An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Saint Peter’s National School

Phibsboro, Dublin 7

Uimhir rolla: 20091R

 

 Date of inspection: 4 December 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

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of St Peter’s NS was undertaken in December, 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St Peter’s NS is a co-educational primary school which caters for pupils from the Phibsboro and Cabra areas of Dublin. It was formed in 1999 on the amalgamation of the three schools which had existed on the site for many years, and which had been among the oldest schools in Dublin.  The newly refurbished school retains much of the character of the previous schools, as the existing facade has been reatained.

 

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

28

Number of mainstream class teachers

18

Total number of teachers working in support roles

9

Number of language support teachers

4

Special needs assistants

1

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

371

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

150

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St Peter’s is a Catholic school and operates under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. The school sets out to create an inclusive environment and seeks to nurture the development of all of its pupils. The school caters for pupils from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. This increasing diversity is welcomed and celebrated in the school.

 

1.2         Board of management

The work of the board of management is highly commendable. The board is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes of board meetings are maintained and an action plan for further development is outlined. Board members are kept informed of all ongoing developments in the school and are active in managing the whole-school planning process. Organisational and curricular policies are discussed and ratified at board meetings. The board fulfils its statutory obligations dutifully and has developed all of the policies and procedures required of it by legislation. A cyclical review of policy is undertaken, and areas identified for review in the immediate future include the school’s enrolment policy and the health and safety policy. The board is commended for the manner in which the refurbishment of the school building has been managed. The board manages its financial affairs in a prudent and transparent manner, and has developed effective methods for communicating information on its finances to its members. Accounts are audited on an annual basis. The board maintains a keen interest in the educational standards in the school and has identified as a core priority the continuous improvement of the school, including developing effective strategies to enhance the inclusion of and educational provision for EAL pupils.

 

1.3         In-school management

The principal was appointed to her position in 1999 on the amalgamation of the three schools that were then on the campus. Since then she has overseen the refurbishment of the school building and has led the development of school policies covering a wide range of organisational and curricular areas. She displays an admirable dedication to the continuous development of the school and she brings her strong vision to bear on the manner in which she performs her duties as principal. She maintains a highly visible presence in the school and is committed to the continual pursuit of high standards in every aspect of school life. As principal, she is supported by an in-school management team which comprises the deputy principal, three assistant principals, a privileged assistant and seven teachers with special duties posts. A range of curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities is delegated to the in-school management team. Post holders meet regularly as a group to review developments in their areas of responsibility. Monthly targets are set for each post holder and each reports directly to the principal regarding progress in their own areas of responsibility. Members of the in-school management team are commended for their careful attention to performing their assigned duties. They show openness to reviewing their duties in accordance with the changing needs and priorities of the school. While English as an Additional Language is not specifically listed as one of the duties of any of the post holders, there is provision for the co-ordination of supports for EAL pupils and for liaising with parents of EAL pupils. As further review of duties takes place, it is recommended that, in accordance with the rationale for revised management structures referred to in DES Circular 07/03 Appointments to Posts of Responsibility, all members of the team would have opportunities to assume responsibility in the school for instructional leadership, curriculum development, the management of staff, and the academic and pastoral work of the school. This could be achieved by endeavouring to ensure that all posts would incorporate curricular, organisational and pastoral duties.

 

1.4         The management of resources

The management of staff is good. Teachers are afforded opportunities to work in a variety of contexts, including mainstream and support settings. All staff members, including those who are not post holders, participate in school committees focusing on curricular issues. The DEIS committees, which plan the development of Mathematics and English throughout the school, meet fortnightly. Staff members are committed and enthusiastic and show their willingness to work collaboratively. Teachers undertake continuous professional development. A number have attended summer courses. Areas for future staff development have been identified in consultation with the DEIS cuiditheoir. Inservice for EAL teachers is to be provided through Drumcondra Education Centre in the current year. Additional support teaching for EAL pupils is provided in the mainstream class setting and through withdrawal of pupils in small groups for focused support. As further provision for professional development of all staff in EAL is discussed, emphasis should be placed on developing team teaching approaches in order to increase opportunities for effective in-class support and to reduce the requirement to withdraw pupils from mainstream class. Additionally, the development of mentoring systems and strategies to continue to support teachers through the early stages of their careers should be explored further. Some excellent examples of collaborative team teaching were observed during the evaluation. Staff should now explore ways to develop a co-ordinated team teaching approach throughout the school.

 

The quality of accommodation is very good. The extensive recent refurbishment of the school building has resulted in mainstream classrooms being bright and spacious. Classrooms are generally well stocked with resources for teaching and learning. Work has begun on developing attractive displays of pupils’ work through the school. These displays reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the pupils. The regular renewal of displays will further celebrate the pupils’ work. An audit of teaching resources would enable the school to identify a core set of resources which should be available in each classroom. These resources should include a range of concrete material for use in the teaching of Mathematics at all class levels. Interactive white boards are available in some classrooms and good use is made of these in the presentation of lessons. The design of the school building means that a restricted number of rooms is available for providing additional support teaching. This results in some groups being taught in corridors. While the space available in the corridors is ample, it is recommended that this practice be decreased as the levels of in-class support increase.

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The quality of parental involvement in the life of the school is good. The school is currently in the process of creating a parents’ association. Communication with parents and with the wider community is maintained through a monthly newsletter and a more detailed newsletter at the end of the school year. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually. Parents have been involved in the development of some school policies. They assist with sponsored walks, book fairs and with athletics in the school. Parents’ representatives expressed high levels of satisfaction with the quality of education provided in the school and with the professionalism and commitment of the teaching staff. It is noted that there are plans to develop a school website in the current school year. If updated regularly, this can become a valuable method for communicating with parents.

 

The quality of involvement of EAL parents in the life of the school is good. School policies are communicated to EAL parents orally at welcome meetings, and some school documents have been translated into other languages. English language classes have been organised for EAL parents in the school. Levels of uptake of these classes are very good.

 

1.6         Management of pupils

The management of pupils is highly commended. Efforts to create a positive and caring environment for pupils have been very successful. Interactions among pupils and between pupils and their teachers are respectful. Pupils are well mannered and polite, and they are proud of their school. The inclusive atmosphere created for pupils is a testament to the determination of the management and of the teachers to treat all pupils well. An extensive range of activities is provided for pupils after school, including sports and lessons in French and German. The consistent implementation of the school’s homework policy is highlighted by school management as an aspect of school policy which has had an appreciable and tangible positive impact both on the approach pupils’ bring to their work and on the quality of their completed work.

 

EAL pupils are placed in age-appropriate classes and are included in all school activities. There is a strong musical tradition in the school: the choir is a great asset to the school, and large scale musical shows are organised from time to time. In order to provide EAL pupils with further incentives to participate, the choir’s repertoire has been extended to include songs from African cultures. During the evaluation, senior EAL pupils reported their contentment with school life. They were able to articulate their satisfaction very clearly, and they did so without hesitation. A pupils’ committee has been formed for the Green Schools programme. This initiative will provide a valuable instrument for including pupils and for acknowledging the potential of pupils to collaborate with staff and management in the development of the school.

 

 

2.             Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

The quality of whole-school planning is commendable and displays a commitment to self-evaluation and planning for improvement. The school planning process is well established, and a broad range of policies has been developed for organisational and curricular areas. The process is led by the board of management, which has initiated a cycle of policy development, implementation and review. The board takes an active role in school planning, particularly in relation to organisational matters. The development of curricular policy is largely devolved to the teaching staff, but all policies are discussed at board meetings prior to their ratification and implementation. At classroom level, it is recommended that a uniform approach to short-term planning be formulated. Current practice is widely varied, with some teachers providing detailed planning which is based on clearly outlined learning objectives and which includes reference to specific teaching methodologies and resources, while other teachers’ short-term plans focus on the proposed content of lessons. Additionally, consideration should be given to the preparation of a common template for monthly progress records.

 

The quality of the school plan for Mathematics is very good. The comprehensive plan was completed in September 2008 and includes a review date of June 2009. It includes appropriate sections on the teaching of mathematical skills with specific targets set in response to the school’s analysis of the standardised test scores, in accordance with best practice. The main target set focuses on teaching approaches to problem solving.

 

The school plan for special education is good as it enunciates the approach which the school employs in supporting the needs of pupils with special education needs, which is updated regularly.

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is good and is outlined in the EAL policy of the school and in the policy on interculturalism. The school aims to develop an inclusive and intercultural school that addresses the needs of all pupils. It succeeds in enriching the learning for pupils by using opportunities that exist in lessons for an intercultural perspective. These include the appropriate use of resource materials, co-operative learning activities, routines for newcomers, positive affirmation and the selection of stimulating images and classroom displays. The school policy focuses on the centrality of language to the development of intercultural competencies and in so doing gives due recognition and affirmation to the child’s first language. The EAL policy clearly outlines the vision and aims of the EAL programme in the school together with the roles of the class teacher and the EAL teacher.  The aims of the programme are to develop the oral, reading and writing competency of EAL pupils in the English language in order to support their integration into the life of the school and into the wider community and ultimately to develop the child’s creativity and sense of self-esteem.

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

All teachers prepare comprehensive long-term and short-term plans of work. Plans are professionally presented: they are based on the structure of the curriculum and include a section on differentiation. In some instances, there is scope for the development of more specific detail on the teaching content and a clearer outline of the strategies for differentiation and assessment.  There is evidence of some very good co-operation between class teachers and EAL teachers in planning for individual needs which includes strategies for in-class support and withdrawal. Some plans are based on a thematic approach to the development of oral language. Detailed monthly progress reports are compiled by each teacher.

 

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 in English is good. Most classrooms are print-rich environments that enable pupils to consolidate learning and reflect the cultural diversity of the class. Pupils’ confidence and competence in listening, speaking, reading and writing are developed throughout the school. Oral language development is correctly emphasised as a discrete element of English lessons in many classes. This enables pupils who are still experiencing the ‘silent phase’ to build up language competencies.  In the infant and junior classes, pupils build oral language skills through the ‘take home buddy’ system whereby they relate the experiences of the toy to the remainder of the class. The multi-sensory table is also used as a stimulus for language development at this level. Listening skills were not a feature of lessons observed in English and it is recommended that this aspect of the curriculum be further explored. The development of phonological and phonemic awareness is suitably addressed through the use of a structured phonics programme. Effective use is made of large-format and picture books in these classes to foster a love of reading among pupils. Reading skills are further nurtured throughout the school through the use of reading schemes, library books and class novels. Some effective work based on novels was observed during the course of the inspection. Silent reading is also a feature of some classes in order to give pupils a love of reading. Writing skills are being developed effectively at all levels and pupils are being encouraged to write in a variety of genres and for different audiences. Pupils’ work is well monitored and corrected. Suitable attention is paid to the presentation of written work and this practice is commendable. There is an emphasis on the accurate use of grammar in written work and many classes display this focus in their teaching charts. Pupils are given opportunities to explore and respond to poetry, to compose their own poems and many classes can recite a range of rhymes and poems confidently. The predominant teaching approach observed was whole-class teaching and it is recommended that this be extended to incorporate a greater variety of approaches and methodologies into lesson presentation. The use of ICT and interactive whiteboards in English lessons was generally well executed. Pupils respond well to questioning and teachers systematically maintain records of all pupils’ progress in English. Generally, the quality of pupils’ learning in English is good throughout the school.

 

3.2         Mathematics

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is good. A wide variety of teaching methodologies is employed from junior levels to senior levels which enliven the pupils’ interest in Mathematics and in Mathematics in the environment. The creation of Maths Trails throughout the school assists greatly in this process. A good range of appropriate mathematical equipment is used to engage the pupils in the teaching process as they explore areas such as angles, length and fractions. Mathematical equipment is available in most classes and commercial and teacher-designed educational charts reinforce the content of the mathematics lessons taught. Some very good examples of effective use of the interactive white-board were observed, which added value to the quality of both teaching and learning. Opportunities are provided to develop the pupils’ social communication skills during the mathematics lesson when pupils are involved in playing games and working in pairs. In many classes pupils take part in co-operative activities, which reflects a core methodology of the curriculum. Furthermore, effective whole-class teaching of Mathematics was observed in many classes. A good balance was achieved between teacher-led instruction and pupil-centred participative learning in these classes. This should be encouraged throughout the school. In some instances pupils need to be more active and engaged in their learning. The pupils should be actively involved in their learning from an earlier stage in the mathematics lesson. EAL pupils are well integrated during the teaching of mathematics. Some excellent examples of differentiated teaching using visual cues and gesture were observed at all levels. This is highly commended. Awareness of the role of the visual in the learning process for EAL pupils should be developed. There is scope to strengthen the link between the in-class support teacher and that of the class teacher so that each complements the other to maximise learning for all the pupils. Opportunities may arise during the Maths for Fun and Ready Steady Maths sessions organised by the home-school-community liaison teacher to explore a team approach to in-class support teaching in an informal setting. Pupils’ work in Mathematics is monitored and corrected regularly and standardised test outcomes are analysed with purpose. This reflects best practice.

 

The quality of the pupils’ learning is good. The focus of the recent review of the school plan for Mathematics which places emphasis on teaching the skill of problem-solving is effective. The pupils are confident as they enjoy the daily session of mental mathematics and many inventive teaching approaches were observed which make the learning fun for the pupils and assist in consolidating numerical facts. The close monitoring of the pupils’ attainment levels in Mathematics has led to increased levels of pupils’ understanding of problem-solving strategies and achievement overall. While in many classes all the pupils are provided with regular opportunities to use concrete materials, this practice should be extended throughout the school. In addition, in some instances, a more precise use of mathematical language during instruction is needed. Overall, the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is developing in a targeted and focused manner, which is reflected in the attainment levels of the pupils.

 

3.3         Assessment

A wide variety of assessment methodologies is in use in the school to assess and record the progress of individual pupils. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered to the pupils each school year. In addition, a broad range of further tests such as Belfield Infant Assessment Profile, MIST, NRIT, Jackson Phonics, are used to identify pupils in need of specific additional support. The analysis of the learning outcomes of the standardised testing in Mathematics and English has a strong effect on the planning for teaching and learning in the subject areas. This is commendable and should be extended to all subject areas. These learning outcomes are monitored to track pupils’ progress through the school. The quality of the record keeping and reporting to parents and teachers is good. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually and every effort is made by the school to facilitate an open-door approach to communicating with parents’ on their pupils’ progress. All teachers use teacher observation to assess individual pupil’s progress. In many cases, these observations are recorded and offer important insights into the progress of pupils. This is praiseworthy. The school is advised to create simple methods for recording the valuable information observed in this informal fashion, which suit the needs of the school. In addition, samples of pupils’ work across many subject areas are retained in folders, which offer valuable information when assessing an individual pupil. Good use is made of ICT in this regard as evidenced by the use of digital cameras to record samples of pupils’ work. The use of Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools, which has been disseminated in 2008, should prove invaluable in the on-going development in this area. The school’s differentiation of various assessment tools when evaluating EAL pupils is both practical and valuable. Moreover, its use of language proficiency benchmarks when assessing pupils for whom English is an additional language is commendable.

 

 

4.             Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

A whole-school approach to providing support for pupils with special educational needs is evident in the school. The special education needs (SEN) team, comprising four teachers, aims to ‘identify pupils with the greatest need as early as possible’ in order to ‘provide intensive intervention’. At present 79 pupils are in receipt of additional learning support. Pupils are carefully selected and receive support in literacy and numeracy. One team member is currently training in Reading Recovery (RR) and works intensively with four pupils at a time, over a fifteen to twenty week period. This provides a valuable support for pupils to assist in reading progress. Pupils’ progress is recorded daily and monitored throughout the year. The SEN team identifies pupils in need of additional learning support during their first year in school, in close consultation with the class teacher, principal and parents. Proper procedures are followed during the preparation of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) which record learning attainments and strengths and needs over a twenty-week cycle. The quality of the plans is high. Frequent meetings are held between the principal and the SEN team during which timetables are created and groups allocated to teachers. It was decided with the principal that all of the learning-support team would provide in-class support one day a week and withdraw the pupils for support on the other four week days. This flexible approach is commended and its value should be monitored carefully. School policy states correctly that ‘differentiation must be part of weekly/fortnightly schemes’. The provision of in-class support provides opportunities for the strengthening of the existing links between the planning of the class teacher and that of the SEN team. This is highly desirable and should continue to be exploited so that class and SEN teachers’ work reinforces learning for pupils. A very good range of teaching resources, both commercially produced and teacher-designed, is available. These resources facilitate the high level of pupils’ engagement in the learning observed during the evaluation. The HSCL teacher works closely with parents to help them consolidate the work begun in school in the home. Pupils are engaged in a variety of learning activities which include language development, paired-reading, selecting library books, Maths for Fun schemes, and oral language activities. Good use is made of ICT and visual resources to support learning. The role of assessment for learning (AFL) and assessment of learning (AOL) is well developed. Pupils are attaining good levels of progress commensurate with the quality of the teaching. Overall, good organisational structures and careful planning forms the basis for good educational provision in this area.

 

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

The quality of support for EAL pupils is good. Four teaching posts are assigned to the provision of supplementary support to seventy pupils. Support is primarily delivered on a withdrawal basis in small groups. Some classes are catered for on the corridor due to the shortage of rooms. It is recommended that a more balanced provision be developed between withdrawal and in-class support, based on the needs of individual pupils. Overall, the quality of teaching and learning 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 Primary School Assessment Kit. The quality of teaching observed is of a high standard and a range of methodologies is in use, including language games, experiential learning, listening exercises and pictorial representations. Positive pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil interactions were observed in EAL support settings which give pupils confidence and competence in using the newly acquired language. Teachers assess pupils through observation and questioning techniques. It is recommended that communication between classroom teachers and language support teachers becomes more systematic and formalised in nature in the best interest of sharing information on, and responsibility for, the learning needs and strengths of each EAL pupil.

 

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

The focused manner in which the school provides additional supports to pupils who require them is highly commended. The school participates in a number of Department initiatives to support pupils. It is in DEIS Band 2, is included in the Giving Children an Even Break initiative, and avails of resources provided under the School Completion Programme in order to support pupils to participate fully in school activities. A homework club is organised on four evenings each week. Lessons in French and German are provided for pupils after school and athletics and sports are organised daily. Additionally, the school organises a two-week summer camp for pupils each July. The Home-School-Community-Liaison Scheme was initiated in the school on a part-time basis in September 2007, and this service became full-time in September 2008. In this short time, a variety of initiatives have been put in place to support pupils and their families. Courses have been provided for parents in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). These courses have proved to be very popular with parents. Additional funding and support for the HSCL scheme is provided through CDVEC. Close liaison with community groups and agencies is achieved through the HSCL co-ordinator’s membership of committees including MOST (Montpelier O’Devanny Gardens Striving Together), NWICN (North West Inner City Network) and Stoneybatter Youth Services. Initiatives being introduced in the school in the current school year include the RAINBOWS programme. A shared reading programme is co-ordinated through the HSCL scheme. Courses are also provided for parents on request. The intercultural committee shows a high level of commitment to developing interculturalism in the school. It meets fortnightly after school. It has devised the anti-racist policy for the school and has organised intercultural celebrations for the pupils and their families.

 

At present there are no pupils from the Traveller community enrolled in the school.

 

 

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