An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

SN Chill Rosanta,

Kilmacthomas, County Waterford

Uimhir rolla:  01711O

 

Date of inspection: 15 October 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of SN Chill Rosanta was undertaken in October, 2008. 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, Irish, Mathematics and Drama. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

SN Chill Rosanta is a co-educational, Catholic school located at the foot of the Comeragh Mountains in the rural parish of Kilrossanty in west Co. Waterford. The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore and present school accommodation was built in 1965.

 

The location of the school is a cause of immense worry and concern for the board of management, the teachers and the parents. The school is situated at busy crossroads with a very limited amount of space for car parking. This means that the assembly of pupils in the morning as well as the dismissal of pupils in the evening can be a chaotic time in terms of traffic. Large numbers of cars arrive from three directions at the same time and have no space to stop safely on the narrow roads around the school. This is added to by the presence of three buses that serve the school with no pull-in point for dropping off and collection of pupils. An extra worry is the high volume of agricultural traffic generated by the school’s rural location and a local business, as well as the large number of tourists that visit the nearby Comeragh Mountains and the Mahon Falls in spring, summer and autumn. Board of management members reported that many of the foreign tourists that visit the area are not in the habit of driving on narrow roads and this can cause further chaos when they approach the area at school time. The school applied to the Department of Education and Science for a major works project in 2000 and the board of management reported that the completion of this project would mean that the precarious traffic situation would no longer exist. To date the board has not received official sanction to begin work on this project.

 

The project involves a twofold development. The current 1965 building is totally inadequate for the needs of the school. This building was constructed to cater for a total staff of three mainstream class teachers and a smaller school population. Enrolment has grown steadily over the past number of years and future enrolment projections suggest that numbers will continue to grow in coming years. There are 108 pupils enrolled in the school and a staff of 5 teachers, including four mainstream class teachers. Temporary accommodation has been provided to cater for the extra two teachers. However, one of these buildings is quite old and is coming to the end of its lifespan. The project submitted by the board of management in 2000 sought to address these needs. In addition, it sought to address the safety issues through the provision of much needed car pull-in space as well as parking areas for cars and buses. While awaiting a reply from the Department of Education and Science regarding the sanction to proceed with this project, the board of management is now urged to contact the local authorities with a view to the immediate erection of warning lights and extra road signage to warn oncoming traffic of the school.

 

 

 

 

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

108

Mainstream classes in the school

4

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

Vision

It is the vision of the school community to strive to provide a well ordered, caring, happy and secure environment where the intellectual, spiritual, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are met. Each pupil is recognised as unique and the school strives to enable each pupil to reach their full potential and so develop into self disciplined, confident and well balanced individuals. The school models and promotes a philosophy of life inspired by belief in God. Children’s innate love of learning is nurtured and teachers endeavour to recognise differing abilities, strengths, weaknesses, needs and learning styles. The school community celebrates difference and nurtures tolerance and respect for all. The speaking of Irish is encouraged as frequently as possible.

 

The members of the ancillary staff, the secretary and the cleaner in the school are highly esteemed and respected. It is recognised that their work makes a valued contribution to the process of education. There is close contact between school and home, with collaboration towards leading the pupils to the fullness of their potential at the different stages of their lives.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted. Meetings are held about five times per year, minutes are maintained and a financial statement is presented at each meeting. Members of the board of management have taken on specific roles including treasurer, secretary, health and safety officer and maintenance officer, and these duties are carried out competently and efficiently. The chairperson is a regular visitor to the school and provides valuable support to the principal when needed. The parent representatives act as links with the parents’ association and ensure good communication exists between the board and the parent body.

 

Policies and plans are discussed and ratified by the board and the members are aware of their statutory obligations to ensure that certain policies are in place. The board always endeavours to support teachers through the provision of resources to aid in delivering an effective curriculum.  The current priority of the board is the advancement of the major works programme that was applied for a number of years ago. This would see the refurbishment of the existing classrooms along with the construction of two new classrooms, a general purpose room, a staff room, a storage room, an office and a car park. During the evaluation meetings, the members of the board of management expressed their deep anger and frustration that their application seems to have been ignored, despite planning permission being granted to the school almost two years ago. This is compounded by their deep worries about the serious health and safety issues which arise when pupils are arriving at and leaving the school, along with the poor state of the play area.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The in-school management team comprises the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties post. The principal is very effective in managing the school and provides excellent leadership to staff and parents. She is successful in creating a shared vision for the school community and is well respected by pupils, teachers, board of management and the parents. She has set clear curricular, organisational and pastoral priorities since taking up her role two years ago and she has already succeeded in achieving many of her targets. She leads planning activities with purpose and enthusiasm and strives for constant improvement and the maintenance of high standards.

 

The principal is ably supported by the other members of the team. The duties of the deputy principal include sport, the school garden, the savings scheme and health and safety. The responsibilities for the special duties post include choirs for religious ceremonies, Drama, Gaeilge, Athletics and the administration of the Discover Science project. These duties were assigned in accordance with needs of the school and the particular talents of the staff in question. Members of the team are aware of the importance of providing curriculum leadership within their areas of responsibility and their own experience and interest in these curricular areas are strengths for that role. The board of management signs off on the duties of the management team. Overall, the team provides commendable support to the principal in fulfilling her duties and responsibilities.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The maintenance of close contact between school and home is an integral part of the school ethos and parents and teachers endeavour to support one and collaborate with one another in leading the pupils to the fullness of their potential. Effective ongoing contact is maintained in a number of ways including the use of the homework diary for two-way communication, notes, school newsletters and the local newspapers. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually to discuss pupil progress and written reports are sent out to parents at the end of the year. However, parents are welcome to meet with teachers at any stage during the year. Parents reported that they are always made to feel welcome in the school.

 

An active parents’ association was formed in recent years following the amalgamation of previous committees. The main duties of the association are fundraising but they also help out with maintenance of the school building, painting of the yard for games, accompanying of pupils and teachers on trips, as well as the production of a monthly news letter. They play a role in policy formation and are invited to offer their views on a number of policies as they are being developed or reviewed. 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

All pupils were mannerly and courteous during visits to classrooms. Pupils were very willing to engage in discussions about their work and answered questions with confidence. It was evident that pupils are proud of their school and were very willing to talk about the many samples of their work displayed around the school.

 

 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. A comprehensive three-year plan describes the high level of planning activity that the school has been involved in during the last school year and also outlines the priorities for the coming school years. These priorities cover organisational and curricular areas and include regular review of existing plans as well as identifying areas for staff development. A large number of organisational policies have been drawn up including enrolment, health and safety, attendance, special needs, code of behaviour, anti-bullying and assessment amongst many others. The majority of these plans give clear direction to all and these have been ratified by the board of management.

 

Many of the curricular plans offer good guidance to the teachers in implementing various aspects of the curriculum. These plans should now be further developed in order to record some of the excellent practice that was observed during the evaluation. In this way, the current effective programmes that are in place can be documented and preserved and could provide guidance when teachers change classes or when new teachers join the staff.

 

In developing the planning process further, consideration should be given to further expansion of the level of involvement of all partners in reviewing and drawing up certain plans and policies.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. All teachers engage in long term and short term planning in accordance with Rule 126 in the Rules for National Schools. In long term planning, some teachers devise a clear outline of the content of their work for the year with clear links to the curriculum and the school plan. The short term planning template currently in use is ticked, copied and stored as the cuntas míosúil and this is used in various ways by the teachers. All teachers should ensure that their short term planning outlines the portion of the curriculum that will be covered over the period as well as the expected learning outcomes for all pupils. This approach, as opposed to recoding the pages from textbooks in use, will also be more beneficial in measuring learning outcomes at the end of the period.  

 

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 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá fís ag an scoil go bhfoghlaimeoidh na daltaí an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach agus le taitneamh agus mar thoradh ar seo go mbeidh siad ábalta an Ghaeilge a úsáid go cumarsáideach mar theanga. Tá ag eirí go maith leis an scoil é seo a chur chun cinn.

Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil go rialta i ngach rang agus i measc na múinteoirí. Sna ranganna naíonáin agus sna bunranganna, tá áit lárnach ag rainn, dánta, obair beirte agus mion-drámaíochtaí chun deiseanna cumarsáide a chruthú do na daltaí. Glacann siad páirt go fonnmhar sna gníomhaíochtaí ranga. Leantar ar aghaidh leis an dea-obair seo sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna agus cruthaíonn na múinteoirí bealaí difriúla chun na daltaí a chur ag caint. Cé go n-úsáidtear scéim tráchtála tríd an scoil chun an teagasc a stiúradh, úsáideann na múinteoirí réimse de sheifteanna difriúla chun cur leis na ceachtanna agus chun na daltaí a spreagadh chun cainte. Cumann múinteoirí áirithe scéalta bunaithe ar na cairteacha a thagann leis an scéim atá in úsáid sa scoil, agus múintear structúirí agus nathanna bunúsacha trí aithris a dhéanamh ar na scéalta seo agus trí obair beirte éifeachtach a cheangailt leo. Is cleachtas inmholta é seo. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil an cur chuige seo tairbheach agus tá caighdeán an-mhaith sroichte ag na daltaí ó thaobh Gaeilge labhartha de. Freagraíonn na daltaí sna meánranganna agus ardranganna ceisteanna go cumasach.

 

Bíonn an léitheoireacht bunaithe, don fhormhór, ar leabhair mhóra sna bunranganna,  ar théacsleabhair dhifriúla agus ar scéalta cumtha ag an múinteoir. Tá caighdeán maith sroichte ag na daltaí sa léitheoireacht. Úsáidtear úrscéal simplí leis na hardranganna i rith an dara téarma. Moltar anois a thuilleadh de leabhair Gaeilge a chur ar fáil do no daltaí ag leibhéíl éagsúla agus deiseanna a thabhairt dóibh leabhair leabharlainne a léamh as Gaeilge go rialta agus taitneamh a bhaint astu. Ba chóir smaoineamh ar fhorbairt na léitheoireachta tríd an scoil chun a chinntiú go bhfuil clár soiléir leagtha amach agus cláraithe sa phlean scoile.

 

Tá an formhór den scríbhneoireacht sa scoil bunaithe ar chleachtaí sna téacsleabhair. Sna hardranganna, bíonn deiseanna ag na daltaí altanna a scríobh faoi théamaí éagsúla. Moltar a thuilleadh de dheiseanna scríbhneoireachta pearsanta a chruthú go rialta do na daltaí. Tá réimse d’amhráin Gaeilge ar eolas ag na daltaí i ngach rang.

 

Irish

The school has a vision that the pupils will learn Irish effectively and with enjoyment, and as a result, they will be able to use Irish as a langauge of communication. The school is doing well in promoting this vision.

 

Irish is regularly used informally in each classroom and amongst the teachers. In the infant classes and in the junior classes, rhymes, poems, pair work and mini-dramas have a central role in creating communication opportunities for the pupisl. They take part willingly. This good work is continued in the middle and senior classes and teachers create different ways to encourage the pupils to speak. Some teachers compose stories based on the charts that accompany the scheme that is in use in the school and they teach structures and phrases through telling these stories and through the effective pair work that is connected to them. It is obvious that this approach is beneficial and the pupils have reached a very good standard of spoken Irish.

 

Reading is generally based on big books in junior classes and on different texts and stories composed by the teacher themselves. Pupils read at a good standard. A simple novel is used during the second term with senior classes. It is now advised that extra accessible Irish books are provided for pupils at different levels and opportunities provided for pupils to read these Irish books and to enjoy them. Thought should be given to the development of Irish reading through the school to ensure that there is a clear plan in place that is documented in the school plan.

 

Most writing activities are based on exercises in the textbooks. In senior classes, pupils have opportunities to write paragraphs about a variety of themes. It is now advised that extra chances are given to pupils to engage in personal writing activities on a regular basis throughout the school.  Pupils in all classes know a variety of Irish songs.  

 

English

Overall, the teaching and learning in this area is very good and it is worth noting that attainment levels in reading are high. The school plan for English details some of the practice that occurs in the classrooms but this plan should be revisited to ensure that the good practice is recorded. This review could also provide an opportunity to review some current practice.

 

Oral language skills are well developed in most classes and pupils are given opportunities to develop listening skills, to engage in discussion and to offer opinions on a range of subjects and ideas. All teachers should ensure that they are aware of the langauge needs of their pupils and that discrete oral language time is planned accordingly.

 

Each classroom provides a suitable print-rich environment for pupils and class libraries are well-stocked with a variety of suitable reading material to foster pupil interest in reading. In infant classes, early reading skills are developed using a range of suitable activities. This includes some good use of big books. A scheme for phonics has been devised for the whole school and the learning support teacher is used wisely in providing extra support in this area at infant level. This practice should now be supplemented with the use of a phonological awareness programme from infant level in order to enhance the pupils’ skills in phonics and to enhance phonemic awareness and decoding skills. The development of sight vocabulary is based on the reading scheme and most pupils recognise these words with ease.  However, some pupils could benefit from further emphasis on word-analysis and word-building as well as extra opportunities to engage in word recognition activities.

 

Emergent reading skills are developed appropriately and pupils read with meaning and expression. Some interesting approaches are used for exploration of new texts including good use of ‘KWL Charts’. Novels are used very effectively in middle and senior classes and pupils engage well and discuss these competently. Many worthy writing activities are based on responses to various aspects of the novel. Drama activities also provide a mechanism for more in-depth exploration of characters and events.

 

Pupils in all classes engage in a wide variety of writing tasks with opportunities created for pupils to write in a range of genre for various audiences. At infant level, opportunities are created for free writing activities and some very good examples of this work were both on display and in copy books. The implementation of a phonological awareness programme should add to the work produced by the pupils as they become more competent at phonemic awareness skills. This concept of free writing should be further developed in junior and senior classes in order to further develop confidence and competence. The purchase of laptops for each classroom is part of the planning diary for this year. This should be a valuable resource as pupils will be able to become familiar with the benefits of word processing and the internet as a research tool.

 

While presentation skills are generally very good, there is wide variety in the penmanship skills in middle and senior classes. Staff has discussed this area, but current policy should be reviewed to ensure consistency and clarity in its implementation.

 

A range of poetry is taught throughout the school and pupils recited the poems that they have learned competently. Opportunities are also provided for pupils to compose their own poems and some fine examples were noted during the evaluation.

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

Overall, the teaching of Mathematics is undertaken competently in the school and this obviously contributes to the high standards reached by many pupils in Mathematics. Pupils demonstrate a good knowledge and interest in Mathematics and clearly enjoy challenge. The school plan for Mathematics outlines decisions taken regarding various aspects of mathematical language and approaches to number operations. Problem-solving strategies have been agreed for all classes. A mental maths book is used throughout the school but some teachers also set aside time for oral maths at the beginning of lessons. This practice helps in sharpening maths recall skills and should be extended to all classes to further develop computational skills and for consolidation and constant revision of all aspects of the Mathematics programme.

 

A good range of mathematical equipment is available to teachers and this is put to good use by teachers as new concepts are explored in all classes. Infant and junior classes demonstrate a good understanding of number and the properties of shapes. Practical and group activities help in developing concepts and provided opportunities for language development. Pupils in middle and senior classes demonstrate a good understanding of the programme and practical activities are again used effectively to increase pupil understanding. Estimation is a central feature of Mathematics activities.  Copybooks are used for further reinforcement of skills and concepts and there is a good standard of presentation skills in all classes.

 

3.3 Drama

 

The quality of teaching and learning in the area of Drama is very good. The school plan states that Drama is an intrinsic part of a balanced curriculum which aims to develop the whole spectrum of the pupil’s intelligence. Engagement in positive dramatic experiences is seen as particularly useful in aesthetic, intellectual, emotional, creative and cultural development for the pupil. The plan also outlines a range of strategies suitable for all classes. The implementation of many aspects of this plan was evident during the evaluation. A drama contract has been agreed in all classrooms to help pupils to become familiar with ground rules for engagement.

 

A variety of strategies is used by teachers in exploring the strand units of the Drama programme. The content is chosen appropriately and pupils engage well during activities. Some excellent lessons were observed during the evaluation with both pupils and teachers involved in taking on various roles. Very effective cross curricular links were made with drama used as a successful strategy in exploring aspects of the English and the Social, Personal and Health Education programme.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

 

A comprehensive policy has been put together for assessment in the school. This policy outlines the range of assessment approaches in use for both the areas of assessment ‘of’ and assessment ‘for’ learning across all subject areas. These include the use of self-assessment, portfolios, projects, teacher designed tests and tasks and teacher observation. Standardised attainment tests in both literacy and numeracy are administered during May and June to all pupils from 1st to 6th class, while the Middle Infants Screening Test is used during senior infants. Analysis of trends that emerge from standardised testing is listed as a priority in the schools’ planning diary and is due to be a focus for this school year. This exercise will be invaluable in monitoring the effectiveness of programmes and will enable the teachers to take action when necessary. Test results are stored in the principals’ filing cabinet. Relevant information is relayed to parents during parent teacher meetings and in end of year school reports. Teachers report that they monitor the outcomes of tests and use these to inform teaching strategies and approaches. Information is passed between teachers from year to year on an informal basis. Consideration should be given to formalising this system to allow for more efficient transfer. The Special Education Teacher also undertakes a number of diagnostic tests with the pupils including the 50 Word Sight test, the Vernon spelling test and the RAIN test. The combined use of all these tests enables the teachers to target support in a very focused way.

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4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

There is a full-time Special Education Teacher (SET) based in the school and shared with a neighbouring school. The teacher spends 3 days in the base school and two days in the neighbouring school. The policy for learning support and special educational needs within the school plan is well drafted and contains important provisions for guiding this work in the school. It is clearly stated in the plan that the overall responsibility for policy decisions lies with the principal. In the policy there is equal emphasis on the development of skills in literacy and numeracy, parental support and consent is elicited. Early intervention and identification is supported and screening test scores are to be discussed by the whole staff in June and decisions around continuance and discontinuance are to be made through consultation at the end of every term. DES Guidelines are followed in that priority resources are allocated to pupils below the 12th percentile.

 

Individual Learning Plans are drawn up for each pupil by the SET based on consultation with the class teachers and the parents and the pupils themselves. This latter element is both commendable and progressive in that the pupil becomes aware of his/her learning targets for a specific time period. The SET prepares weekly planning notes and maintains daily progress records on pupils. Detailed accounts of meetings with parents are maintained.

 

The SET operates a judicious blend of support comprising group and  individual withdrawal from class and in-class support. There are very few pupils in the school with attainment below the 12th percentile and these pupils receive special attention in both individual and group settings. For these pupils, work in literacy is stressed and the teacher makes good use of a variety of reading schemes to aid reading development. A commendable variety of reading activities are practised during individual sessions and the pupil keeps a record of his/her own progress through the various reading schemes. This practice is in line with the school’s stated policy of involving learning support pupils in their own targets and progress.

The SET also supports class teachers by helping groups of pupils who are experiencing difficulties in following the class programme for Mathematics. The class teacher initiates this support by requesting support for specific aspects of the class programme. The SET develops activities to support those pupils who are withdrawn either in groups or as individuals and the lacunae in their learning is made up during intensive practice.

 

The board and parents can be assured that high standards are achieved in literacy and numeracy throughout this school and those pupils who need support receive a good service. In developing support further, intensive support in phonological awareness could now be given to small groups of infants on a withdrawal basis. This would have the triple impact of implementing early intervention policy, supporting language acquisition and temporarily reducing class size for part of the day. 

 

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

 

This does not currently apply in the school.  

 

 

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. In the course of the meeting with the staff, an incident occurred which has been the subject of a separate memorandum to Primary Administration in the Department of Education and Science. The Department has been in communication with the school regarding the memorandum.

 

 

 

 

Published, March 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

The Board of Management welcomes the very positive findings of the WSE report and see them as and affirmation of the work and dedication of the whole school community.

 

The school will continue to build on  its strengths and will strive to implement the recommendations of the WSE.

 

The Board of Management and staff wish to acknowledge the courtesy, sensitivity and professionalism of the Department of Education inspectors during their visit to Kilrossanty National School.

 

The Board of Management appreciates the acknowledgement of its concerns in the report regarding the serious health and safety issues surrounding traffic at arrival and dismissal times at the school as well as its frustration in waiting for a new much needed extension and car park. The board continues to await sanction and funding for this building project to commence, which would alleviate the precarious traffic situation and give vital new accommodation to the school.

 

The local Authorities have been contacted regarding the erection of warning lights and extra road signage on approaches to the school.

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

·         New Irish reading material has been purchased for use throughout the school.

·         Increased support has been provided to the infant classroom from the learning support teacher involving a phonological awareness programme.

·         Free writing and penmanship skills are being developed further.

·         Other key recommendations of the report will be initiated and developed in due course as part of our whole school action plan.