An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Curriculum Implementation Evaluation:
Social, Personal and Health Education and English
Ennis, County Clare
Uimhir Rolla: 13625O
Date of inspection: 19 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
Curriculum Implementation Evaluation:
Social, Personal and Health Education 2007
The Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science undertook an evaluation of the teaching and learning in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and English in a sample of schools nationally.
This evaluation is the third in a series of thematic evaluations of aspects of the primary curriculum and is part of an ongoing review of curriculum implementation in primary schools. The purpose of this evaluation is to provide information on the extent of curriculum implementation in SPHE and English. The evaluation focuses on the teaching and learning in SPHE and English and on the quality of pupils’ achievement. This evaluation identifies and affirms good practice, and makes recommendations for teaching and the enhancement of pupils’ learning experiences and levels of achievement.
Two inspectors were involved in the evaluation
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.
There is a warm, welcoming atmosphere in the school and pupils are well mannered and courteous. Classroom management is very good throughout the school and great care is taken to ensure that all pupils are included in all school activities. Pupils are confident and eagerly take part in the learning activities presented. Pupil attendance in general is good.
Provision and use of resources in sphe and english
The school building is in very good decorative order and it is maintained to a high standard. In 1990 a general-purposes room was added to the school. A removable partition enabled one portion of this room to be used as a classroom. Due to the growth in pupil numbers all of the general-purposes room is now required for use as classrooms. In order to facilitate this change of use the removable partition was replaced with a permanent division in 2007. The school has two prefabricated buildings which are used by the learning-support and resource teacher. The two original classrooms are of medium size and are restricted in space due to the number of pupils currently enrolled. It is reported that the board of management has plans in place to construct an extension to the school to relieve this congestion and it is hoped that this project will commence in the immediate future. The board of management is commended for its efforts in this regard. The school still retains the old style desks which are in good condition and are well maintained. However the board of management should consider replacing them with furniture more conducive to the implementation of the active learning methodologies of the curriculum. The immediate school yard is small but the board of management has developed a large hardcore playing surfaced area in the games field adjacent to the school.. The school makes very good use of these facilities during all break times. The school also has use of the local community hall which is also situated nearby.
The teaching staff is suitably deployed to both mainstream and support teaching contexts. The special educational needs (SEN) team consists of two support teachers, a learning-support teacher based in this school and a shared resource teacher for pupils with special educational needs based in a neighbouring school. The resource teaching allocation of 14 hours provides additional support for three pupils with special educational needs. The school also benefits from the services of two full-time special needs assistants. Staff has benefited from the services of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) ‘cuiditheoir’ service and the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) in response to the assessed needs of the school.
There is an adequate supply of resources available for learning in SPHE including copies of the Walk Tall, Stay Safe, Bí Folláin, Action for Life, Be Safe and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programmes. A small number of posters and charts are also available together with a limited number of compact discs (CD) and video cassettes. The school also avails of resources from the wider community including inputs from paramedics, health promotion personnel, a fire safety officer and an external speaker for sections of the RSE programme. It is recommended that the school should catalogue and expand the range of resources available for SPHE.
A good range of commercial learning resources to support the teaching of English is available in most classrooms. The classroom and corridor areas include displays and photographic records celebrating pupils’ writing samples and achievements. In order to maintain pupils’ attention and motivation levels, teachers in some classes provide a range of teacher-devised resources including labels, sight word flashcards, sentence strips, phonics charts, picture strips and word walls. While infant and junior class libraries are reasonably well stocked with a range of reading materials, there is a limited range of library material in other classes. It is recommended that the range and stock of reading material available be extended and updated in all classrooms, including the two support rooms. There is also a need to extend the range and variety of learning resources in the support rooms. A minimum of one computer is available in most classrooms in addition to a good range of appropriate software. It is recommended that all classrooms should have access to a computer. The educational software available for English should be categorised and included in the whole-school plan to facilitate its extended and effective use by all teachers.
The school plan in SPHE was drawn up by the teachers and ratified by the board of management in 2005. A review date of 2007 is set in the school development plan. The plan is based on the strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The delivery of the plan is based on a two-year period. The plan is made available to teachers and may be accessed by parents on request. It is recommended that the school plan in SPHE be reviewed in order to set clear parameters for continuity and progression from class to class. Further guidance should be given on the aspects to be developed for each strand in each year of the two-year period. There is need for direction on what aspects of the different programmes such as Bí Folláin, Walk Tall Stay Safe and RSE are expected to be used to develop the objectives set for each strand. Consideration should also be given to the identification of outside speakers to assist in the presentation of the strands. In this review the views of parents should be sought as well as inputs from the board of management.
Other policies also support the implementation of the work of the school in SPHE. These include policies on enrolment, code of behaviour, school attendance, anti-bullying, and yard supervision, acceptable use policy for information and communication technologies (ICT) and health and safety. A policy on RSE was drawn up in 1999 in conjunction with a committee of teachers, parents and board of management. It is recommended that this policy be reviewed in tandem with the review on SPHE. At the next review of the duties assigned to special duties posts it is recommended that the holder of one of these posts undertakes this important work.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The whole school planning for English is comprehensive and promotes broad and balanced learning. The plan, initially drafted in 2000, has been regularly reviewed at staff meetings and has been presented to the board of management for consideration. Individual elements of the plan reflect the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The school’s programmes for handwriting and phonological awareness are, in particular, clearly documented and effectively implemented on a school-wide basis. The plan places suitable emphasis on the importance of drafting, editing and redrafting as part of the writing process. The need to teach cursive writing in a systematic manner and to teach spelling using a multi-dimensional approach is also emphasised. It is recommended that an English coordinator be appointed to undertake the next review of the English plan with reference to the most recent NCCA Additional Support Material Guidelines. Reference should be made to the promotion of a whole-school approach in the use of ICT. The board is encouraged to promote the increased involvement of parents in future policy formulation, review and dissemination of the school plan.
All teachers conscientiously prepare long-term planning, short-term planning and monthly progress records to guide the teaching and learning experiences for pupils. Classroom timetables are clearly laid out and reflect Department of Education and Science guidelines in relation to the suggested timeframe for the teaching of English and SPHE. The progress made in the utilisation of school-based templates to promote consistent practice is praiseworthy. The short‑term planning template used also serves as a monthly progress report. The quality and detail of this planning varies from teacher to teacher with some having very clear objectives which give very appropriate guidance on the content, methodologies and assessment strategies to be used. In the most effective planning observed, there is clear development of the strands and clear delineation of the programmes to be used in developing the strands. In some instances, there is a need for a greater level of detail in the use of more specific learning outcomes. This would lead to more effective teaching and would ensure maximum continuity and progression in the tracking of pupils’ learning outcomes. The effective practice observed should be promoted on a consistent basis across the school.
Comprehensive individual educational plans have been developed for pupils with special educational needs and for pupils experiencing learning difficulty in consultation with class teachers and parents. The whole-school special educational needs plan was developed in 2000 and it was revised in 2006. It clearly outlines the school’s procedures for early intervention, screening, planning, implementation and review, as recommended in Circular SP ED 02/05. The individual educational plans are informed by the results of teacher observation, professional reports, standardised tests and diagnostic tests. Pupils’ strengths, priority learning needs, specific learning targets, necessary resources and the role of class teachers and parents are set out in a clear focused manner.
The quality of provision in SPHE was evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching and learning, a review of samples of pupils’ work and interaction with the pupils in the four mainstream classrooms.
There is good development of the SPHE programme in all of the classes with appropriate discrete time set aside. From a review of the monthly progress records it is evident that all strands are progressing well in particular the strands Myself and Myself and Others. Care should be taken to ensure that all strands are afforded equal emphasis. In many of the classrooms there is very good linkage and integration of SPHE with other curricular areas. In all classrooms the lessons observed were appropriate to the emotional and intellectual maturity of the pupils. During these lessons a variety of teaching methodologies was successfully used with an emphasis on whole class teaching, while talk and discussion was also a key methodology employed. In addition there was some very good use of pair and group work, circle time and drama during some lessons. These methodologies could be further developed across all classes. In general lessons were well presented with the topics for discussion clearly set out and the work undertaken clearly focused. The responses of the pupils to questioning were clear, concise, and imaginative and pupils displayed a very good understanding of the relevance of SPHE to their own lives. The atmosphere in all of the classrooms was affirming, courteous and inclusive. All pupils were encouraged to take an active part in the lessons presented.
Pupils are encouraged to take part in a range of extra curricular activities including football, hurling, school tours, quizzes and some drama productions. The school is fortunate in having the use of very good facilities for games and all concerned are commended for their efforts in developing these activities. The school is currently preparing to apply for the Green Flag Environmental Award and to this end has developed litter teams.
The quality of provision in English was evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching and learning, a review of samples of pupils’ work and interaction with pupils in four of the mainstream classrooms.
Talking, listening, reading and writing activities are well integrated throughout the curriculum and across the school. The teachers’ expectations are appropriately high and open-ended learning activities are provided in which the pupils engage and collaborate readily. The teachers’ questions are often designed to encourage the pupils to think and analyse and not merely repeat factual information. From the earliest stages, pupils develop confidence by reciting a range of rhymes and poetry, speaking in a range of situations, often expressing their own ideas to the class at length. The use of language games and poetry appreciation lessons provides good scope for pupils to develop their language skills. The range of poetry presented in some classes should be extended. In the middle classes, most pupils can articulate and explain their thoughts and feelings clearly and speak confidently about current affairs and other cross-curricular topics. Most pupils in senior classes can deliver coherent and self-assured presentations during circle time discussions. It is recommended that cooperative small group work be utilised more frequently throughout the school to further develop the conventions of effective group conversations through listening, discussing and negotiating using an expanded vocabulary.
The pupils’ early reading experiences are varied and promote an enjoyment of books, which remains evident throughout the school. Although very few pupils are eligible for additional supplementary support, in accordance with DES guidelines, additional support is currently provided to a total of 11 pupils in English. There is evidence that the supplementary support, which is effectively reinforced by class teachers, is having a very beneficial effect for these pupils. The patient and systematic work of the special needs assistants in supporting pupils with special educational needs also contributes to clear improvements in pupils’ confidence and fluency. The collaborative efforts made by the teaching staff in the implementation of an integrated model of in-class support in infant classes are commendable. This example of best practice could be extended beneficially to promote a language-based and integrated approach in the teaching of oral language and writing.
All pupils have achieved a very good standard of reading, commensurate with their ability, and pupils display a good knowledge of favourite authors, book conventions and types of reading material. Pupils in infant and junior classes benefit greatly from the language-based and collaborative reading experiences provided. Very good differentiated procedures are used in these classes to monitor individual development and to guide more extended challenges for higher-ability pupils. Pupils in these classes also display confidence in their ability to retell a range of stories read. Pupils are encouraged to read widely and good use is made of the library material available in each classroom. From junior classes upwards, regular, formal silent reading sessions and the use of shared parallel reading schemes promote pupils’ confidence, fluency and expression. Pupils are introduced to a range of novels from third class onwards to supplement the graded reading materials used. The selection of novels is used successfully to extend pupils’ knowledge and appreciation of language and to develop their skills of understanding and interpreting text. Pupils respond well when encouraged to identify and read unfamiliar text and to retell sections read.
Pupils undertake a range of different forms of personal writing, including imaginative stories, newspaper articles, character profiles, book reviews, diaries, projects, functional writing activities, letters and poetry. Topics chosen relate to the pupils’ own experiences and also span a range of other curricular areas, especially Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and SPHE. Excellent emphasis is placed on proper pencil hold, posture, paper position and correct letter formation in introducing pupils to the art of handwriting. Cursive handwriting is currently introduced from third class onwards and very good standards are achieved in all classes. Most of the pupils achieve a satisfactory standard of fluency, clarity and accuracy of expression in their writing. Some of the work seen in classrooms is of a high quality. The school’s involvement in the Write-a-Book initiative provides an additional motivation for pupils. The development of a writing corner in one classroom is praiseworthy and this effective practice should be extended to all classes. Pupils in some classes make good use of their ICT skills to word-process and to redraft their work in compiling class booklets for display. ICT is underutilised in other classes in supporting the teaching and learning experiences of pupils. It is evident that there is scope for development in the writing standards achieved as pupils progress to senior classes, in order to capitalise sufficiently on pupils’ potential. In these instances, pupils would greatly benefit from more frequent free-writing experiences and an increased use of ICT in the process of drafting and redrafting. In these cases there is a need for an improvement in the mastery of writing conventions in context and in pupils’ understanding of style, content and organisation of ideas. Most pupils possess a good mastery of the conventions of grammar and spelling.
In SPHE the main method of assessment is teacher observation. In addition pupils are required to maintain folders which contain an assortment of completed worksheets and other work samples. It is reported that the progress of the pupils in SPHE is discussed at staff meetings and informally among teachers. It is reported that verbal reports are given to parents at parent-teacher meetings. Pupils’ social skills are also monitored during playtime. During this period if there is an area of concern noted it is brought to the attention of the staff and of the parents concerned. It is now recommended that a more formal approach to assessment in SPHE is undertaken and that this approach is recorded in the school plan. Careful consideration should be given to what teachers will observe and record in regard to the skills’ development, achievements and progress of the pupils. Other methods such as the development of pupil profiles, checklists and the recording of anecdotal notes should also be considered.
Teachers use a variety of formal and informal assessment strategies to evaluate pupils’ progress in English. All teachers effectively monitor pupils’ learning through observation, teacher-devised tasks, spelling tests and the compilation and display of writing samples. Formal standardised tests, the Micra-T and the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test are administered from first class upwards to provide additional assessment information, the results of which are carefully documented and analysed. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile, the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and the Infant Reading Tests are utilised to identify pupils requiring early intervention and additional support. A variety of diagnostic tests is used to identify each pupil’s specific needs. Checklists and shared reading records are effectively used in most classes. This effective practice should be extended to all classes. Written reports detailing each pupil’s curricular attainments and behaviour, attitude and presentation of work are sent annually to parents of pupils from first class onwards. Copies of these records are maintained centrally. Pupils’ best efforts are encouraged, pupils’ written work is marked regularly, and, in the best practice observed, pupils’ work is dated, marked for improvement and annotated with guidance and informative personalised comments. It is recommended that a discrete assessment policy be developed to influence whole-school practice. Consideration should be given to the development of formative pupil profiles on each pupil’s attainments and achievements. A written record of the ongoing progress made by pupils should be shared between support teachers and class teachers.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The principal, teachers and support staff are commended for their dedication to the education of all of the pupils under their care.
· The board of management and parents are commended for their support for all of the activities of the school.
· The pupils are well mannered, courteous and display very good interpersonal skills. They work diligently and are responsive when questioned and when involved in discussions.
· There is a commitment towards continuous improvement in the whole-school development planning process.
· Print-rich environments and varied writing displays are features of all classrooms and public corridors.
· Very good standards of reading have been achieved by pupils, and most pupils, relative to their ability levels, can read fluently and with understanding. Pupils’ phonics skills are also well developed.
· Pupils have developed a fluent, cursive and legible style of handwriting.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The review of the SPHE plan should give much greater direction on the content to be taught, the methodologies to be used and the expected development taking place from class to class.
· A whole school assessment policy should be developed to include assessment strategies for SPHE.
· Parents should be afforded more meaningful opportunities to contribute to policy formulation in the school plan.
· The whole-school plan for English should be reviewed under the direction of a co‑ordinator to include guidance on the application of ICT at each class level and on the implementation of co-operative learning.
· Guidelines on the organisation of individual classroom planning should be included in the whole-school plan highlighting the need to outline the specific learning outcomes to be achieved at each class level.
· Pupils’ writing experiences should be extended to include regular drafting, editing and redrafting experiences in all classes.
· The range and variety of reading materials available in classrooms needs to be extended and updated and the special educational needs support rooms need to be equipped with a wider range of suitable learning material.
The Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science wishes to acknowledge the contributions made by the principal and teachers during the course of the evaluation. It is hoped that this report will be directly useful to the school as a basis for review and development of practice at school level. It is anticipated that the composite report on the quality of teaching and learning of SPHE will serve as a valuable reference at system level and will inform the further development of policy and provision for the teaching of SPHE.
Táthar fíorbhuíoch d’fhoireann na scoile as a gcuid tacaíochta le linn na hoibre seo.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management and Staff welcome the findings of the Inspectorate. We are pleased that the warm, welcoming atmosphere in the school was acknowledged and that the diligence and eagerness of the pupils was complimented.
The staff was encouraged that the Inspectorate commended the following:
· good classroom management
· the inclusive nature of the school
· comprehensive whole school planning
· the good practice of school based templates
We welcome the fact that the Inspectorate complimented the high standard of reading, the effective implementation of handwriting and phonological awareness and the emphasis placed on the importance of the writing process.
It was very important that the comprehensive planning and consultation for pupils with special needs aided by the patient and systematic work of the special needs assistants was commended.
The Board of Management is pleased that it was commended for the progressive manner in which it manages the affairs of the school and its foresight for future development
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The staff has commenced the process of reviewing the SPHE policy with particular emphasis on content and assessment.
The Board of Management and the parents association are committed to ongoing fundraising to meet the resource needs of the school.
The teachers are focusing on strategies to further develop the pupils’ writing experiences.