An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil na Mainistreach

Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Uimhir rolla: 18551N

 

           Date of inspection: 10 October 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report


 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil na Mainistreach, Celbridge was undertaken in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL). The board of management of the school 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil na Mainistreach is a forty-teacher boys’ primary school situated in Celbridge, Co. Kildare. It serves the educational needs of boys in the local community and surrounding areas from junior infants to sixth class. The original school building was completed in 1977 and as the school enrolment expanded, extensive new facilities were added. In recent years, considerable housing development has continued at a steady pace and has led to a gradual growth in enrolment and a greater degree of diversity among the school community. There are now seventy more pupils enrolled in the school than when the last school report was written in 1998. Approximately twenty five percent of the pupils currently enrolled in the school have English as an additional language (EAL).

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Total number of teachers on the school staff

42

Number of mainstream class teachers

24

Total number of teachers working in support roles

10

Number of language support teachers

  4

Special needs assistants

14

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

664

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

      160

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil na Mainistreach is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and is managed by a board of management elected according to the procedures agreed by the partners in education. The school has a Catholic ethos and this is a guiding principle in the formulation and implementation of school policy. This ethos recognises the value and dignity of each pupil and all those working in the school community. The school’s mission is to promote the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the person, including their relationships with God, family, teachers, the environment, self and others. The diversity of the school population is reflected in the school’s vision which respects the cultural and religious values of all and encourages mutual respect for the traditions and ethos of the entire school community.

 

 

1.2         Board of management

It is evident from the pre-evaluation meetings and from observations during the evaluation that the board of management is enthusiastic, committed and conversant with administrative, organisational, financial and legal aspects of school management. The functioning of the board is in compliance with the Department of Education and Science requirements and with the Education Act, 1998. The board meets every four to six weeks depending on circumstances. The principal presents a report at each meeting to ensure that the board is kept up to date at all times with day-to-day events in the school. The action plan of the board is commendable and it sets out its targets which are to continue to develop the infrastructural facilities as well as the educational and pastoral aspects of the school. School accounts are audited. The parents, principal and staff all acknowledge the benefits to the school of the supportive and informed governance of the board. They praise the efforts of the board to ensure that all necessary supports and resources are available to maximise the quality of education and pastoral care provided in the school. The board effectively manages educational provision for EAL pupils by providing all essential resources. School policies are presented to each new family on enrolment and the board is presently investigating the feasibility of translating school policies into the home languages of EAL pupils. 

 

1.3         In-school management

The quality of leadership in the school is praiseworthy. During the evaluation, there was widespread evidence of the efficient day-to-day running of the school, comprehensive planning, collaborative relationships between members of the school community and the respectful demeanour of pupils. All this bears testimony to the effective leadership qualities of the principal and his commitment to providing the optimal level of a broad and balanced education for each pupil. The principal acknowledges that the execution of his role is greatly enhanced by the immeasurable support of the administrative deputy principal. This cooperation was evident during the evaluation. Both principal and deputy principal maintain a visible presence throughout the school and display a high level of awareness of the quality of pupil progress in each classroom. They are ably assisted by the sixteen members of the in-school management team. All members have clearly defined roles and they undertake their responsibilities dutifully. They support the principal and deputy principal in ensuring that the aspirations outlined in the school’s mission statement are applied conscientiously across all curricular, administrative and pastoral areas to support all pupils. A formal review of the roles and responsibilities assigned to each member should be undertaken systematically in line with evolving school needs to ensure that they can continue to provide this level of support.

 

1.4         The management of resources

The management of human resources is commendable with regular rotation of staff in all areas based on experience, expertise and gender. The non-teaching staff, which consists of two secretaries, a house keeper, cleaners and caretakers, perform their well-defined roles with dedication. The large team of special needs assistants, many of whom are long serving, also provide a high level of support in the school. At present, information and communication technology (ICT) skills are taught effectively on a whole-school basis in the computer room by a designated teacher. The deployment of staff to ICT teaching should be kept under constant review based on school needs. The staff are to be commended for their commitment to continuing professional development across a range of domains. Procedures are in place for the dissemination of newly acquired expertise, skills and information to all staff, which is praiseworthy.  The board proactively supports staff members who wish to undertake professional development in all aspects of education, inclusive of intercultural education and EAL. Consideration should now be given to the provision of continuing professional development in the area of differentiation as outlined in the school’s action plan, to enable teachers to manage the differentiation of the curriculum for all pupils.

 

The quality of the accommodation in the recently extended and upgraded school building is excellent. The school presents as a bright and stimulating learning environment for all who work therein. The school’s action plan ensures that routine upgrading of the school’s accommodation will be completed to maintain the current high standards throughout. The in-school management team organises the plentiful supply of educational resources effectively, with specific resources located at designated bays throughout the building to facilitate ease of access for teaching staff. The resources to support EAL teaching are good. The school environment celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity effectively, as is evidenced by the many colourful displays along corridors. This honouring of the cultural richness of the school should now be further extended to all classrooms.

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Under the guiding influence of the principal and the deputy principal, the quality of the management of relationships and communication with the school community is very high. Effective structures are in place to keep parents suitably informed about school procedures and pupil progress. The use of visual symbols to convey key school messages graphically should be used throughout the school complex, to facilitate communication with those members of the school community for whom English is an additional language. The level of parental involvement in the work of the school community is proactively encouraged and valued. The school operates an open-door policy and parents report that they feel very welcome and empowered to participate in all aspects of school life. Very good channels of communication exist between the parents and the school. The role of EAL parents in the life of the school community is developing at a steady pace and bears testament to the steadfast work of the school’s leadership in this regard. The planned development of the school’s website should further assist in this process, as will the development of links with web translation services. This should prove to be an invaluable information medium for all parents and for the wider school community. The involvement of parents in the pedagogical life of the school is highly commended. The use of the school facilities by the local community after school hours is reflective of the central role of the school in the wider community.

 

1.6         Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. Teachers use praise and affirmation during lesson presentation to promote good behaviour and develop pupils’ self-esteem. Pupils are motivated and co-operate with teachers in all activities. An atmosphere of mutual respect is cultivated effectively among the entire school community. Some pupils have been given additional responsibilities around the school in order to raise their self-esteem and to fully integrate them into the everyday life of the school. There is an established tradition in the school of celebrating all achievements. There are close links with the local post-primary schools where there is a good induction programme in place. The school provides a vast range of extracurricular activities in which all pupils are invited to participate. There is good participation among EAL pupils in these activities and they are very well integrated in all classroom activities. When they first arrive they are met by the principal and the deputy principal. Their language and learning needs are screened as far as possible. Pupils are sometimes assigned a ‘buddy’ when they first arrive and they are always placed in age appropriate classes.

 

 

2.             Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school plan includes an extensive range of plans and policies to address all legislative requirements, as well as many other organisational and procedural policies to ensure the smooth running of the large school. While some policies and plans are correctly signed and dated, the chairperson of the board should ensure that all policies and plans are signed and dated upon ratification by the board. In addition, a review date set within a specific timeframe should be part of each ratified policy and plan. As part of the review of curriculum policies, the sections on differentiation should be further developed to include more detail on differentiation strategies. The curriculum plan for English is very comprehensive and is specific to the context of the school. It addresses the development of skills in the key areas of oral language, reading and writing. As part of the review process, the sections on differentiation and assessment should be further developed. The plan for Mathematics is good and it is closely aligned to the primary mathematics curriculum. When it is next reviewed, the section on oral mathematics and the teaching and learning of mathematical language should be further extended. There should be further elaboration on the analysis of assessment outcomes to inform teaching and learning in Mathematics. As the school culture demonstrates a strong commitment to self-evaluation and planning for improvement, these recommendations should be easily incorporated into the school plan for Mathematics. Subsequently, this should have a positive impact on individual classroom planning.

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is good. The comprehensive plan details the school’s approach to planning, methodologies, assessment and resources for EAL provision. It should now be further contextualised to enable the pupils develop the communication skills necessary to access the curriculum. The approach will be complemented by the forthcoming school policy on intercultural education.

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

The quality of classroom planning is good as it is based on the curriculum strands, strand units and content objectives. All teachers complete short and long-term planning and monthly progress reports. These are professionally presented and completed using agreed in-house designed templates. Very good collaborative planning structures exist between class teachers at each class level. Some good examples of planning for differentiation and assessment were observed at classroom level. However, overall classroom planning for differentiation and assessment needs to be more specific to meet the learning needs of pupils of all abilities and needs. Classroom planning should inform and detail how content will be differentiated and describe further the methodologies through which differentiation will be achieved. With reference to planning for EAL pupils, there is little evidence of specific planning for their needs at classroom level. Therefore, the link between classroom planning and language support planning should be strengthened through enhanced communication between class teachers and language support teachers. Given the reflective culture within the school community, these recommendations should be readily implemented.

 

2.4         Child protection policy and procedures

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.

 

 

3.             Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

The quality of teaching and learning in English is good. Most classrooms and corridors have purposeful and productive print-rich environments that assist in consolidating learning and celebrating the work of pupils. The pupils’ confidence and competence in listening, speaking, reading and writing are systematically developed throughout the school. Oral language development is correctly emphasised, both as a discrete element of English lessons in many classrooms, and as the basis for work across the other strands. In the infant and junior classes, the development of phonological and phonemic awareness is suitably addressed through the use of a structured phonics programme. Noteworthy use is made of large-format and picture books in these classes to foster a love of reading among pupils. Reading skills are nurtured throughout the school through the use of reading schemes, library books and classroom novels. The use of class novels is very well established and developed throughout the school. Some very good examples of creative work based on novels were observed during the inspection. In some classes, pupils make very good use of dictionaries and are encouraged to compile their own dictionaries from new words encountered. Writing skills are being developed effectively at all levels and pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres and for different audiences. Pupils’ work is generally well monitored and corrected. There is commendable focus on the development of the writing process in most classrooms and ICT is sometimes used for the presentation of the final drafts. Clear school guidelines should be developed in relation to the presentation of pupils’ written work to ensure a consistent and incremental approach throughout the school. Pupil attainment in English is good as is evidenced by the competence with which they speak and read, the quality of their written work and the results attained in standardised tests. There is scope for development in the differentiation of work in many classes, particularly for EAL and more able pupils, to ensure that they can participate to the best of their ability in lessons. This could include the further use of pictorial symbols, gestures, the employment of picture dictionaries, the use of active learning methodologies to enable pupils to access the curriculum and the provision of differentiated activities. During the course of the evaluation, structured in-class support for EAL pupils was not a prominent feature of lessons observed and it is recommended that this model of delivery be initiated to complement the current practice of withdrawal. Pupils are given the opportunity to explore and respond to poems and to compose their own poems and they can recite a range of rhymes and poems confidently.

 

3.2         Mathematics

The quality of the teaching and learning of Mathematics is of a high standard with some of the lessons observed being particularly noteworthy. Almost all classrooms have attractive and stimulating mathematics areas where posters, charts and mathematical equipment are displayed. A positive attitude towards Mathematics is fostered throughout the school. The majority of mathematics lessons are well-organised and appropriately paced. Oral mathematics is an integral aspect of most lessons and well-structured talk and discussion sessions are employed successfully on a school-wide basis to explore a broad range of mathematical concepts. Commendably, some teachers purposefully avail of opportunities to link activities to an exploration of the pupils’ own environment. Whole-class teaching is used appropriately to present lesson content and to facilitate discussion. Good use is made of collaborative learning to reinforce concepts in many classes. Teachers have effective communication skills and the majority use skilful questioning techniques. Estimation skills and problem-solving strategies are employed effectively at all levels. The school’s range of concrete resources is used successfully and creatively in most classes to facilitate active learning and to develop and consolidate lesson content. In a number of instances, teachers make use of ICT resources to further enhance lesson presentation. While there is some evidence of the use of mathematical trails, the development and use of trails for all class levels should be considered. Most written work is monitored and constructive and encouraging feedback is provided. The majority of pupils indicate a commendable level of knowledge of number facts, a good understanding of relevant mathematical concepts and a confidence in engaging in mathematical activities. Nonetheless, there is scope for the further development of a differentiated approach to the teaching and learning of Mathematics to support the lower-achieving pupils and to challenge the higher achievers.

 

3.3         Assessment

A wide range of assessment modes, both standardised and informal are in use in accordance with best curriculum practice. Pupils from first class upwards are assessed annually using standardised tests in literacy and numeracy. These test outcomes are efficiently managed and centrally stored. In order to extend the effect and impact of this assessment process, learning outcomes should be further analysed and evaluated to inform planning for learning on a whole-school basis. In turn, the outcomes of this analysis should form part of each teacher’s planning documentation, which should be used to inform the differentiation of learning. The range of informal assessment processes in operation on a whole-school basis include weekly testing, teacher observation, the use of portfolios and the maintenance of samples of pupils’ work. Methods for recording and using the outcomes of informal assessment should be explored and implemented on a whole-school basis. Parents are informed of their children’s progress on an ongoing basis and formal parent-teacher meeting are held each year.

 

4.             Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) is good. Practice is underpinned and informed by a comprehensive policy detailing the roles and responsibilities of all personnel in the area. The SEN team is comprised of five full-time resource teachers, four learning-support teachers and a part-time resource teacher. Each teacher has specific responsibility to cater for pupils’ additional needs in literacy and numeracy or to address low-incidence learning needs. Teacher planning is generally good and includes an individual pupil learning profile (IPLP) for each pupil, short-term plans and monthly progress records. The learning environments in support settings are generally bright and productive and an appropriate range of resources is available to support teaching and learning. While there was very good practice evident in many support settings, there was a variation in the overall quality of teaching and learning observed. The very good practice was informed by comprehensive and specific learning targets in the IPLP’s, the use of engaging and interactive teaching methodologies and approaches, the maintenance of systematic assessment records and active pupil engagement. It is recommended that this commendable practice be extended across all support settings. Teacher-pupil relationships are generally characterised by warm and affirming interactions in a positive atmosphere. Copies of IPLP’s should be disseminated to those who participate in their devising, most particularly classroom teachers and parents, to ensure that they are aware of the learning targets and can assist towards their achievement. The approach to undertaking and maintaining assessment records is generally comprehensive. In line with recent school self-evaluation, consideration should now be given to reforming the structure and delivery of additional supports for SEN pupils in the school by forming a special education support team as proposed in recent Department of Education and Science circulars. The most informative documents for this purpose are Circular 24/2003 (Allocation of resources for pupils with special educational needs in national schools) and 02/2005 (Organisation of teaching resources for pupils who need additional support in mainstream primary schools). Members of the newly formed team could then be assigned to particular class levels to address all additional needs of pupils in a cohesive and seamless manner. This restructuring would facilitate improved communication and co-ordination between classroom teachers and the support teacher assigned to the class, reduce the necessity for pupils to attend a number of support teachers and facilitate the introduction of in-class support to complement the existing predominant model of withdrawal.

 

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

The quality of support provision for EAL pupils is good. Four teaching posts are assigned to the provision of supplementary support to eighty-one pupils. Support is primarily delivered on a withdrawal basis in small groups and it is recommended that this practice be replaced by a more balanced provision of withdrawal and in-class support, based on the needs of individual pupils. Overall, the quality of the learning environments, including teacher-designed and commercial resources, is very good and supports pupils in their acquisition of language. Teachers undertake a range of initial assessments on EAL pupils and the results of these are used to inform programme planning for individuals and groups. Such assessments include materials devised by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) and the recently published Primary School Assessment Kit. A long-term programme of work is devised for each pupil or group of pupils and specific objectives and learning targets for groups and individuals are further detailed in teacher short-term planning. The quality of the teaching observed was generally of a high standard and was characterised by an emphasis on oral language development based on the pupil’s language needs. A range of methodologies is in use, including language games, experiential learning, listening exercises, ICT and pictorial representations. Positive teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil interactions were observed in EAL support settings that gave pupils the competence and confidence to use newly acquired language. Teachers assess pupil progress through recording observations on an ongoing basis and a monthly progress record for each pupil is maintained. It is recommended that communication between classroom teachers and language support teachers become more systematic and formalised in nature in the best interest of sharing information on, and responsibility for, the learning needs and strengths of each pupil.

 

4.3         Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups

Pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups are supported in a discrete and sensitive manner in keeping with the school’s ethos of inclusivity. Supports such as the breakfast club, among many others, are successfully organised by parents to the benefit of all.

 

 

5.             Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

  

 

 

 

 Published, May 2009

 

 

 

  

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 


 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management is happy to accept in principle the recommendations of the report and would like to make the observations outlined below.

 

The Board and staff wish to acknowledge the affirmation and recognition of the strengths of the school as outlined in the report.

 

In relation to the special focus on E.A.L. in the report the Board and staff will address constructively the recommendations made having regard for the resources available.  In this context the Board and staff would like it noted that the resource allocation to the school for pupils with E.A.L. has been reduced by 50%.  We would further recommend whole school in-service/training in integration of children with E.A.L. into mainstream classes.

 

The Board and staff will also engage with the recommendation to achieve a greater balance between in-class support and the withdrawal system.  However, The Board must have regard to the wishes of teachers, class teachers and resource teachers, parents and students in deciding on appropriate interventions at each level of the school.  It must further take into account that as children progress through the school they become more self conscious and concerned of how they may be perceived by their peers.  Many prefer the privacy of the individual/small group setting of the resource rooms.  The Board will continue to allocate resources to the maximum benefit of all the children, having due regard for the recommendations of the report and equal regard for the educational and emotional needs of each child, with particular sensitivity for their dignity and self esteem.

 

Finally the Board would like to acknowledge the courtesy and professionalism with which the evaluation was conducted and convey our gratitude to the team.