Friday 30 September 2016

Hard-working schools show that better results can be achieved

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30

Principal Seamus O Briain at Pobailscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. Photo: Brian McDaid
Principal Seamus O Briain at Pobailscoil Ghaoth Dobhair. Photo: Brian McDaid

Individual schools from all four provinces have seen vast improvements in their academic performance over the last seven years, our research reveals.

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St Aloysius College, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork has witnessed an impressive jump in the number of Leaving Cert students going on to third level since 2009.

The number of students from Castleknock Community College, Dublin 15, progressing to third level has also jumped significantly the last seven years.

Roscommon CBS has experienced a quite stunning rise in students landing third level places during the same period.

Heywood Community College, in Ballinakil, Co Laois, has also seen its figures increase dramatically.

The highly improved schools are a mixture of single sex and co-educational institutes.

The spiritual ethos of the schools includes Catholic, inter-denominational and others.

Despite huge advances in technology, including the incorporation of iPads and Smart boards into the classroom, Philip Bowe, principal of Heywood Community College, Ballinakil, Co Laois says their growing success is based on going back to basics - particularly by increasing focus on after-school study.

"After-school study might seem draconian, it's not a fancy quick fix, it's not about doing work on an iPad at the end of the day. If you put the time into your study, then you will get results," he said.

"But there isn't a lot of technology involved in the Leaving Cert, students still need to be able to pick up a pen and write what they have learned," he said.

"Any student who is taking evening study is getting 10 hours' study done in the week," said Mr Bowe, adding that the extra effort is making a "real contribution" to exam success.

"Some students may not want to put their name down for it but their mother might."

But it's not just after-school study that is making the difference.

The school has also employed a more rigorous system of school self-evaluation that looks at evaluating each subject department, their exam results and progress.

"We're seeing where we could encourage more students to take on subjects," he said.

Another area of improvement is the schools' new focus on career guidance.

"Students are now being guided in the direction of courses where they have the potential to actually get into those courses."

Good communication with parents has also been crucial to the growing success of the mixed, inter-denominational school.

According to 2015 figures, some 28 of the 51 schools in the fee-paying sector had a 100pc progression rate to third level, compared with 31 of 56 schools in 2010.

Among the 626 other second-level schools featuring in last year's Feeder Schools tables, some 53 had a 100pc progression rate - an almost five-fold increase from 11 just five years ago.

You can explore the data on each school by clicking here

Sunday Independent

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