An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



St. Nicholas’ N.S.

Adare, Co. Limerick.

Uimhir rolla:   08926B


Date of inspection: 1 October 2007

  Date of issue of report:  21 February 2008



Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion



Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of St. Nicholas’ N.S. was undertaken in October 2007. 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 Physical Education.  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

The patron of St. Nicholas’ N.S. is the Earl of Dunraven and the school is vested in the Church of Ireland.  The school was established in 1814 and is located on the site of a fourteenth century Augustinian Abbey. A new school is currently under construction on a site directly behind the Abbey.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

St. Nicholas’ is a Church of Ireland school. The school’s ethos is clearly articulated and is effectively communicated to the school community by means of the school web site, the school brochure and through its enrolment policy. Specific aims and goals focus on the holistic and harmonious development of each child.


1.2 Board of management 

The board of management provides strong and effective leadership to the school. The board is properly constituted and it meets on a monthly basis. Detailed minutes of meetings are maintained. Individual roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined and assigned duties are effectively undertaken. Board members are supportive of the school’s mission and vision. The work of the board is compliant with statutory requirements and departmental guidelines. Finances are carefully managed. A financial report is presented at each meeting. A review of the school’s work and its accounts is communicated to the parents’ association annually.


The board is actively involved in the whole-school planning process. Plans and policies are discussed, approved and ratified at meetings. Decision making procedures are open, clear and effective. A development plan is devised annually. This plan and its supporting action plans, outline a programme of work to address identified school priorities during the course of the school year. Parental involvement is actively sought to assist the board in focusing on the areas in need of development.


1.3 In-school management

The work of the principal is characterised by a high level of commitment and dedication to the school. She maintains commendable working relationships with the board, with staff, with parents and with the pupils. Her management of the day-to day functioning of the school is very effective and she discharges her duties in a highly professional and caring manner.


The in-school management team is committed to the development of the school and assigned duties are carried out very efficiently. Opportunities are given to all staff members to participate in collaborative decision- making leading to school improvement.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association plays a very active role in school life. Regular newsletters keep the school community informed of upcoming events and of pupil achievements. School policies are communicated to parents by means of the school brochure and the school website. 


1.5 Management of pupils

The board and staff of St. Nicholas’ are commended for the creation of a warm, inclusive, caring atmosphere which permeates all aspects of school life. Pupils’ behaviour during the evaluation period was exemplary. Initiatives such as The Friendship Stop, Pupil of the Week, an effective code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy all serve to ensure that pupils feel valued.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The board is commended for the quality of the school plan. An extensive range of organisational policies, devised in co-operation with the staff and in some respects with parents, effectively contributes to the efficient day to day running of the school. These policies are regularly reviewed. The development plan outlines future actions to be taken during this school year to address prioritised organisational policies.


Very good plans are in place for all curriculum areas. These plans effectively inform daily practice in the classroom and they reflect a clear understanding of the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The plans are comprehensive and are devised collaboratively by the staff, bearing in mind the context of the school and the needs of the pupils. It is recommended that the development plan be extended to include the systematic monitoring, evaluation and review of curriculum plans over a given period of time. This action should ensure the effective implementation of each curricular plan and the further enhancement of the quality of teaching and learning in the school. 


The teachers are to be commended for the quality of their individual long-term and short-term planning. This planning is informed by the school plan and ensures that all pupils are enabled to access a broad and balanced curriculum. Specific learning objectives are outlined by all teachers and due emphasis placed on the differentiation of programmes for pupils with learning difficulties.


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 tionchar dearfach ag an bplean scoile ar phleanáil na n-oidí agus is léir go ndéanann said an-iarracht atmaisféar fabhrach don teanga a chruthú sa scoil. Múintear an Ghaeilge go hábalta. Leagtar amach spriocanna cinnte foghlama sa phleanáil ghearrthéarmach chun gnóthachtaíl na ndaltaí a chinntiú. Cloítear leis an nGaeilge mar theanga theagaisc le linn na gceachtanna. Baintear feidhm as modhanna éagsúla - teagasc ranga, teagasc grúpa agus obair bheirte chun an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh go héifeachtach. Baineann gach oide feidhm rialta as ábhair chorpartha chun scóip an cheachta a leathnú agus chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt. Cothaítear scileanna éisteachta ar bhonn fhoirmiúil sa scoil agus léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint mhaith ar an ábhar atá cloiste acu. Cé go gcuirtear béim oiriúnach ar an gcumarsáid sna ranganna naíonáin, moltar anois a thuilleadh aire a thabhairt don saor chomhrá ins na meánranganna agus ‘sna h-ardranganna agus na daltaí a spreagadh chun cainte níos mó. Leantar céimeanna feiliúnacha i dteagasc na léitheoireachta agus tá caighdeán maith sroichte ag na daltaí sa ghné seo den chlár teagaisc. Is léir ó na samplaí d’obair scríofa na ndaltaí go bhfuil caighdeán maith scroichte acu de réir a rang leibhéal.



The whole school plan has a positive influence on the teachers’ planning and it is evident that they make a major effort to create a favourable atmosphere towards Irish in the school. Irish is ably taught. Clear learning objectives are outlined in short term planning to ensure the engagement of the pupils. Irish is used as the language of instruction throughout the Irish lessons. A variety of teaching methodologies is employed -  whole class teaching, group work and paired work to ensure effective teaching. Each teacher regularly utilises concrete materials to broaden the scope of the lesson and to awaken the interest of the pupils. Listening skills are systematically developed in the school and the pupils display a good understanding of what they have heard. Though suitable emphasis is placed on communication in the infant classes it is now recommended that further attention be paid to free conversation in the middle and senior standards and that the children are facilitated to talk more frequently. A structured approach is taken to the teaching of reading and the pupils have a good standard in this aspect of the programme. It is evident from samples of the pupils’ writing that they have achieved a good standard according to their class level.



The quality of teaching and learning in English is of a very high standard. A variety of teaching approaches is employed and these strategies are well matched to pupils’ learning needs and stages of development. Learning tasks are differentiated to take full account of individual differences and to provide for pupils with special education needs. Lessons are well structured, paced and developed. Lesson content is clearly presented and is based on pupils’ prior achievements and interests. There is an appropriate balance between whole-class teaching, group work and one to one interactions. Pupils’ command of the English language in all standards is impressive. Oral language activities incorporate a wide range of strategies and provide pupils with ample opportunities to use language creatively. Pupils are actively encouraged to question, predict, discuss, justify and expand on a range of organised topics in discrete oral language lessons and throughout the other subject areas.


Commendable emphasis is placed on the development of literacy among the pupils in this school. All pupils were observed to read fluently and accurately.  The school has introduced team teaching as a means of early intervention in arresting any delay in the acquisition of literacy skills and to date, the results have very positive. All teachers ensure that the content, teaching methodologies, learning activities and resources employed, appropriately challenge pupils’ individual learning needs. The teaching of reading is undertaken using a wide range of teaching strategies and is supported by the implementation of a whole school phonological programme. The reading materials available to the pupils are wide ranging and challenging. Throughout the school, novels are read and poetry is explored to very good effect.


Pupils’ written work is neatly presented, regularly monitored, carefully evaluated and displayed to good effect in the classrooms. It is evident that teachers facilitate the pupils to write in a variety of genres. Written samples indicate that the pupils utilise a wide vocabulary and have developed a command of grammar, syntax and punctuation. Handwriting skills are systematically developed at each class level. It is recommended, however, that the creative writing process be further developed.


3.2 Mathematics

Commendable emphasis is placed by all teachers on the use of concrete materials, oral mathematical activities, concept development and the acquisition of mathematical language in the teaching of mathematics. All lessons observed succeeded in adequately progressing pupil learning and teachers were observed to communicate the purpose of lessons effectively to the pupils. Activities are organised which allow the pupils to benefit from a wide variety of teaching and learning approaches, including the skilful promotion of activity and discovery learning, talk and discussion and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Learning activities involving the use of concrete materials to support planned learning outcomes are organised. Teachers give clear explanations and have realistically high expectations for the pupils. Very good attention is placed on consolidating and reinforcing the content, concepts and skills developed during the lessons. As a consequence, the quality of pupil learning outcomes is very good. Pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts is reflected in their ability to use higher-order thinking skills and in their ability to apply what they have learned in a variety of contexts. Exceptionally able pupils are encouraged to be self-directed in their learning. Pupils who are experiencing difficulties or who have specific learning difficulties are identified and differentiated activities are organised to assist them in their learning.


3.3 Physical Education

The pupils in St. Nicholas’ access a broad and balanced physical education programme. Lessons observed placed appropriate emphasis on enjoyment and play and on the full participation of all the pupils. Specific skills are well developed. A balance is struck between competitive, non-competitive and co-operative activities. All pupils are awarded an opportunity to experience success.  Lessons are well integrated with other subject areas. Equipment used is well maintained, and exit and entry procedures are well established. Pupil co-operation with the teacher and with each other is praiseworthy.


3.4 Assessment

A broad range of assessment modes is effectively utilised in this school. Standardised tests in literacy, numeracy and spelling are administered to pupils annually from first class to sixth class.  The results of these tests are systematically recorded and are used to track pupil progress in these areas from year to year. Written work is meticulously monitored and helpful evaluative comments are noted. Individual portfolios of samples of work completed by the pupils during the school year are maintained. Checklists, teacher designed and commercial tests are regularly administered to ascertain pupils’ understanding of specific topics and concepts. This very good practice facilitates the early identification of pupils who are experiencing difficulties or who may have specific learning disorders. Annual end of year reports are completed and are disseminated to parents at the end of the summer term.


While pupils’ progress in literacy and numeracy is very well tracked, there is limited recording of pupil progress in other curriculum areas. It is now recommended that a system of formally recording pupil progress across all curriculum areas be developed so as to add to the validity of the end of year progress reports.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Provision for pupils with special educational needs is of a very high standard and the school is highly commended in this regard. The staged approach to the identification of pupils who require support teaching is consistent with Department guidelines and circulars. Systems are in place to enable teachers to identify pupils who may require intervention at a very early stage. Very effective Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) are drafted in collaboration with the child, the parents, the teachers and other relevant professionals where appropriate. These IEPs contain specific learning objectives to be achieved by the pupil on a termly, weekly and daily basis. The special educational needs team maintains comprehensive records of the pupil’s progress and assessment data effectively inform their planning and practice. Lessons observed were of a very high standard. An emphasis is placed on the active engagement of the pupil in his or her own learning. All pupils in receipt of support are making progress commensurate with their abilities. Parents are provided with regular reviews of the pupil’s progress.


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.