An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Rockmount National School
Miltown Malbay, County Clare
Roll number: 09390O
Date of inspection: 05 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Whole School Evaluation Report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Rockmount National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which an inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with the teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.
Rockmount National School is a two-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in west Clare approximately three miles north-east of the town of Miltown Malbay. The school was constructed in 1865 and was extended in 1991, 1995 and 2003. The school retains many of the features of the 19th century but the later additions of a small classroom, office and computer room, toilets and storage area have provided the staff with adequate facilities to enable them deliver a wide and interesting curriculum.
There are currently 47 pupils enrolled in the school, 23 boys and 24 girls. In 2003 there were 50 pupils enrolled which resulted in the school having three class teachers. With the drop in enrolments the number of teachers was reduced so that currently there are two class teachers employed. A recent numbers projection suggests that enrolments in the school should remain in the forties for the foreseeable future and under the current pupil-teacher ratio, it is likely that the number of class teachers will remain the same also. The school draws pupils from a wide catchment area. The families of past pupils, who are now living a distance from the school, also attend. The school has access to a shared learning-support teaching service, which is based in Inagh N.S. and a part-time resource teacher offers assistance also. This year the school has support from an undergraduate student who is on work-experience and who is ably guided by the teachers. Pupil attendance is carefully monitored and pupils display very good attendance patterns.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe. The board of management is properly constituted, all officers are appointed and meetings occur regularly. It is reported that at least five meetings a year take place and minutes are taken at all meetings. The finance officer maintains detailed records of all payments and all funds are used appropriately. The board of management has drawn up a mission statement and its aim is to foster an atmosphere where respect, co-operation and responsibility are central to all learning experiences. The board actively promotes the involvement of parents in the activities of the school. Parent representatives on the board of management report on the decisions of meetings to the general parent body. In addition, parents are involved in the drafting of a number of policies including Relationships and Sexuality (RSE), safety statement and homework. The parent body is also involved in sub-committees to develop the school football field and in organising a number of social occasions.
The board of management takes an active part in the development of a number of administrative policies. The board is presently developing an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for school internet use due to the extension of broadband technology to the school. The board is also involved in developing a healthy eating policy together with a review of the school’s health and safety policy. All school policies have been ratified by the board and signed by the chairperson.
The board of management praised the dedication and commitment of the teachers in providing a holistic approach to the education of the pupils and in ensuring that all pupils receive a broad and balanced education. Board members praised the teachers for the personal interest taken by them in assisting all pupils progress to the best of their abilities and for developing an inclusive learning environment. In particular, board members stated that the emphasis placed on social skills training and the high standard of education received by the pupils ensure that they transfer without difficulty to second level education.
From discussions with the board it is evident that all members take an active part in the development of the educational facilities in the school and all display a keen interest in school activities. The commitment of the board and of the parents is exemplified in the development of a football pitch for the school, totally by voluntary labour. The board of management is highly commended for its interest in, and dedication to the provision of very good facilities and resources to assist the teaching and learning in Rockmount National School.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and deputy principal. Duties are clearly defined for these post holders and contracts are in place. The duties of the principal are in accordance with the Rules for National Schools and are in line with relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. The principal provides the school with informed and caring leadership and there is very good rapport between principal and deputy principal and indeed, throughout the school, there is evidence of a deep sense of collegiality among all who deliver a service to the pupils. The principal is commended for her expertise in carrying out her duties in a conscientious and sensitive manner. The principal and deputy principal meet very regularly to discuss roles and duties. Formal staff meetings are held each term with agreed agenda in place. At these meetings work in progress is reviewed and planning for future developments is outlined. The duties of the deputy principal incorporate organisational and curricular roles and a contract is in place. The duties assigned to the posts are reviewed regularly. The pastoral role of the deputy principal is not clearly defined in the duties as stated and it should be further developed at the next post-holder review. The post- holders are commended for the teamwork in place and for the pleasant, co-operative, educational atmosphere, which is in evidence throughout the school.
There are 21 pupils in the junior section of the school comprising of classes from infants to second and there are 26 pupils in the senior section comprising of classes third to sixth. The assigned teachers have had charge of their particular class-groupings for some time and have developed a number of very good strategies in dealing with this multi-class situation. It is suggested that opportunities be provided for each teacher to teach the full range of classes in the school in the future.
The school is one of the oldest in Clare and it is situated on a hilltop with spectacular views over the Atlantic coast. The additional structures added in the last decade blend very well with the traditional building. The school is cleaned daily, maintained to an exceptionally high standard and is brightly decorated both inside and outside. A tarmacadam play area encircles the school building and outdoor shelters have been adorned with murals depicting scenes from the local environment. Due to the limited size of the play area, the board of management with assistance from the parents has developed a football field for the pupils adjacent to the school. This was a huge undertaking and all concerned are commended for the work involved in providing this excellent facility. The excellent standard of the building and grounds is a credit to the board of management, teachers, pupils and caretaker.
Heating in the school is supplied by storage heaters and meets present needs. Classroom furniture is of a very good standard and the range of other furniture available suitably meets present needs. The classrooms are rectangular in shape and, with the present numbers in the school, there is very little space left for teachers to develop curricular interest areas. Despite this limitation the teachers provide interesting displays of the pupils’ work across all curricular areas. The size of classrooms together with the large number of pupils now attending the school also have a limiting effect on the range of methodologies that teachers can utilise. The school is situated on a very exposed site and weather conditions often make it extremely difficult to develop outdoor activities. Access to a general-purposes room would help to alleviate many of these difficulties and it is suggested that the board of management pursue the possibility of having a general-purposes room constructed on the school grounds.
The school is well resourced with a wide variety of suitable Science, Physical Education, Music and Mathematics equipment and materials available. These resources are used very effectively to enhance teaching and learning. A wide assortment of educational charts is used effectively during lessons and all classrooms have well stocked libraries of reference books, novels and fiction books selected to suit the age and reading levels of the pupils. The school has developed an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) suite with six computers networked and a range of suitable software available. Overall a stimulating learning environment is created in the school, which enhances the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum.
The school plan is a well laid out document which is being developed in consultation with staff members, board of management and parents. In developing the plan assistance is given by cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives. In addition many of the plans are developed initially at cluster meetings of six schools in the immediate area which are of similar size and background. Plans are then modified, following consultation with stakeholders, to meet the particular local needs of the individual schools. This initiative is commended.
The organisational section of the school plan contains the school’s mission statement together with policies and procedures for the following aspects of the life of the school: discipline, enrolment, homework, administration of medicines, prevention of substance misuse, gender equality, school attendance, health and safety, posts of responsibility, assessment, relationships and sexuality (RSE) and ICT. These policies are very well laid out and clear. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The curricular areas of the school plan reflect very well the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and include policies for English, Mathematics, Gaeilge, Visual Arts and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). From the school development plan it is noted that policies in PE, History, Geography and healthy eating are in the process of being formulated. It is planned to review special education and Music in the current school year. The board of management has formally adopted all policies. The staff and the board of management are commended on the level of reflection on the work undertaken to date and for their inputs to the process. The number of areas for development and review should now be prioritised in a strategic school plan and developed in accordance with the needs of the school taking into account the time constraints of the school year. The involvement of parents in developing a number of plans is commended and this is a practice that should also be expanded in the future. The development of a summary booklet outlining the school policies and procedures for parents to be distributed at the commencement of the school year should also be considered.
All the teachers prepare comprehensive individual long and short-term plans for their classes, and monthly progress records are also maintained. There is a clear linkage between the objectives as outlined in the school plan, the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and those articulated in individual long-term planning. Teachers’ short-term planning sets out the content to be taught across all curricular areas and includes strands and strand units. Teachers should now reduce the content aspect of short-term planning and should document the main instructional objectives, a brief description of the methodologies to be used, resources needed and proposed assessment strategies. This planning could then be linked more closely to the school plan. The school should consider developing a number of templates to assist teachers in the development of individual plans in order to ensure greater cohesion across all areas.
An appropriate range of teaching methodologies and approaches is used effectively by the teachers in well ordered educational settings. Pupils are very respectful and engage willingly in all activities. The range and variety of topics covered by pupils in all classes is of a creditable standard.
Cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh fabhrach i leith na Gaeilge sna seomraí ranga agus sa scoil ionas go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh as an bhfoghlaim. Saothraítear go díograiseach i múineadh an chomhrá, idir fhoirmiúil agus neamhfhoirmiúil agus tá caighdeán maith sroichte ag na daltaí i gcoitinne. Baintear úsáid fhónta as cluichí, rainn, amhráin agus as acmhainní oiriúnacha chun cumas cainte na bpáistí sa teanga labhartha a fhorbairt sna ranganna éagsúla. Sna bunranganna leagtar béim chóir ar an drámaíocht agus ar chluichí chun úsáid na Gaeilge mar mheán cumarsáide a chothú. Déanann na daltaí iarracht chreidiúnach fíorchumarsáid a dhéanamh sna hardranganna agus tá caighdeán an-mhaith bainte amach acu. Baintear úsáid chuí as an nGaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith gnáththeagasc an lae freisin agus moltar anois an cur chuige cumarsáideach seo a fhorbairt tríd an lae a thuilleadh fós.
Léann na daltaí go cruinn agus léiríonn siad a dtuiscint ar an ábhar léitheoireachta trí cheisteanna a fhreagairt ó bhéal. Tá an scríbhneoireacht bunaithe, don chuid is mó, ar an ábhar léitheoireachta agus ar na ceachtanna comhrá. Scríobhtar píosaí cruthaitheacha freisin agus tá caighdeán maith le feiceáil sna samplaí seo. Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar obair scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí agus tá an obair seo slachtmhar. Tá raon suimiúil rann, véarsaí taitneamhacha agus cnuasach oiriúnach filíochta ar eolas ag na daltaí agus aithrisíonn siad go fonnmhar iad.
The teaching of English is carried out in a proficient manner in all classes with pupils achieving excellent standards across all strands. Appropriate emphasis is placed on oral communication and the pupils are willing and able to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings effectively using a wide and varied vocabulary. The development in the senior classes of the pupils’ skills in expressing ideas and feelings through poetry composition is exemplary and the range of topics and depth of emotions explored is of a commendable standard. Oral language is an integral part of all lessons and is very suitably developed across all curricular areas with pupils in the senior classes ably debating and discussing a range of topics.
All aspects of the English reading programme are developing very well. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes through the effective use of teacher-made resources and illustrative materials and these reading skills are systematically developed in all classes. Suitable activities are used to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness in the junior classes and this is further promoted throughout the school. Reading for different purposes such as for information and for pleasure is also steadily developed and the class library is used widely. A creditable effort is made to provide a print-rich environment in all classes using an apt range of pupils’ work and teacher-generated resources.
Writing skills are suitably developed in all classes and pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres and for different purposes and different audiences. Class-work is presented neatly and regularly corrected by the teachers. Very good use is made of ICT in presenting pupils’ individual and class booklets of stories and poetry. Pupils are given opportunities to publish and celebrate their finished samples in the Write a Book Project.
A positive approach to the teaching of Mathematics is being developed throughout the school and the pupils have developed a good understanding of the concepts of Mathematics at all class levels. Teachers attach great importance to the careful explanation of the basic procedures and there is effective usage of good questioning techniques during lessons. Concrete materials are used successfully in many of the lessons and this activity-based learning is commended and should be expanded further where possible. Pupils have acquired a proficiency in fundamental mathematical skills and respond enthusiastically and accurately to questioning using appropriate mathematical language. Pupils understand mathematical terminology and definitions and they can communicate and express mathematical ideas, processes and results accurately in oral and written form. Mathematical activities are appropriately integrated with other areas of the curriculum.
Many appropriate approaches including discussion, story, use of timelines and project work are suitably used by the teachers to enable pupils to develop an interest in, and curiosity about the past. The pupils have studied a range of people and events, which has assisted their understanding of family, local, national and world History. In the lessons observed in the area of local studies, a suitable emphasis was placed on the exploration of personal and family history using a range of photographs, old documents and artefacts. These suitably assist the pupils to develop their skills of working as historians especially skills such as using evidence, and developing the concepts of time and chronology and of change and continuity. In all classes there is an emphasis on project work completed by pupils. This work is aptly integrated with other areas of the curriculum in particular English writing and the Visual Arts.
At all class levels pupils are afforded the opportunity of becoming familiar with the skills, knowledge and concepts that are linked with topics from human and natural environments and with seasonal changes. The children display knowledge of a wide range of facts in Geography and also discuss themes in this area accurately. Opportunities are provided for pupils to actively care for their immediate environment through their involvement in the Green Schools’ Environmental Project. The school is commended in its efforts to successfully retain the Green Flag award. Much of the teaching in Geography is based on textbooks and this teaching is supplemented by the use of a range of maps, worksheets and reference books. It is recommended that greater use be made of the local environment and that talks and visits from experts in the local community should be arranged and, in addition, some field trips should be undertaken in order to stimulate pupils’ interest in their own area. It is planned that a whole school policy in Geography will be developed during the current school year and this initiative will enhance curricular provision in this area.
The exploration of basic scientific concepts forms the basis of the learning activities in this curricular area. Illustrative and concrete materials are used in a productive manner during lessons. Nature tables and discovery areas are also in evidence in the classrooms. There is also evidence of appropriate printed materials in the pupils’ immediate environment, which focus on the scientific skills being developed. It is recommended that further emphasis be placed on enabling pupils to explore and develop their skills as scientists through discovery based learning, group-work, discussion and involvement in scientific experimentation.
The strand and strand units of Visual Arts are addressed in a balanced manner and in accordance with the principles outlined in the Primary School Curriculum. Pupils are given many opportunities to develop their skills and creativity in a range of media with appropriate attention given to 2D and 3D construction work. In all classes elements of art including line, shape, form, colour and tone, pattern and rhythm, texture and space are suitably explored. Even though the school building is limited in space, pupils’ achievements are attractively displayed throughout the classrooms and corridors of the school, reflecting the range of materials and techniques to which the pupils are exposed. The integration of Visual Arts with other curricular areas is commendable as is the maintenance of portfolios. When reviewing the school plan, it is recommended that particular emphasis should now be placed on the strand unit Looking and Responding. In view of the excellent ICT facilities available in the school, its potential should be explored in order to provide regular opportunities to look at and respond to the work of well-known artists.
The pupils are appropriately motivated and suitably encouraged to enjoy and understand Music and to appreciate it critically. In all classes concepts are well developed especially the areas of pulse, duration, tempo and pitch, Pupils use a range of standard notation to explore and record simple rhythm and pitch phrases. Pupils sing an interesting range of songs and they are developing an appropriate awareness of dynamics, phrasing and expression. Appropriate work is also undertaken in the area of listening and responding in the classes.
While a whole-school programme has not yet been developed in Drama, there is evidence that
good attention is given to this curricular area in a cross-curricular manner. Drama is aptly used to facilitate activities in oral language in both Irish and English. With the introduction of in-service for teachers in this curricular area in the near future, it is expected that the implementation of the Drama curriculum will be further expanded.
The school is hindered in presenting a full Physical Education (PE) programme by a number of environmental and spatial factors. The school lacks an indoor facility capable of accommodating PE lessons. This means that all lessons are weather dependent and as the school is built on a very exposed site and at an altitude that is conducive to strong wind this weather factor influences full implementation of the PE curriculum. The school yard is small. However, in order to overcome the space limitation around the school the board of management has developed a football and sports field adjacent to it. Despite the unfavourable spatial factors the pupils take part in a wide range of activities designed to assist them in acquiring an appropriate range of movement skills in a variety of contexts. Pupils interact and co-operate sensitively with others during the activities organised and are appropriately encouraged to develop agility, alertness, control, balance and co-ordination through movement. During all lessons pupils are carefully instructed in safe practices for the activities being undertaken. The school has recorded much success in team and individual competitions in schools’ football leagues both for boys and girls and also in cross country running. All involved are commended for their efforts in providing activities that develop the qualities of confidence, self-esteem and team spirit. The provision of a general-purposes room would assist greatly, not only in developing this curricular area but also other curricular areas. It is recommended that the board of management investigates the feasibility of providing such a facility.
A varied and interesting curriculum has been laid out based on a number of resources including Bí Folláin, Stay Safe and Walk Tall and supplemented where necessary by other lessons. The staff is committed to the creation of good relations, mutual respect and a positive climate between themselves and between staff and children. Pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and with adults, and demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills. The promotion of a positive atmosphere in the pupils’ environment is in evidence at all class levels where positive interactions are encouraged, pupil responsibilities are assigned and pupil self-esteem is highlighted and affirmed. Pupils are suitably motivated to make decisions and take appropriate actions in various personal and health contexts. A healthy eating policy is being developed presently in co-operation with parents and the school’s effort at recycling also contributes effectively to pupils’ well-being in this curricular area.
A variety of assessment techniques is used throughout the school. Informal assessment procedures in the form of teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests are in evidence in all mainstream classes. A range of standardised tests, including Drumcondra Primary Reading, Sigma-T and Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), is administered each year. The results of these tests are filed centrally and are appropriately used to provide an objective analysis of pupils’ progress and to assist in the identification of pupils needing supplementary support and teaching. Teachers monitor the progress of individual pupils and, where necessary, a range of diagnostic tests is carried out. Procedures relating to formal assessment are also employed by the learning-support and resource teachers. Consideration should now be given to extending the existing whole-school assessment policy to include a listing of assessment approaches used in all curricular areas. Written progress reports are sent to parents on an annual basis. A parent-teacher meeting takes place annually and other individual meetings with parents are arranged where it is deemed necessary. School attendance records are conscientiously maintained and the Educational Welfare Board is notified of prolonged absences in accordance with the terms of the Education (Welfare Act) 2002.
The school receives additional support from a special education teacher (SET) and also from a part-time resource teacher. The special education teacher visits the school four days a week for two and a half hours each day and gives assistance in English to nine pupils both individually and in groups. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) developed include general information regarding each pupil’s strengths, priority learning needs, objectives, materials and resources. Learning targets are clear, specific and are linked to pupils’ learning needs and reviewed twice yearly.
The part-time resource teacher offers assistance daily to one pupil for a total of three and a half hours a week. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is available for this pupil based on the results of standardised and diagnostic tests, teacher observations and teacher designed tests and inputs from parents and pupils. In this IEP the pupil’s strengths are identified, areas for development are clearly set out, goals are established and clear learning outcomes are presented. Plans are reviewed three times a year. It is reported that interim reviews of (IPLPs) between class teachers and SET occur regularly. It is recommended that a discrete time be set aside on a monthly basis to facilitate teacher engagement in the review of IPLP targets and to set out objectives that are based more cohesively on the work in the mainstream classroom. This should assist pupils in taking a more active part in the general activities of their base classes. All additional supplementary support at present is on a withdrawal basis. It is recommended that the teachers investigate the provision of in-class support in order to address the individual learning needs of pupils in an inclusive context. The promotion of an integrated model of learning-support provision poses challenges in order to ensure that it is effective and that there are tangible benefits to pupils in terms of learning and teaching.
In this school there is a very good community spirit and emphasis is placed on good neighbourliness and on caring for each other. All pupils are included in all school activities. The school does not receive additional supports from the Department of Education and Science for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The school displays an inclusive ethos in fostering a caring, friendly and a welcoming spirit. There are no pupils from minority groups currently enrolled in the school.
Parental involvement in many of the school’s activities is at a high level and positive relationships between home and school are fostered. Parents take an active part in many of the school’s activities by providing transport to games and athletics meets, by organising participation at the local Saint Patrick’s Day parade, by supporting school concerts, socials and discos and in coaching pupils for quizzes. All parents have generously given of their time and support to assist in developing the school’s football field. Parents also take an active part in the Green Schools Project. Parents have an input into the development of a number of policies and in particular RSE and homework.
During the whole school evaluation parents reported their satisfaction with the quality of education provided in the school. In particular, parents praised the high level of support for pupils, the wide range of extra-curricular activities undertaken and the inclusive ethos that permeates the whole school community.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development of the school identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.