Currently there are seven schools and one special class attached to a mainstream school catering for children in detention and care in the state. These can be categorised as schools at Children Detention Centres (CDC), High Support Units (HSU), and Special Care Units (SCU).
Between 2013 and 2015, a total of 26 evaluations were conducted in the eight schools attached to HSUs, SCUs, and CDCs and each of these settings was evaluated at least twice in that period. This report is based on the published reports arising from the evaluations carried out in these eight schools.
Evaluations were based on (a) teaching, learning, and support for students (b) school organisation and management (c) school planning and school self-evaluation.
Where a high support special class operated within a mainstream primary school, inspectors were concerned about the appropriateness of the provision for learners who were placed in the special class on a full-time basis. They noticed significant variance between the quality of provision for the pupils who were fully integrated into the mainstream school and those in the special class.
Other key points and recommendations include:
Initial Assessment of Learner Needs:
- A main recommendation for one school included carrying out an appropriate range of assessment procedures on each pupil on entry to the school to establish their learning attainments, needs and interests, with a view to putting in place a suitable learning programme for each child.
Individualised Planning and Target Setting:
- Recommendation that individualised planning emphasised the need for the assessment of priority learning needs to take a holistic view of learning and of the learner, and to ensure that students’ social and personal skills were developed alongside their educational and functional learning.
Literacy and Numeracy:
- Particular emphasis should be placed on the development of learners’ functional skills in literacy and numeracy, to develop their abilities to use and apply their knowledge om real life and cross-curricular context and to teaching of skills that are of relevance to the future needs of students.
- Greater use of information and communication technologies should be made to enhance pupil’s literacy and numeracy skills in a structured and motivating way.
- Recommendation that schools reflect on its existing strategies to promote student attendance and to devise or update an agreed whole-school approach to student attendance.
- Recommendation that schools develop a robust anti-bullying policy.
- The lack of a single patron body for these schools and the lack of a way of tracking student’s progress as they move between these schools or from mainstream school to one of these schools is a cause for concern. Serious consideration should be given to placing all of these schools under one patron body to provide the necessary clarity with regard to the structure and role of the schools and their governance and relationship with relevant agencies and support services.
- Any future rationalisation of management structures of schools at Children Detention Centres, High Support Units, and Special Care Units should include Youth Encounter Project Schools and consider the inclusion of Youthreach Centres.
- Establish a centralised tracking system for each student and an effective means of transferring relevant data between mainstream schools and schools for children in detention and care.
- Ensure that all schools for children in detention and care have access to the services of the National Educational Psychology Service and to the National Council for Special Education Services.
- There is currently one special class that caters for children in detention and care which is attached to a mainstream school. All of the children currently enrolled in this special class should be fully integrated into the mainstream school.
- Each of the schools should develop an integrated whole-school approach to literacy and numeracy that focuses on ‘SMART’ target setting, dependable assessment and robust self-evaluation processes.
- A comprehensive, individualised education and care plan that adheres to the ‘one child, one plan’ principle is central to meeting the needs of these learners and to improving their learning outcomes.
- Schools are advised to have an effective attendance strategy, which is developed collaboratively with all relevant partners and implemented consistently in both the school and the residential setting.
- Advise schools to ensure their curriculum plans meet the unique needs of their students and recognise existing good practice in learning settings
For the full report, click here.