An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Pádraig Naofa
Esker, Athenry, Co. Galway
Uimhir rolla: 01000E
Date of inspection: 24 February 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Pádraig Naofa was undertaken in February, 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in Irish, English, Mathematics and the Visual Arts. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Scoil Pádraig Naofa is a Catholic co-educational primary school situated in a rural setting, in the townland of Esker, Athenry, Co. Galway. The school is located approximately 5km from Athenry. Major infrastructural change has resulted in significant increases in the school-going population in the area and enrolments in Scoil Pádraig Naofa have more than doubled since the last school report was issued in 1999. Originally a two-classroom school, Scoil Pádraig Naofa was extensively refurbished and extended in 2007/8 under the Department’s devolved grant scheme for small schools. As the completion date for the realignment of the N6 is 2010 and as further improvements in rail and bus services from Athenry are planned, the full impact of the regional development programme has yet to be realised. However, the school’s board of management is of the opinion that housing development has now peaked and that future increases in enrolments will be relatively small.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Scoil Pádraig Naofa is one of four schools in the parish of Killtullagh under the patronage of the Bishop of Clonfert. The school promotes a Christian philosophy of life and its Catholic ethos is supported by regular visits from the chairperson of the board of management. A very strong spirit of teamwork is evident in the school and communication among staff members and between the various partners is very open and productive. In keeping with the school’s mission and vision statements, the board, staff and parents strive diligently to create a caring learning environment that is conducive to fostering fulfilled, confident, happy and respectful learners.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least once a term. The proceedings of meetings are recorded in a clear manner and school finances are managed very astutely. The board members possess a wide variety of skills and they give generously of their time and expertise in pursuit of the school’s stated aims. The board operates a very effective system whereby subcommittees are formed to concentrate on specific aspects of work.
The board maintains a high level of communication with the parents. A combined committee was formed to manage fundraising and to oversee the redesign, extension and refurbishment of the school. The project was excellently managed and was completed in September 2008. Accommodation in the school is now of a very high standard. There are four large classrooms with separate storage and toilet facilities, a library/computer room, a learning-support room, an office and a staffroom. A prefabricated unit, purchased by the board to provide interim temporary classroom accommodation, now provides additional storage space and a multi-purposes area used mainly for Drama and Physical Education.
Minutes of meetings indicate that the board’s primary focus has been the development of the premises. Promoting the use of technology is an ongoing priority and the school’s technological resources were upgraded as part of the building project. Each classroom is wired for broadband and has an interactive board and at least one computer. A full suite of computers is located in the library/computer room. A mobile interactive system is available for learning-support and resource-teaching purposes. The board, in collaboration with the teaching staff, has identified the acquisition of reading materials for the library as a priority for the future, in addition to enhancing resources for Music and Physical Education. It would be of benefit to incorporate these priorities into a strategic plan, which would outline priorities and timeframes for a three-year period.
The board recognises it statutory duties and the requirement to comply with departmental regulations and guidelines. A school plan has been formulated which includes appropriate policies on admissions, enrolment, health and safety, behaviour and child protection. The school’s attendance policy has been identified for further development and the board also intends to commence issuing an annual report on the operation of the school, as required under Section 20 of the Education Act 1998. The board is reminded that only fully probated teachers should be deployed in support-teaching roles involving learning support. The board is also advised to ensure that all policy statements are signed and dated.
The board supports the staff’s engagement in continuous professional development. Teachers participate in a range of professional development courses including those provided by Leadership Development for Schools. Recently, the staff as a group focused on developing their technological skills.
The board acknowledges the positive atmosphere in the school, the level of commitment of the staff and the good relations between teachers and parents as strengths of the school.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal promotes a positive and collaborative school climate and engages regularly with all members of staff. Communication with the board and with the parent body is maintained in an effective and efficient manner. Daily administrative and organisational tasks are capably performed and official records are carefully maintained. The principal is successfully advancing the whole-school planning process through formal staff meetings which are held once a term.
The duties of the post holders span curricular, organisational and pastoral areas. In addition, post holders provide ongoing support in the day-to-day running of the school. The duties attached to the posts evolved as the school developed. These duties should be reviewed at regular intervals in order to ensure that they continue to address the changing prioritised needs of the school.
A purposeful working relationship is cultivated between the board, principal, staff, parents’ association and the general body of parents. It is evident that the involvement of parents in the work of the school is welcomed and facilitated. Parents regularly assist with sporting activities, school tours and fieldtrips. They have also been involved in providing tuition in French and in the Visual Arts, and have supported school, church and community celebrations.
The parents’ association uses a school notice board and the school website to communicate with the general parent body. Newsletters and flyers are also regularly issued. Recently, the association surveyed parents and pupils as a means of establishing a new focus for its work. It is suggested that the association should now examine its level of involvement in the whole-school planning process and consider how the parent body could become more actively involved in policy formulation and review in the future.
The school also uses a range of strategies to communicate with the parent body. Notes, letters and text messages are issued to inform parents of school events while class diaries facilitate communication with individual teachers. The school website is effectively used to provide information, to showcase pupils’ work and achievements, and to facilitate home-school communication. Induction meetings for parents of new pupils are normally organised in June each year and parent-teacher meetings are held prior to Easter. Praiseworthy efforts are made to arrange meetings at convenient times for parents. Oral reports on pupil progress are provided at the meetings. It is recommended that the school should now develop its reporting system to facilitate the issuing of written feedback to parents on the progress of their children.
The school enjoys good relationships with the broader community. Pupils are encouraged to become involved in local organisations and members of the community are frequently invited to participate in class-project work. Farms visits and fieldtrips are accommodated in the locality and facilities at Killimordaly and at Esker Monastery are made available to the school for matches and sports days. Christmas concerts provide opportunities for parents, past pupils and members of the community to come together in support of the work of the school.
The pupils are divided into four dual-class groupings and are very well managed. There is a calm, orderly atmosphere in the school and daily routines are organised in a timely fashion. The pupils co-operate readily with staff and are very respectful and caring towards one another. They display good levels of confidence and interact with visitors in an open and welcoming manner. They are very attentive in class and engage fully in all classroom activities. School records indicate that the majority of pupils maintain very good records of attendance.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school plan includes a policy statement on each curricular area and a wide range of administrative policies pertinent to the context of the school. The teachers have drawn on the national support services and have collaborated with neighbouring schools in formulating particular aspects of the plan. The planning process involves the teaching staff in drafting the policy documents with individual teachers taking responsibility for specific curricular areas. Parents are notified by means of newsletter that draft statements are available for viewing prior to their presentation at board level for discussion, amendment if necessary and ratification. Consideration should now be given to establishing specific procedures to enhance the involvement of the board and parents in future policy development and review. It is suggested that future reviews of curricular policies should focus on ensuring clarity in relation to the content to be covered at each class level and the approach to be taken in dual class settings. An immediate review of the school plan in Irish would particularly benefit from this approach.
All teachers satisfy the requirements in relation to classroom planning. Long-term plans reflect the contents of the school plan and short-term plans are clearly laid out using an agreed template which is also used to provide a record of the work completed. It would be of benefit to review the short-term planning template to ensure that in all instances a clear statement of objectives is provided in terms of the learning outcomes for the pupils and that a differentiated programme is clearly outlined for the dual class groupings.
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.
Tá na hoidí báúil don Ghaeilge agus is léir go bhfuil machnamh agus plé déanta acu ar úsáid an chur chuige chumarsáidaigh chun an teanga a mhúineadh. Baintear leas as raon leathan modhanna agus straitéisí chun na ceithre scil teanga a chur chun cinn ar bhealach taitneamhach comhtháite. Stiúrtar idir ghníomhaíocht, ceistiú agus rólimirt le cumas agus is inmholta mar a láimhsítear cluichí teanga chun forchéimniú a chur i gcrích maidir le tuiscint agus úsáid teanga. Déantar na deich dtéama teanga a leathnú go coinsiasach tríd an scoil. Cuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí aidiachtaí, réamhfhocail agus ceistfhocail a úsáid de réir a chéile agus leagtar béim chóir ar láimhseáil na mbriathra. Mealltar caint shoiléir mhuiníneach ó na daltaí i bhformhór na ranganna agus tugtar deiseanna rialta dóibh abairtí iomlána a chleachtadh agus sraitheanna d’abairtí a chur le chéile. Múintear cnuasach breá rann, filíochta agus amhrán ag gach rangleibhéal agus seinntear feadóga stáin ó rang a haon ar aghaidh. Is leas leis na daltaí go mbaintear úsáid as an nGaeilge i rith an lae scoile i go leor ranganna agus go bhféachtear le gnéithe eile d’fheasacht teanga agus cultúir le linn d’achair eile an churaclaim a mhúineadh.
Baintear dea-úsáid as leabhairíní féindéanta chun dúil sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht a chothú. Cuirtear focalaithint chun cinn go ceardúil agus cleachtar litriú, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht go tairbheach le linn do chluichí agus gníomhaíochtaí a eagrú. Tá raon na n-áiseanna a úsáidtear chun an léitheoireacht a mhúineadh sách teoranta áfach agus moltar idir leabhair mhóra tharraingteacha, leabhairíní beaga, téacsleabhair nua-aimseartha agus fíorleabhair a chur ar fáil ag na rangleibhéil chuí chun tacú le clár ilghnéitheach a chur i gcrích. D’fhéadfaí a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta chun neamhspléachas sa scríbhneoireacht a chothú de réir a chéile.
Ar an iomlán léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint ar réimse cuí teanga agus tá caighdeán réasúnta maith á bhaint amach acu i léamh agus scríobh na teanga.
The teachers are well-disposed towards Irish and it is clear that they have thought about and discussed the use of the communicative approach for teaching the language. A wide variety of methodologies and strategies is used to develop the four language skills in an integrated and enjoyable manner. Activity, questioning and role-play are capably directed and the manner in which games are handled to progress understanding and language usage is praiseworthy. The ten language themes are conscientiously broadened throughout the school. The pupils are gradually enabled to use adjectives, prepositions and questioning words and appropriate emphasis is placed on handling verbs. The pupils are enticed to speak clearly and with confidence in the majority of classes and they are given regular opportunities to practice full sentences and to put series of sentences together. A lovely collection of rhymes, poetry and song is taught at each class level and the tin-whistle is played from first class onwards. The pupils benefit from the use of Irish during the course of the school day in many of the classes and from the attention given to other aspects of language and cultural appreciation during the teaching of other curricular areas.
Little homemade books are used to good effect to stimulate interest in reading and writing. Word recognition is developed skillfully and spelling, reading and writing are practised beneficially during organised games and activities. The range of resource used to teach reading is relatively limited, however, and it is recommended that attractive large books, little books, modern textbooks and real books are provided at each class level to support the implementation of a multi-facetted programme. Further emphasis could also be placed on personal writing as a means of gradually fostering independence in writing.
In general, the pupils display understanding of an appropriate range of language at the different class levels and they are achieving a reasonably good standard in reading and writing
The teachers generally provide very clear planning in English and classroom activities are very effectively differentiated for the dual class groupings. Listening skills are carefully developed throughout the school and a wide range of strategies is used to develop oracy. Higher-order thinking skills are conscientiously addressed through well structured discussion, questioning and activity. At most class levels pupils are exposed to an appropriate range of poetry and can engage with enjoyment in recitation. It is recommended that memorisation and recitation of poetry should be a regular facet of classroom activity at all class levels and that the whole-school approach to poetry should be clarified through the school plan.
A variety of approaches is used to develop phonological and phonemic awareness and to engage pupils in the reading process. Pupils display a firm understanding of letter-sound relationships and competently use a range of strategies to aid word identification. Big books and interactive boards are used effectively for collaborative reading sessions. Story-time and periods of silent reading are regularly scheduled and the novel is introduced from second class onwards. Reading activities are judiciously chosen to inform the work in other curricular areas and are particularly well integrated with media studies and with work based on the local environment. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on promoting expressive reading in some classrooms and this good practice should be emphasised further in the school. The majority of pupils read fluently and display good levels of interest and enjoyment in reading.
Pupils are provided with rich writing experiences and engage at different class levels in writing poetry, character descriptions, headlines, news reports, stories, summaries and descriptive passages. Pupils proudly display their written work in the form of class books and as part of collaborative and individual project work spanning a range of curricular areas. There is a need, however, to review the whole-school approach to handwriting and to agree and implement an appropriate policy regarding the use of copybooks. It is praiseworthy that pupils are provided with regular opportunities to engage in drafting, redrafting and editing their work and in using information and communication technologies to support their writing practices.
Very effective practice was observed in the teaching of Mathematics. A good range of resources is used throughout the school to support the implementation of an activity-based programme. The display of charts, labels, language and materials, along with the organisation of dedicated maths-activity areas, contribute to the creation of appropriate maths-rich environments in many classrooms. Teaching and learning activities are well structured and paced with very effective use being made of interactive boards to provide visual materials and to structure memorisation activities. Ample opportunities are provided for pupils to manipulate materials and to practise estimation skills. Real-life situations appropriately form the contexts for problem-solving. Mainstream teachers collaborate effectively with the learning-support teacher to implement differentiated programmes of activity at certain class levels. Language and discussion are central to the teaching and learning process and pupils, in general, use mathematical terminology accurately while exploring tasks and explaining procedures. Rhymes, story and role-play are used to very good effect in the junior classes to explain concepts and to consolidate learning. Praiseworthy use is made of the Irish language at some class levels. Pupils display very good understanding of the work covered in Mathematics. They recall number facts very swiftly and record their work neatly. It is suggested that the successful strategies being used to ensure swift recall of number facts should be recorded in the school plan.
The visual arts curriculum is competently implemented in the school. The elements of art are developed through a broad range of activities incorporating the use of a variety of media. Portfolios and very attractive displays of work indicate that all strands are addressed and that activities are regularly integrated with other curricular areas. It is suggested that the pupils could assist at some class levels in maintaining digital portfolios of their own work. While ‘template’ art features to some extent, creativity and individuality are characteristic of the work completed in most classrooms. Some teachers place noticeable emphasis on teaching and stimulating the pupils to use the language of art and this praiseworthy practice should be extended on a whole-school basis. Skilful use is also made of the senses and of the local environment in exploring and investigating examples of the Visual Arts. Parents have been enabled to share their skills and to engage with the pupils in making art at some class levels. It is suggested this rich source of expertise could also provide support for the pupils’ engagement in other traditional craftwork. It is also recommended that the whole-school programme for Looking and Responding be clarified in the school plan and that the school over time augments its resources to support this aspect of the Visual Arts curriculum.
The use of observation sheets, checklists, teacher-designed tests and tasks, and the maintenance of reading logs, test-result schedules and pupil profiles are among the assessment modes used to monitor pupil progress. This information is used effectively to inform teacher planning and to organise teaching and learning activities. The Middle Infant Screening Test and standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered annually and are used appropriately to identify pupils who would benefit from early intervention and supplementary teaching. Computer software has recently been acquired to facilitate the tracking of individual pupil progress from year to year. The provision of clear statements of objectives as part of teacher short-term planning should further support the identification and use of assessment techniques as part of regular classroom practice.
Scoil Pádraig Naofa provides the base for a learning-support teacher who is shared with one other school in the area. Support is provided in both English and Mathematics. Scoil Pádraig Naofa. Each pupil being supported has an individual profile and learning programme which details in general terms the pupils’ strengths and attainments and the learning targets identified for the period of instruction. Learning support is provided on a withdrawal basis in one-to-one or group settings. In-class support in Mathematics is effectively organised for specific pupils on a group-teaching basis in the mainstream classroom. The learning-support teacher establishes very good rapport with the pupils and engages them successfully in activities in support of their classroom work. There is scope at present to develop the individual profiles and learning programmes in order to direct the choice of materials, methodologies and resources more specifically to the learning needs of the pupils.
The school also avails of the services of a visiting resource teacher to provide additional support for pupils identified with special educational needs. A comprehensive individual education programme is informed by assessment results and by parental and class-teacher input. A multi-sensory approach and a wide range of materials are used to address clearly specified and prioritised learning needs. Games, poetry, story, music and movement contribute significantly to the variety of experiences provided and are used very successfully to ensure meaningful, enjoyable and worthwhile activity. Detailed records of progress are maintained and regular contact with home and the mainstream teacher is maintained.
Further development of the supplementary support service should focus on provision of early invention in English and Mathematics and on establishing consistency in relation to the design and level of detail required in outlining learning programmes for individual pupils. The school’s policy documents on learning support and special education should also be reviewed in order to incorporate the staged approach to provision as outlined in Circular 24/03 and to provide clearer guidance in relation to establishing best practice for pupils with learning difficulties or special educational needs.
An inclusive and caring atmosphere prevails in the school and the board, staff and parents collaborate to ensure that all pupils are enabled to participate fully in the life of the school.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school has a very active and supportive board of management.
· The school has a forward-thinking group of teachers who readily embrace change and are very open to exploring new approaches and methodologies in pursuit of optimal practice.
· The parents’ association is proactive and works effectively to enhance partnership between home and school, and to engage parents in the education of their children.
· Communication among the partners is very open and roles are clearly defined.
· The pupils are very attentive and respectful in class and are achieving good standards in the curricular areas evaluated.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The board of management should develop a strategic plan to guide its work over a three-year period.
· There is a need to enhance library resources, to provide written reports on pupil progress, to issue a report on the operation of the school and to review aspects of the school plan.
· A practice of regularly reviewing the duties attached to posts of responsibility should be established.
· Moltar an cleachtas i dtaobh mhúineadh na Gaeilge a fhorbairt a thuilleadh agus athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile sa Ghaeilge dár réir. It is recommended that the practice in relation
to the teaching of Irish be developed further and the school plan reviewed accordingly.
· A review of policy documents on learning-support and special education is required to guide the operation and future development of the support services in the school.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published December 2009