The Principal, is secretary to the Board in a non-voting capacity.
The Selection Board for all staff appointments and internal posts of responsibility promotions is formed as follows:
2 Religious Trustees; 1 VEC Trustee; The Chief Executive Officer of Co. Dublin VEC or his Nominee and an appointed Inspector from the Department of Education and Skills.
The current board took office on the 1st Aug. 2013. The term of office of this board expires on 31st July, 2016. The Parents are elected to the Board by the parent body. The two teachers are nominated by the permanent teaching staff.
The board members who have served since 1992 have provided direction and sound management to the school under the chairmanship of Mr. S. Sheehan. A typical meeting would deal with correspondence, school finance (all school accounts come within the Board’s remit), staffing, school business by way of the Principal’s report, Parents’ Association reports, and issues that are central to the quality of teaching and learning in the school.
Minutes of all meetings are recorded and copies are forwarded to the Department of Education.
Parents have a right of appeal to the Board on any issue of importance.
The Board of Management is responsible for the overall direction and management of the school.
The current members are:
|Mr. Sean Sheehan: (Chairman)||Archdiocese Trustee|
|Ms. Mary O’Boyle||Archdiocese Trustee|
|Fr. Dan Joe O’Mahony||Archdiocese Trustee|
|Mr. Michael O’Donovan||DDLETB|
|Ms. Marian Sheehan||DDLETB|
|Ms. Mary McCamley||DDLETB|
|Mrs. Enda Troy||Parents’ Nominee|
|Mr. T. McGill||Teachers’ Nominee|
|Ms. H. Kelly||Teachers’ Nominee|
|Mrs. Jacinta Burns||Parent’s Nominee|
Report to the Parents from the Board of Hartstown Community School for 2014-2015 School Year.
The purpose of this Annual Report to parents is to provide a summary of information on the operation of Hartstown Community School in line with the requirements of the
The Report serves as an addition to the information provided on the school website, the various newsletters issued by the school, letters and text messages to parents, the Parent Information Booklet, which is provided to parents of students who are new to the school and information provided to parents at evening meetings.
Enrolments and Staffing.
School enrolments remain high. There were 1133 students enrolled in the school during 2014-2015. The board agreed to form an eighth class in first year to meet increased demand from children in categories A and B of the catchment area. Participation in transition year increased to 96 students necessitating the formation of a fourth TY class. Demand for places in all year groups remains high.
Posts of Responsibility
As a result of the growth in student numbers on special programmes (LCA and TY) the DES sanctioned filling the post of programme co-ordinator at Assistant Principal level. Mr. Darren Crawley was appointed to this post. As the school now has over 1100 students, we are entitled to an extra AP post. The retirement of Mr. V.O’Keeffe created a further vacancy. Both positions will be filled in September 2015.
Due to the moratorium on filling posts of responsibility however, four Assistant Principal posts and two Special Duties posts remained unfilled. The Board regrets the loss of these valuable posts to the school. Post holders play a vital role in senior and middle management. The decision to leave these posts unfilled impacts negatively on students and increases the workload of existing post holders and other members of staff.
School Development and Planning
Following a limited reorganisation of posts, Ms. T. Carroll is now assistant school planning and development (SDP) officer. Ms. Carroll undertook an initial audit of all school policies currently available, reviewed the School Plan and researched best practice from other schools. It was agreed that three policies should be prioritised for review: Special Needs Policy (in consultation with the deputy principal); Health and Safety Policy; Substance Abuse Policy. The Guidance Policy was updated in consultation with the guidance department. A new section of the School Plan entitled Care and Management of Students was introduced focussing this year on Student Leadership Initiatives.
The School Building
The Department of Education and Skills has sanctioned funds to build a new Science laboratory and 8 classrooms. An architect has been appointed and the project is at planning stage. The new rooms will allow for the removal of some of the existing pre-fabs. A further application will be made to enable the replacement of all pre-fabricated classrooms.
The work of subject planning is shared among all teachers of the subject. Planning is collaborative, reflective and informed by evidence. Detailed minutes are provided to the principal following meetings and the principal responds to the subject departments. The principal and deputy principals attend subject meetings.
School Self-Evaluation. ‘There is a high level of school self-evaluation shown in an ongoing review of structures and practices in the school’ (WSE). Policies are regularly reviewed. Learner outcomes at state exams are compared to entrance test scores (CAT). Strengths and weaknesses are indentified. Examination results are analysed and actions are undertaken to improve perceived weaknesses. Areas for special focus are:
Preparation for Teaching. Teachers’ plans are in keeping with the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy and with literacy and numeracy demands of the subject. Subject plans state how teachers assess student learning.
Teaching Approaches. Lessons are guided by curriculum-linked learning outcomes and learning outcomes, where appropriate, are shared with the students at the start of each lesson. Teachers check that expected learning outcomes have been achieved during lessons. At subject department meetings and general staff meetings, teachers share ideas about techniques and approaches that maximise student engagement in learning.
Management of Students. The Board notes that inspectors have repeatedly praised the way in which students are managed in the school. All recent inspections have noted that interactions between student and teachers and among students themselves are positive and respectful. Inspectors have noted that teachers deal very skilfully with potential problems in class thus avoiding conflict and disruption to teaching and learning. The 2015 SEN inspection report commended students highly for their helpfulness and good behaviour in classrooms and on corridors during the inspection.
The board regularly reviews the systems and procedures used to monitor student behaviour. We will continue to have high and realistic expectations of students in relation to their behaviour and learning. Each teacher will ensure that students know and can apply lesson routines and will stick to classroom guidelines.
Cyber referencing of staff. Members of staff of Hartstown Community School are committed, in a professional capacity, to working to achieve the best possible outcomes for students. Students are asked to respect the boundaries between the professional and personal aspects of staff members’ lives. Students should not comment on, or make reference to, a member of staff on social media sites or social fora.
Students should not circulate or publish, through ICT or other means, material recorded with or without consent that may undermine, or cause damage to, the professional or personal reputation of another person. Any breach of these rules will lead to sanctions. The student concerned may be liable for expulsion.
Differentation and Assessment.
The recent SEN inspection reported that highly effective differentiation was a feature of the support model in use in small group settings. All teachers had a clear understanding of differentiation and the importance of teaching at individual student’s instructional levels. Teachers gave clear instructions and explanations, and enhanced learning and comprehension through good use of visuals and manipulatives.
Teachers in HCS are aware that assessment can at times have a negative effect on students, particularly on students who find academic work challenging. Methods of assessment and feedback on examinations in the school avoid giving repeated negative reinforcement.
We use techniques of assessment for learning and self-assessment. The aim is not simply to grade or mark a piece of work, but to show students how they can improve their own performance. Subject departments review the effect of current modes of assessment. In subjects where project work is an element of assessment, departments ensure that there are clear time-scales for completing the work, that students are familiar with times and dates and that there are models of good work available to students as examples of good practice.
The Learning Environment. The physical environment of the school is very good and facilities, including ICT facilities are excellent. We will build on this by ensuring that the school and classroom environments support, encourage and celebrate students’ learning and achievements through displays of students’ and that high-quality displays, which promote the development of subject-specific literacy and numeracy are evident about the school.
Students’ Active Engagement in Learning. We aim to increase student engagement in lessons through providing increased opportunities for student participation, for students to report on and explain their learning and by ensuring that there is a balance between teacher talk and student talk.
Learning to Learn. Students are taught how to plan, study, organise homework, revise, summarise, present their work to others, answer questions on their own work and organise their work in themes. A key element of this is our school study skills programme, which is co-ordinated by Mr. Horseman. Areas covered included flash cards, mind maps, summarising, time-management, goal-setting and note-taking. The programme is supported by the class teacher who gives concrete examples of how the study skills should be applied to their own subject.
Information Technology. All classrooms have high-speed broadband access, computers and digital projectors. Information technology is now integrated into the teaching plans of all subject departments, which greatly enhances the quality of teaching and learning. This year, we launched an initiative using iPads in learning support classes.
We changed our information management system to VS Ware. We will open VS Ware to parents in the 2015-16 academic year so that they can monitor their children’s attendance.
Attendance. Attendance at all classes is recorded electronically. Parents and guardians receive a text message if their child is absent from school. They report that they can now better monitor their children’s attendance. The Board is pleased to report that the improved attendance rates noted over recent years have been maintained. The attendance rate for 2014-15 remained at 92%, which remains above the national average.
From September 2015, parents will be able to log on to the school system to check their child’s attendance on a daily basis.
Academic Standards and Examination Results
Every year, the school prepares a summary of the results and compares them with national averages. Each subject department and each individual teacher of the outgoing Leaving Cert classes is asked to review the results in order to identify and encourage best practice and to highlight areas that may be in need of attention. It is school policy to reflect on our work in order to provide the best possible environment for teaching and learning.
The board holds regular meetings to consider state examination results. Board members are given statistics for the state exams in HCS for the current and previous years as well as national statistics for the state exams. As well as being able to see trends in HCS over a number of years for the Junior Cert and the Leaving Cert, members can compare results to national averages.
The board expressed satisfaction with the results generally. It was noted that the areas targeted by management and staff for improvement were showing improved examination results. HCS students were awarded entrance scholarships and awards by NUI Maynooth and for the second time in four years, one of our students was awarded a prestigious All-Ireland Scholarship.
Leaving Cert results
The board commends students and staff on the good Leaving Certificate results and notes the commitment of staff members to supporting students generally but especially in their exam preparation.
While the improving trend in take-up of higher level Irish and Maths stalled a little this year, the proportion of A-C grades and A/B grades in higher level in both subjects was significantly up on previous years. The proportion taking higher level English was slightly up on last year.
Take up at higher level increased in Business, Geography, Art, Spanish, Physics, Biology, DCG, Home Economics and Religion. The proportion doing HL Chemistry, Accounting, Chemistry, Construction and Music remained steady (All students took HL Music).
The was a high proportion of higher A/B grades in Irish, Maths, Business, Accounting, French, German, Chemistry, Engineering, DCG, Home Economics, Religious Education and Music.
There were 13 subjects where all students taking the exam passed: Home Economics Music, Art, German, Spanish, History, Engineering Accounting, Applied Maths, Russian, Lithuanian, Romanian and Polish.
The Board acknowledges the work and commitment of the teachers in the school who give their time early in the morning, during lunch and after school to assist students in preparing for their exams. It is important to note that factors outside of the school’s control also influence results. Poor or erratic attendance, homework poorly done or not attempted and lack of study impact negatively on a student’s performance. Parents are discouraged from taking their children on holiday during term time.
Junior Cert results
The proportions taking higher level in Irish, English and Maths have increased considerably over the past three years. The proportion of A/B grades in higher English is above the national average and has risen steadily for the past 5 years. The proportion taking foundation Maths is now below the national average and the proportion taking higher level Maths has increased steadily over the past three years.
The proportion taking higher level is above the national average in Business, Home Economics, Music and Metalwork. The proportion taking higher level is at or close to the national average in Geography, Science, Art, Woodwork and Technology.
The Science department will revise the timing of projects and assessment with a view to achieving better outcomes.
The lower than average proportions taking higher French, Spanish and German may be due to some extent to the fact that all students in HCS take a language. In some schools, students with learning difficulties are not given the option of a continental language. Nevertheless, it is felt that entering students for the optional oral exam in Junior Cert would lead to improved outcomes.
Developing a Culture of Achievement
The Board and the Principal continued to work with the staff and the Parents’ Association to encourage increased parental involvement in their children’s learning and development and to examine ways of raising ambition and motivation levels generally. Practical steps were taken on top of initiatives already in place.
Parents of incoming first year students are given a clear message regarding the importance of achieving academically. They receive a copy of the NAPD / NPC booklet ‘Moving Up’, to help them support their children in their first year at school.
The school wrote to parents of Leaving Cert students outlining clearly what level of commitment was expected of them during their final year.
The topics of ambition and motivation were raised at all general parent’s evenings.
The principal regularly visits all Junior Cycle classes to talk about the need to aspire to third level education, supporting the work of year heads who regularly address the topic at assemblies.
In order to encourage students to focus on post-leaving cert options at an earlier stage, all fifth year students visited NUI Maynooth where they attended talks on student life and were give a guided tour of the state of the art campus.
It is now board policy that progression from 5th to 6th year is dependant on commitment and performance. The principal, deputies and year head met with a number of parents and students during the summer to discuss options in light of very poor summer examination results. Almost 40 students were asked to repeat some of their summer exams in August. The board acknowledges the high level of support from parents for this initiative.
Literacy and Numeracy
In line with the National Strategy in Improving Literacy and Numeracy, the School Self-Evaluation approach and in conjunction with the NEPS model of support, HCS provides Whole School Supports, Supports for Some and the Supports for the Few.
The school had set the target of improving students reading ages for 1st year students. Data was collected in May 2015 during the 1st Year Summer test schedule which included the NGRT2 (new Group Reading Test #2). The analysis of the results indicated that the reading age of the group improved by approximately 1.3 years. 31 % of the cohort still had a reading age of less than 12 years.
It is noted that the group with a Reading Age in excess of 15 years has improved from 11% on entering first year to 26.7 % on entering their 2nd year. In the lowest group or cohort (lowest 15% of students) the reading ages improved on average by 1.4 years (Avg 9.0 to 10.4 years).
Whole School supports for literacy include DEAR (Drop Everything & Read) for one period a week, creating print rich areas in classrooms and corridors and literary competitions, which are supported by the Parents’ Association.
The Support for Some in the area of Literacy includes forming smaller class groups in the lower and middle bands of 1st-3rd Year, use of Peer Reading strategies with 1st & 2nd Years and SRA (Student Reading Assessment) using iPads to access on-line resources.
The Support for Few includes Learning Support and Resource classes.
The area of Numeracy begins its first phase in the formal school evaluation process in 2015 – 2016. During 2014/2015, it was decided that a pilot study which would examine a specific approach, resource development and other considerations would be conducted. This was co-ordinated with the assistance of Ms. C. Reynolds
The Whole School approach in terms of supports includes students converting grades or test results from fractions to percentages for all tests and numeracy print-rich areas.
The Support for Some includes forming smaller class groups in the middle and lower bands of 1st-3rd year and specific intervention strategies.
The Support for Few includes team teaching, small group withdrawal and individual withdrawal.
These approaches and the relevant feedback are reported back to staff at both the start and end of each academic year. Reminders are also provided during key points during the academic year, which can include staff presentations during staff meetings, sending emails, alerts or bulletins.
The school had an inspection of Special Educational Needs during the year. Feedback from the inspector was very positive. The work of the core SEN team was highly praised.
The main findings of the report were:
- The overall quality of teaching and learning was of a very high standard, and lessons observed were structured and purposeful, and carefully designed to address the literacy, numeracy, and social needs of the students.
- Highly effective differentiation strategies were a feature of the support model in use in special group settings.
- Formative and summative assessments are well-utilised to ensure that students are taught at a correctly identified instructional level, and are afforded opportunities for consolidation and progression.
- Reciprocal links with the local primary schools, and a comprehensive transfer and induction programme assist the introduction and orientation of incoming students and their parents.
- Students in all classes are afforded full access to curriculum choices and levels, and are supported in achieving attainment commensurate with potential.
- The co-ordinators for special educational needs carry out their duties conscientiously, and careful timetabling enables a team of eight appropriately qualified teachers to provide most of the support teaching in line with best practice.
The only main recommendation was that the school begin to engage in the individual educational planning process (IEP) for students in receipt of additional resource teaching hours, particularly for students with low incidence special educational needs.
The full report is available on the DES website and via a link on our own website.
The board strongly encourages all students to consider transition year, which continues to provide a wonderful opportunity to students to develop as young adults. Apart from innovative modules developed at school level, a wide range of modules are provided by outside tutors and groups. Film School allowed students to produce short films. Song School enabled students to spend a week learning how to write and produce songs. The Draíocht Theatre Project brought students into contact with professionals from the world of theatre. A project on Information Literacy, run in conjunction with the Library in NUI Maynooth was very successful and will be continued.
Staff members actively promote board policy regarding TY and the numbers taking this option have steadily increased over the past three years. For the first time, there were four TY classes last year. School-based research continues to indicate that HCS students who do transition year score 40 to 50 points in the Leaving Cert than those who go straight to 5th year.
Senior management and the Maths department have been working together on strategies to raise standards and to further increase the pass rate at Leaving Certificate Ordinary level. While progress is being made, the board remains concerned that too many students drop to Foundation level for the Leaving Cert exam. The maths department has reviewed the common first year programme. It is now pitched at a higher level than before. The proportion of students taking higher level at Junior Cert has increased and this should lead to improved outcomes at Leaving Cert.
We continue to offer taught classes in Russian, Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian. Japanese is now an established subject at Leaving Certificate level. Following a number of meetings with representatives from the Romanian embassy, HCS is now piloting a Romanian language and culture programme for junior cycle students for whom Romanian is the mother tongue.
The oral component for Irish has increased to 40% at Leaving Certificate. It is now policy to conduct full oral examinations in Irish and in continental languages at the end of 5th year. Language teachers acknowledge that an examined oral component at junior cycle would lead to a smoother transition from junior to senior cycle.
The French exchange with the Lycée Montesquieu in Bordeaux continues to be popular. The board acknowledges the commitment of the language teachers who have made school exchanges possible over the years.
The Building and Grounds
The Board continued its investment in maintaining and enhancing the buildings and grounds.
The entire school community is very proud of our physical school environment. Visitors to the school frequently praise the standard of care and cleanliness of the building and grounds. The inspectors who conducted the Whole School Evaluation highly commended the ancillary staff on the way the building and grounds are maintained. The Board acknowledges the work and interest of the care-taking and cleaning staff in maintaining the building and grounds to such a high standard. The board also acknowledges the respectful way that our students treat the school environment. The Green Schools group in transition year plays an important role in maintaining and enhancing the school environment.
Student Support and Welfare and Child Protection
The Board acknowledges the high level of support given to students by the staff. The Board has also engaged the services of an Educational Psychologist and is prepared to support parents who feel that their child could benefit from an assessment.
The cutbacks to the guidance provision by the DES pose an enormous challenge for the school. The Board believes that any large-scale cutback to the guidance and counselling hours would not be in the best interest of the students in the school and could leave some very vulnerable children feeling unsupported and desperate.
The board decided a number of years ago to maintain levels of guidance and counselling provision as close as possible to the pre-cutback levels and to make cutbacks instead in general class provision. Following review and a detailed report from the guidance Department on the nature and extent of their work, the board decided to retain counselling hours as close as possible to last year’s level.
A number of child protection referrals were made to the appropriate authorities during the year. The board was notified by the principal of all referrals. All ancillary staff members were given a written summary of their responsibilities regarding student welfare and protection.
While it is the policy of the Board to provide as much support as possible for students in difficulty, the Board’s priority is the protection of the teaching and learning environment and the welfare of staff and students. In order to protect the teaching and learning environment and in the interests of the safety of students and staff, a number of students were obliged to leave the school during the year.
Parents, Students and Teachers as Partners in the Community.
The parents’ association plays an active role in developing school policies and supporting students in a number of ways and in organising speakers for parent evenings.
The association is currently working with the staff and the board to examine ways of encouraging students (and parents) to be more ambitious.
The student council is active in school. The current council finalised a constitution, which was ratified by the board.
All members of student council attended a meeting of the board of management to give their. Members of the board complimented the council on their achievements during the year and also on their concrete plans for next year.
Adult Education Report
The Adult and Community Education programme is one of the largest of its kind in Dublin. It provides a wide range of courses in general education, languages, craft, hobbies, art, music, health issues, keep fit, computers and diploma courses linked to universities.
Although numbers have been affected by the economic downturn, enrolments remained strong. Around 800 adults enrolled each term last year. Credit card payment and Pay Pal have made the enrolment process more efficient.
We have traditionally provided a very wide range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities: GAA, soccer, rugby, basketball, badminton, athletics, Green Schools, debating, exchanges, trips to the cinema and theatre, field trips, school musicals etc. This is in keeping with our Mission Statement that “we aspire to encourage our pupils’ sense of initiative and self-reliance, their capacity to communicate and co-operate, their perseverance and self-confidence (and) the development of their unique personality”.
The 2010 Whole School Evaluation by the Department of Education and Science noted that “the school benefits from the commitment of time, energy, enthusiasm and care which the many teachers who provide these experiences bring to these activities”.
The extra-curricular programme makes a significant contribution to the very good relationships that exist between staff and students. The Board of Management wishes to acknowledge the time given by members of staff to facilitate the range of extra-curricular activities that contribute to the unique character of Hartstown Community School. Being a member of a school club, or other small group activity can make a huge difference to a child’s feeling of belonging to the larger organisation.
Sean Sheehan, Chairman Board of Management