An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Curriculum Implementation Evaluation: Science 2007
Ballyboden, Dublin 16
Date of inspection:† 21 November 2007
† Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
An evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in Scoil Mhuire was undertaken in November 2007.† The evaluation focused on the provision for Science and Mathematics and on the quality of pupilsí achievement in these curricular areas. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement.† 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.
Scoil Mhuire is a 20-teacher, Catholic, vertical, co-educational school in Ballyboden, Dublin 16.† The school is in DEIS, Band 1. The school, its grounds and the locality provide a rich environment for the study of Science.
2.1 Resources for Science
The school is located at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains and is within walking distance of St Endaís Park.† The grounds incorporate a wild garden, a patio area, hedgerows and many attractively planted areas with trees, plants and flowers.† Many of these are labelled and catalogued. The pupils engage in planting, observing and other Ďhands-oní activities in the school grounds and in the local park on a regular basis. Scoil Mhuire has excellent science resources and these are managed effectively. †They are in practical and accessible kits.† An extensive range of suitable resources in all strands is available and stored centrally. They include posters, DVDs, equipment and high quality reference material.†
2.2 Resources for Mathematics
The school has a central storage area which facilitates easy access to resources for all strands of the mathematics curriculum. There is a system in place for the purchase and maintenance of these resources. This has resulted in the availability of up-to-date equipment and resources, including ICT.† Each classroom also contains a core set of manipulatives. All teachers succeed in establishing a mathematics-rich environment incorporating commercial and teacher-designed charts and posters. In many areas of the school there are commendable investigation displays. Teachers use mathematical resources in a judicious manner in all classrooms.
The quality of whole-school planning in Science is good. The process of planning is effectively coordinated and is guided by the principles of collaboration and consultation. The science plan is reflective of the schoolís context. Guidance is given in relation to many key areas of provision, including planning for a two-year implementation cycle, resources and use of the environment.† It is recommended that further whole-school planning be coordinated to ensure that the plan guides the skills and content of the strand units for each class level. It is also recommended that a whole-school approach to assessment in Science be developed.
A comprehensive whole-school plan for Mathematics is in place. The involvement of teachers in the process of planning for Mathematics is praiseworthy. The plan addresses issues in relation to curriculum and organisational planning, approaches and methodologies. Integration, linkage, and the use of the environment to support mathematics learning are appropriately highlighted. It addresses the development of the pupilsí mathematical language and problem-solving skills in a systematic manner. Assessment and differentiation are provided for. Consideration is given to the involvement of parents, community links and to teachersí professional development. The process for disseminating the mathematics plan, which includes an outline of work for each class level, is articulated clearly.
The quality of individual planning is good. Many teachersí schemes show clear links with the school plan and the science curriculum.† Lessons are informed by focused objectives.† In general, textbooks are used appropriately and a range of reference material is used to inform planning and guide lessons. General records of progress are maintained on a monthly basis. There are some practical approaches to assessment in use at present. These include teacher-designed tests, photographs, scrapbooks and work samples incorporating the extensive use of projects and factfiles.† It is recommended that further attention be directed to the formative assessment of the pupilsí mastery of specific skills and curriculum objectives.
The quality of individual planning in Mathematics varies.† All teachers prepare detailed long-term plans. In some classrooms there is very good short-term planning undertaken that is reflective of the strands and principles of the mathematics curriculum.† The extension of this good practice throughout the school is advised. In particular, teachers should ensure that short-term plans incorporate appropriate provision for differentiation so that all pupils, including the more able, are suitably challenged. Detailed monthly progress records are compiled by all teachers.
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.
There are many positive aspects to the teaching of Science in this school. The teachers succeed in promoting an enthusiasm for Science among the pupils and it is evident that an atmosphere of purposeful learning is being cultivated.† Throughout the school there are colourful displays of the pupilsí work across a wide range of strands. Teacher-designed posters, charts, equipment, resources, investigation areas and nature tables are used appropriately. The use of ICT to support the pupilsí learning in many classrooms is praiseworthy. †Teachers are making creditable efforts to provide a broad and balanced science curriculum. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the use of scientific terminology. In general, whole-class, teacher-directed lessons are undertaken. It is recommended that strategies such as brainstorming, concept mapping and concept cartoons be used consistently thereby placing greater emphasis on using the pupilsí own scientific questions and ideas as starting points.† The pupils are guided in engaging in group work and appropriate practical activities. The senior pupils display very good collaborative and cooperative skills. It is recommended that the pupilsí independent learning skills be developed further in all classes. Consistent opportunities should be provided to them to plan for, carry out and record their own investigations using approaches of their own choosing.†
The pupilsí investigative and illustrative work regarding habitats, life cycles, plant and animal life is attractively displayed and they discuss these topics with confidence.† The school is making good progress in the strand unit of Caring for the Environment, both at community level and in its endeavours within the school to attain the Green Flag. The work of the Student Council and the Green Schoolís committee in this area is commendable. The school promotes the pupilsí interest in Science through engaging them in competitions, exhibitions and National Science Week. Teachers have undertaken training for the Discover Science initiative. Plans are underway for the development of local science trails.
During the evaluation, a sample of classes completed tasks drawn from specific strands and objectives of the science curriculum. More than half of the pupils displayed mastery of the strand units of Forces and Magnetism, but not in relation to Light, Sound or Heat. More than half of the pupils did not display mastery of the strand of Materials or of Human Life and Plant and Animal Life within the strand of Living Things. Less than half of the pupils achieved mastery of the strand of Environmental Awareness and Care. The second set of tasks tested the pupilsí ability to plan for and design simple investigations having regard for the principles of fair testing.† The majority of the pupils did not achieve mastery of the procedural skills involved.† It is recommended that the pupilsí learning of specific objectives of the science curriculum be thoroughly reinforced and assessed appropriately. It is further recommended that a whole-school approach to the teaching of procedural skills be developed.
In general, the quality of learning and teaching in Mathematics is good. Teachers in the infant classes use early-mathematical activities, games, songs and rhymes skilfully to develop mathematical understanding. They consistently engage in purposeful talk and discussion to extend the pupilsí mathematical thinking. Teachers reinforce concepts through stimulating mathematics-rich environments, appropriate Ďhands-oní activities and worksheets. In the junior and middle classes, the teachers present well-paced, structured lessons. This results in pupils remaining consistently on task. Teachers present stimulating mathematics activities to develop the pupilsí interest in new topics. Good standards are achieved in these classes in relation to Measures, Shape and Space, Data and Chance. Further reinforcement work is recommended in relation to the pupilsí understanding of Algebra and Number.
Good practice in relation to mathematics teaching is evident in most senior classes. This teaching involves well-structured lessons, talk and discussion, clear directions, strategies for problem-solving and focused group work. Senior pupils attain a high standard in the presentation of their written work.† It is recommended that the quality of the pupilsí written work in all classes be closely monitored. The skilful integration of the mathematics programme with the Visual Arts and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) was observed during the evaluation. Where this good practice exists, pupils display competence and confidence in all strands of the mathematics curriculum.
Teachers assess pupils from first class to sixth class by means of annual standardised tests. In some classrooms there is effective use of teacher-designed tests and criterion-referenced objectives testing to inform further programmes of learning. †It is recommended that the implementation of the schoolís comprehensive assessment policy be closely monitored to ensure that it positively impacts on classroom practice.
The Special Education Team (SET) give additional support in Mathematics to pupils from senior infants to sixth class in an effective manner. This support is provided to individuals and to groups on a withdrawal or in-class basis. Pupils are selected for learning support based on results from standardised testing and teachersí observations.† The learning-support teacher, supported by parents and class teacher, leads the development of each pupilís Individual Education Plan (IEP). These IEPs are disseminated to all the partners. Learning-support teachers and class teachers liaise throughout the school year to discuss each pupilís progress. Dedicated time-slots within the school calendar should now be considered to facilitate this consultation process. The SET teachers are to be praised for the collaborative and professional manner in which they undertake their work. Planning and preparation are of a very high standard. Classroom environments are bright, mathematics-rich and well-organised.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ The leadership of the principal and of the curriculum coordinators contributes significantly to the overall work of the school.
∑ The staff are to be praised for the manner in which they have embraced the process of school development planning in Science and Mathematics. There is good quality whole-school planning in place. ††
∑ The teachers ensure that Science is promoted effectively through the provision of stimulating learning environments and displays.
∑ The school has achieved good standards in caring for the environment.
∑ The school provides a wide variety of high quality resources in Mathematics and Science and teachers ensure that these resources are used effectively and consistently.
∑ The teachers employ a wide range of active-learning methodologies to facilitate the pupilsí learning in Mathematics.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
∑ It is recommended that teachers employ an extended range of strategies to reinforce the pupilsí learning with regard to the specific objectives in the science curriculum.
∑ It is recommended that a whole-school approach to the teaching of scientific, procedural skills be developed.
∑ It is recommended that short-term planning in Mathematics incorporate suitable differentiation strategies to support all pupils and, in particular, more able pupils.
∑ It is recommended that the school facilitate the implementation of whole-school assessment approaches in Science and Mathematics at each class level.
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 Science will serve as a valuable reference at system level and will inform the further development of policy and provision for the teaching of Science.