St. Brendan’s Community School,
Birr, Co. Offaly
School Self- Evaluation Summary Report for School Community
Overall Evaluation Period: August 2013-May 2016
Summary Evaluation Period: 26th August 2013-30th May 2014
25th August 2014-29th May 2015
Report Issue Date: 29th May 2015
Summary School Self-Evaluation Report
1) Introduction and school context.
St. Brendan’s Community School, Birr, Co. Offaly is a co-educational school committed to the second level education of the students in the area of Birr and its hinterland. The school takes its inspiration and ethos from the traditions and values of its founding Trustees and Staffs- The Presentation Brother’s College, the Sisters of Mercy Convent and Birr Vocational School.
There are 68 teachers and 913 pupils in St. Brendan’s. We offer the traditional state exam curricula at Junior and Leaving Certificate along with a number of programmes including LCA/LCVP/Transition Year/ Special Education Class/ Study Skills Programme/ Small Learning Support Classes/FETAC Programmes Level 2 and 3. The School has an ASD facility.
Our attendance levels are good. Our students’ behavior is excellent.
For more information on how we intend to improve our students’ learning please see our SIP, which is available on the school website.
1.1) The focus of the evaluation.
- we undertook a school evaluation of teaching and learning in the area of literacy 2013-2016. The focus of this report is an evaluation of the findings compiled by the staff literacy committee during the school years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
- We evaluated on whole school and subject specific literacy. This report summarises the strengths that were identified and the priority areas for improvement going forward.
- We focused specifically on the literacy level of the first year student cohort of 2013-2014 and aim to follow the literacy performance levels of this student cohort over the three year period of Junior Cycle 2013-2016
Rationale for Evaluation.
- In July 2011, the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy was launched by the Department of Education and Skills. It aims to create a whole school commitment to achieve change and improvement in literacy and numeracy over the nine year period of the strategy. Each subject department and its teachers are responsible for this new strategy in their individual subjects.
- SSE and SIP in Literacy strives to implement and incorporate the recommendations of previous Subject Inspections and Programme Evaluations by the Inspectorate.
What is Literacy?
Literacy includes the capacity to read, understand and critically appreciate various forms of communication including spoken language, printed text, broadcast media and digital media.
We at St. Brendan’s Community School view literacy to be a core component of our mission statement:
“Our aim is to create a caring community of learning where each individual is valued as a unique human being.”
We aim to maintain a focus on literacy within a broad and balanced curriculum. We acknowledge that a key element of each child’s education is the fostering of good literacy skills, which are essential to the life prospects of each person and vital for the quality and equity of Irish society. We are committed as a staff to promote literacy among our students so that all may improve upon these crucial skills, enjoy high levels of self-esteem and achieve appropriate levels of success in life.(Literacy Steering Group 1/05/2014, SSE on Literacy in Learning)
2) Summary of School Evaluation Findings
We collected information from students and teachers in preparing this report. We focused on the First Year student Cohort 2013. We tracked the performance of this student cohort in literacy using the following range of assessment data:
- Reading age Tests (1st/2nd year students tested)
- The CAT test (cognitive ability in verbal, numerical, quantitative reasoning.
- Class Assessments.
- Surveys and questionnaires (teacher and student)
- Exam Levels and Results (use of PDST tool comparing St. Brendan’s performance in state exams to national norms.
2.1) We found that our school has strengths in the following areas:
- Teachers have a skills focus approach
- Teachers use diverse teaching methodologies including widespread use of ICT
- Learning takes place in a print-rich environment (e.g.: use of word walls, school library and mobile library)
- Collaborative Planning, Standardised Testing and strong commitment to ongoing CPD.
- High level of competence in oral literacy due to commitment to Extra-Curricular activities.
- Both higher and lower order questioning is evident in classrooms.
- Our students enjoy writing in a variety of formats.
- One class period a week dedicated to specific areas of literacy competency in English, Irish and Maths is having positive learning outcomes.
- FETAC Programmes Levels 2 and 3 followed by students in the special education class.
We know these are our strengths because of the:
- favourable findings of student/teacher questionnaires and surveys on literacy and engagement taken over two academic school years 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 (see appendix 1, comparison of 1st and 2nd year student survey)
- English, Irish and Maths have promoted literacy in reading, oral work, problem solving and mental arithmetic. This is positively affected in the reading survey findings shown in appendix 1
- FETAC Programmes Level 2 and 3 followed by students in the Special Education Class have enhanced self-directed learning. FETAC Level 3 caters for students who are illiterate an innumerate because students have a selection of mediums in which to present their work, e.g.: recordings/picture/visual and digital projects. Enabled learners according to their ability take some Junior Certs subjects within mainstream classes.
- The findings from teacher survey/questionnaires on teaching practice in relation to literacy shows a high commitment to the systematic development and application of literacy in their teaching.
- The standard of teaching and learning in St. Brendan’s is high and our results in State Exams reflect this.
2.2) We have decided to prioritise the following areas for development:
- Increased expectations and standards in writing across the curriculum.
- The development of comprehension, group work and co-operative learning strategies across all subject areas.
- Increase the number of students taking higher level in certain subjects for both Junior and Leaving Certificate Exams.
- On the basis of student survey findings 2013/2014 one of our targets was to increase the number of students reading for pleasure from 16% to 18%. The actual increase was 20%, reflected in student survey 2014-2015
- A second target was to decrease the number not reading at all from 27% to 24%. The actual decrease was to 17%. This is a significant achievement for literacy across the school community.
- 41% of students enjoy reading. 25% dislike reading. Therefore we have decided to prioritise the encouragement of students to explore reading material that is personally appealing to them.
Targets for 2015-2016:
- 3rd Year students will re-sit CAT tests so that we may quantify improvement (or dis-improvement)
- Parents will be surveyed in relation to literacy. This will facilitate a community approach to literacy.
- We will decrease the number of students who dislike or strongly dislike reading.
- We will aim to extend, offer and deliver more courses within the FETAC Programme to Special Education students.
- We aim to enable special needs students to leave St. Brendan’s with a recognized qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications.
- Continue to encourage literacy across the whole school community of learning. We intend to explore the merits of including a “Key Word/ Phrase Journal” on Student Book Lists (to be discussed by whole teaching staff).
- Provision of visual cues to highlight literacy/numeracy moments in the classroom and around the school (Woodwork Department consulted).
- Encourage the allocation of time in class to draw on student experience from other subjects thus embedding literacy on a cross curricular basis.
- Continue to cultivate a culture of self-directed learning inside and outside the classroom creating opportunities for students to check/correct/assess their own work.
Commitment to improve literacy competency levels in St. Brendan’s Community School continues to be a whole school endeavor, supported by School Management.