An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT  

 

Sundays Well Boys National School

Strawberry Hill, Blarney Road, Cork

Uimhir rolla: 01197D  

 

Date of inspection: 11 December 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 Sunday’s Well BNS was undertaken in December, 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

 

Sundays Well BNS is situated on the Blarney Road, on the North side of Cork City and approximately five kilometres from the city centre. The school shares its campus with the neighbouring girls’ school. Pupils are enrolled from junior infants to sixth class and are drawn in the main from the areas of Blarney Road, Gurranabraher and Holly Hill. The current enrolment is 153 and this represents a steady increase following a number of years of decreasing enrolments. The school is designated disadvantaged and is classified as “Band Two” under the Department of Education and Science Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme.

 

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

153

Mainstream classes in the school

6

Teachers on the school staff

11

Mainstream class teachers

6

Teachers working in support roles

4

Special needs assistants

6

 

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school aims cater for the learning needs of all pupils and to develop their skills to a level that will enable them partake fully in the wider world. There is a desire to achieve a happy and open environment where learning is encouraged, where initiative and creativity are nurtured and where high expectations are promoted. 

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and has a clear understanding of its roles and responsibilities. Meetings are convened five times a year and the chairperson liaises frequently with the principal and staff. Minutes are maintained and the treasurer and principal submit reports at each board meeting. School accounts are fittingly audited at the end of each year. An agreed report is compiled at the close of each meeting and subsequently presented to staff. Board members have availed of training provided by the diocesan office. Duties have been assigned to individual members and these are discharged effectively and efficiently. The board is committed to the regular upgrading of facilities and to providing comfortable premises that are conducive to quality learning for pupils and staff. They are equally diligent in promoting the good image of the school and do so at every available opportunity. A review of the minutes indicates that the board makes a worthwhile contribution to policy development in the school. Policies are reviewed on a regular basis, upgraded where necessary and subsequently ratified.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team is comprised of the principal, deputy principal, and two special duties teachers. Two further special duties posts remain unfilled due to the present moratorium on promotional posts. The principal was appointed to this position in 2006. He is most innovative and he maintains a regular visible presence among staff, pupils and parents. He is committed to developing a supportive and inclusive environment where the welfare and the development of the child assumes primary importance. This leads to a heightened sense of purpose within the school community and to an enthusiasm among staff to perform their duties in an efficient manner. The principal is ably supported by the deputy principal and post-holders. Duties allocated are focussed on curricular, organisational and pastoral duties. They are carried out with commitment and diligence and contribute positively to the priority needs of the school. The in-school management meetings are convened during lunch-time periods and management is advised to review this practice to allow team meetings to occur outside of school time.  This would serve to maximise their ability to expedite management issues in a more coherent and efficient manner.

 

1.4 Management of resources

A conscientious effort is made to ensure that all necessary resources, both personnel and material are deployed appropriately. Arrangements are established to ensure that teachers get a variety of teaching experience and within this context individual strengths are matched to appropriate disciplines. Staff members have participated in a wide range of continuous professional development courses that impact positively on programme development.  Staff meetings are convened twice per term and an agenda is circulated to all staff members in advance of meetings. Matters organisational and curricular are discussed regularly and minutes are recorded. The special needs assistants and ancillary staff, such as secretary, caretaker and school warden provide a high measure of support and their efforts are greatly appreciated within the school community.  

 

Management, and the principal in particular, have been very diligent in their endeavours to develop current accommodation to the highest possible standards. The school building has been painted internally with the generous efforts of the probation service. A new roof is to be erected and school interiors are to be renovated and redecorated. Classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide attractive learning environments for pupils. Corridors and entrance areas are decorated attractively with pupils’ work and with photographs commemorating important events. The board of management has invested wisely in a wide range of resources to support curriculum implementation. The provision of information and communication technology is very good with the recent provision  of  laptop computers and interactive whiteboards in each classroom.

 

The resource teacher, the language support teacher and personnel involved in the school completion programme operate currently out of one classroom. This is not a satisfactory arrangement and impacts on the teaching and learning. The board is therefore advised to consult with officials in the Department of Education and Science in relation to additional accommodation to address this issue.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has an active parents’ association and parents give willingly of their time in supporting a variety of initiatives. The parents meet approximately every six to eight weeks and a secretary is appointed at each meeting to record minutes. The principal maintains close relations with the parents’ association and attends all meetings. The impact of parents’ involvement in the school is positive. Parents regularly fundraise to support school events and to acquire additional resources. They involve themselves commendably in Literacy Lift Off where a group of parents support activity in the junior classes for a half-hour period each morning. They are due to become further involved in school-life through supporting Maths for Fun in 2010. Parents are involved in selected aspects of policy development. At the meeting with parents they expressed their satisfaction with the commitment of staff to the education and welfare of their children. Communication systems in the school are effective. The text-a-parent scheme is utilised regularly and a newsletter is issued each term. Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress through formal parent-teacher meetings, held in November. Following standardised testing, parents are informed of resulting sten scores and a formal report is issued at the end of each year.

The parents’ association is now advised to pursue a more formal structure that will maximise their involvement in supporting school activity.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The school aims to provide a caring learning environment which facilitates the nurturing of each child’s potential. Pupils are valued by staff and are encouraged to take pride in their school and to respect adults and fellow pupils. Teachers demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the backgrounds and experiences of pupils and have a genuine concern for their welfare and progress.  Under the school’s DEIS plan a number of worthwhile initiatives have been undertaken by staff  to improve competency in literacy and in numeracy. Healthy nutrition is promoted through the school lunch programme and productive study patterns are established effectively through pupils’ participation in the homework club. During the school evaluation pupils were found to be cooperative, courteous and respectful. 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school plan is being developed systematically and a collaborative approach to whole-school planning is gradually being established. Post holders take responsibility for the co-ordination of various curricular plans in consultation with teachers. Parents are consulted in relation to some policies. An increased level of parental involvement in policy development and review is now advised.

 

A good range of policies has been formulated in response to relevant educational and statutory legislation and the evolving needs of the school. Administrative policies are purposefully designed to ensure efficient in-school organisation. Progress has been made in preparing whole-school plans for most curricular areas with some to be finalised. A strategic plan should be developed to address future curriculum priorities and the further development of the review process. Policies are available for viewing in the school.

 

Some teachers provide useful long-term and short-term planning documents. These plans are detailed and provide a constructive overview of curriculum content, a range of teaching strategies and approaches for differing abilities and are closely linked to the strands of the curriculum. Other teachers’ preparation lacks detail. Teachers are advised to develop a whole-school approach to effective classroom planning. Templates, designed to enable the implementation of the school plan and greater consistency in classroom planning, have been adapted by some teachers. A greater focus on pupils’ expected learning outcomes in terms of the development of pupils’ skills and conceptual understanding would further enhance teaching and learning. Clear procedures are in place for the recording of monthly progress. Further appraisal of completed monthly reports with emphasis on clarity of information would assist teachers in monitoring curriculum implementation and inform future planning.

 

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

A whole-school plan has been developed for English. In the further development of this plan and as part of the school’s engagement in the review process, it is timely to consider outlining succinct guidelines for teaching and learning in a range of aspects to include poetry, spelling, phonological awareness, oral language and the use of the novel. Ongoing monitoring of the implementation of a revised English programme is recommended.

 

Teachers, in general, place emphasis on oral language development during reading and writing activities and through integration across curricular areas. In some classes a commercial oral language programme is used prudently to develop pupils’ language competencies. Story, poetry, large format books, textbooks and workbooks are employed conscientiously to engage pupils in talk and discussion. Pupils are also provided with opportunities to engage in reporting and storytelling. It is recommended, however, that a whole-school approach to oral language development with particular attention to the discrete oral language lesson, be devised. The school’s oral language programme should also target the development of specific oral language skills and the enrichment of pupils’ vocabulary. Pupils’ response to and appreciation of poetry is nurtured actively in some classes. Greater emphasis should be placed on learning poetry and to this end a compilation of suitable poems for all class levels would further promote poetry recitation.

 

A sizeable number of pupils, particularly at senior level are experiencing difficulties in literacy.   There has been a concerted effort by staff to improve literacy standards in the school. A wide range of strategies is gainfully used to develop reading skills. Suitable emphasis is placed on reading readiness activities including knowledge of the conventions of print, basic sight vocabulary and word identification strategies. Print-rich environments including attractive word wall displays contribute to the development of pupils’ sight vocabulary. While a phonological and phonemic awareness programme is used consistently in some classes, a whole-school structured approach is required to further improve reading standards throughout the school.

 

A range of reading initiatives has been introduced creatively to further enhance and encourage reading. Such initiatives include Literacy Lift-Off and Reading Recovery. Parents are positively involved in supporting pupils develop their reading skills. Opportunities are also provided for pupils to engage in collaborative reading activities using large format books and novels. Some pupils read with a good degree of fluency and accuracy and there is clear evidence that these pupils are making steady progress in the development of reading competencies. Further attention to comprehension and specific reading skills during the structured reading lesson is advised. All classrooms have well-stocked libraries with a plentiful supply of age-appropriate books. The school has invested considerably in the provision of a wide range of reading material to further promote a reading culture in the school. While these books are graded according to ability, exposure to a wider variety of reading material would further stimulate pupils’ interest in personal reading.

 

Early writing is stimulated through the teacher acting as scribe and model while writing. Pupils engage in a range of functional writing activities and suitable scaffolding frameworks are explored to support the development of pupils’ writing skills at a number of class levels. Pupils are provided with worthwhile opportunities to write in a range of genre and in some classes are systematically taught specific strategies to facilitate their creative writing development. In senior classes, however, there is a need to ensure that written tasks are more appropriately matched to pupils’ abilities. The further integration of information and communication technology (ICT) into the process writing approach merits consideration. In the junior classes keen emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ letter formation. Hand writing skills are developed systematically throughout the school and, in general, the presentation of written work is very good.

 

3.2 Mathematics

A functional plan for Mathematics has been devised. Content for each class level is clearly identified with very useful strategies documented on how parents can help children at home. The plan also incorporates the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the teaching of Mathematics.  In reviewing this plan the teaching of mathematical language should be identified together with an emphasis on developing problem-solving strategies.

 

An examination of standardised test scores identifies a sizeable number of pupils who are experiencing considerable difficulty.  A wide range of intervention strategies has been introduced by staff to address identified difficulties. Pupils are taught in single stream classes and in ability based groups in a concentrated effort to effect improvement. A team of teachers including class, learning support, resource and language support teachers, together with special needs assistants are involved to support this. The principal and teachers have introduced Mathematics Recovery and Mathematics for Fun in a further effort to address pupils’ learning needs. Differentiated instruction with a particular emphasis on number is provided through station teaching in the junior classes and adds considerably to pupils understanding.

 

During the evaluation, skilful use of the interactive white-board was observed and was seen to support pupils’ engagement with the lesson content very effectively. Pupils are provided with regular opportunities to use concrete material and a range of games in developing understanding of concepts. The organisation and systematic use of these materials in a number of classrooms is praiseworthy and the further development of this good practice by all teachers would greatly enhance pupil learning. Good oral activity as a daily routine and the regular linkage of concepts with the environment to consolidate skills are practices effectively employed in a number of classrooms. There is a need however, to involve pupils in greater discussion during classroom activity to further develop problem-solving skills consistently.  In general, pupils’ written work is well presented in copybooks and is regularly monitored and marked positively by teachers.

 

3.3 Geography

The school has drafted a useful school plan in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum.  A clear objective is the development of children’s knowledge and understanding of natural and human environments, both locally, nationally and in the wider world. Content is outlined for each class unit and together with a judicious use of the textbook provides a good level of continuity and variety from class to class.

 

Overall, the quality of teaching observed was good with lesson content well structured to arouse pupils’ curiosity and to develop their skills in Geography. Topics are related productively to pupils’ own experiences and pupils’ knowledge base is successfully built on prior learning. Careful attention is given to the development of language to enable pupils to access and experience the geography programme. Group work and pair work are employed in a number of classes and teachers are advised to explore an increased use of active learning processes in all classes. The interactive white-board is used productively to enhance the learning experience for pupils. Geography is integrated successfully with other curricular areas, in English, in the Visual Arts and in other aspects of the SESE programme.

 

Very good emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ skills in the area of mapping from an early age. Pupils are introduced to simple map construction and their knowledge is then extended to developing an understanding of coordinates and to further utilisation of atlases and globes. Aspects of their own lives, climate, weather, our planet and space, and an awareness of people in other places are taught regularly. Pupils are introduced routinely to the environs of the school, to the locality and beyond to aspects of the wider community. Visits to local industry, to places of interest in the locality, such as the Lifetime Laboratory and the City Gaol, feature regularly in work programmes. Pupils are made aware of the care needs of the elderly through visits to a local nursing home, during which the children perform a routine of music and song.

 

Elements of Physical Geography and Human Geography of Ireland and beyond are explored in the middle and senior classes. Project work is utilised to varying degrees to widen perspectives and this activity could be extended further. Aspects of growth are explored very appropriately at each class level; the senior pupils development of a school vegetable garden and the maintenance of a growth diary are noted achievements in this regard. Pupils’ experiences in Geography are extended effectively through participation in the Green Schools programme, through participation in the Junior Achievement Awards and through the school’s involvement in the Pathways project under the auspices of University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology. In general, work recorded in copybooks is of a good standard.   

 

As a development point it is suggested that an audit of the environs of the school be completed and a programme delineated for each class level to ensure continuity and progression in the geography programme. In plotting the further development of good practice, regular revision and consolidation is advised in reinforcing pupils’ knowledge and skills.

 

3.4 Assessment

A suitable assessment policy has been documented which delineates clear procedures for regular assessment of learning. Further detail and elaboration of the policy would promote a greater level of consistency in the implementation of a whole-school approach to assessment.

 

A variety of assessment modes is utilised throughout the school. This includes teacher observation, teacher designed tests and tasks, checklists, reading logs and monitoring of written work in copy-books and in workbooks. The results of standardised tests are analysed productively and represented graphically to assist staff address poor performance in the areas of literacy and numeracy. The creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement has commendably led to the introduction of a number of focused initiatives in an effort to improve performance at a whole-school level. Screening tests are administered to pupils in senior infants, the results of which are used to inform decisions on selection of pupils for supplementary teaching. A system of maintaining a file on the work of each pupil is in place in some classes. Pupil progress is reported at annual parent-teacher meetings and a progress report is issued annually. While much good work in the area of assessment is in evidence, it is advised that a whole-school approach be adopted.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A whole-school learning support policy appropriately addresses areas of support and demonstrates the commitment of the school to meeting the needs of pupils with special educational needs. Pupils are supported by two full-time learning support resource teachers (LSRT). The school also has the services of a shared resource teacher and a shared resource teacher for Travellers. Tuition is provided for pupils in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

 

Lessons in the Reading Recovery and Maths Recovery programmes are well structured and resources are employed constructively. In the learning support and resource settings some teachers employ a variety of teaching approaches and learning strategies to engage pupils in a range of suitable activities. These varied methodologies should be emulated in all such lessons. Interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving support were affirming and encouraging. However, some support teaching takes place in a setting that is not always suitable for tuition.

 

For most pupils individual educational plans have been devised in consultation with class teachers and parents. Some of these plans are suitable and address pupils’ learning needs appropriately. Other IEPs, however, do not fully take into consideration pupils’ specific educational needs. In this regard learning targets should relate explicitly to the needs of the pupil and should be shared with mainstream class teachers. A systematic approach to detailing and recording pupil progress and the achievement of targets is also necessary. This practice will facilitate reflective preparation of short-term plans that clearly identify specific targets to meet the individual learning needs of pupils. All teachers should retain copies of updated IEPs to maximise opportunities for consolidation of learning.

 

Very good emphasis is placed on early intervention programmes. A model of team and cooperative teaching approaches has been established which enables learning-support teachers to co-teach in mainstream classrooms. This good practice provides opportunities to target the specific needs of pupils in both literacy and numeracy in an integrated setting and in a differentiated manner. While the benefits of these approaches are acknowledged, it is recommended that these initiatives could gainfully be reviewed in order to cater further for the needs of pupils. Targeted periods of instruction based on the identified specific targets to be achieved are recommended, with scope for greater consultation between class teachers and support teachers. Regular meetings of the support team would greatly enhance special educational provision in the school.

 

The special needs assistants (SNA) make an important contribution to pupil learning and achievement in their respective classes under the careful guidance of class teachers. They are regularly consulted in the formation of individual education plans and each SNA undertakes an additional organisational responsibility to support the coordination work. They are very much part of the fabric of the school, they attend all staff meetings and they have separate meetings with the principal on a monthly basis. Consideration should be given to maintaining an observational record of work with pupils which would provide a useful focus for the monthly meetings.

 

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

Nineteen pupils are currently in receipt of language support. The staff makes a worthy effort to create an inclusive environment for all newcomer pupils with a variety of routines established in the school. Long-term and short-term planning procedures are effective. Following assessment, a language profile of each pupil is compiled, proficiency benchmarks are applied and are utilised effectively in devising resourceful learning programmes. Work completed is recorded in the monthly progress report. It is advised that pupil progress records be maintained and the information therein be utilised to inform future teaching and learning.

 

The teacher enjoys a friendly rapport with pupils and in turn they cooperate willingly and are making good progress in fluency, in reading and in writing. A broad range of resource materials is sourced and utilised productively in promoting language acquisition. ICT is used regularly in complementing the learning process, with aspects of the Visual Arts integrated successfully in the delivery of language support. Pupils are withdrawn either individually or in small groups and class teachers are consulted regularly to promote consistency in programme delivery.  The teacher also makes provision for in-class support in literacy and in numeracy as part of the school’s early-intervention programme.

 

Within the context of planning and recording of pupil progress, the school is advised to develop a policy on English as an additional language that will serve as a useful guide for all staff. Teachers could gainfully consider an increased use of pupils’ home language in the context of everyday teaching and learning experiences.  

 

The school enjoys the services of a committed home-school liaison co-ordinator (HSCL), a position that is shared currently with the neighbouring girls’ school. Close links are maintained with fellow HSCL teachers through attendance at local, regional and at national cluster meetings. School staff members are continually informed of developments in this area with regular feedback given at staff meetings. The HSCL programme is effective in seeking to maximise co-operation between parents and the school. Current practice contributes appreciably to this partnership through a development of supportive linkages between the home, the school and selected community groups. The establishment of a homework club and breakfast club is central to the school’s efforts to support pupils in their learning. Activities are organised to encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s education. Parental involvement is exploited through a number of initiatives. Home-visits are conducted routinely to encourage the involvement of parents, to support them and to encourage them to engage in self-improvement courses. A variety of courses, including ICT, Art, cookery and nutrition, is organised to develop parents’ skills. It is hoped parents will eventually pursue these courses to Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) level.

The school is in receipt of additional support from the School Completion Programme (SCP) for three periods each week, under the aegis of the north side “Le Chéile” initiative.  The two staff members involved meet the principal at the beginning of the year to identify groups of children deemed to be at risk and in need of additional support. Staff members are commended on their commitment to supporting these children. A complementary programme of activities has been devised to support pupils, both socially and academically. These include the breakfast and homework clubs, and targeted activities to support children at a personal and social level. Supplementary in-class support is provided to selected children experiencing difficulty in certain curricular areas. Additional social activities are organised at selected periods throughout the year. A summer camp is organised in July with a specific emphasis on children having fun for the three week period. The children are supported very well to make the transition from primary to post-primary school successfully.

 

The school is advised to develop a policy in the area of disadvantage that will inform and guide present and future practice. This policy should have a particular emphasis on the personal, social and emotional development of pupils.  

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by 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, June 2010