An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
SN Inis Chléire
Oileán Chléire, An Sciobairín, Contae Chorcaí
Roll Number: 14303U
Date of inspection: 31 May 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This Whole School Evaluation Report
This report was written following a whole school evaluation of SN Inis Chléire. It presents the findings of the evaluation made of the school’s work as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the school’s work. During the evaluation the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the school’s principal, assistant and board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a period of several days during which the inspector visited the classrooms where he observed teaching and learning. He interacted with the pupils and with the teachers, and inspected the pupils’ work. He reviewed school planning documentation and the teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visits the inspector provided oral feedback on the findings to the staff and to the board of management.
This is a small island school in which two full-time teachers are teaching. Another teacher spends five hours each week in the school to provide additional assistance to some pupils. This school was built in 1897 and extended in 1910. The school chronicles indicate that a significant reduction has occurred in enrolment in recent years.
The Bishop of Cork and Ross is the school patron. The pupils’ attendance is very good and on leaving the school they must attend second-level schools on the mainland. As a Gaeltacht school Irish has a central part in the school’s life and it is clear that the school’s teachers succeed in nurturing a very positive culture in the school. The welcoming atmosphere created in the school is highly commended, as well as the wide range of curricular activities organised for the pupils.
The board of management is constituted in accordance with Departmental rules and meetings are held very regularly. Accurate minutes are kept and a financial report is given at each meeting. The professional audit of accounts in the last few years is highly commended. It is obvious that the board functions competently and that the members deserve great praise for their work on the school’s behalf. At present information technology in the school is being developed further and it is hoped that the good practice in place to date will be extended to the video-conferencing system. The manner in which the various policies are regularly submitted to the board is highly commendable.
Significant progress has been made by this school under the competent leadership of the principal. She and the assistant are very committed to carrying out their duties and they cooperate closely to implement the curriculum throughout the school. In addition they also foster positive communication with the parents, the board and the pupils.
The specific duties attached to the post of responsibility are clearly laid out and commendable attention is directed towards curricular issues and pastoral care. It is commendable that it is customary in this school to set out specific targets for development and to provide regular progress reports. The importance of regular review of existing structures for school improvement was discussed. It was recommended that the publication entitled “Looking at our school” be used in this regard.
Between three and four class levels are taught together in each of two classrooms and the teachers successfully collaborate regarding the teaching of specific subject areas. In addition, visitors to the island with specialised skills are invited to make a signigicant contribution to school life.
Despite the special challenges associated with a small school such as this great credit is due to the board, the staff, the parents and the pupils for the care they take in maintaining the building and the general appearance of the school. Many photographs, display materials and high quality examples of the children’s work are attractively displayed throughout the school, which greatly enhance the learning atmosphere. The rooms are very professionally organised.
A comprehensive store of resources is provided in the school to support the implementation of the curriculum and are widely used. The teachers are commended for preparing very suitable materials and equipment to support the learning process. Effective class libraries have been developed in the school which are very appropriate for the age and interest range of the pupils. They contain a fine stock of books in English and Irish and the manner in which the teachers arrange the books to encourage an interest in reading in both languages merits much praise. Computers are available in the classrooms and broadband access will be available shortly. They are used very purposefully to enhance pupils’ learning. The sports equipment was significantly enhanced recently, as was the mathematics equipment.
Contact with parents is recognised as a central part of the school’s philosophy and parents’ opinions are welcomed. Accordingly, it is clear that commendable communication exists between the teachers and the parents. Although there is no parents’ association in the school due to population issues, the parents are consulted through the board’s officers regarding the development of policies. Formal meetings are organised with them annually to discuss their children’s progress. Also, parents with specific expertises come into the school to assist with special aspects of the curriculum. These activities include Physical Education, Science and Visual Arts.
A large number of successful examples of good class management were observed during the inspection and the teachers are to be highly commended for promoting a very pleasant learning atmosphere throughout the school. The code of behaviour is implemented as appropriate. Good work practices and manners are cultivated and they are skilfully motivated to participate in learning.
Significant attention is paid to school planning in this school and the support services are very well-utilised. The staff has worked effectively in collaboration with the parents and the board to develop policies which are appropriate to their particular conditions. The board has approved a child protection policy which is in accordance with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). The importance of this matter was discussed during the inspection. In keeping with best practice, a specific agenda aa well as targets are laid out for the development and review of policies. The comprehensive account contained in the plan of the school’s practices is very worthwhile and the planning diary laid out for this school year is highly commended. Administrative policies are carefully organised and provided for many important areas. The progress made regarding the preparation of policies for the different areas of the curriculum is to be commended. The importance of regular review for same was discussed.
There is clear evidence that the teachers thoroughly promote the priorities set out in the plan in their individual planning. As a result the school plan promotes the school’s educational objectives effectively. The teachers set out work plans for their own classes and work progress is carefully recorded.
An exciting plan is provided for teaching and learning Irish in the school. The emphasis placed on the principal messages of the curriculum in the school’s special circumstances is commendable.
The teachers deserve much praise for their diligence in promoting Irish and their work is accordingly successful. It is spoken as a language of communication throughout the school and the standard attained by the pupils is generally high. The various strategies used by staff to encourage the pupils are positive and fruitful. As a result, many examples of high quality teaching were observed. Many of the lessons are based on resources specially funded by the Department for Gaeltacht and Irish language medium schools. Accordingly emphasis is placed on nurturing understanding, on poetry and storytelling, and the emphasis placed on drama is highly effective. Additionally, the extremely interesting video production which the pupils compiled, in collaboration with a group from Scandinavia, merits much favourable comment. Drills and variety of methodologies are also used to teach accurate language acquisition.
The wide range of reading material, especially authentic material, supplied to the children throughout the school is very effective and is it clear that the appropriate skills are being systematically developed.
Writing skills are developed in an equally measured manner in the school. At specific levels the pupils are given many opportunities to undertake various genres of writing as recommended in the curriculum and effective attention is paid to the writing process generally. It is clear that a praiseworthy standard is being achieved by many of the children.
Considerable emphasis is placed on the teaching of English throughout the school. A comprehensive English policy has been developed to facilitate the implementation of this subject area within the parameters of the curriculum. The plan includes a phonological awareness programme as well as many useful guidelines regarding the implementation of the various strands at appropriate class levels.
Many pupils display an ability to express themselves confidently and fluently. The teachers are keenly aware of the importance of oral language and many effective methodologies were noted during the inspection. It is particularly noteworthy that the use of carefully structured language enrichment exercises figures prominently during instruction.
In keeping with best practice books are emphasised at all class levels. As previously noted the classrooms provide high quality print-rich environments where words and sentences are displayed. A structured reading scheme is in use and pupils in the middle and senior classes are also enabled to engage with a suitable class novel. An attractive range of additional reading material is provided in class libraries and strategies are in place to promote reading for pleasure as well as for information. Due attention is paid to the development of word-identification skills as well as phonological and phonemic awareness.
Some impressive samples of children’s written work were in evidence during the evaluation. There is also evidence of drafting, editing and redrafting and of the work being carefully monitored. An appropriate emphasis is also placed on the development of the children’s handwriting and presentation skills. In keeping with best practice the pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres and for different purposes.
A comprehensive school plan has been drawn up for the teaching of Mathematics and it provides definite guidelines in accordance with the recommendations of the curriculum. Specific attention is directed towards the language of Mathematics as well as the mastery of skills and concepts.
During the inspection a very appropriate range of teaching methods was observed and it is obvious that many of the pupils are making significant progress. The use of concrete materials to help the children develop their understanding of various concepts is very worthwhile.Fruitful discussion is nurtured during the work which encourages evaluation and reasoning. A good emphasis is laid on oral computation also. The language of Mathematics is systematically focussed upon and the charts and stimuli which are carefully prepared in the classrooms are a great support for learning. The children are effectively encouraged to record the written work accurately and to attempt to solve the problems systematically. The importance of solving practical problems which relate to the normal life of the children was discussed.
Stimulating programmes in geography are set out, based on the strands of the curriculum. The subject is successfully linked with other areas of the curriculum, including Visual Arts. As a result many of the children display an understanding and a deep interest in the topics being dealt with. The emphasis placed on the immediate marine environment is praised and commendable emphasis is laid on project work. The pupils are very skilfully encouraged to record and display the work in the copybooks. As a result many of them speak articulately about what they have learned.
A very appropriate history programme is presented to the pupils and many of them display a fine understanding of what has been taught. The use of storytelling is commended, especially as regards local history. Very suitable project work is undertaken at the appropriate levels and the manner in which many pupils give a realistic account of their work is to be praised. The opportunities provided to pupils for research and investigation are highly commended. Very effective linkages are made between this work and other aspects of the curriculum, especially regarding the languages.
Fruitful attention is paid to the teaching of science in the school. The teachers have compiled a very effective plan which is reflected in the class work. It is clear that the curriculum principles are implemented carefully and that emphasis is laid on the concepts and skills as well as the acquisition of knowledge. Excellent examples of very appropriate experiments were observed during the inspection.
The teachers deserve much praise for their work in promoting the Visual Arts in the school. The school plan for these aspects was reviewed in the autumn of 2004 and a further review will be made next autumn. This plan places a commendable focus on the principal areas of the curriculum and clear guidelines are provided for the teaching. A very high standard is reached in the work and many examples of the children’s work in the various strands are displayed. The children participate very enthusiastically in the activities and it is clear that the work influences them in a very positive manner.
The clear guidelines laid out for development of the strands at the various class levels regarding the teaching of music are highly effective. It is clear that very creditable work is being done to implement the programme. Commendable attention is paid to the development of rhythm and very skilful use is made of the percussion instruments. Instrumental music is taught in a very pleasant way and excellent examples relating to composition were observed also. The pupils sing a fine collection of songs in Irish and English and tunefullness is competently encouraged in the singing.
Drama is very well utilised as an important area in the school. This work greatly supports the pupils’ self-confidence and the development of their ability in languages.
The review of the teaching of physical education made by the teachers in the spring of this year is commendable. It is clear that much thought has been given to this and the school plan laid out in this regard is of a high quality. The school’s limited facilities are used to present a very purposeful programme. The lessons are competently directed and the pupils clearly derive great benefit from the development of important skills. The range of equipment provided is commended.
A comprehensive policy has been set out for this aspect and very appropriate lessons are taught regularly. Ii is clear also that the positive school atmosphere is a very useful basis for the development of the pupils’ social and personal skills. The importance of the information package “Our Duty to Care”, available from the Department of Health and Children, in which best practice principles for the protection of children and young people are set out, was discussed.
The teachers use various evaluation methods formally and informally. They administer their own tests to the pupils in various areas of the curriculum especially in the languages and in Mathematics. The children’s written work is very carefully monitored and they are frequently given effective feedback. Appropriate standardised tests are used annually in English and Mathematics and results are recorded appropriately. A very appropriate range of diagnostic tests is used productively and the work which is being done to draw uo profiles of individual pupils’ progress in various aspects of the curriculum is highly commended.
The school has a very effective policy to serve pupils with special needs. Additional assistance with literacy and numeracy is provided to them in accordance with Departmental guidelines. A range of stimulating teaching methods is used to focus on their requirements and it is clear that significant progress is being made. The comprehensive system in use to monitor progress continuously is commended.
The school has disadvantaged status and is currently participating in the DEIS scheme. The use being made of the additional provision available is commended.
The following are the main strengths recognised in the evaluation and the areas in which further development needs to be made:
§ A very positive learning atmosphere is to be found in the school.
§ The teachers work very effectively.
§ The standard of school management is very praiseworthy.
§ There is a positive relationship between the school and the parents.
§ A high standard of teaching and learning is to be found regularly in the school.
§ The school has made significant development regarding school planning.
As a means of building on these strengths and in order to focus on areas to be developed, the following principal recommendations are made:
§ The school authorities are advised to consult shortly with the other relevant agencies to prepare an action plan regarding housing and population issues on the island.
§ The school authorities are advised to prepare a language plan shortly in conjunction with the appropriate pre-school authorities in order to provide a more comprehensive service in the Gaeltacht context applicable here.
§ Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and with the board of management; the draft findings and draft recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed at those meetings.