Subject Inspection Report – Special Educational Needs

SUBJECT INSPECTION REPORT

INTRODUCTION

St Paul’s Community College is a co-educational post-primary school operating under the
patronage of Waterford Vocational Education Committee and participating in DEIS (Delivering
Equality of Opportunity in Schools). The student population of approximately 450 comprises
students with a diverse range of abilities.

TEACHING AND LEARNING

•The overall quality of the teaching observed in seven lessons ranged from good to very
good. Teachers’ knowledge of the individual needs and abilities of their students was
used to good effect to provide targeted interventions as well as specific subject support.
•Resource teaching is based on identified student needs and focuses on a combination of
literacy, numeracy, subject support and the development of specific social and
behavioural skills. Teachers effectively used clear instructions and explanations, and
repetition to ensure the students’ understanding of the set tasks. An informal working
atmosphere was created in each classroom through the well-structured lessons, and the
very positive interactions between teachers and students.
•Mainstream lessons included all students through targeted questioning, assigned group
roles, pair work, and differentiation of the curriculum and outputs. The teachers provided
students with an oral overview of the intended learning outcomes for each lesson and
made explicit links to the learning from previous lessons.
•A range of autism-appropriate approaches and teaching methodologies are employed in
the special classes for the students with ASD. Students engage successfully with a wide
range of academic subjects as well as social and personal development, and
communication and life skills at levels appropriate to their abilities. Visual schedules,
well-structured routines, choice, and clear explanations are all used to cope with rigidity
of thought. Transitions are signalled and well-managed during the day.
•The school is to be commended for its significant efforts to progress the development of
literacy and especially numeracy skills across the school through a range of co-ordinated
initiatives. Practice is guided by detailed policy and planning documents developed by
working groups. The policy and plans would benefit from links with the school’s DEIS
Action Plan and regular review.

SUBJECT PROVISION AND WHOLE SCHOOL SUPPORT

•Staff are positive about inclusion and proactive in providing inclusive education. Recent
advances have included the introduction of mixed-ability classes for junior cycle students
and a school-wide focus on promoting differentiated instruction. Collaborative
timetabling by management and the SEN co-ordinators ensures access to a full and
balanced curriculum for all students. Good communication and co-operation between
staff and with parents are positive features of the provision.
Support is provided efficiently through a flexible combination of team teaching and the
withdrawal of students for small group teaching. Additional support, particularly in
literacy, is provided by two behaviour support teachers.
•Two well-qualified teachers work together to co-ordinate the provision for students with
SEN. They meet regularly with management, the guidance counsellor and a core SEN
teaching team, and liaise frequently with Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP),
National Behaviour Support Service, and School Completion Programme personnel to
maximise the quality of the provision. The co-ordinators were advised to minute these
meetings and circulate them to management and relevant staff.
•The SEN team provides formal and informal support to the mainstream staff in their
efforts to ensure inclusive classrooms throughout the school. The management and the
staff are commended for participating in an impressive range of professional development
opportunities that support inclusive practices.
•Special needs assistants (SNAs) are sensibly and flexibly deployed to facilitate inclusion
and support curriculum access.
•The provision for students with SEN is based correctly on individual needs and remains
flexible. An SEN policy guides the provision and contains useful information for the
whole school community. When next reviewed, it requires further development to include
the roles and responsibilities of the SEN co-ordinators, the teachers deployed with
resource hours, and the subject departments.
•The school hosts a designated unit for students with ASD. The facilities are autismfriendly
and well resourced with individual work spaces, group work tables, a sensory
room and areas devoted to the development of independent living skills. While some
direct teaching and support work takes place in these rooms, the students experience as
much inclusion with their mainstream peers as is possible and practicable, in accordance
with their needs. This is good practice. Teachers were advised to renew their efforts to
facilitate reverse inclusion for these students.
•An ASD policy has been developed to guide the autism provision. It provides a range of
useful information about the provision. It could be enhanced with guidance on the
transitioning of students to post-school placements. It is recommended that the SEN and
ASD policies be ratified by the board of management and reviewed regularly.
•The extensive resources available to support students include a range of information and
communication technology in classrooms, a well-stocked library and a good collection of
modified teaching materials.

PLANNING AND PREPARATION

•Information from feeder schools, parents and school-based testing is gathered to inform
the planning for students with SEN. The school should review the assessment instruments
currently in use to ensure that they provide a maximum of purposeful information to
support the school in measuring student progress.
•Consultation when the timetable is constructed ensures the appropriate use of the
allocated resource hours and the continuation of a core resource-teaching team. All
resource teachers develop student profiles to inform their individual and withdrawal
group teaching plans. These are a useful source of information regarding the support
provided and help the school to track student outcomes.
•Management encourages teachers to identify how literacy and numeracy development
can be productively integrated into each subject area. Subject planning now references
specific subject-relevant literacy and numeracy strategies.
•Staff in the ASD unit work collaboratively to develop individual education and behaviour
support plans (IEPs). The IEPs are well informed by functional assessment instruments,
professional reports, observations of students and meetings with parents, and so address
each student’s specific needs effectively. The IEP targets are well written and cover a
range of appropriate behaviours. SNAs and mainstream staff are involved in monitoring
and recording student progress.

The draft findings and recommendations arising out of this evaluation were discussed with the
principal, deputy principal and 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; a response was not received from the board.

Published January 2013.