An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

Scoil Náisiúnta Thullacha

Both Fhionnáin, Neidín, Contae Chiarraí

Roll number: 01396J

  

Date of inspection 29 March 2006

Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006

 

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

1. Introduction

2. Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

3. Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.Quality of learning and teaching

4.1 Language

4.2 Mathematics

    4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

4.4 Arts Education

4.5 Physical Education

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

4.7 Assessment and Achievement

5. Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Thullacha. 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. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. 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. 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.

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Scoil Thullacha is a small co-educational school situated in the Sheen Valley on the Glengarriff road five miles from Kenmare.  It serves a rural hinterland.  The school has a tranquil location.  It has an attractive appearance and is very well maintained.  Colourful murals depicting nursery rhyme characters and local scenic features decorate the school’s façade.  The school was built in 1997 to replace the previous school erected in 1837.  A local family generously donated over 0.75 of an acre for the site of the new school building and a plaque to their memory is displayed at the entrance to the school.   This gift allowed the provision of a large playing area and an all-weather surface for the pupils of the school.  The current enrolment is 40.  There are two teachers on the staff.  A learning support teacher provides tuition to a number of pupils on a part-time basis. The school has two mainstream classrooms and a staff room.  The recreational facilities comprise grass play areas and a hard surface area.

 

 

 

Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

Scoil Thullacha is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Kerry.   The board is properly constituted.  The members meet once a term and as the need arises.   The board members praise the work ethic of the staff and the dedicated manner in which the teachers discharge their duties from day to day.   The board regards the quality of the educational provision given to the pupils to be satisfactory.  It acts with probity and thoroughness in carrying out its governing role. The board is compliant with the Rules for National Schools and directives from the Department of Education and Science.  It consistently strives to ensure a safe, comfortable and pleasant work environment.  Parents’ representatives on the board maintain a close link with the parent community, thereby ensuring that information concerning parent interests is shared. 

 

The board is to be complimented for the unfailing attention given to the maintenance and improvement of the building and the grounds.  An application has been made to the Department of Education and Science for the provision of extra space in the school.  Currently the staff room accommodates the learning support teacher and also serves as an office and for a number of other purposes including computers.  It is apparent that the school has need of additional space and an extension to the building is warranted.  A general purpose room would be of benefit for the school so that it may realise more fully all the aspirations of the curriculum.  The school also requires a learning support and resource teaching room so that it may provide appropriately for pupils with special needs. 

 

The school’s mission statement asserts that the board of management and the teaching staff of Scoil Thullacha “are dedicated to providing a broad primary education with a distinct Irish Catholic ethos while at the same time respecting religious and cultural diversity.”   The caring, co-operative and lively spirit among staff and pupils manifest in the school is testimony to the proficiency of the pupils and to the professional skill of the teachers.  

 

The board of management discharges its duty in regard to the drawing up of the School Plan and its various school policies.  It sees to it that these documents are ratified and signed and have a review date.  The school’s programme facilitates the acquisition of knowledge, promotes enjoyment in learning, and provides skills to equip pupils for work and leisure as active, confident, and responsible members of society.  The chairperson and the board members deserve commendation for the practical way in which they conduct the affairs of management.  

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team includes the principal and the deputy principal. They share equally curricular, organisational and pastoral duties.  They ensure that the school functions efficiently and that the pupils receive a quality education.   The principal combines her teaching and administrative roles very capably.   She strives to keep policies up to date and relevant.   Official documents including the roll books and the registers are accurately maintained. She arranges for regular and on-going liaison between the learning support teacher and the teachers.  Under her stewardship the staff comes together each day for a period to discuss matters pertinent to school affairs.  The individual progress of the pupils is carefully discussed and any action considered appropriate is taken. This is commendable practice.

 

The deputy principal discharges her assigned duties professionally and competently.  She is most supportive of the principal.  She shows an attentive and sensitive attitude towards all the pupils.    She has collected a comprehensive supply of teaching and learning resources which is stored centrally.  A lively spirit of co-operation is evident among all the staff.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The principal teaches the pupils in the middle and senior standards and the deputy principal teaches the pupils in infant and junior classes.  The learning support teacher spends seven hours each week in the school working with nine pupils from various classes.  The building has two permanent classrooms, toilet facilities and a staff room that is used for varied purposes.  Limited areas of indoor and outdoor storage are available.  Despite the small size of the entrance hall, an attractive display of pupils’ artwork and photographs is on exhibit.

 

The classrooms are very well organised.  Every available space is imaginatively used to display pupils’ projects both literary and artistic as well as exhibiting materials of didactic and instructional enrichment.  A homely atmosphere prevails within the school.  The pupils have excellent out of doors hard and grass play areas.   Pupils are encouraged to save regularly.   A representative from the local credit union visits each week to assist the savings scheme.   Kerry County Library visits the school on alternate Wednesdays.   A book fair is held every second year in the month of May.  The board of management engages personnel with specific expertise in certain areas such as Music and Physical Education. 

 

The school has a policy on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as a learning tool.   It is used to enhance teaching and learning across all curriculum subject areas.   An external tutor visits the school over a period of ten weeks during the year to give tuition to pupils from junior infants to sixth class.  The aims of the programme are to ensure that the pupils’ capabilities in ICT are extended from class to class and in particular to aid special needs pupils.  The aim of the programme is to make pupils familiar with basic aspects of disc and printer management and with efficient use of the keyboard and the mouse.  At the end of the course the pupils give a presentation using PowerPoint.  The teachers always accompany the pupils at the lesson sessions.

 

The classrooms have extensive stocks of equipment.  These include library facilities, dictionaries, language packs, mathematics and science materials, musical instruments, computers, scanner, CD players, physical education equipment, digital camera, television, laminator, art materials, photocopier, maps, globe, a mobile stage and backdrop, charts, flip-charts and display boards.  These resources in the main have been purchased through grants as furnished by the Department of Education and Science.   The pupils benefit greatly from these practical resources.

 

The secretary provides assistance to the school on a part-time basis and also looks after the cleaning of the school.  She provides an effective service and this is acknowledged and praised.   Each summer, contract cleaners clean the building inside and outside.   A local tradesman is employed to maintain the grounds regularly and to do minor repairs as the need arises.  All of this work is appreciated by the board of management and staff and gives important benefit to the school.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has strong, supportive links with the homes and the community.  Parents have been consulted on the formulation of the substance abuse policy, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy and healthy eating policy through meetings and workshops.  The parents support the school’s policy on homework.  Explicit directions are given to the parents through guidelines for time spent on homework and for the management of the pupil’s study time at home.  The parents and members of the community are encouraged to share their talents and experiences with the pupils in school.  Major school events during the year are recorded on camera and DVD by one of the parents.  The pupils are spirited, outgoing and very well behaved.  The parents are involved in organisational activities, such as Scór na bPáisí, the book fair, field games and other sporting events.  As well as that, the parents are involved in Green School events, school tours, the credit union, fund-raising bazaar, the Christmas show and preparation for the sacraments.  A newsletter composed by the pupils is circulated to parents twice a term keeping them informed of all school events and activities.   In order to strengthen the bond between home and school the teachers have initiated a number of literary events that include poetry and letter writing.  The parents share in these activities along with their pupils.  This activity has been received with great enthusiasm by the parents.  The parents are praised for their dedication and work.

 

An annual report is formulated on each pupil and is available to the parents in June.  The school has an open door policy where parents feel welcome to discuss pupils’ progress at a mutually convenient time.   Feed back is encouraged and valued.   Contact with the home is also kept through a home school diary, and by means of letters and notes.  

 

The parents are made aware informally of the content of school policies.  It is recommended that a more formal system be put in place so that all parents may be acquainted with the policies and circulars of the school.  The school intends to form a parents’ association in the school year 2006/2007.  The principal, staff and the board of management recognise the positive contribution made by parents to the overall work of the school.  

 

 

3. Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A substantial and suitable School Plan has been prepared and is well presented.  It is a comprehensive document researched, defined and produced in collaboration with the board of management, the principal, deputy principal and the parents.  The plan includes an extensive range of organisational and curriculum policies.  It outlines the school’s ethos and mission statement that combines Catholic and Christian values.  The organisational statements include procedures for the general operation of the school, communications and practices.   The policies include the school’s code of discipline, enrolment, anti-bullying, special education, substance abuse, pupil protection, administration of medicines, RSE, home school links, complaints procedure, assessment, deployment of non-teaching personnel, ICT, homework, health and safety statement, and participation of parents in policy making.   Review and amendment of these policies will take place in September 2007.   A series of documents provides the policies for the main areas of the curriculum.  These have been endorsed by the board of management and have built-in review dates.   Among the areas covered are Irish, English, Mathematics, Social, Personal and Health Education, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education, and the Visual Arts.  A draft plan has been drawn up for Music and Physical Education.   English and the policy for learning support are currently undergoing further development.   Priorities for future development planning include Music, Physical Education, Geography, and ICT.

 

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 Pupils First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Pupils (Department of Health and Pupils, September 1999) and Pupil Protection; Guidelines and Procedures (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 Department guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

The teachers make comprehensive long-term and short-term preparation for all subject areas.  The staff is implementing the School Plan and the policies with excellent results.   The planning has a worthwhile effect on the teaching and learning that takes place in the classrooms.  It enables the teachers to draw up their timetables so that all areas of the curriculum can be provided for.  The teachers select, organise and present the elements of each subject area so that pupils engage fruitfully with the curriculum.  The teachers present their lesson content in a skilful and expert way.  The principle of subject integration is demonstrated by the close attention given to co-ordinating threads of content suitability when planning lessons.  The School Plan provides opportunities to engage with the principles of integration, differentiation, co-operation, and collaboration.

 

 

Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge 

Léirítear cion, grá daingean agus dea-thoil i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil seo.   an-bhéim ar fad ar ábhar na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile.   Is í gnáththeanga cumarsáide na múinteoirí agus na bpáistí i rith an lae agus bhrí sin cleachtann na páistí Gaeilge gan stró.   Toisc an grá agus an tuiscint a léirítear don teanga sa scoil haon ionadh go bhfuil tacaíocht na dtuismitheoirí le feiscint go soiléir sa tslí ina nglacann na daltaí leis an nGaeilge gan strus.   Is léir go bhfuil an-mhachnamh déanta ag an bhfoireann teagaisc ar straitéisí chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sna ranganna uile na daltaí gníomhach, fuinniúil sna ceachtanna Gaeilge agus tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil bunús cuimsitheach á leagan síos san ábhar.  

 

Leantar clár céimnithe sna gnéithe difriúla den chúrsa béil mar shampla leathnú foclóra, líofacht agus cruinneas cainte, urlabhraíocht, géar-éisteacht agus araileLeagtar an-bhéim ar an gcumarsáid sa chur chuige sna ranganna uile.   grá daingean á phréamhú agus á choinneáil go domhain i meon agus i gcuimhne na ndaltaí na fallaí maisithe go gleoite le cairteacha spreagúla, úsáideachaSaibhrítear tionchar na foghlama trí shóláthar cabhrach agus ábhair phriontáilte a chur ar fáil i dtimpeallacht na scoile.   Meallann na hábhair fhoghlama seo na daltaí chun aire, chun fiosrachta agus chun suimeSna naíonáin agus sna bunranganna úsáidtear go han-chumasach modh na drámaíochta maraon le pictiúir, cártaí, bréagáin, puipéid, gníomhaíocht, nathanna cainte agus fearais éagsúla chun na ceachtanna a dhaingniú.   Toisc go bhfuil an teanga fite fuaite go nádúrtha le gnáth cúrsaí an lae, baineann na daltaí an-taithneamh as bheith ag dul i dtaithí ar úsáid na Gaeilge in atmaisféar, gealgháireach, áthasach an-chnuasach de rainn Ghaeilge le geaitsíocht de ghlanmheabhair ag na leanaí.   Aithrisítear dánta go gliondarach agus cleachtar cluichí teanga chun na ceachtanna a chur i gcrích.  

 

Tugtar an-aire don réamhléitheoireacht agus don réamhscríbhneoireacht.   Cumann na páistí sna naíranganna leabhair shimplí a bhaineann leo féinTaitníonn an obair seo go mór leoSna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna múintear an teanga ar bhealach comhtháite.   Bíonn na daltaí gníomhach sna ceachtanna Gaeilge agus is léir go bhfuil na ceithre shnáithe á bhforbairt go féiltiúilLeagtar béim speisialta ar fhorbairt na léitheoireachta. Soláthraítear leabhair bhreise i nGaeilge sna leabharlanna ranga.   Téann an fhoinse shuimiúil seo go mór chun suilt agus chun maitheasa na ndaltaí.   Moltar na múinteoirí as ucht na modhanna suimiúla a gcleachtar d’fhonn grá na leanaí a mhúscailt san ábhar.

 

Mar fhorbairt ar na gnéithe uile den bhfoghlaim sna méanranganna agus sna hardranganna leagtar an-bhéim ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach agus tugtar an-aire go deo don pheannaireacht.   Coimeádtear na cóipleabhair go han-néata.   na múinteoirí an–bhríomhar agus an-spreagúil i mbun oibre.   ardchaighdeán le sonrú maidir le héifeacht an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge agus éifeacht na foghlama tríd an scoil.

 

 

Irish

 

In this school there is a regard, an affection and a positive approach towards Irish.  There is a clear emphasis on the subject throughout the school.  Irish is commonly the language of communication among the teachers and the pupils during the day and as a result the pupils practise the language without difficulty. Because of the love and understanding accorded the language in the school it is not surprising that the support of parents is evidenced clearly by the manner in which the pupils accept Irish without qualm. It is apparent that the staff has given careful thought to strategies to promote Irish in all the classes. The pupils are active and energetic in their lessons in Irish and it is to be seen that a comprehensive foundation is being laid for the subject.

 

A graded programme is followed in the different aspects of the oral course as for example in the development of vocabulary, fluency and accuracy of language, diction, listening and suchlike. Communication is stressed in the teaching approach in all the classes. A firm love for the language is rooted and maintained in the attitude and memory of the pupils. The classroom walls are attractively decorated with charts that are stimulating and useful. The influence of the learning is enhanced by the helpful supply of aids and print material in the environment of the school. The learning materials direct the pupils towards attentiveness, curiosity and interest. In the infant and junior classes, very capable use is made of the dramatisation approach as well as pictures, cards, puppets, activity, phrases and varied equipment to consolidate the lessons. As the language is naturally linked into routine aspects of each day, the pupils derive much pleasure from their use and experience of Irish in a happy and cheerful atmosphere. The pupils have a fine collection of Irish verses with actions memorised. Poems are recited with gladness and language games are employed to implement lessons,

 

Pre-reading and pre-writing activities are carefully done. The infant pupils compose simple books that reflect themselves and this work is very pleasing to them. In the middle and senior classes, the language is taught in an integrated manner. The pupils are active in their lessons and it is apparent that the four strands are being developed regularly. A particular emphasis is given to the development of reading. Additional Irish readers are provided in the classroom libraries. The pupils derive pleasure and benefit from this interesting material. The teachers merit praise for the stimulating methods they employ to develop a love for the subject among the pupils.

 

As a further development of all the aspects of learning in the middle and senior classes, a particular emphasis is given to creative writing while the penmanship is very carefully nurtured.

The copies are maintained very neatly. The teachers are very energetic and stimulating in their work. There is a high standard to be found as regards the effectiveness of the teaching and learning of Irish throughout the school.

 

 

 

English

In English the strands and strand units have been defined in accordance with the language provisions as laid out in the School Plan.  The staff has specified how the curriculum content, methodologies and resources are employed to meet the learning needs of all the pupils.  The staff has enthusiastically welcomed the new approaches in language teaching and learning.  Throughout the classes the pupils are highly motivated and they enjoy the language activities in oracy, in reading and in writing.   

 

The teachers attach significant importance to developing the pupils’ oral skills. The pupils are encouraged to speak fluently, confidently and effectively.  The pupils receiving learning support teaching are particularly well catered for in the language classes.  At the infant and junior levels the pupils take part in simple dramatic presentations with emphasis on listening, proper diction and vocabulary building.   They recite poems and action rhymes and clap to the rhythm.  They follow oral instructions.  They listen to and tell stories about themselves and others in real and imaginary situations.  The pupils in the junior classes talk about the lives of Anne Frank, Marie Curie and Helen Keller in their oral book reviewing exercises.   The pupils enjoy their phonic lessons.  Language skills are further strengthened in the middle and senior classes.   The pupils listen to and talk with local story-tellers.  The pupils enjoy investigating and discussing the meanings and origins of words and expressions.   At the senior class level the pupils prove themselves able in discussion and in debate. They recite poems of worth and beauty and they enjoy writing, composing and reading their own poetry.

 

The English reading programme is well structured in all classes.  Commendable strategies are used to ensure that reading skills are taught in an interesting and active way.  Pupils enjoy and benefit from the emphasis placed on information retrieval as well as dictionary skills. The classroom libraries include a fine store of class novels, poetry anthologies, biographies, dictionaries and fact books appropriate to the different age groups.  The environmental print displayed throughout the school is artistic and instructive. A range of readers from the class library supplements a formal reading scheme and this is commended.   Class novels are included in the middle and senior classes. Reading standards are impressive and the pupils read proficiently and confidently. 

 

The pupils in the middle and senior classes are involved in producing a school newsletter that is sent home from time to time.  The pupils are commended for their work in this regard.  Their written work is based to an extent on the outcome of discussions. 

 

Pupils’ writing skills are developed competently with impressive results.  All pupils’s copy work is corrected and neat.   Emphasis is placed on developing the pupils’s ability to write in a range of genres for a variety of purposes. This work merits favourable comment.  The parents are invited to compose poetry and write stories as part of the school’s parental involvement.   It is not unusual to see poems and essays written by the parents alongside their pupils’s work in the poet’s corner.  The pupils use computers skilfully to support the development of the process approach to writing.  Pupils’ penmanship skills are noteworthy.  Overall achievements in English are commended.

 

4.2 Mathematics

The Mathematics plan is extensive and it includes objectives to be achieved at the different class levels.  Throughout the School Plan emphasis is placed on the language of Mathematics and on the development of estimation skills and problem solving strategies.  A plentiful supply of mathematical resources is available.  The attractive and pupil friendly concrete and illustrative materials help the pupils in a very practical way in their acquisition and understanding of concepts.  These materials assist the pupils too in their computation exercises.

 

Mathematics is taught on a class and group basis as required by individual pupil’s needs.  All the strands and their content are laid out clearly.  In the infant and junior classes the pupils show a good command of mathematical language in their lesson on shape.  The principle of differentiation in the mathematics curriculum is implemented effectively and pupils with learning difficulties are given extra support.  Regular revision is provided.  Discussion is tabled as an important part of the pupils’ exercises.  The pupils use their immediate environment within the school in a very practical way to help them in their understanding of mathematical concepts.   This is very laudable.  When the pupils in the middle and senior standards are set tasks, the teacher spends time with the various groups and plenty of discussion takes place to assist the pupils in their work.  While engaged in mathematical activities, the pupils exhibit concentration and enthusiasm in their approach to the work.  Pupils’ copy work is of a high standard and is commended for its neatness and order. 

 

Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

 

Science

The pupils find their activities in the science programme fascinating and challenging.  The range of learning experiences provided in this aspect of the curriculum and the stimulating manner in which they are organised are praiseworthy.  The topics selected are relevant to the pupils’ experience and are planned to ensure their participation in general discussions.  In talking about their work, the pupils show themselves to be very conversant with and enthusiastic about environmental topics.  They show curiosity and determination in pursuing their explorations.  It is interesting to see how they tend towards group activities in their enquiry.  They discuss their findings enthusiastically with one another.  The pupils are encouraged to experience a sense of the aesthetic in the beauty and order of nature.  The school is participating in a science project in partnership with St. Patrick’s College in Dublin.  The pupils have access to a variety of reference books and they derive great benefit from their activities.

 

A “green school” committee is in place.   The school was first awarded green flag status in 2003.   It had its status renewed in 2005.  The members of the green school committee are the pupils of sixth class and they work in co-operation with all the pupils and the staff.  They hold regular meetings regarding their action plan and their work related to litter management, composting and energy conservation at school and at home.  A sense of responsibility is inculcated in them through the various conservation activities and they experience a sense of pride in their achievements.  Individual pupils have a particular interest in nature study and they speak knowledgeably about animal and bird life.  Opportunities are given to them to speak to their classes on the care and survival of sick animals.   The pupils get opportunities to expand their horizons and to look beyond their own locality through engagement with green schools, National Spring Clean Week and World Tree Week.   Pupils’s work is put on display in an attractive manner and parents are encouraged to view the displays at their convenience.  The school deserves credit for its practical work in raising awareness about the fragility of our shared environment.

 

History

History is taught with enthusiasm and a sense of novelty through the classes.   In the multi-class groups in the school every effort is made to present the pupils with themes and topics appropriate to their interest and ability level.   A modified programme is implemented at the infant and junior class levels.   In these classes the teacher sends home a questionnaire to each pupil’s house.   In class, the pupils write down the information that they collect from their grandparents as part of their history programme.   The older pupils explore topics of historical and local interest.  Pupils are encouraged to source and gather information on local history by way of old photographs, local lore and accounts gathered from interviews with the older generation.   The pupils are given enriching opportunities to discover and learn about their unique birthplace.  They are encouraged to engage in and speak about various themes and activities.  The pupils have researched the history of their own school and they visit local historic sites as part of their investigations.  Other topics include tales from mythology and the ancient Gaelic hero stories.  Links are made with the wider world history through the use of class textbooks, library books, history books, novels and other sources. The work is integrated with the Visual Arts, Geography and English.  The school could undertake the compilation and the publication of a local history booklet with photographs, sketches and captions as a home-school partnership activity.

 

Geography

Geography studies are firmly based on the rich local environment.  Admirable and thoughtful work is directed towards making the pupils, at all levels, deeply aware of their own unique locality. The History and Geography programmes taught are closely linked.  The pupils are made aware of certain physical features in the vicinity that have over time been given mythic and legendary associations.  As the pupils progress through the classes they are introduced to the Geography of other lands.  Links are made with the wider world through the use of maps, atlases, globes and textbooks.  Currently the pupils are engaged in a very interesting search for local place names.  The school is participating in a survey of local folklore and place names.  The families will receive a map of the town lands and the older people will help the pupils to fill in the names of fields, streams, rocks and ruins among other significant features and places.  This project links beneficially with the school’s Geography curriculum.  As part of the pupils’ Geography experience, they are taken on field outings to heritage locations.  They investigate dwelling sites, tombs and ancient cooking-places.  The overall work in this subject enriches the pupils’s experience and cultivates a pride in their own place.  A local heritage officer took the senior pupils and their teacher on an interesting tour of Bonane Heritage Park.  The work in this curricular area is integrated usefully with English language development, Visual Arts and Drama.

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual arts

The school has a comprehensive Visual Arts plan and the standard of work is highly commendable.  The content is very well integrated with other areas of the curriculum.  Excellent opportunities are given to the pupils in all the classes to explore the characteristics of the media that are used.  The pupils’s work is displayed and celebrated in the classrooms.  Portfolios of the pupil’s work are kept.  A notable feature of the work is the use of photography showing exhibits of the pupils’s work.  The pupils experience a sense of achievement through working together on a number of practical projects.  These include sketching and drawing local heritage sites from observation as part of their local History studies.  Throughout the classes the pupils are given an opportunity to develop a visual awareness of the elements of art and to develop a critical vocabulary to evaluate the quality of works of art.  This is creditable practice.

 

Music

A comprehensive and extensive music programme is presented to the pupils.  Each teacher pursues a music programme and all strands of the music curriculum are implemented.  Tapes and CDs are used to enhance the lessons.  The pupils sing an engaging medley of songs with spirit and enthusiasm.  The repertoire of songs includes, “Oró do Bheatha Abhaile”, “A Shaighdiúirín a Chroí”, “Happy Talk,” “Singing in the Rain” and “Peigín Leitir Móir”.  From time to time instrumental music accompanies the singing.  Percussion instruments are used in the development of rhythm and this helps the pupils to participate with ease. The pupils use the instruments with verve and delight in the development of rhythm, performing and composing.   The teachers include in their programme music from other cultures.  The pupils perform at local religious and civic occasions.  An external music teacher visits to teach the recorder and voice to the pupils from third to sixth classes each Monday throughout the school year. The class teachers are always in attendance during these lessons.

 

Drama

Drama is used as a teaching methodology throughout the school.  Movement, improvisation and role-play are used as a means for developing emotional and imaginative responses among the pupils.  A range of effective starting points for purposeful teaching of this aspect of the arts’ programme is used including pupils’s own experiences and local happenings.  As part of their work, the pupils created exquisite Easter bonnets and these were used in role-play activities representing various professions.  The pupils from time to time dramatise certain everyday situations.   The infant and junior classes benefit very much from the situation drama associated with aspects of the Irish language programme.  The drama work in general reflects creativity and all pupils are enriched by their participation in this aspect of teaching and learning.   

 

4.5 Physical Education

There is regular and frequent participation by the pupils in the school in organised physical activity.   Physical Education is time tabled for each class.   A football coach visits the school on alternate Thursdays to teach football skills.  Pupils take part in mini-sevens games as well.     Sports equipment has been purchased to provide the pupils with the possibility of engaging in a variety of games during break time.  As the school has limited indoor space available, an exercise programme is used on wet days in the classroom. The school has participated in a physical education programme and has received valuable equipment as a result.   Equal participation in Physical Education activities by boys and girls is encouraged.   Swimming lessons are organised for third to sixth class pupils during the school year.

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

SPHE is timetabled and due attention is given to all the strands.  Elements of SPHE are developed in other subjects and in the life of the school.  There is a most pleasant atmosphere in the school attributable to good rapport between the teachers and pupils and among the pupils themselves. The pupils enjoy teamwork and participation in games and communal activities.  They are made aware of their duties to one another and to the more vulnerable pupils in the school.  Pupils are obliged to include their classmates in yard games and other recreational activities. 

 

In consultation with parents, pupils and staff, healthy lunches are encouraged.  Pupils are informed about the importance of a balanced diet and are familiar with the food pyramid.  The school organises healthy eating activities on particular occasions. Scoil Thullacha has become a health promoting school in association with the Health Service Executive following discussion with staff, parents and pupils.  The school holds regular fire drills every term.  It follows a strict dress code and has its own particular school uniform.  

 

Circle time is arranged by the teachers to discuss various issues and to prevent inappropriate behaviour in the school.  The programme is based upon aspects of the Walk Tall, RSE and the Stay Safe Programmes.  An external tutor deals with the sensitive elements of the programme and parents are present with their pupils for these lessons. 

 

The ethos of the school promotes character building and it prepares the pupils to become responsible adults. For example, the pupils are encouraged to engage in charitable activities to raise their awareness of people who are disadvantaged and lonely.  The senior pupils take part annually in a project that involves making Christmas cards for the homeless Irish people who live in London. The teachers, pupils, and parents of the school display a deep sense of caring for each other and show a warm respect for visitors to the school.

 

4.7 Assessment and Achievement

Throughout the classes a diverse range of assessment tools including teacher observation, careful monitoring of written work and teacher designed tests are used to inform the teaching and learning in the school.  These assessments are carried out on all pupils on a regular basis.  Standardised tests such as Micra-T and Sigma-T are carried out in English and Mathematics annually.  The teachers have developed their own checklists for particular subjects and they administer other tests of their own design. The teachers keep folders containing samples of pupils’s work, check lists, standardised tests, and diagnostic tests and this is creditable practice.

 

Analysis takes place on the results of screening tests and decisions are made on the appropriate support needed.  Permission is sought from parents for these pupils to undergo diagnostic testing.  The results of the tests are used to inform the pupils’s individual educational plans.    As an integral part of staff meetings and in discussion with the learning support teacher the assessment data is analysed and the teachers plan accordingly.

 

 

Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Scoil Thullacha has the services of a part-time learning-support teacher who sees nine pupils from junior infants to sixth class.  The school has a documented learning support policy on educational provision based on the learning support guidelines.  The policy is specific and helpful. The work is very well organised and the learning strategies are in keeping with the pupils’ needs.  The learning support teacher liaises with the parents and the teachers regularly.  Each pupil’s progress is carefully observed and lessons are prepared accordingly.  The school has an early intervention policy.  Pupils in junior and senior infants are screened to ascertain whether or not they will undergo a series of individual diagnostic tests in reading, spelling, phonics and Mathematics.  The diagnostic tests used include, Jackson Get Reading Right Phonic Test, Non-Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT), Rain Sentence Reading Test, Middle Infants Screening Test, Topical Resources Diagnostic Maths Test, 1, 2, 3, and Aston Index Profiles.  Parents are given suggestions as to how they can best help their pupil at home.

 

The learning support teacher is diligent and concentrates on language development and on reading skills.  The teacher’s language development programme covers a wide range of topics that enhance the pupils’s learning.  The learning support teacher stresses the importance of comprehension and fluency in language.  The teacher keeps accurate and informed records on each pupil’s progress.  In-class teaching is the major intervention undertaken.  Mainstream classroom support is impressive.  The teacher’s skill in working with different groups within a class allows the pupils to work at their own pace. This increases their confidence and independence. Group leaders are thoughtfully chosen for in-class activities.  A secure file is kept on each pupil.  The class teachers keep a pupil portfolio on each pupil.  Pupils’ progress is discussed with parents at parent teacher meetings in February and informally throughout the year.

 

 

 

6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

The board of management is commended for discharging its responsibilities carefully and successfully.

The communication systems between the board of management, the staff and parents are regular and effective.

The principal and staff are caring and ambitious for the educational welfare of the pupils. The teachers have created a welcoming and enthusiastic learning milieu for the pupils in their care.

The teachers’ planning and preparation is comprehensive and appropriate to the pupils’s needs.

The teachers are to be commended for their positive and dedicated emphasis on the teaching of Irish while their work on local History and Geography projects may be regarded as meritorious.

The cross-curricular integration of language is very effective and enriching.

The overall provision for pupils with special needs is commended for its inclusivity and effectiveness.

The helpful involvement of parents in school activities is both notable and commendable.

 

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

 

The board of management should seek to further develop the school by the provision of additional space in the form of a general purpose room and a learning support and resource room.

The board of management in conjunction with the staff should initiate steps now to establish a parents’ association on a formal basis.  The association could facilitate better dissemination of school policies and curricular programmes.

 

 

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