Whole School Evaluation
Saint Berehert’s NS
Tullylease, Charleville, County Cork
Roll number: 09815U
Date of inspection: 8 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 29 June 2006
Whole School Evaluation
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Berehert’s NS. 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 school. During the evaluation, the inspector 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 the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, and examined students’ work. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and 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.
Saint Berehert’s NS is situated on an attractive, spacious site in the village of Tullylease in North Cork. This modern building was constructed in 1995 and overlooks an old monastic settlement in the village which readily provides a valuable font of material for local educational projects. The school caters for boys and girls, and pupils in the main are drawn from the immediate locality. The current enrolment is twenty four, and this represents a decrease of eighteen since June 1999 when the last school report was written. Current enrolment trends suggest this figure should be sustainable over the coming years.
The school’s motto “Fáilte, Foghlaim agus Feabhas” underpins its worthy aim of striving to provide a caring, happy and secure environment, where the intellectual, spiritual, physical and cultural needs of the children are identified and addressed. The staff strives earnestly to promote a sense of community in the school.
The school is committed to developing strategies to promote good attendance and to this end high standards in pupil attendance are celebrated each year through the awarding of certificates.
The previous school report was written in 1999 and the following issues were highlighted for discussion therein: oral presentation skills, forbairt na Gaeilge labhartha and handwriting. The school has made a determined effort to develop further good practice in addressing these issues.
The board of management meets on a regular basis. Issues relating to the administration of the school are discussed in a sensitive manner and proceedings are systematically documented. Board members are assigned specific responsibilities which they discharge with dedication and commitment. They have a clear understanding of their role in supporting school practice and take an active part in promoting the aims of the school and in the ratification of school policies. The board is committed to maintaining quality standards in accommodation and the current problem with the leaking roof is of particular concern. In addition, in accordance with his supportive role, the chairperson maintains regular contact with the principal and staff and his support is greatly appreciated. An ardent commitment to maintaining a strong community spirit is clearly evident among board members and staff.
The principal proffers effective organisational and instructional leadership in giving direction to the school and all staff shares her commitment and sense of purpose. Her style of leadership is characterised by a primary concern for the welfare of her pupils and for all members of staff. She is ably supported by willing colleagues and this presents as a productive collaborative relationship that makes a clear and valuable contribution to the maintenance of high operational standards overall.
Staff meetings are convened formally at least once per term and informally as need arises, and these serve to focus attention on the success of a variety of relevant activities. Curricular, organisational and planning issues are discussed regularly and minutes are recorded.
The teaching staff comprises the principal and two teachers, one of whom serves as a learning support/resource teacher and who works with three other schools. Non-teaching staff such as secretary and cleaner/caretaker are effectively deployed. External personnel are also contracted regularly to carry out repair work as necessary. Their diligence and valuable contribution in carrying out their duties is duly acknowledged. The school employs external tutors in Dance and Music. This initiative is funded partly through the grant received under Giving Children an Even Break and through contributions from the parents. All children partake in these activities.
Overall the school is very well resourced, a circumstance that reflects positively on the conscientious and purposeful endeavours of teachers and parents. There is a comprehensive supply of learning materials, and in each classroom there is a variety of attractive teacher-made and commercially-produced illustrative materials. The corridors and classrooms are utilised effectively for display purposes and contain attractive exhibits of pupils’ work. Computer technology is a notable feature in this school and the children’s enthusiasm in embracing the new technology is evident. All members of staff are particularly confident with the technology and it takes a central place in complementing the learning process.
The school was built in 1995 and in co-operation with the board of management, the staff has succeeded admirably in creating a stimulating learning environment. Clearly, the children treat the building and surrounds with respect. There is a spacious grass area and a hard surface play area for recreation. A high standard of hygiene, neatness, décor and order is in evidence throughout the building.
Staff seek to maintain friendly collaboration and a good working rapport with all parents, with the child’s balanced growth as the focus of this collaboration. The school recognises the value of good communication in building trust and respect between home and school and to this end a newsletter is issued periodically, detailing school activities. Parents are informed of their children’s progress by means of formal and incidental meetings with teachers. At these meetings parents are afforded ample opportunity to obtain full information on their children’s progress. Parents have very positive attitudes towards the school. They are made feel welcome and are quite comfortable in approaching staff with concerns or ideas. At the pre-evaluation meeting the parents’ representatives on the board were highly complimentary of the staff and supportive of its operations. However, involvement in the school plan to date is rather limited. To this end it is appropriate that the school might explore how best it might involve parents in the continuing development of the school plan in all its aspects.
The school is to be commended for its endeavours in the area of school planning. The staff has developed an effective school plan that includes policies on organisational and curricular matters. The school plan was developed through a participative and consultative process and involved the staff and board of management. The plan is presented in two sections and is a comprehensive document. The first section outlines organisational policies that include the school’s code of discipline, its mission statement, information on the general operation of the school, staff development and policy statements on special needs. A healthy eating policy is also included and it is noted that the school achieved a “ Healthy Promoting School Award” in 2005.
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 the Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Section two of the document contains the school plan for all the curricular areas. It is evident that the plan is being updated in conjunction with the implementation of Primary Curriculum (1999). The plans of work that have been developed in Gaeilge, English, Social Personal and Health Education, Mathematics and Visual arts have contributed to effective teaching and to the progression in content and methodology from the junior classes to the senior classes. A school plan for policy development and self-review is also included.
The school makes a determined effort to offer a broad, well-balanced curriculum and to this end teachers prepare praiseworthy long- and short-term schemes of work for all curricular areas. The onerous task that teachers regularly undertake in planning for multiple class groups is acknowledged. The long and short-term lesson plans are characterised by high levels of relevance. They outline clear aims and objectives and also include provision for skill development, integration, differentiation and assessment. In addition, at the end of each month, they produce a detailed record of work completed and, appropriately, this facilitates continuity and progression. All this constitutes excellent practice and is laudable.
The learning is proceeding in a purposeful and effective fashion throughout the school in accordance with the school plan and the staff is diligent in implementing what has been agreed and recorded in the document. In effect, this facilitates a high measure of coordination between classes, a commendable level of continuity and progression from class to class in dealing with individual needs and in selecting programmes of work.
The principal and class teacher have four classes in each room. The standard of teaching observed is of accomplished quality. A worthy balance is achieved between teacher-focused classroom interaction, group work, pair work and the active involvement of pupils in the learning process.
Caitheann na hoidí dua le teagasc na Gaeilge tríd an scoil agus cothaítear timpeallacht Ghaelach sna rangsheomraí. Cuirtear clár foghlama cothrom ar fáil bunaithe ar eispéireas na ndaltaí, ina leagtar béim ar éisteacht, labhairt agus ar thuiscint na teanga. Cuireann na hoidí fearas chun sochair go cliste agus iad i mbun saothair. Cleachtar cluichí beaga samhlaíocha sa teagasc ina mbíonn na daltaí lánghníomhach. Téitear i mbun drámaí beaga, agus gníomhamhrán go han-fhónta. Déantar tréan-iarracht an Ghaeilge a bhunú mar theanga chaidrimh i measc na bpáistí, le húsáid na teanga go neamhfhoirmiúil i mionchuairtí an lae. Fanann sé mar dhúshlán faoin scoil ról na héisteachta agus na scéalaíochta a chothú a thuilleadh agus, maille leis, an chaint leanúnach a chur chun cinn ar bhealach sistéamach i ngach rang. Déantar iarracht choinsiasach cumas léitheoireachta na bpáistí a fhorbairt ach moltar anois feidhm sa bhreis a bhaint as ábhar léitheoireachta atá in oiriúint d’aois agus do chumas na bpáistí. Saothraítear an scríbhneoireacht go dílis agus tá sé de nós an-chreidiunach dialann laethúil á choimeád ag gach dalta
Opportunities for language development are regularly exploited in English lessons and throughout the curriculum. Teachers systematically plan a wide range of imaginative oral activities that promote the pupils’ confidence in expressing themselves both orally and in writing. Particular attention is paid to developing pupils’ receptive language skills and pupils are encouraged to listen attentively to the views of others. A range of poetry is explored and the pupils enjoy reading, reciting and writing their own poems.
The development of reading presents as a key challenge, a factor that is readily recognised by staff. The school is to be congratulated in its efforts to develop pupils’ reading skills to date. Children acquire a useful sight vocabulary at an early stage and proceed to a generally sound grasp of phonics. A graded reading scheme is supplemented appropriately by use of the novel and by a systematic promotion of library book reading. This has been a proud and long-standing tradition in the school. The younger children laudably receive additional support through shared reading initiatives. An examination of reading scores indicates that in broad outline the children are achieving at a standard that is in accord with their ages and abilities.
The school works hard to develop the quality of children’s writing by publishing stories and poems. Some excellent examples of personal and creative writing were noted and pupils are routinely provided with opportunities to write for a variety of purposes. The computers in the classrooms are utilised extensively to support this work. Pupils’ work is marked in a positive and supportive manner and punctuation and handwriting are developed appropriately.
The standard of achievement in Mathematics indicates that pupils in general are making good progress. Teachers plan their lessons sensibly, making sure that there is good variety in activities that meets pupils’ varying levels of understanding. Exercises in memorisation of number facts are a feature in all classes and revision tests are regularly administered. When challenged on topics drawn from specific areas of the prescribed programmes, many children responded with accuracy, confidence and considerable enthusiasm. Planning in this area commendably allows for the development of a whole-school approach to the teaching and acquisition of mathematical language. The use of concrete material is widespread and purposeful and is recognised by staff as a productive means of developing the pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts. The further development of their problem solving skills might be viewed as a suitable challenge by the school when the Mathematics standards are being reviewed. The children’s written work is recorded neatly and is regularly monitored and marked by the teachers.
In History the pupils engage in purposeful discussion and work cooperatively in focussed group activities. Commendable attention is given to developing knowledge of the locality, and to this end ICT is utilised effectively to complement this process. Visitors who assist the children to develop an appreciation of their locality are regularly welcomed to the school.
The children’s interest in their environment is nurtured carefully through the programmes in Geography. The project method is used to considerable effect in promoting a wider engagement with areas of individual interest. The effectiveness of this initiative leads to the production of attractive scrapbooks.
The teaching of Science has been introduced in all classes and a suitable programme has been devised. The provision of resources to support this aspect of the programme enables the setting up of simple Science experiments in which pupils are actively and enjoyably engaged.
Children develop their understanding and knowledge of the world through observing living and growing things, finding out why things happen and how things work. The children are encouraged to take a lively interest in animal and plant life, and to promote environmental care. The addition of bird tables in the school grounds adds considerably to the children’s learning experience.
There is a strong tradition and interest in the Visual Arts in the school. The programme has been developed in a manner that promotes the provision of a wide range of suitable activities across all the strands of the curriculum. Pupils are exposed to a wide range of media, technique and skill and it is noted that opportunities for integrating the Visual Arts with other curriculum work are exploited to considerable effect. Painting, printing and drawing activities are given prominence and this work is often complemented by well-chosen three-dimensional craft and construction work. Examples of the work are tastefully displayed on classroom walls and in the corridors, and the various items make a significant contribution to the creation of a stimulating learning environment. The children respond to the work of famous artists and they are actively encouraged to appreciate the work of their peers. The services of visiting artists are regularly commissioned in the further promotion of this curricular area. Consideration could be given to the maintenance of children’s work in portfolios on a yearly basis to ensure that by the time children reach sixth class a comprehensive collection of artwork for each child would be available.
Standards of singing within the school are excellent and the children perform tunefully and with considerable confidence. In all classes their enjoyment is striking and this bears witness to the interest shown by their teachers in promoting an appreciation of Music. The school is fortunate in having teachers with a particular competence in this curricular area. The Music programme enables all pupils to participate in a wide range of enjoyable music-making activities such as performing, listening, responding and identification of rhythmic patterns.
Instrumental Music has a strong tradition in the school. The introduction of a visiting Music teacher has contributed to a great extent to the development of the children’s laudable competence in their playing of the tin-whistle, flute, accordion and concertina.
The teachers promote dramatic activity on a regular basis and are aware of its unique potential in developing different and personal ways of experiencing life. The staging of the school concert is much appreciated by parents and adds considerably to the development of a community spirit.
The PE curriculum is taught successfully and this enables pupils manage themselves and their bodies in a variety of activities. The school has a generous supply of equipment and this is used extensively during activities. These activities are conducted in the community hall and in the school grounds. Clear and precise instruction is given and due attention is paid to pupil involvement, safety and organisation. Commendable attention is given to the development of skills in athletics, court and field games and in aquatics.
Teachers demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the backgrounds and experiences of pupils and have a genuine concern for their progress. Pupils are encouraged to be confident, competent and caring individuals. The school has the worthy aim of developing a love of learning in the children, and an aspiration that all children will reach their potential and that many worlds can be opened up for them. The school’s Social Personal and Health Education programme provides beneficial opportunities for children to understand themselves, to develop healthy relationships, and to establish and maintain healthy patterns of behaviour. Consistent kindness and concern for their welfare characterise the manner in which the teachers interact with the pupils. Pupils in turn are courteous, polite and respectful. The school’s recent efforts in promoting healthy eating habits are praiseworthy.
In respect of the RSE programme, the health board nurse is commissioned to deal with this sensitive area of the syllabus and it is understood that this contribution is valuable and most appreciated by parents.
A range of assessment modes is in use throughout the school. These include teacher observation, monitoring of pupils written work and teacher-devised tests. Teachers maintain worthy records of individual achievement on class tests, and these are complemented by the administration of formal norm-referenced and standardized tests. Notably, the Micra-T and Sigma-T are administered annually to assess attainment in English and Mathematics respectively, and the MIST and Quest are administered to help identify children who require supplementary support in the junior classes. Appropriately, parents are consulted and advised of results at the annual parent-teacher meetings. In keeping with the school’s laudable practice in respect of ICT, all files on pupils are maintained on computer. Overall, pupils are making creditable progress across the school consistent to age and aptitudes.
The school enjoys the services of an effective learning support/resource teacher, whom they share with three other schools. She has responsibility for five pupils in this her base school. She works diligently in contributing to the advancement of children’s learning in the school. A comprehensive whole school policy on the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs is prepared and is in accordance with the schools’ caring ethos. This plan is based on a staged model of identifying needs and supporting pupils. Detailed educational plans prepared for individual pupils are of a high standard. They are practical in nature and include specific targets and a clear timeframe for review. The school’s early intervention policy ensures support activities are firmly based upon the pupils’ requirements. It also ensures that all children are given tasks that are well matched to their abilities and move their learning on effectively. In the main, children are withdrawn from classes individually as needs dictate but, appropriately, there is provision for in-class support also and this practice is to be encouraged. ICT is used extensively in delivering a supplementary programme that is comprehensive, is modified appropriately to the needs of pupils and is suitably well matched to their abilities. As a result, pupils make measured progress and bring about improved standards in performance.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
The teachers and other ancillary staff are caring and dedicated and offer a high quality of support for the children.
Whole-school planning and individual teachers’ planning is of high quality.
The children are responsive and courteous.
The school achieves commendable standards in Music, Visual Arts, History and Geography.
The quality of ICT provision is notable.
The provision for children with special educational needs is most commendable.
The comprehensive provision for literacy development in English is very good.
Moltar a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar chúrsaí léitheoireachta agus ar leanúnachas cainte na ndaltaí i dteagasc na Gaeilge.
The further development of problem solving in Mathematics is recommended.
Opportunities to involve parents to a greater degree in policy development could be further explored.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Staff is advised to develop further opportunities for in-class support.
Moltar leanúnachas cainte na ndaltaí a chothú a thuilleadh fós sa Ghaeilge agus réimse ábhar na léitheoireachta a leathnú.
Management is advised to present draft policies to parents and welcome their contributions.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.