the school as friendly and caring and where initiatives, such as the anti-bullying awareness week and prefect system, seek to promote a culture of respect for all. Based on evidence gathered in the course of the whole-school evaluation, a good rapport and spirit of co-operation was observed in many instances between management, staff, students and parents.

 

Central to the creation of this positive atmosphere is the work of senior management and teachers who strive to promote a shared vision for the school, characterised by respect, fairness and responsibility. A supportive parents’ association, an effective and integrated pastoral care, learning support and guidance programmes and an open style of leadership also foster the success of this atmosphere. Evidence gathered from a review of school documentation and observations by the inspectors, both within and outside the classroom, showed that senior management and teachers endeavour to address all issues that may impact on students’ ability to learn.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The board of management of Tullow Community School, as set up under the Deed of Trust for Community Schools, has as its trustees the Patrician Brothers, Brigidine Sisters and Co. Carlow Vocational Educational Committee (VEC). The board has been properly constituted and consists of ten members; three members nominated by the religious trustees, three members nominated by Co. Carlow VEC, two parents’ nominees and two staff nominees. The principal acts as secretary to the board. The current board of management was constituted prior to the whole school evaluation process. A majority of board members have continued in their roles from the previous board, with just two new members. The members of the board presented as an experienced, knowledgeable and committed body. The board has dealt effectively with significant issues facing the management of the school, including a section 29 appeal. The board continues to address the challenge of complying with the time in school directive.

 

The board meets once per month throughout the school year, with additional meetings if required. The frequency of these meetings is exemplary and ensures that the board is well informed in managing the affairs of the school. All members of the board have been afforded the opportunity to receive training regarding their role, with most having availed of this. The Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) organise training for newly appointed members to boards of management each year and those new to the board intend to avail of this service at the next opportunity. A finance sub-committee of the board is in place and this group meet regularly and report to the board.

 

The board members see their role as one of support to senior management and staff in the running of the school. Members of the board attend school functions as a means of affirming staff and students in their work. There is a culture of consultation and partnership at board level. All decisions taken by the board are made democratically through discussion and the reaching of consensus, or in some cases by majority vote. In this way, the decision-making procedures are open, clear and shared in the best interest of the school community. The minutes of board meetings show that the board is involved in all aspects of school life and provide evidence that the school is managed in a structured and accountable manner. The board is fully supportive of staff continuing professional development (CPD) and contributes to the cost of affiliation to professional subject associations. The board is commended for all its work in this regard. 

 

In keeping with good practice, it was confirmed that the board has discussed, contributed to and ratified each of the school’s policies. The board has adopted the legally required policies that relate to admissions, attendance and participation, code of behaviour, child protection and a health and safety statement. A draft policy related to provision for students with special educational needs has been developed and this should be brought to ratification stage as expediently as possible. Furthermore, it is recommended that the current whole-school guidance plan also be ratified by the board, as identified in the school plan. The board should also ensure that the proposed development of a Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy is completed and ratified as per circular CL27/2008. It would be of benefit to the board to establish a schedule of review for all school policies. In this way policies can be identified by date of ratification, implementation and due review date. This process will also assist the board in identifying future priorities for school development planning.

 

The board demonstrated a good awareness of the challenges that face the school and lists many of these as their priorities, including the need to achieve the provision of a minimum of twenty-eight hours tuition time, the retention of the existing programmes within the curriculum and the need to address the limited availability of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) equipment. It is recommended that the board adopts a greater role in the evaluation of the action plans for the achievement of each of the stated priorities.

 

Board members expressed satisfaction with the current level of communication between nominating bodies and the board. However, procedures for reporting back to the nominating bodies on board meetings should be formalised. Such procedures might consist of agreed, written minutes which could be communicated to the various nominating bodies, whilst maintaining the need for confidentiality with regard to particular areas of the board’s operations. Additionally, it is suggested that the board publish an annual report on the operation and performance of the school, with particular reference to the achievement of objectives set out in the school plan, as provided in Section 20 of the Education Act (1998).

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The principal and deputy principal demonstrate a good working relationship in the successful management of the school. The principal was appointed in 2005, whereas the deputy principal has performed the role for the past fifteen years. Although the duties of principal and deputy principal are clearly defined, they have adopted a partnership approach to the management of the school and effectively communicate as a team. They meet each morning, prior to the commencement of the school day, to discuss ongoing developments and to prioritise their schedule of activities, which is good practice.

 

The principal leads all aspects of the school in partnership with the deputy principal and other staff members. Both the principal and the deputy principal identify staffing requirements to meet the future needs of the school. The principal liaises directly with the board of management, organises staff meetings, manages the schedule of posts and attends council and team meetings throughout the school. Other duties include overseeing the development and implementation of the school development planning process, ensuring the implementation of the code of behaviour, managing the operation and maintenance of the buildings and grounds, dealing with compliance requirements and budgeting for the school. The principal is a key and available point of contact for students, parents and teachers.

 

The deputy principal is responsible for the effective management of the school day. The deputy principal organises daily supervision and substitution, plays a key role in the management of students and maintains an active and visible presence on the school corridors. The deputy principal also designs the timetable, following consultation with the principal regarding the appropriate deployment of teachers.

 

Both members of senior management lead on the basis of openness and consultation. This was confirmed by members of the school community and observed by the inspectors in the course of the evaluation week. Evidence of consultation was also found in school documentation.

 

Senior management has a number of stated priorities for the school, which were developed in consultation with the teaching staff, such as ensuring compliance with the time in school directive, upgrading the school’s ICT equipment, completing the school improvement projects, the development of RSE and SEN policies and a review of the schedule of posts. These commendable priorities support the vision for the school and inform the programme of school development planning over the next three years. It is commendable that both members of senior management have attended a range of courses provided by the ACCS and the National Association of Principals and Deputies (NAPD), and also maintain active links with their local principal and deputy principals’ network. Additional opportunities for further professional development should also be considered such as Forbairt, which is available for serving principals and deputies through the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS). 

 

The middle management team in the school consists of the assistant principals and special duties teachers. The school has an allocation of nine assistant principals and fourteen special duties teachers (SDT). An additional two assistant principal posts are identified in the schedule of posts for director of adult education and programme co-ordinator. Assistant principals are allocated four concessionary hours from the school’s timetabling resources to conduct their assigned duties, and in some special circumstances, special duties teachers may also be allocated concessionary hours. The post-holders in the school are an experienced group of teachers and senior management acknowledged the valuable contribution they make to the management of the school. In keeping with good practice each post holder’s duties are appropriately documented. Commendably, the post holders interviewed in the course of the evaluation viewed their duties as areas of responsibility, which they could manage and develop, rather than a series of tasks to be completed. 

 

Assistant principals are timetabled to meet as a group with senior management once per month, which provides a valuable forum for discussion on a range of issues such as student progress, pastoral care, the review and development of school policies and the implementation of the code of behaviour. These meetings also provide senior management with the opportunity for consultation on relevant issues and proposals prior to their implementation. The provision and organisation of these regular meetings is good practice and is highly commended for its role in supporting the middle-management structure in the school. Additionally, the system in place that appoints an assistant principal to deputise for senior management when the occasion arises is a good example of devolved leadership.

 

In addition to the duties required to support the management of the range of curricular programmes in the school, the programme co-ordinator directly co-ordinates both the Transition Year (TY) and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programmes. The combination of the number of duties assigned to this post presents a demanding workload that may impact on the effective execution of each of these important roles. The LCA classes have been identified as having substantial attendance issues as well as some members of the groups presenting with challenging behaviours. It is recommended that the role of LCA co-ordinator be a dedicated role. Such a role should be specifically to provide support and guidance to the teachers involved in the delivery of the programme, and also to implement a variety of agreed strategies to address the significant issues identified by teachers in order to support these students in their learning. The segregation of these roles may ensure that a greater amount of time is available to support each of the individual programme co-ordinators.

 

While the duties associated with most posts of responsibility are carried out effectively and efficiently, a small number of instances were identified where the post of responsibility was not being wholly fulfilled and this is a source of concern for both the inspectorate and senior management. In addition, within the current schedule of posts, some are more limited in scope than others at the same level, and in some cases no clear distinction can be made between the duties assigned to special duties teachers and those assigned to assistant principals. For example, the role of year head may be assigned to both assistant principal and special duties teacher. The level of responsibility for the management of students in a school of this size is appropriate to the role of assistant principal. It is recommended that consideration be given to working towards a situation where all year heads are assistant principals, if this is in keeping with the needs of the school.

 

A forthcoming formal evaluation and review of posts of responsibilities has been arranged to ensure that the schedule of posts continues to be relevant to the current needs of the school. This is both timely and necessary. This will involve input from an external facilitator and the process will provide a useful forum to discuss and review the current schedule of posts and address the priorities for the school. It is recommended that the review process consider the demands of each post and the range of duties as they relate to the curricular, administrative and pastoral needs of the school. Records of staff meetings and discussions with various school personnel have identified areas for development, such as addressing the rate of absenteeism and the incidence of challenging behaviour presented by a small number of students. Whilst aspects of these form part of some posts of responsibility, the dedication of a full post to each key area for development, would help to co-ordinate appropriate interventions and measures to address these as whole-school issues. For example, a single post could be dedicated to the promotion of positive behaviour and the forthcoming review may prove a now timely opportunity to consider such developments. Furthermore, it may be of benefit to the school to apply for involvement in the LDS middle leadership programme to further promote the roles of the group. Through the process of review and engagement in professional development, post-holders should be provided with opportunities to assume responsibility in the school for instructional leadership, curriculum development, the management of staff and their development, and the academic and pastoral development of the school. This would contribute to the concept of distributed leadership as outlined in the relevant DES circulars. Further information on the available LDS courses may be obtained on www.lds21.ie.

 

Formal lines of communication in Tullow Community School are enhanced and supported by a well structured programme of regularised meetings. In addition to the usual staff meetings, which take place approximately once per term, the senior management team also hold formal weekly meetings with the year-heads and the care team, in addition to the monthly assistant principals meetings referenced earlier. There are good internal communication structures in the school, including personal staff mailboxes and a staff notice board where daily events and items for attention may be highlighted. These structures ensure that teachers are kept informed of all relevant issues and events. In addition there are several notice boards throughout the school that provide students with access to a variety of information. These effective communication systems help ensure the vision and priorities for development are achieved.

 

Staff meetings are well structured. The agenda is set by senior management but staff may also add items for inclusion. The format of most staff meetings includes the formation of discussion or working groups where teachers discuss planning issues, subject department business or other matters as per the agreed agenda. This is good practice as it ensures that the diversity of views on topics and issues can be shared collectively at the plenary session.

 

There are very good procedures for ensuring that newly appointed teachers are effectively inducted into the school. An induction day prior to the commencement of the school year helps to familiarise these teachers with the procedures, policies and layout of the school. The role of mentor to assist with the induction of new teachers is attached to a post of responsibility, which is to be commended. An informative handbook has been developed for all teachers that contains a synopsis of the policies and procedures and highlights the responsibilities for all members of staff in the execution of their duties. New teachers were very complimentary of senior management and their subject department colleagues for the support and welcome they received during their induction into the school.

 

The school has an open and inclusive admissions policy. The enrolment process is well structured and effectively implemented in all its phases including visits to the primary schools, the organisation of an open night and an information evening for parents, the offering of places, the scheduling of assessments and the organisation procedures for the orientation and induction of incoming first-year students prior to the first day of term. The role of relevant members of staff including both the guidance counselling and special educational needs (SEN) departments in this process is commended. In addition, there are strategies in place to project future enrolment in the school through consultation with the feeder primary schools and analysis of the current primary school populations. This is good practice as it contributes to the planning process to meet the future needs of the school. However, reference to individual class sizes should be removed from the admissions policy as these relate to how the school organises its classes and uses its resource allocation and are not specifically linked to enrolment. It is appropriate for the school to include the number of places available for each year group and programme offered by the school.

 

Many systems are in place for the effective management of students in all aspects of their life in the school. Much of this work centres on the role of the class teacher and year heads. The class teachers in junior cycle are also the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) teachers for their class group, which helps to foster positive relationships. This is commended.

 

There are appropriate structures in place to monitor attendance and punctuality including a morning registration, taken by the class teacher. However, there were some inconsistencies observed in the implementation of the system, such as the taking of registration on the corridors and the timely arrival of students and teachers to registration, and these should be addressed by management. Details of students’ records of attendance are included on reports home to parents. Records of attendance are processed through the school office, which also makes the necessary returns to the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB). The required interim returns were made by the school for 2007/2008, however the final returns were still outstanding at the time of the inspection, which should be addressed. The final year returns for 2006/2007 indicate that the level of absenteeism is quite high. This will require focused attention as mentioned previously. Very good support is available to the school and identified students through the school completion programme (SCP); however, on-going vigilance and additional strategies will be required to address the issue of student attendance.

The code of behaviour was ratified in November 2006. The document clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of each partner in the school community, students, parents and teachers in promoting a positive learning environment. This is commended. The set of school rules identify the expectations for student behaviour, attendance and punctuality, respect for property, movement within the school and uniform. These rules are listed in the student’s journal and both the student and parent or guardian must sign a code of behaviour contract. An incident reporting and referral system is in operation for breaches of the code and clear sanctions are applied for low-level and serious incidents. There are appropriate levels of intervention for students who may have persistent or serious breaches of the code. Such measures may include the use of the internal suspension system, referral to counselling and the intervention of personnel from the SCP. These actions are commendable as they provide for mediation and support for students that identify the cause and effect of inappropriate behaviour.

During the course of the evaluation students identified the code of behaviour and the implementation of the discipline system as fair and consistent. It would appear that, for the majority of students attending the school, the code and its implementation is proving effective; however, this is not true for all. Teachers identified the discipline system as an area that requires further review and some evidence of persistent low-level incidents were observed by the inspectors in some lessons. Therefore, it is recommended that a review of the code of behaviour and disciplinary system be undertaken. A collective whole-school approach to this process is advised to help build shared commitment to the values and ethos of the school among all partners. For example, the student council could play an integral part in the review as their representative role can be used to consult the entire student body and provide them with an opportunity to give expression to their views. This will ensure that the student body feel ownership of the code and understand their role in promoting a standard of behaviour conducive to a positive learning environment. The school should draw on the NEWB document Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools.

 

Considerable links have been established with the local community especially with local businesses, some of which have been very supportive by providing work experience for Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), TY, LCA and PLC students. In addition, some business owners help with ‘mock interviews’ and provide students with advice regarding issues related to the world of work. The local community sports clubs have extended the use of their facilities for training and competitive matches and good relationships exist between these bodies and the school. Links are maintained with some educational bodies and third level institutions. Other external agencies are often availed of to support students with particular educational or personal needs. It is commendable that the school runs a voluntary community care programme, where some students visit and interact with members of the community with general learning disabilities. 

 

Structures to ensure good quality communication with parents have been established. Parents are regularly informed of school activities and the progress of students through regular principal reports, as well as assessment reports. The student journal is used as the primary channel of communication between teachers and parents and this was observed and reported to work well in most cases. Management stresses the need for consistency in the use of the journal and students are expected to have it in their possession at all times and to use it to record all homework and relevant information. The school website also provides a very useful means of communication and is regularly updated with information regarding the school calendar of events and reports on the variety of school achievements. It is commendable that the potential and value of this means of communication is being realised.  

 

There was evidence that review and self evaluation are intrinsic in school development planning practices. The review process led to the prioritising of the school’s developmental needs. The inspectors found evidence of extensive review and a high level of self-evaluation in a small number of the subject department planning documentation and the application of this practice is recommended for all subject departments. Recent presentations to staff on assessment for learning provided evidence of reflective practice that support teachers’ professional development. Management conducts an evaluation of all examination results, particularly the performance of students in the state exams, which are then reported to the board of management and reviewed by individual subject departments. The further development of this culture is encouraged as it promotes reflection on the effectiveness of all activities undertaken by the school on the outcomes for its students.

 

1.4   Management of resources

 

Currently, class contact hours in the school amounts to twenty-six hours and fifty-five minutes. This excludes the five-minute registration time at the beginning of each day which is more administrative than instructional in nature. The present timetabling arrangements fall short of what is required to ensure that all students receive instruction in the curriculum for a minimum of twenty-eight hours per week in accordance with circular M29/95. A significant amount of time has already been devoted by senior management in the consultative process to bring about change that will lead to compliance with this circular, including an increase in class contact time to the current level and the establishment of a timetable review committee to identify how the school can meet the present shortfall. The school indicated that it felt it did not possess the necessary resources to meet the time in school directive without compromising the range of programmes and subject options that it offers. However, it appears that the present allocation of teaching resources is presently under utilised. The timetables provided to the inspection team indicated that a significant number of permanent, whole-time teachers (PWT) are timetabled for less than the statutory eighteen hours of class-contact time per week. Also, the structure of the school day, with a combination of thirty-five and forty minute classes, impedes the full deployment of the available teaching resources. The inspection team were assured by senior management that, when all of the learning support and resource hours were allocated to the relevant teachers’ timetables this would account for much of the shortfall. However, it remains a matter of concern that a comprehensive set of up-to-date timetables indicating the full deployment of teachers, including the full allocation of resource and learning support teaching hours, was not fully completed four weeks into the school term. The cumulative effect of the shortfalls in the allocated teaching time is quite substantial and should be immediately reviewed and addressed. Furthermore, all teaching hours allocated to individual teachers, including resource and learning support hours, should be included on their timetables as early as possible in the school year. Optimal use should be made of the school’s teaching resources at all times, in line with the regulations of the Department of Education and Science. The period of time afforded to schools to comply with the time in school directive has passed and the present situation should be immediately rectified.

 

A supervision and substitution roster ensures that cover exists to monitor students’ movements and welfare before school, during break times and after school, as well as providing cover for absent colleagues. All members of staff are invited annually to participate in the supervision and substitution programme and a majority of teachers support the scheme. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that there is adequate supervision during break times, the numbers opting to provide this service were found to be quite low, with much of the onus of responsibility resting with the deputy principal. It is commendable that the school’s prefect system assists in the management of student movement, which greatly assists the supervising teachers. However, it is recommended that additional provision be made according to circular PPT 01/03 in order for management to continue to discharge its duty of care to students and to provide adequate supervision of students during break times.

 

The school buildings and the extensive grounds are very well maintained. The significant contribution of both the care-taking and cleaning staff is acknowledged and applauded in this regard. The very important roles that they play, along with the administrative staff, in the fulfilment of their assigned duties, as well as the support they provide to staff, parents and students, merits much recognition and praise. 

 

Tullow Community School has extensive playing pitches and a large sports hall, together with several changing rooms that provide for the physical education lessons, as well as supporting the extensive extra-curricular sports programme. There is also a large hard-court area. Whilst this is an extensive space and a valuable teaching, learning and physical activity resource, it is in need of resurfacing to ensure safety for use. Specialist rooms are appropriately equipped to a good standard and their maintenance and presentation deserve high commendation. There is a valuable library that has a central position in the school. In addition to the book access programmes organised by the post holder with responsibility for the library, it was observed to be well used for a variety of co-curricular events. Students have access to a canteen that serves a variety of food including sandwiches and hot meals. In an effort to promote healthy eating habits, students are encouraged to avail of nutritionally sound options. While no specific budgets are allocated to subject departments, provision is made available on a needs basis through the school’s well developed requisition system. Most teachers have base classrooms and this system works well to help create graphic and print rich environments with specialist subject materials and to provide ease of access to resources. The school also maintains a number of courtyard gardens, one of which houses the obelisk unveiled recently to celebrate the bicentenary of both the Brigidine and Patrician orders in Tullow. These gardens, along with the prayer room provide well-maintained and peaceful spaces for students to visit. The school facilities are made available in an appropriate manner to the local community. This is made possible through the provision of the sports facilities and a range of adult education classes.

 

The school’s safety statement is in place and it was adopted by the board of management. However, it should be signed and dated. A staff safety officer has been appointed. It is recommended that the safety statements relating to each of the subject areas be expanded. All specialist subject rooms and facilities should be audited in relation to health and safety and staff should be involved in reviewing the safety statement. It is commendable that fire-drills take place twice per year. This is especially important for first-year students to ensure that they fully understand the procedures should they ever need to be fully enacted.

 

The adult education programme is organised and co-ordinated by a staff member, as part of an assistant principal’s post. Historically, these classes proved very popular, with a high uptake of most courses offered. However, enrolment has been disappointing in recent times, due in the main to competing sources. A range of measures have been undertaken to advertise and promote courses, but enrolment still remains problematic and the viability of courses is often untenable. It is recommended that a review be undertaken to determine the sustainability of the current adult education programme and to identify new courses that would present as beneficial to the needs of the local community. Consideration could be given to certified courses that may lead to employment or promote entrepreneurial enterprise.

 

Continuous professional development (CPD) is supported by school management. Teachers are facilitated to attend in-service courses including those organised by education centres and the Second Level Support Service (SSLS). The uptake of in-service opportunities by teachers is good in most instances.

 

The school is fully broadband enabled and most buildings have access to networking points or the wireless network. Whilst the infrastructure is in place to provide access to the internet and engagement with the world wide web as a research and interactive learning medium, there is a shortage of up-to-date computers and other ICT equipment from which to avail of this resource. The further development of the ICT resources is a stated priority for the school. The school is commended for its work in replacing the existing servers in St. Anne’s College, the computer room and the main office, providing a valuable upgrade in the storage capacity and processing power of the network. Additionally, efforts are continuously made to repair and replace existing computers. It was reported by students that teachers use laptops and a data-projector in some lessons, and subject department plans indicated that teachers are more than willing to engage in the use of innovative technologies. However, the quality and quantity of available resources is impacting on the level of engagement by both students and teachers and is a source of frustration for many subject teachers who have access to a range of electronic resources, without the means to use them.

 

Documentation made available during the whole school evaluation indicated that the school is considering applying for the Green Schools Programme, an endeavour that would significantly add to the environmental awareness initiatives in the school. The pursuit of this award is recommended and will enhance the status of the school in the community. 

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

The principal along with a designated special duties teacher take responsibility for the co-ordination of the school development planning process. This process has been informed by the instruments and guidelines provided by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and it was found that all members of the school community are appropriately engaged in the process, which is good practice.

 

Good progress has been achieved in school development planning (SDP), which has resulted in a detailed school plan. Key milestones achieved in the planning process include a review of the policies concerning the code of behaviour, including suspension and expulsion, the introduction of the discipline referral system, the establishment of defined roles and responsibilities for post holders including year heads, a review of the timetable, and an assessment for learning (AfL) initiative. The school has also undertaken an operational review of the SCP and has strengthened links to support students in need of early intervention. Additionally, the school undertook a major self-evaluation of the PLC programme in order to meet the criteria set down by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC), resulting in an exemplary document that details all aspects related to the provision, organisation and delivery of the PLC programme.  

 

Good structures are in place to identify tasks and targets for the planning process and to ensure that future planning priorities are established in a collaborative manner. Staff are invited to identify areas to be prioritised under the headings of physical resources, teaching and learning and policy development. In addition, it was found that the board, parents’ council and student council may also identify areas for inclusion. Arising from the last consultative process a list of key priorities was established and an action plan has been developed. Good practice was seen whereby the action plans identified the tasks to be completed, the key members of each working group and the proposed timeframe for implementation. Of particular note is that these documents also specify an interim review in the development process towards achieving each of the stated objectives, which is good practice.

 

A number of renovation projects have been prioritised and management has been working strategically towards the completion of these objectives, including replacing the floor covering in classrooms, replacing glazing, upgrading canteen facilities and resurfacing the hard courts and car park. Other priorities include the upgrading of the school’s ICT resources. In addition to these structural and resource plans, several areas for curricular and pedagogical development were identified including the need to review and implement policies required by legislation, the implementation of AfL methodologies as well as further development of subject department planning. A review of the schedule of posts of responsibilities has been planned for this term, as referenced previously. The need to conduct a whole-school review of the TY programme has also been identified. The process of planning, implementation and review in relation to school development planning is commended.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with post-primary circulars M44/05 and 0062/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

Tullow Community School offers a broad and balanced curriculum to meet the needs and interests of all its students. The school offers six programmes at second level and three PLC courses. At junior cycle, the school provides the Junior Certificate and the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), and at senior cycle the school provides an optional TY programme, the established Leaving Certificate, the LCA and the LCVP. The PLC courses offered are: advanced business, secretarial and computer training; business and information technology; and childcare. All of these courses are offered at FETAC level 5.

 

The range of subjects available at both junior and senior cycle is extensive. The school endeavours to always provide the widest range of subjects possible, for example, agricultural Science is scheduled as an extra subject for Leaving Certificate outside of the formal timetable. The list of subjects offered and the option block arrangements are clearly listed on the school’s website and prospectus.

 

Class groups are organised into mixed-ability settings in first-year, with a mixture of banding and streaming occurring thereafter. Concurrency is facilitated for core subjects and for some optional subjects when student demand facilitates the creation of additional class groups. This facilitates student mobility in the event of the creation of a higher-level and ordinary-level class and supports subject teacher collaboration. It is commendable that the school monitors the uptake of levels and conducts an analysis of student attainment in state and house examinations in an effort to promote higher standards and expectations.

 

In almost all instances, the timetabling provision for each subject is satisfactory. However, recommendations have been made in some of the individual subject inspection reports and these should be addressed as part of the next curriculum review. For example, the time allocation to English at junior cycle should be increased. Additionally, the school should strive to ensure that all senior cycle students have equitable access to Physical Education. Subjects are evenly distributed throughout the week to ensure that students have regular access and the placement of subjects during the school day is also considered during timetabling, which is commended.

 

The school offers a one-year JCSP, which is aimed at students entering third year who are at risk of early school leaving. A SDT post has been assigned for the co-ordination of the programme and this duty is effectively carried out with interest and dedication. The co-ordinator has regular timetabled access to the students. There are many positive aspects to the programme provided and the curriculum offered to students. A number of JCSP initiatives are undertaken with students each year which have proven very successful. The numbers of students who sit Junior Certificate examinations in subjects is testament to the effectiveness of the programme. Notwithstanding the many positive aspects of the current model of JCSP organisation and provision, there is scope to extend the programme to a wider group of students. At present only six students are benefitting from the programme. It is recommended that the school review its current model of provision of the programme. It is best practice that interventions to support students in their attendance at school and in their learning begin as early in their post-primary education as possible. To this end, the relevant support service (www.jcsp.slss.ie) should be consulted with a view to assisting the school in the review of its model of provision and the curriculum offered.

 

The school offers an optional TY programme. The programme provides eighteen subjects, many of which aim to support students’ personal, social, vocational and academic development and involves participation in a wide and varied range of co-curricular activities, including two blocks of work experience. It is commendable that many of the short courses undertaken by TY students, such as coaching and first-aid, are certified. Subject-specific plans for TY were included as part of the TY plan. However, these would benefit from further expansion of the learning outcomes, the diversity of teaching methods and the key skills that students will acquire during each unit of work. Additionally, whilst a brief calendar of events was outlined in the TY plan this should also be expanded to show the placement of relevant courses, trips and events throughout the year. This will help each subject department with their programme planning to account for the scheduled absences of TY students from their regular timetable, and enhance the potential for further cross-curricular links to be established. Evaluation forms are distributed to TY students, teachers and parents seeking feedback, which is then used to inform the development of the programme for the following year. This is good practice. A review of the TY programme is planned and it is recommended that a whole-school approach be undertaken. The review process should also involve consultation with the TY support service (www.ty.slss.ie) to determine the level of support available to assist the school with this course of action.

 

The LCVP is offered to all students whose subject options comply with the requirements for entry to the programme. Students can choose to follow the programme and a majority of those eligible avail of this option. Time is allocated to the study of the Link Modules in both fifth and sixth year as appropriate.

 

One LCA class is formed annually and is offered as an alternative to the established Leaving Certificate. It is aimed at students who wish to follow a practical programme with a strong vocational emphasis. The curriculum offered to LCA students is broadly in accordance with the programme guidelines. Students following the LCA programme attend work experience for one day per week over the two years. Whilst this arrangement is within the guidelines for LCA, it reduces the time available for the remaining modules to thirty-three periods per week. This results in many courses being given the minimum timetable allocation. Shortcomings include the need to timetable five periods per week for Social Education over the two-years of the programme. The work experience arrangements in LCA should be addressed as part of the next curriculum review.

 

The school has established good working relationships with local businesses and sports clubs to support the various work experience and extra-curricular activities programmes offered. The co-ordinators of the various programmes engaged in work experience have developed a placement and evaluation system to monitor students’ engagement and progress on work experience, which is good practice.

 

Historically, a practice exists in this school whereby teachers’ proposed timetables for the coming school year are generated and given to individual teachers for consultation in the preceding spring term. Senior management feels this process helps to identify any issues that may exist with regards to the allocation of class groups, subjects and programmes. Whilst this exemplifies the level of consultation that exists in the school, some conflict between teachers’ preferences and the current needs of the school were identified during the evaluation and this is a source of concern. Management expressed the view that it was policy that teachers are deployed according to their subject specialisms and that whenever possible, teachers retain their class groups for the duration of each programme. These aspects represent good practice. However, in a few instances in the past, teachers have been reluctant to rotate the teaching of the full range of programmes or levels. The school is now moving towards the more equitable position of ensuring that all teachers are fully deployed across the various programmes provided and to teach subjects at all levels. In this way teachers develop a comprehensive understanding of the various syllabuses, are familiar with all relevant texts and resources and develop the pedagogical skills required to engage the full community of students. This move is commended and will be of great benefit to the school in ensuring that knowledge and skills are enhanced within each subject department, and that there will always be capacity within the school to meet its curricular requirements. Whilst it is important that teachers are consulted and familiar with this revised rationale, it is ultimately the responsibility of the board of management and senior management to deploy teachers.

 

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

First-year students make their subject choices prior to entry to the school. Varying approaches to accommodating students’ subject choices have been tried by the school, such as open choice, taster modules and a variety of different subject-combination option blocks. Following a review of these various approaches, by senior management and the guidance counselling department, the present system was considered the most suitable to provide students with the best model to optimise their preferences. While it is commendable that this system is kept under review it would be more desirable for student choice to be based on both knowledge and experience of the subject.

 

The structures and supports in place to inform students and parents about subjects and programmes are exemplary and the work of the school in this regard is highly commended. An open evening is arranged for parents of prospective first-year students during October or November prior to entry, and a description of the subject options is given to students and parents. In addition, the guidance counselling department visit the feeder primary schools to disseminate enrolment information, explain subject option choices and to answer any questions pupils may have. This work is supported by showcasing samples of students project work completed during each of the optional subjects as a reference for the primary school pupils. Pupils are also provided with a booklet that details all aspects of each optional subject. An additional information evening is held where parents are further briefed on subject option choices and given information on the school facilities and structures.

 

Students and parents are given information by programme co-ordinators about available programmes after third year. There are information nights for third-year and TY students going into fifth year, which are usually held in the preceding January, to inform students and parents of the choices of programmes and subjects available. The implications of subject choices for further education and careers are clearly explained by the guidance counselling department. In addition, all students are met individually by the guidance counselling service to discuss subject options and to provide advice and support to students with their choices. In some instances, students are accommodated in moving between programmes or subjects if they feel they have made a wrong decision in fifth year. Parents and students expressed a high level of satisfaction with the information provided by the school to support students’ choices of programmes, subjects and levels.

 

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

 

The level of provision for co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in Tullow Community School is highly commended and is one of the strengths of the school. Many subject departments endeavour to extend learning beyond the classroom and engage students through involvement in projects, competitions, field trips and attendance at relevant lectures and seminars. Examples include the organisation of theatre visits, visits to the local library, art galleries and museums, guest speakers and visiting theatre companies, table quizzes and projects to promote the Irish language and an annual outdoor education weekend. In addition, final year students visit university and college open days to help them with their future education decisions.

 

The whole-school activities organised for students provide opportunities to meet their interests and support their education in a wide variety of cultural, social, spiritual and sporting areas. The school produces a musical and talent show, which alternate every year. In addition, the school organises arts, anti-bullying and faith weeks, which help students to focus on specific areas related to their studies and personal development. Many students also participate in the Gaisce programme. Fund raising activities are organised by students and teachers to support worthy causes both locally and internationally, which adds greatly to the development of social consciousness. Foreign educational tours are organised annually. Involvement in the Horizons project helps to focus on cross-community mutual understanding between students from the south and north of Ireland. Some students have been involved in social aid programmes in Africa and have spent part of their summer vacation working with overseas missionary organisations in Kenya. A future trip to Ghana is planned. The sharing of these experiences through the school notice boards, newsletters and articles in local newspapers is of great educational value to all.

 

Sport plays a central role in the life of Tullow Community School and photographs of past and present teams and individuals that have represented the school are prominently displayed. Students are afforded the opportunity to participate in a range of sports that have either a recreational, competitive or community basis. There has been much success in regional and national level competitions, most notably in the Leinster junior rugby development shield and in winning the All-Ireland schools’ hunter trials. It is highly commendable that many teachers give of their time to organise, coach and travel with the various teams.

 

The school has developed clear guidelines and procedures to ensure that involvement in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities enhance students’ learning and minimise disruption to their academic programmes. The involvement of parents and local coaches in some activities to assist teachers is highly commended. Staff and students expressed their awareness and appreciation of the positive impact that provision of such a variety of activities makes to overall relationships within the school.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

Management facilitates formal meeting time for subject department planning at the beginning and end of the school year, and most departments reported that they meet informally throughout the year. The possibility of an arranged mid-year meeting could be investigated, perhaps to coincide with Christmas tests. A system of rotating co-ordinator is in place in a number of subject departments, based on a two-year rotation. This is good practice as it allows all members of the department to experience the role, to contribute to subject development and to develop good systems for sharing ideas and resources. In one instance, a description of the role of co-ordinator had been agreed and included in the subject plan. This is commendable, and should be followed in the case of all subject departments.

 

Subject department plans were examined by the inspectors. In the case of the subject areas inspected, however, subject plans varied considerably in their scope and level of detail, some clearly identifying syllabus aims and objectives and proposed learning activities, and others containing little beyond broad and open statements. While most indicated the content to be covered and were set out as schemes of work for the term and the year as a whole, it is recommended that a greater focus be placed on the desired learning outcomes for each year. Subject plans should also bring greater clarity to the links between learning outcomes, the most appropriate teaching and learning methods and forms of assessment. In all of this, subject departments should bear in mind that the aim of planning is to support and develop good practice.

 

Subject plans for the JCSP, TY and LCA were generally in line with programme requirements. Care should be taken to ensure that planning for these programmes is included in subject departments’ collaborative planning, so that the collective experience of each subject department informs programme planning and delivery. Consultation with the support service personnel and web sites for the various programmes would help to ensure that the plans are regularly reviewed and kept in line with good practice.

 

Individual planning was generally good as was lesson preparation, with good choice of materials and resources. Collaborative development of teaching and learning resources was observed in a number of subject areas and is commended as exemplary practice. Where it is not presently the case, collaboration in preparing resources and their storage in a place accessible to all members of the subject department would further assist good individual planning and preparation.

 

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

Observation of lessons within all programmes offered in the school has informed the findings and recommendations in this section of the report.

 

Lessons were generally well paced and covered a satisfactory amount of material. The practice of beginning with a recap of previous learning where appropriate was noted and commended in a number of lessons. However, it should not extend too long into the lesson as it will reduce forward momentum. Very good practice was observed where the lesson topic was stated explicitly at the outset and where it was clearly linked to learning outcomes so that students had a clear sense of what they should be able to do at the end of the lesson. This practice of sharing, not only the topic, but also the learning intention with the class should be adopted in all lessons to promote student engagement and focus.

 

Varied teaching and learning methods were observed, including direct whole-class teaching, teacher demonstration, pair and group work, role play and various forms of task-based learning. Methods that engaged students directly with the subject matter were praised, as were approaches that focused on the development of skills and allowed students to apply their knowledge and understanding. Subject departments are encouraged to identify and develop subject-appropriate methods leading to more active and independent learning. Greater use of problem-solving methods and peer-learning approaches would add to the repertoire of strategies likely to achieve this. Whole-class teaching was commended where the topic was well identified, information was clearly imparted and teacher input was followed by student activity. However, a dominance of whole-class teaching led at times to student disengagement and low participation. Good pair and group work was noted and commended when the task was clearly described and well managed and monitored. Where these were lacking, group work was observed to be a less effective learning strategy. Learning contextualised within the students’ experience was also commended. 

 

Questioning techniques observed served a number of teaching and learning purposes. Short questions were used to check recall and basic comprehension and were most suited to this purpose when directed at a wide range of named students, thus avoiding chorus answering. In general, sufficient time was given for responses to questions demanding higher-order thinking and analysis. In keeping with the principles of assessment for learning, it is very important that students understand the difference between these two types of questions.

 

Subject inspection reports noted effective classroom management and a generally good rapport between students and teachers. Teachers’ knowledge of students was recognised as an asset.  However, in a number of the lessons observed there were instances of poor student behaviour leading to disruption of the learning activity. While these instances were well managed for the most part, the disciplinary referral system should be examined to ensure it is working as effectively as possible. Aspects of classroom management should also be reviewed in cases where students are disengaged or disruptive. The recommended review of the code of behaviour will support this.

 

Students showed satisfactory recall of prior learning in their responses, and a good knowledge and understanding of the concepts required within the various syllabuses at their chosen level. Their engagement in class activities, while it varied, demonstrated for the most part a willingness to work diligently and an interest in learning. In general, teachers effectively communicated an expectation that students would apply themselves and work to an appropriately high standard, and they affirmed students’ efforts. However, it is important to ensure that expectations for the whole range of students, from the exceptionally able to the less able, are set and maintained at an appropriately high level.

 

 

4.3          Assessment

 

General homework procedures and regulations are outlined in the student journal, and some subject departments have included agreed assessment procedures in their plans. This is commended. Formal tests are held twice yearly and mock examinations are held for examination classes. Practice varies in relation to marking these, and greater streamlining would be helpful. Generally good records of students’ attendance, progress and attainment were maintained, and good systems are in place to communicate with parents regarding their children’s progress.

 

The students’ work inspected reflected varying levels of monitoring and presentation. Some exemplary instances of developmental feedback were observed, with affirmation of students’ efforts and clear indications of areas for improvement. This approach ensures that assessment forms part of the learning process and it is recommended in the case of all substantial assignments. Greater use of assessment for learning strategies is also indicated in the case of non-examination subjects, which would give students a sense of progression and could be used to encourage peer-review. While much of the work seen was well presented and provided a useful record for students, there were instances of poor presentation and inadequate recording of work, and these should be addressed.  It is recommended that a consistent whole-school policy on the required standards for all written assignments be included in the school’s homework policy, and that its rationale be clearly explained to students.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

Tullow Community School strives to be an inclusive school which aims to maximise the learning outcomes of students with special educational needs (SEN). Support for students with SEN has been a stated priority of the school for the past three years. Evidence of significant progress in this area was presented during the course of the whole school evaluation.

 

In order to develop the professional capacity to provide for students with SEN, the school has supported teachers in gaining recognised qualifications in this area. At present there are two teachers with such qualifications, with a third teacher currently undertaking the Postgraduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs. Through this approach, the school has facilitated teachers in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to form a specialist SEN department, who are fully aware of current best practice in the provision of support for students.

 

The model of provision for the use of allocated resource hours has been recently reviewed and the school has moved towards developing a core team of teachers with the interest and skills to meet the needs of these students. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of teachers providing resource teaching from twenty-six to six. The development of this core team is highly commended. The effective deployment of these teachers will lead to a consistency of approach and continuity of personnel in the provision of support for students. The more expedient timetabling of the allocated resource hours to the core team was recommended earlier in this report. In addition to the development of the core team, the SEN department has begun to develop systems to support all teachers in the school with advice and support on differentiating their teaching practice in order to best cater for students with SEN in their lessons. Presentations have been made at whole-staff meetings to familiarise teachers with the possible range of learning difficulties, and the most successful approaches to ensuring that students with additional needs are fully included in the learning process. The development of a whole-school approach to supporting students with both special needs and those that are exceptionally able/gifted is good practice and the continuation and further development of this good work is encouraged.

 

The SEN department has developed a commendable draft policy on inclusion that outlines the rationale, aims, objectives, practices, procedures and future priorities in relation to students with special educational needs. The ratification of this policy was recommended earlier in this report.

 

Available resources to support the inclusion of students with SEN have been accessed and are used appropriately. A professional and effective approach is taken to the organisation, administration and delivery of these supports. Supports are provided in the form of resource teaching for students with an assessed special need and in the form of learning support. The school has an allocation of 3.37 whole-time teaching equivalents (WTE) for special needs in addition to 2 WTE for resource and learning support and 4 WTE for special-needs assistants (SNA). The role of the SNA has been clearly defined and they provide valuable support to their students and work closely with the SEN team and the relevant subject teachers.

 

The SEN department work closely with senior management and the guidance counselling department to identify students in need of learning support. Efforts to identify students prior to their arrival in the school include visits to the feeder primary schools, contact with parents to access any available psychological assessments and relevant information, liaising with the Special Educational Needs Officer (SENO) and the administration of standardised tests. Teacher observation at the beginning of the school year also assists in identifying students in need of additional support. The SEN department has begun developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) for students. A culture of review and evaluation is beginning to develop within the SEN department and the expansion of this practice at a whole-school level will help to focus on appropriately inclusive and progressive pedagogical strategies.

 

Students with SEN are withdrawn from Irish if they have a formal exemption from the subject, and this is organised following consultation with parents and teachers. While there is some team-teaching taking place, the provision for students with SEN occurs predominantly on a withdrawal basis for individual or small group tuition. The further expansion of the team-teaching approach as a means of providing appropriate support to students with special educational needs is recommended. The accommodation and resources available to provide for students with SEN are good, notwithstanding the need for more modern ICT equipment and resources. The school hosts the weekly workshop of the Carlow branch of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI). The facilitation of these workshops provides valuable learning support to both students of the school and the greater Carlow area and is highly commended. 

 

A number of school policies provide for the full inclusion and participation of students from the diversity of cultures and backgrounds represented in the local community. These include students from disadvantaged, minority and other groups including those for whom English is an additional language. The needs of these students are identified during the enrolment process and an assessment of needs is made in consultation with the primary school, parents and external support agencies. The school has a number of students for whom English is an additional language and provides English language support where required. As the majority of these students are from Poland, the school has translated all relevant documentation into Polish to improve the quality of communication with parents of this particular group, which is commendable. The school is aware of the challenges it faces to ensure the full inclusion of newcomer students into all aspects of school life and continues to identify and develop new strategies to address these challenges.

 

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The school’s guidance allocation is effectively used to provide a comprehensive guidance counselling programme in the school. This programme was found to be well planned, organised and delivered. The guidance counselling department comprises of two qualified guidance counsellors who play an integral role in many aspects of school life including pastoral care, curriculum development and support for students. There are two offices available to provide for individual and small group guidance and these are also used for counselling purposes. Both offices have access to a networked computer and printer. There is adequate storage for materials and for the safe retention of confidential documents. A wide selection of college prospectuses and other literature is available to help students in making decisions about further education and careers.

 

There is a good balance between the time allocated for guidance and counselling. The programme documentation shows guidance activities for all year groups and programmes with appropriate inputs in all instances. Guidance is central to the enrolment and induction of new students through the provision of information sessions, the administration of standardised tests, and assisting students with their subject choices. Students progressing into the various senior cycle programmes are provided with many supports in their decision making including information evenings, completion of Career Interest Inventories and Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs). The results of these tests are discussed with students to assist them with their subject choices and preferred career direction.

 

Timetabled guidance is provided in all programmes at senior cycle and to students in the PLCs. The diversity of educational and vocational guidance provides support to students with their work experience, management of learning, vocational exploration and researching as well as stress management and examination techniques. SPHE is recognised as contributing to the school’s provision of guidance and support to students. The SPHE programme is timetabled in accordance with circular M11/03. The guidance plan identifies the modules within the SPHE and CSPE programmes that have strands in common with the guidance programme and supports are offered to the relevant subject departments in line with good practice.

 

Guidance is also central to the student-care strategies in the school. Counselling support for individual students is provided and referrals to the guidance counsellors can be made by the care team, staff and by student self-referral. Students who may be experiencing difficulty with any aspect of their lives in the school may be referred to the counsellors. An appointment system which uses a consent slip is used to ensure that the referral system works effectively. Referrals to and from external agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are well managed by senior management and the guidance counselling team.

 

A well organised student support team is in place. A care team meeting takes place on a weekly basis attended by key personnel within the school including the principal, the school chaplain, members of the guidance and SEN departments, the SPHE co-ordinator and the co-ordinator of the SCP. This is commended. There was a high duty of care and concern observed in the work of the care team. The awareness of all members of the issues affecting students and the systems in place to provide appropriate interventions is highly commended. The role of the SCP is fully integrated into the support structures of the school to meet the needs of students. Some interventions run by the SCP include a breakfast club, after school clubs, home support, suspension intervention and one-to-one support programmes. Through the guidance counselling department the school has engaged with access programmes to facilitate transfer of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to third-level education.

 

The year head and class teacher structures make a significant contribution to the school’s provision for student support. The daily contact with their year and class groups enables these teachers to gain considerable insight into matters such as students’ needs, behaviour, attendance and punctuality and personal circumstances. In addition, it is also recognised that all subject teachers have a role to play in terms of provision of support and care for students. The school’s chaplaincy service also supports students and responds to their spiritual and religious needs. This exemplary work promotes the development of social consciousness and youth leadership within the school and the community. The school runs a Meitheal mentoring programme and selected senior students work closely with all first-year students organising activities and events to help them settle into their new school environment. Commendably the ‘Rainbows’ programme is also available in the school to help students deal with loss or bereavement.

 

A student council is well established. A designated post of responsibility is assigned to liaise with and support the work of the student council and this role is viewed as an integral component in the development of the student voice in the school. The student council is appropriately constituted and is representative of all class groups. Whilst members are democratically elected it was suggested that the process of election should be linked to the CSPE programme to provide concrete expression of the principles of democracy and active citizenship. The student council meets regularly and views its role as an important conduit of communications between the general student body and senior management. Members of the student council were very positive about their teachers and opportunities provided for them by the school. Recent activities of the student council included a review of the school uniform which involved presenting students views to the board of management, senior management and teachers. The positive change brought about through this process was articulated by students as one that resulted in an improvement in student-teacher relationships. There is an awareness of the need for training for incoming councils and in-service has been attended in the past. Information on the CSPE website www.cspe.slss.ie, may be beneficial to establishing regular training and affiliation structures for the student council.

 

In addition to the student council, the school operates a head/deputy head boy and head/deputy head girl system and a prefect system. These students were observed to play an integral and affirming role and one that is recognised as making a significant contribution to many aspects of school life.

 

An annual awards night is organised to recognise students’ achievements and to celebrate the school’s success in a variety of academic, social and sporting contexts. This is recognised as a very positive evening and is fully inclusive of all members of the school and local community.

 

The integration of the various support strategies provided by the school, open communication and transparent procedures has resulted in a student body that is well cared for and supported in their learning.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

Published May 2009

 

 

 

 

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 report of the Whole School Evaluation. The report affirms the work and dedication of the school community. The report acknowledges the caring atmosphere, the strength of relationships, the high standard of teaching and learning, the quality and extent of the curriculum and the comprehensive range of extra-curricular activities available to pupils.

The Board of Management wishes to thank the Inspection team for the professionalism with which all aspects of the evaluation were carried out. They also wish to thank all the members of the school community for their participation in the evaluation process. The Board of Management suggest that the Inspectorate should include the Parents Association and the Student Council in the stakeholders to which feedback is given at the end of the evaluation.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection          

 

Tullow Community School is committed to the highest possible standard of care, teaching, learning and support of all pupils attending the school. The Board of Management acknowledges the recommendations made in the report and commits itself to their implementation within the limits of its resources. All of the recommendations contained in the Whole School Evaluation report are being examined closely as part of the schools ongoing commitment to Whole School Development Planning.

 

The following recommendations have been addressed:

 

  1. The structure of the school day has been amended to facilitate the effective timetabling of staff.
  2. The timetable for 2009/2010 has been structured to comply fully with the requirements of Circular M29/95.
  3. A review has been undertaken of the Post of Responsibility Schedule with the assistance of an external facilitator. The facilitators report is currently being considered.
  4. Work is ongoing in the development of SEN and RSE policies.
  5. The Code of Conduct is being reviewed.