Evaluation Period: September 2016 –May 2017

Introduction

School self –evaluation is about ensuring quality and improvement in the teaching and learning processes (Hofman et al 2009).

School self-evaluation (SSE) is a collaborative, inclusive, reflective process of internal school review. When engaging in school self evaluation the school reflects on its aims, considers criteria for success within the school’s context and ethos, and determines methods for judging the quality of educational provision in the school. It is an evidence based approach, which involves the gathering of information from a range of sources, and making judgements with a view to bringing about improvements in students learning.

As part of this process schools are required to promote literacy and numeracy (Department of Education and Skills 2012).

In line with the Department of Education and Skills directives ‘School Self Evaluation’ (circular 0040/2012) and ‘Looking at Our Schools 2016: A Quality Framework for Post Primary Schools’ (circular 0040/2016), a school self –evaluation of teaching and learning in St Patrick’s Classical school was undertaken during the period of September 2016 to May 2017.

School Context

St Patrick’s Classical School is a Catholic Voluntary Secondary school for boys with a student population of 890.
This was the school’s first year of official self-evaluation focus. It was decided by the school stakeholders to begin with a focus on literacy.

As a school community, we are aware that post primary students are required to read text books from many different subject and content areas. These text books, in comparison to those of primary school are more complex, longer and have specific discipline vocabulary. Research tells us that adolescents struggle to comprehend these texts due to an inability to understand the meaning of words (Reed & Vaughan 2010).

Reading comprehension is one of the most important literacy skills taught in schools and is the cornerstone for educational success and personal fulfilment throughout life (Department of Education and Skills 2011).

In light of this understanding, and following discussion and a survey of teachers at a staff meeting in May 2016 the target of improving first year students’ reading comprehension was set. The following literacy intervention was introduced.

Literacy Initiative Plan: Subject based vocabulary and a print rich environment.

  • Each subject department chose 10 key words relevant to their subject discipline for first years.
  • In order to facilitate a print rich environment, notice boards were put in place outside each classroom. The relevant 10 key subject words will be displayed on these notice boards.
  • Teachers displayed these words within their own classrooms in order to further enhance the school’s print rich environment.
  • First year students were asked in early October to give in writing their comprehension of these key words without any teacher assistance. These interpretations were recorded by the individual teacher.
  • Comprehension of the key words was emphasised throughout all subsequent teaching and learning.
  • April / May – Each subject teacher asked their students to again give in writing their understanding of the 10 key words. This data was compared to the students’ previous key word comprehension as recorded in October.
  • All data was collected by means of teacher and student completed questionnaires.
  • The data was evaluated by the literacy committee and the SSE coordinator.
    All resulting data analysis and information was disseminated through the school email and school website. The School self-evaluation report was submitted to the Principal, Deputy Principal and Board of Management.

The Findings

Pupils and the literacy initiative.

  • 86% of students said they had a better understanding of the key words in their subjects at the end of first year.
  • 68% of students said that this literacy initiative helped them to better understand the subject matter in class.
  • 65% of students said that the key words were visible around the school.
  • 45% of students said they found the key words difficult.
  • 36% of students said they found the key words easy.
  • 75% of students said that key word emphasis by teachers helped them to better understand the reading of their text books in each subject.

Teachers and the literacy initiative

  • 92% of first year teachers collected data in relation to this literacy initiative at the start of, and later in the academic year 2016/2017.
  • 58% of teachers spent 20 minutes or less working through this initiative at the start of and later in this academic year.
  • 34 % of teachers spent 40 minutes of less working through this initiative at the start of and later in this academic year.
  • 88% of teachers found the rolling out of this initiative easy to implement.
  • 92% of teachers said that this initiative improved students’ knowledge of the key words in relation to their subject.
  • 88% of teachers said this was a helpful initiative for first year student curriculum access.

Teachers noted the following:

  • This initiative created an awareness of the role of literacy in all subject disciplines.
  • This initiative encouraged the display of words in the classroom. Creating a print rich environment in the classroom was very helpful in reinforcing key words and subject comprehension.
  • Some key words chosen were too difficult.
  • The initiative was a useful tool to track and assess students’ progress.
  • A greater awareness was created around the school with regard to specific key words pertaining to individual subjects.
  • The initiative could lead to compartmentalized learning, separate from other tasks.
  • Organising an initiative across a whole year group with flexible timelines was effective and user friendly.

Evaluation and school improvement plans for 2017/2018.

  • The school with collaborate with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) in order to further implement literacy, numeracy and assessment for learning (AFL) initiatives.
  • The school will seek a SSE advisory visit from the Department of Education Inspectorate.
  • The current literacy initiative will continue with incoming first years and will be expanded to include second years and year one of senior cycle.
    A numeracy initiative will be implemented with first years, second years and year one of senior cycle.
  • An AFL initiative will be implemented for first years, second years and year one of senior cycle.
  • ‘Show me boards’ have been provided to all students by means of the student journal. Awareness will be created around their use in relation to AFL.
    Parents will be surveyed along with teachers and students.
  • SSE information will be made available on the school website.

Legislative and Regulatory Requirements

Legislative and Regulatory Checklist as per DES Guidelines completed. The school is fully meeting the requirements of all relevant legislation, rules and circulars. This checklist is available to view in the Principal’s Office.