An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Ballindangan N.S.

Mitchelstown, County Cork

Uimhir rolla: 04054T

 

 

Date of inspection: 5 October 2007

                                                                                                                              Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008          

 

 

 

                         

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

1.2 Board of management

1.3 In-school management

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

1.5 Management of pupils

2.     Quality of school planning

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Visual Arts

3.4 Assessment

4.     Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

5.     Conclusion

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Ballindangan N.S. was undertaken in October 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This is a co-educational, Catholic, primary school situated in a rural area. It caters for pupils from Infants to Sixth class from the surrounding areas. The pupil population in this area has decreased systematically over the last number of years. The last report was furnished in 2001 and there were sixty-six pupils enrolled at that time. 

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

46

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

The principal is currently on secondment to the National Council for Special Education. Three new staff members have been appointed since the last school report was conducted. This is a vibrant school with a dynamic and enthusiastic acting principal and staff who work conscientiously in close collaboration with one another, the board of management, parents and wider community.

 

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

This school has a pivotal role in the community and in keeping with its mission statement provides a “well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed”. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Cloyne with a catholic ethos but it also has due recognition for all other religions.

 

 

 

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The school has an active and supportive board of management which is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis. The minutes are recorded carefully and were made available for inspection. Detailed financial reports are maintained and presented at each meeting. The building and grounds are maintained to a high standard and the board, staff, parents and pupils deserve much credit for their dedicated work in this regard. A plan for the maintenance of the school is in place and the board recently completed improvement works with the help of grant aid from the Department of Education and Science. The demographic trends in the area are a key concern for the board. The board is involved in the formulation of school policies which are in compliance with Department regulations and is commended for the considerable progress in evidence. The process of electing a new board was initiated during the evaluation.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The acting principal combines her teaching, leadership and management roles admirably. As curriculum leader she is committed to the improvement of quality of teaching and learning in the school. She deserves much credit for the positive learning environment in the school. She is very capably supported by a highly motivated, enthusiastic and hard working staff, including a deputy principal and one special duties post-holder.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school has a worthwhile policy on communication between the various partners and there are many good structures in place to support its effective implementation. A carefully prepared homework journal is used to promote two-way communication. It is particularly commendable that in addition to the standard parent-teacher meetings the acting principal and staff organise an annual open night to inform parents about the curriculum. Paired-reading programmes are in place. An end of year written progress report is furnished for pupils. Parents also receive regular school bulletins and Newsletters. The parents’ association is a well-established structure in the school and provides ongoing support. Many additional resources have been acquired as a result of the success of their fundraising. They deserve much credit for their commitment to the school.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The teachers are to be complemented on the high quality, caring learning environments in evidence throughout the school. Code of discipline, anti-bullying and supervision policies are in place. The teachers make skilful use of a wide variety of effective methodologies and organisational settings which encourage pupils’ active participation in their learning. Many very good quality learning experiences were observed during the evaluation. The pupils are highly motivated, well behaved and demonstrate a great enthusiasm for their work.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. Impressive work in relation to the formulation of a wide range of useful whole-school planning documents, in both organisational and curriculum areas, has taken place. There is much evidence of effective implementation. The acting principal and teachers have made praiseworthy use of the support services to facilitate this ongoing self-review and the policies provide a sound basis for the development of effective practice. The plans are very well presented and accessible to all partners. Copies have been prepared for all staff members. The importance of providing clear guidelines for classroom practice was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. In this context it is recommended that further guidelines be outlined in relation to the reading and writing strands of the English and Irish plans. Further consideration should also be given to the Éisteacht strand in the Irish curriculum. It is also recommended that consideration should be given to reducing the number of textbooks in use.

 

The teachers have devised a well-thought out template for short-term planning and recording the monthly progress of work. The practice of outlining pupils’ learning outcomes in terms of skills and concepts to be developed is commendable. This approach enables staff plan their work in a manner which facilitates continuity, breadth and balance in the implementation of the curriculum and school plan. However, it is recommended that these records should be discussed on a regular basis by the principal and staff in order to extend this good practice and further ensure linkage with the specific objectives of the curriculum, particularly in the development of language skills.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language[h1] 

 

Gaeilge

Tréaslaítear leis na múinteoirí as an mbéim thorthúil a leagann siad ar chur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar bhonn neamhfhoirmiúil le linn an lae. Léiríonn na daltaí meon dearfach i leith na Gaeilge agus is le bród a labhrann siad méid atá acu. Chonacthas samplaí breátha de dhea-chleachtais i ngach rangsheomra le linn na cigireachta. Cláraítear an teanga atá le sealbhú ag na daltaí sna scéimeanna oibre. Cloítear leis an nGaeilge mar theanga theagaisc le linn an cheachta comhrá. Baintear leas cumasach as raon d’áiseanna le cur ar chumas na ndaltaí an teanga nua a shealbhú ar bhonn taitneamhach. Leagtar béim le moladh ar fhilíocht/rannta agus ar amhráin nua-aimseartha bunaithe ar na spriocanna foghlama. Baintear leas maith as obair bheirte.

 

Glacann na daltaí páirt ghníomhach sna ceachtanna agus dul chun cinn creidiúnach á dhéanamh acu. Moltar ach go háirithe an t-ardchumas cainte atá ag ranganna ar leith. Ar mhaithe le tógaint go sistéamach ar chaighdeán labhartha na ndaltaí ó rang go rang, b’fhiú don fhoireann athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an ionchur teanga a mhúintear. Luaitear go speisialta an tábhacht a bhaineann le briathra agus le struchtúir theanga ar leith a theagasc mar chuid dhílis de gach ceacht cumarsáideach. B’fhiú chomh maith plean a cheapadh d’fhorbairt na scéalaíochta. Rachadh go mór chun tairbhe d’fhoghlaim na ndaltaí freisin gnéithe eile den churaclam, ar nós an Drámaíocht, a mhúineadh trí mheán na Gaeilge.

 

Bunaítear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht go torthúil ar na ceachtanna comhrá. Leagtar bunchloch na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta go héifeachtach agus is inmholta go mór iad na deiseanna rialta a thugtar do na daltaí abairtí a chumadh as a stuaim féin. Meastar áfach gur athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar úsáid an téacsleabhair do theagasc foirmiúil na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Áirítear ina leith seo an tábhacht a bhaineann le  raon níos leithe d’ábhar léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil, úsáid grúpoibre, forbairt na saorscríbhneoireachta agus teagasc díreach a dhéanamh ar scileanna léitheoireachta ar leith.

 

Irish

The teachers are to be congratulated on the successful emphasis they place on the incidental use of Irish during the school day. The pupils demonstrate a positive attitude to the language and delight in using it. During the evaluation many samples of good were noted at all class levels. The targeted language input which pupils are to acquire is outlined in teachers’ short-term plans. Irish is adhered to as the language of instruction during the oral language class. A variety of teaching aids is skilfully used to enable pupils acquire a new language input in an enjoyable manner. A commendable emphasis is placed on poetry/rhymes and modern songs, based on the learning goals. Good use is made of pair work.

 

The pupils participate actively in the lessons and are making creditable progress. Particularly commendable is the high level of oral competency in evidence at particular class levels. In the interest of further developing pupils’ oral skills in a systematic manner from one class level to the next it is recommended that the language input taught should be reviewed. Particular reference is made to the importance of direct instruction in verbs and language structures as key components of all communicative language lessons. It is also recommended that consideration be given to formulating a plan regarding the further development of storytelling. Pupils’ language learning would be greatly enhanced if opportunities were provided for them to learn other subject areas such as Drama through the medium of Irish.

 

Reading and writing are fruitfully based on the oral language lessons. The fundamental skills of reading and writing are effectively developed and it is particularly commendable that opportunities are provided from an early stage for pupils to construct sentences in a creative manner. However it is recommended that the use of the textbook for the formal teaching of reading and writing be reviewed. In this context it is particularly important that further consideration is given to the provision of a wider range of reading material, the further development of groupwork, the cultivation of pupils’ independent writing skills and the provision of direct instruction in specific reading skills.

 

English

 

At all class levels teachers organise discrete oral language lessons in English. Very good opportunities are provided for the junior classes to engage in different kinds of well-structured play for learning, such as interactive story-time, creative play, rhyming and singing. Much good quality talk and discussion was observed during the evaluation. It is commendable that pupils are encouraged to respond to poetry in a variety of ways.  There is evidence of effective practice in relation to reading aloud to pupils. It is recommended that this good practice be further developed on a whole school basis and that consideration is given to encouraging pupils to identify similar or contrasting stories.

 

The teachers are to be commended on creating classroom environments which are conducive to pupils developing an interest in reading. Graded supplementary reading materials are provided in all rooms. Skilful use of large-format books was noted during the evaluation. A variety of effective teaching approaches such as systematic phonics instruction, development of sight vocabulary, language experience approach is used to establish the basic skills of reading. The development of further agreed whole-school approaches around these strategies will further ensure continuity in pupils’ learning. Due emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ comprehension skills. A graded reading scheme is in use throughout the school. Many pupils display a great interest in books and read with fluency and understanding. However, it is recommended that there is a need to use a greater variety of formal reading texts with older pupils and extend the use of group teaching approaches so as to further ensure that the chosen texts are within the capabilities of all pupils.

 

In keeping with best practice, pupils are guided and encouraged from an early stage to use their emergent reading and writing skills to construct messages or stories. During the evaluation many very good samples of pupils’ writing were noted throughout the school. A whole school approach to developing good handwriting is in place and proposals to extend the use of a cursive style will greatly enhance pupils’ learning. It is recommended that pupils be given further opportunities to extend and enrich their use of language through writing on a regular basis in a wide variety of genres.

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

Effective practice in the teaching and learning of Mathematics was observed during the evaluation. Designated Mathematics areas which scaffold pupils’ learning are organised throughout the school and there is much evidence of effective linkage and integration. High pupil participation levels and good quality talk and discussion are in evidence. Many pupils demonstrate a good mastery of number facts and an understanding of key concepts. Teachers work in close collaboration with one another to differentiate the programme to meet the varying needs of pupils. Pupils’ written work is presented in an orderly fashion and to a high standard. In keeping with best practice the skills, concepts and language to be taught are clearly outlined in teachers’ individual planning templates and are taught purposefully throughout the school. Target boards, digit cards, games and a good variety of other visual aids and manipulatives are used skilfully to facilitate active learning approaches and regular revision. A commendable emphasis is placed on teaching pupils strategies to enable them perform mathematical tasks. The practice of displaying these in classrooms greatly enhances the mathematical environments in classrooms and is to be commended. In order to develop pupils’ mathematical ability further, it is recommended that the school develops a strategy to encourage higher order thinking through regular problem solving exercises that require a variety of operations.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

 

High quality work is in undertaken in the Visual Arts. In line with the whole-school plan for Visual Arts the teachers plan and implement a broad programme in the various strands and strand units of the curriculum. A range of effective starting points for assignments was noted and the work is effectively integrated with other curriculum areas such as Mathematics, Music, Irish, English, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education. A very good emphasis is placed on talk and discussion and on enabling pupils to express their personal understanding of the assigned tasks. Pupils are given worthwhile opportunities to experiment with a considerable variety of materials and develop a wide range of skills. Many impressive samples of their work are attractively displayed in classrooms and circulation areas. There is a good balance between two- and three-dimensional work, despite the obvious space restrictions in the building. There is clear evidence of progression in the development of their skills and pupils are proud of their artistic endeavours. 

3.4 Assessment

 

As outlined in the school plan assessment is an integral part of the curriculum in this school. A wide range of literacy and numeracy tests are provided. Pupils’ progress is monitored carefully and assessment information is recorded systematically and stored centrally. The practice of administering standardised tests is well established. Commendably, class teachers administer and mark these tests. The special education teacher administers additional diagnostic tests as required. Assessment data is used to compile individual pupil profiles and the teachers analyse the data and use it to inform planning, teaching and learning. Pupils’ work is corrected carefully and commendably, there is much evidence of effective feedback being given to pupils. A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on ongoing informal assessment approaches such as teacher-designed tests and checklists. It is recommended that assessment for learning should now be further developed particularly with a view to ensuring more continuity in the development of pupils’ writing skills from one class level to the next. 

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The whole-school plan for learning-support was reviewed beneficially recently. Currently, the school has one full-time support post, shared with a neighbouring school and has also been allocated additional teacher hours for the support of pupils with special needs. Both teachers approach their work in a professional manner and work conscientiously in close collaboration with the other staff members. Regular contact is maintained with parents and other relevant professionals. The teachers have developed positive, caring relationships with pupils and support is provided in both literacy and numeracy. Individual Education Plans based on pupils’ specific needs have been formulated and are reviewed on a formal basis during the school year. Pupils’ strengths, priority learning areas and related targets are clearly identified. Pupils are withdrawn in small groups and in-class support is also provided. Good team teaching and innovative approaches to differentiating the mainstream curriculum were noted during the evaluation. Attention was also focused on the importance of ensuring continuity of provision for pupils with special needs.

 

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

 

This school is not situated in area of dedicated disadvantage. 

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • The acting principal provides effective leadership and works in close collaboration with the staff to provide pupils with a good quality education, and the overall standards of work are of high quality.
  • The pupils are very well behaved and highly motivated.
  • The school has a supportive and active board of management that discharges its duties in a conscientious manner.
  • The school has an active parents’ association and parental involvement contributes significantly to the overall success of the school.
  • Good whole school plans have been formulated and many effective structures to support their implementation are in place.
  • A good quality learning environment is provided throughout the school and commendable use is made of all available space and a wide variety of resources.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

  • It is recommended that the existing good practice of clearly outlining pupils’ learning outcomes in terms of skills and concepts should be consistently implemented in short-term planning and monitored through the monthly progress review.
  • It is recommended that the range of reading material provided for formal reading in both languages should be extended and that consideration be given to the further development of group teaching approaches for reading and writing.
  • It is recommended that consideration should be given to teaching aspects of the curriculum such as Drama through Irish in order to enable pupils further develop their language skills.
  • It is recommended that the school develop a strategy to encourage higher order thinking through regular problem solving exercises.

 

 

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.