An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil an Linbh Íosa, Francis Street, Galway

Roll number: 04515G

 

Date of inspection:  4 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 Scoil an Linbh Íosa was undertaken in April 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 and Mathematics. There was a particular focus on the teaching and learning of English as an additional language (EAL). 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

 

Scoil an Linbh Íosa is a nineteen-teacher primary school situated in the Franciscan (Abbey) parish in Galway City. The school participates in Strand 1 of the Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative. This initiative was instigated by the Department of Education and Science in 2005 to address the needs of schools in designated areas of disadvantage. It is a very good school. Boys and girls are enrolled from junior infants to first class. From second class onwards, only girls are enrolled. Most of the pupils come from the city centre area, with the remainder coming from neighbouring city parishes. It is expected that enrolment figures will increase over the next few years, due to the number of newcomer children who are enrolling in the school.

 

The core of the school building dates from 1875. The school was extended in 1960. There are eight mainstream classrooms and a classroom for almost all of the support teachers. One of the language support classrooms is shared between two teachers and is used as the learning support and resource classroom. There is an office and staff room, as well as a parents’ room. There are pupil and staff toilets. The school hall is used for school concerts, Drama and Physical Education (PE). The building and school grounds are very well maintained.

 

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

155

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

19

Administrative Principal

1

Mainstream class teachers

8

Teachers working in support roles

10

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The Catholic Bishop of Galway is the patron of the school. The school’s mission statement is set out in the school plan. The school, which is under the trusteeship of the Mercy order, is characterised by very positive working relationships among the whole school community: management, teachers, parents and pupils. There is a welcoming and homely atmosphere in the school and a stimulating learning environment is provided for all pupils.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management meets around six times a year. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. The board of management is to be commended for its support for the school and for the close contact it maintains with school personnel. The board discusses and ratifies all school policies. The board’s current priorities include the maintenance and development of the school building and grounds. The board is concerned about the challenge it faces in this task, as it struggles to manage with the funding it receives. The board feels that its funding is barely adequate to cover the costs of running a large school building, especially a building as old as Scoil an Linbh Íosa. Another priority for the board is meeting the challenges of coping with the welcome increased enrolment of pupils in the last few years.

 

The board of management has invested in a wide range of educational resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in various curricular areas. The school is well equipped. Almost all of the classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide a very stimulating learning environment for pupils. The school grounds are very well laid out and provide an attractive and stimulating children’s play area.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal, one assistant principal and five special duties teachers. The principal has considerable management skills and this has helped to ensure that the teachers in the school are motivated to strive for the highest standards in all school endeavours. The principal has prioritised improvements in the implementation of the curriculum and the school plan. This is shown especially in the school’s emphasis on the teaching of English and Mathematics. The work done in the teaching of English as an additional language is a particular successful example of this work. The principal has ensured that an attractive, efficient and welcoming learning environment has been created in the school.

 

The school’s middle-management teachers provide creditable assistance to the principal. The work delegated to them is carried out effectively. The whole school staff operates very well as a team. The work of all of the teachers is carried out competently and diligently. There are three supply panel teachers based in the school. This service operates effectively in Scoil an Linbh Íosa. Formal staff meetings are held once a term. The efficient school secretarial service helps to ensure that there is very good communication throughout the school. The work of the cleaners and the caretaker has ensured that the school is very clean and tidy both inside and outside.

 

Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is a very active parents’ association in the school. Very positive relations exist between parents and teachers. There is a good level of parental involvement in the school. At their meeting with the inspectors prior to the whole school evaluation, the parents’ association representatives stated that they were satisfied with the education provided in the school.

 

Parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children at the formal parent-teacher meetings that are organised annually. A written report on each child is sent to his/her parents annually in the second term. The school deals with parents’ concerns in an open way. Parents are welcome to discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. The parents receive regular newsletters from the principal to keep them informed about events in the school.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils in Scoil an Linbh Íosa hold their teachers in very high regard. They are very well behaved. They get on well with each other and are welcoming and courteous to visitors to the school. The teachers have a warm relationship with their pupils and there is a high level of pastoral care in the school. This has led to the creation of a welcoming and caring atmosphere in class, on the corridors and in the schoolyard. This is combined with an effective learning atmosphere. Almost all of the pupils participate willingly in lessons and the other school activities provided for them.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The impressive school plan has been put together to cater for the specific needs of Scoil an Linbh Íosa. The teachers value the support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives. This support has made a useful contribution to the school planning process.

 

The school plan is available for parents to consult. Parents are welcome to contribute their opinions and suggestions on school policies at any time. The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan.

 

Plans are available for all of the curricular areas in which the teachers have received in-service training. These plans are clear, easy to follow and constantly under review. Appropriate organisational policies have been developed on a wide range of school matters. Among these policies are a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. The school’s enrolment policy emphasises its welcome for all prospective pupils. An equality statement has also been developed. It is recommended, however, that, in future reviews, some school plans and policies would benefit from more specific focus on the multi-cultural aspect of the school.

 

The teachers in Scoil an Linbh Íosa implement a broad and balanced curriculum. Almost all of the teachers’ classroom planning is clear and gives a good overview of the work planned. The standard of planning of some of the teachers is excellent. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records are kept. All of the teachers keep to an appropriate timetable. The timetables are based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.

 

Individual education plans (IEPs) are developed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. The IEPs are regularly reviewed. The quality of planning in this area is very high overall. The quality of planning and record-keeping in the English language support service is especially praiseworthy. All relevant records are filed in the learning support room. Copies of individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.

 

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

 

Gaeilge

Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge i Scoil an Linbh Íosa. Leagann na hoidí béim oiriúnach ar an dteanga labhartha ó naíonáin go rang a sé. Tá dúshlán mór ag an scoil de réir na himpleachtaí a bhaineann le stádas DEIS na scoile. Cuireann an méid daltaí le Béarla mar theanga breise brú sa bhreis ar an scoil an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn freisin. Fós féin, áfach, éiríonn go suntasach leis an scoil agus is féidir leis an gcuid is mó de na daltaí i ngach rang labhairt fúthu féin go réasúnta cruinn as Gaeilge. Baineann na hoidí i gcuid mhór de na ranganna úsáid chreidiúnach as dráma sna ceachtanna Gaeilge. Éiríonn leo foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú go céimniúil tríd an scoil.

 

Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann an chuid is mó de na daltaí os ard go líofa. Freagraíonn siad ceisteanna go cumasach bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Déantar obair inmholta sa scríbhneoireacht, ach go háirithe i gcuid de na ranganna. Tá ardchaighdeán le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí sna ranganna seo.

 

Irish

A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in Scoil an Linbh Íosa. The teachers place appropriate emphasis on oral language skills from infants to sixth class. The school faces a major challenge because of the implications of the DEIS status of the school. The number of pupils with English as an additional language puts the school under additional pressure when ensuring that Irish is emphasised. Even taking this into account, however, the school has had significant success [in the teaching of Irish] and most of the pupils in all classes can talk about themselves reasonably accurately in Irish. The teachers in many classes use drama creditably in Irish lessons. They succeed in expanding pupils’ vocabularies in a graded way throughout the school.

 

All of the pupils in the school can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish. Reading is developed effectively from second class onwards. Most of the pupils read aloud fluently. They answer questions competently based on their reading. There is a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school. Commendable work has been done in writing, especially in some classes. A high standard is evident in the pupils’ copybooks and workbooks in these classes.

 

English

Most pupils attain reasonably high standards in English. Because of the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those for whom English is an additional language, oral language development is specifically emphasised. The work done in this area is particularly praiseworthy in the language support classes. Overall, pupils for whom English is an additional language are very well catered for in Scoil an Linbh Íosa. Most of the pupils, from all backgrounds, can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. The work done on the recitation, study and writing of poetry in every class is impressive.

 

There is a print-rich environment throughout the school. As part of the foundation of basic reading skills, appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness in the junior classes. It is recommended that this valuable work could profitably be extended throughout the school. This should help to further enhance and strengthen the reading skills of all pupils. The Reading Recovery and First Steps programmes are among those being implemented very successfully in the school.

 

Class libraries are fairly well stocked overall and there is a reasonably good supply of books for readers at various levels of age and ability in most classes. It is recommended, however, that new books be purchased more regularly to provide an even more varied supply. These books should provide reading opportunities in each class for a wide range of reading interests and abilities. Shared reading operates successfully in some classes. This system, or a planned programme of independent reading, should be expanded to all classes. Records should then be kept to ensure that every pupil has the opportunity to read and enjoy a number of books each year.

 

Very creditable work is done in English writing throughout the school. The standard in some classes is very high indeed. The excellent work done as part of the Write-a-Book project is particularly noteworthy in this regard. There are good examples of pupils’ writing in a wide variety of genres on display in every class. The writing process is appropriately emphasised and written work is carefully edited and published in class. Copybooks and workbooks contain highly commendable work in functional and creative writing.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken competently in almost all classes in Scoil an Linbh Íosa. A good foundation in Mathematics is laid in the junior classes. The recent introduction of the Maths Recovery programme has helped to enhance this work further. This has contributed significantly to the relatively high standards in Mathematics achieved by most pupils in the school. The pupils in most classes have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. The correct emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems.

 

A wide range of mathematical equipment is available in the school and these materials are used effectively to enhance pupils’ learning. A stimulating maths-rich environment has been developed in the school, with Mathematics corners and mathematical posters in all classes. The pupils in most classes record their work very neatly. This work is regularly checked and corrected by the teachers. The school is conscious of the importance of the teaching and learning of Mathematics and is constantly seeking ways in which to improve standards throughout the school.

 

3.3 Assessment

Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in English and Mathematics once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally. They are used to compare pupils in the school with national averages and to identify pupils who are in need of learning support. The other main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tests. Projects, experiments and portfolios of work done by pupils in a wide range of curricular areas are also used to assess pupils’ progress. Much of this work is of a creditable standard and it provides evidence of the impressive achievements of many of the pupils in the school.

 

The learning support and resource teachers use a variety of diagnostic tests. These tests help to identify the specific needs of pupils with learning difficulties. They also aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs). Emphasis is placed on early intervention to help pupils who are experiencing difficulty. The teachers in the learning support and resource service are keen to constantly adapt their practices to ensure they provide the most effective service they can for all pupils. It is hoped that more effective assessment instruments and guidelines will be available soon to assist in this work, especially for the language support classes.

 4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has developed an appropriate and clearly written learning support and special educational needs policy. This policy sets out the school’s procedures for screening of pupils, the planning systems to be used, and how these plans will be implemented. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress. The language support service is closely co-ordinated with this service and the different support services operate successfully on a whole school basis.

 

The learning support and resource teachers, as well as the language support teachers, work in dedicated classrooms in the school. Confinement of space means that two language support teachers work in the same classroom. Efforts are made to ensure that this does not affect pupil achievement adversely. Some learning support, resource and language support teaching is done in the mainstream classes in conjunction with the class teachers. Learning support is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics. Language support is also offered to all those pupils who need it, in accordance with departmental guidelines.

 

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

All of the pupils in the school are treated equally and fairly. The school has an open enrolment policy and welcomes pupils from a wide variety of backgrounds. This is clear from the school’s pupil intake. More focus on the depiction of pupils from various backgrounds in the school’s planning and resource materials, however, should enhance this welcoming ethos still further. The home-school-community liaison service is used effectively to increase parents’ interest and involvement in their children’s education. School funds and grants are sensitively used to ensure that every pupil can participate fully in all school activities.

 

5.     Conclusion

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         Scoil an Linbh Íosa is a very good school.

·         There is a positive and enthusiastic learning atmosphere in the school.

·         The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school.

·         The principal is an effective school leader.

·         The teachers are very conscientious and diligent in their work.

·         The quality of education offered in the school is very good.

·         The school building and grounds are very well maintained.

·         The school plan is clearly laid out and is based on the needs of the school.

·         The quality of academic and pastoral support for all pupils is commendable.

·         The English language support service is particularly impressive.

 

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

 

·         Classroom libraries should be regularly restocked with books that cater for the diverse range of abilities and interests of the pupils

·         A review of school resources, including posters, information leaflets, planning documents and policies, should be undertaken to ensure that the multi-cultural aspect of the school is even more clearly evident.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Published December 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


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