An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

  

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Mayfield Community School

Old Youghal Road, Mayfield, Cork

Roll number: 91400F

 

Date of inspection: 28 September 2007

Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction

1.         quality of school management

2.         Quality of school planning

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

5.         Quality of support for students

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Mayfield Community School was undertaken in September, 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of learning and teaching in five subjects were evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects. (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

 

Mayfield Community School was officially opened on 12 May, 1975 by Richard Burke T.D., the Minister for Education. The foundation of Mayfield Community School was in direct response to part of the rationale behind the establishment of community schools, which was to bring second-level education into fast-developing urban housing estates. A fundamental reason behind the community school system was to bring together, in a single institution, the academic style education of the traditional secondary school and the practically orientated programme of the vocational school. In this way, students would be able to sample both the practical and academic through a broad general curriculum. The curriculum offered in Mayfield Community School today bears testament to this very principle. Community schools were also established with a view to making provision for adult and community education. Through the organisation of night classes, Mayfield Community School also remains loyal to this additional founding principle.

 

The school is located in the north-east suburb of Cork City known as Mayfield. It is flanked by the Lee Valley and Tivoli on one side, and by the Glen Valley on the other. This area is one of mixed housing, with a population of approximately 12,000 people. Unemployment is high in some areas of Mayfield and it is included in the Revitalising Areas By Planning Investment and Development (RAPID) programme. The school has disadvantaged status and participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme.

 

As a co-educational institution, Mayfield Community School provides for girls and boys, and seeks to accommodate and cater for the educational needs of all enrolled students. It also welcomes and accepts students of all faiths but is mainly Christian in its ethos. This corresponds with what is noted as one of the school’s most positive attributes, that is, the overall level of care provided to the students. The catchment area, as defined by the board, includes the suburb of Mayfield and the adjoining rural hinterland. The school is served by four main feeder primary schools. The building is a single-storey construction, designed originally to accommodate 700 students. At one point, during the height of it’s boom, the school capped its intake at 900. Currently the school has an enrolment of 325 students. This is indicative of one of the greatest challenges currently facing Mayfield Community School. As the area has matured, the school-going population in the area has witnessed a natural decline, with the school also facing increased competition for enrolments. The year 2004 saw the commencement of a refurbishment programme in the school. At the time of the inspection, extensive renovation and upgrading was underway in the corridor that houses the science, technology and home economics facilities. Mayfield Community School is very fortunate to house a very well developed sports complex that boasts, along with many other fine facilities, a twenty-five metre swimming pool. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

 

The twelve objectives, which have been set down in the school’s recently revised mission statement, and which will be highlighted as appropriate throughout the report, are enshrined in the following, all encompassing statement, ‘Together We Learn, Together We Care, Together We Respect’. This short, but sentiment rich testimony, can be found on the walls of the corridors in Mayfield Community School, serving as a reminder to all of the vision for the school. The message is clear and simple and, most importantly, it is accessible to all. It is focused on improving students’ learning experiences and outcomes, sets clear expectations and embraces diversity and inclusion. At the same time, this statement bears a direct and very obvious relationship to the school’s founding motto ‘Meas ar Gach Craobh’ which translates to ‘Respect for All’. It is therefore inextricably linked to the historical traditions of the school and built on respect for all people and for all things.

 

There is much evidence to suggest that every effort is made to ensure that this vision, and the accompanying objectives, are lived out in the school. Central to the fostering of this aspiration have been the staff. Their solidarity, energy, enthusiasm and commitment, together with a most significant concern for all, is the very embodiment of the mission statement. All of these qualities transfer directly to their work and communications with the students in the school. A simple walk through the corridors during break-times or as classes change is living proof of the outlined togetherness, learning, caring and respectfulness. For all of this the staff of Mayfield Community School are deserving of much recognition and praise.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

 

The board of management of Mayfield Community School, as set up under the Deed of Trust for Community Schools 1979, has as its trustees the City of Cork Vocational Educational Committee (VEC) and the Bishop of Cork and Ross. The current board has been in place since 2004, although two new parents’ representatives were co-opted in recent times. As the term of office of a community school board of management is three years, expring on the 31st day of July in the third year after the board was constituted, the appointment of a new board is in process. The existing board is properly constituted and comprises ten representative members; three nominated by the VEC, three by the diocese, two staff nominess, two parents’ representatives. The principal acts as secretary to the board. The deputy principal, who is invited to attend all meetings, acts as the recording secretary. Neither the principal nor the deputy principal has a vote on the board. This is in line with the instruments and articles of management for community and comprehensive schools. The position of chair of the board was proposed and seconded by the members.

 

The board meets approximately every six to eight weeks. This is more than consistent with the articles of management, which place a minimum requirement on boards of community schools to meet once every term. Prior to each meeting, members are circulated with an agenda and a set of draft minutes relating to the preceding meeting. Suggested items for the agenda can be submitted to the secretary to the board. The VEC nominess access training on an on-going basis and the teacher nominees availed of training when the board was constituted. Both of the parents’ representatives are to attend training in the not too distant future. It was also highlighted that training will be made available to each of the members of the new board. This is satisfactory. A finance sub-committee is in place and this group meet as required. A finance update is prepared for each board meeting. Contact between the chair of the board and the senior management team varies, as needs arise.

 

 

The board members see their role as one of support to the principal and deputy principal in the running of the school. The relationship between the board and the senior management team was aptly described by one member as ‘relaxed, without being too comfortable’. Almost all of the decisions taken by the board are based on the consenus of the members. The inspection tean were assured that in doing so, consideration is always given to making the best decision relative to the welfare of all students in the school. The board oversees curricular planning and seeks to ensure a prudent and efficient use of resources. Board members endeavour to keep up to date with relevant Acts and Circulars and their associated legal obligations and board meeting agendas, constantly reference any new or revised Acts or Circulars that have a direct relevance to education and schools. This is a commendable practice.  

 

In line with best practice, it was confirmed that the board has discussed, contributed to and ratified each of the school’s policies, developed as part of school development planning. This includes the legally required policies which relate to admission and enrolment, attendance and participation, behaviour, child protection and health and safety. On this note, it is recommended that the board advance to ratification stage, the work that has been completed to date in relation to the preparation of a whole-school guidance plan. Simultaneously, the board needs to spearhead the formalisation of the school’s policy and practice relating to it’s provision for students with special educational needs. It is also strongly recommended that the relevent ratification dates be supplied on each policy. Boards of management have an additional role to play in relation to devising  a schedule of review for school policies. As mentioned by the board, a number of the policies are currently due for review. It is therefore further recommended that, at the time of ratification, consideration also be given to the provision of a recommended review date on each policy.

 

Communication between the board of management and its various nominating bodies is facilitated through a number of means. A copy of the minutes of each board meeting is made available in the staffroom for all teachers. Parent nominees provide oral feedback to the parents’ association. It is recommended that the board considers formalising the reporting procedures to these two groups. To this end, it is recommended that a short, agreed, written report be provided for the teacher and parent nominees, which should then be delivered by them to their respective nominating bodies. Furthermore, and as set down in Section 20 of the Education Act (1998) the board is advised to publish an annual report on the operation and performance of the school, with particular reference to the achievement of objectives as set out in the school plan.

 

The board demonstrates some awareness of the challenges that face the school as a result of falling enrolment. However, it is recommended that the board adopts a more obvious pro-activity to pursue and seek the means, knowledge and assistance to address the school’s falling enrolment and the associated difficulties which it poses. It is also recommended that the board adopt a greater role in the identification of short-, medium- and long-term development priorities for the school, and in the evaluation of the action plans for each.

 

1.3          In-school management

 

The principal and deputy principal of Mayfield Community School demonstrate a good working relationship. Both were simultaneously appointed to their respective positions in 2002, the principal having taught in the school previously and the deputy being an external appointment. Starting off together as members of the school’s senior management team clearly cemented this working relationship. A clear division of tasks between the principal and deputy principal is evident.

 

 

The principal sees himself as having both an executive and educational function. The executive function relates to the operation and maintenance of the building, financial control and budgeting, ensuring compliance with all legislation and liaising with the Department of Education and Science (DES). He sees his educational function as one that involves the preparation of an annual education programme, the promotion of the school, overseeing fair and proper implementation of the code of behaviour and liaising with staff, students and parents. The principal also acts as secretary to the board of management of the school, as well as to the board of management of the sports complex. The deputy principal’s role is designed to assist the principal in the day-to-day management of the school. The deputy principal has a direct role in attending all organised meetings, keeping the principal informed of developments in particular cases or situations, acting for the principal when necessary, preparing a timetable and organising supervision of classes and substitution for absent teachers. The deputy principal also has a major role to play in relation to guiding and directing the disciplinary system. This involves liaising with the year tutors, arranging meetings with parents, the suspension of students (following consultation with the principal), and monitoring of student progress report cards, which are supplied when suspended students return to school. The deputy seeks to balance the role of disciplinarian with that of provider of care and support. This is facilitated by an ‘open-door’ policy, actual and literal evidence of which was seen during the in-school week. 

 

While the duties of principal and deputy principal are recognisably defined, clearly they have adopted a partnership approach to the management of the school. Their shared vision for the school facilitates and supports this team effort. Regular meetings of the principal and deputy principal, which take place daily before school commences, are also effective in terms of fostering and promoting a collaborative approach to management. This practice is highly praised.

 

The middle-management team is composed of nine assistant principals and thirteen special duties teachers. All posts, and their accompanying duties, are assigned in accordance with agreed and proper procedures. The assistant principals fully recognise themselves as members of the school’s middle management team, with a direct and influential role to play in assisting senior management in the smooth running of the school. This realisation is most refreshing. Training, organised for the assistant principals as part of school development planning, has helped to foster this progressive outlook. All special duties teachers fully recognise the roles and responsibilities attached to their assigned duties, carrying them out with a noticeable diligence and commitment. Plans are in place to provide special duties teachers with access to similar training to that availed of by the assistant principals. This initiative is praised and encouraged. A once-weekly meeting of the assistant principals with the principal and deputy principal is another very concrete way of facilitating the development of the middle-management role. The provision for this weekly meeting is applauded. As a number of the assistant principals act as year tutors, approximately once a month this meeting focuses on the care of students. To this end, provision is made for the attendance of one of the guidance counsellors. This measure, which promotes better communication in relation to the level of guidance or support that may be required at any one time for individual students, is applauded. To support the special duties teachers to fully realise their capacity as members of the school’s middle management team, some consideration may need to be given to the organisation of regular meetings for this group also. 

 

While a number of changes to the schedule of posts have been negotiated over the years, the last major revision took place in 1994. Senior management fully recognises the need to undertake a review of the posts in light of a number of disparities between the workload of duties assigned to different post holders and emerging shortfalls in the context of the schools changing needs. To this end, it is planned to undertake such a review in the current school year. This intention is commended and fully encouraged. A formal review of the assistant principals’ progress in the whole-school context is undertaken on an annual basis. This feeds into plans and provisions for the following school year. This is commended. While there is no formal review of the work of special duties teachers, the principal and deputy principal invite individual feedback and discussion towards the end of each school year. Some flexibility allows each of the post holders to develop the duties assigned to them. As one teacher put it ‘no one gets in your way and you get on with the job’

 

The latter part of one of the twelve objectives in the school’s mission statement seeks, ‘to promote a sense of community and support amongst staff’. This vision, in any school or organisation, is best achieved through effective and on-going communication. Formal lines of communication in Mayfield Community School are enhanced and supported by a very structured meeting programme. In addition to the usual staff meetings, which take place approximately twice a term, the senior management team also hold formal, once-weekly meetings with, as referenced previously, the assistant principals, the year tutor and the respective class tutors, the special educational needs team and the care team. Wednesday sessions have also been scheduled for the entire school year. On assigned days these sessions, which last approximately thirty-five minutes, facilitate discussion and communication amongst a range of individuals and groups. They include provision for the meeting of individual subject departments, programme teams, teachers of different year groups, special event meetings, for example, preparing for the Gradam awards and planning for parent-teacher meetings. The principal and deputy principal attend all these sessions. This system is highly praised and profits greatly, once again, from the interest and dedication of the staff. Some consideration should be given to formally documenting the items discussed and decisions taken at each of the outlined meetings. In turn, these should be made available, as relevant, to each staff member. Memos to staff from the principal, along with staffroom announcements, also seek to keep staff informed. Informally, communication takes place on an on-going basis, facilitated by a very open and friendly atmosphere, which was nowhere more obvious than in the staffroom itself.

 

The first part of the eighth objective, referenced in the above paragraph, seeks ‘to empower teachers to fulfil their roles as educators’. This vision is reflected in the commitment of both senior management and the board, to encouraging, providing for, and supporting, the continuous professional development (CPD) of the teachers. Requests to attend in-service training have never been refused, participation in diplomas and masters programmes is fully supported and, if at all possible, actively facilitated. Teachers are urged by management to join their respective subject associations and are reimbursed by the school for the membership fees. The expertise and experience of individual staff members has been used at times to the benefit of the whole-staff through, for example, colleagues presenting to colleagues. All staff members were given access to two sessions which focused on up-skilling for the use of information communication technologies (ICT) in the classroom. A whole-staff in-service programme is also an important feature annually. In addition new staff members are inducted into school processes and procedures by a new staff mentor, a role that is attached to the school’s post schedule.   

 

The enrolment policy outlines the admissions procedures that apply in Mayfield Community School. However, this is at odds with the procedure as described by the senior management team. According to the policy, for example, the enrolment assessment is held in February and places are offered before the end of March. On the other hand, the senior management team informed the inspection team that places are offered before Christmas, following an enrolment assessment in November or December. Clarification is therefore required in relation to actual and written enrolment practices in the school. Simultaneously, it is recommended that the timing of the assessment be reviewed. This is advocated because, while the purpose of the assessment is to determine, in the main, class placement, the timing of it could suggest otherwise, namely that admission to the school is subject to performance in the assessment. Furthermore, as part of the clarification process advised previously, the policy itself should be reviewed with a view to removing any potentially discriminatory elements that relate to the enrolment of all students, but in particular those with special educational needs. The policy would then, in effect, reflect the open enrolment practices evident in the school. Historically, according to the principal, good links have existed between Mayfield Community School and the local feeder primary schools. Currently, it has been identified by the principal as an area requiring some work. This is encouraged and could impact positively on overall enrolment.

 

A revised code of behaviour and discipline, which was very commendably developed in collaboration with all partners, has been put in place in recent years. Six, positively expressed rules form the basis of the code, providing a very accessible reference point for all students in relation to acceptable behaviour. The rules are presented using student-friendly language and accompanied by a series of ‘this means’ and ‘because’ statements. This approach, which clearly spells out the rationale for the rules, is deserving of much praise. Formal warnings, red cards, a series of disciplinary letters home, detentions, suspension and ultimately expulsion, unite to form the school’s sanctions for unacceptable behaviour. To the outsider the process appears somewhat cumbersome and difficult to navigate. This is a view shared by a number of staff members. Lack of a clear communication system to staff to highlight those students already issued with a ‘red card’ is seen by teachers as another shortfall of the system. It is recommended therefore that the sanction system be reviewed, with a view to simplifying the procedure and ensuring a greater openness and transparency in relation to students who are already ‘in’ the system.

 

It would appear that, for the majority of students attending the school, the code is proving to be effective; however this is not true for all. This is evident in the relatively high numbers of students suspended in any one year, as well as in the number of exclusions. The inspectors were informed, by the senior management team, that a significant percentage of these are what can be termed as ‘rolling’ suspensions, relating therefore to students who are continually re-suspended. When the school’s own code states: ‘the school code of behaviour exists not because of a desire to punish the student who is having difficulties but because of the ultimate objective to bring about a change in the behaviour of the student’, this, in conjunction with the points made in the previous paragraph, points to the serious need to undertake a total review of the school’s code of behaviour and discipline.

 

There is good provision made for the rewarding of positive behaviour in Mayfield Community School. A ‘green card’ system, which operates in conjunction with the code of behaviour, allows teachers to acknowledge improved or good behaviour, co-operation or once-off participation in activities deserving of recognition. It also provides a balance to the ‘red card’ system and informs the Gradam nominations. Gradam, Mayfield Community School’s annual awards, is designed to publicly acknowledge positive characteristics and qualities in students. The awards seek to recognise the favourable attributes, entrepreneurial skills, initiative and talents of the students in the school, as well as academic achievement. Another incentive for students lies in the school’s exclusion of misbehaving students from representing the school on teams and taking part in school outings and trips.

 

Attendance is monitored each morning using Facility e-portal. Some problems currently exist with the system and when these have been ironed out it is planned to extend the use of this facility to an additional afternoon roll call. This is fully encouraged, as is the use of the other facilities that e-portal supports, such as notice-board. Year tutors have a key role to play in terms of monitoring students’ attendance patterns, with attendance being discussed weekly at the year tutor and class tutor meetings. Year tutors also co-ordinate periodic spot checks in relation to attendance. Attendance is discussed by year tutors with parents, as required. When this, along with the other measures outlined in the school’s attendance policy are considered, it can be concluded that much time and energy goes into recording, monitoring and reporting on attendance. However, despite this, and the fact that full or near full attendance is rewarded in the school, relatively speaking the number of students absent for twenty days or more poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed. It is recommended therefore that, in conjunction with all partners and with the assistance of any experts in the field, for example the Education Welfare Officer (EWO) and the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB), the school actively sets about seeking to reverse this identified trend. A starting point, and a task that has been highlighted in the school’s attendance policy, might be the identification of factors which may be currently affecting attendance and punctuality. 

 

The students’ council was reinstituted two years ago, following a lapse of some years. Each of the year groups is represented on the council. The majority of the students’ representatives are elected to the position by their peers following annual elections. The exceptions to this are the first year representatives, who are nominated by staff. Weekly meetings help to ensure that the council is actively engaged in the life of the school and facilitate the communication of students’ ideas in relation to enhancing and improving school life. This level of student commitment is applauded. Two key projects undertaken by the council include the provision of a healthy lunch option for students and participation in the ECO UNESCO awards, as part of the Green-Schools programme. As appropriate, the council members have been consulted in relation to certain school policies, for example, the code of behaviour and discipline. The council has a draft constitution in place. Efforts to finalise this document are fully encouraged. 

 

Interested parents, with the support of the principal and the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, resurrected the parents’ association approximately three years ago. The members were very complimentary in relation to the support provided to them, and all parents, by the HSCL co-ordinator. A key function of the council currently is to help increase parental involvement in the school, which it is embracing wholeheartedly. Currently there are six officers but members are hoping that up-coming elections will see membership increase by three or four. The association members, who meet on a monthly basis, are very enthusiastic about their involvement in various initiatives, which is also fully encouraged by management. The association is also consulted by management when school policies are being devised or revised. Moreover, the association has been provided with copies of recently completed subject inspection reports. It is clear that the parents really enjoy this level of involvement in their children’s education. Parents are very happy with the overall level of communication between the school and home, facilitated by measures like phone-calls and letters home, a TY newsletter, announcements or articles in the local community monthly newsletter and the local media, information meetings that focus, for example, on curricular issues, and annual parent-teacher meetings. Management also encourages parents to come to the school to discuss any matters of direct concern to them.

 

There is a very high level of liaison with local community groups and various outside agencies. This is highly praised. This contact and cooperation seeks to support students and facilitate their needs. The links also strive to provide for students with additional educational needs in areas such as transfer, induction, progression and retention. Some of the most effective liaisons are those which have been facilitated by the school’s involvement in DEIS, of which the School Completion Programme (SCP) remains a significant feature. The school’s involvement in DEIS facilitates a direct access to supports provided by agencies, including, for example, Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP) workers, in both Mayfield and the Glen, and Ogra Chorcaí. Examples of the supports provided include lunch-time clubs and summer courses. In-school supports provided through SCP, such as the provision of an on-site worker who offers a variety of supports from academic tuition to mentoring, also make a very noteworthy contribution to students’ educational experience. The school’s involvement in the UCC Plus Programme (formally UCC Access), as well as its links with Janssen Pharmaceutical who facilitate an Access to Education/Bridge to Employment Programme, also make a huge contribution to students’ experiences of schooling and education.

 

1.4          Management of resources

 

With the exception of Wednesdays, teaching commences in Mayfield Community School at 9.00am and finishes at 4.00pm. A half day on Wednesday means that classes, which also begin at 9.00am, cease at 12.45pm. The morning breaks last for fifteen minutes and forty-five minutes are allocated for lunch. This creates a teaching week of twenty-seven hours and thirty minutes. These current timetabling arrangements fall short of what is required to ensure that all students have access to twenty-eight class contact hours. It is recommended that, in line with Circular M29/95 (Time in School), this situation be remedied. The school indicated that it would be addressing this matter and making adjustments to the timetable for future years or seeking additional resources to address the matter if this adjustment would compromise essential course provision.

 

The timetables provided to the inspection team illustrate that a significant number of permanent, whole-time teachers (PWT) are timetabled for less than the required eighteen hours of class-contact time. The inspection team were assured by senior management that, when all of the learning support and resource hours were allocated, no teacher would be in this situation. The principal blames the late receipt of the final teacher allocation for the situation, as outlined.

 

Certain information provided on the timetables given to the inspection team did not relate to actual instruction being furnished. As a result, it can be concluded that the timetables reviewed by the inspection team were, in essence, not the operating timetables. This is a serious cause for concern and is an area that needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. As a result of this, and because of the assurance provided by the principal in the preceding paragraph, the inspection team requested a revised set of timetables. At the time of publication these had not been received. Understandably therefore, it is strongly recommended that the deployment of staff be reviewed in the school, so as to ensure, for incremental salary purposes, that all staff members are timetabled for a minimum of eighteen class contact hours and that all information provided on timetables relates to the actual instruction taking place.

 

In addition, a number of teachers’ timetables have a period or two allocated for ‘GMS’ which translates to ‘Games’. When queried in relation to this, the principal informed the inspection team that this was time in lieu for after-school activities undertaken by teachers with students. As such provision takes place outside of school time, and is available to students on an optional basis, it has to be regarded as extracurricular provision. DES regulations do not allow for extracurricular activities to form part of a teacher’s timetable. It is recommended therefore that the teachers’ timetables be amended accordingly.

 

Management analyses current and future staffing needs on an ongoing basis, seeking additional resources as deemed necessary. To this end it must be stated that both the members of the board and the senior management team expressed some concern in relation to the school’s capacity to continue to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, whilst addressing the individual needs of all students. Currently, for example, the school is under-staffed in certain subjects and apparently over-staffed in others. One consequence of this is the phasing out of German in the school. It is the view of both, that this arises as a direct consequence of an over the quota scenario that the school finds itself in, as well as to the introduction of contracts of indefinite duration. Despite this, as far as is possible, teachers are appropriately employed according to their qualifications, skills and interests.

 

The design of the school plant accommodates three corridors, namely corridors A, B and C. These are connected via a number of large assembly areas or ‘malls’. Such areas provide meeting space for the students and house a number of notice-boards for the display of student work, as well as information relevant to the student body. A large mural, created by students, adorns one of the walls. The school’s single-story construction ensures that the building is fully accessible to all. Over the course of the whole school evaluation, corridor C was undergoing extensive renovations. It was clear from work underway that upon completion, this corridor will house state-of-the-art facilities for the teaching of Home Economics, Science, including Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and the technologies. The school plant also houses a canteen, which doubles as a hall for events such as the school show and Gradam. A space which is referred to as the library also exists, although currently it does not house any books or reference materials. This is a project that management hopes to undertake in the not too distant future. Planning in this regard is fully encouraged. The majority of the classrooms can be described as teacher or subject-based rooms. This is commended for the opportunity it provides for the creation of stimulating, subject relevant displays. Some fine examples of this were noted in a number of rooms, a practice that is further encouraged in all classrooms. The building also accommodates a number of offices and resource rooms for use by the teaching staff, as well as a parents’ room. This additional provision is commended. In the not too distant future, it is hoped that the school’s heating and fire systems will be upgraded.  

 

Both the school building and the immediate grounds are very well maintained. In light of this, the significant contribution of both the care-taking and cleaning staff of the school must be acknowledged and applauded. The very important roles that they and the administrative staff play in terms of the fulfilment of their assigned duties, as well as with regard to the support they provide to staff and students, merits much recognition and praise. 

 

As referenced previously, the school is very fortunate to have a very well developed, on-site sports complex comprising sports hall, swimming pool, gym, fitness centre, sauna, steam room and tennis courts. An all-weather pitch also exists, although at this point it is in need of upgrading. Planning for this is underway. The complex is managed by a sub-committee of the board of management and involves the local authority, Cork City Council. The principal acts as the link between the complex’s management group and the school’s board of management. A full-time manager oversees the day-to-day operation of the complex and therefore, as a result, the complex is currently self-finanacing. A number of the staff in the complex are past students of the school. While the complex facilities are available for use by the general public, via membership or as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ customer, the school’s needs are always prioritised. The school’s staff and students are offered a reduced-rate membership. The complex has developed its own health and safety statement. The prestigious White Flag quality award has been conferred on the complex on no less than three separate occassions. Despite its perceived ‘white elephant’ potential amongst a small percentage of board members, it was suggested to the board by the inspection team that this impressive facility might be used as a unique marketing tool for the school. 

 

The school facilities are made available in an appropriate manner to the local community. This is made possible, by and large, through the provision of adult education classes, which have been provided in the school since its inception. Historically these classes were extremely popular, with practically every room in the building in use three nights a week. In recent times, due in the main to competing sources, uptake has declined somewhat. The adult education programme in the school is organised and co-ordinated by a staff member, as part of a special duties post. The primary aim at present is to rebuild this service which, it would appear, is happening. Currently the programme runs one night in the week with six classes being offered. The subject matter of these classes is, very commendably, based on requests from members of the local community, and keeps pace with modern trends. Currently, for example, a South American dance class forms part of the programme offered. The progress towards reinvigoration of adult education to date is commended.

 

While budgets are not provided for the resourcing of individual, subject departments, each of the subject inspectors found that needs which arose in each of the inspected subject areas were, budget permitting, met on request. Each of the departments involved in the whole school evaluation was found to be well equipped in terms of teaching resources. This included provision for ICT. Management is to be commended for such provision. The integration of ICT into learning and teaching in Mayfield Community School is being prioritised by management. Currently there are 112 personal computers (PCs) available for student and teacher use within the school. There is a PC in each classroom. Three computer rooms house a total of seventy-eight PCs and there is a bank of PCs in the staffroom. With the completion of Summer Works Scheme 2007, there will be a further thirteen PCs in a computer-aided design (CAD) room. The Cavanagh Room, which contains eight PCs, is used for providing for students with special educational needs. The computer rooms are available, via a booking system, for all other subject areas. Six data projectors have also been provided for staff use. An ICT policy which outlines the development of ICT within the school has been developed and all students are required to sign an acceptable user policy. All first-year and TY students have computer studies on their timetable. In addition, the school funds a part-time ICT technician, whose assistance is proving invaluable to management, staff and students alike. Teachers complete a damage/fault report which is passed onto the technician, who is responsible for reviewing and, if at all possible, rectifying the identified problem. Other supports provided by the technician include; the induction of new staff members, downloading class materials for teachers and compiling, with the help of other staff members, slide presentations of school events and excursions. The technician also has a role to play in monitoring the history of internet usage in the school. Arising from this level of support, and the ICT training that has been provided, a wider use of this technology in learning and teaching is recommended.     

 

A revised health and safety statement was adopted by the school’s board of management in June 2006. It is clear from a review of the statement that it relates to the specific hazards and protocols in Mayfield Community School. A safety officer has also been appointed. As appropriate, the contents of the statement are communicated to staff, students and visitors. Upon completion of the renovation and upgrading works that are currrently underway in the C corridor, it is recommended that safety statements relating to each of the subjects housed there be prepared. Simultaneously, other specialist subject rooms or facilities should be audited in relation to health and safety. These statements should be included as part of the school’s overall statement. Staff involvement in the drafting of these statements is paramount, as they possess a level of experitse and experience that would assist in the identification of hazards, the determination of the associated levels of risk as well as in the establishment of required control measures.

 

In line with one of the objectives in the school’s mission statement, ‘to nurture in our students a reverence for all creation and a care for the earth’, the school has registered for the Green-Schools Programme and is working towards obtaining Green Flag status. To this end, and following a waste audit that was organised in the school, recycling bins have been provided for cans and bottles. Paper recycling is also ongoing in the school. A garden, which can be accessed from the science laboratories and art rooms, has been developed by the students. In addition, the school has, under the Race Against Waste initiative and in conjunction with Cork City Council, been involved in an anti-litter campaign. For its efforts in this regard the school was awarded a national ECO UNESCO environmental award. The vision outlined in the mission statement, along with the associated actions, is commended.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

 

School development planning (SDP) in Mayfield Community School dates back to 1994, with the original school plan being drafted in 1996. Simultaneously, subject departments initiated work in relation to the development of subject plans. Twelve years on it is very apparent that the culture of the ‘working group’ is accepted as ‘the’ modus operandi for the task of SDP and that it is very positively perceived across all sectors of the school community. This stems from the fact that all partners believe that this approach enables them to contribute ideas, express concerns and make suggestions in an open and constructive manner. The fact that the school has engaged with the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) is applauded. As a result, a number of whole- staff planning days have benefited from the input of the personnel attached to the initiative. Input from other qualified personnel has been availed of as required.

 

The recently revised mission statement is viewed as central to all decisions made in relation to policies and practices with, as one board member put it, the students’ welfare being at the heart of all decision-making processes. This is very positive. Currently both the principal and deputy principal co-ordinate the school’s planning activities, providing much guidance and direction. Whole-school involvement of board members, teachers, parents and when and where appropriate students, is a feature of the planning process. This approach, which reflects best practice, is highly praised.  

 

Since 2003 a considerable amount of time and energy has gone into the development of school policies. As a result, this section of the plan, which feeds into the permanent section, is quite well developed. The majority of the legally required policies have been drafted and ratified by the board. Details relating to the two remaining legally required policies can be found in section 1.2. 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. A raft of other policies has also been put in place, fifteen in total. This is indicative of the level of commitment of the school to the process. In addition, work is either planned or underway in relation to policies which have been identified as having a particular relevance to Mayfield Community School. This outlook is also applauded.

 

It is clear, from a review of the developmental section of the school plan, that the identification of annual planning priorities is also a significant part of SDP in Mayfield Community School. A recording system, which dates back to 2003/2004, summarises, for each year, the completed elements of the school plan, the areas requiring policies and the identified priorities. Such documentation, when the summary statement for 2007/2008 and 2003/2004 are compared, demonstrates that much progress has been made. An accompanying record sheet details the person or planning group responsible for each identified area, a task summary, a date schedule and a list of desired outcomes. This level of record keeping is applauded, both for the clarity it assures and the accountability it guarantees. The empirical approach that these records and action plans indicate is also commended. Unusually, particularly so in recent times, no mention has been given to what the inspection team views as the three, key challenges that currently face the school, that is, falling enrolment, high levels of student absenteeism and large numbers of suspensions. It is recommended that the need to address these three areas be identified as developmental priorities. This would seek to ensure a progressive and planned approach to reversing the trend in each of the three identified areas.

 

One of the most significant outcomes of SDP, as identified by the management and staff of Mayfield Community School, is the sense of ownership that it has created amongst staff in relation to the school’s policies and practices, as well as the scope it has provided for school-community involvement in the identification of developmental priorities. In recent times the school reports that the focus has moved from the very basic need of developing a school plan, to planning so as to ensure a good standard of student learning and therefore improved outcomes. This awakening, which is consistent with that which lies at the heart of SDP, is viewed as most positive. The plan to publish the school plan on the recently revamped school website is fully encouraged.

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

 

The curriculum offered in Mayfield Community School truly seeks to provide for the broadest range of students’ interests and needs. This is clear from the number and range of programmes and subjects offered in the school, with all available programmes being offered as the school seeks ‘to promote a curriculum designed to accommodate individual learning styles so that all may experience success’.

 

The following core subjects are studied by students as part of the school’s Junior Certificate programme; Gaeilge, English, Maths, Religion, History, Geography, French, Science, SPHE, CSPE and Physical Education. In first year, students are introduced, via a taster programme, to a range of option subjects including Art, Craft and Design, Business Studies, Home Economics, Materials Technology (Woodwork), Metalwork and Technical Graphics. This approach is commended, as students get to study each of these six subjects for half a year, prior to choosing, at the end of first year, the two or three option subjects they wish to study for the Junior Certificate examination. First-year students also get to study Music and Computer Studies. For core subjects, classes in junior cycle are banded, with provision being made for the formation of a smaller Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) class. All of the option subject classes are organised on a mixed-ability basis. Consideration is also given to the gender make up of each class, when classes are being formed. The use of some concurrent timetabling of core subjects, such as Gaeilge, English and Maths, supports the movement of students between higher, ordinary and foundation level classes. In some instances, for example in the provision that is made for English and Maths in the current third year, the time-tabling of an additional teacher allows for the formation of an extra class in these core subjects. This is also worthy of praise for the equality of access to levels that it ensures for students. Management is also encouraged in its efforts to seek to provide further for this, as much and as often as is practicable.

 

The time allocated to the delivery of each of the junior cycle subjects outlined is, broadly speaking, satisfactory. However, on a more specific level, there are some issues with the school’s current provision for Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and History. Currently, each of the subjects is underprovided for on the school timetable. In relation to CSPE currently students are receiving less than half of what they are entitled to, which is seventy-hours instruction time, over the three years of the Junior Certificate programme. With regard to SPHE a similar scenario applies, yet according to Circular M11/03, all first-, second- and third-year students must be timetabled for one period of SPHE per week. The current provision of just two classes of History, through each of the years of the junior cycle, also falls short of recommendations of the history inspectorate, as found in Looking at History, 2006. As a result, it is recommended that the under provision identified in each of the forenamed subjects be addressed as soon as is practicable.

 

The school’s JCSP programme is targeted at students who are at-risk of early school leaving. The programme’s success is no where more clearly reflected than in the fact that all of the original participants in the programme, which was first introduced in September 2004, sat their Junior Certificate examination last June. A number of the JCSP initiatives are undertaken with students each year, for example the ‘Readathon’ initiative, which proved very successful. The school is encouraged in its intentions to look at applying for initiatives that focus on developing numeracy. Close links with the SEN team, the SCP co-ordinator and the HSCL co-ordinator have helped make this a success story in the school. Subject teachers are encouraged to use the subject-based and cross-curricular statements with students in the delivery of topics, as well as the various support materials that are available. A continued, heightened consciousness towards students’ literacy needs in all classrooms through, for example, the ‘key word’ approach is also advocated.

 

Transition Year (TY) is compulsory in Mayfield Community School, although in exceptional cases students have been facilitated to progress directly from third year into the school’s Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. The formal TY programme is mainly organised around core and option subjects. A taster programme for what could be deemed optional subjects, for example Accounting, Biology and Construction Studies, operates in TY. Four subject blocks, which are based on student preferences, are constructed, and over the course of the year students have the option of studying two subjects from each block. This mechanism is to be praised, as it helps to ensure that all students get to sample most, if not all of their preferences. Individual teaching plans for each subject feed into the overall school plan for TY. It is clear, from a comparison of the TY plan for 2000/2001 and the current plan, which overall demonstrates significant progression, that regular review and revision of teaching plans, as well as of the programme itself, is encouraged and facilitated. In future programme reviews some consideration might be given to the provision of modules, such as the astronomy module currently provided for, that would further draw on the individual interests and talents of the teaching staff. Such an approach would expose students to subject matter or topics not normally studied in Junior and Leaving Certificate. A very large range of complimentary activities is organised as part of TY. These activities can be broadly categorised as follows; school-based workshops, guest speakers, trips out, fundraising projects, UCC Plus Programme initiatives and competitions. All TY students are also encouraged to avail of the opportunities that are manifested in, for example, involvement in the school bank, becoming a member of the Meitheal team and participation in Junior Achievement programmes. Much success has been experienced by such involvement over the years. Staff are encouraged to explore the use of alternative modes of assessment in determining the progress and achievement of TY students.

 

The curriculum offered to senior-cycle students makes provision for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Preparation Programme (LCVP) and the LCA. All students who are not participating in the LCA programme undertake to participate in the LCVP. While all students may not fit into the pre-determined subject groupings, and therefore may not be eligible to sit the LCVP exam, all students benefit from completing the link modules. In fifth and sixth year, students study five core subjects, namely Gaeilge, English, Maths, Physical Education and Religion. Currently, students also choose four subjects from a total of fifteen optional subjects. Unfortunately, this will reduce to fourteen next year, as staffing levels are making if difficult to make continued provision in the school for German. Sufficient provision is made for the timetabling of each of the two LCVP link modules. As is sometimes the case in junior-cycle classes, Gaeilge, English and Mathematics are concurrently timetabled in both fifth and sixth year. Simultaneously, in almost of all of these instances, provision is also made for the formation of an additional class through, as outlined previously, the timetabling of an extra teacher. Once again, both practices are commended and therefore encouraged.

 

Ongoing commitment from teachers and management contributes to the effective delivery of the LCA programme in Mayfield Community School. The organisation and planning of the programme, as evidenced by the examination of the LCA planning folder, is being successfully facilitated. Systems are in place to meet programme objectives. Teachers are exploring the development of an adult literacy course for LCA students. This is commended. Management and teachers should be proactive in this regard. Overall, careful timetable planning, incorporating blocks of work experience, supports the delivery of the curriculum. However, it is recommended that provision be made for the timetabling of Social Education for a minimum of five periods each week over the two-year programme. A personal reflection day is held for LCA students to initiate the process of reflective practice, a skill that is necessary for the satisfactory completion of the personal reflection task. This is commended. The development of these skills could be enhanced by the inclusion of a weekly period for the personal reflection task. This might also be addressed in future timetabling. It is good to note that a range of elective modules is offered to the students, not least because it presents the opportunity for further provision of a broad-based education. Management could investigate the inclusion of science elective modules in LCA, especially in view of their acceptance as an entry requirement for some beauty therapy courses.

 

By and large, in both junior and senior cycle, two double periods are provided for all option subjects. This has a particular relevance for subjects in which practical work is required. Periodically, one of these two double periods can extend over either the morning or lunch time break. Inspectors have been assured by teachers involved in the five subject inspections included as part of the whole school evaluation, that where this occurs the provision of a second, uninterrupted, double period ensures that work and activities can be planned and provided for accordingly. Some concern does exist however, in relation to two particular situations. Firstly in relation to the first-year timetable, where as part of the taster programme only one double is provided and this is timetabled over a lunch period and secondly, where both of the double periods provided for a year group extend over a break time. A review of all timetables suggests that currently this occurs on approximately six class timetables. This is not regarded as good timetabling practice and is not in the best interests of good quality learning and teaching. As a result, it is recommended that an avoidance of same when timetabling in the future be considered.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

 

Students attending Mayfield Community School are provided with a wide and open choice of programmes, subjects and levels, within the limitations of the resources available. This approach is, once again, consistent with a vision expressed in the school’s mission statement which seeks to ‘encourage students to take ownership and responsibility’

 

The system of subject choice that operates, both in junior and senior cycle, is designed to maximise students’ access to the subjects offered on the school’s curriculum. Initially, prospective second and fifth-year students are provided with a list of subjects and are requested to choose, in order of preference, the subjects they would like to study for the relevant state examination. Student preferences are then fed into a computer and the facility scheduler programme is used to create ‘best fit’ subject blocks. Students make their final subject selection from these blocks. Management reports a 98% satisfaction rating in relation to students’ first and second subject choices. The taster programmes, which operate in first and fourth year, assist students in the making of informed decisions relating to subjects and levels. This, along with the open approach to subject choice is to be commended, as both approaches seek to put the students first. They also support equality of access to all subjects by boys and girls, another laudable feature of the school’s arrangements for subject choice. Following decisions made with regard to subjects, and within a reasonable timeframe, the school exercises an admirable degree of flexibility in the case of students who seek to change an option subject.   

 

Parents are fully included in the programme and subject-choice systems that operate in Mayfield Community School. They are duly informed by letter, or as required by telephone, when programme and subject choices need to be made. Programme and subject choice meetings are arranged annually by the guidance counsellors. Input by other staff members is availed of as appropriate. Clearly, the information presented to parents and students is presented in a coherent manner. In addition, clear guidance is supplied in relation to the implications of choices made. The guidance counsellors, along with the support of the subject teachers, seek to ensure that students are actively and appropriately facilitated in making the choices required. For this, they are highly praised. 

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extracurricular provision

 

The level of provision for co-curricular and extracurricular activity in Mayfield Community School is applauded. The activities that are organised for the students and the opportunities offered to them are very wide-ranging, seeking to provide for the aesthetic, cultural, local, social and sporting interests of the student cohort. This resonates deeply with the vision expressed in the following objective from the school’s mission statement, ‘to provide an environment where the intellectual, spiritual, creative, physical, moral and cultural needs of the students, are identified and addressed’.  

 

Much of the activities are subject-led and therefore planned and provided for by subject departments. The greater percentage of activities are provided on a voluntary basis by the staff. This additional commitment and dedication is commended. It is very positive to note that funding is available for students whose financial circumstances may limit their ability to otherwise avail of some of the planned activities. Links with outside agencies, designed to promote and support this area of school life, have also been established, and efforts are made on a continual basis to foster and further develop these links. A healthy level of interest and participation by students in organised activities is reported by management and staff. The TY newsletter is very supportive of this claim, detailing students’ participation and achievement in a myriad of activities and events.

 

Activities such as school tours, trips to the Gaeltacht, fieldtrips, excursions, theatre & cinema trips, outings to museums and heritage centres, gallery visits, participation in national events such as the Rotary Club Youth Leadership Competition, as well as visiting speakers, are woven into the educational experiences of students attending the school. An after-school science club, which is proving very popular with the students, fosters interest in this area, whilst facilitating participation in the Young Scientist & Technology competition. New opportunities are also constantly being examined.

 

Students are afforded the opportunity to partake in a range of sports that have either a recreational, competitive or community basis. This reflects another objective of the school’s mission statement, namely, ‘to ensure opportunity is provided for pupils to participate in a variety of physical activities and experience a sense of wellbeing and self-confidence that arises from good health and fitness’. Historically, Mayfield Community School has experienced much success in national sporting competitions and events. For example, the school has won the Cork and Munster Colleges titles in both hurling and Gaelic football. In addition to hurling and Gaelic football, other team sports that students are currently engaged in include soccer and basketball. In recent times, the school reached the Cork schools football final. In addition, students interested in pitch and putt and tennis are also provided for. On-site facilities to support the school’s provision for sporting activities are very impressive. Students are also regularly taken to see international soccer games, and trips to outdoor pursuit centres take place on an annual basis.

 

Students’ interested or talented in music are also well provided for in the school. The school choir meets once a week during lunchtimes. Students are encouraged to become involved in a myriad of different musical events and activities. For example, students have taken part in school shows, performed at Masses and Christmas recitals in the local church, have participated in what has been termed the ‘M’ or ‘Mayfield’ Factor, a school-based talent show based on the hit television show of a similar name, and have recorded singles and albums. This level of provision is applauded.   

 

Staff and students are fully aware of the positive impact of such provision, with both groups highlighting the very favourable contribution that an involvement in co-curricular and extracurricular activities makes to overall relations. Management and staff are encouraged in their efforts to sustain and develop this very important and significant part of school life.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

 

Planning for learning and teaching is at an advanced level in the school. Teachers are committed to planning at both an individual and collaborative level. Effective individual planning and preparation for lessons was clearly in evidence. Teachers had planned for, prepared and used a range of resources in lessons, all of which sought to support students’ learning. Individual planning and preparation also clearly supported the teaching strategies employed in lessons. This is commended. 

 

Subject departments are well established and are working on the development of individual subjects and programmes, common agreed procedures within subjects, and on the improvement of learning outcomes for students. Subject co-ordinators are in place to facilitate this collaborative process and meetings are facilitated by school management. Formal planning meetings are regularly organised and written records are kept. Teachers also meet and plan collaboratively on an informal basis. The outcomes of this collaborative process, in a number of subject areas, has been the development of subject plans and agreed teaching programmes. Whole-school guidance planning is at a developmental stage. Subject areas that form part of the TY programme have also developed good quality plans for their subjects.

 

Some subject departments have developed the planning process to the level of review of particular aspects of the subject plan and have articulated clear priorities for the subject. A number of subject departments are also engaged in planning for the development of resources and for the integration of ICT into learning and teaching. The level of collaborative planning in evidence in the school is to be highly commended as is the commitment of teachers to engage in the process.

 

In general it is recommended that the subject departments continue to build on the achievements of collaborative planning to date. The creation of a task group to oversee the development of a whole-school guidance plan should be considered. In Material Technology (Wood) and Construction Studies it is recommended that a single subject department for the technologies be considered to maximise the impact of comprehensive planning for these associated subjects. In other subject areas, recommendations focused on the need to further develop subject and curricular plans to include a range of learning and teaching methodologies that would benefit the diversity of students in the school. 

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

 

All lessons observed demonstrated distinct learning intentions which were shared with the students. Lessons observed were clearly structured so that content and pace were appropriate to the class group, the subject matter and the time available. In many instances lessons commenced with a review of previous learning. This was very effective in consolidating the learning that had previously taken place.

 

A range of appropriate and varied teaching methodologies were employed. These included questioning, practical activities, group work, class discussion and written work. In a minority of lessons, pair work was very successful in engaging students. Students benefited from helping each other in these group activities. They worked collaboratively and the activities supported the development of their understanding and skills. However, groups composed of larger numbers resulted in some students in each group being uninvolved in the task at hand. It is therefore recommended that in the organisation of group work, in both practical and theory lessons, consideration be given to the formation of small student groups, to better facilitate the active engagement and learning of all students. In all instances where group work was employed as a learning and teaching strategy, teachers constantly circled the classroom, giving appropriate attention and support to individual needs. This is noted as good practice and is therefore highly praised. To build on the good work observed in all lessons, it is recommended that teachers focus on the use of differentiated learning and teaching strategies so as to ensure the continued inclusion of all students in lessons, particularly those for whom English is a second language.

 

The use of key words, the introduction of short manageable topics, the inclusion of strategies to keep students on task, the incorporation of a range of stimulus materials and the inclusion of activities that ensured an application of skills were very effectively used in some lessons. There was an impressive focus on literacy in all of the JCSP lessons observed. It is recommended that all new or key terms be retained on the board as lessons progress as this strategy would reinforce, to a greater degree, students’ learning. Questioning was effectively employed in many lessons. In these instances, all students were included in the proceedings through the use of appropriate questions and comments. Higher order questions were used in a number of lessons to good effect.

 

There were some very fine examples of linking the lesson content to the everyday life experiences of the students, thus making the subject tangible and more relevant. In one lesson everyday terms for specific animals, for example fat pigs, were used in tandem with the correct scientific term. An appropriate range of resources was used to support teaching. The blackboard, worksheets, flashcards and pre-prepared acetates were used, in many instances, to maintain focus on the lesson content. Worksheets were successfully employed in many lessons in the different subject areas to help the students engage with the assignments and to support the development of learning. In a guidance lesson, good use was made of flip charts, some of which had been prepared prior to the lesson. A high-quality colour projector slide was employed in one Irish lesson. Students used wooden cubes to model various shapes which they then drew in orthographic projection in a graphics and construction lesson.

 

ICT was effectively and innovatively integrated in some lessons. A PowerPoint presentation and task sheets were used in senior cycle geography lessons to focus students and to stimulate responses to questions. ICT was resourcefully employed to outline the main learning points of some science lessons and was successful in stimulating students’ interest and participation, as visual images helped develop class discussion on the lesson content. Teachers are encouraged to expand the use of ICT in the teaching of all subjects, particularly in view of the availability of data projectors in the school.

 

The classroom and laboratory environments were well-organised and appropriately stimulating, and therefore conducive to learning and teaching. There was evidence of displays of appropriate posters and equipment. Of particular merit was the display of students’ work, observed in some classrooms. This practice is encouraged in all classrooms as a means of acknowledging students’ efforts. In addition, and as a means of further enhancing the learning environment, the display of word lists, in particular that of new terminology which might prove difficult for some students, is recommended in all classrooms.

 

Classroom management was effective and conducive to a safe, orderly and participative learning environment. Discipline was sensitively maintained, as required. Teacher-student interactions were engaging, purposeful and mutually respectful. There was active student involvement in the lessons and students generally demonstrated a willingness to co-operate with their peers and their teachers. Teachers sought to encourage learning at all times.

 

There was evidence of students’ commitment to and enthusiasm for their subjects. Students demonstrated a level of knowledge and skills appropriate to their abilities. Independent learning was promoted through appropriate strategies. At all times, students’ contributions were encouraged and affirmed. Students were praised as often as possible during lessons and due consideration was given to fostering students’ personal sense of self-respect and self-confidence. In conclusion, overall there is a good quality of learning and teaching in Mayfield Community School.

 

4.3          Assessment

 

The school has assessment and homework policies. The assessment practices observed over the course of the whole-school evaluation were in keeping with these policies and included a scheme for the affirmation of responsible behaviour. Teachers were commended for the use of a range of assessment methods during lessons, in examinations and in the monitoring of homework. Similarly, good practice was observed in procedures for recording and reporting to parents the outcomes of assessments, both formal and informal. The outcomes of formal assessments are conveyed to parents through the issuing of school reports, both at the end of the autumn term and again at the end of the school year. The student journal is used, as required, to convey information to parents on a day-to-day basis. Parents are also encouraged to attend parent-teacher meetings and other information sessions at which students’ attainments and talents are discussed. The practice of incorporating the outcomes of some informal assessments into some formal examinations was commended and is recommended for more widespread use, especially in the context of agreed criteria for the aggregation of scores to be drawn up by subject departments.

 

The assessment process begins before the formal entry of new students. Students are assigned to classes following consultation with teachers in primary schools, parents and external agencies. Teachers involved in provision for special educational needs have devised a programme of diagnostic testing, particularly during first year, to refine the conclusions reached in the initial consultations and to determine the allocation of resources in support of students. The guidance department administers a standardised test of educability in the autumn of first year so that student progress may be more accurately monitored against a national standard and to inform school and student decision-making. This is in keeping with the school’s policy of analysing the results of examinations, particularly the results of state examinations. Informal, class-based assessment is a regular feature of lessons throughout the school. Good communication of results within the school ensures accuracy in the ongoing monitoring process.

 

Formal examinations are held before Christmas for all classes and, prior to the end of the school year, for students in non-state examination classes. Pre-examinations take place early in the spring term for those about to sit the state examinations. Assessments of oral language competence are made during the Leaving Certificate course. A recommendation is made that a broader assessment be made of oral competence in junior cycle. A process of consultation has begun to advance the proposal that, in addition to the reports of formal examinations which are sent to parents, the results of informal and class-based assessments be communicated to parents at the end of October and at Easter each year. This is encouraged.

 

All students in fifth year take an aptitude test, the results of which are individually reported to students. Other instruments, such as interest inventories, are also used during the senior cycle to inform students’ educational and vocational decisions. These are reported on a less formal level.

 

Informal assessment of students’ knowledge and understanding was observed in all lessons. The use of questions and the affirmation of students’ responses were noted in all cases. Homework was monitored and corrected in most instances. The levels of complexity at which questions and homework were set were appropriate to the levels of students’ maturity. The variety of homework assigned was commended in one subject report. The conduct of lessons, including roll calls, recapitulation of previous lessons, assignment of homework and the recording of results of assessments, facilitates ongoing formative assessment and the monitoring of student progress. The school has engaged with the Assessment for Learning (AfL) project. Recommendations are made in subject reports relating to the implementation of strategies for questioning and formative assessment, which are promoted by AfL.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

 

Mayfield Community School has a long history of looking after students with special educational needs. The school’s provision is based on individual and small-group withdrawal, the formation of a smaller class group in each of the years of the junior cycle and the option of small-group tuition as it may arise in subject option blocks.

 

Currently two teachers, who are qualified in the area, act as joint co-ordinators of the school’s provision for these students. This reflects best practice. One of the co-ordinators is a special duties teacher while the other does not have a post. Both co-ordinators work extensively, and in a very committed fashion, to ensure adequate provision for students who have been identified as in need of additional support. When one considers that the school has a DES allocation for special needs that amounts to, approximately 167 hours, or a little more than seven and a half whole-time teacher equivalents, this is, undoubtedly, a very onerous task. In addition, both of the teachers are heavily timetabled to teach English and/or French to mainstream classes. Unfortunately, at present, this cannot be avoided, as the school is experiencing a shortage of teachers in these two subject areas. It is clear therefore, that the co-ordinators, despite the very good work that is being carried out, are in serious need of additional assistance and support themselves. A review of the workload attached to the role of the co-ordinators, in addition to a consideration of deploying additional, interested and qualified staff to the area is, therefore, recommended. It would be wise initially to discuss at length any such review with the two co-ordinators, who were found to have some very good suggestions in relation to how the current work and the overall provision for students with special educational needs, might be re-organised and managed in Mayfield Community School. This could, perhaps, form part of the planned review of the school’s schedule of posts.

 

The two co-ordinators, the principal and/or deputy principal, the HSCL co-ordinator and the chaplain meet once a week to discuss provision. This is commendable practice. Plans are in place to develop a space that would accommodate two offices, one for each co-ordinator. It is envisaged that these offices would flank an area designed to provide storage space for accumulated resources, access to ICT and a dedicated teaching space. This is fully encouraged.

 

With the information supplied to the inspection team, although incomplete (see section 1.4), it can be concluded that a large number of teachers, fifteen or more, have currently been assigned by the principal to assist in the delivery of learning support and resource hours to individual students. This is not consistent with best practice. That said, it is important to state that, as much as is possible, every effort is made by the co-ordinators to have the same teacher administering support to identified students for whatever number of class periods the students are entitled and to match the students needs with the expertise of the available staff. Admittedly however, this is not always feasible. Communication with all of the teachers involved in the provision of learning support or resource hours takes place mainly on an informal basis. With the volume of teachers currently involved, consideration ought to be given to providing formal, regular, meeting time for all of those involved in the delivery of this type of support. A pack prepared by the two co-ordinators, which contains information relating to the concepts and techniques associated with teaching students with learning difficulties, is distributed to all teachers involved in the delivery of support. The pack also houses a number of blank forms onto which teachers are requested to log information relating to the support planned and provided by them to individual students. For obvious reasons this measure is applauded. All things considered, and as alluded to previously, it is strongly recommended that some consideration be given to the establishment of a smaller, more stable, core team of self-selected teachers, who are interested in the delivery of learning support and who are committed to obtaining the necessary training and qualifications designed to assist and support them in their work. Best practice is where this team is representative of a cross section of subjects offered in a school. The Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe (ICEP Europe), formally Profexcel, delivers online courses to teachers who work with children with diverse learning needs. Further information can be located at www.icepe.eu. Furthermore, it is recommended that any training availed of be shared with the whole staff during, for example, in-service days.

 

Leading on from the last point, in the past some whole-staff in-service, focused on improving the quality of provision in the school for students with special educational needs, has been availed of. When one considers the volume of students in the school who have been identified as being in need of some additional support, consideration should be given to the provision of regular and on-going whole-staff in-service or professional development. This should focus on themes like literacy, numeracy and differentiation and provide for a transfer of identified approaches into the mainstream classroom.  

 

The early identification of students with special educational needs, by testing prior to entry and through effective communications with the teachers of sixth class in the feeder, primary schools, is a very positive feature of the school’s provision for students with special educational needs. Both of these initiatives greatly assist the school in the identification of, and provision for, students with special educational needs. As a means of supporting learning and teaching, both management and the relevant staff are encouraged to introduce a system that facilitates the re-testing or re-assessment of students for whom resource hours have been allocated. This would be in addition to subject-based assessment, which is well developed in the school, and should involve the re-administration of the tests that were used initially to identify students with special educational needs. This should be carried out on an ongoing basis at regular, specified intervals. This would assist all concerned in assessing the level of progress being made by students with resource entitlements. This is also essential to the implementation of a profiling system or the production of individual education plans (IEPs), which, it is good to note, the school is currently exploring. The fact that parents are always consulted before extra support is provided, and in instances where a reduced curriculum might be deemed advantageous, is very favourable. Finally, following the recommended review of the school’s current organisation of its provision for students with special educational needs, the school is also advised to formulate and publish its policy in relation to this area.

 

Up to recently, the school has not experienced a large intake of students for whom English is a second language, otherwise referred to as ESL students. As a result, they are at the point of developing a more formalised approach that is intended to support the integration and inclusion of these students in the school. This is fully encouraged. At the moment, additional support is provided to these students by withdrawing them from, for example, Irish and Religion. The two teachers who are charged with the co-ordination of the supports provided to students with special educational needs are also involved in the organisation of the support provided to ESL students. With a view to the recommendation made in the first paragraph, it is suggested that management encourages other staff members to explore and co-ordinate this area. Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) should be of good assistance in this regard. Information relating to IILT and the supports it offers can be accessed at www.iilt.ie. Consideration might also be given to the organisation of some whole-staff in-service that focuses on providing for ESL students in the mainstream classroom.

 

The chaplain’s role, as detailed in section 5.2, also extends to the provision of support for ESL students. Students are met by the chaplain on a weekly basis, or as required, with a view to assisting them to adjust socially and culturally to their new surroundings. The theme of the recent Gradam awards was one which sought to embrace diversity, through an acknowledgement and celebration of the ten or so nationalities currently represented in the school. It also sought to highlight the very simple, Christian message of respect for all, which is espoused in the school’s motto. This whole-school recognition and appraisal of diversity is applauded.

 

Approaches which have become custom and practice in the school, such as a book scheme, the provision of material supports, the non-application of charges and a fund for co-curricular and extracurricular activities are highly supportive of students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. These practices are highly commended.

 

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

 

The guidance allocation for Mayfield Community School, which amounts to two, full time posts, one ex-quota and one under the Guidance Enhancement initiative, is used very effectively in order to provide personal, educational and vocational guidance for all students. Structured guidance programmes are delivered to all students in all year groups and in all programmes, as required. Senior cycle classes benefit from the provision of at least one period of Guidance. A satisfactory level of contact with other class groups is facilitated in a number of ways. The members of the guidance department have recognised the need to provide greater guidance input to second-year students. This realisation illustrates the departments’ self-awareness, its objectivity in terms of self-evaluation and its progressiveness in terms of planning. All three qualities are commended. The guidance department aspires to having timetabled access to each year group. Perhaps in time this might be facilitated. The school houses a well developed and appropriately equipped guidance suite.  

 

One of the strengths of the guidance provision in Mayfield Community School is the fact that a wide range of staff, both formally and informally, are involved in the delivery of guidance and support. Specific details in relation to this can be found in the appended Guidance Subject Inspection Report. This reflects best practice and promotes whole-school involvement in this very important aspect of school life.  

 

Undeniably, the school’s support for and care of its student cohort is one of its most significant strengths. As a result, it is recommended that the work of the school in this regard, of which it can be justifiably proud, be more widely publicised. A care team, comprised of the principal and deputy principal, both guidance counsellors, the chaplain and the HSCL co-ordinator, as well as an addiction counsellor who volunteers her time and services, unite to form the backbone of the student support system. This group, who meet weekly, help in the identification of ‘at risk’ students and provide in-house support and guidance for students, as well as organising referrals to external agencies, as appropriate. This is achieved through a review of referral forms, which are usually completed and submitted to the team by the year tutors. This usually follows on from a concern that might be expressed by a class tutor or subject teacher in relation to a particular student. The care team is also responsible for a number of planning initiatives, for example in the recent past, the development of a comprehensive, critical incident policy. The existence of such a team is noted as best practice. 

 

Over and above the individuals identified previously, other key players in terms of the provision of support to students include the two co-ordinators of support for students with special educational needs, the year tutor and the class tutors. Clearly, the very structured meeting programme operating in the school facilitates the communication amongst these individuals and the wider staff body, of information relating to an individual student’s need for additional support. These meetings provide for, what one staff member described as, ‘people links’, which is viewed as the success story of the school’s support structures. The provision therefore is again applauded, with the recommendation that some consideration also be given to providing for the attendance of one or both of the special educational needs co-ordinators at the weekly care team meeting.

 

The year tutor and class tutor structures make a significant contribution to the school’s provision for student support. Their direct links to and communication with individual year and class groups respectively, enables them to gain a considerable insight into matters such as students’ needs, behaviour and application to their studies, attendance and punctuality, and home situations. This information, which as deemed necessary is communicated to the care team, feeds into the level of guidance and support that might be needed by individual students at any one time. One of the most significant changes to the schedule of posts in the school over the years has resulted in the year tutors moving up through the years with the class originally assigned to them. This is commended for the positive effect it is having on addressing both the long term and evolving needs of students.

 

It is clearly accepted that, in addition to the care team and the individuals outlined above, all staff members have a role to play in terms of the provision of support and care and therefore considerable emphasis is also placed on the role of each individual subject teacher. This is best summarised in the following statement, taken from the staff handbook ‘all pastoral care has a teaching element and all teaching, a caring element’. Clear evidence was seen in relation to the fulfilment of this role during the in-school week, both in classrooms and along corridors.

 

There is much evidence to suggest that the school’s HSCL co-ordinator plays a pivotal role in terms of forging, fostering and maintaining communication with parents. This takes place with a view to encouraging parents to become more actively involved in their child’s education and to encourage co-operation between students, parents and teachers. A review of documents relating to the work of the HSCL co-ordinator clearly indicates the continued and sustained efforts that are made to achieve this goal. Regarding projects undertaken, of particular note are the fact that parents of first-year students are invited to attend with them on the first day back in September, the very useful introductory pack provided to them and the establishment of a ‘Parents Helping Parents’ group.

 

In addition to the work engaged in with the care team, the school’s full-time chaplain also seeks to respond to the spiritual and religious needs of the members of the school community. To this end, the chaplain co-ordinates a number of activities associated with students’ faith journey. This includes; the provision of opportunities for students to pray and reflect, one-to-one or small group pastoral counselling, co-ordination of the work of the peer ministry programme or Meitheal, co-ordinating the TY mentoring programme, which teams TY students with first-year students, and the organisation of liturgical displays. In addition, efforts are also made to respond to the spiritual and religious needs of staff members through, for example, the organisation of meditations. The chaplain, along with the teachers of Religion seek ‘to give due recognition to all religious beliefs’ and through their work ‘to reflect and reinforce the Christian ethos of the community’, as outlined in the school’s mission statement.   

 

The school’s Meitheal group, which is comprised of three fifth-year students, is another element of the school’s support system. These students, as part of the school’s induction programme, work closely with first-year students, organising activities and events which are designed to help these to get to know one another and to settle into their new school environment. The group’s energy, commitment and enthusiasm is applauded.

 

While SPHE is recognised as contributing to the school’s provision of guidance and support to students, its impact is being limited by the under-timetabling of the subject, as detailed previously in section 3.1. A subject co-ordinator, who is very commendably involved in the teaching of the subject, has been appointed, and an SPHE programme is in place. When the timetabling shortfall has been addressed the programme should be expanded to ensure that a developmental approach is used in the delivery of all ten modules to each of the junior cycle year groups. A relatively permanent team of four, female teachers is involved in the delivery of SPHE. The future search for teachers of SPHE, should seek to ensure a greater gender balance in the make-up of the team. In line with best practice, consideration should also be given to ensuring that teachers assigned to a class group for SPHE in first year, retain that class group for the three years of the programme. Some training has been accessed by each teacher. Planning to ensure continued access to further training is encouraged. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is delivered as part of SPHE in junior cycle. At senior cycle a cross-curricular approach is used to deliver RSE. The school’s existing RSE policy is due for revision. As per Circulars M4/95 and M20/96, this should be prioritised. To this end, a set of guidelines, a template and a sample policy are available on the website of the DES at www.education.gov.ie.

 

All of the above bears testament to the vision for this area, as set down in the school’s mission statement, ‘to provide a well-ordered, sensitive, caring environment where all students’ needs are identified and addressed.’ As a means of formalising and documenting this whole-school approach to guidance and support, it is recommended that the development of a whole-school guidance plan be prioritised. Finally, and to conclude, the school’s underlying philosophy in relation to its provision of guidance and support for students is best summarised in the following, which was provided by one of the members of the school’s care team, ‘care is key to students’ learning – the very basic needs that are met through this school’s provision of care for its students paves the way for learning to take place, otherwise learning can not and will not happen’

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • Mayfield Community School ’s mission statement is lived out on a day-to-day basis because the staff, who are the very embodiment of the statement, truly support and foster the vision it sets out.
  • The board of management is properly constituted and operates according to the instruments and articles of management for community and comprehensive schools.
  • The senior management team demonstrate a good working relationship and have adopted a partnership approach to the management of the school. They possess a shared vision for the school.
  • The assistant principals, as members of the middle management team, fully recognise that they have a role to play in terms of assisting the senior management team in the running of the school.
  • All posts have clear and identifiable duties attached and all post-holders are carrying out these duties in a clear and effective manner.
  • Communication between management and staff, and inter-staff communications, are enhanced by a very structured meeting programme which operates in the school.
  • Both the board and the senior management team are very supportive of and most encouraging of teachers’ requests to participate in and avail of presenting CPD opportunities.
  • The school operates an open enrolment policy.
  • Much time, energy and research has gone into the development of a recently revised code of behaviour and discipline. All partners were included in this process. This code makes provision for the rewarding of positive student behaviour.
  • Significant time and energy is spent, and substantial investment in ICT has been made, in order to ensure effective recording, monitoring and reporting on student attendance.
  • In recent times, both the students’ council and the parents’ association have been reinstituted in the school.
  • The school has developed a very high level of liaison with businesses, local community groups and various outside agencies.
  • The school building is very well maintained. Extensive upgrading and refurbishment of the science, home economics and technology facilities is currently underway. Plans to further enhance and develop the building are being discussed.
  • The school is very fortunate to have a very well developed, on-site sports complex, which boasts, along with other fine facilities, a twenty-five metre swimming pool.
  • An adult education programme aimed at the local community, is provided by the school.
  • The school’s ICT facilities are well developed. The employment by the school of an ICT technician is a very obvious added bonus.
  • School Development Planning is well advanced in the school.
  • The curriculum offered truly seeks to provide for the broadest range of students’ interests and needs, with all available programmes being offered in the school.
  • Students are offered a wide choice of programmes, subjects and levels.
  • Co-curricular and extracurricular activities are very well provided for.
  • Overall, the quality of learning and teaching is good.
  • Mayfield Community School has a long history of providing for students with special educational needs.
  • Very effective provision is made in personal, educational and vocational guidance.
  • Undeniably, Mayfield Community School’s support for and care of its student cohort is one of, if not the most significant strength of the school.

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that the board adopts a more obvious pro-activity in terms of facing and addressing the challenge posed by the school’s falling enrolment.
  • The board needs to advance the development of the two remaining legally required school policies, namely, a whole-school guidance plan and the school’s policy in relation to providing for students with special educational needs.
  • The board should play a stronger role in the identification of developmental priorities and in the evaluation of the associated action plans.
  • The planned review of the school’s schedule of posts is fully encouraged.
  • The school’s admission policy must be reviewed with a view to removing any potentially discriminating elements that relate to the enrolment of students.
  • For the reasons outlined in the body of the report, a review of the school’s code of behaviour and discipline is strongly recommended.
  • In light of the high levels of student absenteeism it is recommended that the school prioritise seeking to reverse this identified trend.
  • In line with Circular M29/95, future timetabling arrangements should ensure that students are receiving twenty-eight class contact hours per week.
  • In light of the three points raised in the body of the report, the deployment of staff in Mayfield Community School must be reviewed.
  • It is recommended that the three key challenges currently facing the school, namely, falling enrolment, high levels of student absenteeism and high numbers of suspensions be identified as developmental priorities in the school plan.
  • It is recommended that the under provision identified in relation to CSPE, SPHE and History be addressed when timetabling in the future.
  • Not taking from the very good work that is taking place, the school’s provision for and organisation of support for students with special educational needs would benefit from a complete review.
  • It is recommended that the school’s support of and care for its students, of which it can be justifiably proud, be more widely publicised.

 

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 Gaeilge – 21 November, 2006
  • Subject Inspection of Geography – 25 September, 2007
  • Subject Inspection of Guidance – 26 September, 2007
  • Subject Inspection of Materials Technology (Wood)/Construction Studies – 27 September, 2007
  • Subject Inspection of Science/Chemistry – 19 April, 2007

 

 

  

 

 Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

           Inspection Report School Response Form

 

 

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

The School wishes to commend the Inspectorate on a very thorough evaluation of the school, its teaching, practices and structures.  The evaluation involved communication with the school and its staff over an extended period of time and was carried out in a very professional and courteous manner. The depth of knowledge acquired by the Inspectorate team during the evaluation was impressive.

 

The school is pleased that the Evaluation has acknowledged:

 

·         The schools care for its students

·         The quality of teaching and learning

·         The partnership approach to the management of the school

·          The facilitation of internal communication through the system of structured meetings

·         Well advanced School Development Planning

·         The commitment to the Continuous Professional Development of the staff

·         The schools open enrolment policy with provision for students with Special Educational Needs

·         The continuous investment in ICT

·         Well defined Posts of Responsibility

·         The broad range of study programmes and subject choice

·         Co curricular and extracurricular activities being well provided for

·         The excellently maintained facilities in the school including its Sports Complex and swimming pool

·         The effective provision in personal, educational and vocational guidance

·         The provision of night classes through the Adult Education programme

·         The high level of liaison with local businesses and the community

·         The existence of a Parents Association and Student Council

·         A proactive Board of Management

 

 

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

 

The Board of Management of the School and the teaching staff have already commenced addressing the areas where it was suggested that some improvement could be made.  This is being done as part of the schools continuous system of review which seeks to ensure that the school provides the best possible education for the young people of Mayfield and surrounding communities.