School Inspection Praises High Staff Morale at Patrician High
Michael Fisher Northern Standard Carrickmacross News p.42
The desks were empty in the converted gym when I visited Patrician High School in Carrickmacross recently. But over the next few weeks the hall will be full of students doing their Leaving Certificate. Principal Joe Duffy and Deputy Principal Sean Rafferty have been ensuring that all necessary preparations are made for the 73 pupils sitting exams. It has been a busy year for them. In January the school underwent its own test, a rigorous whole school evaluation of management, leadership and learning, carried out over three days by two inspectors from the Department of Education and Skills. The high staff morale and motivation of the 35 teachers was praised.
During the evaluation, the inspection team met the school’s board of management, in-school management, and groups of teachers, parents and students. Inspectors also reviewed a range of school documentation and responses to questionnaires and examined other data in relation to the operation of the school. A range of lessons in a number of subjects was inspected.
Patrician High School is a Catholic voluntary secondary school for boys under the trusteeship of the Bishop of Clogher. It has experienced a significant growth in student numbers in recent years and from a base of around 360 it now has a current enrolment of 507. Joe Duffy expects this will soon increase to 540.
The key findings of the inspection were that the teaching staff is motivated and that morale at the school is high. The senior management team provides effective leadership to the school and models the highest standards of commitment in all areas of school life.
Commitment to quality improvement is clearly evident among all partners of the school community, according to the report. The inspectors found that teaching and learning were effectively led by senior management and the quality observed in classrooms ranged from good to very good with instances of excellent teaching practice evident in many lessons. Finally, the report concluded that care of students received a high priority in the school and was managed effectively. The report made a number of recommendations, which the school is seeking to put into practice, including a review of the system for monitoring student attendance.
The report praised the senior management team for forming an effective partnership that modeled the highest standards of commitment to all areas of school life. A shared model of leadership has been established. According to the findings, “the senior management team prioritises an atmosphere of respect and good order as essential elements to providing optimal conditions for teaching and learning to take place.”
Staff morale is high, teachers are motivated and there is a high level of collaboration between staff and senior management, the report said. The dedication of staff to the provision of a wide range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities is noted and affirmed by management. Transition Year students have had successes in competitions such as the BT Young Scientist, Young Social Innovators, Enterprise Awards at county, regional and national levels and the Scifest in Dundalk.
In Joe Duffy’s office there is a framed note from the Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Addressing the young pioneers, he told them “Always work at being the best; You can be and then you will be a real success”. Two of the virtues the staff try to instil are timekeeping and smart appearance, including wearing a clean pair of shoes.
Past pupils have also gone on to be very successful in various fields. They include RTE weatherman Gerry Murphy, RTE Director General Noel Curran and his brother Richard, comedian Oliver Callan, who first developed his mimicry at school concerts, another comedian Ardal O’Hanlon, and local councillors Padraig McNally and PJ O’Hanlon.
The school provides a broad curriculum and management has reviewed and amended the choice of subjects in response to changing demands. An example of this is the expanded provision of science subjects which now includes Agricultural Science. The report said it was notable that the optional Transition Year programme attracted almost all students. Student care and welfare are school priorities and good supports are provided from within the school’s support structure and through developing links with external agencies.
The newly refurbished school building is very well maintained and facilities are provided to a very high level. A stimulating learning environment has been provided in teacher-based classrooms. The library is open to students at lunchtime and has been brought into greater use by timetabled access to link with the school’s literacy improvement plan. The staff room has been recently extended to include a preparation and corrections area. There is a canteen and lunch area for students and part of it is covered in murals which have been painted with the guidance of the art teacher.
When Joe Duffy spoke to the Northern Standard, he pointed out he pictures along the walls showing the vast range of activities carried out by students. In the field of civic, social and political education they have undertaken trips to the Dáil and the Northern Ireland Assembly. On the sports field, pupils like Stephen O’Hanlon have been successful in basketball and he is now on a sports scholarship in the United States. Others have enjoyed success in football with the local GAA club Carrick Emmets. Hurling is also being developed. More sports success has occurred in swimming and in soccer.
Overall Joe Duffy said he was very pleased with the results of the official school evaluation. He said it showed the great contribution by staff to pastoral care and teaching and the way they had developed a camaraderie with the pupils in a spirit of collegiality. Mr Duffy said he was very pleased with the way things were going. He pointed out the principal values instilled in students: respect, be on time, be prepared, follow instructions and participate fully. He hoped those five important points would continue to be fostered in the next academic year at Patrician High School.