An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Saint Teresa’s National School

Ballintogher, County Sligo

Roll number:  02013S

 

Date of inspection: 9 May 2006

Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006

 

 

 

Introduction

1. Quality of school management

1.1  Board of management

1.2 In-school management

1.3 Management of resources

2. Quality of school planning

2.1 The school planning process and the content of the school plan

2.2 Implementation and impact of the school plan

3. Quality of learning and teaching in curriculum areas

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Social, environmental and scientific education (SESE)

3.4 Arts education

3.5 Physical education

3.6 Social, personal and health education (SPHE)

3.7 Assessment and achievement

4. Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Provision for pupils with special educational needs

4.2 Provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

4.3 Provision for pupils from minority groups

4.4 Home-school partnership

5. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development


This Whole School Evaluation Report

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Teresa’s N.S., Ballintogher, Co. Sligo. 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 inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They engaged with pupils, examined their work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board

 

 

Introduction

 

St Teresa’s N.S. is a five-teacher co-educational school located in a rural area in Co. Sligo.  A very warm and welcoming atmosphere was evident during the period of evaluation. Very high standards are being achieved in many curriculum areas in this school and teaching approaches are extremely effective and worthy of much commendation.

 

 

1. Quality of school management

 

1.1  Board of management

St Teresa’s N.S. is under the patronage of the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. It is managed by a committed board of management nominated by the patron and constituted in accordance with section fourteen of the Education Act, 1998. The board meets regularly and a satisfactory record is kept of all proceedings. Financial accounts are maintained appropriately. The school functions in accordance with Department of Education and Science (DES) directives on the length of the school day and school year. The Chairperson has been recently appointed. There is evidence of good communication between the board and the parent community and between the board and the teaching staff. The board plays an active role in reviewing school policy and in the ratification of curriculum plans.

 

The current priority of the board is the provision of a school hall for Sports activities and Physical Education

 

At present there is no official Parents’ Association in the school. It is recommended that the process of formation of an official parent body representing the views, attitudes and desires of the parents be initiated. The parents’ representatives on the board report that there is excellent communication between the parents and the teachers. The parents identified high standards in music and Irish as major strengths of the school.

 

1.2 In-school management

The teaching staff consists of a teaching principal teacher, three class teachers and one  support  teacher, based in this school and shared with Ballymoate NS. A resource teacher, based in St. Joseph’s N.S. also supports children with special needs for total of seven hours per week. Two SNAs are employed and a part-time caretaker effectively oversees the maintenance of the school building.

 

The in-school management team includes the principal, the acting deputy principal and one special duties’ teacher. All team members are committed to the enhancement and development of the school. A wide range of organisational and curricular responsibilities have been assigned to them, ensuring that the school functions effectively. Leadership in this school is effective and is characterised by commitment to high standards in all areas of the curriculum. All records are meticulously maintained and proactive leadership has been applied to the area of whole school planning. The enthusiasm shown by the principal for local History and Geography, as well as his inspiring encouragement of high standards in the Irish language, are laudable. Leadership activities include promotion of traditional music in the school community, spearheading of a variety of cultural exchanges, drama activities, arts projects and environmental endeavours which are contributing to the provision of an extremely broad and multi-cultural curriculum. It will now be timely to further empower the in-school management team to work even more collaboratively to address whole-school issues and actively to foster a sense of team among the whole school community in a partnership approach towards agreement on, and the achievement of the aims of the school.

 

1.3 Management of resources

A range of teaching and learning resources is available in the school. Each classroom has a supply of appropriate charts, maps and posters on display, which contribute to the creation of a stimulating learning environment. There is an extensive variety of physical education and science equipment in place. Teachers use available resources effectively to support the teaching and learning.  The classrooms are print-rich and visually stimulating for pupils. Seasonal montages, presentations of pupils’ projects and displays of other creative work are a prominent feature in all classrooms.  A wealth of library books and other reading materials is available to pupils. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment is evident and is in regular use in the computer room located in the school. At present the school is preparing its own web-site.

 

 

2. Quality of school planning

 

2.1 The school planning process and the content of the school plan

The principal teacher and teaching staff, together with the board of management and parents, where appropriate, have co-operated on the development and review of a number of school policies. Effective work has been done on action planning and target setting, and the overall commitment to planning by the school is highly commendable. The approach to school development planning is collaborative and ongoing. The school plan is very well presented and has been developed in accordance with existing guidelines. All curricular sections have been comprehensively reviewed in accordance with the intent and design of the Curriculum (1999). The plan for Irish is currently being revised. Whole-school planning provides an excellent framework to support a structured and developmental approach to the teaching of all subjects in the school. Integration, linkage and differentiation are core principles underpinning this work.  This planning plays a significant role in ensuring that there is continuity and progression from year to year and consistency in approach and emphasis from class to class. Staff meetings are organised on a regular basis, where an ongoing incremental approach to school development planning is adopted. These meetings focus on the individual needs of pupils, curriculum implementation and the further development of school policy.

 

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, September 1999) and Child 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 Departmental guidelines.

 

2.2 Implementation and impact of the school plan

All teachers’ timetables are organised to facilitate the implementation of the curriculum plans and appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration within and between subjects. The overall school plan is clearly and purposefully reflected in teachers’ short term and long term planning. Individual teachers’ planning is very satisfactory. Key methodologies are described in long term planning and careful attention is paid to ensuring that active methodologies, supported by the use of well-targeted resources, are a core part of practice at both planning and implementation stages.  All short-term classroom planning addresses the specific needs of individual pupils in each class. This planning contains the specific short-term target setting required to address the needs of the pupils and makes reference to the resources that might be best employed in teaching and learning.

 

A monthly record of progress is maintained in every class and copies of these progress records are kept centrally. The potential of a standardised school template to further develop the recording of progress was discussed with staff. Such a template would be used to engage further in school self-evaluation, whereby work covered could be reviewed on a whole-school basis. The school has successfully used the services of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PSCP) cuiditheoirí to assist with curriculum development.

 

All teachers deliver a broad and balanced programme to their pupils and there is very satisfactory evidence of progression and continuity in the curricular programmes from class to class. Teachers have adapted the curriculum as necessary to meet the needs and abilities of the children. Pupils with learning difficulties are benefiting from the collaboration between the class teachers and the support teachers in the implementation of their individual learning programmes. All pupils engage in some project work. The potential of the immediate school environment as a learning resource is maximised through involvement in a variety of laudable environmental projects. The labelling of trees, plants and flowers in the school environment is very effective. The use of a polytunnel for planting purposes, seed sowing and propagation, in order to both stimulate children’s interest in the environment and also to support the local Tidy Towns’ initiative, is commended.  The presence of a school garden and the introduction of recycling and composting projects are promoting positive environmental awareness and active learning. An excellent range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is planned for all pupils. In very recent years, pupils have been involved in a significant number of school projects, to include Comenius and an East/West joint project exploring the folklore and culture of Sligo and the Isle of Barra. The parents support activities such as drama, cultural exchanges, musical spectacles and sporting events. Teachers bring a variety of educational visitors and facilitators to the school to address pupils and to provide new and creative learning opportunities. These practices are contributing to the provision of an integrated and holistic curriculum and are highly commendable.

 

Dual-class class settings are managed with particular effectiveness. The timetables are organised to facilitate the implementation of the curriculum plans and appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration within and between subjects. A highly effective mixture of teacher-centred teaching and learning activities involving enthusiastic pupil involvement, with laudable emphasis on the contribution of pupils in talk and discussion, is in evidence in all classes.

 

 

3. Quality of learning and teaching in curriculum areas

 

3.1 Language

Gaeilge

Gabhann cinnteacht bhreá leis an teagasc agus leis an bhfoghlaim atá ar bun sa scoil seo i dtaca leis an nGaeilge. eagar an-fhiúntach ag baint leis na hacmhainní líonmhara atá ar fáil sa scoil chun tacú le múineadh na Gaeilge. soiléiriú an-bhreá déanta sna pleananna oibre ar conas a chuireann úsáid na n-acmhainní le foghlaim na bpáistí. caighdeán den chéad scoth ag baint leis an ngné seo den soláthar don Ghaeilge agus tréaslaítear go mór leis na hoidí agus le hudaráis na scoile as líon agus as fairsinge agus as dea-úsáid na n-acmhainní uile seo chun an fhoghlaim sa Ghaeilge a neartú. ullmhúchán an-sásúil bunaithe ar théamaí an churaclaim á dhéanamh ag na hoidí go léir don Ghaeilge. Déantar sár-obair ar na múnlaí atá riachtanach i ngnáthchaint an lae a mhúineadh i ngach rang. Dírítear ar gach dalta, go háirithe daltaí a bhfuil riachtanais speisialta foghlama acu. Fiú, daltaí a tháinig ó thíortha eile le fíordhéanaí gafa sa drámaíocht Ghaeilge agus caighdeán breá á bhaint  amach acu seo. Is rí-inmholta an caoi go bhfuil ionchur an-chinnte teanga mar chuid lárnach de na próisis fhoghlama ar fad. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint an-mhaith ar an ábhar atá á phlé sa rang. Moltar, áfach, an t-aistriúchán a sheachaint sna ranganna sóisearacha. Bhain caighdean an-ard leis an dráma dátheangach a chonacthas le linn na cigireachta agus a léiríodh mar chuid de fhéile áitiúilBíonn áit lárnach ag an nGaeilge ag an tionól uile-scoile a bhíonn ar bun sa scoil gach Luan agus a bhfacthas sampla iontach de i rith an mheasúnaithe.    

 

Múintear an fhilíocht ar bhonn rialta sna ranganna uile. Baineann taitneamh agus caighdeán den chéad scoth leis an obair seo. Aithrisíonn na páistí a lán dánta, rann agus amhrán agus dírítear aird inmolta ar dhea-fhoghraíocht, ar bhlas, luas agus rithim na teanga. foclóir leathan ag na daltaí agus tuiscint fheidhmiúil ar struchtúr agus ar chuspóir na mbriathra. stór an-leathan de nathanna cainte ar eolas ag na daltaí. Baineann na hoidí leas an-tairbheach as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta ranga agus baintear feidhm as cluichí cainte chun ábaltacht an pháiste an teanga a chumadh a fheabhsú. Cuirtear béim an-inmolta ar dhrámaíocht agus ar dhíospóireacht, ar chumadóireacht neamspleách na teanga, ar leanúnachas a fhorbairt sna heiseamláirí teanga le go bhfuil ar chumas na bpáistí an foclóir ata ar eolas acu a úsaid go cumarsáideach. Leagann an cur chuige seo síos bunchloch an-fhiúntach d’fhorbairt na teanga. cleachtas tairbheach ar siúl sna hardranganna gnéithe d’ábhair an churaclaim a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge, go háirithe faoi mar a bhaineann le Stair agus Tíreolas áitiúil.  Moltar cur leis an gcur chuige inmholta seo ar bhonn uile-scoile agus ábhar amháin trí Ghaeilge a mhúineadh go leanúnach chun comhthéacs fírinneach a chruthú don teanga.

 

Múintear an léitheoireacht ar bhealach an-struchtúrtha, le húsáid lipéad agus gníomhaíochtaí cuí. Déanann na hoidí cúram breá scileanna tuisceana, aireachtála agus foclóra a fhorbairt le linn ceachtanna sa léitheoireacht. Aithníonn cuid mhaith de na daltaí foclóir dúshlánach trí úsáid a bhaint as scileanna fonaiciúla, comhthéacs agus briseadh síos focal ina siollaí.Tugtar  taithí leathan do na daltaí réimse  de chineálacha difriúla téacsanna a léamh, ina measc áirítear fíorleabhair bheaga agus téacsanna a scríobh cuid de na daltaí féin. Fágann seo go léann na daltaí na téacsanna ranga go cruinn agus tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil tuiscint an-sásúil ar fad  ag mórchuid acu ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Moltar abairtí iomlána i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint mórthimpeall na seomraí.

 

Sonraítear go bhfuil caighdeán breá á bhaint amach ag na daltaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil. Bhí réimse éagsúla téacsanna á scríobh ag formhór na ndaltaí mar shampla, nuacht, nótaí tinnis, cártaí aitheantais. Chonacthas sampla iontach d’fhillteoirí scríbhneoireachta in úsáid, maraon le heiseamláiriú agus comhscríobh i rang amháin i rith an mheasúnaithe. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a fhorbairt ar bhonn uile-scoile chun acmhainn scríbhneoireachta na bpáistí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh, go háirithe faoi mar a bhaineann le forbairt a dhéanamh ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach.

 

Irish

There are admirably clear objectives for the teaching and learning of Irish in this school. Many resources are organised very usefully to support this teaching. Planning makes explicit reference to how these resources can contribute to pupils’ learning. Very high standards are being achieved in this area of the teaching of Irish and both teachers and school authorities are to be congratulated for the breadth and effective utilisation of these resources to enhance the learning of Irish. All teachers’ preparation is very satisfactory and is linked to the themes of the curriculum.  Highly effective work on the phrases that are a necessary part of daily conversation is being carried out in all classes.  Every child is included, in particular children with particular learning needs. In this case, even children who came to the school from other countries are participating in drama activities and are achieving good standards. Very explicit language input is an integral part of all learning processes. Children display good understanding of material being covered in the class. It is recommended that translation be avoided in the junior section.  A very high standard was achieved in the bilingual play that was seen during the evaluation and that was dramatised as part of a local festival. Irish has a central role in the whole-school assembly that takes place every Monday. A sample of this assembly was observed in the course of this evaluation. 

 

Poetry is taught on a regular basis in this school. Enjoyment and high standards are a feature of this work. The children recite a lot of poems, rhymes and songs and laudable attention is being paid to correct phonology, accent, pace and rhythm of the language. Children have a wide vocabulary and have also a functional understanding of the structure and purpose of verbs. Children possess a wealth of useful phrases. Teachers effectively use Irish as a language of classroom management. Language games are used to promote the pupils’ ability to construct language. Very satisfactory emphasis is put on drama, debate and on the independent construction of language. Language exemplars are developed in order to encourage the children to use known vocabulary for communicative purposes. This approach is fostering a sound grounding in language development. The highly praiseworthy practice of teaching aspects of other subjects through the medium of Irish is in place in the senior section, especially in relation to local History and Geography. It is recommended that this practice be adopted on a whole-school basis and that one subject should be taught through Irish so as to create a real context for the language.

 

Reading is taught in a very structured manner, with the help of appropriate resources and activities. Teachers are attentive to the need to foster comprehension, auditory skills and vocabulary during reading lessons. Children recognise a wide bank of challenging vocabulary through the use of phonics, context cues, and syllabification. Children are given many opportunities to read a wide range of reading genres, including “real books” and books written by other pupils. As a result, children read classroom texts in a fluent manner and it is noted that many pupils have developed a very good understanding of this reading material. It is recommended that full sentences in Irish be displayed in the classrooms.

 

It is also noted that children have achieved good standards in functional writing. Many children were writing in a range of genres, for example, news, writing sick notes, designing identity cards. Some wonderful examples of writing folders were seen in one class during the evaluation, as well as examples of modelling and shared writing. This exemplary practice should be developed on a whole-school basis in order to build pupils’ capacity to engage in writing practices, especially creative writing.

 

English

A comprehensive language programme is being pursued in the school and children are achieving high standards in literacy and oracy. Pupils throughout the school are afforded a rich and structured oral language experience and display an ability to express their views in a fluent, confident manner. Higher order thinking skills are being actively developed during class discussions throughout the school. This was particularly evident in the competent discussions of project work in the middle and senior sections. Pupils are confident speakers and can articulate their thoughts in relation to current actualities and challenges within their lives. They have equal confidence and competence in expressing their thoughts in written form and their writing is characterised by effective, appropriate and stimulating language use. They are introduced to a variety of written genres and demonstrate considerable confidence in the narrative genre. Throughout the school, the use of ICT greatly enhances the writing process and the range of writing activities undertaken for different purposes and different audiences is praiseworthy. The teaching and learning of grammar is excellent and helps to improve both children’s accuracy in relation to the mechanical features of writing and also their knowledge about how language actually works. The high standards being achieved by many pupils in dictation exercises conducted during the evaluation were notable. The standard of the pupils’ handwriting is also laudable.

 

Some emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ emergent reading skills in the infant/junior classes, but greater attention should be given to developing an appropriate sight vocabulary and a rich bank of frequently used words in order to increase the fluency with which very young children can read. Excellent use is made of the large format books in the infant, junior and middle sections, which allows for an integrated language experience for the pupils. Reading standards are very satisfactory in middle and senior classes and pupils are confident readers. They discuss reading materials with understanding and enjoyment. Very effective strategies to develop pupils’ word attack skills in dealing with unknown words in unfamiliar contexts are in place in these classes. Novels and other reading materials are available in school to foster positive attitudes to developing both love of reading and proficiency in it. In some classes, there is, however, a need to renew and replenish supplementary reading materials. Children read and recite poetry with evidence of good understanding and they focus on the need to communicate poetry to an audience in a way that is true to the inherent atmospherics, feeling and  rhythm of poetry.

 

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

Mathematical skills and concepts are carefully taught at all levels in the school and children’s progress is assessed on a regular basis.  Exercises in memorisation of number facts are a feature in all classes and revision tests are regularly administered. Classroom practice reveals that all of the strands of the curriculum are well taught. Pupils are taught in whole class, group and individual settings, as appropriate. The structure of lessons also ensures that a balance is maintained between oral and written work and an effective equilibrium exists between the time pupils spend engaging with the teacher and working independently. Lessons are paced skilfully and experiential learning is central to each lesson. Pupils are provided with opportunities to learn using concrete materials and they are encouraged to learn co-operatively and actively. Estimation skills are emphasised at all levels.

 

In the infant/junior section a sound mathematical basis is established through the practical activities associated with sorting and classifying and the use of concrete materials. A highly effective and tangible emphasis is placed in all classes on the development of mathematical language. In middle classes, there is clear evidence that linkage between strands is effectively used so as to ensure greater conceptual understanding among the children. Cross-curricular activities are also effectively used to support and consolidate children’s understanding of Mathematics.  The mathematics environment created in all classrooms is excellent and supports and records the children’s development across a range of mathematical competencies. Written work is presented very carefully and regularly monitored by teachers.

Pupils respond well to oral questioning and display a competent knowledge of number facts in the senior section. Regular revision is undertaken and the pupils record their work appropriately. There is commendable emphasis on regular testing in some sections. There is clear and laudable evidence of monitoring the results of these assessments and subsequent planning of future learning in some classes. This approach should be adopted on a whole-school basis.  Pupils at the high achieving spectrum are being assigned differentiated work in order to provide cognitive challenge appropriate to their aptitude and this work is highly commendable.

 

3.3 Social, environmental and scientific education (SESE)

Geography

Teachers plan a highly satisfactory programme of geographical activities to allow pupils explore their own immediate environment as well as the world around them. An appropriate blend of textbook and investigative work is pursued and the teachers supplement the lessons with a range of charts and other illustrative materials. There is excellent evidence of the exploration of the local environment, thus helping pupils develop a sense of space and place. Pupils in the school speak very knowledgeably about the aspects of Geography that they have studied. They also display a sound knowledge of natural and human features in Ireland. Very high standards are being achieved in this subject in the senior section of the school. The ongoing use of authentic resources to stimulate interest and to make learning meaningful and rooted in real geographical contexts is a significant strength in this area. The excellent work being carried out in relation to local place-names is worthy of note; the creation of linkage to the Irish origins of place-names  is particularly effective. Appropriate and appealing displays of pupils’ work are presented and cross-curricular links are developed purposefully.

 

History

Teachers plan a very broad History programme that gives children knowledge of the past at family, local, national and international levels. Work in this area is of an exceptionally high standard and merits the highest praise.  Project work is an extremely important element of the History programme in all classes. Samples of local history projects, both submitted for national competitions and used as a basis for class-based work, were examined during the evaluation. The quality of children’s response to authentic, primary sources, as well as the very real sense of personal voice of children in describing aspects of their local history are of a particularly high standard. The children respond positively and are enthusiastic about the topics they have studied. They display an acute and broad knowledge of History and have a keenly developed sense of the continuum of events in temporal, political and social contexts. Laudable emphasis is placed on pupils researching topics and on active-learning experiences in general. The use of ICT for research purposes is particularly praiseworthy. The integration of History and Irish is equally excellent and provides the children with a real context for language learning.

 

Science

A very broad range of work is undertaken across the four strands of the science curriculum. The provision of a wide range of resources enables the setting up of simple science investigations in which the pupils are actively and enjoyably engaged. Displays of investigative work that enhance the programme are provided in some classrooms. In other classes nature tables with seasonal displays are in evidence. Lessons observed were of a high standard. The emphasis was on the development of scientific skills, as well as on conceptual development. Emphasis was placed on the exploration of pupils’ ideas at the outset of lessons and on recapitulation at the end. A particularly stimulating lesson on Louis Braille was observed in the middle section. Teachers are to be praised for the active teaching methodologies embraced. Pupils spoke knowledgeably about work previously undertaken Plentiful opportunities exist in the school for pupils to work in the school grounds, developing habitats and nature trails and propagating seeds. The school has been participating in environmental award programmes, in local Tidy Towns’ anti-litter activities and was awarded the Green Flag in 2004/2005. There is a discernible sense in this school that the environment really matters on an individual, class, school, community, national and international basis. This shared commitment to the creation of a positive vision for the future environment is to be commended.

 

3.4 Arts education

Visual arts

The provision of a broad and balanced programme in the visual arts allows the pupils to express themselves creatively and imaginatively.  The interesting and colourful artwork on display throughout the school creates a bright and cheerful environment. Art activities are successfully integrated in a variety of other curricular areas such as English, project work and creative writing activities. The school has made effective use of visiting artists to explore straw, rod and rush work, as well as batik and quilting. This work is highly effective and creative.

 

Music

Standards in Music are excellent and children display tangible enthusiasm for, and delight in all music classes observed. An extremely broad programme of musical activities, including opportunities for pupils to listen and respond to music as well as performing and composing, is planned for the pupils. Pupils have been involved in a variety of musical programmes outside the confines of the curriculum, to include participation in the Vogler programme. In recent years they have worked with a local traditional musician and singer to explore lilting and traditional  singing. The pupils have participated annually in traditional music competitions (Feis Shligigh and Gael Linn Festival: Coirm 2005-2006). Children display great enthusiasm and skill in performing their songs. This singing is celebrated publicly every week at assembly time. One of these assembly sessions was observed during the course of the evaluation. The quality of the singing and instrumental music was of a very high standard and is worthy of much commendation. The focus on developing a wide repertoire of songs in Irish is equally praiseworthy. Teachers are aware of the need to develop an appropriate musical vocabulary.  Commendable attention is being paid to pulse, tempo, dynamics, timbre, texture and the overall structure of musical pieces. Pupils are also being encouraged to develop their composition skills and, in some classes, are using percussion instruments as well as vocal and body sounds to compose music. 

 

3.5 Physical education

Planning and preparation for physical education is based on the curriculum. The school has no PE hall and the provision of one has been identified by the board as an immediate priority. A range of resources is in place to support the physical education programme. The pupils have opportunity to engage in games, dance, athletics and aquatics.   A well-organised PE lesson was observed during the evaluation. This lesson promoted the development of specific skills and ensured the participation and enjoyment of all the pupils. All pupils’ efforts are actively praised and affirmed. Pupils’ fine-motor skills are developed incidentally on a daily basis in infant and junior classes. The pupils participate enthusiastically and gain benefit from well-directed instruction in skills applicable to many sports. In addition to the coaching provided by the teachers within school hours, and that provided voluntarily by some teachers in their own time, valuable

coaching in Gaelic Games is also provided by students from Sligo Institute of Technology, in conjunction with the county board of Sligo GAA.

 

3.6 Social, personal and health education (SPHE)

A challenging programme for Social, Personal and Health Education appropriate to the pupils’ experience and environment, which builds upon the sound methodology observed in other curricular areas, has been devised and is being implemented in all classes. This programme provides beneficial opportunities for children to develop an understanding of themselves, to foster healthy relationships and to establish and maintain healthy patterns of behaviour. The issues of identity, feelings and relationships are empathetically explored. The individual health needs and welfare of pupils are actively monitored at all times within the school. A range of methodologies is employed to allow pupils explore topics including healthy eating, safety, and relationships. Excellent work is carried out on pupils’ communication skills and self esteem. Much learning activity in the area of Social, Personal and Health Education is also addressed incidentally through cross-curricular work. Kindness and concern characterise the manner in which the teachers interact with the pupils. The courtesy and general behaviour of the pupils is to be commended.   Pupil behaviour during the course of the evaluation was excellent at all times. Their positive attitude, enthusiasm and responsiveness were praiseworthy.

 

3.7 Assessment and achievement

Teachers are aware of the importance of assessment in organising meaningful teaching and learning experiences for their pupils. Hence, pupils’ progress is regularly monitored through teacher observation and highly effective questioning techniques. Systematic correction of written work is a feature of classroom practice and very positive affirming comments are in evidence on the pupils’ textbooks. Some teachers, commendably, keep portfolios of children’s work and checklists for phonological awareness and the identification of core words. In some classes checklists are used with regard to assessment of the pupils’ sight vocabulary and regular mathematic assessments based on the mathematics programme are administered in the junior section. These practices could be even further extended. Teacher-designed tests are administered in the middle and senior sections across a wide range of curricular areas. The results of standardised and teacher-devised testing are effectively utilised for the purpose of measuring and monitoring the children’s’ attainment and for identifying children in need of learning support or resource teaching.  These data also serve as a useful source of information for the parent-teacher meetings that are held annually and for the end of year written reports. The results of all tests are carefully tabulated and filed and used to identify pupils experiencing difficulty.

 

 

4. Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Provision for pupils with special educational needs

The learning support teacher works in a shared capacity between this school and one other local school. The school has access also to a resource teacher. The work observed reveals excellent practice in this area. A variety of approaches, methodologies and manipulatives is deployed to encourage concept development. Planning for the delivery of this support is excellent. Targets are very clearly set and reviewed regularly. In general, teacher observation, standardised assessment, and some diagnostic testing are the principal assessment strategies used. Detailed progress records are maintained. There is evidence of consultation with the parents of pupils in receipt of support teaching. A high level of collaboration between mainstream class teacher and support teachers characterises this work and the staff are to be commented for their vision in relation to this important aspect of support for pupils with special educational needs. It is advised that the outcomes of this teamwork can be enhanced through organising additional collaborative planning meetings that would facilitate development of specific learning targets for all the pupils concerned. This process would also provide opportunities for decision-making in relation to the specific teaching methods and resources to be employed. This is particularly relevant to the pupils who are spending significant amounts of time every day in withdrawal situations. To date, support teachers have operated a withdrawal system whereby pupils are taken in groups or individually  for focused tuition. It is now recommended that the school should explore alternative methods of delivering this support to the younger pupils in particular. This should be addressed in organising the schools’ early intervention programme next academic year.

 

4.2 Provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

The school does not have a specific policy on provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. All pupils are celebrated and inclusion of all children is promoted. 

 

4.3 Provision for pupils from minority groups

The school does not have any policies regarding pupils from minority groups. At the time of the inspection there were no pupils from minority groups attending the school.

 

4.4 Home-school partnership

Very good communication structures between home and school have been established and the spirit of partnership and co-operation that exists between the teachers, board and parents was highlighted by the parents’ representatives on the board of management at the outset of the evaluation. There are many opportunities for the parents to meet with the teachers informally at assembly and dismissal times and also formally as the need arises. There are also informal meetings with parents during sports day, on school outings and during school musical and dramatic performances. There is evidence that regular notes and letters are sent to parents keeping them abreast of school events. Formal parent-teacher meetings are being held annually and these are an important means of sharing information with parents with regard to their children’s progress. Reports on pupils’ progress are sent home at the end of the school year. Parents are asked to become involved in the formulation and revision of school policies on organisational and curricular matters and they are in regular consultation with the principal. It is recommended that the process of formation of an official parent body be initiated.

 

 

5. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

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

 

  • This school radiates a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. Very high standards are being achieved across all aspects of the school’s activity, and most notably in many curriculum areas where teaching approaches are extremely effective and worthy of much commendation.
  • The standards being achieved in Irish, English and Mathematics are excellent and are testimony to high quality teaching.
  • The SESE curriculum is being delivered in an active, environmentally conscious, hands-on manner and the learning opportunities being afforded to children in this area are excellent.
  • Standards of teaching and subsequent outcomes in learning in the Music curriculum are very good and merit much commendation.
  • Very good provision for pupils with special needs is noted, with potential for re-structuring the format of delivery identified. 
  • Home-school communication procedures with regard to parents are noted, but the formation of a representative parents’ group to formally articulate the views of parents is yet to be realised.

 

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that support teaching should include provision for an in-class, early intervention programme.
  • It is recommended that an official Parents’ Association be set up.

 

 

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