An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Ballintubber National School

Ballintubber County Mayo

Uimhir rolla:  07374G


Date of inspection: 15 October 2008




Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils






Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of  Ballintubber National School was undertaken in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.




Introduction – school context and background


Ballintubber National School is a three-teacher co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Ballintubber, County Mayo. It is a very good school. Most of the pupils come from the Ballintubber area, with the remainder coming from nearby parishes. It is expected that enrolment numbers will increase slightly over the next few years, due to increased house-building in the area.


The original school in Ballintubber was built in 1857. The present school building was built in 1982. The school is very well maintained, both inside and outside. There are four mainstream classrooms in the school building, three of which are used by the school. A pre-school has recently opened in fourth classroom. This childcare facility has been valuable to the parents and children of the area. There is also an office, a small kitchen, a staff room which is also used for learning support and resource teaching, and staff and pupil toilets. There is a general purposes room which is used as a school library and as a display area for pupils’ work. This room is also used for concerts and plays.


The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision


Ballintubber School is characterised by its commitment to the well-being of its pupils. The school’s mission statement refers to its aim to prepare children to fulfil happy and useful lives. The school emphasises the development of each child academically and morally.


1.2 Board of management


The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam is the patron of the school. The board of management meets at least five times a year. Many more meetings than usual were necessary during the preparations for the celebration of the school’s 150th anniversary in 2007. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of every meeting of the board of management. The board discusses and formally ratifies all school policies. The board is to be commended for its support for the school and for the close contact that members of the board keep with the teachers, parents and pupils in the school. The board of management’s current priorities include making school facilities more accessible to community endeavours, the provision of an all-weather playing pitch in conjunction with other local groups, and the upgrading of road-calming measures outside the school.


1.3 In-school management


The in-school management team consists of the principal and the deputy principal. The principal carries out his duties enthusiastically, conscientiously and competently. The principal is a very effective school leader. His work since becoming principal has ensured that his vision for the school, where pupils are diligent in their school work and friendly in their dealings with others, has been creditably realised.


The deputy principal carries out the administrative, curricular and pastoral work associated with that role competently and diligently. The school staff works well together as a team. Staff meetings are held once a term. All members of staff are given the opportunity to contribute to the agenda for these meetings. Roll books, registers and school records in general are carefully maintained and kept up-to-date.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community


There is a very active parent-teacher association in the school. At their meeting with the inspector as part of this evaluation, the representatives of the parents referred to the very positive relations that exist between teachers and parents. There is a very good level of parental involvement in the school. The parents’ representatives also stated that they were very satisfied with the standard of education offered in the school. Parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children at the formal parent-teacher meetings that are held once a year. Written reports are posted to parents for each of their children at the end of every school year. If a problem or concern arises, parents are encouraged to visit the school and discuss the matter at the earliest opportunity. This has led to parents feeling that the school is open and welcoming to them at all times. The principal sends newsletters on school activities and achievements to parents regularly throughout the year. This helps to keep parents informed about events in the school.


1.5 Management of pupils


In general the pupils in Ballintubber School are articulate, confident, cheerful and enthusiastic children who clearly enjoy their work. The standard of pastoral care in the school is high and the pupils clearly have a warm relationship with all of their teachers. They are very well behaved during the various activities of the school day. The pupils get on well with each other and they are welcoming and courteous to visitors to the school. There is a homely atmosphere in the school as all of the pupils are cherished as part of the school community.


2.     Quality of school planning




2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning


The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The planning process has involved valuable support from the facilitators and the cuiditheoirí from national in-service training initiatives. The school staff makes initial drafts of most of the curricular and administrative policies. These policies are then discussed, re-drafted and ratified by the board of management. The chairperson of the board of management signs all school policies prior to their inclusion in the school plan. Parents are welcome to contribute their opinions and observations on school policies at any time. Every parent is given a parents’ handbook when their child enrols in the school. This handbook contains several relevant school policies.


The school plan contains curricular plans for all the areas of the primary school curriculum. The school plan also contains a wide range of administrative policies. Among these are an enrolment policy, a health and safety statement, a code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy, an equality statement and a homework policy.


The quality of classroom planning is good overall. The quality of some teachers’ classroom planning is very impressive. Some teachers should provide more detail in their planning documentation to ensure that their schemes more fully reflect the work they do. All of the teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work. They all also maintain an appropriate monthly record (cuntas míosúil) of the work they have done. The teachers all adhere to a timetable which is based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum. Individual education plans (IEPs) or group education plans are developed for the pupils who attend learning support or who are in receipt of resource teaching hours.


2.2 Child protection policy and procedures


Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.




3.     Quality of learning and teaching


3.1 Language



Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge i Scoil Bhaile an Tobair go han-mhaith. Leagann na hoidí uile béim chuí ar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí sna ceachtanna agus tá sé soiléir go gcothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge. Tá gnóthachtáil na ndaltaí ar fud na scoile le moladh. Tá béim inmholta leagtha ar an nGaeilge labhartha i ngach rang. Is féidir le beagnach gach dalta labhairt go muiníneach as Gaeilge. Tá siad in ann iad féin a chur in iúl agus comhrá a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge ag leibhéil oiriúnach dá gclár foghlama. Baineann na hoidí go léir úsáid as Gaeilge go rialta i rith an lae chun dea-shampla a thabhairt do na daltaí. Tá rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge ar eolas ag na daltaí i ngach rang. Sonraítear go mbaintear úsáid as modh an aistriúcháin ó am go chéile i gcuid bheag de na ranganna chun Gaeilge a mhúineadh. Moltar an cleachtas seo a sheachaint as seo amach.


Forbraítear scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí go cumasach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann formhór na ndaltaí go líofa agus is féidir leo a dtuiscint a thaispeáint trí fhreagairt cheisteanna bunaithe ar an méid atá léite. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil go forleathan i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Tá obair inmholta déanta sa scríbhneoireacht. Tá saothar scríofa na ndaltaí le sonrú ar taispeáint go tarraingteach sna seomraí ranga. Tá ardchaighdeán scríbhneoireachta le sonrú sna cóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair den chuid is mó de na daltaí.




The quality of learning and teaching of Irish in Ballintubber School is very good. All of the teachers place appropriate emphasis on the participation of the pupils in lessons and it is clear that the teachers foster a positive attitude towards Irish. The achievement of the pupils throughout the school is praiseworthy. Commendable emphasis is placed on the oral Irish in every class. Almost all of the pupils can speak confidently in Irish. They are also able to introduce themselves and make conversation in Irish at a level suitable to their learning programme. All of the teachers use Irish regularly throughout the day to show good example to the pupils. The pupils in every class know rhymes, poems and songs in Irish. It is noted that translation is occasionally employed as a method of teaching Irish in a few classes. It is recommended that this practice be avoided in future.


The pupils’ reading skills are developed competently from second class onwards. The majority of pupils can read fluently and they show their understanding by answering questions on what they have read. There is a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school. The pupils have done commendable work in [Irish] writing. The pupils’ written work can be seen on display attractively in the classrooms. A high standard of writing is also to be seen in most of the pupils’ copybooks and workbooks.



The qquality of learning and teaching in English is very good. Almost all of the pupils attain high standards in English. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised throughout the school. Most of the pupils are confident in speaking about themselves, their interests and about the work they have done in school. There is impressive work done on the study, recitation and writing of poetry in every class.


Phonological awareness is carefully developed in the junior classes. This lays a solid foundation for the development of reading skills in the other classes. The teachers are keen to develop a love of reading in their pupils and they are largely successful in this work. There is a print-rich environment in all of the mainstream classrooms and throughout the school. The school library and class libraries are well stocked with a good variety of up-to-date reading materials, both fact and fiction. These reading areas are attractively laid out to encourage pupils to read for pleasure and information. Some class groups are withdrawn for reading lessons to the learning support classroom. This is good practice and in some instances it works well. Some of this work, however, needs to be more carefully planned and implemented.


The standard of English writing in the school is very high. There are impressive examples of pupils’ writing in a wide variety of genres on display in every class. The writing process is appropriately emphasised and written work is carefully edited and published in class. The pupils’ copybooks and workbooks also contain highly commendable work in functional and creative writing.






3.2 Mathematics


The quality of learning and teaching in Mathematics in Ballintubber School is good. Almost all of the pupils engage willingly in their work and their achievement in Mathematics is commendable. A particularly good foundation in Mathematics is laid in the junior classes. Almost all of the pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical language and terminology. There is a wide variety of mathematical equipment in every class and this is largely used effectively to enhance pupils’ learning and understanding. A stimulating math-rich environment has been developed in the school. Mathematics corners and posters are on display in every class. While most of the pupils have a good knowledge of number facts (tables), more emphasis should be placed on this work in some classes. There should be more emphasis placed on solving mathematical problems in some classes. The pupils record their work very neatly. This work is regularly supervised and corrected by the teachers.



3.3 Science


The quality of learning and teaching in Science throughout the school is good. A variety of teaching methods is used in the various classes in the school. Pupil achievement in Science is commendable. There is very good emphasis placed on pupil engagement during Science lessons in most classes. Interesting experiments are regularly conducted. Almost all of the pupils are able to describe and explain the work they have done and the experiments they have carried out. The experiments done as part of the work on Materials and change and on Energy and forces, and the records of their work kept by the pupils, are particularly praiseworthy. The work done on Living things in every class is highly commendable. Nature or Science tables have been set up in every class. Seeds and bulbs have been planted to give pupils the experience of watching things grow and change. Most of the pupils can identify several species of birds that are found locally. The work done as part of the Green Schools Project has helped to increase the awareness of the entire school community about environmental issues.



3.4 Assessment


A good range of assessment modes is used in the school. Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in the relevant classes once a year. These results are filed centrally and classroom teachers also keep a copy of their class’s results. The results of the standardised tests are used to compare the pupils in Ballintubber School with national averages. The results are also used to identify those pupils who need learning support or other supplementary teaching.


The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants once a year. Early intervention based on the results of this test help pupils experiencing learning difficulty. The learning support teachers use a variety of diagnostic tests as appropriate. These tests help to identify the specific learning needs of pupils with learning difficulties. The results of these tests also inform the development of individual education plans (IEPs).







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 overall. There is some very good work being done in many cases. Learning support is provided for all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics on a withdrawal from class basis. Single whole class groups are also withdrawn for class-based tuition in English reading. This work is commendable, but in some cases the work requires more focus and co-ordination to become even more effective.


The school has developed a learning support and special educational needs policy. This policy sets out the school’s procedures for addressing the needs of pupils with learning difficulties. The policy should be more specific in outlining the quality of classroom and individual planning required in the provision of this service. This should assist in the school’s attempts to implement an even more co-ordinated approach to the learning support and resource service. This is particularly desirable when whole class groups are withdrawn from the mainstream class teacher to receive tuition in English reading.


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


There are no pupils in the school from disadvantaged, minority or other groups. The school has an open enrolment policy. All children are welcome to enrol in accordance with that policy.


5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:



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


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 March 2009