An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Mhuire na gCailíní
Date of inspection: 14 April 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire Naofa Cailíní. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management 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.
Scoil Mhuire Naofa Cailíní is an 11 teacher Catholic single-sex girls’ school under the trusteeship of the Mercy Order and under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick. The school is located on King John’s Island and caters for the education of pupils who reside in St Mary’s parish, an area of socio-economic disadvantage in the heart of Limerick City. The school is accommodated in a large two storey building, which was built in 1951.
Because of the levels of disadvantage in the parish and in its catchment area, the school has benefited from all of the Department of Education and Science initiatives aimed at promoting social inclusion. It has received additional support and resources through its participation in the Giving Children an Even Break (GCAEB), School Completion Programme (SCP) and the Home School Community Liaison Scheme (HSCL). The school has designated disadvantaged status and qualifies under urban band 1 of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative and benefits from a comprehensive range of supports. The school has also received funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the creation of a new playground and basketball court. The school is a participant in the Targeting Educational Disadvantage Programme (TED) organised by Mary Immaculate College of Education and also receives support from a range of organisations including Barnardos and People Against Unemployment in Limerick (Paul Partnership).
The school’s stated mission statement seeks to foster a caring and compassionate environment for all the pupils, especially the disadvantaged and those at risk, to foster a child centered and holistic education, value every child as an individual developing in each a sense of self-esteem and self-worth and it seeks the co-operation and support of the parents in the implementation of this vision. Commitment to the mission statement is manifested through the school’s links with the local community and nearby church, the positive and respectful classroom interactions and the dedication of the staff to enabling each child to fulfil her potential through the provision of a broad and balanced education.
The enrolment in the school has decreased significantly over the years. However, projected figures indicate a small increase in enrolment over the next few years. In general, the attendance of the majority of pupils at the school was satisfactory. Management fulfil its duties appropriately with regard to the reporting of school absences as required by the Education and (Welfare) Act 2000. The board of management in collaboration with the school staff has devised a school attendance strategy in accordance with the Education and (Welfare) Act 2000. The school has a number of strategies in place to encourage better attendance by pupils. These include the identification of children at risk of poor attendance at an early stage, the development of contacts with pupils and their parents, the provision of support and management strategies for them and a school awards scheme. However, figures provided by the school indicate that there is a significant rate of absenteeism among a minority of pupils. In light of the positive impact which regular attendance has on pupils’ academic attainment, it is recommended that further strategies be explored to try to improve attendance. Regular reviews of the effectiveness of these strategies should be undertaken by the principal, the post-holders and home school community liaison co-ordinator (HSCL). It is recommended that parents be made aware of their responsibilities in respect of their children’s attendance at school on a daily basis and the consequent effect that regular absenteeism has on academic achievement over the eight-year cycle in the primary school. It is also advised that this strategy be reviewed in consultation with all the stakeholders and that a copy of the revised policy should be sent to all parents.
The board of management exemplifies good practice in the context of co-operative school management. The board members give generously of their time and their interest, support and commitment to the school is commended. The chairperson of the board visits the school regularly and is very supportive of the principal and staff. The board is properly constituted and at least one meeting is convened each term. Additional meetings are organised when the need arises. In general, statutory obligations are observed and the board ensures compliance with the Department’s regulations. Agenda for meetings are drawn up and minutes are recorded. The chairperson of the board stated that finances are carefully monitored and that the treasurer submits a financial report to the board once a term. The chairperson also reported that there is good communication among the board, the parents and the staff of the school. Officers of the board have attended training recently and all members of the board will be attending general training in the near future.
The board members have a very good understanding of the school context, they provide good leadership and demonstrate a commitment to supporting the work of school. The principal and staff in collaboration with the board have formulated a range of organisational policies to support the smooth running of the school and to respond to the requirements of relevant legislation. The board received training prior to formulating the Child Protection Policy in collaboration with staff and parents. Parents have been engaged in the formulation of some policies. These policies have been ratified and dated by the chairperson of the board and the principal. All policies are available in the office for perusal by the parents. Copies of relevant policies and decisions are disseminated to the school community through the school’s internal communication systems. Comprehensive curricular plans are dated and ratified by the chairperson of the board and the principal. These curricular plans however are not discussed by the board. Consideration should be given to discussing the curricular plans prior to ratification by the board. Some of the policies have been recently reviewed and there is a plan in place for the systematic review and formulation of other school policies. It is recommended that the board in collaboration with the staff review the enrolment policy in order to ensure compliance with the Education Act 1998 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004. Conditions for enrolment cannot be applied to pupils with special educational needs, to newcomer pupils or Traveller children. The board is actively supportive of the school in relation to the implementation of existing school policies through its provision of additional teaching and learning resources and its funding of the professional development of teachers.
Pupils’ attainment in literacy and numeracy is the main focus of the DEIS action plan and to date the achievement of pupils in these areas has not been discussed at board meetings. The board’s awareness of its role in overseeing the effective provision of education and in the monitoring of standards of pupil achievement requires further attention. It is therefore recommended that the board dedicate a section of its agenda to the monitoring and evaluation of pupil outcomes, specifically in relation to the targets outlined in the DEIS plan. The principal indicated that literacy and numeracy targets and attainment will be brought to the attention of the board as part of the DEIS plan from September 2008.
The board expressed its satisfaction with the quality of educational provision in the context of the broad and balanced curriculum being delivered in the school. The board was fulsome in its praise of the excellent atmosphere created by the staff and commended the staff members for their unity, co-operation and for the manner in which they have achieved very good discipline in the school.
The board and the previous board of management are commended for the maintenance and continuous refurbishment of the school building throughout the years. The board has increased the security of the building and has undertaken a wide range of maintenance work funded by the Department of Education and Science. The board has an action plan for further improvement to the school building. A major concern expressed by the board was the shortfall in funding experienced by the board of management due to the escalating costs incurred by the board in the general running of the school. The board acknowledged the monetary support received from parish funds to alleviate this problem.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal, assistant principal and four special duties teachers. The principal demonstrates a good understanding of the school context and of the educational issues generally. She discharges her duties in a caring manner and daily administrative and organisational tasks are capably undertaken. She has specific responsibility for the co-ordination of certain organisational and curricular plans. She effectively oversees the planning process and has successfully established effective lines of communication and consultation with staff, board, parents and the wider school community. The principal stated that the board of management and parents association are very supportive of the staff and the school. She promotes a culture of team work and collaborative decision making. The principal in collaboration with the staff has succeeded in the creation of a school climate that is characterised by good working relationships, respect, inclusivity and equality. It is recommended that the principal now direct her leadership skills to leading teaching and learning in the school, to the continued implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the DEIS plan and to the placing of pupils’ learning and achievement at the centre of management and improvement activities.
The deputy principal, assistant principal and special duties teachers work collaboratively with the principal, contribute to the management of the school and to the building and sustaining of a positive school climate and good relationships within the school community. The duties have recently been reviewed and include a wide range of organisational, curricular and some pastoral responsibilities. The team members report that they meet formally after school once a month prior to staff meetings. Minutes of decisions taken are recorded and issues discussed are placed on the agenda for discussion at staff meetings. The in-school management team is to be commended for the professional, diligent, competent manner in which it executes its duties. Consideration might now be given by the team to the reporting of progress made to the board on a regular basis. This should enable the in-school management team to evaluate its progress in effecting improvements in literacy and numeracy and in the provision of curriculum leadership to the school. Formal staff meetings are convened once a month. Teachers are afforded the opportunity to contribute items to the agenda. Minutes of decisions taken at the meetings are recorded.
The school has a teaching staff of eleven, including an administrative principal, six mainstream class teachers, HCSL co-ordinator, two full-time learning support teachers, one full-time and one part-time resource teacher and one part-time language support teacher. One full-time and two part-time special needs assistants (SNAs) are employed to support pupils with special educational needs. The school has a part-time secretary who provides excellent support to the staff and a full-time caretaker and part-time cleaner who maintain the building and grounds to a very high standard. A community employment worker also provides support to the school.
The teachers and the special needs assistants are appropriately deployed. The allocation of teaching duties by the principal is decided in consultation with the teachers having due regard to their strengths and to the needs of the children. In addition to the professional development provided by the Regional Curriculum Support Services (RCSS), the School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) initiatives, many of the teachers have availed of a variety of in-service courses as part of their continuing professional development. The inspectors recommended that the deputy principal would be provided with the opportunity to attend professional development training provided by the Tánaiste programme under the LDS initiative. A number of teachers have also completed courses in teaching English as an additional language, special education needs, Mathematics and specific literacy courses which have enabled them to make a valuable contribution to the education of the pupils in their care. As part of the DEIS three-year action plan the teachers have prioritised a range of interventions to support the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of pupils’ progress in literacy and numeracy. Strategies to increase pupils’ attendance and initiatives to develop parental involvement in their child’s education have also been prioritised.
This two storey school was constructed in 1951 and originally consisted of 20 permanent classrooms. As enrolments declined alterations were made to meet the changing needs of the pupils. There are now six mainstream classes, three learning support/ resource rooms, a language support/resource room, library, video, resources, homework club, Visual Arts, Science, Blue Box, HSCL, Circle Time/Drama and computer rooms and a very large general purposes room with stage. The school has a small staffroom, principal’s office, secretary’s office, indoor and outdoor storage areas, cloakrooms, pupils’ and staff toilets. Externally there is a hard-surfaced area with playground markings and a recently developed basketball court. The pre-school is situated in the original junior boys’ school on the school campus. Classrooms are well organised and there is good storage space. The school provides after-school activities for a number of pupils including a homework club.
The school corridors and classrooms are brightly coloured with murals and attractive displays of pupils’ Visual Art work. Photographs of pupils’ engagement in a range of activities and events are on display throughout the school. A number of notice boards have been developed throughout the school which display articles of interest to pupils, items selected for display by pupils and items selected by the wider community and these notice boards have been effectively maintained by the post-holder. The school has developed a website which is maintained by a post-holder. This website provides new opportunities for the school to share information and policies with the school community. Communication within the school is very good and the atmosphere in the staff room is friendly and positive. The continuing acquisition of resources to enable the full implementation of the curriculum particularly in Mathematics, Science, English and Irish should be considered. The further development of literacy resources is recommended throughout the school
The school maintains very good links with the local community. During the pre-evaluation meetings, the inspection team met with the parents’ representatives on the board of management. The parents’ association is not affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC), however it is timely now for the parents’ association to consider affiliating themselves with the NPC as they will benefit from the range of courses and training provided by this organisation. The association supports the school through their organisation of events and fundraising activities. They are also involved in the formulation of a range of relevant policies to include Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Code of Discipline and Child Protection Guidelines. The association meets every two months and communicates with the broader community through the school’s newsletter which is issued each term. The parents’ representatives reported that they were very satisfied with the education provision in the school. It was also stated that parent-teacher meetings are convened on an annual basis and informal meetings take place when the need arises. Teachers also communicate progress and issues through the school homework journal. Written reports on pupil progress are issued at the end of the academic year.
During the current school year pupils in junior/senior infants and first class are allocated to single classes and pupils in the remaining classes are allocated to mainstream classes in three combined class groupings of second/third, third/Fourth and fifth/ sixth classes. Classroom activity and pupil behaviour are effectively managed in all class settings. The school ethos is in evidence through the positive interactions and productive management procedures which have been established in the school. It is clear that this is a caring school and the commitment of the staff to the pupils’ welfare is apparent in all aspects of school activities.
A very comprehensive set of school planning documentation is in place for all eleven subject areas of the curriculum. Draft policies for Drama, Mathematics and Special Educational Needs will be reviewed and ratified before the end of the academic school year 2007/2008. A wide range of organisational policies, the majority of which are of a very high standard were also in evidence. These enable the effective administration of the school.
A collaborative process has been utilised to enable the development of these plans. This process has demanded a significant amount of research and consultation and the school has availed of the advice of the support services. The principal and the staff representative on the board have brought the plans to the attention of the board where they have been discussed and ratified. Some parental consultation has been engaged in when appropriate. The 11 curricular plans effectively plan for a broad and balanced curriculum to be delivered throughout the school. Some of the plans assign responsibility to an individual teacher for overseeing the implementation of these plans and for the monitoring of their impact on pupil learning. While this is very good practice, all plans should outline the success criteria against which their implementation might be measured. This will enable teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of their impact on the quality of teaching and learning.
A DEIS School action plan has been drawn up by the school staff in consultation with the RCSS and ratified by the board. The plan contains a very good systematic analysis of the assessment data in respect of literacy and numeracy available in the school. A list of priorities has also been drawn up and included in the plan. The plan also acknowledges the significant success that the school has had in sustaining parental involvement.
Action plans which relate to literacy and numeracy focus on the implementation of a range of initiatives. In English, the Reading Recovery Programme and the First Steps Writing Programme are two specific initiatives that are being implemented. Other strategies such as the focus on the Dolch sight vocabulary, a print-rich environment, phonological awareness training, paired reading, handwriting, punctuation and grammar are all identified as areas for intensive input in the school plan and are being implemented throughout the school. Modelling story reading for parents is also being facilitated by one of the infant teachers. These strategies are worthwhile and with consistent implementation will enhance effective teaching practices and the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning. What is necessary now is to outline how the effectiveness of the planned actions will be monitored and evaluated in the short term. It is therefore recommended that the school continue to identify specific, measurable targets within these action plans which focus on enhancing the quality of teaching and learning and on the raising of pupils’ levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy.
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.
All class teachers make good written preparation for their school work. Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. All teachers are commended for the consistent work undertaken in this regard and for the manner in which long term and short-term planning are linked to the strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. General content objectives are outlined in each short-term plan and these are identified by number. The inclusion of such general objectives is commended, however, it is recommended that these objectives be outlined in a written format at the beginning of each term. The inclusion of one or possibly two specific content objectives in the short-term plan will help to focus the teaching and learning for that period of time. The focus on specific objectives will take account of the stages of development and learning needs of the pupils. A broad and balanced curriculum is planned for by all teachers and a wide range of teaching methodologies and learning experiences are planned to engage pupils. A very wide range of resources is available in the school.
It is recommended that all teachers incorporate differentiated approaches to a much greater degree in the areas of literacy and numeracy. It is recommended that parallel readers are provided in each class in order that all pupils may be enabled to read at a level appropriate to their age and ability. During the evaluation period at a meeting with the special education team, it was suggested by the teachers that some of the strategies in use in Reading Recovery could be utilised in the classroom as part of the teaching and learning process in literacy. Since then, the Reading Recovery teacher has prepared a document identifying the strategies used in Reading Recovery that could be used to support teaching and learning in literacy in all classrooms. It is further recommended that mainstream teacher planning for pupils with special educational needs and learning difficulties incorporates the targets outlined by the support team.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Good teaching was observed in all mainstream classes with some very good examples of active learning noted. All classrooms were supportive of pupils’ learning. Lessons were paced appropriately and well structured. Active methodologies were in use in many classrooms and high quality resources were in use in most classrooms. Pupil contributions are welcomed and high levels of pupil engagement were observed in all classrooms during the evaluation period. Regular opportunities to visit areas of interest in the immediate vicinity and the city are organised. Pupil learning in some areas of the curriculum is good, particularly in Music, Visual Arts, Physical Education (PE) and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE).
It is evident that the staff recognises the significant challenges posed by contextual factors particularly absenteeism. There is a need to set specific targets for class groups and for individual pupils in order to raise overall literacy and numeracy performances. It is recommended that teachers incorporate differentiated approaches to teaching and learning to a much greater degree in order to cater for the learning needs of all pupils. In general, textbooks should be used as resource material to support the implementation of the curriculum rather than the basis of the planning for curriculum delivery.
Rinneadh athbhreithniú le déanaí i dteannta leis an cuiditheoir ar an bplean scoile agus tá an phlean go maith. Feictear go bhfuil pleanáil chuimsitheach á léiriú ag na múinteoirí go léir atá nascaithe le prionsabail Churaclaim na Bunscoile (1999). Go ginearálta, baintear dea-úsáid as fearas léirithe, obair bheirte, grúptheagasc, ábhar nithiúil agus modheolaíochtaí éifeachtacha ar fud na scoile chun cumarsáid na bpáistí a chur chun cinn. Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí ceisteanna bunúsacha a chur agus a fhreagairt i gcoitinne agus is léir go ndéantar daingniú cuí ar nathanna na teanga. Tá prionta sa timpeallacht le feiceáil go forleathan i ngach rang agus go ginearálta, dírítear aird chuí ar an ngramadach agus ar Ghaeilge fheidhmiúil tríd an scoil.
Moltar anois forbairt chéimniúil, chórasach a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir atá i seilbh na ndaltaí, ó rangleibhéal go rangleibhéal agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar an obair seo. Ba chóir freisin an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh tri Ghaeilge, modh an aistriúchain a sheachaint agus an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamh fhoirimiúil i rith an lae. Ba chóir béim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam i ranganna áirithe agus cleachtaí éisteachta agus gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta.
Tá tús maith curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil. Léann cuid de na daltaí go tuisceanach as scéim léitheoireachta sna meánranganna agus ag leibhéal na n-ardranganna. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois, áfach, ar éagsúlacht ábhar léitheoireachta a sholáthar tríd an scoil, chun saibhreas foclóra agus léitheoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Tá scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúl agus scríbhneoireacht phearsanta le feiceáil sna cóipleabhair. Moltar áfach breis béime a leagan ar reimse níos leithne tascanna scríbhneoireachta a chleachtadh agus deis a thabhairt do dhaltaí tabhairt faoi scríbhneoireacht phearsanta go rialta.
The school plan which was recently reviewed in conjunction with a facilitator is good. Comprehensive planning is presented by the teachers, which is linked to the principles of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. In general, good use is made of illustrative materials, pair work, group work, concrete materials and effective methodologies throughout the school to develop the communicative skills of the pupils. Opportunities are provided for pupils to ask and answer basic questions and it is evident that phrases are appropriately consolidated. A print-rich environment is in evidence in every class and in general appropriate attention is placed on grammar and on formal Irish throughout the school.
It is recommended that pupils’ vocabulary be developed and consolidated in a systematic manner from class level to class level. Irish should also be taught through the medium of Irish, translation should be avoided and Irish should be used informally throughout the school day. It is important that further emphasis be placed on the curriculum strand Listening in some classes and that listening and story-telling activities be presented to children on a regular basis.
A good start has been made in the teaching of formal reading. Some children read with understanding from a graded reading scheme in the middle and senior classes. It is worth considering now, however, that a variety of reading material be provided in order to develop pupils’ vocabulary and independent reading skills. Formal and personal writing is evident in copybooks. Further variety in writing tasks is recommended and pupils should be given opportunities to engage in regular personal writing tasks.
During the evaluation period, the quality of teaching in the English lessons observed was very good. Contextual factors such as the poor quality of receptive and expressive language lead to significant challenges in developing the pupils’ literacy skills. The whole-school plan acknowledges the central role of oral language in developing pupils’ reading and writing skills. The school plan has itemised the content objectives from each strand of the curriculum, the methodologies and in some cases the learning experiences that will be provided at each class level. This practice is commended and it is recommended that the school should augment the current provision for oral language by formulating a specific oral language programme designed to meet the learning needs of the pupils in the school. This programme should be outlined in a systematic way, detailing oral language objectives, outcomes and specific learning experiences to be provided at every class level. Timeframes for delivery of the content of the programme should be agreed and monitored consistently. It should address the provision of an integrated language learning experience for the pupils which maximises the use of oral language in developing pupils’ literacy skills. The school’s future participation in the First Steps Oral Language Programme will facilitate the delivery of many aspects of an appropriate programme throughout the school. Pupil progress should also be assessed on a regular basis and should inform planned activities.
A very significant proportion of the school going population is exhibiting very poor literacy skills. These children present significant challenges for the teachers in this school. The introduction of the Reading Recovery programme is a significant initiative in early intervention. The teachers also provide very good reading materials and reading for pleasure is promoted. Book fairs, book events, parental involvement, integrated writing activities and large format books are very good practices and are praiseworthy. There is a need to continue to identify pupils with difficulties through early identification and intervention programmes. The use of expertise and strategies from Reading Recovery in all classes is a welcome initiative. Further emphasis on the systematic implementation of a co-ordinated phonological awareness programme is also recommended.
Reading experience at a level commensurate with ability through the use of differentiated reading materials in all classes is also recommended. The increased use of experience charts, language experience approach, continued systematic use of assessment data, more diagnostic tests, group teaching, and in-class support form learning support teachers are strategies that will enhance the quality of teaching and learning in literacy. In general, it is recommended that all discrete time be allocated to literacy for the foreseeable future until a significant improvement is in evidence.
The school is engaged in delivering the First Steps Writing Programme. The children’s expressive and communicative skills are being developed through the writing process. Vocabulary extension activities are used effectively to improve the writing process. Functional writing is addressed effectively and attractive displays of pupils’ work are in evidence in the classrooms and on school corridors. Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are used effectively to enhance the displays. Teacher use a wide range of good methodologies, including modelling and scaffolding of the process to implement the writing programme in the school.
The school plan has identified the language of Mathematics to be taught in each strand/strand unit. This is a very useful strategy and provides teachers with a clear overview of the Mathematical language that has to be explored and understood in each strand/strand unit. The DEIS plan identifies language and Maths Recovery as two key support interventions in tackling numeracy difficulties in the school. The school is praised in this regard. Problem solving strategies are also being developed and common teaching approaches have been identified in the school plan. Some examples of effective integration with other curriculum areas have also been identified.
In general teachers create rich learning environments in Mathematics. Good examples of teaching were observed during the evaluation period. These examples included the use of concrete materials, collaborative and active learning, paired and group work and some differentiation of activities.
A very significant proportion of the school population has been identified as experiencing difficulties in Mathematics. The school is aware that pupils identified as having difficulties in Mathematics have poor Mathematical language. The school acknowledges this difficulty and an intervention programme focused on the language of Mathematics is currently being delivered in the senior infant class. It is recommended that oral Mathematics should form part of every Mathematics lesson. This phase of the lesson should focus on real-life problem solving activities. A greater awareness of Mathematics could be fostered throughout the school through the development of Maths-rich environments. These areas could include illustrative materials which would provide support for pupils during Mathematics lessons. Greater emphasis on activity based learning, Mathematical trails and the use of ICT to simulate authentic learning experiences is also recommended. The de-emphasising of the role of the textbook to determine lesson content and the extension of assessment modes to include teacher-devised tests and criterion-referenced tests is recommended. The use of data generated by this testing should help to inform teaching and learning.
A plan for the teaching of History in the school has been developed. The current plan outlines the strands and the strand units that are taught at each class level. The plan identifies buildings of interest in the locality. Some local trails have also been explored. It is recommended that a section be included that outlines the assessment strategies that will be used in this area of the curriculum. The current practice in the school ensures that the pupils are aware of the local environment, and opportunities are provided for pupils to explore the local area. It is recommended that increased focus be placed on the exploration of the immediate and local environment enabling pupils to visit and investigate buildings and common features of the locality and to further develop their sense of local identity. The further development of this plan could also include an outline of the learning experiences that will be provided at each class level to support the development of pupils’ historical knowledge, skills and attitudes. The history curriculum includes studies from local, national and international contexts. In the junior classes emphasis is placed on personal and family history. Myths and legends are explored effectively in junior and middle standards and this work is effectively integrated with the Visual Arts and oral language. Pupils in some classes are being provided with relevant and authentic historical learning experiences, with opportunities to work as historians through the use of artefacts and materials that are linked to the local environment.
The school plan for this area of the curriculum is primarily based on the strands and the strand units of the curriculum. Textbooks are used in this subject area, however, the teaching and learning is based on the principles of the Geography curriculum. Pupils are afforded the opportunity of engaging with topics of local, national and European relevance in Geography. Exploration of the local environment and engagement with project work constitutes part of the programme of learning in Geography, particularly in the middle and senior standards. Maps and illustrative materials are used in the middle and senior standards. The extended use of Ordnance Survey maps is recommended as a strategy for investigation of the local environment. Future teaching and learning should focus on the continued utilisation of the local environment, field trips, educational outings and school visits from local community experts. The further development of geographical skills through appropriate fieldwork in parallel with the acquisition of geographical knowledge and concepts is recommended. Pupils’ project work is neatly presented and pupil participation is actively promoted and encouraged at all class levels. In some classes ICT is also used effectively to support this area of the curriculum. The use of digital cameras to capture evidence from the environment is recommended and will afford pupils opportunities to engage in project work based on the evidence that has been gathered in the local environment.
The Science curriculum in this school provides children with opportunities to understand the physical and biological aspects of the world and the processes through which these are developed. There is evidence that the staff has developed a plan at a whole school level which informs the teaching and learning in each class. An audit of the school environment has been carried out and a number of habitats have been identified in the immediate environment. A broad and balanced curriculum is provided through contexts and activities that enable children to develop knowledge and skills that help them make sense of the world in which they live. Children in all classes are enabled to develop a framework of scientific ideas and concepts about Living Things, Energy and Forces, Materials, Environmental Awareness and Care
The programme for learning in Science at all class levels constitutes elements of both natural and human environments. Knowledge and concepts linked with seasonal changes are explored in junior, middle and senior classes. Studies of plants, animals and weather phenomena in the immediate and local environment also constitute part of the children’s learning experience in this curricular area. Pupils are capable of discussing items displayed on the nature/discovery table in a competent and knowledgeable manner. Simple experiments are undertaken and good use is made of scientific equipment. Effective use of audio-visual equipment and pupil engagement with the discovery/investigative process was observed in some classes. A clear focus on the curriculum objectives and skills development, experimentation and open ended problem solving through design activities will enable the pupils to develop their skills as scientists.
The school plan indicates that the teachers have embraced the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum in a comprehensive manner. Planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum and ensures a broad and balanced programme. Activities for each of the six strands and two strand units and concepts and skill development are outlined in the plan for each class level. The classroom environment supports pupils’ learning in the lessons observed. A wide range of materials and resources is used purposefully in the delivery of the programme and pupil engagement with the activities is effectively organised. The samples of pupils’ work that are displayed in classrooms and on the corridors, combined with evidence from the school plan and teachers’ long-and short-term planning, indicate that pupils’ experience a wide range of themes, topics and media from all six strands. In the lessons observed good emphasis is placed on the child as creator and inventor of artwork. Pupils are active in exploring, experimenting and enjoying art activities. In some classes effective use is made of linking art activities with other curricular areas. It is recommended that further emphasis be placed on the creative process especially when engaging in seasonal art activities throughout the school year. As well as making art, children are required to respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of artists. Talk and discussion is a feature of these classes and pupils develop a visual language and a visual awareness of the elements of art. Particular emphasis should be placed on Looking and Responding to the work of artists and working in the style of the artist at all class levels. Resources to teach this strand unit in all six strands should be acquired.
Teacher observation is the main assessment tool utilised to evaluate pupils’ artwork. A Visual Arts assessment sheet which includes the six strands and skills and concepts development has been developed to record teacher’s observations. Some teachers maintain individual pupil profiles utilising this assessment sheet and this is commended. While teacher observation is used to assess pupils’ work further examination of assessment strategies for the Visual Arts should be included in the review of the whole school plan. The inclusion of these assessment strategies into teachers’ long and short term planning would extend the progressive development of pupils’ concepts and skills as part of a whole school approach. Consideration should be given to the maintenance of pupil portfolios to include a representative sample of work completed over a period of time chosen in consultation with the child. The development of digital portfolios which can be supported by ICT resources should also be considered.
A very good school plan for the teaching of music has been formulated and the teachers have devised a broad programme of musical activities, which includes listening and responding, performing and composing. This curricular area is well resourced and teachers’ individual planning suggests a clear understanding of the programme and a balanced presentation of the strands of the curriculum. Music is taught in an effective manner in the classes observed. The concepts of music (rhythm, pitch, tone, timbre and pattern) are explored. Pupils play percussion and melodic instruments and these instruments are used by pupils to respond to music. Vocal and instrumental sounds are also explored in an effective manner.
Music appreciation and integration with other curricular areas is a feature of classroom practice. Music literacy is linked with song-singing and instrumental work and pupils play the tin whistle to a very good standard in the classes observed. The pupils sing a range of songs and in some classes these activities are enhanced through the productive use of percussion instruments. However, during these activities it is important that children be given a comfortable starting note from a pitched instrument. The school affords pupils the opportunity to engage with two musical experiences throughout the year. Theses include visits from artists and excursions to musical events. This practice is commended. Consideration should now be given to developing Music corners in all classrooms and to further explore assessment strategies when reviewing the Music plan.
A good whole-school draft Drama plan was formulated in the academic year 2007/2008 which the teachers are currently in the process of implementing. The staff intends to review the plan during the academic year 2008/2009 and to have the plan ratified by the board in June 2009. In the lessons observed teachers were exploring a variety of strategies to enable pupils to explore and make drama, reflect on the dramatic process and co-operate and communicate effectively through the drama process. Active learning methodologies including talk, discussion, circle time, mime, still images, group work and teacher in role are successfully used to stimulate interest and to engage pupils fully in Drama.
Teachers create a stimulating and safe environment in which ideas, feelings and experiences can be expressed. In general children have the ability to empathise and work as part of a group. Lessons facilitated the development of pupils’ imagination and enabled them to explore feelings and emotions. Pupils engaged in post-drama discussion which enabled them to draw conclusions about life and people. Drama is used as an effective tool in classes observed to ensure cross-curricular integration and linkage. A variety of assessment modes is utilised to include teacher observation and teacher designed tasks. A checklist has been developed to record pupils’ progress. It is recommended that the review of the drama curriculum should detail a systematic overview of the content to be taught at each class level linked to the objectives to ensure progression in all areas of the Drama curriculum.
The school has a comprehensive school plan developed by the co-ordinator with responsibility for Physical Education. The school has very good facilities for Physical Education. These facilities have recently been upgraded with the development of a new basketball court. Pupils experience a wide range of physical activities from all of the strands of the curriculum including Athletics, Dance, Games, Gymnastics, Outdoor and Adventure Activities and Aquatics. The very good work of external tutors is balanced by teachers addressing other strand units. Basketball coaches work to develop the games skills of second, third and fourth class pupils. A soccer coach develops the skills of first class pupils and the rugby coach provides tuition to second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth class pupils. Pupils from second to sixth class receive swimming lessons. During the evaluation period the lessons observed were of a very good standard. Fair play and co-operation is fostered and a balance between competitive and non-competitive activities is achieved. Positive attitudes towards Physical Education are promoted and pupils are prepared for life long health related fitness.
The whole school plan for SPHE was recently reviewed, amended and drafted by the SPHE co-ordinator ably assisted by the a facilitator from the RCSS. The school plan is very good and is reflective of the principles of the Primary curriculum. The SPHE programme aims to foster positive attitudes and respect for self, others and the environment. It also aims to teach life skills enabling pupils to make decisions and choices as participating and responsible members of a diverse and changing democracy.
The programme is being implemented over a two-year cycle with aspects of all strands and strand units being addressed annually. Each staff member has a copy of the plan and parents can view the SPHE plan which is available in the office. It is recommended that a synopsis of the plan be disseminated to all parents to raise their awareness of the subject and to enable them to work in collaboration with the teachers. In addition to the implementation of SPHE, curriculum work in the classrooms incorporates the Walk Tall, Stay safe, Child Protection Guidelines, Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE), Bí Folláin and Educare Drug Awareness programmes. A number of policies have been formulated which support the implementation of the SPHE programme. The RSE policy was reviewed in 2007 by staff and parents’ representatives and presented and ratified by the board in 2008.
Formal lessons in SPHE are well designed and implemented and address matters of particular importance to the pupils’ holistic development. In all class settings due attention is afforded to the range of strand and strand units, although greater prominence should be afforded to the Myself and the Wider World strand in all classrooms. Consideration should be given to planning an aspect of this strand for delivery each term.
The use of a wide range of active learning strategies was in evidence throughout the course of the evaluation. The majority of pupils engage very enthusiastically in the breadth of SPHE learning activities presented to them. It is evident that they are acquiring knowledge, understanding, values attitudes and skills and developing a capacity to relate this learning to their own experiences. Pupils were observed working in pairs, small groups and individually. Circle time was a feature of some of the classes observed.
A range of co-curricular activities provides opportunities for promoting pupils’ SPHE-related learning. Pupils’ physical health and well-being are promoted through the implementation of the healthy-eating policy. The school also provides opportunities for pupils to engage in a range of sporting activities.
Teacher observation is the main assessment tool employed to evaluate pupils’ learning in SPHE. This method is supported by the use of checklists and complemented by the use of tasks and stimulating displays. SPHE tasks are a combination of teacher-designed tests and tasks, worksheets and tasks selected from SPHE-related resources and workbooks. Some teachers utilise copybooks to record SPHE activities.
Standardised tests are administered annually from first to sixth class in Mathematics and English. Standardised tests results are analysed to provide an overview of attainment in the school. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profiles are used in the junior infant class to track pupils’ progress and to identify pupils in need of early intervention. The special education team use adapted versions of the Drumcondra Assessment Profiles, Early Start Profiles, materials provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and speech and language therapist to identify pupils in need of language support. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered in the second term of senior infants and the Forward Together Programme is implemented in the final term. The Non Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) is also administered to ascertain ability levels of pupils. The quality of monitoring and evaluating of pupils’ written work is of a high standard in all classes. This good practice is acknowledged. A very wide range of diagnostic tests is in use by the special educational needs teachers. The recording of pupil progress/record keeping in this school is very good.
The quality of teaching and learning in special education settings in this school is very good. A very good draft school plan has been developed collaboratively by the special education team and is being implemented effectively throughout the school. The school plan in this area complements the DEIS school plan and defines the structures that will be put in place for the pupils in need of learning support and pupils with special educational needs. The support teachers have engaged with professional development initiatives provided by the Department of Education and Science. These include Reading Recovery and Maths Recovery. The benefits of these initiatives are already in evidence in the school. A number of children have already been discontinued after receiving support through the Reading Recovery Programme. There are two learning support teachers, one fulltime resource teacher and a part-time resource teacher based in the school. The staged approach model as outlined in Department of Education and Science SPED 02/05Circular is being implemented in the school.
The quality of teacher planning is very good, appropriate Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are prepared for all pupils with special educational needs. These are reflective of recommendations contained in the relevant professional reports. Short-term plans are provided as well as long-term plans and monthly reports. A wide range of effective and appropriate methodologies is in use.
Team teaching with class teachers is used as a strategy when appropriate. The school has changed its focus to early years’ intervention. One teacher is implementing a Reading Recovery intervention programme. A second teacher is implementing a Maths Recovery intervention programme. All teachers maintain daily notes some of which refer to pupils’ progress.
Parents are consulted regularly and pupils with special educational needs are successfully included in all mainstream class activities. Individual Pupils Learning Profiles (IPLPs) are prepared for pupils with learning difficulties. Specific targets are included in the IPLPs. Progress is carefully recorded in respect of pupil progress in regard to the targets outlined for them. Very good use of ICT was observed during the evaluation.
All of the learning environments observed were stimulating and attractive with samples of pupils work displayed. There was also evidence of print-rich learning environments and a wide range of literacy and numeracy resources was available for use in these classrooms. Teachers engage with external professional agencies and incorporate the advice provided in individual programmes when appropriate. A wide range of diagnostic tests is used to identify pupils’ needs and the results are used to focus the teaching and learning of pupils with literacy and numeracy difficulties. Support teaching is provided by very committed teachers who are concerned with the holistic needs of their pupils. In general, the teaching was structured, focused on the needs of the pupils and the pupils were fully engaged in learning. During the evaluation period the quality of teaching observed was of a very high standard. Teachers identify a learning outcome for each pupil or group of pupils and organised a variety of learning activities to enable the pupils to address this learning target. Good working relationships are established between teachers and pupils.
This school has the services of a HSCL teacher who is based in the partner boys’ national school for half the time. The HSCL scheme in this school, seeks to build a partnership with home, school and community in a positive, proactive manner. A draft policy on the HSCL scheme in the school is included in the school planning documentation. This teacher provides a forward diary on a weekly basis of the planned activities and a monthly progress report on the activities engaged in the previous month. She organises a varied and worthwhile range of programmes and activities for parents. Some programmes are run jointly by the HSCL for both schools. Programmes, including the Maths for Fun and Children and Parents Enjoy Reading (CAPER) are being managed through the HSCL scheme, in collaboration with mainstream teaching personnel. She organises a range of activities for parents under the following headings; leisure, parents in the classroom and parental support. She works with parents of infant pupils, through story reading in which the infant teacher models story reading techniques for parents and children from the infant classes. A parents’ room is in use and home visitations are undertaken. The HSCL teacher reports particular success with the Incredible Years Programme which is being implemented in collaboration with PAUL Partnership. The teacher also liaises with post-primary schools to facilitate the transfer of pupils from the primary schools to the post-primary schools.
There is one part-time language support teacher who provides language support for nine pupils in the school. Pupils are withdrawn for support and the teacher maintains an attendance record. All pupils are assessed using the Integrate Ireland Language Training (IILT) benchmarks. The programme for language support focuses on developing oral and reading skills based on a range of topics outlined in the (IILT) manual. The teacher presents good long-and short-term planning and maintains a record of pupils’ progress. The completion of pupil profiles by class teachers contributes to the assessment of the pupils. The teacher creates a very positive atmosphere during the teaching and learning process and has developed a very good print-rich and stimulating learning environment. A wide range of illustrative, commercially and teacher produced materials is utilised effectively. Pupils are actively engaged in their learning. Very good use is made of ICT as a resource. The teacher has engaged in a wide range of specific training courses in this area and this is commended.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published November 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection