An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Curriculum Implementation Evaluation:

Social, Personal and Health Education and English

2007

REPORT

 

Scoil Mhuire Murroe

Murroe Co Limerick

Uimhir Rolla: 18600A

 

 

 

Date of inspection:  14 December 2007

 

 

 

Introduction

School background and context

Provision and use of resources in SPHE and English

Quality of whole school planning in SPHE and English

Quality of teaching and learning in SPHE and English

Social Personal and Health Education

Quality of assessment in SPHE and English

Future development of SPHE and English

Conclusion

 

 

Introduction

 

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 in Scoil Mhuire Murroe, Co. Limerick.  The evaluation involved the observation of teaching and learning in different class settings, a review of planning and policy documents, and an evaluation of the progress of pupils, including those receiving supplementary teaching in English. A school questionnaire was administered and interviews with the principal and class teachers were conducted. Pupils in senior classes and parents were invited to complete questionnaires with respect to issues related to SPHE.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

1. School background and context

 

Scoil Mhuire Murroe is a seven-teacher, rural co-educational mainstream primary school situated in Murroe village. The school caters for the educational needs of pupils from junior infants to sixth class. The main catchment area of the school is the village of Murroe and surrounding hinterland. The school is approximately 16 kilometres from Limerick City and is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The school receives grants to support pupils as a participant in the Department of Education and Science (DES) initiative Giving Children an Even Break through Tackling Disadvantage Scheme (GCAEBS)

 

The school which was constructed in 1964 and extended in 1992 includes the following accommodation, seven classrooms, one of which houses the learning support teacher, two classrooms with ensuite toilet facilities, a very small language support room, a staff room and a general purposes room. There is no principal’s office and for administrative purposes use is made of a small area which also houses the staff toilet. The school is located on the side of the road. The area to the front of the school is landscaped and well maintained. There are two play-ground areas to the rear of the school and a playing field and basketball court to the side of the school. The external maintenance and internal cleaning of the school are of a very high standard and the board of management and the caretaker are to be commended for this work.

 

Attendance of pupils at the school in the term prior to the whole school evaluation was good. However figures provided by the school for the previous school year indicate that there is a significant rate of absenteeism. The board of management in collaboration with the school staff has devised a school attendance strategy in accordance with the Education and Welfare Act 2000. Teachers ensure that parents are aware of each child’s attendance record by including the number of days each child is absent from school in the end of year school report. It is recommended that this strategy be implemented rigorously and that parents  be made aware of their responsibilities in respect of their children’s attendance at school on a daily basis and the consequent effect that regular absenteeism has on academic achievement over the eight-year cycle in the primary school.

 

The principal was appointed in 2000 and is a teaching principal. She displays many good leadership qualities. She has good interpersonal skills and uses these to communicate with the staff, members of the board of management and parents. The principal is to be commended for the inclusive school atmosphere that prevails in the school. Since her appointment she has led and managed the development of school policy across a broad range of curricular, organisational and pastoral areas. The principal co-ordinates a number of curricular areas including Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Music in addition to her administrative duties. The principal is supported effectively by the in-school management team, which comprises a deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. The roles attached to these posts are clearly defined. The board of management has one further special duties post to fill and the efforts to date to fill this post have been unsuccessful. It is recommended that the board should collaborate with the staff to develop criteria for this post. This collaborative process should begin as soon as possible in order that the middle management team functions to capacity.

 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis. The chairperson reported that the board is supportive of the work of the school and that there is good communication among the board, the parents and the staff of the school. Board members have been actively engaged in the recently reviewed Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Substance Use policies. They were also involved in the formulation and of the SPHE plan in 2005 and the review of the plan in 2007. They also discussed and ratified the English plan following its formulation by the staff. The principal and staff in collaboration with the board have formulated a range of organisational policies. It is recommended that the Board of Management in collaboration with the staff review the enrolment policy in order to ensure compliance with the Education Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2002. Conditions for enrolment cannot be applied to pupils with special educational needs, to newcomer pupils or Traveller children. At the post-evaluation meeting the principal stated that the enrolment policy was discussed at the board meeting in December 2007 and amended accordingly. The board is to be commended for responding so promptly to this oral recommendation. It is also recommended that the school’s supervision policy be reviewed to include supervision prior to the opening of the school in the mornings.

 

The chairperson referred to the rapid growth of the housing development in the area and expressed concern in respect of the size of some of the current classrooms to cater for the increased enrolments in the future. The projections indicate that the enrolment pattern will continue to increase significantly due to the housing development planned for in the area. These  figures indicate that enrolment will increase from 158 in 2007 to 173 in 2008 and 188 in 2009.It is timely that the board of management makes application to the DES to refurbish and extend the school to cater for the growth in population. It is recommended that the board develop a five year action plan in which the priorities for the school’s development are outlined to include target dates for completion and review.

 

The school’s parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The principal reported that the parents support the work of the school through their involvement in some policy formulation, assisting at school events, developing the physical environment of the school and fundraising activities. The schools’ parents’ association and the staff are commendably active in engaging with parents and the wider community. The school policy on meetings with parents states that “frequent communication is of vital importance in developing and nurturing co-operation between home and school”. A very wide range of strategies including a school website has been put in place by the school to ensure that parents have access to high quality information in relation to school events and policies. Parents also participate in the Forward Together Programme, Healthy Eating Policy, Green Schools’ Initiative and in Music and sporting activities in collaboration with the teachers.  

 

Scoil Mhuire’s mission statement states that it strives “to provide the best possible experiences for the pupils so that each child realises his/her potential as a unique individual in an environment where they learn respect for themselves, for others and the society in which they live and also, to prepare the child for further education and for lifelong learning”. This mission statement is reflected in the positive atmosphere in the school which is child-friendly and welcoming. It is also reflected in the confident attitude of most pupils. Pupils are well mannered and interact appropriately with teachers, fellow students and visitors. Classroom rules have been clearly established in consultation with the pupils and they co-operate with the teachers in implementing the school’s code of behaviour. The teachers work collaboratively and are committed to creating a learning environment that fosters pupils’ self-esteem and learning. Co-curricular experiences include the school choir which participates in the National Children’s Choir, engages in carol singing for charity at Christmas and performs in the church during religious celebrations. Pupils also participate in the Green Schools’ initiative, Discover Primary Science, Seachtain na Gaeilge and the Write a Book project. Extra curricular activities are also provided including a range of team sports for both girls and boys.

 

Teachers have participated in a range of courses including Walk Tall, Action for Life, Healthy Eating, Green Schools seminars, coaching courses, recycling courses, Relationship and Sexuality Education seminars, computer courses and a range of courses based on the English curriculum. The teachers are commended for their attendance at a wide range of courses which informs their practice and further enhances the educational provision in the school. It is timely now to establish a students’ council which will provide further opportunities for pupils to engage in the decision making process within the school.

2. Provision and use of resources in sphe and english

The staff comprises a teaching principal and five mainstream class teachers. A full-time learning support teacher provides support for 28 pupils and a part-time resource teacher provides supplementary support for two pupils each week and for four pupils under the general allocation schedule. One full-time special needs’ assistant (SNA) is employed to cater for the needs of pupils with special educational needs. A part-time language teacher provides support to four newcomer children. Since the last evaluation three new teachers have been appointed. During the evaluation period two substitute teachers were working in the school. Personnel are deployed in an effective manner and while there is some rotation of teachers, there is a need to formulate a policy in regard to the rotation of teachers to afford all teachers the experience of teaching in a variety of classes and contexts. However the final decision regarding the deployment of staff is a function of the principal. The school has the services of a part-time secretary and caretaker. The school has a number of maintenance personnel available to cater for extra maintenance work as required.

 

The school building and grounds are well maintained and the board is commended for its work in this area and for providing a safe hygienic environment for pupils and teachers alike. A health and safety statement is included in the school plan. The parents’ association has been actively engaged in fundraising activities for the school development fund. This fund together with voluntary contributions from the parents enabled the board to extend, tarmacadam and line the basketball court in 2006 and also provided the funds to build the wall in front of the school and provide parking for staff and parents. Prior to the evaluation, the Limerick County Council completed a new footpath outside the school. This work will further provide for the health and safety of the pupils on their arrival and departure from the school.

 

The school stock of resources for learning in SPHE is very good and there is effective use of the teaching resources by all staff. Teachers have a list of the resources for SPHE which are labelled and stored centrally in the staff room. The teachers also avail of resources from the wider community which include visits from guest speakers and people who work in the community. The forging of these links with external agencies can serve to enhance pupils’ learning in SPHE, while also encouraging them to take pride in and play a more active role in their local community.

 

There is a range of resources available to the pupils and teachers for the teaching of English throughout the school. A good range of reading materials is available in the school particularly in the infant classes. These include graduated reading schemes with a number of levels available that facilitate a differentiated approach to the teaching of reading. Large format books were also in use. Sets of class novels are in use in middle and senior standards and the further acquisition of additional sets of novels would be beneficial in supporting teaching and learning in English particularly in middle and senior classes. A print-rich environment is in evidence in all classes. Commercially produced illustrative materials relating to general topics were used in some classes. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are used in some classrooms for writing and for developing illustrative materials. Materials used for the teaching of English were child-based and appropriate. While the school has purchased a range of appropriate reading materials, there is a need to carry out an audit of the reading materials currently available in the school and reorganise their distribution in order that a differentiated approach to the teaching of reading can be carried out effectively in all classes.

 

3. Quality of whole school planning in sphe and english

The whole school plan for SPHE was formulated by the staff and co-ordinated by the principal in 2005. It was reviewed in the final school term in 2007 and ratified by the board in October 2007. Parents’ representatives and members of the board of management were consulted during the process. The school plan is good and was formulated utilising the curriculum planning template developed by the Department of Education and Science, Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), School Development Planning Service (SDPS) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). The plan is reflective of the principles of the Primary curriculum. The school’s vision and aims for pupils’ learning in SPHE are clearly stated, in particular the school’s desire to enable pupils to show respect for themselves and to others, to become active citizens in society and to provide opportunities for pupils to develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills that will inform their decisions and actions both now and in the future.

 

The programme is being implemented over a two-year cycle with aspects of all strands and strand units being addressed annually. Each staff member has a copy of the plan and parents can view the SPHE plan which is available in the office. It is recommended that a synopsis of the plan be disseminated to all parents to raise their awareness of the subject and to enable them to work in collaboration with the teachers

 

The role of parents and the community in the implementation of the SPHE curriculum is also acknowledged. The staff has documented how SPHE will be taught through a combination of contexts and this is to be commended. Approaches and methodologies are outlined and significant consideration is given to the assessment of SPHE. The inclusion of the curriculum objectives and activities /experiences for each class level should be clearly outlined in the SPHE plan. Whole-school planning for assessment and record-keeping in SPHE needs further consideration in order to ensure consistent implementation throughout the school. The staff at a recent planning meeting identified assessment in SPHE as an area for development in this academic year. Further development of areas outlined in the curriculum planning prompts schedule for SPHE should also be considered during the next review.

 

The Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy was reviewed in September 2007 by a committee comprising two teachers, two parents and two members of the board of management and ratified by the board of management in October 2007. A decision was taken that the sexuality component of the RSE programme will be taught by the teaching staff in all classes commencing in the academic year 2007/2008.This decision is highly commendable. The decision to re-issue the content objectives for the RSE programme for all class levels to parents is praiseworthy. It is further recommended that parents work in collaboration with teachers in the implementation of RSE in order to further consolidate this important programme.

 

An extensive range of policies has been devised to support the implementation of the SPHE curriculum. These policies include enrolment, substance use, health and safety, code of behaviour, anti-bullying, attendance, healthy eating, assembly, school masses, supervision of pupils, extra- and co-curricular activities and home school links. Copies of the code of behaviour and the anti-bullying policies are disseminated to parents through the parents’ booklet. It is timely that a review of the anti-bullying policy be undertaken and a key element of this review should include a survey of parents and pupils to ascertain their views. Draft policies have been developed and these policies include display of pupils’ work, and resources. There is an extensive ICT school plan which includes an acceptable use policy.

 

The staff is to be commended for the wide range of plans which has been developed to date. As part of their action plan the school has commenced formulating a policy on intercultural education. It is recommended that as part of the five year action plan, the following policies be formulated to include critical incidents, sexual harassment, care of the environment and gender equality. Development of the gender equality policy should be formulated utilising the Department of Education and Science’s recent publication, Equal Measures. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person and a deputy designated person have been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

 

All teachers conscientiously prepare individual long-term and short-term schemes of work with records of work completed being maintained on a monthly basis. Planning takes account of the three curriculum strands, Myself, Myself and Others and Myself and the Wider World and the strand units, Self Identity, taking Care of my Body, Growing and Changing, Safety and Protection, Making Decisions, Myself and my family, My Friends and Other People, Relating to Others, Developing Citizenship and Media education. Individual teacher planning reflects the aims and objectives of the school plan on SPHE. Long- and short-term planning is very good and includes curricular objectives, methodologies, resources and assessment strategies. Some plans provide clear details with regard to the use of a thematic approach to planning, where a theme is explored from a number of different curricular perspectives including SPHE. Content objectives are identified that can be addressed through integration with other subjects in a number of plans.

 

Assessment of skills is recorded in a systematic manner in some classes utilising continuous assessment records on a monthly basis and also utilising checklists of behaviours. This practice is commendable and should be extended throughout the school. In reviewing long-and short-term planning it is advised that the following be included in all plans, curricular objectives, knowledge, skills, values and attitudes linked to the objectives to be attained, specific integration approaches, thematic approaches, differentiation and details on the implementation of assessment of learning and for learning as outlined in the school plan. All teachers maintain monthly progress records and evaluation of these records indicate that all aspects of the SPHE curriculum are taught with particular attention given to the strands Myself and Myself and Others. Teachers record progress in varying formats. Some teachers include a reflective comment on work completed and this is commendable. It is recommended that all teachers plan in a similar manner using an agreed template for long-term and short-term planning and for recording of monthly progress records to ensure continuity and progression throughout the school. Monthly progress records should also include a record of the skills, values, attitudes and knowledge achieved by the pupils. These records will then become a more useful tool for school management in reviewing the progress of curriculum implementation across the school.

 

The teachers have formulated a very comprehensive English curricular policy and individual staff members have been consulted during the development, co-ordination and implementation of various aspects of the English plan. The English policy has been reviewed and ratified by the board of management. The school planning process is collaborative in nature and the school plan is reviewed on a regular basis. 

 

The plan outlines the aims, content objectives, methodologies, assessment strategies and the roles and responsibilities for development, implementation and reporting in each of the three strands of the English curriculum, including oral language, reading and writing. The further development of the school plan might consider how the individual class teachers could link the learning experiences to be provided for pupils at each class level to the content objectives outlined in the plan.  This would ensure the progressive and continuous implementation of the plan at all class levels. It would ensure that differentiated experiences were provided at all levels throughout the school.  This strategy would enable transparency in respect of the experiences to be provided by the class teacher at each class level and would be particularly useful where multiple classes are in existence.

 

Overall, teachers’ long-term planning in English is good. Long-term planning is linked to the strands and strand units of the English curriculum and generally reflects the structure and language of the Primary School Curriculum. Short-term planning is based largely on the curriculum objectives and the English textbooks in use. Some teachers identify content objectives from the curriculum in writing in their short-term plans and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all teachers’ short-term plans. These objectives should be specific and provide a clear focus for the teaching and learning in English. Monthly progress records are maintained by mainstream class teachers.

 

4. Quality of teaching and learning in sphe and english

4.1 Social Personal and Health Education

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 four of the mainstream classrooms. In Scoil Mhuire, pupils experience learning in an encouraging and affirming environment. Their self-esteem and self-confidence are actively fostered through the range of school activities. Pupils displayed positive behaviour and engagement in their learning throughout the course of the evaluation. The collaborative development of school and classroom rules is praiseworthy.

 

Formal lessons in SPHE are well designed and implemented and address matters of particular importance to the pupils’ holistic development. In all class settings due attention is afforded to the range of strand and strand units, although greater prominence should be afforded to the Myself and the Wider World strand in all classrooms. Consideration should be given to planning an aspect of this strand for delivery each term.

 

The use of a wide range of active learning strategies was in evidence throughout the course of the evaluation. The majority of pupils engage very enthusiastically in the breadth of SPHE learning activities presented to them. It is evident that they are acquiring knowledge, understanding, values attitudes and skills and developing a capacity to relate this learning to their own experiences. Pupils are provided with regular opportunities to work collaboratively. Pupils were observed working in pairs, small groups and individually. Circle time was a feature of some of the classes observed. In the main, such opportunities are well devised with most pupils engaging enthusiastically in the range of learning activities provided for them. As a means of ensuring positive learning outcomes for all pupils, greater cognisance should be taken of the range of learning abilities and needs in each class context.

 

A range of co-curricular activities provides opportunities for promoting pupils’ SPHE-related learning. Pupils’ physical health and well-being are promoted through the implementation of the healthy-eating policy. The school also encourages pupils to engage in a wide range of sporting activities organised by the teachers after school. This practice is praiseworthy and teachers are complemented on their involvement in these extra-curricular activities. The school also participated in the Active School Awards providing further opportunity for pupils to engage in sporting activities. The school is also involved in the Green Schools’ project which involves pupils in recycling initiatives. The school works in association with the tidy towns committee to enhance the local environment through planting of baskets and boxes of flowers in the school grounds.  

4.2 English

The quality of provision in English was evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching and learning, a review of samples of pupils’ work, interaction with pupils in four of the mainstream classrooms and in two support teaching settings.

 

The quality of teaching and learning in this area of the curriculum is good. Comprehensive documentation, in the area of English, is in evidence in the school plan. This plan has been drafted as a result of a collaborative process involving staff members. Significant efforts have been made in the plan to align the curriculum needs of Scoil Mhuire and the principles of the English curriculum. The standard of reading in this school is good. In the lessons observed, all teachers worked diligently to create supportive classroom environments where co-operative pupil teacher interactions are promoted. In the all of lessons observed, the teachers managed pupil behaviour very effectively. All classrooms are very effectively organised and very good use is made of the space available particularly in the smaller classrooms. The classrooms and corridors in the school are attractive and stimulating environments created through the display of high quality illustrative materials and the children’s work in English and other subjects.

In all classes, a range of teaching and learning resources is provided to support pupils’ oral and reading development.  In general, pupils communicate clearly and confidently and have developed a good vocabulary and a range of communication skills. It is evident that efforts are being made to focus on the oral language development of the children in the infant classes. A programme based on the curriculum objectives has been devised. A commercial oral language development programme is also in use throughout the school. It is recommended that a common approach to oral language development be adopted in all classes in order to ensure continuity and progression. Discrete lessons should be taught in all classes on a regular basis that will ensure competence in all of the content objectives as outlined in the curriculum and the school plan.

 

While some teachers are implementing an observation checklist of language development skills, consideration should also be given to developing an observation framework for the assessment of oral English throughout the whole school. The focus on oral language development in the infant classes is commendable and it is recommended that early intervention in oral language development in English be intensified. A wider range of story books is recommended in order to facilitate an interactive storybook reading approach. This strategy can be used to support the development of children’s receptive and expressive language skills in a natural way. This may necessitate the deployment of existing personnel in a collaborative capacity, in order to ensure the implementation, continuity and progression of such a programme. An intensification of pupils’ language development particularly in infant and junior classes will support literacy development. 

There is evidence that teachers read stories to the pupils on a regular basis. The use of large format books for modelling the reading process is commended. The development of higher order thinking skills is facilitated in all classes and should be further emphasised as part of the literacy development of all pupils in all classes. Phonemic awareness and phonological awareness programmes are carried out during the teaching and learning. Shared reading initiatives involving parents are also undertaken in infant classes. All classes should have a wide range of storybooks and graded supplementary reading resources. The acquisition of additional high quality reading materials, including library books, is recommended for all class levels.

Competent practice was observed in all classrooms in respect of the provision of a print-rich environment. These include words, labels and sentences that could be read by most of the children. The display of high frequency, common words, prefixes, suffixes, and polysyllabic words to encourage word identification strategies is in evidence in most classrooms. A variety of reading material is used including the classroom textbooks.  The approach to teaching the novel is praiseworthy in junior, middle and senior classes. The pupils are given opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to fiction. In general, class libraries had a range of expository, narrative, diagrammatic, representational and some parallel readers.

Pupils’ writing observed during the evaluation was of a good standard. In the middle and senior classes emphasis is placed on book reviews, creative writing and a process approach to writing. A repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through dramatising, miming, writing and comparing poems. In some classes, examples of pupils’ writing from various genres, including narrative, expository, letters, poems, project work and fiction are displayed and a writing area has been created.

 

Supplementary teaching is provided in literacy and Mathematics in the school. Very good practice was observed in this area in the school. A learning support policy has been developed by the school. An excellent special educational needs policy has been developed by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the resource teacher, the principal and staff. This policy is very comprehensive and incorporates a staged approach to the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs as recommended by Circular 02/05. The policy has taken into account the relevant legislation including the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004 (EPSEN Act, 2004).

 

In total twenty pupils are receiving learning support in Mathematics and English. There is an overlap in provision with 17 pupils getting literacy support and 11 pupils provided with support in Mathematics. Pupils are withdrawn individually and in groups for support. The resource teacher provides support for two pupils with special educational needs and four pupils who also receive supplementary support.  A wide range of diagnostic testing instruments is in use at the different class levels. The learning support and resource teacher work in close collaboration with each other. They provide very good planning and collaborate with the class teachers in defining achievement targets for pupils. Very effective communication has been established among the support teachers, parents and external agencies. The language support teacher provides support to four pupils on a daily basis. He makes good use of the teaching and learning materials provided by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT).

Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs,) weekly plans, daily log of progress, records of attendance and monthly progress records were in use by the support teachers. It is recommended that further consideration to be given to, the development of parental input into formulation of IPLPs and review. The division of the learning support room into two teaching spaces should be considered by the board of management. This could be facilitated through the relocation of stored items to a cloakroom currently used as a language support room. The deployment of the learning support teacher for some time each week to facilitate an early intervention model in literacy through in-class support should be given consideration.

 

5. Quality of assessment in sphe and english

The school plan for assessment in SPHE is good. In this section the plan states that “assessment will provide information on the child’s progress and the effectiveness and suitability of the programme and the teaching methods used”. This section of the plan also outlines a variety of assessment strategies including formative, diagnostic and summative assessment modes, teacher observation, teacher designed tests and tasks, portfolios, projects and display. Particular focus has been placed on the teacher observation checklist outlined in the assessment section of the curriculum and this is recorded in the SPHE whole school plan. Teacher observation is the main assessment tool employed to evaluate pupils’ learning in SPHE. In some sections this is supported by the use of checklists and continuous records noted from their observations under a range of headings by some teachers. The use of teacher observation is complemented by the use of tasks and stimulating displays. SPHE tasks are a combination of teacher-designed tests and tasks, worksheets and tasks selected from SPHE-related resources and workbooks. Some teachers utilise copybooks to record SPHE activities and others keep records of work in folders.  The teachers also have a very good insight into pupils overall development and progression in SPHE. There is a need however for a more formal tracking of pupil progress in this aspect of work. It is recommended that the school should seek to formalise the procedures outlined in the plan in order to keep an account of progress at certain intervals throughout the year to ensure the systematic recording of each pupils’ success in selected aspects of work to include skills, values, attitudes and knowledge in SPHE.

 

A wide range of strategies is in evidence in the assessment of English including observation checklists in the area of oral language in the infant classes. Teacher observation; monitoring of written work, teacher designed tests; standardised tests are also used by all teachers to monitor pupils’ progress. Standardised tests are administered annually to all pupils and the results are used to inform the selection of pupils in need of support in English and Mathematics. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered in the second term in senior infants and the Forward Together Programme is then carried out in collaboration with the parents. A wide range of assessment instruments is in use by the learning support teacher, resource teacher and the language support teacher. It is recommended that a comparative analysis of the standardised test results in respect of the current and previous years be carried out annually to establish literacy standards on an ongoing basis and to track each class’s attainment as they move through the school.

 

6.                   Future development of sphe and english

The general level of learning and teaching in SPHE is very good. The school plan is good and a number of plans based on SPHE are documented. Work completed to date provides a good base for the implementation of the recommendations detailed in this report. Scoil Mhuire is a caring school community in which pupils experience a genuine sense of belonging. The principal, teachers and support staff are commended for their dedication to the pupils and to the fulfilment of their respective roles. In its mission statement, the school states that their aim is to “provide the best possible experiences for our pupils, so that each child realises his/her potential as a unique individual.” The achievement of this was significantly in evidence in the course of the evaluation. The pupils are commended for their open, positive and enthusiastic approach to learning. The school as part of its self-evaluative process identified that the strand most in need of further development in SPHE at all class levels is Media Education. This report concurs with the school’s review.

 

In general, teaching and learning in the area of English is good. High quality plans have been formulated for English and also for pupils receiving support in English. Overall the standard of attainment in literacy is good. The development of an oral language programme based on the oral language objectives from the curriculum and the identification of learning experiences which will ensure that the children will provide opportunities to develop the relevant skills in this area of the curriculum is recommended. This strategy would be beneficial in supporting literacy development throughout the school.

 

A number of themes for future development are identified and these include

 

·         The revised SPHE programme should be sent to each home, including the programme of RSE to be delivered to the pupils.

·         A whole school approach to individual teacher planning and recording of progress, that is distinctly learning-outcome focused in nature should be agreed and implemented.

·         The range of assessment approaches outlined in the school plan should be further discussed and implemented in the academic year 2007/2008.

·         The attendance policy should be reviewed and parents should be notified of their responsibilities in this regard.

·         A review of the anti-bullying policy should be undertaken and parents and pupils surveyed to ascertain views and opinions.

·         Division of the learning support room into two teaching spaces is recommended.

·         Audit of resources that are available for the teaching of reading should be carried out and additional literacy materials purchased where appropriate.

·         A wider range of story books is needed to facilitate an interactive storybook reading approach. This is recommended in order to ensure  that all children’s receptive and expressive language skills are developed

·         Early intervention in literacy should be intensified.

·         Regular oral language lessons with specific objectives from the curriculum should be identified and taught in all classes.

·         Further development of the pupils’ writing skills is recommended through a process approach to writing.

 

Conclusion

 

The Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science wishes to acknowledge the contributions made by the principal, teachers, pupils and the entire school community during the course of the evaluation. It is hoped that this report will assist the school in reviewing practice at school level and in identifying priorities for future development.

 

 

 

 Published June 2008