An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St. Mary’s BNS
Booterstown, County Dublin
Uimhir rolla: 06200O
Date of inspection: 8 February 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Mary’s BNS, Booterstown, Co. Dublin. 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 inspectors 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 inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers and examined pupils’ work. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors 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 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.
St. Mary’s BNS is a fifteen teacher Catholic school located in the suburb of Booterstown in south county Dublin. The school provides education to boys from infants to sixth class. The school’s present enrolment is 211. Enrolment at the school has increased significantly over the last ten years. This trend is expected to continue. Attendance rates at the school are very good with only a small number of pupils absent for more than 20 days. Strategies are in place to promote good attendance. The school’s ethos emanates from its mission statement which aims to nurture the spiritual, moral, intellectual, social and physical growth of its pupils within a caring environment in accordance with its Catholic ethos. Commitment to the mission statement is evidenced through the strong links with the local church, the wide range of activities provided at the school and the positive learning environment created at the school where pupils’ self-esteem and respect for others is fostered.
The board of management is properly constituted. Correct procedures are followed. Meetings are held once a month. Minutes of these meetings are carefully maintained. Clear roles are assigned. Members of the board carry out their roles diligently and enthusiastically. Accounts are certified externally. Accountability and transparency are key values of the board. Members of the board have attended training for boards of management provided by the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA).
The board ensures that Department of Education and Science regulations regarding class size, retention of pupils and the length of the school year and day are observed. The board has been involved in compiling and ratifying a wide range of organisational and administration policies. These include policies on critical incidents, enrolment and admissions, and health and safety. The board is not involved in the development of curriculum policies but devolves this responsibility to the teaching staff. The board ratifies organisational policies and curriculum policies. A number of school policies are available on the school website. The board communicates effectively with the parent body through newsletters and the school website.
The school building though old is very well maintained. A new school building has been sanctioned by the Department. The board has been actively involved in seeking a site while the new school building is under construction. Recent concerns of the board have been the impact of the enrolment policies of local private primary and fee-paying secondary schools on enrolment at St. Mary’s BNS, the pressure on the existing school building due to increased enrolment, the increasing diversity of the school’s population and car parking arrangements at the school. The Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy has been in place for some time. It is recommended that the board review the RSE policy in consultation with the parent body. The board should review the enrolment policy at the school to ensure compliance with legislation. The board is commended for its commitment to the school.
The school is led effectively by a diligent and committed principal. The principal demonstrates an honest and open leadership style and maintains a visible presence at the school. He is respectful in his dealings with staff, pupils and parents. He has succeeded in creating a positive school atmosphere and displays very good knowledge of the curriculum, educational issues in general and achievement levels at the school. He has lead the school planning process effectively and actively fosters leadership skills among his staff. Procedures are in place for the effective running of the school.
The principal is ably supported by the in-school management team comprising one deputy principal and four special duties posts. Post holder duties are reviewed regularly to suit the changing needs of the school. The talents of individual teachers are used effectively. Very good efforts have been made to ensure that the posts of responsibility are in line with Circular 07/03. Regular meetings occur between the principal and deputy principal, and with the in-school management team. Members of the in-school management team demonstrate a pride in the school and work diligently to contribute to the overall management of the school.
The staff comprises one administrative principal, eight mainstream class teachers, three learning support resource (LSRT) teachers for low incidence disabilities, one LSRT under general allocation and two language support teachers. Eight special needs assistants are employed at the school. These are effectively deployed and make a valuable contribution to the life of the school. Individual members of staff participate regularly in term time and summer courses. The principal and teachers have participated in inservice provided by the support services. The school has a policy on staff allocation and members of staff are offered experience in a variety of teaching situations. Staff meetings are held once a month.
At the time of the evaluation the post of secretary was organised on a job sharing basis. The secretaries provide effective administrative support and greatly assist in the smooth operation of the school. A part-time caretaker plays an important role in the day to-day upkeep of the school building.
The school building though old is in a very good state of repair and provides a comfortable environment for pupils and teachers. The school has no general purposes room. There is a comprehensive range of resources available to support the implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). It is evident that the curriculum grants provided by the Department, supplemented by funding from the board and parents’ association have been used effectively in this regard. Pupils have access to a wide range of material resources, including, an impressive range of books and materials for languages, equipment for Mathematics and materials for Science. In addition equipment for Physical Education, percussion instruments for Music and various other visual aids and charts have been acquired. The school has very good resources for Information and Communications Technology (ICT). All classes have access to at least one computer. All classrooms are networked. In addition the school has a small computer room. A structured programme is in place for the teaching of ICT throughout the school. Resources are used effectively by teachers in enhancing lesson presentation. The richness of the local environment is exploited very successfully by a number of teachers particularly in the teaching of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education.
The school has a very active parents’ association. Meetings of the parents’ association are held monthly. The board of management and the committee of the parents’ association meet formally on an annual basis. Parents are actively involved in fundraising for the school and other school activities including, sports events, open day and religious events. At the meeting with the parents’ association, representatives praised the open communication channels between teachers and parents.
Pupils are generally very well behaved and demonstrate courtesy towards other pupils, staff and visitors to the school. Mutual respect is successfully cultivated and relations between staff and pupils are positive. The school’s code of discipline is in line with the Equal Status Act 2000.
A commendable level of whole-school planning has been undertaken. A wide range of policies both organisational and curricular has been compiled. Policies and procedures relating to uniform, healthy eating, enrolment, discipline, health and safety, special education provision and child protection are in place. Curriculum policies have been developed for all curriculum areas. There is evidence of a collaborative approach to planning. Curriculum policies are in line with the strands and strand units of the curriculum and are influenced by the support services. Action plans for reviewing a number of curriculum policies are in place. When reviewing the curriculum policies it is important to ensure that they are specific to the overall school context. Each member of staff has an electronic copy of the school plan. To assist with dissemination of the plan each class teacher should have a ‘hard’ copy of the plan. To ensure that whole-school planning is successful in achieving the school’s aims formal monitoring of the implementation of the school plan is required.
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.
Mainstream class teachers engage in long and short-term planning. Different approaches are used and the quality of the plans varies. All teachers complete an agreed template for recording monthly progress. These documents reflect the content taught by the teachers during the identified time. It is recommended that the contents of the monthly records are used to inform the development of curriculum policy and to gather information on progress for the school as a whole. As planning is reviewed consideration should be given to the use of an agreed template for individual teacher planning with suitable curriculum headings and references to objectives, methodologies, differentiation and assessment.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Generally a broad and balanced curriculum is effectively delivered. There is effective integration of subjects using cross-curricular themes. Teaching resources are used purposefully during lesson presentation. There is an overall emphasis on whole-class teaching with some good examples of group and pair work and collaborative learning opportunities. Teachers display good organisational skills and generally present well structured and well paced lessons. Some commendable practice was seen in relation to ICT particularly in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), the Visual Arts, English and special education. The staff should continue to extend the range of teaching methodologies to allow for pupils to engage in active learning activities and to cater for the needs of all pupils, including the more able. A wide range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities is available at the school.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach. Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí cheachtanna a chur i láthair go bríomhar agus go spreagúil. Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar na téamaí ón churaclam agus na hábhair atá breacaithe sa phlean scoile. Tá réimse maithe d’áiseanna ar fáil mar thacaíocht don fhoghlaim. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga teagaisc sna ceachtanna Gaeilge i bhformhór na ranganna. Leagtar béim ar an rangtheagasc ach i gcuid ranganna baintear úsáid chuí as cluichí, gníomhaíochtaí, drámaí agus mím chun spéis a chothú. Moltar na cleachtaí sin a chur i ngníomh i ngach rang tríd an scoil. Tá bá ag na daltaí óga leis an nGaeilge agus canann siad rainn le brí agus spioraid. Ta cúlstór mór focal agus rainn á fhorbairt ag na daltaí sna meánranganna. Tá caighdeán an-mhaith bainte amach ag na daltaí sna hardranganna ó thaobh labhairt na teanga de. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint mhaith ar an nGaeilge agus pléann siad an nuacht, caitheamh aimsire, a gceachtanna agus a saol féin go héasca. Déanann na hoidí cúram ceart den litriú. Léann formhór na ndaltaí go hábalta is go cruinn sna meán agus sna hardranganna. Sonraítear samplaí áirithe de scríbhneoireacht phearsanta i roinnt ranganna. Déanann na hoidí maoirseacht agus ceartú go rialta. Bíónn nathanna cainte na seachtaine le feiscint mórthimpeall na scoile. Céiliúrtar Seachtain na Gaeilge sa scoil.
The teaching of Irish is effective. Pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted through the presentation of lively and stimulating lessons. Lessons are based on the themes from the curriculum and the topics outlined in the school plan. There is a good range of resources to support learning. In most classes Irish is used as the language of instruction. There is an overall emphasis on whole class teaching but in a number of classes games, activities, small dramas and mime are used successfully to stimulate interest. These practices should be extended to every class throughout the school. Young pupils are positively disposed towards the language and they sing simple songs with energy and spirit. A good vocabulary and a range of songs and rhymes are being developed in the middle classes. A very good standard of spoken Irish is achieved by the pupils in the senior classes. Pupils display a broad understanding of Irish and can discuss news, pastimes, their lessons and their lives fluently. Appropriate attention is given to spellings. Most of the pupils can read with accuracy in the middle and senior classes. There are fine examples of personal writing in some classes. Work is monitored and corrected regularly by teachers. Phrases of the week are displayed around the school. The school celebrates Irish week.
The teaching of English in this school is of a high standard. Teachers are implementing the requirements of the English curriculum effectively. Very good efforts are made to develop a print-rich environment throughout the school. An extensive programme in the oral aspects of English is undertaken at all class levels. Pupils are encouraged to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings using a wide and varied vocabulary. The acquisition of vocabulary and oral language skills is successfully integrated with other curriculum areas. There is a wide variety of library material available in the school and class libraries are well stocked with both fact and fiction books. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness as part of the foundation of basic reading skills in the junior classes. Much emphasis is placed on developing reading skills and on developing a love of reading in other classes and this ensures that a very high standard of reading is achieved by most pupils. ICT is used effectively for reading related to project work and for presenting the pupils’ own stories and poems in a number of classes. Writing skills are suitably developed throughout the school. Written work is presented neatly and regularly corrected by the teachers. Presentation and editing skills are good and pupils have regular opportunities to practise functional and creative writing. Some excellent samples of pupils’ work are on display in classrooms or are made into class books. The full potential of ICT for assisting in the writing process should be exploited further.
The teaching of Mathematics is effective. Overall the standard of achievement in Mathematics is high. A range of teaching approaches is used effectively. A variety of strands is in evidence. Language and discussion are central to the lessons. There is a good emphasis on teaching the language of Mathematics, the handling of concrete materials and pupils are afforded ample opportunities to relate Mathematics to real life contexts. Overall the quality of pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts is very good. Pupils generally display an understanding of number, place value and an ability to recall number facts with accuracy. Pupils in the senior class demonstrate a very good understanding of the decimal system and can apply same to the various units of measurement both accurately and confidently. Written work recorded in copies is regularly monitored. It is important that individual pupils’ needs identified through correction of work and results of standardised testing are met through activities such as, group and or individual teaching and through activity based learning at all levels.
Commendable teaching of History was seen during the evaluation. The planned programme represents a good balance of the strands of the curriculum for History. Timelines are used effectively in a number of classrooms. Pupils’ skills as historians are effectively developed through examination of photographic evidence and artefacts. Good use is made of story and the local environment in the teaching of History. Teachers carefully structure questions to lead pupils to an understanding of time and chronology, change and continuity and cause and effect. Myths and legends are explored, life in early societies researched and specific events in national history investigated. Pupils are enthusiastic about their historical research and give good accounts of the topics explored at each class level. ICT is used effectively for research and project presentation.
The teaching of Geography is effective. Lessons are well linked with other curriculum areas. The teachers succeed in arousing the pupils’ curiosity about the world around them both near and far through a range of lessons across the curriculum. Geography lessons are used effectively to help pupils find or discover the answers to many of their questions about the world around them. In addition, the pupils learn through project work to seek out information and to present it by combining text and illustration. Maps, globes, charts and reference materials are well used to support teaching and learning. Pupils engage with interest in the lessons. Pupils’ knowledge and understanding of local environments, environmental awareness and care and physical and human Geography are appropriately fostered.
The overall quality of teaching and learning in Science is good. A broad programme is planned for Science. There is provision in teachers’ planning for experiments to be undertaken and teachers demonstrate scientific concepts in classrooms. Attention needs to be paid however to the extent to which the science programme being implemented at the infant level is based on textbooks and worksheets. A scientific environment is successfully promoted in a number of classrooms. Samples and experiments are displayed on nature and investigation tables and pupils are given the opportunity to plant their own individual seeds, bulbs and plants and to monitor and observe their growth. Pupils demonstrate a good knowledge of the topics covered and can confidently speak about the outcomes of their investigations using a well-developed scientific vocabulary. The school has an active Green School Committee and has achieved green flag status. The development and creation of investigation areas should be extended to all classrooms. Further refinement of the school plan in Science is recommended to support the development of the full range of scientific skills and to provide clearer guidelines as regards how particular themes are to be developed and explored as the pupils proceed from class to class.
4.5 Arts Education
Attractive displays of the pupils’ completed works in the Visual Arts are on display throughout the school reflecting activities across all of the strands of the curriculum. A broad programme is implemented with a wide range of experiences in making Art and looking and responding to Art provided. Opportunities for the integration of the Visual Arts with other areas of the curriculum are usefully availed of. Well-structured discussion is a feature of provision in a number of classrooms and this serves as a stimulus for creative activity. Pupils are encouraged to develop their imagination and creativity in making Art. Some very good use of ICT in the teaching of Art was seen during the evaluation.
Teachers demonstrate a good awareness of the methodologies of the Drama curriculum. Story is used effectively to provide pupils with opportunities to engage in improvisation and role play. It is evident that pupils enjoy the lessons. Pupils are afforded plenty of opportunities to perform in public. Staff should continue to develop the plan for Drama and extend the good practice seen during the evaluation
The school has no hall for Physical Education. Despite the lack of indoor facilities teachers endeavour to implement the full physical education curriculum and pupils engage effectively in a range of relevant activities. Some commendable teaching of Physical Education was seen during the evaluation. Lessons seen were briskly paced and well organised with a good focus on health and safety. Coaching in short tennis is provided by two outside tutors. Consideration should be given to the inclusion of aquatics in the programme.
There is a happy atmosphere in the classrooms and throughout the school. Teacher-pupil relationships with the boys are very positive. Democracy is practiced in the school. Pupils are asked for their opinions and pupils opinions are listened to and respected. Pupils are affirmed and rewarded for good behaviour. Pupils generally display respect towards each other and to adults. Resources used in the delivery of the SPHE programme include the Stay Safe programme, Walk Tall and the Department’s Relationships and Sexuality Education manuals. The school celebrates the cultural diversity of its population through the hosting of an international breakfast morning and visits by guest speakers to the school. It would be useful now to explore strategies whereby greater and more regular recognition could be undertaken of the cultures and traditions of the various ethnic groups represented in the school. There could, in the future be greater emphasis on the involvement of the parents and children of these groups in the organisation of events, exhibitions and other learning activities which would reflect the variety of cultural backgrounds of the international families and their communities.
All teachers engage in formal and informal assessment. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered annually to all pupils from first to sixth class. Teachers use checklists, teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests to monitor pupils’ progress. Work in copies is corrected carefully. Written reports are sent home to parents twice yearly and formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually. Early screening tests are used to identify infant pupils in need of supplementary teaching. Results of standardised tests are analysed carefully by the principal and deputy principal and discussed with class teachers and support teachers to identify those in need of further support. A wide range of diagnostic tests is used by the support teachers to determine further specific needs.
The overall quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good. The school has recently reviewed its special education policy. The policy outlines appropriate selection strategies for the identification of pupils in need of supplementary teaching. A block timetable is used throughout the school for the withdrawal of pupils for supplementary teaching and ensures pupils’ maximum participation in in-class activities. This practice is commendable. Special education settings are comfortable and well resourced. Teachers cater for a wide range of special education needs and pupils receive support in literacy Mathematics, speech and language therapy and social skills development. Detailed individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) have been devised for each pupil in receipt of learning support and resource teaching. The clarity of both the learning targets that are based on the pupils’ priority needs and the teaching and learning approaches employed is to be commended, as is the consultation with pupils’ parents and class teachers in their development. Pupils’ progress is regularly recorded and reviewed at suitable intervals during the school year. The continuous, effective use of ICT and the choice of the quality software employed to assist pupils in the development of specific auditory and visual skills is praiseworthy. Lessons are well structured and a range of methodologies is employed effectively to ensure pupils’ active participation. Special education teachers are very mindful of the self esteem needs of their pupils and there is a very good emphasis on boosting pupils’ confidence. Commendable in class support is given to the infant classes but mostly pupils are withdrawn individually or in groups. Consideration should now be given to examining the further use of in-class support.
All pupils are included in the school’s activities. In recent years there has been a growing diversity in the school’s population. Two teachers provide support to pupils whose first language is not English. Resources devised by Integrate Ireland Language and Training are effectively used in the delivery of the language support programme. Lessons are carefully planned and well structured. A notable feature of good practice in this school is the advice and support given to parents of newcomer pupils to the school. An international breakfast day is held annually.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Booterstown BNS has a diligent and hardworking staff combining a variety of expertise and experience.
· The school is inclusive in its practice.
· A conscientious board of management supports the school.
· There is a very active parents’ association involved in fundraising and school activities.
· Pupils are generally courteous, well behaved and demonstrate respect for one another, the staff and the school environment.
· There is good quality teaching and learning.
· The standard of achievement in English and Mathematics is high.
· There are very good supports in place to support the learning of children with special education needs.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· A review of the enrolment policy should be undertaken to ensure that the school policy is in line with recent legislation. A review of the relationships and sexuality education policy is recommended.
· Formal monitoring and review of curriculum policies is advised to ensure that whole- school planning is successful in achieving the school’s aims.
· An agreed structured framework for individual teacher planning linked to the school plan is recommended.
· Staff should continue to extend the range of methodologies to allow for pupils to engage in active learning and to cater for the needs of all pupils, including the more able.
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 February 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management thanks the Inspectorate for their courtesy and professionalism, and for making the inspection process a positive experience.
The Board of Management welcomes the report as it recognises and affirms the high standard of education being provided in St. Mary’s Boys’ National School.
The Board welcomes the recognition given to the school in regard to the school’s commitment to excellence, to delivering a broad and balanced curriculum, to care for pupils, and to collaboration with all of the partners in education.
The Board takes this opportunity to acknowledge the on-going dedication, commitment and co-operation of the staff of St. Mary’s Boys’ National School and to affirm the invaluable support of our pupils’ parents and of the Booterstown community.
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 has noted the recommendations of the report and has already implemented the following:
· A review the school’s enrolment policy and effected changes to it in light of the recommendations
· A review of the school’s original RSE policy has been undertaken
· Work on the recommendations in the curricular areas has begun
The Board of Management will continue to pursue vigorously its objective of obtaining the sanctioned building works so as to enable St. Mary’s B.N.S to respond appropriately to the 21st century demands of the revised curriculum, to the needs of our pupils, and to the needs of the local community
St Mary’s B.N.S. Board of Management and staff remain committed to reflecting on our practice, to developing our skills, and to responding to the emerging educational and pastoral needs of our pupils.