An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St. Senan’s National School,
Foynes, Co. Limerick
Roll number: 02813E
Date of inspection: 12 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Senan’s National School. 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 representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ 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 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.
St. Senan’s National School, Foynes, Co. Limerick is a six-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick, which caters for pupils from infants to sixth class. The school is located in the village of Foynes, approximately twenty miles from Limerick city. There is a current enrolment of 104 pupils in St. Senan’s National School and this enrolment figure has increased over the past three years. It is predicted that there will be a further increase in pupil enrolment in the school by September 2007.
The mission statement of St. Senan’s National School is ‘Fás agus Foghlaim’ and the school’s philosophy is detailed in its vision statement. This outlines that the child is central to all school activities and that the child’s welfare is its prime concern. The school endeavours to ‘give the child the help and the facilities which will enable him/her to develop physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity’. The school strives to foster the ‘full and harmonious development of the child’s personality’ and it further strives to ensure that the school is ‘a place where pupils are happy and fulfilled, motivated and challenged in a caring and secure environment’. It aims to ensure that pupils are socially aware and that they ‘will reach their full potential academically, be proficient at oral language and self-expression, be literate and numerate and acquire computer skills’. The school also takes due cogniscence of the importance of parental involvement in the development of the child and it outlines in its vision statement that it will explain its ‘aim to the parents, take full account of their views, enlist their co-operation and endeavour to influence their attitudes in a positive way.’ The school philosophy also underpins the importance of ensuring that ‘all are treated with equal care, affection, respect and consistency’ and that its guiding principle will be ‘the best interest of the child’.
The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. It convenes at least five times per year and the board endeavours to comply with statutory obligations. It is recommended, however, that the board undertakes a review of the school’s Enrolment Policy as a matter of urgency, so that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000) are observed.
The chairperson of the board visits the school on a frequent basis and regular communication has been established between the principal and the chairperson. This feature of good practice is commended. The board fosters co-operation between the school and the local community and perceives its role as engaging in a wide variety of school-related matters. These issues include the replacement of school furniture, painting of the exterior school building, drainage of the school yard, the construction of an area to accommodate the school’s Green Flag and other maintenance matters. The board’s current priorities relate to monitoring pupil numbers in mainstream classes, reviewing matters in relation to resource teaching provision and ensuring the smooth organisation and expenditure of school funding. The board of management is commended for the work undertaken and completed to date with regard to the development and maintenance of the school’s accommodation and building. It is now recommended that the board formulates a long-term strategic development plan.
The board expressed its satisfaction with the quality of the education provision in this school. It reported that the pupils achieved high standards on entry to post primary school and that the school works collaboratively with the local community. Reference was also made to the good structures of communication that have been established with others schools in the parish and also the manner in which parental involvement is encouraged.
The board cited the development of initiatives in the curricular areas of arts and science as features of good practice in the school and reference was also made to the dynamic nature and the accessibility of the teaching staff. It is advised, however, that the board of management ensures the further provision of classroom resources to enhance the delivery of language areas of the curriculum and also to increase the provision of age-appropriate books and reading material for class libraries. It is also important to ensure the additional provision of concrete materials in Mathematics for use in classrooms at all levels.
Circulars from the Department of Education and Science are discussed at board of management meetings, as appropriate, and the principal’s report is presented. This feature of good practice is commended. The board plays a collaborative role in the formulation of school planning policies, through consultation, discussion and ratification of documentation. Shortened versions of school policies are communicated to parents at the beginning of the school year. Communication is facilitated with the general parent body through the issuing of a school newsletter, on a twice-yearly basis and parental assistance is also encouraged through the implementation of the school’s Healthy Eating Policy. The principal attends meetings of the parents’ association, when requested.
It is evident, from school planning documentation, that an Altar Servers’ Policy is being implemented and that some pupils are engaged in non-curricular activities off the school premises on a regular basis during school time. Pupils are not under the direct supervision of a teacher during this time. It should also be noted that, during these periods of absence, these pupils are denied access to teaching and learning activities. As a result, curriculum related classroom activities are also restricted. During the post evaluation meeting, these activities were brought to the attention of the board of management and a recommendation was made that the practice in relation to the school’s Altar Servers’ Policy be reviewed as a matter of urgency.
It is further recommended that consideration be given to developing a policy on staff rotation. This would provide opportunities for all teachers to teach at different class levels throughout the school. It is advised, also, that in the formulation and review of responsibilities pertaining to special duties posts, curricular responsibilities, organisational responsibilities and pastoral responsibilities be included.
The in-school management team
comprises the teaching principal, the deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. It is evident that the principal is effective in creating a favourable school climate, promoting positive behaviour and attendance by pupils, developing the whole-school planning process and managing administrative tasks. The principal is also responsible for the daily operation and day to day running of the school and is commended for the efficacy with which these duties are undertaken. It is now important to ensure that slightly greater emphasis is placed on leading teaching and learning, on monitoring and on evaluating the effectiveness of learning outcomes in curricular areas and also on reviewing classroom practice throughout the school.
The principal is supported by the in-school management team and this team assists in the operational aspects of the school. Informal communication systems exist between post-holders and school staff. Staff meetings are convened on a termly basis and as necessary. School documentation indicates that the primary responsibilities of the deputy principal include assuming the duties of principal in her absence, acting as staff representative on the board of management, reporting on health and safety hazards, responsibility for school heating, responsibility for ordering school equipment, organisation of the school fire drill and organisation of the junior school tour. Responsibilities incorporated in the special duties post include the maintenance of the staff room, transmission of communications, secretarial tasks during staff meetings and planning days, co-ordination of the Credit Union saving scheme and responsibility for first aid matters. The supervision of pupils, contact with parents and administration of issues in relation to the school bus also constitute the responsibilities of the special duties post.
It is important to ensure that an annual review of in-school management responsibilities is undertaken, so that these duties can be matched to the priorities and developing needs of the school and also to ensure that these responsibilities include a curricular, organisational and pastoral element.
The school has a staff of four mainstream class teachers, including the teaching principal. The school has the services of a learning support teacher, who is based on a full-time basis in this school. One resource teacher, who is also based in this school, provides two and a half hours resource teaching time in Kilcolman National School. One shared resource teacher, who is based in Ballyhahill National School, provides seven hours resource teaching time to two pupils.
The board of management employs a part-time secretary, a part-time caretaker and cleaner, while a special needs assistant provides support for one pupil in the school. Extra- and co-curricular provision is made through the services of external coaches. These coaches provide instruction in Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) activities for all pupils, while music tuition has been made available to pupils in third to sixth classes. It is recommended that, during the time of musical instruction, it is ensured that pupils are under the direct supervision of the class teacher. German classes are undertaken with the pupils of fifth and sixth classes once per week, while tuition in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) is also provided.
There are four permanent mainstream classrooms within the school building, which was constructed in 1969 and extended in 1982. A general purposes area, learning support room, resource teaching area, computer room and principal’s/secretary’s office are also in existence. A staff room, which is also used as the area in which part time resource teaching hours are provided, toilet facilities, cloakrooms, internal storage areas and ancillary accommodation, also constitute the accommodation features of this school. Very good standards of cleanliness and order are in evidence in the school building, while the exterior facilities are also well-maintained. The school has the use of grassed and hard-surfaced areas during recreational periods and these amenities are also utilised during activities in Physical Education. The school utilises the facilities of the local GAA pitch for sports activities.
Learning environments in mainstream classrooms and support areas are well-maintained, in general. It is advised, however, that the practice of providing organised, attractive and stimulating print-rich environments be extended to all classrooms. It is documented that grants issued by the Department of Education and Science (DES) to the school have been expended in the purchase of computer equipment, audio-visual resources, charts and books. Equipment to support the delivery of the curriculum in Physical Education, Science and Mathematics has also been purchased. It is recommended that the provision of classroom materials to enhance delivery of language areas of the curriculum be expanded. Consideration should also be given to ensuring the additional provision of age-appropriate books and reading material for inclusion in class libraries. It should be further ensured that the increased provision of concrete materials be addressed.
During the pre-evaluation meeting with the officers of the parents’ association (PA), it was stated that the PA in this school is a long established association, which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC). It was also reported that monthly meetings are convened and that officers have availed of training. The principal is invited to attend some of the PA meetings and a formal system of communication has been established with the principal. It was reported also that good communication systems and structures exist between school and home. The School Notice Board was perceived as a good form of school/parent communication.
It is evident that the PA in this school is active and supportive of school activities and that it is also concerned with fundraising projects and initiatives. The PA representatives indicated that parents are involved in supporting the work of the school. They also commented on their involvement in the work of the school with regard to supporting the school’s Green Flag initiative, the painting of games areas on the school yard, the establishment of the school’s bus collection area, assistance with the bi-annual school concert and the organisation of arrangements regarding the meeting with new parents to the locality whose children attend the school. It was further reported that a survey of parents had been conducted, regarding the introduction and design of the school’s tracksuit. The promotion of the school’s Healthy Eating policy, the production and sale of school calendar are further initiatives in which the PA has an involvement.
The parents’ representatives reported that they were satisfied with the education provision in the school. It was stated that a Shared Reading initiative had been introduced at some class levels and that parent teacher meetings are convened on an annual basis. It was also reported that teachers accommodate meetings at any time during the school year. The parents’ representatives indicated that parents’ signatures regarding the school’s Code of Behaviour are sought each year. It was reported that traditionally, there is little involvement from the parents’ association regarding the formulation of school polices. It was also indicated that parents might be unclear regarding the availability and accessibility of school planning policies. During the pre-evaluation meeting, reference was made to the allocation of classes for the current school year. The parents’ representatives expressed satisfaction with the school’s assessment procedures and reporting of pupil progress and they also outlined their satisfaction with the manner in which the school dealt with parental concerns.
During the current school year, pupils have been allocated to mainstream classes in the following manner: one single class grouping of junior infant pupils and three combined class groupings of senior infant/first class, second/third class and fourth/fifth and sixth class pupils. The characteristic spirit of the school is reflected in the classroom atmosphere. The school’s vision statement outlines that the child is central to all school activities and that the child’s welfare is its prime concern. This school ethos is evidenced through the positive pupil/teacher interactions observed in mainstream and support classroom settings.
The school plan outlines comprehensive policies on organisational and administrative matters and also on curricular areas. The school staff is commended on the planning documentation formulated to date and also on its recognition of the developmental nature of the whole school planning process. School planning policies are ratified by the board and shortened versions of policies are disseminated and made available to parents. It is advised that the level of parental involvement and input in the development and formulation of school planning documentation be further extended, as appropriate. It is evident that collaboration between staff and board of management has taken place in the formulation of this documentation and this practice is commended. It is now advised that consideration be given to ensuring that the signature of the chairperson of the board be recorded on all school planning documentation and that school planning policies be reviewed on a regular basis.
A range of general school policies is presented on organisational matters including Enrolment/Admission, School Discipline, Policy to Counter Bullying Behaviour, Home-School Communication, Homework, School Bus, Supervision, Teacher Absence, Cleaning, Mobile Phone, Library, Altar Servers, School Tour, Fundraising, Staff Development, Equity, Health and Safety, Administration of Medication, Child Protection – Code of Practice, Substance Abuse and a Separated Parents 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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
A range of general policies is also presented in the school plan pertaining to whole school documentation on the school’s Learning Support/Resource Policy, Resource Teaching Policy, Assessment Policy, Policy Governing Special Needs Assistants, Policy on Trainee Classroom Assistants and Special Needs Assistants, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Gifted Children Policy, ICT Policy and Acceptable User Internet Policy.
Curricular policy documentation is included on Gaeilge, English, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Music, SESE Science, SESE Geography, SESE History, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Physical Education.
Consideration should now be given to the creation of an overall strategic/action plan, where areas relating to the formulation, development and timescales for the regular review of policies could be documented. It is also recommended that, in relation to the development and review of curricular policies, consideration be given to outlining the learning objectives, expected learning outcomes and content to be taught pertaining to each class level. This practice would provide a systematic overview of curricular planning and ensure progression in all areas of the curriculum. The existing curricular plans could be incorporated into revised plans which should include reference to explicit aims, methodologies, resources, content and assessment.
It is also advised that the continued development of curricular planning, as identified by school staff be addressed. It is further recommended that a school self-evaluation process be put in place to monitor implementation of the curriculum throughout the school. Consideration should also be given to identifying and nominating a curriculum co-ordinator within the school, to ensure the implementation of specific areas of the curriculum throughout all class levels and to also ensure the overall co-ordination and review of curricular policies.
Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. At most class levels, very good work is being undertaken pertaining to individual teacher planning and comprehensive preparation is also evident with regard to supplementary teaching and support provision. There is a need, however, to ensure a shared understanding regarding pupil learning outcomes at pupil, class and whole school level. It is also important to ensure that these pupil outcomes are explicitly linked to the Primary School Curriculum (1999).
Yearly and fortnightly schemes are formulated and supported, at most levels, by the effective use of ICT and, in some classes there is evidence of linkage between long-term, short-term planning and the principles and structure of Primary School Curriculum (1999). Where effective practice in this regard was observed, it was evident that focused and comprehensive written preparation was presented, which informed classroom practice in a productive manner.
It is recommended that, in order to ensure that this good practice is echoed in all mainstream classes, further consideration might now be given to preparation for single-grade and multi-grade class contexts on a whole-school basis, as appropriate. The adoption of a common approach to short-term and long-term planning throughout all class levels is also advised, so that continuity and progression throughout all class levels is ensured.
It is also recommended that consideration be given to the creation of a common school-devised template, pertaining to monthly progress records, which might include a balance between content objectives and the pupils’ learning outcomes. This approach might also provide an opportunity to include an evaluative comment regarding pupils’ attainment, rather than an indication of the content taught.
4.1 Overview of teaching and learning
In some classes, it is evident that there is an appropriate balance between teacher-directed/didactic approaches and the implementation of activity, discovery and participative methodologies. Where good classroom practice was observed, effective pacing, cross-curricular integration, use of the environment, clear lesson structure and development were in evidence. It is important to ensure, however, that these features of good practice are extended to all class levels and also that a balance of teaching approaches is addressed. At some class levels, it is recommended that whole class teaching approaches be de-emphasised and that a greater variety of developmentally appropriate methodologies, including group teaching approaches, participative methodologies, activity-based learning and differentiating activities be incorporated into programmes of teaching and learning. It should also be ensured that activities to promote/develop differentiation and provision for pupils with special educational needs are implemented in mainstream class settings. Consideration should also be given to the sharing of teacher expertise, as appropriate.
The use of ICT should also be further explored during mainstream and support teaching class activity, in order to ensure that this resource continues to support the areas of curriculum effectively. It should also be ensured that appropriate pupil access to equipment is addressed and that a wide range of educational software is available.
Tá cáipéisíocht chuimsitheach ullmhaithe i bpolasaí na Gaeilge sa phlean scoile i gcomhar le foireann na scoile. Tá tagairt i bpleanáil na n-oidí aonair do struchtúir Churaclam na Bunscoile (1999) i rangleibhéil áirithe. Is léir go bhfuil iarrachtaí á dhéanamh chun atmaisféar atá fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí agus go n-úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga teagaisc/mar mhionchaint an ranga i ranganna áirithe.
Tá caighdeán maith tuisceana agus cumas cumarsáide oiriúnach sroichte ag daltaí na n-ardranganna i snáitheanna an churaclaim. Tá foclóir leathan ag roinnt mhaith daltaí sna méanranganna agus sna hardranganna.
Feictear, i gcoitinne, go gcuirtear ceachtanna i láthair trí fheidhm a bhaint as ceistiúchán an oide, obair bheirte, fearas an mhúinteora, acmhainní léirithe, an clár bán, luaschártaí, prionta sa timpeallacht agus aithris rannaireachta/ filíochta. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar struchtúir soiléir agus cur chuige céimniúil a chinntiú le linn na gceachtanna ag leibhéil áirithe. Ba chóir a chinntiú, anois, go bhforbraítear an scéalaíocht tríd an scoil agus go bhfoghlaimíonn na daltaí cnuasach leathan rann, filíochta agus amhráin Ghaeilge i ngach rang. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh chomh maith ar bhéim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam agus ar chleachtaí éisteachta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí go minic. Ba chóir a dheimhniú, i ranganna áirithe, go seachnófaí usáid an Bheárla agus modh an aistriúcháin chun nathanna agus focail nua a mhíniú. Bheadh sé den tábhacht, freisin, daingniú rialta na foclóra, na nathanna agus na mbunstruchtúir ghramadaí a chinnitiú le linn na gceachtanna ag rangleibhéil áirithe.
Freastlaítear go cuí ar chumas cumarsáide agus scileanna labhartha na bpáistí a fhorbairt i gcoitinne. Bheadh sé den tábhacht anois, áfach, an cleachtas seo a leathnú i ngach rangsheomra agus a chinntiú freisin go ndéantar difreálú oiriúnach ar cheachtanna chun an t-ábhar a chur in oiriúint do chumais agus rangleibhéil éagsúla. Ba chóir a chinntiú, chomh maith, go bhfreastlaítear ar scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí aonair a chur chun cinn i ranganna áirithe.
Cuirtear tús leis an léitheoireacht trí phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar sna rangsheomraí agus trí fheidhm a bhaint as scéim léitheoireachta. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar an dea-chleachtas de sholáthar timpeallachta saibhir i bprionta na Gaeilge a leathnú ar fud na scoile. Feictear go léann formhór na ndaltaí le tuiscint agus le líofacht. Bheadh sé tábhachtach deiseanna rialta a thabhairt do na daltaí tabhairt faoi ghníomhaíochtaí éagsúla a dhéanfadh forbairt ar straitéisí aithinte focal agus scileanna briseadh focal na ndaltaí. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh, chomh maith, ar úsáid a bhaint as raon níos leithne d’ábhar léitheoireachta tríd an scoil agus iar-scéimeanna léitheoireachta a úsáid mar áis agus mar thaca do chlár foghlama na Gaeilge ó am go chéile.
Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta i gcóipleabhair agus is léir go spreagtar cur-i-láthair slachtmhar i gcoitinne. I rangsheomraí áirithe, feictear fianaise den obair seo i dtimpeallacht na ndaltaí. Is fiú, anois, féachaint le monatóireacht rialta agus aischothú éifeachtach a chinntiú i ranganna áirithe. Ba chóir, freisin, féachaint leis an ríomhaire a úsáid níos forleithne maidir leis an bpróiseas scríbhneoireachta a chur chun cinn.
Comprehensive school planning documentation has been prepared, in collaboration with the teaching staff, in relation to the curricular policy of Irish. Individual teacher planning, in some classrooms, reflects the structures of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). It is evident that efforts are made to foster a positive atmosphere in classrooms regarding the Irish language. Efforts are also made to utilise Irish during incidental discussions and as the medium of instruction in some settings.
At senior class level, a good level of achievement has been attained in relation to pupils’ comprehension skills and a suitable standard is in evidence with regard to their communicative competence across the strands of the Irish curriculum. A wide vocabulary has been acquired by most pupils in middle and senior classes.
It is observed, in general, that lessons are implemented through the use of teacher questioning, pair work, teacher-made resources, illustrative materials, the white board, flashcards, a print-rich environment and the recitation of rhymes and poetry. Consideration should now be given, however, to ensuring that clear structure and lesson development are features of classroom practice at some class levels. It should also be ensured that storytelling be expanded as a teaching strategy throughout the school and that the pupils learn a wide anthology of Irish rhymes, poems and songs in all classes. It is further advised that greater emphasis be placed on developing the Listening (Éisteacht) strand of the curriculum and to ensure that pupils are presented with listening activities on a frequent basis. It is also important to ensure, in some classes, that translation methods are not employed and that the use of English is avoided during lessons in Irish to explain new phraseology and vocabulary. It is further recommended that regular consolidation and reinforcement of vocabulary, phraseology and grammatical structures is undertaken at some class levels.
Due attention is paid, in general, to developing pupils’ communication and oral language skills. It is important, however, to ensure that this practice is extended to all classrooms and that appropriate differentiating activities are provided during lessons to cater for varying pupil needs and class levels. It is important to ensure also, that individual pupils’ communication skills are developed at some class levels.
An introduction to reading is addressed through the provision of print-rich environments in classrooms and also through the use of a reading scheme. It is advised that the good practice of providing print-rich learning environments be extended throughout the school. It is observed that the majority of pupils read with understanding and fluency. It is important to ensure that frequent opportunities are provided for pupils to undertake various activities which would develop their word recognition and word analysis skills in Irish. Consideration should also be given to providing a broader range of reading materials throughout the school and also to employing books from previously-used reading schemes, which could be productively used as a resource to support the learning programme in Irish, as appropriate.
Pupils record written exercises in their copybooks and it is evident that neat presentation is encouraged, in general. In some classrooms, evidence of this work is displayed in the pupils’ learning environment. It is now important to ensure, at some class levels, that regular monitoring is undertaken and that effective feedback is given in relation to the outcomes of pupil work. Consideration should also be given to extending the use of the computer so that the process approach to writing in Irish is developed.
A broad and focused programme of work, based on the curricular area of English, is outlined in school planning documentation. A range of oral language activities is outlined and appropriate reference is made to the structures and principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Planning for oral language topics is detailed, however, it is recommended that a discrete oral language programme, which is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives in the English curriculum, be further developed and implemented in all classes. It is also advised that consideration be given to using the Drumcondra English Profiles, so that a system, which would monitor pupil progress in this area of the curriculum, could be developed. It is further advised that daily oral language lessons with specific objectives from the curriculum be identified and implemented throughout the school.
It is important to ensure that a greater emphasis be placed on establishing a solid language base before the introduction of formal reading in infant classes. (cf Newsnote ‘The Emergent Reader’, NCCA, Jan 2001). It is also important to ensure that developmentally appropriate methodologies are implemented at infant level and are identified in whole school policy. It is recommended that consideration be given to extending the provision of story books and story reading activities in infant and junior classes, to ensure that pupils’ vocabulary development is intensified. This would also ensure that all children’s receptive and expressive language skills are appropriately developed.
Pupils in all classes read with fluency and understanding, in general, and good outcomes are in evidence in relation to pupils’ literacy attainment. Pupils have a good grasp of spellings and phonic work throughout the school.
A scheme to enhance pupils’ phonological awareness is in use in infant classes, through the implementation of the Letterland programme. Commercial textbooks are employed throughout the school, while novels are also being used in senior classes. Shared reading initiatives have begun in some classes, while it is anticipated that a Buddy System will be implemented in the near future. The local library is visited and used as a resource on a frequent basis and this feature of good practice is commended. While a range of books is presented in classroom environments, it is important to ensure that the provision of age-appropriate books and reading material is increased in class libraries and that all books are displayed in a manner which facilitates pupil accessibility.
The development of children’s higher order thinking skills should be further promoted at all class levels. A repertoire of poems is explored by the pupils, however, it is recommended, that the further study and exploration of poetry be ensured at some class levels.
In written assignments, appropriate emphasis is placed on grammatical and functional structures.
Good presentation of pupil work in copies is in evidence, an appropriate level of work is undertaken in all classes, while functional and creative writing activities are addressed. It should be ensured, however, that a wider variety of genres be undertaken and further explored. It is also advised that the process approach to writing and collaborative writing practices be further developed and implemented at all class levels and supported through the use of the school’s ICT equipment. Pupils’ work samples in writing are attractively displayed in classrooms and in some instances, these samples of work are supported by the productive use of ICT. It is evident that specific areas of pupils’ learning environments are dedicated to this activity and that opportunities for cross-curricular integration are undertaken. This good feature of practice should be extended to all classrooms. It is important to ensure also, that regular correction and teacher monitoring of pupil work is addressed in some classes and that effective feedback is given on pupils’ written work. Further consideration should now be given, at some class levels, to ensuring that pupils’ written work is recorded appropriately, so that the quality of pupils’ written outcomes/handwriting can be assessed in a systematic manner and also, in order to further facilitate the monitoring of pupil progress.
Whole school planning documentation and individual teacher planning in the area of Mathematics reflect the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). It is evident from the whole school policy presented on this curricular area that emphasis is placed on the acquisition and use of mathematical language throughout the school.
Good pupil attainment is in evidence in relation to numeracy. A range of methodologies is undertaken, in general, while the implementation of participative strategies is also being addressed. Explanation of basic procedures is undertaken and suitable emphasis is placed on the acquisition of number concepts and skills. In general, it is evident that group teaching approaches are implemented, while the effective management of pupil application in tasks and activities was also observed during some lessons. Concrete and structured materials are used productively at most class levels and it is recommended that the provision and use of mathematical resources be increased in all classes. Consideration should also be given to extending the practice of displaying samples of pupil work and also of creating investigative and dedicated areas for Mathematics throughout the school.
The development and use of mathematical equipment and educational software to support pupil learning and engagement with different strands of the Mathematics curriculum is also advised. Consideration should be given to the further development of mathematical concepts through the use of the pupils’ immediate and local environment, real life situations, mathematical workshops and trails. Higher order thinking strategies could also be further promoted to enhance and reinforce pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts and problems. It is important to ensure that experiential learning approaches continue to be developed and that active learning strategies and work with concrete materials are promoted at all class levels. Increased emphasis should also be placed on developing pupils’ problem-solving skills and the development of mathematical language. It is advised that consideration be given to ensuring that activities in oral Mathematics are undertaken on a daily basis in all classes, in order to further develop pupils’ problem solving abilities. The differentiation of learning activities and expected outcomes to cater for pupils with various learning needs should be addressed at all class levels.
A policy in the curricular area of History has been recently formulated for inclusion in the school plan. Cross-curricular links have been established between the programme of learning in History and other areas of the curriculum. Pupils are afforded the opportunity of engaging with themes of local, national and European relevance through the use of project work, textbooks and illustrative materials. Further consideration should now be given to expanding the use of project work to all classes. It should also be ensured that a variety of methodologies and active learning strategies is undertaken during lessons. It is recommended that work undertaken on local environment studies be extended and that the development of pupils’ skills as historians be further expanded through the use of broadband technology. This could be undertaken by enabling pupils to access and analyse primary sources of data. Consideration should also be given to extending the development and creation of investigation areas to all classrooms.
Children display an interest in, and knowledge of a range of facts in the curricular area of Geography. Elements of physical and human geography of Ireland and of European countries are explored in middle and senior classes, through the use of textbooks and wall-maps. Concepts pertaining to pupils’ sense of place are also being developed in an effective manner, with local place names displayed and recorded in the senior classroom. This work is often suitably integrated with aspects of other curricular areas. The development of pupil skills, active learning strategies, the promotion of discovery learning and group work activities are some of the features of good practice in evidence regarding this curricular area. The continued development of pupils’ skills as geographers should be considered. This could be assisted through the support of the school’s ICT resources and also through the extended use of broadband technology. It is advised that future classroom activity in this curricular area would include the expansion of project work in all classes. It is further advised that emphasis be placed on extending the work undertaken in local environment studies. Cross-curricular links with other areas of the curriculum, including English, Music and Science, are in evidence. It is recommended that the implementation of these methodologies be extended to all class levels. Commendable work has been undertaken in environmental awareness projects such as the Green Schools initiative, for which the school has been awarded the Green Flag.
A comprehensive policy pertaining to the curricular area of Science has been formulated and is included in school planning documentation. It is evident, from the lessons observed, that experimentation is undertaken in mainstream classrooms and that these activities are based on the strands and strand units of the Science curriculum. Cross-curricular links between the programme of learning in Science and other curricular areas of the Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) curriculum have also been established. Group work activities, activity/discovery approaches and project work are addressed in a commendable manner in some classes and the continued use of these methodologies is recommended. It is also recommended that the use of appropriate and productive strategies to facilitate pupil engagement with discovery and investigative processes be further extended. Consideration should be given to the development and further provision of investigation tables in mainstream classrooms throughout the school.
A comprehensive policy outlining the programme of work in the area of Visual Arts is presented in the whole school plan. Learning experiences in Visual Arts are directed towards the provision of a broad programme of work for each class level across the six curricular strands. Attractive displays of pupil work are arranged in classrooms and in pupils’ immediate learning environment. Pupil effort is celebrated and emphasis is placed on pupil enjoyment and on the developmental process. Occasional participation in competitions is also encouraged. Effective cross-curricular work in Visual Arts is undertaken with learning experiences in SESE at some class levels and this feature of good practice is commended. It is advised that consideration should now be given to the development of digital portfolios, through a photographic record of work, which could be supported by the school’s ICT resources.
A Music policy has recently been formulated and is presented in school planning documentation. In the classes where the teaching of Music was observed, it is evident that Music is taught in a competent manner. Good standards have been attained in relation to pupils’ singing ability and with regard to their competence in instrumental skills. Aspects of Music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat and pitch are being explored. It is important, however, to ensure that appropriate activities are presented to promote pupils’ listening, responding and Music appreciation skills. Productive use is made of a variety of appropriate resources including percussion instruments, appropriate textbooks, tapes, compact discs and audio-visual equipment. It is recommended that consideration might now be given to the sharing of teacher expertise in this curricular area. The development of pupils’ instrumental skills is promoted through the provision of instruction in recorder. Tuition is provided by an external tutor and pupils from third and fourth classes are afforded the opportunity of availing of this instruction on a weekly basis. It should now be ensured that pupils are under the direct supervision of the class teacher during this time.
Dramatic activity is undertaken at classroom level and is also used as an effective tool to ensure cross-curricular integration. In some classes, Drama is also used to enhance learning experiences across a range of curricular areas. It is evident from the lessons observed that pupils derive enjoyment from the techniques employed and from the activities undertaken. Pupils are also afforded the opportunity of participating in Christmas concerts on a bi-annual basis.
Planning documentation for the curricular area of Physical Education is presented in the school plan. Good use is made of the school’s general purposes area, external facilities, recreational areas and the local Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) pitch, with regard to the provision of activities in Physical Education. It is evident from the lessons observed, that activities are organised and implemented in an effective manner and that appropriate skill development and use of equipment is addressed. Pupils are enabled to participate in a broad programme of learning in relation to physical activities and participation in the Community Games is also encouraged. Extra- and co-curricular provision is addressed through the services of an external coach from the GAA, who provides instruction in Gaelic games to all pupils. Lessons in swimming are also organised for pupils from third to sixth classes. The teaching staff is commended for the investment of time in and commitment to Physical Education.
The promotion of self esteem, in conjunction with the school ethos and mission statement is outlined in the school’s policy in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The content of the programme of learning for all classes is also outlined in the SPHE policy and this feature of good practice is commended. Policies in relation to SPHE incorporated in school planning documentation include the school’s Child Protection – Code of Practice, Policy to Counter Bullying Behaviour, Health and Safety Policy, Administration of Medication Policy, Substance Abuse Policy and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) Policy. The school also ensures the implementation of a Healthy Eating policy in collaboration with parents.
In classes where lessons in SPHE were observed, teaching strategies including teacher-led questioning/discussion were implemented and Circle Time activities were undertaken. The programme of work in this curricular area includes activities from Walk Tall, RSE, Bí Folláin and North Western Health Board (NWHB) resources. Emphasis is also placed on personal development activities and the promotion of pupils’ self-esteem.
The school’s involvement in the promotion of environmental awareness initiatives, through the Green Schools project
and its support for charitable projects, such as Operation Christmas Child, is commended and acknowledged as good practice in relation to this area of the curriculum.
A policy on Assessment is presented in whole school planning documentation and there is a range of assessment strategies in evidence throughout the school. Informal approaches include teacher observation, monitoring of written work, and teacher-designed tests. Formal assessment procedures in the school are addressed through the use of teacher-designed tests and through the annual administration of standardised tests, including the MICRA-T and the SIGMA-T. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) is also administered on an occasional basis. The results of these tests are filed and are stored centrally in the school. Diagnostic testing materials utilised include QUEST, Schonell, Jackson Phonics and the Dolch Word List.
It is recommended that the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) be administered to pupils at senior infant level. It is further advised that, following the administration of the MIST, consideration be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme, in collaboration with parents. It is further advised that consideration be given to the use of a computerised system, which would further facilitate the analysis of assessment data by mainstream class teachers, the support teachers and the principal.
Commercially produced reporting booklets are in use and reports on pupil progress are sent to parents at the end of each school year. Feedback in relation to pupil progress is also provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings and a file is maintained on each pupil in the school. Consideration should now be given to the development of digital portfolios to facilitate the storage of individual children’s work samples in a variety of curricular areas.
The quality of provision of pupils with special educational needs is very good. The special education support teaching team in this school consists of three permanent teachers. This includes one full time learning support teacher, one resource teacher who is based in the school and provides two and a half hours support in a neighbouring school and one shared resource teacher who provides seven hours support to two pupils. The teachers are very committed to their role within the school and it is apparent that they are dedicated to and concerned for the educational needs and welfare of the pupils in their care. The school ethos fully supports the inclusion of pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs into the life of the school. The board ensures that all required and requested resources are purchased and are available for use by teachers and pupils. Two spacious rooms are utilised exclusively by the team. These areas are organised in an attractive manner. One teacher currently operates from the staff room. It is recommended, therefore, that provision for an alternative resource teaching area be addressed within the school’s existing accommodation, to ensure that an appropriate learning environment is provided.
Relevant whole school policies effectively inform the planning and practice of the special education needs team. These policies are in keeping with recommendations made in Circular 02/05 and in the Learning Support Guidelines, (DES, 2000). In general, detailed and comprehensive planning is undertaken by the teachers. Very good individualised education programmes (IEPs) are prepared for each pupil. These are well organised on a termly, monthly and weekly basis. In the case of pupils in receipt of learning support, learning priorities are identified based on the results achieved in a wide range of diagnostic and standardised tests. Individual education plans for pupils in receipt of resource hours are based on the recommendations contained in the psychological assessments. The school has initiated case conferences with speech and language therapists and occupational therapists and their recommendations are included in the planning of programmes. Pupil strengths are identified in consultation with the mainstream class teacher. This information is utilised in the formulation of comprehensive learning priorities which identify the learning targets for a specific period. Pupils’ progress is monitored on a daily basis and careful records of their development in each aspect of the individual education plan are maintained. This enables teachers and parents to assess the progress being made in each of the identified priority learning areas. Parents are not involved, at present, in the drafting of learning programmes for their children and there is no formal procedure for communicating these programmes to parents. It is recommended, therefore, that serious consideration be given to ways in which parental involvement can be maximised to the benefit of the pupils.
Overall, the quality of teaching in support teaching settings is very good and it is based on the pupils’ learning needs. Lessons observed are well structured and the content, teaching methodologies and range of resources employed are appropriately varied in accordance with the needs of the pupils. Teachers interact with pupils in a supportive and encouraging manner. Results of assessments and the discontinuation of pupils from supplementary teaching provision indicates that pupils are making very good progress. It is recommended, however, that greater use be made of ICT, especially where this has been identified as a beneficial resource in relevant educational psychological reports.
Provision for pupils is organised by withdrawing pupils individually, in pairs and in groups. However, the practice of in-class support has recently begun and it is expected that this good practice will be extended in the future. Class teachers and the education support team collaborate in the formulation of timetables to ensure that pupils avail of a broad and balanced curriculum in the classroom. Close collaboration between the infant teachers and the learning support teacher facilitates the early identification of pupils who may be experiencing difficulties. Early intervention is organised by the withdrawal of senior infant pupils three times a week for focused support in the area of phonological awareness. In light of the fact that some pupils who are in receipt of learning support do not meet the criteria outlined in the Learning Support Guidelines, (DES, 2000), consideration should now be given to increasing the practice of in-class intervention and/or team teaching.
The teaching staff strives to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Pupils’ participation in non-curricular related activities during the school day is addressed.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.