An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

SN Bhaile an Chuilinn

Ballinkillen, Bagenalstown, County Carlow

Uimhir rolla: 01116A

 

Date of inspection: 17 November 2009

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of SN Bhaile an Chuilinn was undertaken in November 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 English, Mathematics and Geography. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

109

Mainstream classes in the school

4

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile an Chuilinn is a rural co-educational school catering for pupils from infants to sixth class. The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin is its patron. This is one of the oldest functioning schools in the country having first registered pupils in 1810. Great credit is due to the board of management for its endeavours in maintaining the school building to a high standard. Proposed new classrooms will limit pupils’ recreational space. Enrolment is increasing and attendance records are very good. The school’s mission statement aims to promote the school as a happy place of learning where everyone feels secure and is treated with dignity and respect. The school endeavours to provide each child with a holistic education which inculcates in them a respect for the environment. The supportive school atmosphere, coupled with the school’s success in the Pride of Place competition and its Green Flag status indicate its commitment to this stated mission.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and regular meetings are held. Suitable minutes of these meetings are maintained. Accounts are audited annually as required by Section 18(1) of the Education Act 1998. Compliance issues are diligently addressed in line with Department of Education and Science Circular 11/95. The board has published a comprehensive attendance strategy and code of behaviour. A review of the enrolment policy as it is presently written is recommended to guarantee observance of Section 20(2) of the Education Act regarding the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs. It is also recommended that the board review its policy on class allocation with particular reference to the deployment of teachers to the special education setting to ensure greater opportunity for teachers to access all classes over time.

 

While the board of management has signed, dated and ratified a number of policies, it is necessary to ensure that the board does so for all policies consistently. It is noteworthy that an action plan has been devised which identifies a large number of organisational and curricular policies to be reviewed this year. As many of the school’s curricular plans need significant reassessment it is recommended that the proposed policy review be undertaken through the development of a strategic plan from which short-term curricular priorities can be identified.

 

Board members are assigned specific roles which they carry out competently. They have undertaken training provided by the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association.  The board is to be complimented for its dedication to the welfare of the whole-school community.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal is committed to the holistic development of every pupil. She seeks to promote open communication among the whole-school community. She strives admirably to support colleagues both professionally and personally. She has pride in the school, its long tradition and its contribution to the local community. It is now opportune, as she completes the early stages of her career as principal and because a number of colleagues are newly-appointed, that a particular focus be placed on reviewing the school’s overall approach to learning and teaching. The in-school management team comprises the principal and deputy principal. They place proper emphasis on communicating regularly to ensure effective teamwork.

 

1.4 Management of resources

Teachers are deployed in line with Department of Education and Science guidelines. They are aware of their roles and responsibilities and undertake these with care. The secretary, the special needs assistant and the part-time cleaner carry out their assigned duties professionally. There are adequate resources, including information and communication technology (ICT) to support learning and teaching. A challenge for the school is the reorganisation and more readily accessible storage of resources within small classrooms and storage areas. To this end, a whole-school policy, which would include a catalogue of present resources, their deployment in various classrooms and priorities for future purchasing of resources, is advised.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. Their priority is fundraising and supporting the school in its many extra-curricular activities and sacramental preparations. Members of the parents’ association state that they are happy with the work of the school. End-of-year reports and annual parent/teacher meetings inform them of their children’s progress. Issues of concern are dealt with in a professional and courteous manner. A termly newsletter informs parents of particular school events and activities.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

A pleasant and respectful attitude permeates interactions between pupils and teachers. Pupils are confident and enthusiastic learners. They respond positively to the high standard of behaviour expected of them. Their efforts and achievements are recognised and commended.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning varies. Planning is in place for all curricular and organisational areas. Organisational plans address all aspects of the daily life of the school. Parents can review some organisational policies of particular interest to them by accessing them through the school website. Greater involvement of parents in the planning process is advised. There is an adequate special education needs policy in place.

There are significant issues in relation to whole-school planning for English, Mathematics and Geography. It is necessary to ensure that the English plan is relevant to the particular needs of this school. This plan should reflect the requirements of the curriculum to a greater degree. Efforts are made within the Mathematics policy to ensure consistency of approaches. Reference is also made in this plan to the available resources for learning and teaching. Overall, the Mathematics policy lacks clarity and cohesion. There are some satisfactory elements in the Geography policy. These include a geographical audit, guidelines for studying contrasting parts of Ireland and some reference to the requirements of the curriculum. A concern with this plan is the prominence given to the use of textbooks for the determination of content. Specific programmes of work outlined in this plan do not make reference to the senior classes. It is important that all the strand and strand units of the geography curriculum are listed in the whole-school plan to ensure comprehensive learning opportunities for all pupils. A review of whole-school curriculum planning is recommended to ensure greater consistency between whole-school planning, individual teacher planning and classroom practice so that spiral approaches can be facilitated at all class levels.

 

The quality of classroom planning is fair. In many settings there is undue emphasis on content-based planning which does not take sufficient cognisance of curriculum guidelines. A review of the planning process is recommended so that pupils’ skills and concepts can be developed appropriately at each class level. It is also recommended that suitable differentiated approaches are outlined consistently in planning to support pupils in multi-class settings and for pupils with special educational needs, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 English

The quality of learning and teaching in English is generally satisfactory. Pupils’ oral language ability is suitably fostered and pupils speak with confidence in many classes. In order to ensure that all pupils have opportunities for self-expression, further attention should be paid to improving lesson pace in those classes where pupils display reticence in contributing to discussions. A broad range of reading approaches is used meaningfully in many classes. Phonological awareness and word-attack skills are well developed in classes where pupils display an ability to read fluently, to analyse and to discuss. It is necessary to ensure that differentiated approaches and methodologies are used in all classes to facilitate those pupils who need support in developing competence in reading.

 

A print-rich environment has been established in many classroom and corridor areas. Displays of pupils’ written work are imaginatively facilitated in a number of classrooms by presenting this work in booklet format. The extension of this good practice to all classes is advised. There is commendable scaffolding of process writing in some classes where written work is skilfully linked to oral activities. In many instances, teachers avail of opportunities to affirm pupils’ progress through the regular monitoring of their written work. Greater consistency in the monitoring of pupils’ writing is advised. Story, poetry and rhyme are carefully selected in many classrooms to consolidate learning and to enhance pupils’ competence across the English curriculum. It is recommended that provision for English across the school be reviewed to ensure cohesion, continuity, progression, differentiation and suitable lesson pace.

 

3.2 Mathematics

There is satisfactory provision for the delivery of the mathematics curriculum. Suitable focus is placed on the development of pupils’ mathematical language. Relevant resources, including ICT, support lesson delivery in many classes. There is an over-emphasis on workbooks in a number of class settings to determine lesson content. It is advised that the present practice of over-reliance on workbooks to determine lesson content be addressed by planning and implementing work in accordance with curriculum guidelines. Written work is monitored consistently in many instances. The re-organisation of the mathematics environment in some classes is advised to support pupils in the consolidation of their learning. Pupils demonstrate competence in mental mathematics activities. There is an over-emphasis on the number strand in some classes. It is necessary to ensure that all pupils have access to all the strands of the mathematics curriculum. It is advised that the specific needs of individual pupils be addressed through more differentiated teaching. It is recommended that a review and re-organisation of the whole-school provision for Mathematics be undertaken to facilitate teachers in achieving a greater return for their endeavours.

 

3.3 Geography

The quality of learning and teaching in Geography varies. Good practices observed include the provision of hands-on resources to increase understanding of a particular lesson, linkage to pupils’ previous learning and to the local environment, the use of ICT, and the consolidation of learning. Geography projects are interestingly displayed in a number of classes and on corridors. Whole-class and teacher-directed methodologies are the prevalent approaches adopted in many classrooms where there is need to ensure greater continuity and progression. Pupils need access to a variety of well-appointed maps and globes across the school. It is recommended that the sharing of existing good practices in relation to the teaching of geography be undertaken so that all pupils can become familiar with all the strands and strand units in a spiral and continuous manner.

 

3.4 Assessment

Teachers administer annual standardised tests in English and Mathematics. These test results, supported by teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks, facilitate the selection of pupils for learning support. There is a positive influence on learning and teaching where written work is monitored and pupil progress recorded. It is recommended that the school reviews the implementation of its assessment policy. This is to ensure planned and systematic approaches to assessment that will support teachers in providing focused teaching for all pupils.  

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Department of Education and Science regulations regarding the selection of pupils for learning support are adhered to. Provision is mainly on a withdrawal basis with twice-weekly in-class support in literacy in the junior section of the school. Formal records of pupil attendance are maintained. Parents are advised when their children are being considered for learning support and again when learning support is no longer considered necessary. Learning-support teachers and class teachers liaise officially at staff meetings and informally as required.

There is some good practice in relation to the development of planning in the special education setting. This includes the incorporation of standardised test results and input from class teachers and external-expert reports into the creation of targets for each pupil’s individual education plan. Learning targets are reviewed twice yearly and pupil progress is monitored and recorded. Long-term and short-term objectives are based on the targets outlined in the individual education plan. The extension of this good practice is recommended. This is to ensure that the identified needs of particular pupils are addressed consistently through specifically organised individual education plan in all instances. Parents are informed of the specific targets outlined for their children within these plans. Greater formal involvement of parents in the formulation of their children’s individual education plans is advised.

 

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

A number of newcomer-pupils are thoughtfully integrated into the school. Teachers organise creative opportunities for these pupils to share and celebrate their culture and language. Responding to the primary needs of all pupils is a constant priority. Every pupil has the opportunity to be involved in all school and all extra-curricular activities which is noteworthy. To consolidate this good practice it is advised that the school’s clear commitment to the inclusion of pupils from disadvantaged and minority groups, as required by the Equal Status Act 2000, be addressed in a policy on supporting pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·     The board of management emphasises its responsibility towards the welfare of the whole-school community.

·     The school principal is dedicated to the holistic development of every pupil.

·     Teachers foster open communication among themselves and between parents and teachers.

·     Parents support the work of the school.

·     A pleasant and respectful atmosphere is evident in all interactions within the school.

·     Pupils are confident and enthusiastic learners.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

·     It is recommended that the enrolment policy be reviewed to ensure adherence to the Education Act 20(2) in relation to the enrolment of pupils with special education needs.

·     It is recommended that school policy on class allocation be reviewed.

·     A review of whole-school and classroom planning is recommended.

·     It is recommended that provision for English and Mathematics be reviewed to ensure cohesion, continuity, progression, differentiated approaches and suitable lesson pace.

·     It is recommended that the school review the implementation of its assessment policy.

·     Further development of planning within the special education section is recommended so that the identified needs of particular pupils are addressed consistently.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published May 2010