An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Annagh Girls’ National School

 Ballyglunin Tuam County Galway

Uimhir rolla: 08958O

 

  Date of inspection: 6 November 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

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Annagh Girls’ National School was undertaken in November 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 History.  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

 

This is a rural two-teacher school providing education for girls from junior infants to sixth class. The school is in the parish of Corofin but its traditional catchment area also includes parts of the neighbouring parishes of Abbeyknockmoy and Lackagh-Turloughmore. The school shares a campus with Annagh Boys’ NS. While each of these small single-sex schools has its own management structure, there is extensive co-operation between the schools. The school has had notable achievements in sports and in Science initiatives, areas that are beyond the scope of this report.

 

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

37

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Tuam and its mission statement makes reference to the school’s Catholic ethos. The mission statement also expresses an aspiration to promote positive relations with the community, provide an enjoyable learning experience for pupils and enable each pupil to fulfil her potential. It is clear from observing interactions in the classrooms and the recreation area that the teachers place a high value on the pupils’ emotional and social development. The school fosters a happy family atmosphere and promotes a culture of care and respect among the pupils.


 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the Department of Education and Science’s Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. The board is to be congratulated on the manner in which the school building and grounds have been maintained. The recent completion of a new drop-off and parking area at the front of the school is a significant contribution to the safety and welfare of all in the community. The board is supportive of the work of the teachers and has been involved in the development and ratification of the school plan. The school’s finances are managed in a prudent manner and the accounts are certified.

 

At the meeting with the board there was some discussion of the ways in which the pupils would benefit from an amalgamation with Annagh Boys’’ NS. It is recommended that the board initiate a consultation process in order to establish the views of key stakeholders, including the patron, parents and teachers, on this issue. A model for this process is presented in Amalgamation of First-Level Schools, a document produced by the Commission on School Accommodation. A copy of this document was given to the chairperson of the board of management at the post-evaluation meeting.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal oversees the day-to-day operation of the school as well as teaching four classes.  Her personal vision for the school is reflected in the school’s mission statement. She is to be commended in particular for fostering a welcoming family atmosphere and for the attention that is devoted to the social and emotional needs of each individual pupil. The school’s other classroom teacher also has additional non-teaching responsibilities, which include providing leadership in several organisational, pastoral and curricular areas. It is recommended that the responsibilities attached to this special-duties post be reviewed on an annual basis in light of the changing needs of the school. The principal and her colleague are to be commended for their proactive engagement with advisors from the Primary Professional Development Service.

 

At present, the teachers in both of the Annagh schools have their lunch in the senior classroom of Annagh Girls’ NS during the recreation periods. The school should consider using the principal’s office for this purpose, with a view to minimising disruption to classroom organisation.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Parents assist with some aspects of the school’s extra-curricular programme and with the annual sale of work. The school concert, school Mass and a graduation ceremony for sixth-class pupils are important social events for the school community.

 

The principal regards the happiness of pupils and parents as key indicators of the success of the school. The school should consider issuing a simple questionnaire to parents to identify the areas of school life with which parents are satisfied and those in which they see room for improvement.

It is recommended that the school collaborate with Annagh Boys’ N.S. on the preparation and implementation of a policy to support sixth-class pupils and their parents with the transition to post-primary school. The programme OK! Let’s Go, available from City of Galway Vocational Education Committee, might provide a useful starting point.


 

It is recommended that consideration be given to setting up a joint parents’ association for the two Annagh schools, with a view to achieving greater co-ordination of parental involvement in the work of the school.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The teachers foster positive habits among the pupils with regard to learning and social behaviour. It is clear that pupils are generally very well motivated. They are respectful in their interactions with each other and with adults. Copies of the school’s code of behaviour are sent to all parents.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is fair. The process involves the teachers in drafting policies that are then presented to the board of management for discussion and ratification. Key policies such as the code of behaviour and the enrolment policy are made available to parents. It is recommended that policies be circulated to parents for comment prior to ratification by the board, in accordance with Section 21(3) of the Education Act 1998 and the Department of Education and Science’s Developing a School Plan: Guidelines (1999).

 

The school plan includes most of the key organisational policies that are required by legislation or by circulars of the Department of Education and Science. The school attendance strategy, which is required by the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, has been drafted and will be ratified shortly following discussion by the board of management.

 

The curricular sections of the school plan are generally based on the templates that are made available by the support services. These templates and prompts are intended as starting points for schools. Each school is expected to adapt the templates in order to produce a school plan that records accurately the good practice that is being developed in response to the particular needs and resources of that school. The curricular plans for Annagh Girls’ N.S. require further adaptation and are not as useful as they might be in co-ordinating and improving teaching and learning in the school.

 

Each teacher provides long-term and short-term planning and also keeps a monthly record of work completed. It is recommended that there be a greater focus on learning targets in classroom planning and records of progress, with a view to enhancing pupil achievement.

 

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

 

Gaeilge

suim ag na múinteoirí i gcaomhnú agus i bhforbairt na Gaeilge agus oibríonn siad go díograiseach ar theagasc an ábhair seo. Caithfear úsáid níos a bhaint as an gcur chuige cumarsáideach, áfach, ionas go mbeidh na daltaí ábalta iad féin a chur in iúl go héifeachtach i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha.

Tugann na múinteoirí faoin tréimhse réamhchumarsáide den fhoghlaim go hábalta. Baintear úsáid as raon d’acmhainní agus de ghníomhaíochtaí chun an t-ábhar foghlama a chur i láthair na ndaltaí agus chun é a bhuanú. Bíonn stór deas rann ag na daltaí. Is éifeachtach, cruthaitheach an leas a bhaintear as druileanna agus cluichí beirte i gcásanna chun na briathra a chleachtadh. Is léir ó cheistiú na ndaltaí, áfach, nach bhfuil ar a gcumas ag formhór acu abairtí simplí a úsáid chun iad féin a chur in iúl i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha. Bíonn deacrachtaí ar leith acu maidir le húsáid na mbriathra taobh amuigh de na druileanna. Moltar go dtabharfaí deis do na daltaí tabhairt faoi thascanna cumarsáide ina mbeirteanna i ngach ceacht Gaeilge.  Moltar freisin go gcruthófar le labhairt na Gaeilge i measc na ndaltaí go rialta taobh amuigh den cheacht foirmiúil.

Tugann na múinteoirí faoi theagasc na scríbhneoireachta agus na léitheoireachta ar bhealach córasach. Léann go leor de na daltaí sna hardranganna an Ghaeilge go cruinn, líofa.

 

Irish

The teachers are interested in the preservation and development of the Irish language and they work diligently at teaching this subject. There is a need for greater use of the communicative approach, however, so that the pupils will be enabled to express themselves effectively in communicative situations.

The teachers show very good competence in the pre-communicative stage of the learning. A range of resources and activities is used to present and consolidate the lesson content. The pupils can recite a nice repertoire of Irish verse. There is effective and creative use of drills and games to practise the use of verbs in some classes. It is evident from questioning the pupils, however, that most pupils are not able to use simple sentences to express themselves in communicative situations. They have particular difficulty in using verbs outside of the practice drills. It is recommended that pupils be assigned communicative tasks in pairs during each Irish lesson. It is recommended also that pupils be required to speak Irish regularly outside of the Irish lesson.

There is a systematic approach to the teaching of writing and reading in Irish. Most pupils in the senior classes read Irish accurately and fluently.

 

 

English

The school plan for English was one of the first curricular plans to be completed by the staff some years ago. It has been identified by the staff as a priority for review. The current document endorses the aims and content of the Primary School Curriculum and includes restatements or photocopies of sections of the curriculum. Certain key areas are omitted from the plan, including themes to be used for oral-language development, the way in which curriculum objectives will be addressed in the multiple-class situation and the school library policy. It is expected that these and other issues will be addressed during the review so that the plan will reflect and consolidate current classroom practice.

 

 

In the teaching of English reading, there is a systematic approach to the development of phonemic and phonological awareness and there is evidence that the pupils are successful in learning and using word-identification strategies. The school also does very good work to promote the habit of reading for pleasure among the pupils. There is an attractive, well-organised library in each classroom. Pupils complete book reviews regularly and they discuss books they have read with a good degree of knowledge and confidence. The school organises opportunities for the pupils to meet established children’s authors and to hear them read and discuss their work.

 

The school also does good work in the area of English writing. Pupils’ written work is displayed in the classrooms and samples are published in the annual school magazine that is produced jointly by the two Annagh schools. It is recommended that there be a greater emphasis on the writing process, with a view to enabling pupils to draft, edit, proof-read and publish their own work. Activities that would enhance further the school’s work in this area include the production by the senior pupils of books for the junior pupils and the school’s participation in the Write-a-Book project that is organised through the local education centre.

 

Both teachers encourage pupils to take part in whole-class discussions on various topics as these arise. There is a need, however, for a more deliberate approach to oral-language development.  It is recommended that, as part of the review of the school plan for English, the school produce an oral-language programme that sets out clear learning targets for each class level. The programme should indicate the content to be taught during discrete oral-language lessons as well as describing language-development strategies to be used in other curricular areas. These strategies should include the use of visual materials that would make it easier for pupils to learn and use the target vocabulary. As part of this approach, it is recommended that there be daily use of structured, developmental play activities for infant pupils, with clear language targets associated with each activity. It may be possible to involve the learning-support teacher in this work as part of an early-intervention approach.

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good overall. There is effective use of appropriate resources such as target boards and loop cards. Pupils generally perform well on standardised attainment tests in Mathematics. Pupils respond reasonably well to oral questioning on the strands Number, Measures, and Shape and Space. While there is evidence of good differentiation of tasks in cases, there is scope for improvement in differentiating content for the different class groups in each room.

The school plan for Mathematics is reasonably specific. It includes a list of the mathematical language to be developed in each class. It is recommended that a plan for a Mathematics trail be devised by the teachers and included in the school plan. It is recommended also that a list of the school’s resources for Mathematics be inserted into the plan.

 

3.3 History

 

The teaching of History is enriched by very good use of resources such as historical documents and artefacts. There is also good use of story and drama, especially in the junior classes. There is evidence that the pupils have learned a lot about the history of their locality as part of the class programmes. There is effective use of displays concerning local history.


 

There is scope for more effective whole-school planning in History, with a view to consolidating existing good practice. The current school plan for History is based on a suitable template but has not been adapted sufficiently to the specific context of this school. It is recommended that the whole-school plan for History be revised. This work would involve the completion of an audit of local resources for this subject, the development of a historical trail and the identification of what pupils at each class level are to learn about topics in local history.

 

3.4 Assessment

 

The school administers standardised attainment test in English reading and Mathematics. The teachers keep monthly progress records. It is recommended that these “cuntais mhíosúla” be used to record the learning targets achieved by each class group during the month.

The school holds annual parent-teacher meetings. It is recommended that the school send an annual written report on each pupil to that pupil’s parents/guardians.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

A visiting learning-support teacher provides supplementary teaching to certain pupils. The quality of the support provided is very good. Planning and recording are done in a professional manner. The learning-support room has a range of useful displays to facilitate and consolidate learning in literacy and numeracy. There is effective communication between the learning-support teacher and the class teacher. It is recommended that the school consider implementing some early-intervention strategies in the area of oral-language development.

 

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

At present, there are few, if any, pupils with particular needs arising from their membership of disadvantaged or minority groups. The school ethos is very inclusive. The school plan contains an Equality of Opportunity policy. The school has an effective policy on promoting attendance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • The board of management is to be commended for the high standard to which the school building and grounds have been maintained and for the development of the drop-off and parking areas at the front of the school.
  • The principal and her colleague foster a welcoming family atmosphere and attach great importance to the personal and social development of each pupil.
  • The teachers have been very proactive in engaging with curriculum support services.
  • There is very good management of pupil behaviour.
  • While there is no subject in which the quality of teaching and learning is weak, there is particularly effective provision for History and aspects of English
  • The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that the board of management establish the views of key stakeholders, including the patron, parents and teachers, on the issue of amalgamation with Annagh Boys’ School. A model for this consultation process is presented in Amalgamation of First-Level Schools, a document produced by the Commission on School Accommodation. A copy of this document was given to the chairperson of the board of management at the post-evaluation meeting.
  • It is recommended that consideration be given to setting up a joint parents’ association for the two Annagh schools, with a view to achieving greater co-ordination of parental involvement in the work of the school.
  • It is recommended that the school review the curricular sections of the school plan with a view to producing a document that reflects and consolidates existing good practice in teaching and learning.
  • It is recommended that, as part of the review of the school plan for English, the school prepare and implement an oral-language programme as described in section 3.1 of this report.
  • It is recommended that pupils be assigned communicative tasks during each Irish lesson. It is recommended also that pupils be required to speak Irish regularly outside of the Irish lesson.

 

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

 

 

 

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 welcomes the whole school evaluation report. Such an evaluation is a useful exercise.  The inspector was courteous, professional and detailed.  We are happy with all that he identifies as positive and will engage with the proposed recommendations to improve the quality of education in the school.

 

.

 

 

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

 

  • Lunch is already taking place in the Principal’s office (when available)
  • Strategies are in place for greater communicative skills in oral Irish
  • A review of the school plan for English is underway