An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

The Hunt National School

Mohill, County Leitrim

Uimhir rolla: 08673V

 

Date of inspection: 6 October 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of The Hunt National School, also known as St Mary’s National School, was undertaken in October 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and Geography. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

The Hunt National School is a Church of Ireland school which is situated in Mohill and caters for pupils from a number of parishes in south Leitrim. The school was originally built in 1951 and extensions were added in 1972 and again in 2004. The attendance patterns in the school are very satisfactory.

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

29

Mainstream classes in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1 part-time

Special needs assistants

1 part-time

 

A part-time secretary, a cleaner and a special needs assistant provide valuable assistance in the day-to-day functioning of the school.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The Hunt National School, under the patronage of the Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh espouses the Church of Ireland tradition while creating an inclusive and respectful atmosphere for pupils of other denominations. School activities reflect its mission statement which articulates the holistic development of each child in an environment which is safe, positive and committed to achieving excellence. The school fosters an ethos of co-operation between pupils, parents and teachers which is reflected in their motto: ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile.’(There is strength in working together.)

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted; it meets regularly and it has adopted effective functioning procedures to discharge its duties. Board members use their varied skills effectively to support the organisation and development of the school. The involvement of board members in curricular and co-curricular activities, particularly in Geography is commendable. The board takes an active role in policy making and works in close collaboration with all partners within the school community. Considerable work has been successfully completed by the board to improve the physical environment and facilities within the school. As proposed in Section 20 of the Education Act 1998, the board of management could consider issuing an annual report to parents on the operation of the school with particular reference to the achievement of objectives identified within the school plan.

 

1.3 In-school management

Caring, well-informed and dynamic leadership is evident in this school. The principal demonstrates a deep commitment to the welfare of pupils and staff. She places considerable emphasis on establishing a collaborative culture between the key partners within the school community. Efficient organisational skills are in evidence and administrative duties are performed diligently. The principal ensures a sustained focus on learning outcomes and promotes ongoing professional reflection and school improvement. She promotes the use of the Irish language within the school community with commendable dedication.

 

The principal is ably supported by the special duties teacher whose responsibilities complement those of the principal most effectively within this two-teacher context. Together with the recently appointed shared learning support teacher, they demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to working as a team to further the school’s development.

 

1.4 Management of resources

Commendable attention has been given to ensure the development and maintenance of a safe learning and recreational environment for pupils. The community facilities and human resources made available to the school are used effectively to enrich pupils’ learning experiences. The school environment, together with the local environment is used in very creative ways to support innovative teaching and learning initiatives. An appropriate range of visual material and concrete manipulatives are used judiciously to enhance teaching and learning in all curricular areas observed during the evaluation. The use of information and communication technology (ICT) as a pedagogical tool in Geography is particularly praiseworthy.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The genuine sense of partnership between teachers and parents is a positive feature of this school community. The parent-teacher association facilitates effective collaboration in curricular and co-curricular activities. Parents are actively involved in the review and formulation of organisational and curricular policies. Parental involvement in environmental fieldtrips and in the Green Schools programme is particularly impressive. Parent representatives report very high levels of satisfaction with the opportunities provided for them and for their children. It is recommended that existing good practice be built upon by involving parents further in their children’s learning through paired reading or mathematic initiatives. Information about pupil progress is communicated regularly and appropriately through parent-teacher meetings and written school reports. The school has significant involvement in the local parish community and valuable links have been forged with other schools in the locality.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

Teachers use an appropriate range of strategies to manage pupil behaviour effectively. It is evident that pupils are valued and respected as individuals and that consistent attention is given to their empowerment within this school community.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1  Whole-school and classroom planning

Commendable work has been undertaken on the systematic development of a school plan. Balance has been successfully achieved between organisational and curricular policies and also, in the attention given to review and to development work. Detailed action plans reflect considerable consultation with all partners who demonstrate a strong ownership of the policies developed. Curricular policies have been devised in line with the strands and strand unit of the curriculum and are contextualised to the needs of the school. It is recommended that further consideration be given to clarifying progression from class to class with certain aspects of the geography curriculum.

 

Long and short term planning provided by the teachers reflect the principles and structures of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The recent introduction of newly devised templates for short-term planning and monthly reports supports the recording of pupils’ skill development as well as knowledge acquisition. Teachers are encouraged to review data yielded by the monthly reports to maximise progression in curriculum implementation. Significant work is done by teachers in acquiring and preparing resources to support teaching and learning in mainstream and special education settings.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 English

The teaching of English is undertaken in a skilful way throughout the school with strong emphases placed on developing pupils’ oracy and literacy skills through discrete lessons and effective cross-curricular initiatives. Pupils are very well equipped to engage in discussion on a range of topics where they describe, question, summarise and compare with great confidence. Effective development of pupils’ higher order thinking skills was observed in both mainstream classes. Creditable emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ abilities to make emotional and cognitive responses to a wide range of poetry in middle and senior classes. Appropriate memorisation of rhymes and poetry in the infant and junior classes contributes to the successful development of pupils’ phonological awareness.

 

Pupils’ word attack skills and sight vocabulary are developed in systematic ways at every class level. Effective use of large format books and supplementary readers support the development of literacy skills in the junior classroom while novels are used to great effect in middle and senior classes. Pupils demonstrate appropriate levels of fluency and comprehension in reading commensurate with their abilities. Considerable effort is devoted to the provision of a wide range of factual and fictional reading material for all pupils. The staff is encouraged to build on these good practices by introducing paired reading initiatives between senior and junior pupils and also between parents and junior pupils. It is recommended that future developments should also include team-teaching which would enhance provision for differentiated skill development across the wide range of needs within each classroom.

 

The teaching of functional and creative writing is embedded effectively in a language-experience approach to literacy development and the quality of pupils’ written work is very good. A variety of strategies is used successfully by teachers to stimulate the pupils’ imagination and to support the pupils’ engagement in process writing activities. Due regard is given to the development of spelling strategies. Pupils demonstrate a keen awareness of the conventions of grammar and punctuation. Letter formation and handwriting skills are taught conscientiously and the presentation of work in the cursive style is particularly impressive.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Comprehensive and creditable action-planning in Mathematics has supported the effective implementation of the curriculum in a way which endeavours to bring relevance and meaning to the pupils’ experience of mathematical activities. The quality of teaching is very good and it is evident that the majority of pupils make consistent progress relative to their abilities.

 

Appropriate use of concrete equipment is well established in this school’s practice. Considerable attention has been given to the development of pupils’ oral mathematical skills. It is evident that a concerted effort is made to develop pupils’ mathematical skills as they are encouraged to estimate, reason and investigate mathematical relationships. To build on the good practices developed to date, it is recommended that early intervention initiatives in the junior classes should focus on the application of number concepts to a variety of contexts to consolidate learning in this area. An increased use of mathematical games is advised to facilitate the reinforcement of skills in an integrated manner. Facilitating information evenings with parents on aspects of the mathematics curriculum is laudable. The school community is encouraged to promote parental involvement in school-based mathematical activities such as Maths for Fun programmes.

 

3.3 Geography

The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is of a very high standard. There is an established tradition within this school community of providing opportunities for pupils to explore human and natural environments in their local and adjoining hinterlands. Pupils demonstrate considerable knowledge of their local and national environs which contributes to their confident sense of place and space. Effective integration with Irish and History enrich pupils’ understanding of local place-names. The manner in which pupils learn to analyse data is one example of how Mathematics is successfully integrated with the development of pupils’ geographical skills.

 

Members of the local community and visitors to the parish contribute to the pupils’ awareness of people and nationalities through their visits to the school and also through their involvement in surveys and interviews. Future development in the area of Geography should focus on extending pupils’ European and international sense of place in a more systematic way. Inter-relationships between human and natural environments are developed incrementally in age appropriate ways. Care for the environment is deeply embedded in the culture of this school which is reflected in the school’s much acclaimed success in the Green-Schools programme.

 

Story and role-play are used very effectively to develop pupils’ directional language as well as their geographical skills and concepts. Pupils demonstrate well-honed mapping skills and can engage in geographical investigations with confidence and competence. The internet and ICT software are used judiciously to enhance pupils’ learning in Geography.

 

3.4 Assessment

Effective assessment practices reflect a whole-school commitment to maximising improvement opportunities for each individual pupil. The development of individual pupil assessment folders is well established and includes a transparent record of their attainments in standardised English reading and mathematics tests throughout their time in school. Cross referencing with pupils’ scores on the Non-verbal Reasoning and Intelligence Test (NRIT) is also carried out. Parents receive an annual written record of their child’s test results. It is commendable that pupils are given an annual written report on their progress. Standardised test results are also examined to identify patterns in pupil achievement and inform whole-school planning. Teacher-designed tests and observation are also used to support the thorough monitoring of pupils’ development. Pupils’ written work is corrected in a constructive and affirmative manner.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A whole-school culture of care and conscientiousness is in evidence as all teachers strive to meet pupils’ special educational needs. The newly appointed learning support teacher provides eleven hours of supplementary tuition within this school in a purposeful and empathetic manner. She provides satisfactory preparation to support the current provision in literacy and numeracy. It is recommended, that diagnostic testing be used, where appropriate, to clarify specific learning targets which will support strategic development within the pupils’ educational programmes. An attractive learning environment is created through colourful displays of pupils’ work and teacher designed charts.

 

All supplementary tuition is currently provided by withdrawing pupils from their mainstream classes. It is recommended that some support be provided for pupils through in-class team-teaching which focuses on differentiated skill development within the mainstream setting. A number of early-intervention initiatives were discussed with staff at the post-evaluation meeting which would enhance the provision for pupils with special educational needs.

 

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

There are currently no pupils from minority or disadvantaged groups enrolled in the school at present. However, it is evident that there is great capacity within this inclusive school community to respond sensitively to the needs of pupils from such backgrounds.

 

 

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 February 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of Management of Hunt N.S. commends the Inspectorate for the highly comprehensive and professional manner in which the WSE was conducted.

 

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

 

We welcome the affirmation of work being done at Hunt N.S. and will endeavour to implement the recommendations of the report.

 

Táimid lán-chinnte go mbeidh ár scoil i bhfad níos láidre dá bharr.