An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

Whole School Evaluation

 

REPORT

 

Aglish National School

Aglish, Cappoquin, County Waterford

Uimhir rolla: 01395H

  

Date of inspection: 8 June 2007

Date of issue of report: 6 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 Aglish NS. 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.

 

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Aglish NS is a three-teacher school with two mainstream class teachers and a shared learning support teacher based in the school. It serves the village of Aglish and its rural hinterland in west Waterford. The school is under the patronage of the Roman Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore. Aglish can trace its historical roots back to the Early Christian period when a monastery was established here. Today the school caters for 54 pupils and it is envisaged that this enrolment level will be maintained into the future. There was a drop in enrolment between 2003 and 2005 which resulted in the school going from a three-teacher school to a two-teacher school. However, this trend has been reversed and current enrolment trends mean that the school will revert to three-teacher status from 2007-2008.

 

A major cause of optimism for the school’s future as a three-teacher school is the current house-building programme taking place in the village. In total, 89 houses are to be built and the village’s proximity to Dungarvan, Midleton, Waterford and Cork adds to its attraction as a residential area. A number of the houses have been completed and occupied and pupils from these houses have enrolled for the coming school year.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management fulfils its administrative duties conscientiously and discharges its overall responsibility to support the work of the school in a positive and pro-active manner. As regards administration, the board has sanctioned a comprehensive list of administrative and curricular policies which provide very helpful guidance for the school community. The parents’ representatives on the board of management ensure that parents are aware of the existence of the policies and that these policies are available through the school. In addition, the principal meets parents at the AGM of the parents’ association and alerts parents to new policies sanctioned by the board. With regard to supporting the school infra-structure, the whole school community is fortunate that the current building is a modern structure, built in 1986, and therefore ongoing maintenance is not a major issue for the board. The board, however, is aware of its duty to plan for the future and it has of late begun discussions on how it can meet future needs. These discussions are elaborated upon in section 2.3 Management of Resources of this report.

 

The board is duly constituted, consisting of two representatives of the Patron, two parents’ representatives, the two permanent teachers and two community representatives. The chairman is nominated by the Patron and he convenes four meetings per year. The principal acts as treasurer and he provides the board with regular financial reports. The accounts are certified independently on an annual basis and the certified report is given to the board of management every year at the September meeting.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The principal provides the whole school community with dedicated educational leadership. This leadership is very much in evidence in the way he has ensured that the school has the most advanced educational information technology system available at present. It is also evident in the way he has built up an impressive array of educational resources for use in the school. The principal has a keen interest in computer technology and over three years ago, he encouraged the board and the parents to consider moving the school forward on a new technology basis. He galvanised the parents, the board of management and the developer of the new housing scheme in the village to raise a considerable sum of money. Last year this money was used to install interactive whiteboards in all the classrooms. The fund raising efforts of the school community were further enhanced by a major donation from the local cooperative creamery which had undergone a commercial reorganisation. This donation allowed the school purchase an impressive array of educational equipment for Music and Science as well as restocking the classroom libraries with new books in Irish and English. The principal has encouraged the staff to make very positive use of these resources and during the WSE process it was observed that highly commendable use was made of the interactive whiteboards in both the mainstream classrooms and in the learning support room.

 

The deputy principal cooperates fully with the principal to ensure the success of this school in both implementing the curriculum and implementing policies. The deputy principal has particular curricular responsibilities for Mathematics, Visual Arts and Music and she has administrative duties which include organising the school sports day. In terms of pastoral duties, she prepares the pupils for first communion and supervises the school choir. She also supervises the work of the school’s Green Flag committee and played an important role in the school’s attainment of Green Flag status. The work of this committee is commented upon in more detail in the Social, Personal, Health Education (SPHE) section of this report. 

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

This school is fortunate in that it has three very dedicated and enthusiastic members of staff who are anxious to provide pupils with an educational service of the highest quality by utilising the most modern resources available. The secretary provides valuable administrative support to the principal and staff. As has been mentioned, the school building is a modern structure and is maintained in commendable condition by the board, a part-time cleaner and a part-time caretaker. The board undertakes a yearly review of the building and the school grounds and thus ensures that a continuous programme of improvement is in place. Gutters and downpipes were either repaired or replaced in 2003, extensive painting work was undertaken in 2006 and there are plans to replace floor tiles as well as tarmacadam a new plot outside the school in the coming school year. The school has received sanction for a temporary special education needs/learning support room for the coming school year as the current learning support room will revert to classroom use. As has already been mentioned, the school has built up a very impressive array of resources in recent years. The parents have played an important fund-raising role in the provision of these resources and the school has documented all its resources enabling teachers plan for their use. As a result of observations made during the WSE, the parents and the board can be assured that the teachers are making full and successful use of the resources that have been provided.

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

At the pre-WSE meeting with officers of the parents’ association, the representatives expressed satisfaction with the school’s communication processes. The parents were aware of school policies and were positive in their comments regarding the school. The parents felt at ease calling to the school, the parents’ representatives on the board of management kept them informed on relevant board matters and the principal attended the annual general meeting of the parents’ association.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The pupils in this school are courteous, friendly and cooperative. The pupils and teachers interact in a respectful and friendly manner and there is a strong ethos of mutual care evident in the classrooms. The pupils cooperate with the teachers and participate full in lessons. The teachers’ success in ensuring pupil interest and participation in lessons is due to the stimulating methodologies employed by the staff and the highly commendable use made of resources, including, in particular, the computerised interactive whiteboards.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The in-school management team meets at least once a term and sets out priority areas in planning.  The staff and the board of management draw up administrative plans in consultation with the parents’ association. Curricular plans are drawn up by the staff. The staff and the board of the school are to be complimented on the extensive list of administrative and curricular policies devised. The teachers make excellent use of computer technology to prepare and present the plans.

 

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

Teachers plan diligently for lessons and fulfil their obligations under Rule 126 by preparing long-term and short-term schemes of work. The teachers’ schemes are linked conscientiously to both the school plan and the curriculum.  Teachers maintain lists of resources that are available in the school and these lists are especially helpful when preparing lessons by ensuring that teachers know exactly what resources are available for particular topics. In addition, the teachers are working with laudable dedication on placing as many resources as possible on to computer hard disc and thus having material available instantly for the whole class, when required, on the interactive whiteboard.

 

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

The parents and the board can be assured that the quality of teaching in this school is of a very high standard. The pupils are challenged in a way that ensures high levels of motivation, participation and interest in the work. Motivation and interest are maintained by means of stimulating methodologies that emphasise the key curricular principles of active learning, environment-based learning, differentiation and integration of knowledge. In addition, pupils’ attention is maintained through the very effective use made of resources.

 

When pupils were questioned in class during the WSE process, they demonstrated their knowledge and understanding with confident replies. Their written work as well as finished products in many areas of the curriculum demonstrated a breadth of achievement in learning.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Múintear an Ghaeilge go díograiseach sa scoil seo. raon an-leathan de rainn/amhráin ar eolas ag na naionáin agus bunranganna. Sna ranganna seo leagtar béim inmholta ar mhúinteoireacht dhíreach bunaithe ar spreagthaigh shúl atá ullmhaithe ag an oide ar an gclár bán idirghníomhach. Spreagtar na daltaí chomh maith chun leabhair Ghaeilge a chur le chéile le habairtí simplí agus le linn na cuairte don Mheasúnú Scoile Uile léirigh na daltaí sna ranganna sin cumas éifeachtach i labhairt na Gaeilge. Cuirtear leis an dea-bhunchloch seo sna meánranganna/hardranganna agus arís le linn na cuairte tugadh faoi deara go raibh na daltaí ag cleachtadh na léitheoireachta le hábhar a bhí ullmhaithe ag an oide ar an gclár bán idirghníomhachNasctar comhrá leis an ngníomhaíocht seo mar spreagtar na daltaí chun ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt. Bunaíonn an t-oide na giotaí léitheoireachta ar ábhair eile den churaclam, go háirithe Oideachas Imshaoil, Sóisialta agus Eolaíochta. Is nós inmholta é seo chun an teanga a leathnú amach ó cheachtanna Gaeilge, per se. Ó thaobh na léitheoireachta de, leabharlann inmholta Gaeilge curtha le chéile le déanaí sa scoil agus an múinteoir tacaíochta foghlama tar éis cúram breise a ghlacadh uirthi féin chun roinnt de na leabhair seo a scannadh isteach sa ríomhaire. Sa todhchaí beidh na hoidí in ann na leabhair seo a úsáid leis na ranganna ar an gclár bán idirghníomhachCleachtaíonn na daltaí scríbhneoireacht leanúnach as Gaeilge go rialta.

 

 

 

Irish

(Irish is taught with dedication in this school. The pupils have learned a wide range of rhymes/songs in the infants and junior classes. In these classes a praiseworthy emphasis is placed on direct teaching based on visual stimuli prepared by the teacher for the interactive whiteboard. The pupils are also encouraged to produce their own Irish books using simple phrases and during the WSE visit, the pupils in these classes demonstrated effective ability in speaking Irish. This solid foundation is built upon in the middle and senior classes and during the WSE it was observed that pupils were practising their reading skills in Irish with material prepared by the teacher on the interactive whiteboard. The teaching of Irish conversation is linked to this work as pupils were encouraged to devise and answer questions on the material. The reading material is based on other aspects of the curriculum, especially Social, Environmental and Scientific Education. This is a praiseworthy method of expanding the use of the language outside the language lessons, per se. As regards reading, the school has recently put a library of Irish books together and the learning support teacher has worked to scan some of the books onto computer. In future, teachers will be able to provide access to the books on a whole class basis by means of the interactive whiteboard. The pupils in middle and senior classes practise narrative writing in Irish on a regular basis.

 

 

English

 

In the infants and junior classes, pupils are given the resources and the opportunities to develop oral language skills. Oral language development is integrated wisely with free play and pupils are given the opportunity to interact with each other purposefully using impressive construction toys. Listening and concentration skills are also developed through judicious use of listening stations and computers. The potential of the interactive whiteboard is exploited fully in the infant/junior room to teach dedicated oral language lessons. The teacher has put a number of traditional stories on computer and these stories can be retold using the whiteboard. The pupils follow the stories with rapt attention thus allowing pupils develop strong oral narrative skills when predicting outcomes for the stories. The classroom is very well stocked and pupils are encouraged to engage in regular writing activities. It was noted that all pupils in infants/junior classes contributed to a class book. This foundation is expanded upon in the middle and senior classes where pupils read between 3 to 4 class novels in the year. In addition, all pupils are engaged in personal reading. Pupils in these classes learn poetry regularly and recite gladly. Personal writing is encouraged and pupils have been given many opportunities throughout the year to practise writing skills in narrative form. Most pupils in these classes demonstrate neat penmanship skills.

 

  

4.3 Mathematics

 

The teaching of Mathematics in a multi-class context requires very sound organisational skill on the part of the teachers. This skill was in evidence throughout Mathematics lessons during the WSE. In the infants and junior classes, the pupils have acquired the ability to work independently while the teacher concentrates on teaching a group of pupils. In this context the interactive whiteboard is used wisely to illustrate points in a lesson and thereby aid speedy understanding of a concept. The teacher is thus enabled to interact with all groups in the room in the course of a Mathematics session. When examined, the pupils displayed sound understanding of concepts of place-value and displayed good skills in addition and subtraction. In the middle and senior classes more advanced concepts are taught very effectively by means of the interactive whiteboard. The pupils themselves showed proficiency in manipulating the whiteboard to demonstrate their understanding of concepts. The pupils have sound knowledge and understanding of concepts taught.  

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

The teachers in Aglish NS have undertaken laudable initiatives to develop a whole-school approach to Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). One of the key curricular principles underlying the approach is that of integrating SESE with other areas of the curriculum. Two significant initiatives were observed during the WSE process, the first being the documentation regarding the school’s Green Flag policy. The policy is presented in laminated booklet form and is augmented by an action plan which lists, with photographic evidence, the up-to-date achievements of the plan. The essential elements of the policy and the action plan centre on composting and recycling. The school has a dedicated composting station on the school grounds and a recycling scheme for waste paper has been established whereby waste paper is shredded and given to pupils with pets and to local greyhound owners for bedding. The value of this work in SESE is extended through purposeful integration with Mathematics. Pupils have worked on graphs to show levels of compost in bins over a 4 month period and correlated this information with the number of bin collections from the school for landfill over similar periods. The pupils were able to deduce from this research that by increasing composting activity they were able to reduce bin collections for landfill. The pupils have also researched and made graphs for their work on paper recycling, on electricity use in the school and heating oil use in the school. The graphs for all this research activity are presented in laminated booklet form and are maintained as permanent resources. Over time these booklets will build into a valuable integrated teaching resource for SESE and Mathematics.

 

In a second whole-school project which integrated work on SESE with English, Art and Information Communication Technologies (ICT) commonplace recyclable materials from home were converted into artefacts as part of  the Construction strand in the Visual Arts curriculum. The root concept of the project was recycling materials and once the pupils were made aware of other possible uses for the materials in Visual Arts, the pupils then wrote about their efforts using the computer to present their findings.

 

The whole-school activities in SESE are augmented by in-class work which places a strong emphasis on practical activities based on the pupils’ local environment. Examples observed during the WSE included a three-dimensional model of Aglish village created by pupils in the junior classes as a resource for geography lessons. The pupils displayed great interest and confidence when discussing the different types of buildings in the village. In the senior classes, the results of local history projects are displayed prominently in the classroom and again the pupils when questioned about their work replied with confidence. In Science, the senior classes have been involved in a national primary science project and have been engaged in commendable technology projects using Lego and Knex. As a result of the school’s engagement with Science, Aglish NS has been granted The 2007 Primary Science Award of Science Excellence by Forfás. The school has also very wisely tapped into the knowledge of parents, both local and those who come from abroad, to put together a booklet on local and international traditions which acts as a school resource for the teaching of History and Geography. Pupils have used this material to prepare scripts for television programmes and as a result of this work the school has received a nomination in a national media award.

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

 

The Visual Arts displays in the school are very attractive and the use of colour in the background of some of the work has led to praiseworthy results. A few pupils display particular talents in this area of the curriculum and they should continue to receive encouragement. As has been reported above, integration of the Visual Arts with other subjects is a noteworthy feature of the implementation of the curriculum in this school.

 

Music

 

Music teaching in the junior classes is very much a participative activity. Pupils have been trained skilfully to accompany songs with percussion instruments. Singing plays an important role in the teaching of music in the senior classes also. In general, a wide range of songs in both Irish and English has been taught throughout the school. Pupils have learned the songs well and they sing with confidence.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The school is fortunate in having a general purpose room and ample outside space for Physical Education (PE) lessons. Teachers make good use of these facilities and the school also has a very useful stock of equipment. Skills for a variety of games are practised regularly in PE lessons and the school is involved in a praiseworthy range of sports – Gaelic football, hurling, soccer, indoor soccer, camogie, athletics and basketball. There are plans to introduce golf into the school and both boys and girls have equal access to involvement in games.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The school has a policy of changing class seating arrangements on a regular basis in order to help pupils develop their social skills in as a wide a context as possible within the limits of a small school population. The Green Flag committee provides pupils with an opportunity to interact with pupils of different ages on a task focused basis. Personnel from the Coastguard service, Fire brigade service and the Gardaí have come to the school to talk to the pupils about safety matters. The school has a happy atmosphere and provides the pupils with an environment that is secure both emotionally and physically. It is recommended, however, that the board of management install a bell/intercom system for visitors to the school.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

The Drumcondra Reading Tests and the Drumcondra Mathematics are administered in the school with help from the Learning Support teacher. These tests are used mainly to identify pupils with specific learning needs. Teachers also employ observation and classroom based testing to assess progress. The small nature of the school allows the teachers to know each pupil individually and therefore meet learning needs in an individual way. The Learning Support Teacher (LST) has used these results wisely to identify the particular needs of two groups of pupils and to ensure that these needs are met in a very supportive and effective manner. It is recognised that the learning support structure of the school will change in 2007-2008 and it is recommended that the school analyse and discuss the Drumcondra test results on a yearly basis going forward in order to ensure all needs continue to be met fully.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The learning support service/special educational needs service is based in the school and shared with a neighbouring school. The school was fortunate in that the introduction of the general allocation model of provision over two years ago coincided with the fall in enrolments in the school. It meant that the school was in a position to retain its third teacher as the learning support teacher. The LST works with individual pupils and with class groups for English and Mathematics. This latter aspect of the role has been important on two counts; firstly, enrolments have grown again and therefore there are high numbers of pupils shared between the two teachers and secondly, by working with class groupings the LST has acted wisely within the ambit of her preventative role by ensuring that no class grouping fell unduly behind in its work. She has also ensured that individual pupils are given help within the context of their class setting, as is recommended in the Department’s learning support guidelines. This situation will change in the coming school year as this school will revert to three-teacher status and the LST will return to the classroom. The school is now formulating plans including the provision of extra accommodation for this coming change.

 

The learning support teacher shares the technology ethos of the school and makes very positive use of the computer and the interative whiteboard in her work with individuals and with class groups. In addition, pupils derive much benefit from use of practical equipment in Mathematics teaching as well the emphasis on novels and library books in English teaching. Individual plans are made out for each pupil and regular plans of work are maintained, accompanied by useful resource lists. All documentation and records, including psychological reports and assessment records, in this department of the school are maintained with the utmost of care and attention. Planning for all aspects of the work is done conscientiously and the caseload of pupils for specific help is defined by Department of Education and Science guidelines (i.e. pupils on or below the 10th percentile receive individual learning support help in English and Mathematics.)

 

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

 

There is a part-time language support teacher in the school who works 2 days per week for 4 hours with 4 international pupils. This service ensures that classroom work is supported by giving those pupils help in the general language and specific vocabulary of certain subjects. This help is given in English, Mathematics, SESE and Gaeilge. By concentrating on supporting the work of the classroom, pupils are given the tools to achieve success.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

·         The board of management is keen to maintain the school and its environs to the highest standards.

·         The board is proactive in preparing for future developments in the school as the village of Aglish grows.

·         The support given to the school by the parents’ association.

·         The development of the school as a centre of excellence in its use of technology for teaching the curriculum.

·         The commitment and dedication of the teachers.

 

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

 

·         It is recommended that the school analyse and discuss the Drumcondra test results on a yearly basis.

·         It is recommended that the board of management install a bell/intercom system for visitors to the school.

 

 

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.