An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
St Patrick’s BNS
Ringsend, Dublin 4
Uimhir rolla: 03917V
Date of inspection: November 2009
A whole-school evaluation of St. Patrick’s Boys National School was undertaken in November 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History. The board of management 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 to this report.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
St. Patrick’s BNS is an urban school situated in the heart of Dublin city. It shares a campus with St. Patrick’s Girls National School and is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. Opportunities for the two schools to work together in a number of areas are being used. The school atmosphere is positive, friendly and welcoming. The school regards itself as a significant part of the community in which it is located. It participates in Band 1 of DEIS, the Department of Education and Skills initiative. A classroom assistant is working in the school as part of the school’s participation in the European Comenius project. Enrolment is stable and recent indications are that numbers could increase in the coming years.
In discussion with individual members of staff, school teams and members of the board of management, key elements of a shared school vision emerged. These include a commitment to school improvement, a recognition of the importance of fostering links with, and pride in, the community and the desire to promote St. Patrick’s BNS as a school providing high-quality education to the boys of the local area. The challenge for the school is to reflect on these elements with the aim of defining more fully a shared vision for the school and setting out the related practical steps to achieve this vision. To support the school in collating its ideas and formulating clear strategies for its future development, it is recommended that a facilitator be engaged.
The composition of this current board has undergone some change in recent times. At the time of inspection some members were attending their first meeting. The board represents and fosters strong links with the local community. The members demonstrate a keen interest in understanding more fully the needs of the school. They hope to use their individual and corporate skills to develop the effectiveness of the board. The members are commended on their openness and their willingness to engage in frank discussion on school matters. Training for members regarding their statutory roles and their obligations regarding school planning matters is desirable. This would enable the board to develop a meaningful school action plan which would lead and guide the school into the future.
The principal has a long and committed association with the school. He has developed strong links with the community over a number of generations and knows the families of the pupils very well. He is respectful of the staff and the pupils and is very proud of the community which he serves. He is personable and is very good at networking and sourcing support for the school. He has facilitated staff engagement with the DEIS action plan in a positive and successful manner. His ambition to move the school towards excellence in learning in the local community is reflected in his empowerment of the individual staff members and his commitment to the DEIS action plan.
There are two posts of responsibility in the school and the individual post-holders carry out their currently-assigned duties in a committed and conscientious manner. As the school clarifies and identifies its priority needs, the duties of the post-holders should be reviewed and adapted accordingly. The post of deputy principal was vacant at the time of this evaluation.
As the school moves forward the leadership will have to implement the action plan to be developed by the board and will need to review consistently the effectiveness of the strategies put in place to achieve the identified priorities, goals and targets. Among the leadership priorities will be ensuring that the plant meets all health and safety requirements, ensuring that as professional an image and learning environment as is possible is created, that teacher roles in leading aspects of learning are facilitated and supported, and that individual skills and abilities are harnessed to develop a corporate approach to all aspects of curriculum implementation.
The teaching staff are appropriately deployed and are an excellent resource in the school. They work diligently and creatively and are committed to improving academic standards for the pupils. They provide secure and attractive learning environments in their individual classrooms. They engage in ongoing learning and professional development and have availed of training in specific DEIS programmes.
The school building presents an ongoing challenge. Maintenance matters and the quality of school accommodation are consistently on the agenda of the board of management and some works have been carried out. It is recommended that a focused plan be developed that incorporates cleaning, structural modification, furnishing and the upgrading of toilet facilities. It is important that, as a place of learning and work, the school is presented in an as attractive, welcoming and professional a light as possible.
The addition of a regularly used school library is a positive development for the school. The school is also in the process of developing a school archive. Pupils’ work is displayed around the school. Interactive whiteboards are gradually being introduced into every class and teachers are receiving training to ensure they are used effectively to support learning. Teaching resources overall are adequate. It is recommended that the school continue to monitor the available resources and ensure that there are appropriate resources to support every curriculum area.
The school has very goods links with the local community. Local personnel provide extra-curricular activities for the pupils which are very well attended. Local facilities are used by the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) service to provide courses for parents. The Parents’ Association (which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council) spoke very positively about the good communication that exists between home and school. The teachers and the principal are readily available to discuss issues with parents as they arise. A meeting is held with the junior infant parents bi-annually and the HSCL teacher liaises closely with families prior to a child beginning school. Some parents are directly involved in the classrooms through ‘Maths for Fun’ and ‘Reading for Fun’. It is recommended that the school furnish a written report once a year on the operation and performance of the school to all parents in an effort to continue to build good communication. The school website could also be used more effectively as a tool for fostering communication on a range of school issues. The sharing of school policies and procedures with parents should be a priority for the school.
The school deserves much credit for the initiatives and practical strategies that are in place to manage pupil behaviour successfully. Throughout the evaluation pupil behaviour was exemplary. Among the particularly successful initiatives in recent times has been the Discipline for Learning programme in all classrooms and the supportive work of the principal and HSCL teacher. Much time and effort has been expended on devising a discipline and behaviour policy that is meaningful and relevant for the school. The staff members are commended on their work in this regard. The nurturing of responsibility among pupils for their own behaviour and the enabling of pupils to make choices regarding that behaviour is particularly noteworthy. The staff members address issues as they arise and in so doing minimise the potential for conflict. This approach, together with the consistent and cohesive management of pupil behaviour, is very effective. Mutual respect between teachers and pupils is evident and warm and supportive interactions were witnessed. The teachers recognise the positive contributions that newcomers have made to the school, particularly in relation to motivation and attitude to work.
The DEIS action plan is clear and realistic. It is being implemented as outlined and is currently in the third year of its three-year cycle. While whole-school planning does take place it needs a sharper, more customised focus which would reflect the school vision/mission statement. It is recommended that the board of management devise a plan to review all current organisational policies to ensure that they reflect the context of the school and the current needs of the pupils.
The DEIS action plan identifies overall targets in the areas of literacy, mathematics and parental involvement. For example, it states the emphases to be placed in the teaching of Mathematics and the resources to be used. It proposes the use of the First Steps writing programme in mainstream classes and the supporting of Reading for Fun and Maths for Fun programmes with parent involvement. These targets reflect the current priorities in the school. It is recommended that this DEIS plan shape the school plan in terms of measurable targets, actions, methodologies and assessment for each class level. It is necessary to illustrate how the targets are going to be achieved on a whole-school basis and how progress is going to be measured. The school is commended on its use of a range of community initiatives to support the achievement of DEIS-related targets.
The curriculum plan for History is a good reference document for class teachers. Further whole-school decisions would be helpful in guiding individual teacher’s work and in ensuring an incremental approach through the school.
Overall, the quality of classroom planning is very good. Teachers present their written planning using different formats with some focusing on a thematic approach and others using objective- based approaches. Monthly progress is recorded in the short-term planning documents. Consideration should be given to reviewing this approach to provide a format which would facilitate a whole-school review of the curriculum and the particular initiatives being implemented.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Skills, 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.
The quality of teaching in English is very good. Lessons are very well structured, well paced and stimulating. Early reading skills are skilfully fostered in the infant and junior classes and opportunities are given to pupils to read at their own pace and at their own ability levels. Rhymes, phonics and vocabulary are consistently taught and very good monitoring of individual literacy skill acquisition is being carried out. The library corner is very well utilised. Oral language skills are also competently taught at the junior level. As the pupils move through the school class novels are meaningfully explored and a love of reading is fostered. Excellent activities are given to the pupils to foster comprehension and good use is made of pair and group work. Some very good examples of the teaching of poetry and associated activities were observed. It is recommended that the range of books in the class libraries, particularly those in the middle and senior classes, be extended.
The school has adopted the First Steps writing approach and some very good examples of teacher scaffolding and of pupil writing were presented during the inspection. It is evident that a change is underway in the standards of writing in the school, with definite overall improvements observed during the inspection. To support teachers as they engage with the First Steps approach, teaching strategies for the writing process should be clearly outlined in the school plan for English. Pupil progress and achievement in writing need to be consistently monitored. The overall standard of penmanship is very good and pupils are encouraged to write neatly.
There are indications that the school is making significant improvement in overall reading attainment. This is commended. Challenges remain in relation to developing literacy competence in the middle and senior classes. The teachers recognise this. It is recommended that individual reading skills be taught consistently in all classes through the school and that very close monitoring of attainment take place to enable teachers to focus on areas of greatest need. Some very good examples of this type of monitoring already exist in the school and these good practices should be disseminated on a whole-school basis. To support the development of overall literacy skills it is important that a whole-school approach to developing oral language skills be adopted and implemented consistently.
The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. Lessons are well structured and well resourced. A good range of concrete materials is available to the pupils and the interactive whiteboards are being used effectively to support the teaching in mathematics. Concepts are clearly explained and pupils in some classes are provided with very good opportunities to engage actively with the topics taught. Good assessment practices are in place to monitor progress and achievement. Mental mathematics has been prioritised in school planning. Some good work is being carried out in this aspect of the mathematics programme and should be extended. A whole-school approach to the teaching of the language of mathematics has been agreed. This is also being followed consistently in all classes.
Attainment in mathematics is a priority for the school and it is noteworthy that improvements have taken place in pupil achievement in recent years. It is recommended that, to support the current teaching approaches, attention be given to further differentiation in the teaching of mathematics. In addition, a more focused approach should be taken to developing the skills of problem-solving. A greater balance between group/pair work and whole-class teaching is also advised. One of the teachers has recently been trained as a Mathematics Recovery teacher. The skills and knowledge learned in so doing should be very beneficial to the school as a whole.
The raising of pupil attainment in Mathematics has been clearly identified in the DEIS action plan as priority for the school. It is crucial that the school maximise every opportunity to concentrate on the development of pupil skills in this area.
The overall quality of teaching in history is very good with some excellent teaching observed, particularly in the senior classes. Lessons are well structured, allow for the development of skills as well as knowledge, and are very well resourced. Group work is used effectively in the teaching of history and pupils are very knowledgeable about what has been taught. Local history is given very good attention and the skills of the principal in this regard are very beneficial to the whole school. Teachers provide excellent background material for the lessons and it is evident that the pupils enjoy and participate enthusiastically in the history lessons. Teachers ensure that a good range of higher-order questions are used in the delivery of the lessons. There is ample opportunity for the pupils to consolidate their learning through writing and project work. Effective linkages are made within the SESE subjects and with other curriculum areas such as Mathematics. Pupils are also given opportunities to make connections with international schools. This has proved to be very successful.
The school is using a range of formal and informal assessment modes from junior infants to sixth class. These include checklists, samples of pupils’ work, teacher-designed tests and various standardised tests. Pupil profiles are also being used effectively in some classes. The results and outcomes of these assessments are used in different ways by the school personnel. In some situations the assessments are closely linked to learning targets. This is commended. The assessment policy should be a key policy statement for this school and be directly linked to the targets set out in the DEIS action plan. In the review of the assessment policy, it is recommended that greater links be established between assessment and teaching on a whole-school basis. This should include identifying clearly the range of assessment modes to be used in the different settings, stating how the assessments can be used to inform teaching learning, and ensuring that the link between DEIS targets and assessment is strong. It is recommended that the board oversee the implementation of this policy. Information gleaned from the assessments should also be used in inform the organisation of the timetable and the level of emphasis placed on the different curriculum areas.
The support team for pupils with special education needs consists of one full-time learning support /resource teacher and a part-time resource teacher. Both of these appointments have been made in the last school year. These teachers are currently deployed to provide support teaching primarily to particular class groupings. They work in an enthusiastic and committed manner and some very good work is being carried out. They are encouraging and respectful in all their interactions with the children.
The school has acknowledged that leadership is required in the area of special education needs and that the current policy needs to be reviewed. It is recommended that the policy should be based on the staged approach to the identification of pupils who require support teaching and be consistent with the Department’s guidelines and circulars. The school should ensure that the policy under development reflects the needs of the school and outlines very specifically:
(i) the criteria that inform who should be in receipt of support and how these criteria relate to the overall school priority areas
(ii) the whole-school approaches to be used by all teachers to address learning needs
(iii) the teaching approaches to be used in support settings
(iv) the setting of focused long-term and short-term targets based on identified needs and the systematic review processes to be used for assessing achievement
(v) the approach to planning to be used consistently by the SEN teachers
(vi) the creation of well-resourced support environments.
4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
The school has a range of supports in place to meet the diverse needs of its population. These include a language-support teacher, a HSCL co-ordinator and a teacher for Traveller pupils who is shared with St. Patrick’s GNS. The school also receives funding for a breakfast and homework club, ICT tuition and swimming lessons from the School Completion Programme. The language-support provision is of a very good standard and very good progress is being made by the pupils. It is provided on both a withdrawal and in-class basis. Planning for these pupils is focused with clear learning targets identified and monitored. Traveller pupils are withdrawn for learning support in both Mathematics and literacy every day. Needs are clearly identified and appropriate learning experiences are carefully planned and monitored. An effective range of teaching approaches is used. Pupils are encouraged and treated in a very respectful way.
The HSCL co-ordinator carries out very good work in fostering home-school links and in addressing the needs of pupils and families at risk. Action plans with targets have been put in place. A variety of programmes is available each year to parents to develop their own individual skills. Significant work has been done to develop positive relationships with families and pupils who are at risk. Good efforts are made to support pupils’ transition to secondary school. Very good links have been created with outside agencies and pupils are benefiting from this multi-agency approach.
The teachers in the support settings are commended on their very good work and on their commitment to the pupils. The ongoing work on the development of the school ethos and mission should help to guide and direct the work of these individual teachers.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The teachers are dedicated, committed and very competent.
· The overall quality of teaching is very good.
· There are indications that the school is making significant improvement in overall literacy and numeracy attainment.
· The principal empowers individual staff members and is very committed to the DEIS action plan.
· The DEIS action plan for the school is clear and realistic.
· The school atmosphere is positive, friendly and welcoming.
· The board members are eager to engage with school issues and are very committed to the school.
· Pupil behaviour is very good and respectful relations are fostered between pupils and staff.
· Local history is given very good attention in the school.
· The school appreciates the contribution it can make to the education of the pupils in the local community.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· A school vision needs to be defined and the practical steps to realise it should be set out in the form of an action plan.
· It is important that board, principal, and in-school management take the necessary practical steps to ensure the implementation of the action plan. Ongoing review of the implementation of the plan will be required
· It is recommended that the DEIS action plan be used to shape the school plan in terms of measurable targets, actions, methodologies and assessment for each class level.
· It is recommended that the link between assessment, planning for teaching and learning and actual teaching and learning be strengthened. Outcomes of assessment should be measured against DEIS targets.
· Attention should be given to further differentiation in the teaching of mathematics and literacy in the middle and senior classes.
· Focused direction is needed in special education provision. An effective whole-school approach in this area needs to be developed and implemented.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
We found the report to be a fair, thorough and accurate representation of our school. The positive comments were welcomed. The recommendations received were practical and helpful. The report has helped us to focus on further improvements for the future. The school would like to thank the inspectors for their professional and courteous manner.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
1. In process of defining a school vision and action plan and implementation of same.
2. SEN to be streamlined, greater teamwork approach and increased interaction.
3. School plans being reviewed in accordance with DEIS plan.
4. New format being devised for Cuntas Míosúil.
5. First Steps cuiditheoir in to help with assessment planning.
6. Greater focus on numeracy.
7. Introducing individual readers in middle and senior classes.
8. In-class support for maths being reviewed.
9. In-depth review of Standardised Tests and the use of their results to influence planning.