Subject Inspection Report – Business

SUBJECT INSPECTION REPORT

INTRODUCTION

St. Paul’s Community College, a co-educational school, has a current enrolment of 476 students. The school is involved in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan. The school offers Business Studies in junior cycle, and Accounting, Business and Economics as optional subjects in Leaving Certificate. Business education is compulsory in the school’s compulsory Transition Year (TY) programme.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

•The quality of teaching in the majority of lessons varied from exemplary to good.
Teachers gave a real-life focus to business education, taught for understanding and
maintained high expectations for students. However, some teaching methodologies and
practices in a few lessons required development so as to fully engage and motivate
students in the process of learning. Suggestions for improvement were positively
received.
•The learning activities in most lessons ensured that students were motivated to take
leadership of their own learning, acquired good business acumen, worked co-operatively
with their peers and developed key skills.
•In most lessons, teachers used a variety of methodologies, including pair work. However,
there was scope in some lessons to develop the use of pair work and other methodologies
such as group work and role play, where appropriate.
•ICT was used effectively in all lessons. It gave a dynamic focus to business education by
accessing relevant case studies, websites, extracts of television programmes and
interactive resources.
•In almost all lessons, teachers initiated good student discussions and used many businessrelated
exemplars to which students were encouraged to apply their theoretical
knowledge.
•The standard and type of questioning used by teachers in lessons varied. In the majority
of lessons there was a very good balance between global and targeted questioning. Where
questioning was appropriately differentiated, students had opportunities to develop
higher-order thinking skills by critiquing their answers.
•In accounting lessons there was very good integration of book-keeping practice with
theoretical knowledge. A good step-by-step approach with an emphasis on teaching for
understanding was adopted.
•In all lessons there was a very clear focus on development of literacy skills. Teachers
explained keywords and unfamiliar business terminology and used business terms in
word searches and unscrambling exercises to reinforce learning.
•Teachers employed good strategies to develop numeracy skills. Business teachers in
consultation with the mathematics department have employed a common approach in the
calculation of percentages.
•Most lessons observed were well planned and had a good structure that included revision
of past material. Learning objectives were clearly stated at the beginning of most lessons
and in some they were recapped as the lesson concluded. This good practice should be
extended to all lessons.
•Classroom management was effective though varying in style. Students responded
positively and courteously to teachers’ instructions and they were in turn positively
affirmed. In all lessons, teachers ensured that individual students were well supported.
However, this sometimes meant that the lesson pace lacked an appropriate degree of
challenge for all students.
•A review of a sample of student work highlighted an emphasis on neat presentation and
most business teachers made good evaluative guiding comments on students’ work. All
business teachers regularly assign homework, although the type and quantity of work
assigned varies considerably. This merits a review to ensure that all students experience a
consistent developmental approach to homework.
•Students are commonly assessed where appropriate. The use of multi-choice questions in
some lessons as a means of assessing learning was particularly effective as students had
to explain why they choose their answer. In an accounting lesson the use of peer
evaluation was very good.
•Students of business subjects are encouraged to take state examinations at the highest
appropriate level. Student attainment levels are good within each level.

SUBJECT PROVISION AND WHOLE SCHOOL SUPPORT

•There is good provision and a commitment to business education in the school.
•Timetable provisions are generally good in both junior and senior cycle. However,
consideration should be given to the possibility of providing an additional class period in
first year.
•Students are taught Business Studies in mixed ability settings till at least the end of
second year and are thus encouraged to achieve to their highest ability level. Teachers
consult with students and form banded class groups in third year that facilitate student
movement between levels.
•Uptake rates of business subjects in Leaving Certificate are good. The majority of
students who have taken Business Studies at junior cycle continue with business
education, as do a number of students who have experienced business education in TY.
•Business teachers are diligent in ensuring that their subject knowledge is current. They
have regularly attended in-service relating to their subjects.
•In the classrooms where the majority of business education is being delivered the visual
learning environment is exemplary. The displays of student-generated presentations and
projects are of a very high standard, being colourful, relevant and informative. In many
lessons, teachers used the visual displays to deepen student learning. Seating
arrangements in all classrooms were conducive to co-operative learning and in one
classroom the configuration of desks enabled students to permanently sit in groups.

PLANNING AND PREPARATION

•Subject department and individual planning is well organised. Business teachers work in
a collaborative and supportive manner and are very committed to the continued
development of business subjects.
•There are regular formal and informal subject department meetings for which minutes are
maintained. The business subjects teachers co-ordinate and share their approaches to year
groups in terms of strategies and resources used.
•Subject plans have been developed for all business subjects; these are good in design.
However, the schemes of work for each year group are based on individual teachers’
class groups. A succinct common scheme of work for each year should be devised.
•The layout of each curricular plan is good. The subject department should work
collaboratively to include topic-specific teaching methodologies, differentiation strategies
and modes of homework.
•The use of ICT to store electronic resources and up-to-date information that can be
accessed by all business teachers would be a worthwhile development.

The draft findings and recommendations arising out of this evaluation were discussed with the
principal and subject teachers at the conclusion of the evaluation. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the
report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

Published October 2012.