An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Kieran’s College

College Road, County Kilkenny

Roll number: 61560J

 

Date of inspection: 27 February 2009

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of curriculum provision

Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

Related subject inspection reports

School response to the report

 

 

  

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of St.Kieran’s College was undertaken in February, 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. During the evaluation, the quality of teaching and learning in four subjects Mathematics, English, Irish, Science/Biology and one programme, the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, were evaluated in detail, and separate reports are available on these subjects and programme. (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

 

St. Kieran’s College is an all-boys voluntary secondary school under the patronage of the Bishop of Ossory. The college was founded in 1782, after the passing of the Relief Act and was the first Catholic college in Ireland. The college’s motto “Hiems Transit” or “The Winter Has Passed” is a reference to the repeal of the penal laws of the time. Over the next several decades, the college had a number of different locations around Kilkenny city, before the highly impressive neo-Gothic structure was built on the present campus in 1836. This provided the college with a permanent home, which is set on enclosed grounds on a large site close to the centre of Kilkenny City. It has undergone numerous extensions and renovations since its foundation. The college has a long and treasured history and continues to make a significant contribution to the educational, social, economic and sporting development of the greater Kilkenny area. 

 

The college originally catered for seminarians and boarders, as well as day students. The seminary was closed in 1994 and St. Kieran’s ceased to provide for boarders in 2003. It now operates as a day school and caters for the educational needs of boys from the diocese of Ossory. The current enrolment of the College is 628 students. Its main feeder schools are St. Patrick’s Boys National School, St. Canice’s Co-Educational National School, Gaelscoil Osraí, St. Colman’s National School Clara and St. John’s Boys National School.

 

In addition to the Diocesan Forum Office, the college campus is also home to Creidim, the Diocesan centre for Adult Religious Education and Faith Formation, which was established in 1994 after the closure of the seminary. In 1997, the National University of Ireland (NUI) Maynooth established its first “Outreach Campus” in St. Kieran’s to provide a range of courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level for adult students. These additional programmes are housed in various sections of the original neo-Gothic building and are an integral part of the St. Kieran’s College educational community.  

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit of the school

St. Kieran’s College is an effective school in all aspects of its work. Implicit in its mission statement is a commitment to educating its learners in an atmosphere of Christian care, to promoting high academic standards and to nurturing the talents of the person to fulfil his true academic and sporting potential. It is clear that this mission is the guiding principle of the whole college community and is central to all programmes, activities and interactions in the college. This is evidenced in the comprehensive academic programme offered to all students, the open choice of subjects, programmes and extensive extra-curricular activities that are made available, and the setting of high expectations for student attainment. The vision for the college is clearly focused on providing students with high quality educational experiences and outcomes. The college embraces diversity and promotes respect for all members of its community. The vision is shared by all stakeholders emanating from the trustees through the board of management, staff, parents and students.

 

The college’s mission statement is reflected in the policies, practices and atmosphere that pervade the school. This positive atmosphere promotes collaboration, collegiality, goodwill and respect and is one of the key strengths of the college. The mission underpins the daily interactions between school management, teachers and students and all interact in a calm, mutually respectful educational environment.

 

Members of the parents’ association, the board of management and the students’ council described the school as an open, inclusive, friendly and caring place where initiatives, such as the ‘cairdeas’ programme, seek to promote the principles of inclusion and a culture of respect for all. Members of the students’ council spoke with great pride about their college and expressed their appreciation of the commitment of teachers and senior management to their care and achievements. They were articulate, reflective and confident in discussion of their role and of the quality of activities and facilities provided. The success and achievements of all students are celebrated. The sense of Christian community, identity and belonging is clearly evidenced in the manner in which the college celebrates its patron saint through St. Kieran’s Day. During the course of the evaluation, many opportunities were afforded to inspectors to meet and interact with students, to observe activities and students in their learning. Students were enthusiastic about attending St Kieran’s and displayed a positive attitude, diligence and sense of community, which clearly exemplifies the college’s characteristic spirit.

 

1.2          School ownership and management

The board of management of St. Kieran’s College is appropriately constituted and is currently in its second year of a three-year term. It is composed of eight members, appropriately nominated by the various stakeholders, including four nominees from the trustees, two nominees from the parents’ association and two nominees from the staff, with the principal acting as secretary. Two members of the board have served on previous boards of management and this overlap of membership ensures continuity in the work of the board. In line with the articles of management for voluntary secondary schools, the board meets five times per year, with additional meetings convened on a needs basis. In keeping with good practice, members of the board have undertaken training provided by the Joint Managerial Body (JMB).  Board members understand their roles and responsibilities and these are effectively executed. The board is fully supported by the trustees, who take a proactive role in ensuring the effective provision of education in the college. The trustees have recently invested significant resources in the college to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities. Additionally, the trustees support the provision of two chaplains to ensure that the Catholic ethos is maintained and to support the pastoral-care structures of the college. Such involvement by the trustees in supporting and guiding the work of the college is highly commended.

 

The constituent members of the board presented as a cohesive team and displayed a strong commitment to the work of the board. They possess a diverse range of skills and bring a positive energy and application to their work. The board is aware of all the complexities involved in the management of the college and delivery of the curriculum. Excellent leadership and management have resulted in continuing progress in the quality of teaching and learning, the curriculum and the care and support of students. Developmental priorities identified by the board include: maintaining the Catholic ethos of the college, developing the infrastructure and classroom facilities, improving curricular provision, mixed-ability class formation, supporting staff continuing professional development (CPD), the appointment of new staff and a review of the posts of responsibilities. The board’s effective and strategic management of the college has allowed for many of these priorities to be realised.

 

The board is keenly aware of the necessity to ensure that statutory and other policies are drafted and ratified. In line with best practice, there are established procedures for policy development and adoption that involve all of the relevant partners. The board has adopted the required policies on admissions, attendance and participation, behaviour, child protection, Guidance, and safety. The board has also adopted a plan for students with special educational needs. It is recommended that a more detailed policy be developed to reflect the college’s work in the area of provision for students with special educational needs. The board of management should ensure that all of the required policies are dated upon ratification. The board should also establish a scheduled and systematic approach to the review of the various policies and practices. This will ensure that policies are reviewed in a timely manner to accurately reflect current practice and address the changing needs of the college. The existing Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy and programme are in need of updating and the board should attend to this in accordance with Circular Letter 0027/2008. In addition, the term “exceptional circumstances” in the college’s admissions policy should be clarified to reflect its open and inclusive enrolment practice.

 

The board has a very good relationship with senior management and is very supportive of their work. The chairperson, who is also the president of the college and is resident on campus, has a very good working relationship with the principal and both maintain regular contact. The board pays excellent attention to staff development and is committed to the provision of assistance to teachers to pursue additional qualifications or further training.  The board often provides a contribution towards the cost of fees for courses and conferences. In this way, the board is effective in developing the professional capacity of the college to meet the needs of its learners. Currently the board supports the further training of staff in the areas of special education needs, chaplaincy and Guidance. The board also facilitates job-sharing opportunities, when and where possible.

 

The decision-making procedures of the board are open, transparent and shared in the best interests of the college community. Communication between the board and the college community is effectively maintained through agreed reports that are made available to staff and the parents’ association following each meeting. Members of the board attend the many college functions and are easily accessible to staff, parents and students. The board’s commitment and support to the college demonstrates a clear vision and leadership in all aspects of college life.

 

1.3          In-school management

The senior management team, comprising the principal and deputy principal, is a very effective leadership team. Both are relatively new to their current positions. The principal is in his fourth year in his post, having previously served as principal of a similar school for ten years. The deputy principal is in his first year, having previously been a member of staff of St. Kieran’s for a significant number of years. Despite their relatively recent appointments, they share a clear vision for the long-term development of the college and effectively lead the strategies to implement this vision. Both are conscientious professionals, who have reflected on their roles and responsibilities, and have developed and documented an agreed schedule of duties associated with each of their posts. They bring a complementary set of skills to their work, characterised by clarity of direction, open communication, shared decision-making and an exemplary work ethic. They ensure that the college runs smoothly and effectively and provide a daily management presence on the corridors and college environs before, during and after school hours. They provide leadership and support to staff in all aspects of school management and, in particular, the promotion of students’ learning and well-being.  

 

The senior management team members are committed to their own professional development and participate in programmes organised by the JMB, the Leadership Developments for Schools (LDS) programme and the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD). As a result, they are familiar with all relevant legislation, Department of Education and Science circulars, and advances and innovations in educational research. The principal is a highly effective and strategic leader for the college who is reflective and analytical about all aspects of educational provision in St. Kieran’s. Parents, students and teachers commented positively on the sense of calmness, stability and focus that exists in the college. This was evident throughout the inspection process. The movement to teacher-based classrooms, appropriate student management structures and the introduction, from next September, of mixed-ability class groupings in first year, are examples of initiatives that contribute to the creation of a positive learning environment for staff and students. Senior management has completed a significant schedule of developments and improvements over the past number of years, including considerable infrastructural developments, the introduction of additional curricular subjects, a review of the posts of responsibilities, the promotion of subject-department planning and other initiatives to support high quality teaching and learning.

 

Management delegates responsibilities to post-holders and other staff to ensure the effective operation of the college. The in-school management structure includes nine assistant principals and fourteen special duties teachers. This includes a programme co-ordinator at assistant-principal level and a special-duties teacher position for the Transition Year (TY) programme. The middle-management team expressed a shared vision for the college, including high standards of achievement by students and the provision and maintenance of a caring, inclusive college community. Post-holders are experienced and dedicated teachers and effectively fulfil a range of specified duties. Whilst post-holders contribute to a range of administrative and pastoral duties, it is acknowledged by senior management and staff that some of these duties may not adequately meet the changing needs of the college. As a result, the principal has recently initiated a review of the schedule of posts of responsibility. A consultative process has taken place and a member of the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) facilitated the initial stages of this review process. All staff members have had the opportunity to contribute to the development of a prioritised list of duties for the college. This consultative, reflective and analytical approach to determining the college’s needs is exemplary practice.

 

Management is currently finalising a draft document with the revised list of posts of responsibility and associated duties to be presented to staff, and ultimately to the board of management for ratification. Once this revised schedule of posts is finalised, management hopes that it will contribute fully to the administrative, curricular and pastoral care needs of the college, in addition to supporting the management of staff and their professional development. To build on the existing structures and in keeping with the principles of distributed leadership (as outlined in Circular PPT29/02), it is recommended that consideration be given to the establishment of a formal consultation structure between the assistant principals and senior management as a group. The purpose of these meetings may be part of an advisory and consultative process in the overall management of the college. This will facilitate the development of a greater middle-management voice in the college. In this way, issues and concerns facing students, teachers and parents can be discussed collaboratively. As a result, decisions made by senior management will benefit from the wider body of knowledge, experience and commitment of all involved.

 

The senior management team spoke highly of all the teaching staff, expressing appreciation of their skills as practitioners and their competence in the assigned areas of responsibility they undertake. All members of staff are aware of the management structures of the college and the schedule of duties assigned to various post-holders. Senior management actively consults with staff and seeks to promote a culture of shared responsibility in achieving the aims of the college. Formal lines of communication exist in relation to all aspects of the work of the college. Communication links are maintained through staff notice boards, regular announcements at break times in the staffroom and through individual mailboxes for internal and external notices and correspondence.

 

Senior management convenes regular staff meetings throughout the year and sets agendas, with additional items added by staff, if required. Minutes of staff meetings are concise and reveal that relevant issues are identified and addressed, with good progress being achieved in many key areas. During staff meetings, opportunities are provided to teachers to form smaller groups, which allows for discussion on a range of issues including the review of college policies. On occasion, staff members have made short presentations during staff meetings to share relevant information based on their work on a specific area or task. This is very good practice. The highly commendable climate of openness and inclusion empowers all staff members to communicate with relevant individuals or specific teams to ensure the best possible outcomes and care for all students.  

 

Effective strategies and structures support newly appointed teachers. These include an induction and orientation day provided by senior management and the appointment of a mentor teacher from the relevant subject department to provide ongoing professional support. New teachers were highly complimentary of senior management and their subject-department colleagues for the continuing support they receive since their induction to the college. Senior management is currently finalising a draft policy to formalise both the induction and orientation process for newly appointed teachers and to provide continuing professional support to all members of staff. As part of this process, a comprehensive staff handbook is being compiled. This is a positive initiative, which will be highly beneficial to all staff. All relevant policies and procedures, including those related to the college’s implementation of the child protection guidelines, should be included in the handbook.

 

Clear systems are in place for the effective management of students in all aspects of their life in the college. Much of this good work takes place under the leadership of the form teachers, year heads and chaplaincy support service. Teachers volunteer to undertake the role of form teacher, which is central to the pastoral care structure of the college. Teachers also undertake the role of year head in a voluntary capacity and time is given in lieu of the extensive duties involved in the management of such large year groups. Considerable work has been done recently by all concerned, to ensure that the duties associated with the roles of form teacher and year head are clearly defined and consistently implemented. A draft document outlining these duties is currently being reviewed to ensure that they meet the needs of all students and that they can be executed effectively and efficiently.

 

The college has developed its code of behaviour in collaboration with the relevant partners. Whilst the code is quite a recent document, it is scheduled for review in light of the recent National Educational Welfare Board’s (NEWB) guidelines, which is commended. The current code is clearly structured and implemented through a well-organised student support system. There is a clear ladder of referral to support students and appropriate sanctions are in place in the event of a breach of the code of behaviour. Members of the students’ council reported that the code of behaviour is implemented fairly and consistently. Students, in their interactions with inspectors, presented themselves as confident, mature and articulate youths. They were observed to be respectful and cordial in their dealings with their teachers, and conducted themselves in a calm and orderly manner at all times throughout the college.

 

The college has facilitated the introduction of a students’ council, which is now in its second year of existence. At present, the council comprises of students from all year groups, with the exception of sixth year. These students expressed their wish not to become involved during their Leaving Certificate year. Commendably, management will keep this situation under review, with the aspiration that the valuable work of the council, in providing a significant and meaningful student voice, will eventually encourage students to continue their involvement, up to and including their Leaving Certificate year. A staff member who holds a post of responsibility assists the council and training has been provided for all members of the council. The council has fortnightly meetings and, when necessary, representatives from the council meet with the principal to progress their work. The council has been proactive in its work to date and has been successful with many of its endeavours including petitioning for a college library and arranging for “healthy options” as part of the lunch-time canteen menu. Students have also had an input into policy formation, such as the anti-bullying policy, and feel that they are consulted in many aspects of the college’s decision-making process. Senior management, parents and staff greatly appreciate and value the role of the recently established students’ council.

 

The recent introduction of an electronic display provides a valuable means of communicating with the student body. The screen provides information to students regarding college events and displays images of recent college activities. The college also has dedicated notice boards for each year group. In addition, several other notice boards serve to promote the various programmes, such as TY and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) activities, extra-curricular activities, examinations, Gáisce and notices from the students’council. All notice boards observed were up to date and well maintained. These notice boards provide a valuable link for students as the physical structure and complexity of the college impacts on the provision of a public address system. However, the installation of a public address system is part of senior management’s continued infrastructural development priorities.

 

The college has a detailed system for monitoring and recording students’ punctuality and attendance. Responsibility for the implementation of this system forms part of the duties of a number of post-holders, with one post-holder assigned to monitor each year group. The attendance system was found to work well. Student retention was also reported by management to be excellent, with practically all students successfully completing their Leaving Certificate. Management expressed its satisfaction and appreciation for the effective running of the attendance system. The school provided evidence that it is compliant with all of the necessary requirements for attendance returns to the NEWB. Continued attention to the timely annual returns of attendance data is advised. The local Educational Welfare Officer is contacted as appropriate to address any concerns. It is recommended that the attendance-monitoring system be reviewed as part of the restructuring of the posts of responsibility. The system should be further developed and rationalised to ensure that it is as resource efficient as possible. To this end, consideration should be given to a dedicated post of responsibility for the overall monitoring of attendance and to take responsibility for the required scheduled returns to the NEWB.

 

The college facilitates and promotes partnership with parents. The parents’ association is an active organisation that works with the college and has a significant role in providing a voice for the general parent body. The council is actively involved in the review, development and ratification of relevant college policies. In addition, the council provides a number of valuable services for the general parent body. These include organising guest speakers to address parents on various topics, such as preparing for third level, promoting health and wellbeing, organising fundraising activities and providing support to the college at various functions and events throughout the year. Parents felt they were very well informed and familiar with all aspects of the college’s structures and procedures. They felt supported, listened to and valued members of the college community. They have been instrumental in promoting positive developments in the college, such as changing the timing and structure of the supervised study programme. Parent representatives had high praise for senior management and the professionalism of the teachers. They also strongly endorsed the pastoral care and student-support systems and the quality of education provided by the college.

 

The structures and systems in place to support the involvement of parents ensure that there is purposeful two-way communication about all aspects of college life. Communications with parents are frequent and of a high quality. Parents are regularly informed about school activities and the progress and achievements of students through regular principal reports, academic reports, individual letters, newsletters and through the college website. It is commendable that the college recognises the value of its website as an effective mode of communication and is currently investing in its further development.  The college has recently introduced a journal for junior-cycle students and this is an effective tool which promotes regular communication with parents. Formal parent-teacher meetings are organised in line with agreed procedures. The college also facilitates the provision of information on individual student progress to parents and has a dedicated room that may be used for meetings or telephone contact between teachers and parents, where required and requested. The college has recently produced an annual publication called the “Record” that documents all aspects of college life and students’ achievements over the course of the school year. This is a high quality publication and includes a report from both the chairperson of the board of management and the principal, in addition to many reports and photographs of students’ involvement in the extensive range of curricular and extra-curricular activities. The commitment of members of staff who volunteers to edit this publication is highly commended.

 

St. Kieran’s has established many links with the wider community and external agencies. These links support college activities and programmes and assist in the guidance of students from college to work or to further or higher education. The college has established collaborative and mutually beneficial links with the Kilkenny County Board and local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) clubs to provide the use of the college’s facilities for training the inter-county panels and club teams. The college also hosts a residential hurling summer school. There is ongoing liaison with outside agencies, other educational institutions and relevant health bodies to support particular programmes and to facilitate students’ needs.

 

There is a highly commendable culture of self-evaluation and review, which is led by senior management and shared by the college community. Review and self-evaluation are evident throughout the systems in place, including the management of the curriculum, the organisation of the timetable, the care and support of students with special educational needs and in identifying the professional development needs of staff. Recent initiatives that look at learning, differentiation and assessment also provide evidence of this reflective practice that aims to improve the learning outcomes for students.

 

1.4          Management of resources

St. Kieran’s College has a total allocation of 42.42 whole-time teacher equivalents (WTEs).  This includes the ex-quota positions of principal and deputy principal, 1.27 ex-quota positions for Guidance and one ex-quota position for learning support. The college also receives allocations amounting to 2.15 WTEs for curricular concessions, for students with special educational needs, for newcomer students and for students from the Traveller community.

 

The college complies with Department regulations with respect to the organisation of the annual calendar and the number of teaching days per year. The total instruction time currently provided is ten minutes short of the minimum requirement of twenty-eight hours per week. Management is fully aware of this situation and the underlying complexities influencing the organisation of its curriculum. The college has a well-managed working relationship with two neighbouring schools to share resources to support the delivery of its curriculum. Any adjustment in the college’s timetable must therefore take account of the impact of change across both of the co-operating schools. The situation is regularly reviewed and the college is encouraged in its efforts to rectify the current shortfall to ensure that all students receive instruction in the curriculum in accordance with Circular M29/95. In some circumstances, senior-cycle students are timetabled for “Health” classes, which are often study periods. This also reduces the amount of curricular tuition time provided to students and must be addressed in the context of Circular M29/95.

 

The principal takes responsibility for the deployment of teachers to the various programmes and levels. Commendable efforts are made to achieve the best deployment of teachers to meet the needs of the students and the curriculum given the available resources. Where job-sharing arrangements have been approved, management should ensure that these teachers are fully deployed as per the conditions outlined in Circular Letter 18/98. Teachers are assigned to classes following consultation and, where possible and desirable, class groups retain the same teacher from year to year for the duration of their programme of study, thus ensuring high levels of continuity. In general, teachers have opportunities to rotate the teaching of levels and programmes. This good practice ensures teachers develop a comprehensive understanding of the various syllabuses related to their subject specialisms, are familiar with all relevant texts and resources and develop the pedagogical skills required to engage the full community of students. Additional teacher resources are accessed and utilised fully and effectively for the purposes for which they had been allocated. A supervision-and-substitution roster ensures that adequate cover exists to monitor students’ movements and welfare before school, during break times and after school, as well as providing cover for absent colleagues.

 

Management analyses the current and future staffing needs of the college. This strategic planning ensures that there is sufficient capacity to provide appropriately for students’ needs into the future. To this end, new teachers have been recruited, whilst others have been supported to participate in additional training in specialist areas, such as learning support, Guidance and chaplaincy. Furthermore, many teachers have been supported by the college to pursue higher diplomas or masters’ degree courses, which is highly commended. Careful management of resources ensures that time is allocated to post-holders and other staff members to facilitate the execution of their specific duties. The time given in lieu of these duties should be reviewed periodically to ensure continued efficiencies in the use of this resource.

 

The college’s support staff including administrative, catering and maintenance personnel, make an invaluable contribution to the day-to-day running of the college. The buildings and extensive grounds are very well maintained. The significant contribution of the care-taking and cleaning staff is highly commended in this regard. Members of the support staff are involved in many aspects of school life and participate in key events throughout the year.

 

Accommodation is fully utilised to deliver the curriculum and in addressing the needs of the college community. Classrooms are mostly teacher-based and this system works well. Teacher-based classrooms promote the development of the rooms themselves as resources, and there were exemplary instances of this observed. Many classrooms contained displays of graphic and print materials and some excellent examples of students’ recent work. Specialist rooms are consistently used for their designated purpose. Whilst some of the rooms are dated, teachers make significant efforts to ensure that they provide a safe and stimulating learning environment. The college has a comprehensive health and safety statement. Health-and-safety audits are conducted to identify potential hazards and the steps taken to avoid injury. A number of teachers have trained in first aid and in the use of automated electronic defibrillator equipment. All staff members have been alerted to the need to ensure that the provisions of the safety statement are adhered to, in keeping with good practice. Some potential health and safety issues have been identified by the college that need to be addressed and as also pointed out in the Science and Biology inspection report. The remediation of these issues, as identified in the aforementioned subject inspection report, should be brought to the attention of the board of management of the cooperating school, so that the matter may be addressed expediently.

 

The college has undergone a series of phased development projects, mostly funded by the trustees, along with some grant aid from the Department.  To date these projects have seen the upgrading and redevelopment of the college’s extensive playing pitches, the replacement of windows, improved access provision, roof works and the transformation of an old dormitory floor to house a new library and a dedicated Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) room. The school facilities are available in an appropriate manner to the local community, mostly through the provision of the high-standard sports facilities.

 

The significant and strategic investment has afforded the college the opportunity to develop a range of modern information and communication technology (ICT) facilities and resources. The college is networked, with broadband access available throughout the buildings. Two modern computer rooms are available and data projectors and pen tablets are becoming more widely used in the teaching and learning of subjects. A comprehensive ICT plan has been developed by two special-duties post-holders. This outlines both the strategic development of the hardware and software resources in the college, and includes the identification of staff training needs to facilitate the further integration of ICT across the curriculum to support teaching and learning. Of particular note is the team approach taken to the advancement of ICT availability and use in the college to support learning and teaching. An ICT steering committee has been established recently and is composed of a number of teachers who are leaders in the promotion of ICT across the curriculum. This is exemplary practice.

 

As St. Kieran’s College has such a long and illustrious tradition in education in the Kilkenny region, it has an extensive archive of documents and photographs dating back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century. One of the strategic initiatives of management has been to provide the college community and visitors with a visual representation of the history of the college, its past students, teams and events that have helped to shape the college of today. This chronological pictorial representation of its archives has greatly enhanced the aesthetic appearance of the college. Additionally, the display of pieces of art and other work produced by students in key areas throughout the college is highly impressive. All of this work helps to create an environment that recognises the value of its community, past and present, and promotes excellence in standards.

 

 

2.         Quality of school planning

 

2.1          The school plan

The college is engaged in an ongoing collaborative whole-school planning process. A partnership approach is taken to this process involving the trustees, the board, the senior management team, the students, the parents and the staff. The process encourages contributions, expressions of concern and suggestions to be shared in an open and constructive manner. In this way, the vision of the board and senior management is facilitated and enabled. The planning process is based on self-evaluation and a needs analysis to identify priorities. Issues raised at staff meetings, through the parents’ association, at board meetings and through the students’ council provide the necessary stimulus for further development. A consultative and advisory board, composed of several staff members, has been in place for a number of years to support the ongoing planning process. This is exemplary practice. A review of the minutes of the board of management meetings provides evidence of how clear and achievable priorities have been identified and progressed. It is highly commendable that the majority of staff has taken ownership of the planning process. Responsibility for the implementation of the plan rests collectively with all members of the school community, particularly with senior management and teachers.

 

All aspects of school planning are focused on the improvement of the college infrastructure, systems and procedures, and on strategies that improve learning outcomes for all students. The core elements of high-quality planning are in existence. There is a clear vision for the enhancement of the support structures and systems for staff and students, which ensure the effective development of the college. Prioritised action planning has resulted in identifiable improvements for the whole college community. Examples of identified needs that have been recently addressed include; a review of the posts of responsibilities, the establishment of the students’ council, the development of the learning-support department, improved communications with the relevant feeder primary schools, moving to mixed-ability class groups for incoming first years, the establishment of teacher-based classrooms, the streamlining of the year head and class tutor roles, the development of the ICT infrastructure, in addition to the extensive upgrading and redevelopment of the college facilities. The work of the entire college community in identifying and addressing these areas, along with many others, illustrates the professional approach taken by all involved in bringing about such positive developments. The resulting improvements to the college systems and procedures are an example of excellent and proactive planning and implementation.

 

A post of responsibility has recently been assigned to support the subject-department planning process. The purpose of this post is to provide guidance and support to subject departments and to develop consistency of practice across the various subject areas. This is a good example of how senior management is empowering post-holders to take leadership roles within the college.

 

The formation of new and revised policies has been progressed as part of the planning process. The code of behaviour, pastoral care and chaplaincy policies are examples of policies that have been recently redrafted. A varied approach has been taken to the drafting of policies. In some instances the principal creates an initial draft for discussion or alternatively, a sub-committee may be established to provide a draft document and engage the relevant partners in discussion prior to redrafting, ratification and implementation. The involvement of all partners in policy formation and the process of policy development is commended. However, there is a need for the establishment of a systematic approach to the review process to evaluate the effectiveness of each policy. The date of ratification of policies is noted in the relevant board of management meetings and, as recommended earlier in this report, the ratification dates should also be documented on each policy. This will assist in identifying and prioritising areas for development as part of the policy-review process.

 

Whilst the process and effect of excellent planning are clearly visible, there is a need for the core elements of the college planning documents to be collated into one succinct document that is easily accessible as the school plan. In addition, the school plan should document the strategic goals that exist for the college, along with the timeframes, relevant personnel, actions to be taken and the evaluation of all elements of the plan for the development of St. Kieran’s College.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Post-primary Circulars M45/05 and 0062/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines. Established members of staff were familiar with the guidelines and the college’s procedures in relation to child protection. However, not all members of staff were familiar with these procedures. It is recommended that a copy of the procedures regarding child protection be provided to new staff members as part of their induction. In addition, a reminder of the college’s procedures in this area should be included during the initial staff meeting at the commencement of the academic year. This will ensure that all staff members are familiar with the procedures to be followed in the best interests of all in the college community. The proposed staff handbook will provide a useful mechanism for the inclusion of the procedures in this regard.  

 

 

3.         Quality of curriculum provision

 

3.1          Curriculum planning and organisation

Students are offered a broad and balanced curriculum at both junior and senior cycle. The college provides four educational programmes: the Junior Certificate, an optional TY programme, the LCVP and the established Leaving Certificate. These programmes are organised and delivered in line with the programme requirements and guidelines.

 

Within the limits of available resources, the college offers access to the widest possible range of subjects and levels to serve the needs, interests and range of abilities of its students. In addition to the core subjects of Irish, English and Mathematics, the college offers an exceptionally broad range of subjects which includes the humanities, the sciences, three modern European languages, business and practical subjects. Senior management ensures that curriculum provision is addressed as part of whole-school planning and curriculum requirements are reviewed annually in keeping with good practice. A number of additional subjects have recently been added to the curriculum including Technology, DCG and Religious Education (RE) at examination level, all of which will further meet the needs of the student cohort.

 

The primary focus of staff deployment and timetabling is to meet students’ needs and choices, and to optimise the quality of student learning. Evening study is also available to students as an additional support in their learning. Timetabling arrangements are generally good, allowing for optimum access across the school week. However, some junior-cycle Irish and Mathematics lessons are timetabled for two periods on the same day of the week. This is less than ideal provision and should be reviewed to ensure that students have exposure to these subjects on as many days per week as possible. Concurrent timetabling takes place for optional subjects throughout the programmes and the three core subjects of Irish, English and Mathematics at senior cycle. In junior cycle, concurrent timetabling is arranged within bands for the core subjects of English and Mathematics. These arrangements ensure that class groups may be organised, within these bands, to optimise the learning experiences of students at a level appropriate to their abilities.  

 

The current practice of assigning students to an upper and lower band on entry to the college will cease for incoming first-years’ from September 2009. Students will be assigned to mixed-ability class settings and this initiative is to be commended. The majority of students follow the TY programme and four mixed-ability class groups are usually formed. Access to the LCVP is dependent on students having the correct subject combination, with appropriate information and advice provided to students prior to their subject selection. This good practice promotes awareness of the LCVP and ensures students’ eligibility to participate in the programme. A detailed report on the quality of the LCVP is appended.

 

At junior cycle, students have access to Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and to Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE) classes in line with Department requirements. However, these subjects are recorded as “Health” and “Civics” respectively on the college’s timetables. These should be changed on all relevant timetables and on the September returns to the Department to reflect the appropriate curricular subjects as provided.

 

3.2          Arrangements for students’ choice of subjects and programmes

Students are ably supported in their decision-making in relation to curricular and subject choices at key stages in their education. Structures and supports are in place to inform students and parents about subjects and programmes and the work of the college in this regard is highly commended. The organisation and facilitation of students’ subject choices forms part of a post of responsibility, and the incumbent gives effective and timely support to senior management in the design of the timetable and deployment of teachers. In addition, the guidance department, together with senior management, plays an important role in providing information and advice to students and parents regarding programme options and subject choices.

 

On entering the college, first-year students must select a modern language, with four option subjects provided for the duration of first year. At the end of first year, students must then select three option subjects from a list of six. Two other subjects, Materials Technology Wood (MTW) and Technology are added to the options list for second-year students. The provision of an additional option subject in first year gives these students a broader perspective of their subject options and provides them with a more meaningful basis upon which to make their final subject choices for the Junior Certificate. The current practice is to limit MTW as an option to students in the lower band for second year and third year. However, this practice will cease from next year as MTW and Technology will form part of the subject choices for all students. This is commendable as it ensures equity of access to all subjects for all students. In senior cycle, students may choose to follow the TY programme, the established Leaving Certificate or the LCVP. Subject choices are made at the end of third year or TY. The system at senior cycle operates on a “best fit” model to optimise students’ opportunities to access their preferred subject choices. Students select four option subjects from a list of sixteen, with four option bands of four subjects formed from the preference lists. This system is reported to have a very high satisfaction rate. Additionally, some subjects such as Applied Mathematics are offered as options outside of normal timetable hours. Students are also facilitated, as far as is possible, to alter their subject, level or programme of choice.

 

Information nights for third-year and TY students going into fifth year, suitably inform students and parents of the available programmes and choices of subjects. The implications of subject choices for further education and careers are clearly explained by the guidance department. In addition, all students are interviewed individually by the guidance service to discuss subject options and to provide advice and support to students with their choices. Parents and students expressed a good level of satisfaction with the information provided by the college to support students’ choices of programmes, subjects and levels.

 

The majority of students follow the TY programme in St. Kieran’s College. This diverse and innovative programme promotes the personal, social, vocational and educational development of students, in line with the TY Guidelines. A diverse TY programme is organised comprising core subjects, option courses and a range of activity modules. The curriculum offered aims to enhance the development of self-directed learning and analytical skills, in addition to social and personal skills. Students also participate in a total of four weeks work experience. The college has established good working relationships with local businesses to support the various work experience plans for LCVP and TY students. A placement and evaluation system to monitor students’ engagement and progress on work experience has been developed, in keeping with good practice. The co-ordination of the TY programme is commended for ensuring that the programme is both relevant and coherent and for the organisational efficiency in its implementation.

 

3.3          Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision

The college’s programme of extracurricular and co-curricular activities is exceptional and exemplary. The college provides a broad range of opportunities to promote students’ personal and social development and to support and enhance learning. It is highly commendable that the range of activities provided endeavours to promote the inclusion of all students, including those with special educational needs and those from disadvantaged and minority groups. Management and staff of the college actively encourage all students to participate in the various activities.

 

Sport and physical activity is highly valued and promoted both at a recreational and competitive level in St. Kieran’s College. This commendable approach ensures that students are afforded regular opportunities to develop an interest and competency in an activity at a level appropriate to their abilities and preferences. The college is renowned nationally for its links with the GAA. It is renowned as a centre of excellence in the promotion of hurling and presents a list of past students who are synonymous with Kilkenny’s All-Ireland hurling successes and with the highest level of administration within the GAA. The college has recently developed a three-a-side hurling game called “Bata Beag”, which promotes students’ hurling skills in a safe and inclusive sporting environment. This is an excellent and highly commendable initiative by the physical education department. Several other sporting activities are equally provided for in the college. Teams represent the college in many sporting competitions including, athletics and cross-country running, basketball, equestrian events, Gaelic football, golf, handball, soccer, squash, swimming and weight-training. The approach to training and preparation of all individuals and teams is highly organised and systematic. During the course of the evaluation, teams from several codes were observed in preparation for major events including the All-Ireland cross-country finals and provincial hurling competitions. Of particular note recently is the achievement of the college’s junior soccer squad who won the 2009 Football Association of Ireland School’s (FAIS) national title.

 

A number of cultural and social activities are also organised and provided regularly by the college. These also complement the work of teachers and provide valuable opportunities for students to apply their learning outside of the formal classroom. In addition to co-curricular field trips and European educational tours, opportunities are provided for students to participate in art competitions, bridge, chess, creative writing workshops, drama, debating, film club, quizzes and a young entrepreneurs’ scheme. A choir has recently been established and music lessons are also provided. Retreats and liturgies are arranged throughout the year for all year groups. TY students complete the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). These students are also encouraged and supported to participate in the Gáisce programme, with a large majority of students successfully completing the bronze award. It is highly commendable that the college encourages and facilitates a relatively large number of students to pursue their silver Gáisce award during fifth year.

 

A systematic and co-ordinated approach is taken to the organisation of activities and events. This ensures that students’ experiences are optimised and there is minimal disruption to the school day. A large number of teachers voluntarily give their time, energy and enthusiasm to promote and facilitate students’ involvement in these activities. The valuable experiences and learning that occurs from the extensive provision and support for the diverse range of activities is highly commended.

 

 

4.         Quality of learning and teaching in subjects

 

4.1          Planning and preparation

Subject-department planning is ongoing within the context of the school development planning process. A co-ordinator is in place for each of the subjects and the programme evaluated, written plans have been developed and regular meetings of the teaching teams are held. The planning process is appropriately facilitated by management through the provision of formal meetings at least once per term. The role of subject co-ordinator is rotated at agreed intervals and the sharing of this responsibility is commended as good practice. Many subject departments maintain minutes of their meetings, which provide a valuable record of the progress being made in the organisation and planning for the delivery of the various programmes of work. A culture of self-evaluation and review was in evidence in some subject departments where teachers reflect on students’ engagement and attainment, which is then used to inform future subject-department planning. There was evidence of good collaboration within the subject departments, both formally and informally, and the commitment of the subject and programme teachers to the planning process is commended.

 

Whilst written subject department plans have been developed for all the subjects and programme evaluated, the quality and detail of these plans varies. In the instances of best practice, it is noted that comprehensive subject department plans included the key learning outcomes for each year group, including TY, in addition to identifying the content, resources, teaching and learning methods and assessment strategies. It is recommended that this good practice be extended to all subject departments. This will help to further develop the collaborative efforts achieved to date and ensure that all members of the subject departments are involved in contributing to the development of detailed and integrated planning documents, including the preparation of resources to support teaching and learning. It is also recommended that subject departments should include details in their plans of the variety of supports and strategies available to support students with additional or special educational needs.

 

Appropriately high standards and expectations are set for students to take the highest level paper in the state exams commensurate with their ability. Planning documents reflected this intention. The approach of subject departments to encourage and support students to reach their academic potential was highly commended.

 

Planning for a variety of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities to support students learning has been commended in many cases. There are many excellent examples of activities that subject departments organise to support students’ engagement and participation including quizzes, debates, writers in residence, guest speakers and several cultural events. Students have regular and ongoing opportunities to extend their learning beyond the classroom, and the continued development and expansion of the range of diverse activities is recommended for all subject departments.

 

Many subject departments have developed a range of resources to support teaching and learning in their subjects and programme. Planning for the effective integration of ICT as a valuable aid to teaching and learning is commended. Best practice has been seen in subject departments that create and store resources electronically, which can then be accessed by teachers. In some cases, exemplar materials, such as answers to exam questions, are stored, which can be accessed by students who may have been absent or used to aid their revision and study. This is cited as exemplary use of ICT and the further expansion and integration of this method is to be encouraged across and within all subject departments.

 

A good level of individual planning and preparation has been evident in most of the lessons observed and in the individual plans made available to the inspectors. 

 

4.2          Learning and teaching

Some exceptional examples of high quality teaching and learning have been observed in the subjects evaluated. Teachers were well prepared and all lessons were in line with the planned programmes of work and syllabus content. Lessons were well structured and paced to ensure that significant progress is made in developing skills and acquiring knowledge. The use of appropriate terminology or the target language throughout lessons is commended. In many instances, the content of lessons was contextualised to students’ previous learning and experiences. Teachers’ obvious enthusiasm for their subjects also served to motivate and enhance students’ learning. In many lessons, a clear purpose was established at the outset, with best practice observed when teachers outlined the intended learning outcomes for students and used the board to highlight these learning goals. This is in keeping with the principles of assessment for learning and ensures that all students have a sense of what they should know and be able to do by the end of the lesson. The expansion of this good practice is recommended and an increased focus on stating the desired learning outcomes should be included in planning for lessons.

 

Active learning methods were employed in a number of the lessons observed, with students engaged in discussion, group work or the completion of independent exercises. These effective methods ensured that there was an appropriate balance between teacher-led instruction and student activity. The expansion of activities that promote students’ development of competencies, such as an investigative approach to practical experiments in junior cycle or the specific development of oral language skills is recommended.

 

Questioning was effectively used as a method to engage students and to develop critical thinking skills. In many cases, teachers skilfully included students of all abilities by differentiating the level of questions directed to named individuals. Similarly, teachers ensured that quieter students were afforded opportunities to answer questions and contribute to the lesson. Open-ended and leading questions ensured that students were appropriately challenged to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

 

Teaching and learning resources were well chosen and carefully prepared. Many examples of the effective integration of ICT as an aid to teaching and learning were observed across all subjects and the programme evaluated. The use of electronic resources, such as animation, images and previously prepared presentations, in addition to recording student responses and demonstrating problem-solving techniques, is highly commended as exemplary practice. This was observed to motivate students and to hold their attention, and was of particular benefit to visual learners as a means of engagement and reinforcement.

 

Teachers are mostly classroom based, which facilitated the smooth running of lessons and easy access to resources. The learning environment for students was characteristically supportive and affirming, and students were highly engaged and enjoying their work. It is noted in many instances that students took responsibility for their own learning and diligently recorded notes from the board. The quality of note taking and work completed in the copybooks was found to be of a high standard in most cases. All teachers should encourage their students to adhere to these high standards. A significantly improved uptake of higher level in many of the subjects evaluated is also noted. An analysis of state examination results and uptakes of various levels is conducted by senior management and is presented to the board of management and made available to staff.

 

In many cases, classrooms were brightly decorated with subject specific content, including student-generated materials. Students were mature and respectful towards each other and their teachers and demonstrated excellent behaviour in the lessons observed. Students were regularly affirmed for their efforts and contributions, which added to the positive and calm working atmosphere. Inspectors also noted a high work ethic amongst students in many of the lessons observed.

 

4.3          Assessment

A variety of assessment practices are in place in the college. Junior and Leaving Certificate students sit three sets of formal examinations during the year, including ‘mock’ examinations in the spring. All other year groups sit formal house examinations four times per year. The frequency of formal examinations for all students was noted by inspectors. In most cases, common examination papers are set for each year group, which is considered good practice as it ensures that students attain the agreed set of learning outcomes. The use of transparent marking schemes and the sharing of the assessment criteria with students ensures that they are well prepared for their exams and aware of how to achieve the best possible results. This practice is recommended for all subject departments.

 

A commendable emphasis is placed on formative assessment, which provided students with regular constructive feedback on their work. Formative assessment was observed both as part of class work and in the monitoring of homework. Homework tasks were regularly assigned, which were appropriate and challenging for students to practice newly acquired skills and to consolidate learning. Some exemplary instances of oral and written developmental feedback were noted, comprising of affirming comments and suggestions for improvement. This good practice should be adopted and applied consistently by all teachers. Whilst much of the work seen by inspectors was very well presented and provided a useful record for students, there were a limited number of instances of poor presentation and inadequate recording of work. These should be addressed at subject-department planning meetings and strategies agreed to improve the standards of presentation, where relevant.  

 

In some cases, credit is awarded to students for the completion of projects or assignments, which then forms part of their overall grade for the year. It is recommended that students’ oral language skills should be included in the assessment process from first-year onwards and that their results should form part of their overall grade.

 

Teachers’ maintain good records of students’ attendance, progress and attainment in the subjects and programme evaluated. Good systems are in place to communicate with parents regarding their children’s progress, which include formal reports, the school journal and appointments with individual teachers if necessary. Parents expressed a high level of satisfaction with the various means used to inform them of their sons’ progress. The frequency of formal assessments and reports to parents is commended.

 

 

5.         Quality of support for students

 

5.1          Inclusion of students with additional educational needs

St. Kieran’s College is an open and inclusive school that respects diversity and strives to provide the highest quality education for all of its students. New and evolving structures and systems to support students with additional and special educational needs are developing well in the college and significant progress has been made in this area. The development of a specialist department to support students with special educational needs has been identified as a priority for the college. To this end, the board of management has facilitated training to develop the professional capacity within the college to provide for these students. In addition, the college has recently provided dedicated classrooms for resource and learning support. These facilities are equipped with sufficient resources such as computers, specific educational software and teaching materials to support students’ learning.

 

A number of college policies provide for the full inclusion and participation of students from the diversity of cultures and backgrounds represented in the community. These include students from disadvantaged, minority and other groups including those for whom English is an additional language. The college has a number of students for whom English is an additional language and provides appropriate language support where required.

 

The learning-support timetable for individual students and small groups is organised as early as possible in the school year, which optimises the time for learning support. The assignment of teachers to provide learning support is currently under review. Previously, a relatively large number of teachers were involved in providing for students with special educational needs. It was determined that this system was not suitable as it lacked continuity in the students’ learning experiences. Management, in consultation with the special-needs co-ordinator, is currently addressing this issue. The college is moving towards the development of a core team of teachers with the interest and skills to meet the needs of students with special educational needs. The number of teachers with learning support hours is now significantly reduced and there are eight teachers providing dedicated learning support to individual and small groups of students. The development of a core team is highly commended and ensures consistency of approach and continuity of personnel in the provision of resource and learning support.  

 

The learning support department is effectively co-ordinated and in collaboration with senior management is progressing this aspect of educational provision in the college in line with recommended best practice. A special educational needs plan has been developed and outlines the provision and delivery of the learning support programme in the college. To further develop and complement the work of the learning support department, it is recommended that a comprehensive policy for students with special educational needs, including students who are exceptionally able and talented, be developed. Many of the elements of such a policy currently exist within the current plan. The distinct policy should be prioritised for completion, and for ratification by the board and adoption by the whole-school community. The policy should inform and guide the practice of all teachers in the college in providing for and including students with special educational needs.

 

Students with special needs are identified in a systematic manner by senior management and the learning support team through the enrolment process and through contact with parents, primary schools and relevant support agencies. The college is in receipt of 0.97 WTE for students with special needs, 0.5 WTE for international students, and 0.27 WTE to support students from the Traveller community. The college uses these allocations appropriately and for the purposes for which they have been assigned. Resource and learning-support programmes are based on the learning needs of individual students, which is commendable. Small-group and individual tuition are the main forms of delivery to support students’ learning. Team teaching is currently being explored as another means of providing appropriate support, which is commendable. An additional teacher is deployed for some subjects, such as Mathematics, which enables the college to provide more targeted interventions to support students’ learning in particular year groups. There is an appropriate focus on numeracy and literacy in all planned programmes and interventions.

 

Commendably, the special educational needs co-ordinator has begun implementing a system of student profiles, which document the specific learning needs and identify the learning goals of each student with special needs. In this way, interventions can be specific and measureable. Student profiles are made available to assist and inform the relevant teachers who provide learning support to these students. These supports should also be extended, where appropriate, to subject departments to inform their planning and inclusion of these students in their classrooms. As the special-needs support structures become more established in the college, consideration should be given to providing time for inputs at staff meetings in specific areas of learning disabilities and challenges, learning support, inclusion and differentiation. This will assist in developing a whole-school approach to learning support and ensure that all teachers are familiar with the most appropriate strategies to promote students learning. The availability of input from the Special Education Support Service (SESS) to support the work in this area should also be considered.

 

Appropriate links have been established with relevant agencies such as the Visiting Teacher Service for Travellers (VTST), the National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS) and the Special Educational Needs Officer (SENO). These links help to provide information and support to guide the work of the college in providing the most appropriate educational services to meet the needs of all its students.  

 

5.2          Guidance and student support in the whole-school context

The college’s allocation for Guidance is appropriately used to provide vocational, educational and personal guidance. Guidance is provided by many members of the college community through a whole-school support system for student care and development. Key to the effective delivery of the guidance programme are the chaplaincy service, the learning-support department, the SPHE department, the year heads and the class tutors, all of whom are involved in various aspects of the college’s student-support structures. This is managed by the guidance counselling department, with the various roles, areas of support and key personnel outlined in the guidance plan.

 

The guidance counsellor is appropriately qualified. It is commendable that the board of management is currently supporting an additional member of staff to acquire the necessary qualifications, which will ensure that the college has the professional capacity to meet the needs of students in this area. A dedicated guidance suite is available and is suitably located and accessible to students. This comprises of an office and small classroom space, and is appropriately equipped with a range of resources, including ICT. An additional room is also available to provide individual counselling. There is adequate storage for materials and for the safe retention of confidential documents. A selection of college prospectuses and other literature is available to help students in making decisions about further education and careers. It is commendable that a dedicated guidance section is to be included in the new library.

 

An established referral system assists in the delivery of the guidance programme. Referrals for personal guidance and counselling may be dealt with by either the guidance or the chaplaincy services. The college has established links with a diocesan-funded counselling service, which provides professional counselling that may be accessed on a needs basis as determined by the college guidance counselling service. This is commendable and ensures that students are provided with the necessary care and attention to deal with any sensitive issues in a safe, confidential and professional manner.

 

Guidance delivery uses a range of appropriate methods that include timetabled classes for TY, fifth and sixth-year, access to ICT, individual and small-group guidance and counselling sessions. Guidance is central to the enrolment and induction of new students through the provision of information sessions, the administration of standardised tests and assisting students with their subject choices. Students progressing into the various senior-cycle programmes, TY, LCVP and the established Leaving Certificate, are provided with many supports in their decision-making, including an information evening and completion of a number of inventories and questionnaires. Senior cycle students undertake an intensive programme of vocational guidance to assist them in identifying the requirements and pathways to their preferred career options. This involves the completion of the student yearbook and career directory and career investigations using computer aided guidance packages such as Career Directions, Careers Portal, Careers World and Qualifax and work experience programmes in TY and LCVP. Options are discussed with students to assist them with their subject choices and preferred career directions. Appropriate advice and assistance is afforded to students in making key decisions and completing third level applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). In keeping with good practice, students are also tracked on leaving the college to determine what courses or careers they have entered. Good links have been made with local businesses, institutes of higher and further education and training bodies.

 

The SPHE programme is recognised as contributing to the school’s provision of guidance and support to students. The SPHE programme is timetabled in accordance with Circular M11/03. The guidance plan identifies the modules within the SPHE programme that have strands in common with the guidance programme and supports are offered to the subject department. It is commendable that the college has recently appointed a co-ordinator for SPHE to further develop this programme and ensure its full and effective delivery in the college.

 

Parents can meet with guidance personnel or other relevant staff through scheduled appointments as needs arise. Parents also receive timely and appropriate information to support them in helping their sons to make subject and programme choices. There is a clear system of communication with parents relating to students’ progress and wellbeing.

 

The pastoral care system, which involves senior management, class tutors, year heads, the chaplaincy and guidance-counselling departments, ensure that student behaviour, progress and attainment are effectively monitored and supported. The chaplaincy service is central to the pastoral care structures of St. Kieran’s College. This excellent and highly valued service supports students’ personal and spiritual development. In addition to organising liturgical services, providing religious education and counselling support, the chaplaincy service organises a series of retreats at various stages throughout students’ education to support their personal and spiritual development. Of particular note is the first-year retreat to help students prevent any issues related to bullying, and to identify the appropriate procedures to address such issues should they arise. The Cairdeas programme, which involves senior students mentoring first-year students, is an excellent and effective initiative, also organised by the chaplaincy service, to support students making the transition from primary to secondary school.

 

Through their clearly defined roles, the year heads and class tutors make a significant contribution to the college’s strong pastoral and academic support structures. The daily contact with their year and class groups enables these teachers to gain considerable insight into matters such as students’ needs, behaviour, attendance and punctuality and personal circumstances.

 

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

 

The integration of the various support strategies provided by the college, open communication and transparent procedures has resulted in a student body that is well cared for and supported in their learning. The structures and systems in place in St. Kieran’s College ensure that students are educated in a supportive environment that nurture their spiritual, academic, social and physical development through effective teaching and learning and through the setting of appropriately high standards.

 

 

6.         Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·    There is a supportive and proactive parents’ association, which makes a valuable contribution to the work of the college. Communication with the wider parent body and the college community is of a high quality.

 

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 health and safety issues in the laboratories of the cooperating school, as highlighted in the Science and Biology report, be addressed by the board of

management with responsibility for this area.  

 

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

 

7.         Related subject inspection reports

 

The following related Subject Inspection reports are available:

 

 

 

 

 

Published January 2010

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management is delighted that the Whole School Evaluation report is such a positive endorsement of the school and an affirmation of the tremendous work being done by everyone involved in the St. Kieran’s College community.

The Board welcomes the acknowledgement that the vision for the College is clearly founded on providing students with high quality educational experiences and outcome in an atmosphere of Christian care that is in keeping with the ethos of the school.  It welcomes the recognition of the ongoing support of the President and the Trustees to the development of the school.

The Board notes that the contribution of the parents’ association and the student council to the school is acknowledged as is the effective and strategic management of the board.

The Board is pleased that the role of the principal as a highly effective and strategic leader is noted and that the shared vision and decision –making and exemplary work ethic of the senior management team, comprising the principal and deputy principal, is acknowledged.

The Board notes that high standards and expectations are set for pupils, that exceptional examples of high quality teaching and learning were observed in the school and that students were actively engaged through a range of appropriately challenging and interactive methods.  Students are offered a broad and balanced curriculum and access to the widest possible range of subjects and levels.

The Board welcomes the finding that clear systems are in place for the effective management of students in all aspects of their life in the college and that there is a commendable culture of self-evaluation and review among staff in the ongoing collaborative whole-school planning process.

The Board is pleased at the recognition that such a large number of teachers voluntarily give their time to a programme of extracurricular activities that is exceptional and exemplary, the breadth and diversity of which is one of the great strengths of St. Kieran’s College.

The Board is pleased that the pastoral care of students is acknowledged as exemplary, central to which is the excellent and highly valued chaplaincy service.

The Board welcomes the recognition that the College’s support staff, including administration, catering and maintenance personnel, make an invaluable contribution to the day-to-day running of the College.

The Board is pleased with the positive nature of the individual reports on the LCVP Programme, Science and Biology, Irish, English and Maths as indicative of the high standard of teaching and learning observed in the school.

On behalf of everyone in the school community, the Board is gratified to be in receipt of such an affirming report.   It is most encouraging that the recommendations contained are conversant with the ongoing change and planning dynamic proceeding in the school.  The Board would like to acknowledge the professionalism and courtesy of the inspectors involved in the WSE.