An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Rathduane National School

Rathmore, County Kerry

Uimhir rolla:  09385V

 

Date of inspection: 22 May 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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Rathduane National School was undertaken in May, 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, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts. 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

 

Rathduane National school is a two-teacher, co-educational primary school, under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Kerry. It is situated in Ballydaly, a rural area, mid-way between Millstreet and Rathmore. There are three teachers, who are based in other schools, providing learning support and resource teaching to pupils. Enrolment figures have remained steady at the school in recent years. The school was built in 1869 and is well maintained. The contribution of the part-time ancillary staff to the work of the school is acknowledged. A Green Flag was obtained by the school in the past school year. The school has been involved in the Dissolving Boundaries Programme and is scheduled to part-take in a Comenius project beginning in September 2009.

 

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

21

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

1

 

 1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The school community strives to provide a caring, happy and secure atmosphere for pupils. A warm and welcoming atmosphere was evident during the period of inspection. This characteristic spirit of the school is reflected in the daily positive interactions among pupils and teachers. Pupils enjoy school and their levels of attendance are high.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted under the Department of Education and Science guidelines. Meetings are convened at least once a term and whenever the need arises. Minutes are recorded and agenda are prepared in advance. A detailed financial report is presented at each meeting. A commendable maintenance programme is in place. In keeping with best practice the board is directly involved in the whole-school planning process. Both organisational and curriculum policies are discussed and ratified at its meetings. Specific duties are allocated to various board members and much credit is due to them for their dedicated work in a range of areas. Many members have attended training events to assist them in their role. The chairperson maintains ongoing communication with the principal and staff. It is apparent from minutes of the board’s meetings that curriculum and attainment issues are not a feature of the meetings. It is now recommended that the board allocates time at meetings to discuss these items. It is also recommended that formal structures be put in place to develop open communication with parents.  Key priorities for the board at present are health and safety issues, well-being of the pupils and staff and providing a better learning environment.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal and special duties teacher. The principal has both class and administrative responsibilities. He carries out administrative duties in a competent manner that facilitates the smooth running of the school. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. Of particular note is his commitment to the development of the school plan. It is now recommended that a strategic and focused approach be taken to implementing the plan in all classes. A comprehensive review of attainment levels should also be considered. The creation of a happy learning environment in the school is achieved through the cultivation of good rapport among the staff.

The work of the special duties teacher is clearly defined and carried out with enthusiasm and commitment. The work encompasses a judicious mix of administrative, curricular leadership and pastoral roles. Team meetings take place as part of staff meetings and minutes are maintained.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

There is no formal parents’ association at the school. The inspector met with the parents’ representatives on the Board of management at the pre-evaluation meeting. Parents expressed, both verbally and in writing, concern and dissatisfaction with the education provision and attainment levels at the school. This matter has recently been conveyed to the chairperson of the board of management. It is recommended that the board takes appropriate measures to address the concerns expressed as a matter of urgency. It is also recommended that the board facilitates the establishment of a formal parents’ association to develop and promote better communication and parental involvement in the school.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The board of management and the teaching staff have drawn up a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies that are implemented consistently in the school. The code of behaviour is circulated to parents annually. The pupils in the school are very well behaved and they display pride and interest in their work and co-operate willingly with their teachers during all class activities. They are eager to engage in discussion and take part in their learning.  

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The school plan is of a high standard.A wide range of clear school policies has been developed in organisational and administrative areas. Among the range of planning documents available are policies and key statements on enrolment, code of behaviour, anti-bullying, and health and safety. All policies have been ratified by the board, signed and dated. Whole school plans are available for all curricular areas and are based on the strands and strand units of the Primary Curriculum (1999). Most policies are comprehensive and relevant to the school. Some policies have been revised during the current school year. It is recommended that the board develops a strategic plan for the regular revision of various elements of the school plan.

 

All teachers provide long and short term plans for their teaching. The short term plans do not contain learning objectives, differentiation, modes of assessment nor provision for skill development in all cases. Consideration should be given to including these elements in the short term planning for teaching and learning. It is recommended that long term planning be more specific and detailed.

 

Individual learning programmes are developed and regularly reviewed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. These records are maintained by the learning support teacher and resource teachers. Copies of individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.

 

All teachers complete a monthly report. These documents are largely content-based. They reflect the subject content as taught by the teacher during the identified time. It is recommended that this report become a valuable assessment tool to gather information for the school as a whole. By linking with the school’s identified priorities, these data can be used to assist further in the selection of appropriate strategies for the teachers and the learners. Management of this work by the in-school management team could greatly assist the learning process.

  

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 Overview of learning and teaching

 

Good practice was observed in some classes, however it is evident that there is scope for development regarding methodologies and breadth and balance of the school’s curriculum in accordance with the Primary Curriculum (1999). It is recommended that measures are taken to ensure that all strands and strand units and a balance between skills and knowledge form an integral part of teaching and learning activities. Attainment levels in some classes have scope for improvement. Teaching and learning should be pitched at a level appropriate to the learning needs of all pupils. A wider range of teaching methodologies should be employed to ensure pupils’ participation in their learning.

 

3.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

I múineadh na Gaeilge cuirtear béim ar an rangtheagasc ach i gcuid de na ranganna baintear úsáid éifeachtach as cluichí éisteachta, amhráin agus dánta. Baineann na h-oidí úsáid as an Ghaeilge mar mhéan cumarsáide le linn an teagaisc. Baineann na daltaí úsáid, áfach, as an Béarla chun soiléiriú a lorg i rith na gceacntanna. B’fhiú breis béime a leagan ar chur chuige cumarsáideach agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an foclóir agus na frásaí atá ar eolas acu a úsáid agus a líofacht a fhorbairt. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht ar an iomlán ar na téacsleabhair agus na leabhair saothair. Tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí na leabhair sin a léamh agus san iomlán léiríonn siad tuiscint chuí. Ba chóir féiniarracht na ndaltaí a lorg agus a chothú sa scríbhneoireacht. Déantar cúram ceart den litriú. Moltar athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile atá in úsáid faoi láthair agus aire a dhíriú ar chumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a neartú agus ar fhorbairt agus leanúnachas ó rang go rang. 

 

Irish

In the teaching of Irish, emphasis is placed on whole class teaching but effective use is made of listening games, songs and poems in some classes. The teachers use Irish as a means of communication during instruction. Pupils, however use English when requesting clarification during lessons. It would be beneficial to place a greater emphasis on a communicative approach and to provide the pupils with opportunities to use the vocabulary and phrases they know and to develop their fluency in the language. Reading and writing activities are wholly based on textbooks and on work books. The pupils can read these books and generally display an appropriate understanding. Pupils’ own imput should be sought and fostered in writing. Spelling is appropriately dealt with. It is recommended that the school plan for Irish be reviewed with a view to placing a focus on strengthening and developing the pupils’ communicative abilities and on continuity of work from class to class.

 

English

A whole school plan for English has been devised. However this plan is not school specific and it is advisable to revise it and contextualise it to this school.

The junior classroom provides a suitable print-rich environment and this work should be expanded throughout the school. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes, but even more emphasis should now be placed on early intervention strategies to tackle learning difficulties as soon as possible. Appropriate emphasis is placed on modelling the reading process. 

Class novels are used to enrich the reading programme in the senior classes and pupils clearly enjoy the work based on them.

The strategies used in the development of writing should be focused on fostering the pupils’ impulse to write and on enabling them to write competently, confidently and independently in every class. The development of cognitive abilities through language should be assisted by encouraging the pupils to clarify and refine their thoughts through the process of drafting and redrafting their writing.  The writing process should be scaffolded by the teachers and the pupils should be helped to develop a command of the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling, as they arise in the context of the oral, reading and writing work at particular class levels.

 

Opportunities for oral language enrichment are provided on a regular basis. It is advised that a more structured whole-school approach to oral language be devised to ensure a variety of genres is explored and that vocabulary is developed systematically through discrete oral language lessons.

 

3.3 Mathematics

 

Mathematics achievement is generally of an acceptable standard and this is reflected in standardised test results. Given that each teacher has responsibility for four classes, group teaching must of necessity prevail. Both teachers set each class a range of tasks and seek out common themes that allow for learning groups to work together. It is now recommended that these tasks be differentiated to address the learning needs of all pupils. In broad outline, at infant level the children are introduced to an appropriate mathematical vocabulary and much of the learning is presented during play activities where the work is underpinned by a purposeful use of concrete materials. In every class the work follows the content and sequence outlined in a commercially produced scheme and this facilitates a systematic treatment of the various topics prescribed in the curriculum. In addition, this is supplemented by a range of worksheets and materials produced by staff and the learning is recorded in generally well ordered and systematically monitored copybooks.

 

3.4 Visual Arts

 

 The teachers have embraced the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum. Planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum and appropriate time is allocated to teaching Visual Arts. The classroom environment supports pupil learning and a range of materials and resources is used appropriately in the delivery of the programme. The pupils’ work is attractively displayed in the classrooms and engagement with activities is effectively organised. The manner, in which the multiple class setting is organised to ensure that no group of pupils is excluded from the opportunity to express artistic thought appropriate to its age or ability, is commended. 

 

3.5 Assessment

 

A range of assessment instruments is used in the school. The school administers both screening and diagnostic tests that include Bellfield, MIST, Quest, Aston Index, Micra-T and Sigma-T. A school plan for assessment has been devised and ratified by the board. As part of this process, it is recommended that the school should analyse the results of standardised tests over time in order to build up a comprehensive picture of achievement in the school. Teachers use teacher devised tasks and tests and teacher observation to assess pupil achievement. Consideration should be given to maintaining teacher observation notes and the use of information obtained from the variety of assessment modes in use for planning for future learning.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school has prepared a comprehensive and detailed whole school policy on education for pupils with special educational needs. Three teachers provide learning support and resource provision on a part-time shared basis. Each teacher is based in other schools in the area and attends the school for a total of 15.75 hours weekly. Consideration should now be given to the rationalisation of this provision. The provision for pupils with special educational needs and learning difficulties in this school is very good as the school avails of the services of experienced special education teachers. The required resources, both personnel and material, are suitably accessed to meet the needs of these pupils and the results of assessment tests are used effectively in planning suitable learning programmes for them. Support teachers reported that they do not meet as a team. Provision should now be made for formal team meetings to allow for a collaborative approach to special education needs’ provision. Parents of children with special educational needs are consulted on the development of Individual Education Plans and Individual Pupil Learning Profiles and are informed of their children’s progress. Records on pupils’ progress are very well maintained. Instruction in learning support classes is effective where a variety of visual and concrete materials is used during teaching and learning sessions. Pupil interest is effectively stimulated during these classes. The school has a variety of very suitable educational software to support the use of ICT in special education. Teachers use a variety of games, charts, cards, rhymes, and phonemic awareness activities to support teaching and learning.  Some pupils receive support in both numeracy and literacy. 

 

Most support is provided on a withdrawal basis with limited in-class support. It is recommended that the school consider wider possibilities for the in-class support of pupils with special educational needs. The early intervention programme which has been initiated in the school should now be developed and extended further.

 

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

 

The school welcomes children from all backgrounds and has as its aim that every child should enjoy and benefit from school life. Each pupil is provided with opportunities to take part in school activities and in additional curricular activities

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·     The school plan is well laid out and is based on the needs of the school.

 

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, November 2009