An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
SN Bhantiarna Lourdes,
Bunclody, Co. Wexford
Uimhir rolla: 03633H
Date of inspection: 24 September 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Naisiúnta Bhantiarna Lourdes, Bunclody, Co. Wexford. 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 and examined pupils’ work. 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 in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Scoil Naisiúnta Bhantiarna Lourdes is a seventeen-teacher Catholic co-educational school situated in the town of Bunclody in Co. Wexford. The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Ferns and provides education to pupils from infants to sixth class, the majority of whom live in close proximity to the school. This is a DEIS Band 2 school. It is in receipt of support under the School Completion Programme since April 2007. At present, there are 289 pupils on roll, with enrolment trends remaining steady. The majority of pupils have very good attendance records. A small number of pupils miss a significant number of days each year, particularly in the last term. The school’s comprehensive attendance policy endeavours to manage this issue in a caring and sensitive manner. Five of the six new staff members appointed this school year are employed in either a temporary or a substitute capacity.
The school’s mission statement has as its core value the teachings of Jesus Christ. The school aims to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of all pupils are identified and addressed. The school endeavours to enhance the pupils’ self-esteem, to offer a supportive environment where opportunities for development are encouraged, to imbue in the pupils respect for people and property and to promote in them a sense of responsibility. A commitment to the school’s mission statement is evident throughout the school. The board of management places a strong emphasis on pupil welfare. Positive courteous relations exist between all members of the school community and the parent body is very supportive of the work of the school.
The board of management is properly constituted. It meets four to five times each school year and detailed minutes of these meetings are recorded. Board members show a clear understanding of their statutory obligations and are diligent in the execution of their duties. The board ratifies all school policies. A suitable system is in place to ensure that policies are reviewed on a regular basis. The management of financial procedures is undertaken in line with Section 18(1) of the Education Act 1998 and includes an annual audit of accounts. The board has published admissions and enrolment policies and has fulfilled its obligations under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 to develop school attendance strategies and to monitor and report on school attendance.
The commitment of the board of management to supporting the needs of the whole school community is praiseworthy. Decisions made at board level reflect the principles of equality and inclusion. The board publishes a newsletter three to four times a year as a means of informing all the partners of relevant school activities. The board is actively involved in organising fundraising activities, the profits from which are used to purchase suitable resources to support teaching and learning. Funds are set aside each year to facilitate teachers’ professional development. Department of Education and Science regulations regarding the length of the school year, the retention of pupils, class size, and the integrity of the school day are observed.
The board is sensitive to the diverse pupil population emerging in recent years and has undertaken highly commendable work in this regard. Pupils from the Traveller community are fully integrated into the school. Pupils and their parents who do not have English as their first language are ably supported through the use of interpreters and the provision of policies, documentation and school signage in the predominant mother tongues. This is commendable. It is noteworthy that the board is currently considering how the school can best support the more able pupils.
The school’s dedicated principal demonstrates an ability to lead and manage all aspects of school life. He is an effective change agent, guiding his staff through the many challenges now facing the school. He demonstrates excellent organisational skills and is proud of the school’s long tradition of learning. He leads the whole-school planning process and is instrumental in the implementation of the developing school self-evaluation and accountability strategy. He successfully nurtures a positive and welcoming school climate. He is highly committed to the pastoral and educational welfare of all pupils. He manages and supports staff effectively, paying particular attention to newly qualified teachers.
The principal is ably supported in the execution of his duties by an in-school management team consisting of a deputy principal, an assistant principal and six special duties teachers. The process of school development and improvement is integral to the team’s work. They contribute effectively to building and sustaining a positive school climate. Each team member’s clearly defined role consists of duties of both a curricular and organisational nature. A pastoral element should also be included in line with Circular 07/03.The duties of post holders are reviewed every two years. Staff meetings are used as a forum for the dissemination of information of relevance to each post.
The teaching staff consists of an administrative principal and ten mainstream class teachers. The school has one full-time and one shared learning-support teacher, one shared resource teacher, and three resource teachers for Travellers. A home-school-community-liaison teacher, appointed during the 2006/07 school year, is shared with Bunclody Vocational College. A language-support teacher was appointed in September 2007. Teachers are deployed in line with Department of Education and Science guidelines. It is recommended that the school devise and implement a policy that would facilitate teacher mobility between mainstream and special education settings.
Two special needs assistants are deployed appropriately within the school. They carry out their assigned duties under the guidance of their respective class teachers and are to be commended for the manner in which they support the pupils in their care. The school secretary provides valuable support in the competent management of her assigned administrative tasks. The caretakers are to be praised for the high standard of cleanliness throughout the school and playground areas.
An outside tutor provides training in football, hurling and camogie skills for all pupils from first to sixth class. This tutor also supports the school principal in training the boys for inter-school hurling and football leagues after school hours. A second tutor takes pupils in fifth and sixth class for rugby skills training. These activities are funded by local sports clubs. A parent, paid from board of management funds, supports teachers in teaching word-processing skills to all pupils. A homework club, managed by four teachers and two parents, is successfully running since 2005. An after-school club follows the homework club. This worthwhile project is organised and managed competently by two parents.
The main school building was erected in 1975 with an extension added in 1979. The school comprises twelve permanent and three temporary classrooms, a learning-support room, a general-purpose room, computer room, library, principal’s office, secretary’s office, an indoor storage area, staffroom and staff toilets. Corridor space was converted into a room for one resource teacher for Travellers. Outdoor facilities include grass and hard court areas and an extensive games pitch area. The school offers its sports facilities to local clubs in exchange for the use of these clubs’ indoor facilities. The school is involved in the Green School Project and looks forward to receiving its first green flag this year. The board is cognisant of its duty under health and safety legislation and is to be complimented on the visually attractive and well-maintained school and environs.
The school has a comprehensive and well-organised range of resources available to support teaching and learning. Each classroom has an age-appropriate library area. The imminent refurbishment of the main library will complement this classroom resource. The recently updated computer room, supplemented by individual classroom computers, offers ample scope for the development of pupils’ ICT skills. A variety of the pupils’ work, including photographic displays, projects and art work, is tastefully arranged in classroom and corridor areas. It is recommended that the resources available be used judiciously across the school to support teaching and learning.
The school has the support of a dynamic parents’ association. Monthly meetings are held which the principal attends twice a year when he discusses school policies and plans in addition to issues of relevance to the group. The parents’ association communicates with the general parent body through the school newsletter. It is actively involved in school concerts, liturgical events and in fundraising for particular initiatives. Annual parent-teacher meetings are held. Written reports, including the results of standardised tests, are posted to parents at the end of each school year. The school supports families whose first language is not English by providing interpreters at parent-teacher meetings, at enrolment and during transition to secondary school. A DVD of school booklets, forms and policies is now available in both English and Polish. Parents recognise and affirm the good work undertaken throughout the school with regard to teaching and learning. They express concern in relation to the impact of the changing school demographics on teaching pace in general. They express particular concern regarding the provision for more able pupils. The parents’ association acknowledges the positive manner in which the school deals with parents’ concerns and the open, inclusive, and welcoming atmosphere of the school.
The school’s impressive code of behaviour, which adheres to the requirements of the Equal Status Act 2000, is firmly based on its mission statement. Its active implementation in the daily life of the school is evident. Issues regarding pupil behaviour, which were once of ongoing concern, have been ably addressed through the execution of this well-developed policy. The spirit of inclusiveness evident throughout the school is praiseworthy. Pupils display self-confidence in undertaking and discussing assignments and topics of personal interest. They show regard for their school community and its environs. An ethos of mutual respect contributes to a positive and productive learning environment.
A high standard of planning in relation to key organisational and curriculum areas is evident in this school. Special duties post holders lead the development and implementation of specific curriculum and organisational areas. The board is actively involved in the development of organisational policies and in the review of curriculum policies. Parents’ views are sought in relation to policy formation. Pupils’ views are elicited in relation to the healthy eating and school uniform policies. The board makes all policies available to parents through a series of published booklets. School policies are also available on the school’s informative and well-structured website. The school plan is disseminated to every teacher and board member.
The whole-school plan is mindful of the school context and the individual needs of pupils. Organisational policies are unambiguously articulated and visibly influence the daily life of the school. Very good work is undertaken by the school in the development of curriculum plans which reflect the principles of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. In order to build on this good work, it is recommended that a review of the plans for Irish and English take place so that they guide classroom practice more closely. It is recommended that the school devise an action plan that targets each curriculum area in turn in order to support teaching and learning in the school in a continuous and progressive manner.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Teachers maintain long-term and short-term written plans in addition to monthly progress records. Long-term plans are linked to the Primary School Curriculum 1999 and the school plan. While there is some evidence of well-organised short-term plans, this area of planning is, in general, content driven and determined by the text books in use. Some short-term plans indicate an understanding of the importance of differentiation for pupils with special education needs. This good practice should be extended to every classroom and should provide for the needs of all pupils, including the more able. In order to provide a broad and balanced curriculum for all pupils, it is recommended that a review of short-term planning now take place. The recently- introduced practice of reviewing progress through the analysis of monthly reports is commendable. Consideration should now be given to ensuring that this data is incorporated into the planning process so that it informs teaching and learning.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Provision is made for the delivery of all aspects of the curriculum at each class level. The quality of teaching and learning varies across the school. Observed good practice includes the setting of clear objectives, well-paced lessons, paired work and skilful higher-order questioning. Teacher-directed whole-class teaching is the prime methodology used in most classrooms. It is recommended that a variety of teaching methods be employed to ensure the development of pupils’ collaborative, active and independent learning and the development of problem-solving skills. This approach should be used to maximum effect to ensure the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum that supports pupils of all abilities. The bright, print-rich classroom and corridor areas, and the manner in which pupils’ contributions are valued and acknowledged throughout the school enhance the learning environment.
Tá eiseamláirí de dea-chleachtadh le feiceáil i múineadh na Gaeilge tríd na scoile. Teagasc ranga is mó atá in úsáid i bhformhór na ranganna. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as acmhainní, amhráin agus dánta sna ranganna naíonán. Baintear cuid leas as mím agus cluichí chun saothair na ndaltaí sna ranganna sóisir a mhuscailt. Sna meanranganna tugtar roinnt deiseanna do na daltaí a scileanna scríbhneoireachta pearsanta a fhorbairt. Is inmholta an úsáid éifeachtach a baintear as an nGaeilge mar theanga caidrimh le linn na gceachtanna sna mean agus na hard ranganna. Sna hard ranganna cuirtear roinnt béim ar chumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht san iomlán ar na leabhair saothair sna mean ranganna agus sna hard ranganna. Moltar raon níos leithne d’ábhair léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil chun scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt chomh maith le forbairt chórasach de scileanna scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí trí deiseanna a thabhairt dóibh scríbhneoireacht pearsanta a chumadh. Moltar béim ar leith a chur ar deiseanna cruthathacha a thabhairt do na ndaltaí an Ghaeilge a úsaid go rialta i ngach rang. Tá tús curtha ag an scoil ar athbhreithniú ó thaobh múineadh agus foghlaim na Gaeilge chun teagasc na Gaeilge a fheabhsú.
Some good practice was noted in the teaching of English. A noteworthy feature of the English curriculum is the print-rich environment created in classroom and corridor areas throughout the school. An emphasis on poetry and song forms the basis of pupils’ oral development in the infant classes. Vocabulary extension and listening activities are successfully incorporated in lessons in the junior and middle classes. In the senior classes, some good work is evident in the enhancement of pupils’ oral skills through class discussions and brainstorm activities. Further work in the area of language enrichment is advised through the implementation of a progressive oral language programme, in order to enhance pupils’ listening, speaking, questioning and prediction skills.
The development of phonological awareness in the school is effectively facilitated through the implementation of a common phonics scheme. In the infant classes, good use is made of story, big books and pictures to develop pupils’ pre-reading ability. Paired work, group work and dictionary work support pupils in learning to read in the junior and middle classes. A satisfactory level of reading is evident in the senior classes. A comprehensive library system which incorporates the writing of individual book reviews supports the development of literacy skills of pupils in middle and senior classes. Consideration should now be given to differentiating reading tasks in terms of the varying needs and abilities of all pupils in all classrooms.
Creative work is displayed in many classes and the pupils are supported in writing in a variety of genres. Pupils undertake this activity with enthusiasm and their work is celebrated in many classrooms and in assembly areas. In some classes, the use of ICT enhances the presentation of pupils’ work. More extensive use of process writing throughout the school, supported by a structured ICT approach, is advised in order to foster the pupils’ creativity further. Pupils are exposed to poetry at each level. Further work on listening to, reciting and writing poetry in middle and senior classes is advised.
Varying approaches are used to implement the mathematics programme throughout the school. There is an over0reliance on textbook and teacher-directed methodologies in a number of classrooms. In the infant classes, good use is made of rhyme to consolidate learning. Some good work is undertaken in the strand of shape and space in the junior classes. Further work on place value is now needed. In the middle classes, an appropriate balance between the strands is achieved with some good practice in the areas of algebra, shape and space evident. In the senior classes features of good practice include the appropriate application of mathematical language, the linking of mathematical tasks to the pupils’ environment and the development of problem-solving skills.
Approaches to the teaching of History vary. Lessons are generally content driven with an over-reliance on the class textbook. A more hands-on, skills-based approach is advised in order to develop pupils’ skills as historians. Further work is required within individual classrooms to ensure adequate timetabling, attention to all strands and proper adherence to the school plan. Pupils display interest in, and recall of a number of myths and legends within history lessons. Some noteworthy project work, particularly in local history, is displayed and pupils are very willing to describe their work. Further opportunities for pupils to examine a range of primary sources, documents and artefacts is required.
The teaching of Geography is generally satisfactory. Good practice includes group and pair work, the use of maps and globes, interesting project work and links to the local environment. A high level of awareness is evident throughout the school in relation to energy conservation and recycling. A greater balance between textbook and investigative work should now be pursued in order to enrich learning and to ensure access to a broad range of experiences.
The teaching of Science varies across the school. Meaningful investigative tables and educational posters are used to good effect in the majority of classes. Well-structured lessons incorporating fair testing and the development of scientific skills using discovery and investigative approaches are hallmarks of the observed good practice. It is recommended that all classroom practice be firmly based on the school’s excellent science plan, so that skills development in working scientifically and in designing and making become integral aspects of all science lessons.
Very good progress is evident in the child-centred approach used to deliver the visual arts curriculum. Effective cross-curricular links sustain the appropriate implementation of most strands. Further work in the looking at and responding to strand is advised to ensure breadth and balance. Pupils’ enjoyment of this curriculum area is evident. The pupils speak knowledgably about the process and the product of their artistic endeavours. Displays across the strands are attractively exhibited throughout the school. A sequenced development from class to class is apparent in this work.
The overall provision for Music in the school is of a satisfactory standard. The teaching of the performance strand is good with some effective work undertaken in the listening and responding strand. The pupils sing a wide variety of songs in both Irish and English. The school now needs to focus more specifically on the development of the pupils’ literacy and composing skills within a broad and balanced music curriculum.
Discrete, well-structured drama lessons enable the pupils to work collaboratively and develop their improvisation and visualisation skills in a safe environment. The use of imaginative stimulus, the emphasis on appropriate language and the creative use of characterisation are among the positive features of the lessons observed. It is evident that pupils enjoy and benefit from their participation in both the process and the production of Drama. Consideration should now be given to the more widespread use of Drama as a teaching methodology across the curriculum to enhance further pupils’ self-esteem and communication skills.
4.6 Physical Education
The commitment of the teaching staff to the implementation of an extensive physical education curriculum encompassing all strands is noteworthy. Well-organised lessons that provide pupils with a variety of considered, progressive activities and games are features of this programme. Effective use is made of the wide range of physical education resources. In general, lessons promote the development of specific skills and ensure the participation and enjoyment of all pupils. It is necessary to ensure that this good practice is extended to every class. The aquatics strand of the curriculum is taught to pupils from second to sixth class each year. The dedication of the staff members who provide extra-curricular activities is praiseworthy.
The implementation of the social, personal and health education (SPHE) curriculum is one of the key strengths of the school. The teaching of this programme in a cross-curricular, spiral manner complements the all-inclusive philosophy evident within the school. Positive, respectful relationships exist between teachers and pupils. Pupils’ efforts are praised and affirmed often. Respect for cultural and national diversity is consistently promoted. It is clear that pupils respond confidently to the interest taken by teachers in their educational, social and moral development.
The school’s comprehensive policy highlights a well-structured approach to assessment and record keeping. Teachers consistently monitor and correct pupils’ written work. Commendable work is undertaken in the assessment of literacy and numeracy with pupils from first to sixth class assessed each year by means of standardised tests. The Middle Infant Screening Test is used to identify infant pupils in need of specialist support. Standard and percentile ranking scores are diligently recorded on the class record template, access to which is available to the class teacher, support teacher and principal. Test results are also carefully stored on the school’s database. The support teaching team analyse these results at the end of each school year in order to allocate support appropriately the following year. Assessment policies for each curriculum area are devised by the special duties teacher with responsibility for that curriculum area. It is recommended that assessment now become an integral part of each teacher’s classroom planning and that assessment of all curriculum areas take place consistently and regularly throughout the school in order to monitor achievement and to plan more judiciously for all pupils, including the more able.
Pupils are selected for learning support in line with Department of Education and Science guidelines. The participation of their parents in this process is promoted and accommodated. Support teachers are to be commended for the level of detail attached to their planning and record keeping. A record of pupil attendance at learning support is advised to complement this good work. Learning-support rooms encompass bright, print-rich learning environments incorporating a wide variety of suitable learning resources, including ICT. It is important to ensure that ICT resources are used to maximum effect to support pupils with special education needs.
Support teachers develop detailed Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLP) in consultation with the class teacher and the child’s parents. All the partners receive a copy of this plan with the master copy kept on the school file. Learning targets are reviewed and amended at the end of each instructional term. Regular meetings, both formal and informal occur between class and support teachers. The results of standardised and diagnostic tests coupled with the reaching of specified targets within the IPLP determine the need for further learning support. Learning support is provided on an in-class and withdrawal basis. Where pupils are withdrawn to the learning support room, lessons have clear objectives and are targeted to the specific needs of individual pupils. The setting and following of clear objectives is not as evident in the in-class provision observed. It is recommended that a review of current learning-support provision now take place. This review should include the formulation of plans for the development of a collaborative, team-teaching approach for in-class provision so that all pupils benefit from such support.
The school’s mission statement underpins its commitment to the development of an inclusive atmosphere for all pupils. This ethos is clearly articulated in all interactions within the school. A detailed plan to tackle educational disadvantage under DEIS is a visible indication of the school’s continued engagement with this process. Traveller pupils are integrated successfully into the school. An increasing number of newcomer pupils enrol each year. Some of those pupils attend the language-support teacher. The school is very welcoming of pupils from these minority groups. A paired-reading scheme, funded through the School Completion Programme, provides in-class support to teachers in listening to reading. A review of this provision and of the methods used to record progress within this initiative is advised in order to maximise the benefit to pupils. Commendable work is undertaken in the development of effective home-school links in order to ensure optimal provision for these pupils.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school’s dedicated principal competently manages the school. He is capably supported by a committed teaching team.
· The board of management is actively involved in the running of the school and is diligent in the execution of its duties.
· The board of management and staff work collaboratively and consistently to ensure a caring, inclusive, holistic environment for all pupils.
· The parents are supportive of the work of the school and demonstrate a keen interest in their children’s education.
· The teaching of the social, personal and health education programme is of a very high standard. Its implementation permeates interactions and communications in the school.
· Teaching staff are committed to the implementation of an extensive physical education programme encompassing co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.
· There is a commitment to school improvement and review among all the partners.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that teachers be deployed in accordance with a policy that facilitates mobility between mainstream and special education positions.
· It is recommended that a review of current learning-support provision take place to include the development of a collaborative, team-teaching approach for in-class provision with has clearly defined objectives.
· An action plan to monitor the impact of whole-school planning on teaching and learning, particularly in literacy and numeracy, is recommended.
· A review of short-term planning with particular attention to the issues of planning for differentiation is recommended to ensure appropriate provision for pupils of all abilities from those with special needs to the very able.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
“As this Whole School Evaluation included the work of unqualified substitutes who started in the school less than three weeks before the inspection, the Board considers strongly that it undermines the whole process and therefore invalidates considerably substantial sections of the report.
The report should have differentiated between the many highly competent professional teachers in the school and the unqualified substitutes which the board was forced to employ at short notice at the time of the WSE because of a lack of qualified substitute teachers.
The Board stresses the importance of proper planning by the Department of Education and Science so that the shortage of trained qualified teachers is addressed immediately.
The Board regarded the holding of the WSE in September as an unsuitable time especially when five new teachers (some of whom were unqualified) were in the school for three weeks or less before the inspection.”