An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



St Farnan’s National School

Killeenduff, County Sligo

Uimhir rolla:09691F


Date of inspection: 26 February 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





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of St Farnan’s National School (NS), Killeenduff was undertaken in February, 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 Drama.  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


St Farnan’s NS is a co-educational primary school which is located approximately three kilometres from Easkey, Co. Sligo. The school was constructed in 1965 but it was extended and refurbished in 2007. The school is known for its musical tradition, its Christmas school productions and its involvement in chess and draughts competitions. Enrolment trends are consistent and pupils’ attendance levels are very good.


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

1 (based elsewhere)

Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St Farnan’s NS is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. The Catholic ethos permeates the school and the promotion of the full development of each child is emphasised. The atmosphere in the school is characterised by high levels of co-operation and respect evident between staff and pupils. There is a strong sense of community in the school where all of the partners work cohesively together in a safe and secure school environment.


1.2 Board of management

The board of management functions effectively and contributes significantly to all aspects of school life. Its members work collaboratively with the parents’ association for the benefit of the pupils. Minutes of board meetings are maintained and board members have engaged in discussion on school policies and ratification of same. The successful completion of the refurbishment of the school to the highest standards is commended. The purchase of a field to the rear of the school and its development as a football field are also to be commended. The chairperson is a regular visitor to the school and provides valuable support to the principal. The school and its surrounds are maintained in a pristine condition by a reliable and dedicated caretaker. The ongoing commitment of the conscientious board of management is laudable.


1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal and the second mainstream class teacher who holds a special duties post. They have worked together for many years and both have given long and distinguished service to the school. They both know the pupils very well. The principal carries out his administrative tasks in a professional and proficient manner. The teachers have complementary skills and make an effective team. They succeed in managing the school efficiently. They create a positive learning environment and are open and welcoming to both visitors and additional teaching personnel.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Very supportive relationships prevail between the parents’ association, board of management and staff. The dedicated parents involve themselves in activities such as helping with preparations for the Christmas productions and supporting football matches. Communication among the partners is very good and teachers accommodate both formal and informal meetings. Parents give generously of their time, commitment and resources and engage themselves productively in various fundraising events. In the past, a local family donated a wooden castle which is used by the junior pupils in the playground. It was completely refurbished through the local Irish Training and Employment Authority (FÁS).The pupils partake in various question times and quizzes in the community and last year some pupils represented the school in the television programme “Quiz-zone”. Other pupils take part in community games and various sporting events held during the weekends. A local music teacher conducts music lessons in the school at weekends.


1.5 Management of pupils

Interaction between staff and pupils and between the pupils themselves is pleasant, relaxed and respectful. Pupils were observed to be courteous, inclusive and co-operative in their play. The pupils are supervised appropriately. They respond positively to school rules and they exhibit justifiable pride in their work and various projects and, in particular, the “Empowering Minds” project in the senior room using lego and information and communications technology (ICT).



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. A comprehensive range of organisational and curricular policies has been formulated by the staff over many years. These policies are practical and user-friendly. The inclusion of a strategic plan is noteworthy as the staff has identified its development priorities for the future. It is recommended that staff meetings be formalised to ensure that teachers have regular opportunities for further whole-school planning. It is also recommended that a systematic record keeping policy be  formulated and implemented. The Irish policy is very well devised. However, an outline of the manner in which the Irish verbs are formally taught and a delineation of the language functions would enhance this policy. The English policy would benefit from the inclusion of a list of language skills, assessments and a greater emphasis on methodologies. The Mathematics policy needs to include an inventory of resources and a list of skills.


The quality of classroom planning is good. Both teachers use a common template for their short-term plans. This is good practice. They plan for content, methodologies, assessment and differentiation and skill development in some subjects. It is recommended that teachers plan for skill development in all curricular areas. It is also recommended that the teachers insert the objectives of the relevant curriculum area in their templates. Both teachers prepare long-term plans of work.  


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



Moltar an dúthracht a chaitheann na hoidí le teagasc na Gaeilge. Is léir go bhfuil na hoidí ag iarraidh dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú i measc na ndaltaí. Baintear úsáid fhónta as obair bheirte, obair ó bhéal, cluichí, rainn, amhráin, drámaíocht agus scéalaíocht mar thaca don fhoghlaim. Baineann na daltaí tairbhe agus sult as na himeachtaí. B’fhiú níos mó deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí obair bheirte a chleachtadh. Forbraíonn na hoidí scileannna na héisteachta go hábalta le tascanna cuí. Aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach cuí rann agus amhrán de ghlanmheabhair le brí agus le taitneamh. Leagtar béim ar leathnú foclóra, ar mhúnlaí cainte, ar litriú, ar ghramadach agus ar obair ó bhéal.


Déantar dea-chúram de mhúineadh na léitheoireachta agus léann formhór na ndaltaí le cruinneas. B’fhiú tascanna mar chluichí léitheoireachta a eagrú a thacaíonn leis an bhfoghlaim. Bunaítear cuid mhaith den obair scríofa ar ábhar sna leabhair shaothair. Moltar do na hoidí obair chruthaitheach a fhorbairt sa scríbhneoireacht. B’fhiú, chomh maith, aird a dhíriú ar dheiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí raon níos leithne scríbhneoireachta a chleachtadh.



The emphasis that the teachers place on Irish is praiseworthy. It is evident that the teachers are developing a positive attitude to Irish among the pupils. Worthwhile use is made of pair work, oral work, games, rhymes, songs, drama and storytelling to support learning. The pupils both benefit and enjoy the activities. However, it is necessary to give pupils even more opportunities to work in pairs. Teachers develop listening skills capably through practising appropriate listening tasks. Pupils recite a suitable range of poems and songs from memory with understanding and interest. Emphasis is placed on the extension of vocabulary and phrases, on spelling, on grammar and on oral work


Good care is given to the teaching of reading and the majority of pupils read accurately. It is recommended that tasks and games be organised to support learning. Much of the written work is based on the content of the workbooks. It is recommended that creative writing be extended. It would also be worthwhile to give the pupils opportunities to practise writing in a wider range of genres.



The quality of teaching and learning in many aspects of English is good, but there is scope for development. While both teachers plan an integrated programme with an emphasis on talk and discussion, it is recommended that the development of focused listening skills be part of the oral language programme. Spelling and grammar are all given due emphasis in the school although an increased focus on developing challenging vocabulary would benefit pupils. The use of ICT and project work in pupils’ learning is praiseworthy. Both teachers plan for a print-rich environment and this good practice should be extended. Overall, greater emphasis on pupils’ skill development in reading, writing, speaking and listening in English is recommended.


Pupils have good phonological awareness developed in the early years and many read fluently and confidently. Some pupils need further support with comprehension skills. It is recommended that teachers plan through group work for differentiated tasks and activities in reading. Regular recording of progress should be prioritised. Large format books are used productively in the junior classes but further investment in such books is necessary to support teaching and learning. Consideration should be given to the development of shared reading and paired reading as appropriate. It is strongly recommended that the school community develops a school library to arouse further interest in reading for pleasure. Cursive writing is very well developed. The pupils write in a variety of genres and the quality of this writing is good. There is a commendable emphasis on the promotion and memorisation of poetry.


3.2 Mathematics

Good practice in the teaching and learning of Mathematics was observed during the evaluation. Concrete materials and oral work are used constructively during lessons. However, it is recommended that pupils are given cards and tasks to enable them work independently with these materials. The structure and pace of lessons is very good. Arithmetical tables are emphasised and there is a variety of strands covered in the programme of work. The use of the classroom environment and the linking of Mathematics to the pupils’ experiences are noteworthy. The use of mathematics trails should be developed as a methodology.


The pupils display positive attitudes to mathematics lessons. They answer oral and written questions and problems confidently and they use mathematical language appropriately. Pupils in the senior room complete written exercises competently. However, the presentation of pupils’ work needs to be emphasised. Further investment in mathematical resources is recommended and more emphasis should be placed on problem-solving and Mathematics in the environment.


3.3 Drama

The quality of learning and teaching in Drama is noteworthy. Planning according to the objectives of the curriculum is a feature of the good practice observed in the teaching of Drama. A variety of methodologies such as teacher-in-role, mime, group work and pair work is used effectively during lessons. The pupils are given a dramatic dilemma or a problem to solve and skills are appropriately developed. Assessment takes place through discussion, observation and assignment of tasks. The pupils clearly enjoy the lessons which are integrated with other curricular areas. Emphasis is on participation, co-operation, communication and learning to make decisions. The teachers prepare a Christmas production with the pupils on a bi-annual basis. The pupils derive educational and personal development benefit as well as enjoyment from the production.


3.4 Assessment

Standardised attainment tests are administered annually in English reading and Mathematics. Further diagnostic tests are administered to pupils in need of learning support. The school is advised to maintain samples of pupils’ work, profiles of pupils and checklists of their progress. Also, pupils’ progress across the curriculum should be monitored and recorded on a regular basis.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The support for pupils is managed in a collaborative manner. There is a high level of awareness within the school of the particular needs of individual pupils. The support area is a pleasant, stimulating environment. The experienced support teacher devises detailed individual profile and learning programmes for each of the five pupils in receipt of supplementary support. A wide range of resources complements her work. Pupils’ progress is regularly recorded and reviewed at suitable intervals throughout the year. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) test is administered in senior infants to identify pupils experiencing difficulties with early reading skills.


The pupils requiring support are withdrawn for short intensive sessions. Consideration should now be given to the implementation of part of the physical education programme to support those pupils who have difficulties with motor control. Consideration should also be given to the provision of some in-class support, when appropriate. It is recommended that the support teacher works with the class teachers to enhance comprehension skills, listening skills and the development of challenging vocabulary with those pupils in need of support.


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

There are no pupils in the school who receive additional resources to promote educational inclusion and at present there are no pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school. The school ethos is open and

welcoming and this is reflected in school documentation.



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The co-operation of the principal and staff contributes significantly to the collegial atmosphere and sense of community within the school.

·         The conscientious board of management and the dedicated parents’ association work effectively and cohesively on behalf of the school.

·         The school environment is safe and secure and the facilities have been upgraded to the highest standards.

·         There are relaxed, respectful relations between staff and pupils and the pupils exhibit very good behaviour in school.

·         The emphasis on oral work in the lessons evaluated was commendable.

·         The standard of teaching and learning observed in Drama was noteworthy.

·         Support for pupils is managed in a collaborative manner.


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

·         It is recommended that staff meetings be formalised to ensure teachers have regular opportunities for whole-school planning.

·         It is recommended that a systematic record-keeping policy be formulated and implemented.

·         Further investment in mathematical resources is recommended and more emphasis should be placed on problem-solving and on Mathematics in the environment.

·         It is recommended that a school library be developed.

·         It is recommended that the teachers include the development of focused listening skills as part of the oral language programme in English.


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 June 2009