An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa

Ballygall, Dublin 11

Uimhir rolla:  04992R

 

Date of inspection: 3 December 2009

 

 

 

 

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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa, Ballygall was undertaken in December 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 of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa is a vertical boys’ school located in the North Dublin parish of Ballygall. Its enrolment has remained stable and it caters largely for pupils within the parish. Pupil attendance rates are high. A new principal and deputy principal have been recently appointed.

 

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

438

Mainstream classes in the school

16

Teachers on the school staff

24

Mainstream class teachers

16

Teachers working in support roles

8

Special needs assistants

7

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archdiocese of Dublin and the trusteeship of the St Lawrence Trust. It fosters a strong Catholic ethos and has cultivated constructive links with the local community. In tandem, respect for all religious traditions and beliefs is promoted. In line with its mission statement, the school promotes the dignity, self-esteem and holistic development of its pupils in a welcoming and inclusive environment.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and it discharges its functions in a proactive and productive manner. It has a child-centred vision and its primary focus is on improving the educational experiences of the pupils. Meetings are held regularly and detailed minutes of board meetings are maintained. Members have been assigned specific roles and responsibilities and a number of committees have been formed to progress board business. These committees meet frequently and their meetings are attended by the principal. Updates on progress are provided at board meetings.

 

Good work in the area of policy formulation has been completed and a school attendance strategy in line with the requirements of the Education (Welfare) Act 2002 is currently being drafted. However, the role of the board in the development and review of school policies and plans should be increased further, perhaps through the establishment of a policy committee. Following ratification by the board, each policy or plan should be signed and dated by the chairperson and a target date set for its review. Communication of aspects of board business to the wider school community is agreed at meetings and this information is disseminated to staff and parents. School finances are carefully managed through the development of an annual budget and accounts are certified annually.

 

Members of the board are well informed on the operation of the school through the principal’s report and the chairperson regularly visits the school to meet the principal, staff and pupils. Significant attention is given to child protection and this is placed on the agenda of each board meeting. The board is cognisant of its role in supporting the continuing professional development of teachers and the allocation of a specific budget to support this into the future is under discussion.

 

1.3 In-school management

The school is led effectively by an energetic and empowering principal who has extensive experience of teaching in a range of contexts within the school. He demonstrates a democratic and open leadership style and has a clear vision for the development of the school. The principal maintains a visible presence throughout the school and implements a range of systems and procedures that ensure its smooth operation. He places a great emphasis on the importance of continuing professional development for teachers to enrich the individual and collective expertise within the school. His strong interpersonal skills are a key attribute and he is respectful in his dealings with staff, parents and pupils. This leads to an open and welcoming school atmosphere, where all members of the school community feel valued, affirmed and included.

 

The principal is capably supported by the other members of the in-school management team: the deputy principal, two assistant principals and seven special duties teachers. A judicious blend of curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities has been assigned to each member. These responsibilities are carried out diligently and professionally and contribute to the efficient management and leadership of the school. Meetings of the in-school management team are held regularly and communication with the wider staff is facilitated informally and through staff meetings. The duties attaching to the posts of responsibility were recently reviewed and it is evident that they reflect the current priorities of the school. A formal mechanism for the regular review of duties should now be established to ensure they continue to respond to evolving school needs. Consideration should also be given to individual team members drafting and submitting an annual action plan to the board outlining their proposed activities for the year, followed by an annual review of achievements.

 

1.4 Management of resources

A determined effort is made to ensure that all available resources are used effectively. Teachers are deployed appropriately by the principal based on individual teacher preferences and pupils’ needs. A policy on teacher allocation to mainstream and support settings should now be considered to ensure that all teachers have the opportunity to experience a variety of teaching contexts. There is a strong culture of mentoring new teachers and the school has participated in the National Pilot Project on Teacher Induction to support newly qualified teachers. The openness among teachers to share expertise and ideas with colleagues enhances pedagogical practice within the school. Teachers display a high level of commitment to providing an extensive range of sporting, cultural and musical extracurricular activities, supported by external tutors, coaches and parents.

 

The auxiliary staff provides a very high level of service to the school. The secretary undertakes a range of administrative and communicative duties professionally and efficiently and provides valuable support to the management and teaching staff. The caretaker undertakes his duties in a positive manner and displays great pride in providing for a safe and attractive school environment. The high levels of cleanliness evident in the school are testimony to the hard work of the cleaners.

 

School accommodation is of a high standard and it provides a constructive learning environment for pupils. Classrooms and corridors are used in an educationally productive way in that they serve to support, display and celebrate the work of pupils across the curriculum. Externally, the large tarmacadam area is used for play and recreation and the school has use of the adjoining post-primary school’s green-field area. A compact school garden has been developed where pupils have the opportunity to grow fruits and vegetables and to observe seasonal change.

 

The wide range of curriculum resources available in the school, supplemented by teacher-designed materials, is well utilised to support, advance and reinforce teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History. The school has access to many historical artefacts and resources and it should continue to augment a school-based collection, particularly with respect to local history. The infant classes have a good supply of resources to provide structured daily opportunities for pupils to explore and be creative through play. An inventory is available within the school plan for some subject areas and this should be extended to include all resources to ensure their accessibility.

 

The school has a modern computer room and each classroom is equipped with at least one networked computer. Commendably, all classes follow a school-devised graded programme to develop pupils’ information and communication technology (ICT) skills.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Effective structures are in place to promote positive relationships and communication between all partners in the school community. Staff meetings are held regularly and are well organised to facilitate good in-school communication among all school staff. To maximise the potential of these meetings, it is important that the entire teaching staff attends and participates.

 

There is an active and well-informed parents’ association affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary). It meets monthly to plan events to support the work of the school. Its activities include fundraising, the organisation of the school’s savings scheme and involvement in a wide range of school events and extracurricular activities. Parents participate in school-based committees relating to healthy eating and the Green Schools Programme and have been involved in developing some aspects of the school plan. The positive disposition of parents and their high levels of interest could be harnessed further into the future to support the delivery of specific aspects of the curriculum throughout the school and in the school planning process. The recently devised policy on parent contribution to school policy and planning should provide a framework for parental involvement into the future.

 

Officers of the parents’ association expressed their satisfaction with the range and quality of information provided about school life. A school website is currently under development and this will be a valuable tool in enhancing communication further. Officers praised the openness of the principal and teaching staff and commended the quality of education provided to their children. Parents of junior infant pupils are met on a number of occasions prior to and following the enrolment of their child and key school policies, practices and procedures are disseminated in an informative booklet. Informal communication with teachers is encouraged and facilitated on an ongoing basis and a formal opportunity to discuss each pupil’s progress is ensured at the annual parent-teacher meetings. A detailed written report on all aspects of development and learning is issued to parents at the end of the academic year.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The management of pupils within this school is of a high standard. Positive reinforcement and affirmation of pupil behaviour is used throughout the school and pupils present as courteous and respectful in their relationships with peers and teachers. Initiatives such as the weekly school assembly are grounded in the school’s ethos and foster the celebration of achievement throughout the school. On the whole, school rules are implemented fairly and these are complemented by simple classroom rules and reward systems in many classrooms. The revision of the code of behaviour which is underway will further enhance these provisions.

 

Pupils engage enthusiastically in their learning, most notably when they have opportunities to participate in discovery and experiential activities. The opinions of pupils are actively sought and they participate in democratic processes such as the green team committee and the election of a class president in some senior classes. The re-establishment of the student council should be considered to enable pupils to have a positive input at a whole-school level and to develop further their appreciation of the democratic way of life.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1  Whole-school and classroom planning

The overall quality of whole-school and classroom planning is good. The principal along with the other members of the in-school management team plays a lead role in co-ordinating the whole-school planning process while empowering other teachers and stakeholders to become involved. Commendably, the school has developed an action plan outlining planning priorities across curriculum and organisational domains. Self-evaluation procedures are also becoming a feature of school practice and a number of strategies to gather information from staff members are now in operation. Curriculum plans are in place for most subject areas and it is recommended that a plan be developed for the remaining three subjects as a matter of priority. The plans for English, Mathematics and History are generally of a high quality and provide guidance for teachers on their individual planning and practice. There is scope for the further sharing and dissemination of the school plan with the teaching staff to ensure they are cognisant of its provisions in developing and implementing the curriculum throughout the school.

 

All teachers diligently complete short-term and long-term plans to inform their teaching. They are encouraged and facilitated to plan collaboratively at each class level and close liaison and sharing of planning is evident with support teachers. Long-term planning is generally of a high quality, providing suitable detail on how the curriculum will be mediated for each classroom context. Short-term planning reflects teacher awareness of the principles of the primary school curriculum and is generally organised along the strand and strand unit structure. Teachers maintain monthly progress records by noting the content covered on their short-term planning. The impact of this planning in the implementation of the curriculum would be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of specific learning objectives. In some instances, further detail on assessment strategies, methodologies, differentiation and skills to be developed would also impact positively on the delivery of the curriculum. This revision would ensure greater continuity and progression for pupils’ learning and facilitate the development of a system for monitoring curriculum implementation at a whole-school level. On the whole, long-term and short-term planning in support settings is of a very high quality.

 

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 English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is of a high standard. Corridors and classrooms are print rich and well resourced to provide a stimulating learning environment. Commendably, teachers model rich verbal language skills to their pupils. For the most part, lesson pace and structure are good and pupils are given opportunities to collaborate with others in their learning. A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ oral language competence and vocabulary on a cross-curricular basis. Further provision for discrete oral language lessons should be made within teachers’ planning and practice, focussed on the objectives within the curriculum.

 

Commendable attention is given to the development of reading skills at all class levels. A structured approach to the teaching of phonological and phonemic awareness is implemented. At the emergent reading stage, story and large-format books are used to develop pupils’ reading skills. Good use of ICT was observed in the infant classes to develop pupils’ listening and visualisation skills. Differentiation is carefully managed through the implementation of an individualised reading programme in the infant and junior classes and reading records are maintained. Novels, parallel readers and library books complement work undertaken with the graded reading scheme in the middle and senior classes. Supported by the board of management, a whole-school approach to the development of pupils’ comprehension skills has recently been introduced. In many classes, pupils engage enthusiastically in reciting poems and rhymes and in composing their own poems. A greater emphasis on memorisation as a mode of response should be encouraged in some classes. Strategies such as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), buddy reading, paired reading and the after-school book club are all employed successfully to develop pupils’ reading skills throughout the school. Pupil attainment in English is good as is evidenced in the levels achieved in standardised tests.

 

Writing skills are being developed effectively at all levels. Pupils engage in a range of early writing activities in the infant classes and have regular opportunities to experience the conventions of writing being modelled by teachers. They have the opportunity to write in a variety of genres, on different topics and for different audiences. The writing process is generally well supported and nurtured by teachers. Drafting, editing and redrafting is a feature of writing throughout the school. ICT is often productively used in the writing process and for display purposes. Dictionaries are used effectively to assist the writing process and to develop pupils’ comprehension skills. On the whole, handwriting is presented neatly and culminates in the development of a cursive style in the senior classes. Written work is monitored and corrected regularly and many teachers provide formative feedback to pupils. Grammar and spellings are taught well throughout the school.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. Concepts and skills across all strands of the curriculum are developed incrementally and a broad and balanced programme of work is implemented. Many teachers provide a mathematics-rich environment to reinforce learning. The school is well-equipped with a wide array of mathematical resources and these, complemented by teacher-developed materials, facilitate the implementation of a variety of activity-based teaching methodologies. In the infant classes, pupils no longer purchase textbooks and the primary focus is on pupils learning through activity and the exploration of mathematical materials. This is commendable practice. A more structured approach to the teaching of mathematical language across all strands should be explored at a whole-school level and included in the school plan. The use of games, rhymes and songs to reinforce mathematical learning is praiseworthy.

 

Some use of the immediate classroom and local school environment is evident in the teaching of Mathematics and content is often well-integrated with other curriculum areas. The majority of pupils demonstrate a good knowledge of number facts, an appropriate understanding of relevant mathematical concepts and a confidence in engaging in mathematical activities. In the middle and senior classes, pupils could be given further opportunities to develop their skills of using calculators to assist with problem-solving skills and other associated activities. In general, the range and quality of pupils’ written work and the methodical way in which it is monitored and corrected merits praise. Some good use of in-class support for pupils in Mathematics was observed. Overall, pupil engagement with Mathematics is high and a positive disposition to the subject is evident in the school.

 

3.3 History

Teaching and learning in History is of a high quality. Teachers collaborate to ensure a broad programme of work is implemented at each class level. Good use is made of appropriate timelines in most classes to contextualise topics and to develop pupils’ concept of chronology. Effective use is made of teacher-designed resources, dramatic conventions, artefacts and photographs to actively engage pupils in developing their historical knowledge, concepts and skills. This good practice of involving children as active agents in their learning should be extended throughout the school. Given the age and provenance of some of the artefacts that pupils access, guidance at a whole-school level should be formulated in relation to their handling to ensure their safety and preservation. Commendable use is made of ICT to research aspects of History and for the presentation and display of projects.

 

Teaching in the infant and junior sections is focused on the pupils’ personal history and on story and contributes to the development of a sense of sequence and chronology. Effective group learning activities and project work in the middle and senior classes focus on local, national and international contexts. Praiseworthy examples of projects encompassing a range of strands are displayed in the school. Pupils sometimes have opportunities to interview members of the local community or other visitors with an expertise in local history. Historical features of the local area are explored intermittently throughout the school. It is recommended that review and development of the whole school plan include a systematic and sequential approach to the treatment of local history throughout the school to ensure pupils’ knowledge is built incrementally. Pupils demonstrate good levels of interest in topics covered and discuss them with confidence.

 

3.4 Assessment

An effective range of formative and summative assessment strategies is in operation within the school, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Early intervention is a key characteristic of practice within the school and an impressive range of informal assessment checklists and screening tests is used in the infant classes. Class teachers collaborate closely with support teachers and parents in implementing the Forward Together programme following the Middle Infant Screening Test in senior infants. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered annually and the results are shared with teachers and parents. The Non-reading Intelligence Test is undertaken by pupils in second and fifth class to complement other assessment data.

 

It is commendable that the results from screening and standardised tests are analysed and this practice impacts positively on subsequent teacher planning and pupil selection for supplementary support. It would be of further advantage to collate results of standardised tests sequentially as a means of tracking individual pupils’ progress over their entire attendance at primary school. Parents, together with their children, have an opportunity to provide additional informal assessment data by completing the child profile form. Specific learning strengths and needs are identified using a wide range of diagnostic tests.

 

There is a strong culture of sharing assessment data among teachers in the best interests of pupils. Records are maintained in a methodical and consistent manner in the school. Teachers in support settings maintain comprehensive assessment records on individual pupil progress. The commendable practice observed should be documented and formalised within the school policy on assessment when it is next reviewed, the main purpose of this being to extend and develop its use.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is good. The school has a special education support team of five full-time teachers that delivers all supports to pupils based on needs in assigned classes. The services of a part-time resource teacher and a shared resource teacher not based in the school are also available to the team. Seven experienced special needs assistants actively promote the development of independence among pupils and support their inclusion in mainstream classrooms.

 

Provision is made for regular informal and formal communication among support teachers and between the support teachers and mainstream class teachers to provide for a co-ordinated response to meet pupils’ learning needs. In the infant classes, booklets have been developed to facilitate communication between classroom teachers and support teachers and their use could be extended throughout the school. The staged approach is implemented effectively within the school and a short written plan is prepared for pupils at stage one of the additional learning support continuum. Comprehensive individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs), group plans or individual education plans (IEPs) are developed for pupils in receipt of learning support or resource teaching. These are developed collaboratively, reviewed regularly and shared with teachers and parents to ensure all partners are working together towards the attainment of targets. Individual plans could be annotated on a more regular basis to document progress and to denote the achievement of learning objectives.

 

Support teachers provide both in-class support and teaching on a withdrawal basis. As identified by the staff through school self-evaluation, the co-ordination, targeting and practical operation of in-class support requires urgent review to ensure that it is effective and makes best use of the available resources in the best interests of pupils. The experiences of all teachers to date should be sought and the results collated to develop an agreed framework for the operation of in-class support and team teaching. The support sought from the Primary Professional Development Service will be useful in this process.

 

The quality of teaching and learning observed was of a high standard. Stimulating and well-resourced environments have been created to facilitate and consolidate learning. A large range of teacher-designed and commercially-produced materials is available and is used effectively. Lessons are well-structured and teachers adopt a variety of active learning approaches and methodologies to maximise pupil learning. Pupils engage actively in the learning situations provided and on the whole, teachers are appropriately affirming and encouraging of effort. Assessment data indicate that pupils are making good progress in achieving their learning targets. The needs of exceptionally able pupils are addressed within the school in the form of differentiated learning activities, links with the Dublin City University Centre for Talented Youth and the organisation of after-school activities on a weekly basis.

 

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

The school’s inclusion policy espouses a commitment to provide each child with every opportunity to achieve his potential. School grants and links with community organisations are used appropriately to provide support to disadvantaged pupils in a confidential and discreet manner, thus ensuring that all pupils are enabled to participate fully in all school activities.

 

Under the Support Teacher Project, a teacher provides social, emotional and personal support to a number of pupils whose learning is affected by their behaviour. The programme followed supports pupils in building positive relationships and self-esteem through participation in creative activities. This teacher works closely and effectively with classroom teachers and other support teachers.

 

The school has recently engaged the services of a part-time language support teacher to meet the needs of a small number of pupils for whom English is an additional language. Effective planning and assessment records are maintained and materials from Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) are used to guide practice. Support is provided on an in-class and withdrawal basis and the teacher employs a broad range of active methodologies to develop pupils’ competence and confidence in English. The teaching observed was delivered in a supportive environment and made good use of appropriate learning resources.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The board of management and parents’ association are well informed and are highly supportive of the work of the school.

·         The school fosters very good relationships and communication structures with parents and the wider school community. In-school communication is very effective.

·         The school is led by a dynamic and empowering principal who is both efficient in administration and visionary in focus. He is well supported by the other members of the

      in-school management team and school staff.

·         Management and staff work conscientiously and effectively together to provide a happy, caring and inclusive learning environment for the pupils. Efficient use is made

      of a comprehensive range of curricular resources to support the teaching and learning process.

·         An effective range of formative and summative assessment strategies is in operation within the school and these inform the cycle of planning, teaching and learning.

·         The overall quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History is good.

·         Pupils engage willingly in their learning and classroom interactions are characterised by respect, consideration and courtesy.

 

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

 

·         Teachers’ short-term planning should be further developed to ensure there is sufficient focus on specific learning objectives. More definitive references to methodologies,

      assessment and differentiation strategies should also be included.

·         Provision for in-class support should be refined and developed to ensure best use is made of available personnel to support pupils most in need.

·         A wider blend of active and participatory approaches and methodologies should be implemented in some classes to involve pupils more actively in the learning process.

      This would improve pupil engagement in their learning and impact positively on learning outcomes.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of Management of the Sacred Heart B.N.S. wish to acknowledge the courtesy and professionalism of the Inspectorate during our recent W.S.E. We welcome the very positive findings of the team as listed in the conclusion of the report. The Board would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the entire staff of the Sacred Heart B.N.S. and its appreciation of the consistent support of the parents and pupils.

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The Board of Management and teaching staff have already begun the process of reviewing the report in detail.  It is our intention to incorporate all three recommendations in our school’s strategic plan for the forthcoming school year. We have already engaged the S.E.S.S. to assist in developing strategies to improve the effectiveness of our in-class support.