An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Mater Dei National School

Basin Lane, James St. Dublin 8

Uimhir rolla: 00743W

 

Date of inspection:  08 December 2006

  Date of issue of report: 06 December 2007

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

5.     Quality of support for pupils

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Mater Dei National School. 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 parents.  The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils, examined 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Mater Dei National School is a 22 teacher, Catholic school in the inner city of Dublin. It serves a diverse, urban population. It is a co-educational school up to first class and caters for girls only from second class onwards. The boys transfer to Scoil San Séamus CBS. A significant number of pupils come from varied national backgrounds where English is not their first language. The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and is in the trusteeship of the Sisters of Charity. The school has a long association with James’ Street and its locality; it has been in existence since 1897.  The present building dates from 1968. The Catholic ethos of the school is evident in the daily recitation of prayers, the creation of dedicated sacred spaces in classrooms and reception areas and in regular religious observances. The school’s mission centres on the development of each child’s potential.  It is manifest in the broad curriculum and the wide range of programmes and educational opportunities that are provided to the children in an inclusive and secure environment. The school is in Band 1 of the DEIS programme, a Department of Education and Science initiative. Current enrolment numbers are stable. 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management functions in a supportive and committed manner.  It meets each month and maintains minutes of its meetings.  The board provides an annual, audited financial report in compliance with section 18 (1) of the Education Act 1998. It plays an active role in formulating a range of policies and procedures that govern the organisational work of the school. A considerable level of curriculum planning has been undertaken by the school staff. That planning now requires ratification. Department regulations and rules regarding class size, teacher allocation and the length of the school year are observed. The board is currently addressing issues concerning the length of the school day and pupil retention.  Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.  The principal presents a principal’s report at each meeting of the board and staff are kept informed of relevant issues through their representative. There is no parents’ association and no formal communication channel is established between the board and the parents in the community.  Information is imparted informally to parents by the parents’ representatives on the board. 

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal provides visible leadership.  Her vision for the school is informed by the mission of the Sisters of Charity where each pupil’s potential can be realised in a holistic way.  The leadership of the principal is characterised by close working relations with staff and the board of management, her care for the pupils and her close links with the local community, its agencies and statutory bodies.  She is committed to maintaining a positive, inclusive school climate. She attends to the management and administration of the school in a conscientious manner.   

 

The in-school management team comprises ten post holders.  These special duties posts are primarily in areas relating to curricular and organisational responsibility.  These duties are carried out with commitment and dedication. The post holders are supportive of the principal and contribute greatly to the work of the school.  Many posts have been in place for a number of years and some of them have been informally reviewed over time. It is advised that all posts be formally reviewed under the terms of Circular 07/03.  This is to ensure that all duties meet the current priorities and developing needs of the school.  To assist the in-school management team in further developing their leadership roles, it is recommended that the team meet formally with the principal on a regular basis.  Staff meetings are held each month and minutes are recorded.  All post holders present an update of their work at these meetings.

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school is composed of an administrative principal, 11 mainstream teachers, six special education team members, two teachers for language support and a shared home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator.  A staff member is currently seconded to an Early Focus project within the school. The school has a policy of encouraging staff rotation to enable teachers to experience a variety of class levels and educational settings.  An effective mentoring policy is in place for the induction and support of new teachers.

 

The school employs four special needs assistants. They work in close cooperation with class teachers and are sensitive to the needs of the pupils in their care. They carry out their work effectively and conscientiously. It is advised that a policy be developed to clarify all aspects of their work. The ancillary and support staff provide a high level of support to the school. The caretaker ensures that the buildings and grounds are kept in excellent order.  All school administration is carried out in an organised manner and the school secretary contributes significantly to the management of school records, files and communications. External tutors are employed to teach co-curricular and extra-curricular subjects, including Drama and strands of the Physical Education curriculum. Funds for these tutors are provided by local partnership and vocational schemes, the board and contributions by parents.  The school has put in place a varied selection of in-school programmes and projects. These incorporate art activities, a range of literacy programmes, sport opportunities, environmental care and awareness endeavours and inter-community programmes. The staff are to be commended for their dedication to and support of these initiatives.

 

All classrooms and special education settings are well resourced.  The school has a large general purposes room. There are offices for the principal and the secretary.  There is a staff room, parents’ room, toilet facilities, storage areas and recreation areas. A local community group runs a pre-school within the building. A school garden has been created and is tended with pride and care.  Overall, the accommodation is of a high standard and the school building is very well maintained. 

 

The school is very well resourced.  Classrooms are well stocked with CD players, computers, libraries and many curriculum resources. In particular, a good selection of literary resources is available, incorporating big books, parallel and extension readers, reference material and print-rich environments.  The promotion of Mathematics is given prominence in all classrooms and a good range of mathematics resources is available.  All teachers take great care to ensure that the efforts and achievements of pupils are recorded and celebrated in classrooms, corridors and reception areas. The school hosts a well-stocked library and a networked computer room.  Some classes participate in the Digital Hub initiative involving the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in curriculum-based projects. There is a limited range of software available and in use.   In order to establish firmer links between the use of ICT and class work, it is recommended that specific programmes for the teaching of ICT skills and their application be devised for each class level. 

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school maintains regular communication with parents regarding the work of the school and the progress of pupils through parent-teacher meetings, progress reports, newsletters and updates. Parents of new entrants receive a comprehensive booklet with relevant school information. The school has procedures in place for liaising with parents of pupils whose first language in not English.  The school has a HSCL co-ordinator, shared with Scoil San Séamus CBS, who is based in this school.  The HSCL service is characterised by a commitment to establishing and maintaining links with the school as well as with local committees, agencies and statutory bodies. A particularly noteworthy feature of the service is the nurturing of home-school links through regular home visits. Through the work of the HSCL co-ordinator, the school encourages parental involvement in supporting children’s learning in classroom activities, shared-reading programmes and parents’ courses.  Parents provide support at school events, including the health fair, and at concerts. During the evaluation, the board and staff expressed their desire for greater involvement by parents in school life. Previous attempts to set up a parents’ association were unsuccessful. It is desirable that the school renew its efforts to facilitate the setting up of such an association.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The school adopts a positive approach to promoting good behaviour and its success is evident in the excellent behaviour of pupils. All classrooms display a class charter outlining shared expectations regarding behaviour.  There is smooth and orderly management of pupils throughout the school and the pupils are respectful and courteous to one another and to all of the staff.  A yard monitor scheme is in place whereby older pupils are trained to support younger pupils at play.  The pupils show an appreciation of their school and its grounds and take pride in promoting environmental care. Weekly assemblies are held in which the pupils’ efforts are affirmed. A significant number of pupils have high absenteeism levels and attendance in general merits attention.  There are procedures in place for rewarding attendance in the school. It is recommended that the school formalise its strategies for the promotion of attendance.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The quality of school planning is good.  The school plan contains comprehensive policies governing the administration and organisation of the school.  The staff are to be commended for their engagement with the school planning process. They have compiled several detailed curriculum plans. These plans reflect the school context, the needs of the pupils and they inform and support classroom planning.  It is important that all planning address assessment in relation to each curriculum area. The staff have recently engaged in a whole-school review for the identification and targeting of a number of priority areas.  It is advised that curriculum teams be set up, led by co-ordinators, to provide leadership for the monitoring, implementation and review of whole-school strategies to address these priorities.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All classroom planning is clearly referenced to and informed by the school plan. The teachers have copies of relevant organisational policies and curriculum plans pertinent to their class.   The quality of individual teachers’ planning is good.  Their long-term and short-term plans reflect the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. Planning for differentiation in all class levels is required.  A selection of templates for monthly progress records are currently in use by teachers and are maintained centrally by the principal.  It is recommended that an agreed template be used throughout the school.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Effective classroom management skills are evident at all class levels. Teachers engage in whole-class teaching, combined with some opportunities for pair work and group tasks. In some lessons, pupils are actively engaged in challenging learning opportunities. Lessons are generally well structured and appropriately paced. Themes and topics are linked effectively and integration is a feature of many lessons.  It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on provision for differentiation through planning for group-based learning using ability and collaborative groups.  Clear guidelines for assessment are also required.  

 

 

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

Déantar freastal chuí ar mhúineadh na Gaeilge sa scoil.  Sa phlean scoile don Ghaeilge leagtar amach clár cuimsitheach chun an teanga a mhúineadh. Sna ranganna cuirtear an iomarca béime ar na cláracha tráchtála atá in úsáid tríd an scoil mar bhunús don phleanáil na múinteoirí.  Moltar athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar bhonn uile scoile chun fócas níos cinnte a dhíriú ar chur i bhfeidhm an phlean Ghaeilge.  Tá roinnt lipéid, postaeir agus áiseanna oiriúnacha in úsáid mar thaca don teagasc tríd an scoil. Tá éagsúlacht mór ag baint le modhanna múinte ó rang go rang.   I gcuid de na ranganna baintear feidhm chuí as mím, drámaíocht agus tascanna chun foclóir and eiseamláirí a neartú. I ranganna áirithe bíonn na páistí gníomhach i bpéirí agus i ngrúpaí agus sna ranganna seo éiríonn leo iad féin a chur in íúl go cumasach. I ranganna eile tá an iomarca béime ar an téascleabhar mar bhunú don cheacht.  Anois, tá gá béim bhreise a chur ar scileanna cumarsáide na bpáistí agus breis úsáide a bhaint as an Ghaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. Moltar rannphártíocht na bpáistí a chothú a thuilleadh trí thascanna agus gníomhachtaí a stiúríu i ngrupaí. Déantar freastal sásúil ar fhorbairt scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht ar na téascleabhair go príomha.   Cruthaítear timpeallacht tacaíochta chun foclóir nua a mhúineadh.  Léann formhór na ndaltaí le tuiscint.  Tá dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh maidir le scríbhneoireacht pearsanta na ndaltaí agus tá a saothair le feiceáil tríd an scoil. Baintear feidhm thorthúil as ríomhairí i gcuid de na ranganna i bhforbairt na scríbhneoireachta.

Irish

The teaching of Irish is satisfactory in this school. The school plan for Irish incorporates a comprehensive language teaching programme. In individual teachers’ planning there is an over emphasis on using commercial schemes as a basis for planning schemes of work. It is recommended that the school review current practice to ensure cohesive implementation of the Irish plan. Posters, flashcards and suitable resources are used to support the teaching of Irish throughout the school.  A variety of methodologies is in use from class to class.  In many classes satisfactory use is made of methodologies such as mime, drama and tasks to reinforce vocabulary and sentence structures.  In some classes the pupils are active in their learning, through groups and pairs, and in these classes they succeed in expressing themselves effectively. In other classes, the textbooks are used to a much greater extent for lesson content.  There is now a need to prioritise the communicative skills of the pupils along with the extended promotion of incidental Irish throughout the day.  It is recommended that emphasis be placed on organising group tasks and activities that promote greater pupil participation. The teaching of reading and writing skills through Irish is undertaken in a satisfactory way.  Reading material is primarily drawn from class textbooks. A supportive environment is set up in the teaching of new vocabulary.  Most pupils read with understanding.  There is good progress evident in relation to the pupils’ personal writing and their work is displayed around the school. Productive use is made of ICT to develop writing skills in some classes.

 

English

The school has placed particular emphasis on addressing the literacy needs of the pupils in recent years. To this end, a number of whole-school practices have been adopted, incorporating the use of a specific oral language programme, greater emphasis on phonics teaching, extended use of the novel and providing shared reading resources for use with parents at home.  Overall, there is competent teaching of oral language across the school. Structured, discrete lessons are a feature of practice in all classes informed by a commercial programme and the school plan.  A range of suitable strategies is used in the infant and junior classes, incorporating story time, questioning, vocabulary extension, some use of language games and the daily exploration of news.  Some very effective practices are underway in some classes relating to the provision of focused opportunities for pair work and collaborative group work on specific themes and topics. These methodologies should be extended to all classes. All teachers emphasise the importance of oral language development across the curriculum. In the middle and senior classes the pupils display satisfactory vocabulary development and can articulate their ideas and thoughts with confidence.

 

Reading is taught in a satisfactory manner. All classrooms have well-stocked libraries which contain a good range of reading material.  Teachers succeed in promoting an interest in reading through the use of big books, story books and extended reading material, the promotion of a home/school library and the provision of a graded reading scheme.  A number of strategies and phonics programmes are used to develop the children’s emergent reading skills.  A review of these programmes is now required to ensure that there is cohesion in the teaching and assessment of early reading skills. In middle and senior classes the pupils have access to a selection of suitable material and read with expression and interest.  Good use is made of the novel to promote reflection and to stimulate discussion among pupils. A significant number of pupils present with reading difficulties in the senior classes. It is recommended that the school explore models of differentiation within classrooms to address the needs and abilities of all pupils.  The grouping of pupils for the teaching of reading is also advised.

 

In general, the teaching of writing is competent.  In the infant and junior classes the pupils engage in activities relating to letter formation, free writing and the early writing of words and sentences.  It is advised that a systematic approach to the development of the pupils’ fine motor skills and for the incremental development of their emergent writing skills be provided. In the middle and senior classes pupils are actively engaged in writing in a wide range of genres for a variety of audiences. These lessons are preceded by appropriate oral work and teacher-modelling of specific writing skills.  The standard of the pupils’ work is good.  In some classes, good practice is underway in relation to process writing with pupils drafting, editing and presenting their own work through the use of ICT. The quality of their penmanship skills is good throughout the school and they present their work with care and pride.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

In all classrooms a mathematics-rich environment is promoted successfully and the centrality of mathematical language is a feature of many lessons. Teachers ensure that there is an appropriate balance between the strands of the mathematics curriculum. There is a good selection of mathematics resources available in the school. Many teachers ensure that pupils use resources in learning and reinforcing mathematical concepts, particularly in the junior classes.  The consistent use of mathematics resources at all class levels is advised. In general, effective use is made of whole-class teaching during mathematics lessons. Consideration should now be given to making more specific provision for the varying needs and abilities of the pupils. It is recommended that the teachers plan for and provide differentiated learning experiences within each class as appropriate.

 

The standard of pupils’ learning in Mathematics varies significantly. In the infant and junior levels the children attain appropriate standards of learning in relation to conservation of number, measures and shape and space.  These concepts are reinforced in a suitable manner through practical tasks.  In the middle and senior classes pupils demonstrate satisfactory recall of number facts and computation skills.  In many classes, they estimate accurately and use appropriate mathematical language. Overall, the pupils’ problem-solving skills require greater reinforcement and consistent application.  In a few classes the pupils are enabled to work collaboratively in solving practical, every-day problems. This practice should be extended to all classes.  In general, pupils can classify and represent data and they display a satisfactory level of understanding and application of place value.  Some very good formative assessment procedures are in place. Opportunities to share good practice in assessment for learning should be explored.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

There is competent teaching of History throughout the school.  All teachers ensure that due prominence is placed on the development of the pupils’ skills as historians.  In particular, there is good use of artefacts, photographs and other evidence to explore, compare and contrast different eras, communities and societies. Pupils engage in project work, surveys, interviews and discussions and display confident knowledge of a wide range of themes and topics. Some very good practice was observed in the use of role play and active learning in illuminating the human perspective in key historical events.  The teachers succeed in instilling in the children a sense of pride in and curiosity about their locality and areas of local and national interest. Opportunities for integrating aspects of the History and Geography programmes are successfully exploited. There are many attractive and informative displays of the pupils’ work as historians around the school.

 

Geography

The pupils are provided with a good education in Geography.  Of particular note is the emphasis placed on using the locality in the teaching of specific skills and curriculum objectives.  All classroom environments are visually stimulating.  The pupils display good graphical skills which are evident in their work using local, national and international data and maps.  Teachers use appropriate resources, including photographs, displays and artefacts.  A suitable range of methodologies is used to progress the pupils’ learning.  They include the use of fieldwork, pair work, effective linkage across strands and integration between curriculum areas.

 

Science

Overall, the teaching of Science is good.  It is informed by practical, whole-school planning which serves to link directly with each class level.  In the majority of classrooms there are imaginative and attractive displays from many strands of the science curriculum.   There are good resources available, including science kits, posters, various samples of living things and the school garden.  Effective methodologies are employed in many rooms.  The children are encouraged to link prior knowledge with new scientific questions. Pupils are given opportunities to work cooperatively in undertaking investigations and experiments. In general, the pupils develop competent scientific skills and achieve good learning outcomes. The attractive, well-managed school garden is utilised effectively by all classes.  It adds significantly to the pupils’ enjoyment and appreciation of living things and the environment. 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The promotion of the Visual Arts is commendable.  Pupils experience a rich, broad programme in all strands of the curriculum.  Teachers provide purposeful art activities in well-structured lessons. They encourage the pupils to enjoy a range of different art media and to explore their creative talents through the use of stimuli. In these lessons, attention is focused on enabling the pupils to respond to elements of art and to gain an appreciation of the work of artists. There is evidence of progression in skill across many strands of the art curriculum.  The pupils discuss their work with pride and with the appropriate language of the visual arts. The school’s provision in this area is effectively supported by the work of an artist-in-residence and there are many attractive displays of these collaborations throughout the school.

 

 

Music

There is satisfactory teaching in many elements of the Music curriculum across the school. The comprehensive music plan outlines programmes of work for the three strands of the music curriculum.  All pupils achieve a good standard in song singing.  In the senior classes the children sing a variety of songs sweetly in unison, in parts and in rounds. The pupils learn the tin whistle from the middle classes upwards and they play a selection of tunes with competence. Some good lessons were observed in relation to the teaching of the strand of listening and responding.  In these lessons the pupils experienced focused listening tasks which incorporated the identification of individual instruments. The standard of the pupils’ musical literacy and their composing skills is fair. It is recommended that all pupils be provided with structured opportunities to develop their skills progressively in musical literacy, composition and improvisation.  

 

 

Drama

There is no formal plan for the teaching of Drama in place. Pupils from all classes participate in drama lessons provided by a drama tutor.  These lessons are well organised and provide pupils with a range of experiences where the pupils’ ability to enter roles and to work cooperatively is fostered successfully. All pupils participate in annual school concerts. In a few classes there is very good practice underway where the process of Drama is emphasised and pupils are encouraged to improvise, reflect and communicate in a safe and supportive environment. The use of drama techniques such as mime and role play was noted in the teaching of some curriculum areas. The further use of Drama as a teaching methodology is advised.  It is recommended that the school, using both internal and external expertise, compile a plan for the teaching of Drama.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

There is good provision for Physical Education in this school and children achieve appropriate standards across the physical education curriculum.  A broad and comprehensive physical education programme is delivered through well-organised and structured lessons. Due attention is given to ensuring that health and safety issues are addressed.  There are very good resources available in the school and these are used effectively in the teaching of specific physical education skills. Lessons are well managed and monitored with care.  The school employs external tutors for the teaching of Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) sports and gymnastics. Irish dancing is taught by a teaching staff member.  Pupils in the middle and senior classes attend swimming lessons in a local facility for a term each year.  

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The school provides many opportunities for the promotion of the pupils’ personal development.  The pupils engage in a wide range of initiatives and programmes. The school promotes and affirms good behaviour through weekly assemblies, the compilation of class rules and charters, the recitation of the school rap song and the rotation of class responsibilities. There are warm and respectful relations between staff and pupils.  Discrete lessons in SPHE are based on a number of Department programmes, including Walk Tall and Stay Safe. Other commercial programmes are also in use in a number of classes.  It is important that all such programmes are directly linked to the appropriate specific curriculum objectives for these classes.  In the lessons observed, the pupils were encouraged to respond and reflect on issues relating to their personal and social development in a safe and caring environment. The skills of turn-taking and listening are promoted during these lessons. Further engagement with methodologies which focus on active, collaborative learning in groups and pairs is recommended.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

There are many aspects of good practice in relation to assessment throughout the school.  Class teachers administer annual standardised tests in literacy and Mathematics.  A good range of screening and diagnostic tests is used for the selection of pupils in need of early intervention.  All teachers engage in a wide range of informal assessment procedures. The pupils’ written work is consistently monitored. Teachers maintain records of test results, work samples, pupil files and scrapbooks, checklists and observations. There are very good formative assessment practices underway in some classes. Opportunities for the sharing of these practices are required.  It is recommended that the school agree a whole-school policy regarding the assessment of pupil progress and the sharing of information between all teachers in mainstream and special education provision. It is further advised that the school devise an approach for the assessment of the impact of whole-school programmes and initiatives.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The Special Education Team (SET) comprises a learning support teacher, a resource teacher, two special class teachers, a resource teacher for travellers, two language teachers and a teacher seconded to the Early Focus project.  Learning support is also provided part-time on a voluntary basis by a non-staff member. The whole-school Special Education Needs (SEN) policy emphasises the staged approach as outlined in Circular 03/05.  It provides for a range of suitable screening and diagnostic tests to be administered in the pupils’ early years. It is advised that further emphasis be placed on implementing the first stage of the approach. This emphasises the role of the class teacher in providing differentiated support in the classroom to pupils with learning needs.  In particular, the expertise of the SET team should be utilised to assist and liaise with class teachers in providing this extra help to pupils.

 

At the beginning of each year, there is formal communication between members of the SET and with class teachers to identify pupils for selection.  Individual education plans (IEPs) are in place for all pupils and are compiled in consultation with class teachers. These plans cover a very wide range of learning targets.  In general, SEN support is provided on a withdrawal basis. The exploration of other inclusive models of support is advised.  All support is provided in a secure and caring environment. Lessons are well structured and suitable resources are used to support the pupils’ learning. Among the effective practices observed were the use of active learning, collaborative methodologies and the appropriate use of ICT and associated software. It is recommended that a whole-school review of special education provision be undertaken. In particular, an extended team-approach to providing cohesive special education support is advocated. In reviewing SEN provision it is recommended that a whole-school approach be agreed for the development, implementation and review of IEPs; the sharing of information and consultation with class teachers and parents; and the use of common assessment practices.

 

 

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

Two staff members have been trained in teaching Reading Recovery and they provide support to pupils who present with significantly delayed reading skills.  Detailed planning, recording and assessment are features of the teaching observed and instruction is provided in a focused, affirmative way.  It is advised that greater collaboration is undertaken to ensure further cohesion in all aspects of Reading Recovery provision including communication with class teachers, parents and relevant members of the SET.

 

Language support is provided by two language teachers in a supportive and affirmative way.  A variety of planning and assessment approaches are in place.  A good selection of resources and materials are used in teaching and reinforcing language concepts, including recorded material, projects, activity books, games and ICT. Some effective practices were observed which included the provision of a structured programme based on identified language needs, capably delivered in an interactive, stimulating setting. It is advised that greater consistency be provided with particular reference to the initial and ongoing assessment of the pupils’ language needs and the development of individual language programmes.

 

Support for traveller pupils in Mater Dei NS is provided by the resource teacher for travellers who is shared with Scoil San Séamus CBS and Scoil Mhuire, Crumlin.  Learning programmes are primarily informed by the Reading Recovery approach to teaching early literacy skills. This supplementary support is organised on a withdrawal basis and incorporates one-to-one teaching and group teaching.

 

The aim of the school’s Early Focus project is to promote pupils’ self esteem and to make school a more positive experience for targeted pupils with behavioural needs.  This project is well organised. A high level of consultation, planning and review takes place.  Effective support for 24 pupils is given, primarily on a withdrawal basis, and all programmes of work are informed by detailed IEPs. The exploration of other models of support should be considered. The practice of regular team review, involving the principal and the HSCL co-ordinator is praiseworthy.  

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         The staff of Mater Dei National School are commended for their commitment to and success in providing a broad and balanced curriculum.

·         The principal provides visible leadership and is ably supported by a dedicated board of management.

·         The school successfully promotes an inclusive, caring and attractive environment

·         The pupils are well behaved, respectful and motivated.

·         The school has significantly developed the pupils’ awareness and appreciation of their local environment through the provision of a comprehensive social, environmental and scientific education curriculum.

·         The teaching of Visual Arts is a particular strength of the school.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         Further coordination of the whole-school planning process is required.

·         It is recommended that the school develop a whole-school approach to assessment in all areas of the curriculum. 

·         There is a need for greater differentiation in the learning experiences provided for all pupils.

·         An extension of the range of teaching methodologies to promote active and collaborative learning is advocated.

·         A whole-school review of special education provision and other supports for pupils is recommended.

 

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.