An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Naomh Seosamh
Laragh, Bandon, County Cork
Uimhir rolla: 05477G
Date of inspection: 30 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Seosamh, Laragh. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.
Scoil Naomh Seosamh, Laragh is a co-educational school located in a rural area almost three miles outside Bandon town. Pupil numbers have grown significantly since the last school report was conducted in 1998. There were three teachers on the staff at that time. The school currently has six teachers and an enrolment of 114 pupils. This significant increase in pupil numbers has led to a shortage of space and additional accommodation has been provided. However the planned extensive building programme in the area may lead to further growth in pupil numbers. This is a concern for the board of management as there is no space for further expansion in the current school site. This issue was discussed during the evaluation and the board was advised to review its enrolment policy.
As highlighted in the ethos statement included in the school plan this is a “caring, friendly, happy school”. There is a strong sense of community and it is evident that the board of management, staff and parents work in close co-operation with one another.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis. The minutes are recorded and were made available for inspection. A financial report is presented at each meeting and the accounts are audited. It is evident that this is a hard-working and supportive board. The chairperson has served the school for many years and much credit is due to him and to the board members for their dedicated work. In particular the board is to be commended for the considerable work which has been undertaken to extend and upgrade the school facilities. Grant aid for this work was secured from the Department of Education and Science under the terms of the Small Schools Scheme. The board expressed concerns during the pre-inspection meetings regarding monies owed to the school by the Department. However these issues were clarified and resolved during the evaluation. Particular attention was focused on the terms of the scheme which clearly outline that “school authorities are empowered to manage these works”.
Commendably the board works in close association with the parents and local community to ensure the continued development of the school. Extensive fundraising work to defray major additional costs incurred during the building work has been successfully undertaken in recent times. The board has discussed whole-school policies in key areas such as health and safety. However it is recommended that the role of the board in policy formulation, particularly in curriculum areas, should be significantly developed with a view to further supporting the principal and staff implement good practice. During the evaluation particular attention was focused on the need to review the role of external tutors.
The principal has served the school community in a dedicated manner for many years, both as a classroom teacher and in her current role. She has developed positive working relations with the board, teachers and parents and treats the children in a caring manner. She carefully maintains official documents such as the attendance book and registers. She is to be commended for the very positive atmosphere in the school. However it is recommended that further procedures and structures for instructional leadership need to put in place with a view to promoting more systematic school self-review. In particular it is advised that written records should be maintained of key decisions taken at staff meetings and planning days. The principal is ably and willingly assisted in the in-school management team by the deputy principal and one special duties post holder. They carry out many additional duties in a professional manner and contribute significantly to the school. Much credit is due to them for the significant levels of support which they generously give the principal, staff and pupils.
However the duties allocated to the middle management team are mainly of an organisational nature and have not been reviewed. In the interest of further developing the middle management structure it is recommended that in accordance with Circular 07/03, post of responsibility duties should be formally reviewed by the board in consultation with staff on a regular basis. Such a review should ensure that the duties are in keeping with the developing needs of the school particularly in terms of curriculum implementation. It is advised that the provision by post holders of action plans would greatly clarify priorities for development and facilitate review of progress made. Consideration should be given to the establishment of agreed procedures to facilitate middle-management team meetings to further enable post-holders work collaboratively with the principal.
The teaching staff consists of the principal and five assistant teachers. Four teachers as well as the principal teach in mainstream classes and the school recently acquired one full-time learning support position. There is also a shared resource teacher who is based in another school. The learning-support teacher was on leave during the evaluation and was replaced by a post-primary teacher. The teachers have significant levels of experience and work conscientiously. It is commendable that they share their expertise in a number of curriculum areas. However it is evident that some teachers have taught the same class levels for many years. In the interest of enabling all teachers gain a variety of teaching experience within the school and promoting their ongoing professional development it is recommended that a policy on staff rotation should be developed.
Two class levels are taught in three classrooms and the remaining two classes are taught as single class groups. However the distribution of pupils in classes is uneven. The largest classes have 28 pupils and the smallest class has 15 pupils. The need to ensure that the differential between the largest and the smallest class group is kept to the minimum was highlighted and beneficially discussed during the evaluation.
The school has one part-time special needs assistant who is employed by the board for additional hours as a school secretary. She discharges her duties in an efficient manner and provides significant support to the school. The board also employs part-time personnel to deal with the maintenance of the grounds and building. External instructors are employed to provide weekly classes in aspects of the curriculum to all class levels. A drama teacher provides three hours tuition. An external tutor teaches song singing and music appreciation for two hours. In addition tennis is taught to the junior classes. While the work observed was of good quality there is a significant issue of concern as regards achieving a balanced and integrated learning experience for pupils in line with curricular guidelines. There is also a concern that the role of class teachers is displaced to a disproportionate degree. It is recommended that the role of external tutors should be reviewed in the context of the guidelines for curriculum implementation and should be fully addressed in the school plan.
The school accommodation consists of four permanent mainstream classrooms, a learning support room, a small resource room, a staff room, and a number of storage areas. A temporary prefabricated classroom was recently constructed for an additional mainstream class. Significant maintenance work was undertaken during the extension of the school building. A safety footpath and a school garden have also been carefully developed. The work undertaken to date has greatly enhanced the quality of the learning environment both within and outside the building and the board and parents are to be highly commended for their dedicated work. However some aspects of the physical environment require immediate attention including the upgrading of staff toilet facilities and the further development of the heating system. It is also recommended that the cleaning arrangements should be reviewed.
The school has a variety of material resources to support the pupils’ s learning. The classrooms present as attractive, stimulating learning environments and the teachers are to be highly commended for the considerable efforts they make in this regard. In addition to commercially produced materials many teacher generated visual, print-rich and manipulative materials are provided. Each classroom is equipped with a range of reading material. Computers and flip charts are also supplied. It is to be commended that the school has a web site and that samples of pupils’ work are regularly displayed. Both black and white boards are provided in some classrooms. During the evaluation good use was made of material resources to present lesson content in an effective manner. In some classrooms materials were very skilfully used during hands-on, interactive teaching approaches. The extension of these good practices on a whole-school basis particularly in the teaching of the languages and Mathematics would greatly enhance the pupils’ learning. In this context it is recommended that the range of equipment and books available as well as strategies to optimise their use should be regularly updated. In particular it is recommended that the range of Irish-language reading material available to pupils should be greatly extended. More attention should also be focused on increasing the range of books provided for storytelling in both languages.
This school has an open door policy in relation to communication with the school community. It is evident that many parents greatly value the educational provision their children receive and are very supportive. Many willingly involve themselves in the work of the parents’ association. The association is in regular communication with the principal and makes a considerable contribution to the school. Attendance at parent meetings is reported to be high. The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents Council (NPC) and has much contact with the council and with other parent associations in the area. The parents organise a wide range of events and the success of their work has led to the provision of many additional resources such as percussion instruments. Funding is also used to subsidise swimming classes and other activities for the pupils. Among the other excellent projects in which the parent association is involved are an initiative designed to facilitate the first communion pupils’ involvement in the parish, a newsletter and the development of the school garden.
Parents are always welcome in the school. The parents have had some input into policy formulation regarding enrolment and child protection. In keeping with good practice paired-reading programmes are in place in the school. Parents receive information about their children’s progress at annual parent-teacher meetings. However in the context of the important role of parents in supporting their children’s learning it is recommended that written reports on pupils’ progress should be provided to parents.
The pupils are very well behaved and co-operate willingly with their teachers. The school has devised a code of behaviour which is circulated to parents and discussed regularly. Appropriate classroom rules and organisational routines are beneficially displayed in many classrooms. The teachers are to be commended for the positive learning environments in evidence throughout the school. During the evaluation many pupils displayed a great enthusiasm for their work and were eager to participate in discussion and opportunities provided for discovery based learning.
The principal and staff have developed whole-school policies in a wide range of important organisational areas such as enrolment, discipline, anti-bullying, homework, health and safety. A good range of curriculum policy documents have also been formulated in Irish, English, Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, Science, Social Personal and Health Education, Visual Arts, Information and Communication Technology. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The whole-school plan for English was recently updated. Local History and Geography are among the areas which have been identified for future development. The policies developed to date provide many useful guidelines in keeping with the curriculum, are clearly presented and accessible. However it is evident that there is a need for a more systematic planning process in order to promote greater linkage between whole-school plans and classroom practice. It is recommended that the implementation of curriculum policies should be more regularly monitored on a whole-school basis and that specific action plans to be achieved within agreed time frames should be collaboratively developed. Data arising from monthly progress records and assessments of pupils’ learning should be used to inform this review process. The provision of further guidelines for classroom practice in curriculum plans and the establishment of structures to facilitate the systematic involvement of all partners in the curriculum planning process will greatly enhance the work in progress.
All teachers diligently prepare both short-term and long-term plans of work for their classes. A common template is used to record the monthly progress of work. In keeping with good practice specific targets in relation to learning outcomes for pupils are clarified in some classroom plans. However in other plans an overemphasis is placed on textbook content. In order to develop and extend existing good practice it is recommended that the staff should further review individual planning approaches. Such a review should aim to provide clear guidelines for classroom planning that support teachers in consistently clarifying needs of pupils in the context of the school plan and curriculum.
The teachers work diligently and provide the pupils in their care with a broad range of learning experiences. All subject areas are taught and pupils’ work in a range of curriculum areas is prominently displayed in classrooms and circulation areas. This is commended as good practice as these displays greatly enhance the pupils’ learning environment. Pupils and teachers are to be complemented on their success in the past in ICT competitions. In many classrooms effective use is made of print-rich materials to support the pupils’ learning. During the evaluation purposeful whole-class teaching was observed in many classrooms. In some classrooms effective use was made of a range of approaches including group work, pair work, structured hands-on approaches, exploration and experimentation. Pupils’ participation in their learning in these classrooms was maximised. Key skills and concepts were effectively consolidated and the pupils demonstrated good standards of attainment in a variety of curriculum areas. However it is recommended that these methodologies should be further developed at particular class levels especially in the context of meeting the needs of pupils of varying levels of abilities and further ensuring the systematic development of key skills and concepts. In this context it is recommended that the number of textbooks in use at many class levels should be reviewed. It is also recommended that in some classrooms more attention should be given to the development of group teaching especially for reading and writing. The importance of further developing structured play-based programmes was also highlighted and discussed during the evaluation.
Is léir go mbaineann a lán daltaí taitneamh as gnéithe éagsúla d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge. Le linn an mheasúnaithe claíodh mar is ceart leis an nGaeilge mar theanga theagaisc le linn na gceachtanna agus chonacthas samplaí fónta de theagasc na Gaeilge. Is mór is fiú mar shampla an bhéim a leagtar i gcuid mhaith rangsheomraí ar rannta/filíocht/amhráin mar ionchur saibhir taitneamhach. Múintear teanga chinnte, idir fhoclóir agus fhrásaí, go dúthrachtach. I mórán seomraí baintear leas fónta as obair i bpéirí agus as cluichí teanga chun taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí ar an teanga a fhoghlaimíonn siad a úsáid. I roinnt bheag rangsheomraí dírítear aird an-éifeachtach ar an drámaíocht chun rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn go torthúil. Tá gá áfach leis na dea-chleachtais atá ar bun a chur i bhfeidhm go córasach ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine mar cé go bhfuil a lán daltaí ábalta rannta/dánta/amhráin a aithris agus abairtí simplí a úsáid, sonraítear go bhféadfaí a gcuid scileanna cumarsáide a fhorbairt a thuilleadh.
Moltar anois athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile chun treoracha cinnte a sholáthar d’fhonn cabhrú le hoidí tógaint ar na dea-chleachtais sa scoil agus cur chuige cumarsáideach a chur i bhfeidhm go sistéamach, go háirithe maidir le trí thréimhsí an cheachta. D’fhéadfaí aire bhreise a thabhairt do ghné na héisteachta. Moltar chomh maith féachaint chuige go gcothaítear breis leanúnachais ó rang go rang san ionchur teanga a chuirtear ar chumas na bpáistí a úsáid agus go gcuirtear scéalaíocht na Gaeilge chun cinn ag gach rangleibhéal. Ag cur san áireamh an cumas maith Gaeilge atá ag na múinteoirí, raghadh sé go mór chun tairbhe na ndaltaí dá múinfí gné éigin d’ábhar eile trí mheán na Gaeilge chun comhthéacs breise a chruthú d’úsáid na teanga.
Is inmholta an bhéim a leagtar ag rangleibhéil éagsúla ar phrionta bunaithe ar an teanga atá á múineadh a fhorbairt. Moltar go mór na leabhair bheaga atá curtha ar fáil don léitheoireacht ag leibhéal ar leith. Chonacthas roinnt samplaí creidiúnacha de scríhneoireacht na ndaltaí le linn na cigireachta. Meastar áfach gur gá athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an gclár léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta chun freastal níos mó a dhéanamh ar éagsúlachtaí cumais na ndaltaí agus chun go dtabharfaí taithí dóibh ar réimse níos leithne téacsanna a léamh agus a scríobh. Moltar gur gá féachaint chuige gan mhoill go gcuirfear fíor-leabhair ar fáil don léitheoireacht agus go gcuirfear scil na saorscríbhneoireachta chun cinn níos mó.
Many children clearly enjoy aspects of their language learning in Irish. During the evaluation Irish was consistently used as the language of instruction and many samples of good practice were in evidence throughout the school. Particularly commendable in this regard is the emphasis placed in many classrooms on rhymes/poetry, songs as an enriched and enjoyable language input. A specific language input including language structures as well as vocabulary is taught diligently. Worthwhile use is made of pair work and language games in many classrooms in order to enable pupils use the language learned in a meaningful context. At particular class levels very effective use is made of drama to maximise pupil participation fruitfully. However there is a need to extend the systematic use of these good practices on a whole-school basis as pupils’ communicative skills should be further developed.
It is recommended that the school plan for Irish should be reviewed in order to provide clear guidelines to enable teachers build on existing good practice and consistently implement a communicative approach particularly with regard to the three phases of the language lesson. Further attention should be focused on listening. It is also recommended that more attention should be focused on ensuring progression in the language input pupils are enabled to use from one class level to the next and in promoting storytelling at all class levels. As the teachers are themselves competent speakers it would greatly facilitate the children’s learning and provide a meaningful context for them to use the language if an aspect of the curriculum was taught through the medium of Irish.
A commendable emphasis is placed at a variety of class levels on developing the print-rich environment to reinforce the language taught. The provision of small books as additional reading material at particular class levels is also to be commended. Some creditable samples of the pupils’ writing were observed during the evaluation. However it is recommended that the writing and reading programme should be reviewed in order to make much greater provision for the varying levels of pupil ability and to provide pupils with more opportunities to read and write a variety of texts. It is also recommended that the use of real books and the development of the pupils’ independent writing skills should be further promoted.
Many samples of good practice in the teaching and learning of English were in evidence during the evaluation. Talk and discussion on a range of topics are promoted throughout the school. Pupils are exposed to a variety of rhymes, poetry and stories. Very effective language enrichment work was observed at particular class levels. During the evaluation the importance of storytelling and the need to achieve a balance between teacher input and pupil input during oral language work were fruitfully highlighted and discussed.
In the teaching of reading a good emphasis is placed on the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. Many classrooms provide print-rich environments and it is to be commended that paired reading programmes are well established. Class novels are used to supplement graded reading materials in the middle and senior classes. It is evident that many pupils are well able to read. In some classrooms the active encouragement of reading for pleasure and information and the creation of opportunities for pupils to respond in different ways greatly facilitate their reading ability. It is recommended that these good practices should be extended on a whole-school basis. The further development of the language experience approach to reading is also recommended.
Praiseworthy samples of pupils’ writing in a variety of genres were noted during the evaluation. In some classrooms a very good emphasis is placed on the writing process. In these instances pupils are provided with many opportunities to write independently in a sustained fashion and are given detailed feedback about areas where improvements can be made. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to extending these good practices should now be adopted.
A range of effective teaching approaches is used in the teaching of Mathematics. Samples of good practice include skilful use of concrete materials during focused interactive sessions, good emphasis on the language of Mathematics, on problem solving and on developing pupils’ estimation skills. Throughout the school a very good emphasis is placed on encouraging the children to record their work accurately and in an orderly fashion. In some classrooms teachers provide high quality mathematics rich environments that greatly support pupils develop an understanding of key concepts and scaffold mastery of work undertaken. At a variety of class levels the use of a range of effective strategies to enable pupils memorise number facts is also to be highly commended. At some class levels teacher-devised tests are regularly administered to ensure regular consolidation of work done and monitor pupil progress. This is commended as good practice and should be further promoted on a whole-school basis for formative assessment purposes.
Many pupils display a good knowledge of number facts and key concepts. However it is evident that more emphasis should be placed at some class levels on encouraging pupils to make links between concepts already learned and apply them to real life practical situations. It is also recommended that differentiated approaches should be developed to a much greater degree in order to accommodate pupils of different levels of ability. The school plan provides a sound basis for the teaching of Mathematics. The challenge for the school now is to put further strategies in place to ensure its consistent implementation so that existing good practice is developed and extended.
At classroom level a good emphasis is placed on the local environment in the teaching of History and it is the intention of the principal and staff to further develop this strand. Many excellent projects on local history and other topics were on display during the evaluation. Much of this work was presented to a high standard. Some time lines were also in evidence. In lessons observed, worthwhile opportunities were provided for pupils to examine a range of primary sources. At particular class levels effective linkage with other areas of the curriculum such as Visual Arts and English greatly enriches the pupil’s learning. However there is a need to extend these good practices. In particular the range of approaches in use in some classes should be greatly extended in order to provide enhanced opportunities for pupils to consolidate their knowledge of content strands and develop a range of historical skills.
Some innovative approaches to the teaching of Geography were noted and favourably commented on during the evaluation. At a variety of class levels the work is effectively integrated with other curriculum areas. Some valuable opportunities are provided for pupils to develop an understanding of environmental awareness, observe and record weather patterns. Praiseworthy project work has been undertaken.
The school plan for Science correctly draws attention to many of the key messages in the curriculum such as the need for balance between knowledge and development of specific skills for instance observing, predicting, analysis, investigating and experimenting. The development of strategies to ensure its consistent implementation will greatly enrich pupil learning. Science is taught in all classes and during the evaluation pupils spoke enthusiastically about their work. At a variety of class levels pupils are provided with valuable opportunities to work scientifically and develop key skills. Some opportunities are also created for outdoor experience of the environment. It is recommended that the further development of the planning process should aim to ensure that skills and knowledge are systematically developed in a progressive manner and that over-reliance on textbooks and whole-class teaching is avoided.
There is considerable evidence of impressive work in the Visual Arts. Very good work is undertaken to ensure an appropriate balance in the programme between making art and looking and responding to art. Pupils are given many opportunities to express themselves in a personal way and attractive displays of their work in a range of strand units feature prominently in the school. Both two- and three- dimensional work is undertaken and many high quality samples were noted. Opportunities for integrating the Visual Arts with other curricular areas are exploited to considerable effect and the pupils take great pride in their work.
Staff members were highly commended during the evaluation on the excellent work in evidence at particular class levels in relation to the teaching of Music. Pupils learn to use percussion instruments to perform, compose and respond. Many classes sing songs tunefully in both English and Irish. Pupils in the middle and senior classes clearly derive a great deal of satisfaction from playing the recorder. However, as highlighted previously, significant management issues in terms of planning for breadth, balance, and continuity in the context of curriculum guidelines need to be addressed. Advice and support in relation to the important role of the class teacher, as clearly outlined in the curriculum, was given during the evaluation.
During the evaluation the focus of the work observed in Drama was on preparing pupils for the Christmas Show. It is commendable that opportunities are provided for pupils to perform publicly. However the substantive issues highlighted above in relation to the role of external tutors should now be addressed in whole-school planning. The Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) will be of significant support to the school in dealing with these important issues.
Sport is an important feature of the curriculum, particularly the playing of gaelic games. The pupils have received many awards for their achievements in sport. Both pupils and staff are to be complemented for their many successes. While the lack of indoor facilities greatly restricts the Physical Education programme the teachers make very good use of the available outdoor facilities. The lessons observed during the evaluation were very well organised with high levels of pupil participation. They provided pupils with a range of structured activities which promote the development of important skills. Swimming classes are also organised.
The very positive school climate greatly contributes to effective teaching and learning in this area of the curriculum. It is to be commended that the school has a healthy lunch policy and that a range of other important policies in the area of SPHE are in place. Discrete time is allocated in all classes. Among the resources in use are Walk Tall, Stay Safe, Relationship and Sexuality Education and Action for Life.
A policy document on assessment is included in the school plan. The teachers monitor pupil progress both formally and informally. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered. Assessment information is recorded and stored centrally. At particular class levels teacher designed tests are regularly used to monitor individual pupils’ progress particularly in Mathematics. In some classrooms very good feedback is given to pupils regarding their written work and samples of pupils’ work are retained in portfolios. It is recommended that such samples of good practice should be further developed on a whole-school basis. This work should aim to ensure that more emphasis is placed on the systematic use of assessment data to inform planning, teaching and learning particularly with regard to differentiating classroom programmes to meet the needs of pupils of varying levels of ability.
The special education support teachers approach their work in a very professional manner and have developed caring relationships with the pupils in their care. Most pupils in receipt of support are withdrawn individually. Some small groups are also organised. In keeping with good practice the support teachers collaborate regularly with class teachers, parents and other professionals. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or group IEPs based on pupils’ specific needs have been carefully devised. The pupil’s priority areas and related learning targets are clearly identified. The lessons observed were well structured and a variety of appropriate methodologies were used. It is the intention of the principal and staff to further develop the provision for pupils with special needs. In this context it is advised that the whole-school plan for learning support, which has yet to be ratified, provides a good basis for the development of effective practice. However it is recommended that it should be reviewed in the context of Circular 24/03. This circular refers to a staged intervention approach and the importance of deploying resources in the manner that best meets the needs of the pupils with special needs. It is also recommended that in collaboration with the Special Education Support Service (SESE) further models for providing learning-support within classrooms should be identified.
This school does not have disadvantage status.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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.