Evaluation of provision for students with additional and special educational needs in post-primary schools Report


Ainm na scoile/School name Coláiste Dhúlaigh Post Primary School

Seoladh na scoile/School address Clonshaugh Road

Coolock Dublin 17

Uimhir rolla/Roll number 70330Q

Dáta na cigireachta/ Date of evaluation

21, 22 & 24 November 2022

What is an evaluation of provision for students with additional and special educational needs?

The Evaluation of Provision for Students with Additional and Special Educational Needs (SEN - PP) is a focused evaluation of provision for students with additional and special educational needs in mainstream post-primary schools. As this inspection model places a particular emphasis on the quality of learner outcomes for students with additional and special educational needs, most of the time spent in the school by inspectors is given to visits to mainstream classes and support settings.

How to read this report

During this inspection, the inspector evaluated provision for students with additional and special educational needs under the following headings or areas of enquiry:

  1. The quality of learning outcomes of students with additional and special educational needs

  2. The quality of learning experiences of students with additional and special educational

  3. The quality of the management and use of resources received by the school to support students with additional and special educational needs

  4. The quality of the structures in place to foster inclusion, equality of opportunity and the holistic development of all students with additional and special educational needs

    Inspectors describe the quality of each of these areas using the Inspectorate’s quality continuum, which is shown on the final page of this report. The quality continuum provides examples of the language used by inspectors when evaluating and describing the quality of the school’s provision in each area.

    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.

    Actions of the school to safeguard children and prevent and tackle bullying

    During the inspection visit, the following checks in relation to the school’s child protection and

    anti-bullying procedures were conducted:

    Child Protection



    1. The name of the DLP and the Child Safeguarding Statement are prominently displayed near the main entrance to the school.

    2. The Child Safeguarding Statement has been ratified by the board and includes an annual review and a risk assessment.

    3. All teachers visited reported that they have read the Child Safeguarding Statement and that they are aware of their responsibilities as mandated persons.

    1. The school has developed an anti- bullying policy that meets the requirements of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools (2013) and this policy is reviewed annually.

    2. The board of management minutes record that the principal provides a report to the board at least once a term on the overall number of bullying cases reported (by means of the bullying recording template provided in the Procedures) since the previous report to the board.

    3. The school’s anti-bullying policy is published on its website and/or is readily accessible to the board of management members, teacher, parents and

    The school met all the requirements in relation to child protection checks. The school met the requirements in relation to checks 2 and 3 of the anti-bullying checks. It did not fully meet the requirements of check 1 of the anti-bullying checks due to not having used the correct template in the annual review. However, the school subsequently furnished evidence of compliance with this requirement.

    Evaluation of provision for students with additional and special educational needs

    Date of inspection

    21, 22 & 24 November 2022

    Inspection activities undertaken

    School context

    Coláiste Dhúlaigh Post Primary School is a co-educational post-primary school operating under the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) and has a current enrolment of 173 students. The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the Department of Education action plan for educational inclusion. The school provides the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Junior Cycle, a compulsory Transition Year (TY) programme, the Leaving Certificate and the Leaving Certificate Applied programme (LCA). The school has an allocation of 135 additional teaching hours, equal to 6.1 whole-time equivalents (WTEs) to provide additional supports for students identified with special educational needs (SEN). The school also has a full-time Behaviour for Learning (BfL) teacher and seven special needs assistants (SNAs).

    Summary of main findings and recommendations:


Detailed findings and recommendations

  1. The quality of learning outcomes of students with additional and special educational needs

    The quality of learning outcomes for students with additional needs was good overall.

    In a few instances, where learning was very effective, students responded well to the carefully planned and targeted opportunities to develop a range of skills including social, communication, literacy and behavioural skills. In these lessons they enjoyed interacting with each other and making progress with the learning.

    Successful learning outcomes were achieved in lessons where tasks were pitched and organised in a manner that supported incremental learning. In most lessons very good levels of individual support were provided during activities. In some lessons the assigned tasks overwhelmed students or they lost interest because they did not have sufficient knowledge or understanding to complete the task. At times, the purpose and pitch of learning activities needed more careful consideration, and strategies for assessing learning needed further attention. Teachers should plan strategies which scaffold and assess incremental learning, taking into account the range of abilities within the class.

    In all support lessons, very effective strategies were used responsively to promote engagement and enjoyment and to bring about successful outcomes across a range of skills, in line with the identified individual needs of the students.

    When students were given opportunities to collaborate in carefully structured pair or group work, they engaged successfully and academic and social skill development was evident. At times, there was a need to provide students with greater opportunities to develop the full range of key skills including teamwork, information processing, managing myself, working with others, and critical thinking.

    Tracking of attainment was underdeveloped. Some tracking of reading comprehension skills was in place but there was a need to track a broader range of skills, identify aspects that may need further attention, and ensure comprehensive skill development.

  2. The quality of learning experiences of students with additional and special educational needs

    The quality of learning experiences of students with additional needs was good overall, with some very effective practices to support learning.

    All interactions between teachers and students were positive, affirming and conducive to wellbeing. A very caring and respectful learning environment was observed in all lessons. A lot of effort was made by teachers and SNAs to make sure that students had the necessary materials and were ready and well-prepared for learning.

    Experiences were best when lesson activities were designed around students’ interests and actively built on prior knowledge. At times teachers linked learning to the students’ own environment and areas of interest. Students responded well when these approaches were taken and levels of motivation and engagement were good or very good as a result.

    In more than half of lessons, there was a need to adjust the balance between teacher input and student activity. There were many instances where there was scope for greater use of active learning methodologies and collaborative work.

    In a minority of lessons, very effective learning experiences were underpinned by well- planned learning intentions which were clear, appropriately challenging and were shared at the start of lessons. In these lessons the learning intentions were used to inform the pitch and pace of the lesson as well as the activities in the lesson and experiences were more successful as a result.

    In some lessons students were confidently able to explain what they were learning or what skills they were developing, but there were instances when they did not have an understanding of the purpose or value of the learning. At times they were not aware of the key skills underpinning the curriculum, and even when they were achieving, their sense of achievement was limited. Teachers should promote an understanding of the key skills, share the learning intentions for lessons, differentiated where appropriate, and provide opportunities for students to reflect on their progress as learners, and develop a sense of responsibility for their own learning.

    In most lessons assessment took the form of questioning or observation of students as they carried out individual tasks, usually written. There was scope to further develop formative assessment practices to include the identification, or co-creation, of success criteria, and the use of self and peer assessment. Teachers should also consider the many ways that students can demonstate learning, and devise assessment strategies which play to students’ strengths.

    In a small minority of lessons very good use was made of digital learning technologies, and students responded very well to these resources. In some lessons there was an over- reliance on text-based resources to teach new content. There was huge potential for greater use of technologies to support learning, to stimulate interest, to tap into prior learning, to scaffold learning, or to minimise barriers. Teachers should consider using technologies inclusively so that literacy difficulties are minimised, and so that students have alternative ways of interacting with content.

    Comprehensive student support files were available for some students.Priority learning needs and targets were identified, and useful strategies/methodologies were listed. For some students these were complemented by Behaviour for Learning (BfL) plans.

    Implementation of these plans was evident in the support lessons observed, and students enjoyed making progress with the work. In some instances there was scope for targets to be more measurable and time-bound, in order to facilitate a clear understanding of attainable goals and a sense of achievement when targets were reached.

    Mainstream teachers had access to recommendations from professional reports and were all aware of their students’ needs, but they did not have easy access to the SET planning. In some mainstream lessons there were missed opportunities for teachers’ planning to take account of the valuable SET work and extend it within the mainstream setting. The SEN team should ensure that teachers have ready access to priority learning needs, targets and strategies, so that lesson planning can be informed by key information and outcomes and experiences can be supported across all subjects.

    Very successful team teaching was observed, where each teacher had a clear role and practice was underpinned by thorough and detailed planning which took account of students’ identified needs and targets. In discussions, students reported that team teaching was very helpful to them in lessons and they were very appreciative of support and mainstream teachers’ efforts to support their learning.

    At the time of the evaluation, learner experiences were impacted by a small number of outstanding teacher vacancies. Senior management have made commendable efforts to minimise impact on tuition time. CDETB, in collaboration with school management, should continue to seek to fill these vacancies.

  3. The management and use of resources received to support students with additional and special educational needs

    The management and use of resources received to support students with special educational needs was good overall, with some very good practice.

    Almost all of the available additional teaching hours were scheduled to deliver additional supports to students in line with the principles and actions outlined in the Guidelines for Post Primary Schools: Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs.

    The majority of the additional teaching hours were deployed in team teaching and the balance was used to deliver one-to-one or small group targeted interventions. Supports were provided for team teachers to ensure thorough planning, and an agreed approach to both the implementation of the team teaching strategy and to addressing to students’ identified needs.

    The Continuum of Support was used to identify students for targeted interventions, but support files were only in place for those on the School Support Plus level. Student support files should be established for those at the Support for Some level, ensuring good communications with home, input from students, identification of priority learning needs, ongoing review of progress, and ensuring mainstream teachers are supported to address the identified needs within the classroom.

    Management has fostered a culture of learning and reflection and promoted and encouraged continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers on a range of subjects including social skills training, team-teaching, BfL training, autism and training in Level 2 Learning Programmes (L2LP). The school has embarked on training leading to the school becoming a trauma-informed school. Management recognises the extent of learning necessary to fully address the needs of students who have experienced trauma and are committed to this journey.

  4. The structures in place to foster inclusion, equality of opportunity and the holistic development of all students with additional and special educational needs

The structures in place to support inclusion, equality and holistic development of students were good overall, with some exemplary practice.

An exceptionally strong and well-qualified SEN team is in place in the school, led by members of the senior management team. The principal and acting deputy principal foster an open, reflective and inclusive culture within the school. They work to promote collaborative practice and there is a high level of collegiality amongst staff. They demonstrate a very strong commitment to inclusive goals and express an understanding of the need to focus on further developing inclusive teaching, learning and assessment practices that will provide for highly differentiated and inclusive learner outcomes and experiences. In focus groups, the dedicated work of the senior management team was

acknowledged and parents/guardians and students were very appreciative of their tireless efforts to look after the best interests of all.

Reasonable Accommodations in Certificate Exams (RACE) were put in place for students in state examinations, but there was a need to further consider students’ needs for accommodation in their learning and in routine assessment. RACE should align with how the student learns throughout the year, rather than being an add-on at the end. A review of assessment practices across the school, and the development of an inclusive assessment policy, to include reporting on assessment and achievement, is recommended.

In focus group discussions, most parents/guardians spoke very positively about teachers’ and SNAs’ efforts to support their child. Some reported that they felt some teachers did not understand their child’s particular difficulties. Some parents/guardians were not aware if supports were in place, or if there was a plan to support their child’s learning. SETs should consider how improved communications with parents/guardians can be facilitated, so that parents/guardians can be part of the planning process and kept informed of progress and achievement.

In discussions some senior students felt there was need for more information on college open days, and some expressed a wish for a broader range of subjects and levels. A number of students felt they should have more of a say in how supports are provided.

Overall, students were very positive about their experiences of school, and it was notable that everyone reported that there was no bullying in the school.



Submitted by the Board of Management

Part A: Observations on the content of the inspection report

The Board of Management welcomes this report and the many positive observations made by the Inspectors during their visit in particular the effective strategies used in lessons, the calm and respectful environment, the good management and use of resources, the detailed student support files and the good structures we have in place to support inclusion. We also welcome the observation of the high level of collegiality amongst staff and that everyone, students, parents and guardians, reported that there was no bullying in the school.

The Board of Management commends the senior management team, the SET Team, mainstream teachers and SNAs for their ongoing hard work in providing for pupils with Special Education Needs in Coláiste Dhúlaigh Post Primary School.

Part B: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

Coláiste Dhúlaigh Post Primary School welcomes all of the recommendations in the report and are committed to implementing each of the recommendations.

To date we have made the following progress:

Recommendation Number 2:

In December 2022, we started a review of assessment practices and the collaborative development of an inclusive assessment policy.

A whole staff workshop took place, facilitated by senior management and the DEIS coordinator and deputy DEIS coordinator around the different types of assessments that we use in the classroom. We also discussed the different types of feedback we provide to both students and parents/guardians.

This will lead to an assessment policy and to streamlining the assessment language we use in all classrooms. In time, this will also lead to a review of our school reports.

The Acting Deputy Principal has set up a community of practice with neighbouring Post Primary Schools specifically looking to share best practices around assessment.

Recommendation Number 3:

As a SET Team we have scheduled a review of our resource groups and their targets. This will be included in a regular schedule going forward.

We have also agreed to meet with parents/guardians and students after the February mid-term break to review the current targets and include them in setting new targets.

Recommendation Number 4:

We have started the process of moving the individual planning information for students with a SEN to our internal network system which all mainstream teachers and SNAs have access to so all lesson planning can be informed by the identified priority learning needs of our students.

The Inspectorate’s Quality Continuum

Inspectors describe the quality of provision in the school using the Inspectorate’s quality continuum which is shown below. The quality continuum provides examples of the language used by inspectors when evaluating and describing the quality of the school’s provision of each area.

Level Description Example of descriptive terms

Very Good

Very good applies where the quality of the areas evaluated is of a very high standard. The very few areas for improvement that exist do not significantly impact on the overall quality of provision. For some schools in this category the quality of what is evaluated is outstanding and provides an example for other schools of exceptionally high standards of provision.

Very good; of a very high quality; very effective practice; highly commendable; very successful; few areas for improvement; notable; of a very high standard. Excellent; outstanding; exceptionally high standard, with very significant strengths; exemplary


Good applies where the strengths in the areas evaluated clearly outweigh the areas in need of improvement. The areas requiring improvement impact on the quality of pupils’ learning. The school needs to build on its strengths and take action to address the areas identified as requiring improvement in order to achieve a very good standard.

Good; good quality; valuable; effective practice; competent; useful; commendable; good standard; some areas for improvement


Satisfactory applies where the quality of provision is adequate. The strengths in what is being evaluated just outweigh the shortcomings. While the shortcomings do not have a significant negative impact they constrain the quality of the learning experiences and should be addressed in order to achieve a better standard.

Satisfactory; adequate; appropriate provision although some possibilities for improvement exist; acceptable level of quality; improvement needed in some areas


Fair applies where, although there are some strengths in the areas evaluated, deficiencies or shortcomings that outweigh those strengths also exist. The school will have to address certain deficiencies without delay in order to ensure that provision is satisfactory or better.

Fair; evident weaknesses that are impacting on pupils’ learning; less than satisfactory; experiencing difficulty; must improve in specified areas; action required to improve


Weak applies where there are serious deficiencies in the areas evaluated. Immediate and coordinated whole-school action is required to address the areas of concern. In some cases, the intervention of other agencies may be required to support improvements.

Weak; unsatisfactory; insufficient; ineffective; poor; requiring significant change, development or improvement; experiencing significant difficulties;

Published March 2023 / Foilsithe Márta 2023