An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Bishop Ahern National School,

Leamlara, County Cork

Uimhir rolla: 04118T

 

Date of inspection: 30 April 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Bishop Ahern N.S., Leamlara, was undertaken in May, 2008. 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 History. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This is a four-teacher school catering for boys and girls from junior infants to sixth class. It is situated in a rural area and has a vital role in the community it serves. Enrolments have increased significantly since the last report was furnished in 2000, and are likely to grow further because of housing developments in the area.

 

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

78

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1.5

Special needs assistants

1

 

The staff are dedicated to the educational welfare of the pupils in their care and work in a most conscientious manner to provide them with a good quality education. Impressive teamwork and positive relations between the various members were in evidence during the evaluation.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

This vibrant school has a Catholic ethos and is under the patronage of the Bishop of Cloyne. In keeping with the school’s mission statement the staff, board of management and parents work together successfully, to create an environment in which all pupils can achieve their full potential.

 

1.2 Board of management[h1] 

The commitment of the board of management to the school is acknowledged and commended. The board meets on a regular basis and the minutes are recorded systematically. Appropriately, written financial reports are presented at each meeting and the accounts are audited annually. In acknowledgement of the important role of parents the board issues an agreed report for them at the end of each meeting. A maintenance programme is in place and the board members deserve much credit for the high-quality, safe environment they provide for the school community. The increase in the school population has given rise to accommodation issues which are a key concern for the board. Accordingly, they have submitted an application for grant aid to the Department of Education and Science for an extension. The board is involved in policy formulation and has considered and ratified a range of policies. In order to extend existing best practice and promote further continuity in pupil learning it is recommended that these policies be signed and dated consistently, and copies provided to all staff members, including part-time teachers. The important role of the board in formulating policies which promote continuity in pupils’ learning particularly in the context of catering for special needs was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal approaches her work in a professional and conscientious manner. She combines ably her teaching and administrative duties. She works in close collaboration with the acting deputy principal and they deserve much credit for the effective leadership in evidence. They are capably assisted by the special duties post-holder and staff members. The middle management team carry out a range of additional duties in a committed manner. In keeping with good practice these duties are outlined clearly. However, it is recommended that they be reviewed formally on a regular basis to ensure that the assigned curriculum duties are in keeping with the developing needs of the school and to support the further development of curriculum leadership.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parental support contributes significantly to the overall success of the school. The Parents’ Association meets on a regular basis and organises a range of important events.  They have been involved in policy development, most recently in relation to healthy eating, and maintain regular communication with the principal, staff and board. It is the intention of the board to promote further parental involvement in policy formulation. Appropriately, formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually and the teachers provide written progress reports for pupils at the end of the school year. During the evaluation the parent representatives expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the quality of education provided in the school. The staff readily acknowledge and appreciate the considerable input of parents in their children’s learning. In the interest of further development, it is recommended that consideration be given to the use of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment revised report card templates, for reporting pupil progress and achievement. Also, it is suggested that consideration be given to the use of a notice board in the school environs for parents.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

It is evident that much credit is due to the teachers for the effective policies and strategies which they have put in place to promote positive patterns of pupil behaviour. The pupils are well-behaved, highly motivated and demonstrate positive dispositions to their learning.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. The teachers, in collaboration with the relevant partners, have formulated a wide range of both organisational and curricular policies. They are presented clearly and are readily available to all partners. They provide some sound guidelines for the implementation of good practice. The teachers make good use of the support services to facilitate policy development and to support them in implementing curricular changes. Impressive progress in relation to the implementation of interactive teaching approaches is in evidence. In order to promote further linkage between the curriculum, whole-school plans and classroom planning it is recommended that more guidelines for classroom practice be provided in the English and Irish curriculum plans. In particular, it is recommended that strategies for differentiation of mainstream class programmes be viewed as an important focus for further attention.  Also, it is recommended that greater use be made of the data emanating from monthly progress records and from pupils’ assessment tests to review curriculum policies in a more focused manner on a regular basis.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. All teachers prepare both short-term and long-term plans of work and record the monthly progress of work. The classrooms are well-prepared and organised. The board has facilitated a job-sharing arrangement which is working admirably because of the effective planning and communication structures in place. All teachers make impressive use of the computer for their written preparation. However, different approaches to curriculum planning are in evidence. In some plans the lesson topics are outlined. In other plans the work to be undertaken is, in keeping with best practice, clarified in terms of pupils’ skills and concepts to be developed and the methodologies to be deployed. In order to extend existing good practice and reduce an overemphasis on textbook content in some areas, it is recommended that the approaches to classroom planning be reviewed on a whole-school basis. Also, it is recommended that the staff agree on a common template for the monthly progress records and that these documents be retained for whole-school purposes.

 

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, and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. It is recommended that a copy of the procedures be provided to all staff (including all new staff). 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[h2] 

 

Gaeilge

Chonacthas mórán samplaí breátha de dhea-theagasc na Gaeilge le linn na cigireachta. Baintear leas sciliúil as cluichí, rannta nó filíocht le cur ar chumas na ndaltaí an teanga a fhoghlaim ar bhonn idirghníomhach taitneamhach. I gcuid de na ranganna leagtar béim inmholta ar obair i bpéirí agus i ngrúpaí chun taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí an teanga a úsáid go cumarsáideach. Ag rangleibhéil ar leith baintear leas le moladh as prionta chun tacú le daltaí cur lena gcumas teanga ar bhonn sistéamach. Tá fianaise ann chomh maith go gcuirtear an scéalaíocht chun cinn. B’fhiú cur leis seo. Léiríonn a lán daltaí meon dearfach i leith na Gaeilge agus éiríonn leo an teanga a fhoghlaimíonn siad a úsáid chun bunchumarsáid a dhéanamh. Cuirtear deiseanna fónta ar fáil do dhaltaí na meán agus na n-ardranganna a gcuid scileanna ó bhéal a chothú a thuilleadh tríd an léitheoireacht agus tríd an scríbhneoireacht. Le linn na cigireachta tugadh faoi deara gur deanadh obair fhónta maidir le teagasc díreach a dhéanamh ar fhoclóir súil ag rangleibhéil ar leith. Tá sé i gceist ag an scoil cur leis na téacsanna léitheoireachta sna ranganna sinsearacha. Tá sé seo le moladh mar cuirfidh sé go mór le foghlaim na ndaltaí. Ar mhaithe leis an gcaighdeán a ardú a thuilleadh moltar anois na samplaí de dhea-chleachtais atá le sonrú, a chur i bhfeidhm go leanúnach ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine tríd an bpróiseas pleanála. Luaitear, ach go háirithe, an tábhacht a bhaineann le breis béime a chur ar an sprioctheanga a fhoglaimíonn na daltaí ag gach rangleibhéal agus ar na trí thréimhse cumarsáideach sa cheacht comhrá. B’fhiú go mór don bhfoireann breis treoracha a chur sa phlean scoile maidir leis na gnéithe tábhachtacha seo den cheacht teanga. B’fhiú, chomh maith, aird sa bhreis a dhíriú ar bhonn na scoile ar fhorbairt scileanna saorscríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí agus ar obair i ngrúpaí ar mhaithe le difrealú sa teagasc. Rachadh sé go mór chun tairbhe d’fhoghlaim na ndaltaí dá dtabharfaí breis deiseanna dóibh taobh amuigh den cheacht foirmiúil an Ghaeilge a labhairt.

 

Irish

Much good practice in relation to the teaching of Irish was in evidence during the evaluation. Skilful use is made of games, rhymes or poetry to enable pupils learn the language in an interactive, enjoyable manner. In some classes a commendable emphasis is placed on pair work and group work to enable pupils use the language learned in a communicative context. At particular class levels praiseworthy use is made of print-rich materials to scaffold pupils in a systematic manner to extend their command of the language. There is also some evidence of storytelling which would be well worth extending. Many pupils demonstrate positive attitudes to Irish and are well able to use the language learned to engage in basic conversation. Some good opportunities are provided for the pupils in the middle and senior classes to consolidate oral work through reading and through writing. Good work in relation to the direct teaching of sight vocabulary was noted at particular class levels. Proposals from the school to extend the range of reading material available to the senior pupils are to be encouraged and will greatly enhance the quality of the work. In order to raise standards further it is recommended that the samples of good practice in evidence be developed in a consistent manner. In particular it is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on the targeted language input to be learned at each class level and on the three communicative phases of the language lesson. It would be worthwhile for the staff to outline clear guidelines in the whole-school plan for Irish in relation to these key elements of the language lesson. Also, it is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed at a whole-school basis on promoting the development of pupils’ independent writing skills and on the use of differentiated group teaching approaches. The provision of further opportunities for the pupils to speak Irish outside of the formal language lesson would greatly enrich their learning.

 

English

During the evaluation much good practice in the teaching of English was noted. Commendably, the classrooms present as attractive print-rich environments. Throughout the school talk and discussion are promoted skilfully. Appropriately, poetry, rhyme and storytelling feature prominently. Many pupils speak with confidence and demonstrate good oral language skills. A range of effective approaches is used to enable pupils develop the basic skills of reading and writing.  While a commercial reading scheme is in use at all class levels this is well-supplemented by a wide variety of graded reading materials and by class novels. Throughout the school good strategies to enthuse pupils about their reading were noted. It is particularly commendable that pupils are encouraged to share their individual choices of books on a regular basis. It is evident that many pupils read competently and avidly. The extension of the practice of teaching specific skills directly as part of a structured reading lesson will greatly support those experiencing difficulty. From an early stage pupils are provided with valuable opportunities to use their emergent reading and writing skills to construct sentences in writing. It is recommended that a further emphasis be placed on this important work. Also, it is recommended that play as a strategy for learning be further developed as a key context for the teaching of language skills. Many high-quality samples of pupils’ writing were noted during the evaluation. The teachers are commended for their commitment to displaying the pupils’ writing and for providing pupils with opportunities to use ICT to publish their work. Many pupils demonstrate an impressive ability to use a good cursive style of writing. Pupils at a variety of class levels are provided with many opportunities to write in different genres for different purposes. The further development of this good work through the whole-school planning process will greatly enrich the quality of the pupils’ learning. In this context it is recommended that further guidelines regarding the whole-school approach to teaching oral language, reading and writing skills be provided in the English plan.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The school plan for Mathematics provides a sound basis for the development of effective practice. During the evaluation good work was observed throughout the school. The classrooms present as stimulating, maths-rich environments. Good strategies for problem solving and the development of pupils’ estimation skills were noted. The pupils participate enthusiastically and in general their mastery of the relevant concepts is impressive. It is to be commended that the teachers have sourced and organised a large variety of games which are in use to enable pupils learn key number skills. In keeping with good practice, pupils are enabled to collect real data and represent it in a variety of ways. ICT is well-used for this purpose. The practice of engaging pupils in mental mathematics as a key component of each class is to be commended. Mathematical resources are used skilfully to enable pupils consolidate and apply their knowledge of number. This work is particularly effective when used, as observed at particular class levels during guided active learning approaches. It is recommended that this good practice be extended on a whole-school basis, particularly in the context of differentiating the mainstream class programmes to meet the varying needs of pupils. Also, it is recommended that in some classes a greater variety of manipulatives be provided and that they be organised in a manner which facilitates more balance between small group work and whole-class teaching. The importance of regularly linking Mathematical concepts to real-life practical situations was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation.

 

3.3 History

Praiseworthy work is ongoing on the development of a whole-school plan for History. Considerable work has been undertaken to date particularly in relation to local history. A wide range of artefacts have been sourced and catalogued carefully. An excellent History trail around the school building and grounds has been prepared with care. High-quality displays linked to pupils’ current learning were noted and commended during the evaluation. Time-lines are on display to enable pupils develop a sense of time and chronology. At particular class levels excellent use is made of ICT in the preparation of photographs and print-rich materials to enable pupils work in groups and develop pupils’ skills to work as historians. Story and drama are used effectively. Many pupils demonstrate a good understanding of matters of local historical significance and of topics covered. At particular class levels the high standard of pupils’ recording of their work is particularly praiseworthy. However, it is evident that the core elements of the history programme are based on textbook content in some classes. In order to build on existing good practice it is recommended that the use of the textbook be reviewed.

 

3.4 Assessment

The teachers use a range of assessment methods to monitor pupil progress. They deserve much credit for the careful manner in which they monitor pupils’ written work. The good practice of administering standardised tests in Mathematics and English is well established. Appropriately, the class teachers administer and correct the tests. The results are recorded carefully and stored centrally and are communicated to parents. Commendably, the learning-support teacher has introduced a tracking system in order to monitor individual pupil progress from one class level to the next. In some classes teacher-designed tests are administered regularly and parents are provided with valuable opportunities to view and sign their children’s work. In the context of further developing assessment for learning, it is recommended that this good practice be extended especially in Mathematics. Also, it is recommended that assessment data be used more systematically to inform the provision of differentiated teaching approaches within mainstream classrooms.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

During the evaluation a second full-time learning-support position, based in the school and shared with a local school, was sanctioned. The support teachers provide supplementary teaching in both literacy and numeracy. It is evident that much credit is due to the full-time support teacher who leads the programme and works in collaboration with the principal, support and mainstream teachers. The teachers meet formally with parents to formulate the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for pupils with special needs and copies are provided to all partners. Many sound programmes are in place and during the evaluation many high-quality teaching and learning approaches which maximises the pupils’ active involvement in their learning were observed. The special needs assistant contributes significantly to the high quality of care provided. Commendable use is made of games designed to enable pupils acquire and consolidate specific numeracy and literacy skills in a fun manner. In the interest of further co-ordinating the input of mainstream and support teachers in the individual and group IEPs, it is recommended that the planning templates in use be reviewed and that models of in-class support be extended. The importance of ensuring that the learning targets based on individual pupils’ priority needs are outlined clearly, and implemented consistently in both mainstream and support contexts was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation.

 

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

This school does not have disadvantaged status.  

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

 

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, November 2008


 [h1]Insert blank line after each of the sub headings. I have only done this for this heading – you need to repeat throughout the document.

 [h2]Note changes to language section.