Subject Inspection Report – French

SUBJECT INSPECTION REPORT

INTRODUCTION

St Paul’s Community College is a co-educational school with 476 students. It serves an urban
population in Waterford City. The school participates in the DEIS (Delivering Equality of
Opportunity in Schools) initiative.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

•There was limited use of the target language by the teachers in most of the lessons
observed. While it is acknowledged that the students being new to the language need
support, they should be exposed to the use of simple French as a language of
communication from the outset. Teachers should give basic instructions in French, teach
simple classroom language, post relevant expressions on the walls and refer to them.
Teachers should check students’ comprehension before automatically translating and the
use of visual supports is also recommended. These strategies will serve to scaffold
learning while at the same time ensuring that the more able students are challenged.
•The proposed lesson plan was communicated to students in one instance. This practice
should be adopted throughout and articulated in terms of what students should know by
the end of the lesson. Identifying and sharing the learning outcomes supports good lesson
structure, engages students and enables teachers to review what has been achieved in the
lesson.
•A preparatory phase, identifying and explaining key words, was used in one lesson to
support a listening activity. This good practice should be extended throughout. Other
types of preparatory work such as brainstorming should also be considered, particularly
to support differentiation.
•One student-based task was assigned in most lessons. However, greater clarity was
needed in some instances as to the purpose of the activity. If the focus is oral skills
development, the task assigned should necessitate interaction, however basic, in the target
language. The benefits of pair-work activities should be maximised by getting students to
report back on their partners’ interactions.
•Most lessons were predominantly teacher-directed. There were instances where some
students put up their hands to contribute, but were not given the opportunity to do so.
Teachers should afford students every opportunity to actively participate in the lesson as
this will build up students’ confidence, raise expectations and improve attainment.
•The emphasis in one lesson was on examination preparation rather than on language
teaching. It is recommended that an integrated approach be adopted in all lessons where
the focus is on developing the different language skills. Relevant sections of examination
papers can then be used to assess the outcomes of the teaching and learning process.
•Homework was assigned in all of the lessons observed and a review of student copies
indicated evidence of teacher corrections. To further support this good practice, teachers
should keep a record of all corrections in order to track students’ progress.
•A review of student results and trends in the certificate examinations in French indicate a
need for greater vigilance in relation to the uptake of levels and attainment. Teachers
should conduct an annual audit of student outcomes for French and use the information to
inform future planning and raise attainment.

SUBJECT PROVISION AND WHOLE SCHOOL SUPPORT

•The provision of French, Spanish and German indicates good whole school support for
modern languages. However, the uptake of languages is low. A root-and-branch review
of modern languages should be undertaken and strategies devised in order to reverse this
trend.
•To ensure an appropriate skills set, all teachers involved in the delivery of French should
have it as a registered teaching subject.
•The allocation of time for French is appropriate. However, the number of double periods
for French limits ongoing contact with the language. Senior management should explore
ways whereby French could be timetabled in single periods at junior cycle and where
senior cycle students would have a maximum of one double period per week.
•The classrooms visited had attractive displays of French posters, some classroom
language and students’ work. The posting up of keywords already in use by the French
Department is good. As the year progresses, teachers should extend these displays to
include useful expressions for the topics being studied.
•There is good access to resources, but teachers need to exploit them further. There was no
use made of information and communication technology (ICT) in the lessons observed.
The use of more varied resources including ICT is recommended as a means of
enhancing teaching and learning in the classroom.
•Teachers reported that they are planning a range of co-curricular activities for the current
academic year. This is welcomed as such activities provide opportunities for enjoyable
language and cultural experiences.
•In the interests of both linguistic and pedagogical up-skilling, teachers are encouraged to
avail of the range of scholarships and in-service training provided for teachers of French.

PLANNING AND PREPARATION

•Teachers of modern languages work together for the purpose of subject planning. This is
good practice given the small numbers involved. The subject planning folder submitted
on the day of the inspection contained hand-written schemes of work for each year group
for previous years, but not for the current academic year. It is recommended that global
learning outcomes be established for each year group in terms of ‘can do’ statements and
included in the permanent section of the subject plan. Schemes of work for the current
year outlining the topic, learning outcomes, methodologies, resources and assessment
should also be prepared, electronically recorded and amended from year to year
depending on their effectiveness in achieving the desired learning outcomes.
•Plans contained in the subject planning folder to promote modern languages should be
used in conjunction with the findings from this inspection in conducting a full review of
the teaching and learning of languages. The outcomes should inform future planning with
a view to making language learning more attractive and to improving student outcomes.
•The inclusion of literacy and numeracy information in the planning folder is good
practice. Teachers should also consider extending the range of practical strategies to be
used in the language class. The provision and use of class sets of dictionaries is good
practice. However, when introducing students to dictionaries, teachers should consider
working with the English Department to teach students how to best use them.
•All students take French in TY. This limits the opportunities for students who have
already studied French to further build up their linguistic skills and benefit fully from the
TY programme.

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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

Published March 2012