Board of Management

HCS / Information / Board of Management

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:

Sean Sheehan (Chairperson)Archdiocese Nominee
Mary O’BoyleArchdiocese Nominee
Fr. Dan Joe O’MahonyArchdiocese Nominee
Mary McCamleyDDLETB Nominee
Michael O’DonovanDDLETB Nominee
Marian SheehanDDLETB Nominee
Seamus McGroartyTeachers’ Nominee
Elaine DohertyTeachers’ Nominee
Jacinta BurnsParents’ Nominee
Jackie BradyParents’ Nominee

Report to the Parents from the Board of Hartstown Community School for 2016-2017 School Year.

November 2017

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

Education Act. The Report serves as an addition to the information provided on the school website, the SSE report, the various newsletters issued by the school, letters and text messages to parents, the Parent Information Booklet and information provided to parents at evening meetings.

Enrolments and Staffing.

School enrolments remain high. There were 1143 students enrolled in the school during 2016-2017.  Participation in Transition Year remains high.  There are four TY class.  Demand for places in all year groups remains high.  Girls are underrepresented in TY.  Efforts will be made during the coming year to encourage more girls to participate in TY.

Posts of Responsibility

Due to the moratorium on filling posts of responsibility, 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.

The board welcomes the appointment of Mr Graham Fleming as third deputy principal and the partial restoration of the teacher allocation for guidance and counselling.

School Development and Planning

Following an initial audit of all school policies the School Plan was further reviewed and researched in the light of best practice from other schools. A new section of the School Plan entitled Care and Management of Students was further developed focussing on Student Leadership Initiatives.  The Anti-Bullying Policy was reviewed and will be considered by the parents, students and staff before being considered by the board.

The School Building

The Department of Education and Skills sanctioned funds to build a new Science laboratory and 8 classrooms. Building began in August 2016 and students moved into the new classrooms in August 2017.  Some of the pre-fabs were demolished.  A further application has been made to enable the replacement of all pre-fabricated classrooms.  It is the intention of the board to apply to the DES for a refurbishment of the existing classrooms.

Subject Planning

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.

School Self-Evaluation

‘There is a high level of school self-evaluation shown in an ongoing review of structures and practices in the school’ (Whole School Evaluation Report). Policies are regularly reviewed.  Learner outcomes at state exams are compared to entrance test scores (CAT 4).  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, general staff meetings and Teach Meets, teachers share ideas about techniques and approaches that maximise student engagement in learning.

Management of Students

All recent inspections have noted that interactions between students 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 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.

It is of note that the majority of students who were suspended during the year are boys. We will explore ways to implement strategies aimed at increasing the level of engagement among this cohort of boys.

Differentation and Assessment

Recent inspections reported that highly effective differentiation was a feature of classes. Teachers have a clear understanding of differentiation and the importance of teaching at individual student’s instructional levels.

Teachers in HCS are aware that assessment can at times have a negative effect on students in particularly those 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. 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’ work and that high-quality displays, which promote the development of subject-specific literacy and numeracy are evident about the school. A recent teacher survey pointed to the need to increase teacher and student access to digital technology.

Students’ Active Engagement in Learning

We aim to increase student engagement and participation in lessons and to encourage them to report on and explain their learning.  We encourage a balance between teacher talk and student talk.  Increased learner engagement with homework would bring great benefits.

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.  Areas covered include 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.

A Digital Learning Committee was formed to support the implementation of the Digital Learning Strategy. WiFi was installed in a number of classes as a trial and feedback from staff and students was positive.  It is proposed to extend WiFi to the entire school during the coming academic year.  It was also decided to continue using textbooks along with digital resources.  Staff were surveyed to establish their training and in-service needs.  It was agreed that the Acceptable Use Policy should be updated.

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. Parents can log on to the school system to check their child’s attendance on a daily basis.  There is concern at the high rate of casual absenteeism among a number of senior cycle students, often with parental consent.

Academic Standards and Examination Results

Examinations

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.  Each year, the board reviews examination results and statistics and trends.

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 Trinity College 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 Leaving Certificate results and notes the commitment of staff members to supporting students generally but especially in their exam preparation.

Take-up of higher level Irish was slightly lower than in 2014 and 2015.  The board notes the relatively low proportion of higher A and B grades in Irish.  The proportion of students taking Foundation Level has been decreasing steadily since 2014 (See SSE report for more detail).

Management and staff have identified a number of factors that impact negatively on students’s results:

– Poor command of English (English may not be spoken in the home)

– Poor attendance

– Lack of attention to homework and study

– Failure to complete projects and practical components of the assessment

– An increase in part-time work coinciding with the upturn in the economy

– Failure to follow the advice of the subject teacher concerning levels.

Junior Cert results

The proportions taking higher level in Irish, English and Maths have increased considerably over the past four years. Pass rates in the three core subjects are broadly in line with or better than national averages.  No students took FL English and only 4 took FL Maths (See SSE report for More details).

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.

Developing a Culture of Achievement

The Board and the Principal continue 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. We also have close links with ITB.

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 for Improving Literacy and Numeracy, School Self-Evaluation and in conjunction with the NEPS model of support, HCS provides Whole School Supports, Supports for Some and the Supports for the Few.

Literacy

  • Literacy

The school continues to set targets in relation improving our students’ Reading Ages. We focus on the junior cycle students. The data we collected this year was affected due to changes in the process of determining if exam candidates were entitled to access Reasonable Accommodations in Certificate Examinations (RACE). Once again, data was collected in May 2017 during the summer Exam schedule.

  • Incoming First Years (Sample 155): Average Reading Age of 12 years and 1 month (up from 11 years and 7 months in 2015-16). Within this sample, 31% have a Reading Age above 14 years (13% in 2015-16).
  • First into Second Year: For this year group, the Average Reading Age is 13 years and 6 months, an increase of 1 year and 11 months in one year). 39% recorded a Reading Age at 15 years or above.

Second into Third Year: Within the sample of 122 students tested, the Average Reading Age was 14 years and 2 months, an increase of 1 year and 10 months since 2015-16). 40% had a Reading Age of 15 years or above.

Whole School supports for literacy include DEAR (Drop Everything & Read) for one period a week, literary competitions, the creation of print rich areas in classrooms and corridors and, 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.

Numeracy –

Our numeracy approach focuses upon the delivery of a pre-test, putting an intervention in place and then re-testing. Our results in the area of percentages and fractions with the first year group again saw a modest average increase of 10% in the students’ results. The results in the area of Estimation yielded even more impressive results with the minimum average improvement in the region of 40%. The numeracy strategy will move to linking the topics of these interventions to the students’ Maths schedule.

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.

Subject Inspections

The school has two subject inspections since the last board report. The first was in Maths.

Main Findings

  • The quality of teaching was very good or excellent in the majority of the lessons visited however, there were two lessons where the quality of teaching was fair.
  • Assessment for learning (AfL) was employed to very good effect in the very best lessons particularly where it prompted student reflection and self-evaluation.
  • Classroom management and rapport with students was excellent.
  • The time allocated to teaching Mathematics on the school timetable is very good and the mathematics department is very well resourced.
  • The arrangements for identifying and supporting students with special education needs or in need of learning support in Mathematics are very good
  • Subject department planning in Mathematics, supported by robust whole-school planning structures, is very good.

Main Recommendations

  • Teaching for understanding informed by a careful determination of the students’ prior learning and featuring full exploration of learning intention and active teaching and learning should be standard practice across the department.
  • The timetabling of mathematics lessons should ensure that all class groups will have at least one mathematics lessons on each day of the week.
  • The schemes of work contained in the subject department plan should be extended to include the best approaches to teaching the different curricular areas, common approaches to the key mathematical operations and effective problem solving strategies.

The second subject inspection was of Art. The main findings of the report were:

  • The quality of teaching and learning in Art was very good or good, with improvement needed in some areas.
  • Student work reviewed during the evaluation indicates high quality learning, participation and achievement in Art.
  • The overall quality of assessment in Art is very good.
  • Art is very well supported in the school, and excellent opportunities are also provided for students to experience the subject beyond the curriculum.
  • Students have very good access to the subject overall, and it is commendable that the TY Programme offers both practical and appreciation modules in Art.
  • A comprehensive subject plan is in place for the subject, and all lessons were well prepared.

Recommendations

  • In lessons where further improvement was needed, greater cognisance should be taken of the differentiated learning needs of students in the planning and delivery of the curriculum content.
  • TY Art Appreciation should be further developed collaboratively by all teachers of the module to make best use of their expertise, and to ensure a consistent experience for students. The full report is available on the DES website and via a link on our own website.

Curriculum Developments

Transition Year.

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.  This year’s film, The Life of Young Pablo, won best group film at the Fresh Film Festival.  Rory McGuinness, who also wrote the script for the film, won a best actor award.

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.

Staff members actively promote board policy regarding TY and the numbers taking this option have remained high. The number of girls taking TY has dropped in recent years.  In the interest of balance in the classes, there is a need to actively promote TY among girls.

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.

Languages

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 did not take place. It is hoped to run the exchange in the coming year. 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.

It is hopes to develop a sensory fruit garden as part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations next year.  We have sought technical advice from Fingal County Council and the horticulture department of ITB.

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 board welcomes the partial restoration of the teacher allocation for guidance and counselling.

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 executive attended a meeting of the board of management to give their annual report. Members of the board complimented the students 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.

Extra Curricular

Hartstown Community School offers an extensive range of extra-curricular activities which include sports, fitness, dance, drama, musical instruments, speech and language activities and debating.

Our excellent staff work tirelessly in their own time to ensure students have the opportunity to experience and compete in a wide range of sports at all age groups. Gaelic Football is offered for boys and girls at both senior and junior level. Soccer is offered for boys at Under 15 and Under 18. Basketball is offered for boys at Under 15 and Under 19 and for 2nd year girls. Hurling is offered at Under 16 and Under 19 and Camogie is offered at Under 19 for both senior and junior girls. Rugby is offered for senior and junior boys at Under 16 and Under 19.

In addition to traditional sports we also offer and compete in table tennis, frisbee, athletics, swimming, volleyball, dodgeball and cross country. Fitness activities include girls’ cross fit and boys’ gym club.

Students who wish to participate in artistic activities can choose dance, choir, clarinet or the school musical. Spoken word activities are also available, competitions in creative writing, poetry, French poetry, public speaking are run at school. The Irish and science departments run competitions such as tráth na gceist and the riddle of science week. Maths club runs four days a week every week.

This year there was a huge range of activities organised by students and teachers during mental health week to promote wellbeing and mindfulness.

Sean Sheehan, Chairman Board of Management.