An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Whole School Evaluation
Freemount National School
Freemount, Charleville, County Cork
Roll number: 06295F
Date of inspection: 23 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 29 June 2006
Whole school evaluation
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Freemount National School. 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 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 inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspectors interacted with students and teachers, and examined students’ work. They 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 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.
Freemount National School is situated on an elevated site in the outskirts of the village. It serves a well-established rural community and enrols boys and girls from infants to sixth class. The school receives additional funding under the Disadvantaged/Giving Children an Even Break scheme. The current enrolment is sixty-two, and this represents a decrease of thirty-two from December 1996 when the last school report was written. The complement of mainstream class teachers was reduced from four to three in 2000, and in September 2005 Milford became the base school for learning support following restructuring under the general allocation model of resourcing children with special educational needs.
The staff strives to the best of its ability to be a school that pupils, parents and teachers are proud of and committed to, and where all have the opportunity to contribute, to learn and to grow. The school is to be commended on achieving high standards in pupil attendance.
The previous school report was written in 1996 and the following issues were highlighted for discussion therein: assessment and the dissemination of this information to parents, and the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) as a resource for learning.
The school has made a determined effort to develop further good practice in addressing these issues. That report praised the high standards achieved in the various aspects of the school’s work.
The patron is committed to the provision of effective education in the school and co-operates with the board of management in the governance of the school. The board of management is properly constituted and its members are very supportive of the school. The board meets regularly and the chairperson is in regular contact with the principal and school staff. The board’s procedures for the management of the school’s financial resources and procedures for appointing staff are clearly established. They have a clear understanding of their role in supporting school practice and in the ratification of school policies. However, there are infrequent references to this ratification in the board minutes. The board’s secretary is therefore advised to regularly record in the minutes the occasions when policies are presented to the board for discussion and ratification. The parents are duly informed of the school’s financial position through the issuing of a report at the annual meeting held each September. The board is also committed to maintaining a safe environment for all and in this context there are concerns about the narrow entrance to the school and the locking of the barrier on a permanent basis.
The principal has given concerted and dedicated service over many years. He is to be commended for establishing a strong and noteworthy tradition of Music in the school.
The principal is supported ably by the deputy principal and post-holder who fulfil their duties conscientiously. Their responsibilities are curricular and organisational in nature and their work contributes positively to the effective operation of the school. A formal staff meeting is convened once per term and informally as need arises, and often after school. General organisational and planning issues are discussed regularly. Overall, high levels of cooperation prevail throughout the school and people are generous with their time. As a development issue, it is appropriate that staff have regard for the need to keep posts of responsibility under review on a regular basis in accordance with a constantly changing school environment.
A determined effort is made to ensure that all necessary resources, both personnel and material, are deployed effectively. The teaching staff comprises the principal, two mainstream class teachers and a learning support/resource teacher, who is shared with another school. A further learning support teacher, based in Milford, serves the needs of two pupils for five hours weekly. A special needs assistant has been appointed to aid a child diagnosed with particular special needs.
Non-teaching staff such as cleaner/caretaker work effectively. External personnel are regularly contracted to carry out repair work as necessary. Their diligence and valuable contribution in carrying out their duties is duly acknowledged. A parent tutors all pupils in Irish dancing each week. Her generosity in offering this most professional service free of charge is highly commendable.
school is well resourced, a circumstance that reflects positively on the
conscientious and purposeful endeavours of teachers and parents. There is a
comprehensive supply of learning materials, and in each classroom there is a
variety of attractive teacher-made and commercially produced illustrative
materials, and these are used to considerable effect across the curriculum.
Attractive learning environments are created with displays of pupils’ work and
with the addition of colourful nature tables. A modern and extensive computer
system is installed to complement the learning process. The school has a
comprehensive range of musical instruments. The school also has a range of
other material resources such as a photocopier,
and VCR, whiteboards, maps, big books, mathematical and physical education
apparatus. All these are used to effect in the promotion of the learning across
the curriculum. There is a spacious grass area and hard surface play area for
recreation. A high standard of hygiene, neatness, décor and order is in
evidence throughout the building. Clearly, the children treat the building and
surrounds with respect.
In discussion with the parents at the pre-evaluation meeting, it became apparent that they are very supportive of the school, its staff and its operations. The school recognises the value of good communication in building trust and respect between home and school and to this end a joint meeting of parents, board members and teachers is held annually. A newsletter detailing school activities is also issued periodically. Parents are informed of their children’s progress by means of written reports and during formal and incidental meetings with teachers. At these meetings parents are afforded ample opportunity to secure full information on the progress of their children. The principal regularly liaises with the officers of the parents’ association and consistently attends their meetings. The impact of parents’ involvement in the work of the school is very positive in respect of support for school programmes, and in their efforts to provide equipment for staff and children. However, involvement in the school plan to date is rather limited. To this end, it is appropriate that the school might explore how best it could involve parents in the continuing development of the school plan in all its aspects.
At the meeting with parents the establishment of a homework club was identified as an area for consideration.
The school is to be commended for its endeavours in the area of school planning. The school has worked diligently to prepare a school plan that is reflective of the school’s beliefs, values, aims and objectives. The school plan was developed through a participative and consultative process and involved the staff and board of management. The plan is presented in two sections in folder form that is readily accessible. A positive feature is the effort that has been devoted to framing plans that are duly referenced to Primary Curriculum (1999) with its strands, strand units and objectives. It is noted that the staff are well aware that work in the planning area needs to be reviewed on a systematic basis and it is expected that the school plan will be amended and further developed in the light of experience.
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 the Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The school makes a determined effort to offer a broad, well-balanced curriculum and, to this end, teachers prepare praiseworthy long- and short-term schemes of work for all curricular areas. The learning is proceeding in a purposeful and effective fashion throughout the school in accordance with the school plan and the staff is diligent in implementing what has been agreed and recorded in the document. Although progress is recorded monthly by each teacher, the records are not collected and placed on file. The process might be reviewed so that a more functional system of recording will emerge and this might then be gainfully used in the promotion of consistency and continuity from class to class.
In general, the quality of teaching observed was very good. Approaches adopted may be characterised as a practical blend of the traditional and the progressive. The children in the main exhibit a positive attitude to learning, they welcome challenge and exhibit a high level of enthusiasm in demonstrating the range and depth of their learning.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go féiltiúil tríd an scoil agus cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga. Tá iarracht chreidiúnach á déanamh ag an bhfoireann an cur chuige cumarsáideach a fhorbairt i measc na ndaltaí i gcoitinne. Téitear i muinín na drámaíochta go rialta chun an obair a shaibhriú. Cothaítear an fhilíocht go díograiseach agus aithrisíonn na daltaí na dánta go beoga. Is scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil is mó atá ar siúl sa scoil, go sonrach clárú foclóra agus líonadh na bearnaí sna leabhair saothair. Moltar deiseanna sa bhreis a sholáthar do na páistí scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a chleachtadh go rialta. Déantar iarracht choinsiasach cumas léitheoireachta na bpáistí a fhorbairt ach moltar anois feidhm sa bhreis a bhaint as ábhar léitheoireachta atá in oiriúint d’aois agus do chumas na bpáistí. Meastar gurb é an dúshlán is mó a gcaithfidh an fhoireann aghaidh a thabhairt air i bhforbairt na hoibre amach anseo ná aidhmeanna insroichte teanga a shainiú le béim faoi leith á leagan ar chaidreamh simplí agus, chomh maith, an leanúnachas cainte a chothú ó rang go chéile.
The children are making steady progress in developing their oral skills across a range of activities. Particular attention is paid to developing pupils’ receptive language skills and pupils are encouraged to listen attentively to the views of others. A range of poetry is explored and the pupils enjoy reading, reciting and writing their own poems. However there is a perceived reticence in a number of pupils to engage in discussion and a review of the teaching of oral English would be beneficial.
Children acquire a useful sight vocabulary at an early stage and proceed to a generally sound grasp of phonics. A graded reading scheme is supplemented by the novel and by a systematic promotion of library book reading. Formal reading begins in junior infants. The staff is advised to review this practice in accordance with the recommendations of Primary Curriculum (1999). Staff might also consider establishing a shared reading initiative and place a greater emphasis on the novel in the further development of children’s interests in reading as a source of pleasure and a resource for life. An examination of reading scores based on informal and formal tests shows that on the whole the children are making systematic progress, and are achieving at a standard that is in accord with their age and abilities.
The school works hard to develop the quality of children’s writing by publishing stories and poems. Some excellent examples of personal and creative writing were noted and pupils are routinely provided with opportunities to write for a variety of purposes. Pupils’ work is marked in a positive and supportive manner and punctuation and handwriting are developed appropriately. The computers in the classrooms are utilised extensively to support this work.
An examination of scores attained in standardized tests demonstrates that on the whole the achievement levels in Mathematics are impressive. Teachers plan their lessons sensibly, making sure that there is wide variety in activities that meets pupils’ varying levels of understanding. At infant level, care is taken to introduce the children to an appropriate mathematical vocabulary during play activities and much of the work is underpinned by a purposeful use of concrete materials. A sound mathematical basis is established through the recitation of number rhymes and through exercises in the memorisation of number facts. The children’s written work is recorded neatly and is regularly monitored and marked by the teachers. It is noted that in some classes a number of children exhibit a clear proficiency when discussing and analysing mathematical problems.
The school plan makes provision for the teaching and acquisition of mathematical language. A review of planning in this area could help with its implementation on a whole-school basis.
The children are making steady progress in Geography. The core elements are based on textbook content and on charts and other illustrative materials, which are used to support the lessons. Elements of the physical and human geography of Ireland and European countries are regularly examined. Lessons are presented in a clear and well-structured manner. Pupils are encouraged to participate through discussion and they engage in some project work. This approach could be deployed more extensively at all class levels. The addition of nature and interest tables and the aquarium in the classrooms adds considerably to the learning environment.
A broad and interesting programme is planned for History and provision is made to explore topics of local interest. A wide range of topics is studied that allows the child become aware of the individuals, groups, events, cultures and beliefs and values which have affected the lives of people in the past. The display of Norman life in particular was impressive and the children related the events of this time in a creditable fashion. The use of ICT facilitates the pupils’ presentation of their own historical findings and a greater display of this material would greatly enhance the knowledge base of the children.
Pupils exhibit a particular interest in Science and the efforts of their teachers have led to the creation of an appreciable level of enthusiasm in respect of natural phenomena, basic scientific concepts and experimentation. The children are encouraged to take a lively interest in animal and plant life and to promote environmental care.
The Visual Arts programme has been developed in a manner that promotes the provision of a wide range of suitable activities across all the strands of the curriculum, and pupils’ work is of a good standard. The children’s interesting and colourful artwork on display throughout the school creates a bright and cheerful environment. Painting, construction, printing, drawing and fabric are all being undertaken by the pupils. The teachers judiciously prepare material in advance of lessons and also plan activities that afford a greater degree of expression. Pupils are encouraged to talk and discuss their work using appropriate language. Further, opportunities for integrating art and crafts activities with local customs and with other elements of the curriculum are exploited to good effect.
The school is fortunate in having some highly talented teachers in the area of Music. The Music programme enables all pupils to participate in a wide range of enjoyable music-making activities such as performing, listening, responding and identification of rhythmic patterns.
Pupils have learned a variety of songs in English and in Irish and they sing sweetly and with great enthusiasm.
Instrumental music is a noted feature in this school and the children perform to an impressive standard. They enjoy considerable success at Fleadhanna Ceoil and at Scór na bPáistí. Further testimony to the considerable talent that is developed in the school is that former pupils have made successful careers for themselves in Music, both at home and abroad.
In addition, for those who choose to participate, piano tuition is offered. This work is conducted by an outside tutor and the cost is discharged by means of a parental contribution.
The teachers are aware of the unique potential of Drama in developing different and personal ways of experiencing life. The staging of the school concert is much appreciated by parents and adds considerably to the development of a community spirit. Drama is regularly integrated in the areas of Gaeilge, English and in the Alive-O programme.
The teachers implement a varied programme of activities in Physical Education. The children are introduced to a variety of sports, among them hurling, football, basketball, and gymnastics. Activities are conducted in the school yard, in the nearby GAA field and in the community hall. The children undertake a series of swimming lessons in the pool in Mallow town. The teachers are to be commended for giving freely of their time, as a number of these activities take place after school. A Sports for all is organised annually and the emphasis is placed on fun and the active participation of all children. As part of the overall planning process in PE, the school is advised to undertake a regular audit of equipment to ensure the highest possible standards in safety are met.
Another notable feature in the school is the standard of Irish dancing. The children from junior infants to sixth class perform their routines with confidence and considerable competence. These activities are conducted under the tutelage of a visiting parent who gives of her time at no charge to the school and she is to be congratulated for her generosity and for the level of success she achieves. It was a pleasure to see such accomplished talent on show.
The school makes a creditable effort to develop aspects of the SPHE programmes as outlined in The Primary Curriculum (1999). The work is conducted in an effective manner and in this way the children are led to develop an awareness of health issues and a valuable sense of respect for each other. Teachers demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the backgrounds and experiences of pupils and have a genuine concern for their progress. They interact with their pupils in a kind and courteous manner and the pupils in turn are courteous and well-mannered. The school is to be commended for its long-standing policy of promoting healthy eating.
Throughout the school a wide variety of assessment modes is employed. These include informal teacher observation and testing. Moreover, the assessment work is complemented by the administration of norm- and criterion-referenced tests. The Micra-T and Sigma-T are administered annually to assess attainment in English and Mathematics respectively and the MIST and Quest are administered to help identify children who require supplementary support in the junior classes. The results in numeracy point towards the fact that pupils are achieving to a creditable standard. The results in literacy are less notable, though in broad outline the children are achieving at a standard that is in accordance with their age and abilities. ICT is used to good effect in tabulating scores in standardized tests and these are available for each class in one easy accessible document.
A shared learning support/resource teacher is based in the school and provides tuition in literacy and numeracy for twenty-three pupils. A further learning support/resource teacher based in Milford National School provides similar tuition to two pupils. They work diligently in contributing to the advancement of children’s learning in the school. Individual education plans (IEPs) are prepared and subsequent learning programmes are based on an initial assessment of strengths and weaknesses. ICT is used extensively in the process of delivering programmes that are characterised by high degrees of relevance. The special needs assistant works well with teachers to ensure that all children are helped and cared for. In the main, children are withdrawn from classes, either individually or in groups. The school’s early intervention policy ensures support activities are all firmly based upon the requirements of the children and are well matched to their abilities. Overall, children are making steady progress in accordance with their competencies.
Within the context of the evolving school plan in supporting children with special educational needs, it is desirable that the following issues are considered: the staged model of identifying needs and supporting pupils, the provision of in-class support, the formulation of the IEP, the preparation of short-term plans, the timing of pupil testing, the maintenance of careful records of progress for each pupil, formal structured time for meeting with class teachers, the daily schedules for both support teachers and the future deployment of the special needs assistant.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
Teachers and other ancillary staff are caring and dedicated.
School planning is a collaborative proces
The children are responsiveness and courteous.
Commendable standards are achieved in Music, Dance and Mathematics.
ICT is utilised to good effect in complementing the learning process.
Moltar a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar an léitheoireacht, ar an scríbhneoireacht agus ar leanúnachas cainte na ndaltaí
dteagasc na Gaeilge.
It is recommended that the monthly progress records be further utilised.
It is recommended that planning and provision in the area of special needs be reviewed.
The oral English policy should be reviewed and implemented on a whole-school basis.
The staff might consider establishing a shared reading scheme in the further development of children’s reading.
The staff is advised to develop further the school’s policy in mathematical language.
The school is encouraged to promote a greater involvement of parents in policy development.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Review current practice in the area of special needs.
Níor mhiste leanúnachas cainte na ndaltaí a chothú a thuilleadh fós sa Ghaeilge agus réimse ábhar na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta a leathnú.
Collect, file and share information in the cuntas míosúil.
Review oral English policy.
Establish a shared reading initiative in the school.
Develop mathematical language on a whole school basis.
Present draft policies to parents, and welcome their contributions.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.